The Question of Free Will
Free will is a subject many people ponder when examining the meaning of life. It’s also at the crux of every debate on the nature of existence and an individual’s role in determining their own destiny. But could it be that something fundamental has been overlooked concerning free will which, when perceived, opens up the possibility of an extraordinary new way of life?
Most people associate free will with the freedom of choice to take action or make decisions independent of any extraneous agency. The personal element of free will is undeniable; we have it and are able to use it as we see fit. The difficulty is that one man’s free will inevitably conflicts with the wants or wishes of another. The result, multiplied by the collective free will of humanity, is a momentous collision of forces appearing as the disputes and mayhem besieging the planet daily. Man’s treasured free will is not so much a gift of the divine but a noose that ensnares the majority of the human race. If we truly had free will we’d be able to withdraw at will at any time from the pressure of stress and emotional pain. But as it is we’re stuck with the effects of the human condition until the living process reveals the way out.
This leads on to the question of whether everything is predetermined. Indeed, at the beginning of the life everything is predetermined unconditionally, including the parents and the environment into which a baby is born The individual’s life is broadly outlined, but with space for the karma to be modified in accordance with the response to the circumstances experienced during the lifetime. Free will begins to exert itself in a child through the gradual formation of a personal self. Until sufficient past has accrued, the negative effects of personal wanting are minimal. To the degree that adversity is overcome by courage and self-sacrifice, the difficulties that were predetermined are neutralised and become a power of negation to harmonise the life, both within and without.
People often use the term ’willpower’ to describe an individual’s resolve in overcoming challenges or to achieve something tangible in a particular area of the life. But, relative to the material world, willpower has no discernible effect on anything in existence. True willpower develops as an individual begins to sense the presence of a higher and more intelligent power within the body. Willpower is the developing equilibrium to remain straight and true against any wilful demands of the personal self. This induces a gradual realignment of personal free will with the all-embracing power of the impersonal Will. To grasp the idea of this impersonal Will, we need to discard any scientific, religious or philosophical approach for direct experience. But it will be necessary to suspend the doubting mind and rely on the pure intelligence inherent within the body.
Whatever is happening now is at the behest of the Will. However, the extraordinary quality of the Will is that it imposes no restrictions on a person’s choices or individual free will. The closest thing in existence to the Will that can be practically applied in everyday life is the situation. What the situation requires is not always what the person wants, and often conflicts with the expectations and demands of others. The key to this is that everything happens in individual consciousness. To make a problem of any situation sets in motion conflicting circumstances which take longer to resolve, or even make things worse. Any frustration or anger arising when things don’t work out as expected is to be in conflict with the divine impersonal Will. But it’s a massive undertaking to align oneself with the Will because this mighty power serves the totality of life – and not what the person thinks is best.
As spiritually orientated beings (and this is all of us, whether conscious or unconscious), the endeavour is to be responsible for life, come what may, as the circumstances that must be faced in the external world. It takes great honesty and courage to surrender the personal free will to something that has no discernible features and is unable to be quantified in the world. But this imperceptible quality is what the great mystics and spiritual men and women refer to as God. At the beginning of time there was only the Divine Will. By going it alone in revolt to the one good or God, humanity became its own judge and executioner. The effects of this have been rolling on for millennia and manifest as the terrible consequences of our own making, which have to be continually rectified.
So the question is: what can be done to neutralise the negative effects of free will that appear as the problems and restrictions in the life? And the answer is in the living process itself, which miraculously provides the way back for anyone willing to reunite with the source of original freedom. Self-knowledge is the way which is a continual revelation of former ignorance. Within the grand scheme, ignorance serves to protect an individual until able to face the blinding light of their own inner reality. Finally, true free will is the Will of God that directs the life as the being behind the form. It all comes down to being disabused of a free will that is the personification of ignorance – until, mercifully, the penny drops and I, the individual, need never suffer again.