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Jerry Katz
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Kriben Pillay asked:

There appears to be two schools of thought relative to the issue of free will. One is like J. Krishnamurti's, which implies we have a kind of free will which we can use to break through delusion, and the other is like Balsekar's, which says there is no free will and that all is pre-determined, even the desire to break through. Somehow, my gut instinct tells me that Life is a like an improvisation rather than being a fixed script, and while I once had a powerful experience of being lived by Life, it still felt like an improvisation, a potential rather than a fixed plan. This also accords with quantum physics. What is your view of this issue?

Greg Goode
Gene Poole
Dan Berkow
Jan Barendrecht
Miguel-Angel Carrasco
Andrew Macnab
Marcia Paul
Michael Read
Phil Burton
Larry Biddenger
Jan Koehoorn
Hans Deunhouwer
Melody Anderson
Ed Arrons
Tim Gerchmez
Jody Radzik
Discussion between Miguel-Angel Carrasco and Dan Berkow

Greg Goode
The question of free will is from the perspective of the person. Does the person have free will? Many of the person's actions are forced or determined by factors over which it has no control. Some of these actions are accompanied by the feeling of being lived, of being in the flow, in the "zone." People often count these as the best times. But are at least some of the person's decisions and actions freely chosen? To establish free will, as is discussed in Philosophy 101 classes everywhere, it is not necessary to show that every action is free. Even one free action would be sufficient.

Case 1: "Will that be coffee or tea?" "Hmmm, let me think.... I'll have tea, thanks."

Case 2: (Thought bubble rising:) "I'd love to take a walk in the beautiful woods. I'd like to surround myself with peace and serenity and inquire into my true nature." (Putting on hiking boots, opening the camper door and stepping out), "Here I go."

From the perspective of the person, if the decision process is not analyzed, the actions and decisions in both cases above seem to be perfect examples of free will. Upon analysis however, a free action and a free chooser cannot be found. A thought comes, followed by a desire, followed by a decision, followed by an action. Tracing backwards, the action is controlled by the decision, the decision is controlled by the desire, the desire is prompted by the thought. The thought arises spontaneously, itself unbidden, un-asked-for, unchosen. First the thought is not there, then it is. Nowhere in this process can a free will be found. Nowhere can a freely-acting chooser be found.

It is even too much to say that the actions, decisions, desires and thoughts can control or prompt each other. These cause-and-effect dynamics are not even observed. Rather, they arise as inferences and conclusions about what happened, that is, they arise as thoughts that rise and fall.

In something like Case 1, the decision might even be accompanied by a small feeling of freedom, lightness, and spaciousness. And maybe also accompanied by a thought, "I'm choosing tea but I could freely choose coffee instead." But the feeling of freedom and the thought "I could" also arise unbidden. That is, the feeling of freedom is not freely chosen.

The person is not the locus of freedom.

The person and the rest of the world cannot be found apart from the awareness in which all things appear. The person, the mind, body and world arise as thoughts, feelings, and sensations. These are nothing other than objects in awareness, and are nothing other than awareness itself. The person does not experience; the person is experienced. As awareness, we are That to which these objects appear. Thoughts, feelings, sensations - these objects arise from the background of silent awareness, they subsist in awareness, and they slip back into awareness. The awareness in which they appear is not itself an object but the background of all objects. It is our true nature. But the objects come and go unbidden, without autonomy. They are powerless and cannot do anything on their own. Objects cannot possess or contain freedom.

Is there freedom?

The silent awareness in which all objects appear is the true nature of all things. Awareness says YES to everything. Even if a NO arises, awareness says YES to the NO. Awareness is without resistance, without limits or edges, without refusal and without obstruction. Awareness is not free, it is freedom itself. What we truly are is not the person but this awareness, this freedom.

The person wants to co-opt this freedom, to own it, to behold it, to be present to use and enjoy it. But in spite of this desire from the perspective of the person, the person can never own That in which the person appears.

What about teachings that emphasize free will?

Entire religions and ethical systems are based on this idea. Ramana Maharshi told a questioner that all actions are determined except the ability to inquire into one's true nature. Isn't Case 2 above different from Case 1?

