Basic Assumptions

by Zachary A. Horn

I have gone through several stages of ideological and political evolution throughout my life. My first instincts were those of a progressive/liberal orientation, but they had little philosophical underpinning. When I turned 18 I registered as a Democrat because George W. Bush was President, and I was horrified by the wars and seemingly complete absence of reason in his administration’s policy decisions. I was a knee jerk liberal on social issues, because of an innate sense of fairness, but had few opinions on economic issues.

At college I majored in philosophy, but had a thorough liberal arts education, so I studied everything from the hard sciences, to economics and political science. Philosophy taught me to always identify and evaluate my most basic assumptions and go from there. At the time I was agnostic, which meshed well with the reductionist materialism that is a latent assumption of western academia. I spent four years as an undergraduate building a cohesive worldview based on dead matter in a mechanical universe. I was still socially progressive because that is what reason dictated, but I had the growing conviction that life was a Darwinian struggle of the survival of the fittest. Throw in a dash Ayn Rand, low empathy, and intellectual arrogance, and I was primed to be a libertarian leaning Republican. Selfishness was an inherent and immutable characteristic of humanity, whether that was a good thing was irrelevant.

That worldview served me well through law school, and may have persisted to this day but for a spiritual intervention. My metaphysical assumptions changed abruptly when I dared to consider the possibility that matter is not dead, but is awareness at the most basic quantum level. For the first time I seriously entertained the idea that the universe is a single unified field of awareness and that we only experience the illusion of separation and individuality. Seriously contemplating that idea led me to a spiritual awakening and mystical experience that utterly shattered my previous paradigm. I spent several years after the fact rebuilding my worldview around this understanding, which to the amazement of many friends led me to avidly support a socialist from Vermont for President. I now occupy the far left of the liberal/progressive spectrum, and have very strong and detailed opinions on resource distribution and social issues. All because I shifted my metaphysical assumptions, and ceased to view the pain of others as separable from myself. Love and empathy went from inconveniences, to a north star reminding me of my inherent interconnection to my fellow beings. Selfishness was no longer an inherent and immutable characteristic of humanity, but a choice every being makes.

Examine your most basic assumptions about yourself, reality, and your relationship with your fellow beings. Then live the conclusions as fearlessly and consistently as possible. If I have any advice worth giving, that is it.