Let me begin with a question to the patient reader.
Consider the wrong decisions you have made in your life. Was that free will?
Things like spending too much money, eloping with the wrong person, going out in the cold when you know it can make you ill and you got ill, speed-driving or overtaking on a dangerous road, saying no when you should have said yes, or vice versa, etc…
A little bit of self-reflection will give us a list of choices that we could have made differently… Or could we?
If will is free why would anyone use free will to make wrong decisions?
“Oh, sometimes will is free and sometimes not.”
Very well, let’s test that argument. Who decides when the will is free or not?
Is it “you”?
If it is “you” it means that free will is the ultimate power and there cannot be any unfree will. It contradicts your argument…
A modicum of sincerity and self-awareness reveals that it is not “me” who decides if the choice is made by my will or god’s will, whether we will be able to make a wise or stupid choice, or whether the situation offers no choice at all except for total acceptance of, well, Fate, or God’s Will if you prefer!
And as for the acceptance of fate, what about the times you were not able to accept fate and kicked and screamed about your predicament? Where does the ability to “accept fate” come from?
If it comes from your free will, why did you kick and scream to start with? Why not use free will and accept everything from the start and have a smooth peaceful life?
Well, it looks like this so-called free will is relative, has many dependencies, conditions, and changes over time… The more I look into it the less free it seems to me…
Let’s keep inquiring.
What forces are responsible for any choice we make at any given moment?
Choice is the result of countless factors including personality traits, genetics, personal and cultural history, the environment, available information, degree of awareness, degree of conscience, mood, state of health, the amount of coffee we drank this morning, and many others. If we are careful enough in our assessment and reasoning we can conclude that the factors are infinite.
We could stop here. Any choice depends on a number of conditions outside our control. The notion that there is some other power that “I” can magically summon and then call free will is nowhere to be seen except in our fertile imagination.
But what kind of imagination?
If the aphorism “Know Thyself” has any merit in such lofty philosophical or spiritual discussions then we might begin our assessment by inquiring who this “I” who supposedly has a will is. If I have free will then I am the source of the choice.
So, who am “I”?
Not my name, gender, age, occupation, race or nationality, beliefs, or knowledge… It has to go deeper.
Should we be blessed with answering that question in its Truth the whole discussion on free will would peacefully and silently become irrelevant.
Happy is he or she who can stop here and does not need to read further.
For the rest of us mortals here is some more food for thought.
What part does “me” play in choice? What is “me”, to begin with? Where is “me”? In the brain? In the body? Where exactly? Where does the choice take place exactly? And where does the power to choose originate?
This is no superficial dilemma or rhetorical inquiry. Such inquiry is at the core of every true spiritual teaching. One might say that it ultimately is the reason spiritual teachings exist at all.
The validity of free will, or lack thereof, cannot be satisfactorily resolved intellectually or by adopting a belief against or for it. A shift of self-awareness of a sufficient depth is required in order to understand the true place of choice in our psychology and cosmology.
But maybe if I can find a little crack in fate I can stick in my free-will and change its course!… Good luck with that!
I don’t say this disparagingly. We all go through this. This is part of our learning as humans. There is a time to believe in our power as individuals and there is a time to rest in the peace of our utter Powerlessness as part of an Indivisible Whole.
This is an invitation to look at our own experience and find evidence of free will or its absence. The answer is available now. Always now, in our direct experience when looking from the proper angle of view.
The evidence of the absence of anything resembling free will is overwhelming if such an inquiry is conducted successfully.
Yet, the common obstacle is that we are unable to let go of the idea that we have individual power. We are basically addicted to that notion and belief. It can be really scary to consider we are marionettes of the whole. We feel diminished and weak; so we prefer to inflate our notion of self with the notion of individual power or free will. That posture is based solely on the inability to truthfully answer “who am I?” And we suffer unnecessarily because of that.
The entire issue of whether we are fated or we have free-will hinges on the inability to determine who this “I” we keep talking about all the time is.
We live an entire lifetime saying “I” without really fathoming what “I” is. We live under an assumed identity. We never stop to question it and look closely inwards. We are busy with “everything else”.
Life is too fascinating. There is no time or inclination to pause and look deeply inside for life’s very Source.
Or is there?
If there is an inclination, we might want to meditate on what Jesus meant by “Thy Will Be Done” or on what Buddha meant by “Deeds are done but there is no doer thereof.” Or Tarot’s card “The Hangedman“.
There lies the answer to the truth about free will (no pun intended). It has been staring into our faces in literature and esoteric systems for millennia. If only we can stop and ask the right question.