Sometimes teachings and exhortations about personal freedom are a beautiful, effective and necessary step for freedom from the idea of being a person. A person who prematurely adopts a "no-free-will" teaching can lapse into depression and antinomian behavior. "You have to be someone before you can be no one." The teachings on free will borrow from the freedom that we are. Among the many objects that arise in the mirror of awareness, some objects arise as images of mirrors. These images are taken as representations of their source. Like a mirror appearing in a mirror, Ramana's teaching serves as a pointer to freedom. Case 2 is not different in this respect from Case 1. As objects, all cases and their characters, and all teachings and all discourse (even this one!) are not themselves free or self-powered, but they arise from freedom and consist in freedom.

The person is never free. As awareness, we are never bound.


Gene Poole
If I move beyond the question being about 'feelings', 'Instincts' and move into the realm of 'pure reason' (and don't say I Kant... ), this is what remains:

Our exercise of "will" seems to be consistently geared toward self-limitation. It is within this constantly enforced field of self-limitation that the question of 'free will' occurs. Without exercising our "will" in the service of self-limitation, the uses of "will" are quite apparent.

The exercise of "Will" in the service of self-limitation can be seen clearly, in the human talent of the deferral of pain. From a Darwinian point of view, humans who could fight, run, or otherwise act to survive while _in pain_, are those survivors from whom we have inherited our genes.

As masters of deferral of pain, we are by extension, also masters of deferral of embarrassment; we are able to confabulate 'alternative realities' for the purpose of remaining in the comfort of our own delusions. Our various cultures conspire within themselves, and with each-other, to maintain this allowance for extraordinary confabulation.

It is ironic that what is a powerful talent for survival, can also be used to deny reality. On the other hand, the denial of mortality, the very delusion of it, can serve to lead cultural heros into battles of tribal and cultural preservation; it is hard to argue (logically) against conquest as a means of

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), each culture has evolved a unique 'religion', each of which has become the touchstone of the reality of the respective culture. The clashes, conflicts, and wars which have arisen around religion, indicate the sacrifice which humans are willing to make, in order to
maintain what is certainly and purely confabulation.

If the "script" is "fixed", it is 'fixed' in the same way that professional wrestling is 'fixed'. Human interactions are either manifested through self-limitation, or not. It takes only one human who acts in the non-self-limited way, to send shockwaves through all cultures, both present and future. The 'fixing of the script' calls for naming any of non-self-limited human to be 'abnormal and dangerous to the status-quo', thus to preserve the privilege (cultural tradition) to indulge in group-confabulations of 'reality as revealed by messengers of the divine'.

Currently, most humans subscribe to what amounts to a 'religion of self-limitation'. It is those who have seen a glimmer of what could happen if self-limitation were an option, rather than a 'divinely enforced duty', who dare question the reality or uses of "will". Proper and ethical uses of 'will' do not transcend humanity, rather, such uses are manifestations of what can eventually become a 'choiceless compassion'.

Those humans who have, or are, advocating the correct uses of 'will', are by no mere coincidence, also known as compassionate humans. Empathic knowing of our human commonality can lead to a mass-migration of humans away from the mandatory religion of self-limitation; this involves the withdrawal of our projections of 'divinity' from a mythical 'other', and the acceptance of personal responsibility for the correct use of 'will'. No longer would humans be burdened with the 'will' of a capricious 'god'; instead, human activities would be considered carefully before execution.

Leaving behind the culturally-enforced mandate of self-limitation, allows the sudden and spontaneous perfection of the human. In that brilliant perfection, all self-limiting ideas and traditions are clearly seen, including the entire category of self-limiting assumptions of 'ego' and 'ignorance', both of which are now being used as sly excuses for self-limitation. Any individual who dares allow the spontaneous perfection of the human to occur, moves beyond the fears which mandate hiding within apparently eternal conundrums such as the 'question of free will'. Bereft of any such camouflage, the perfected human is free to choose.

Gene Poole's Home Page


Dan Berkow
Trying to find the best conclusion arrived at by one or another supposed school of thought is like trying to choose the best color to dye your hair. It leaves out the option of naturally being without trying to conclude anything.

Life is moving, moving, moving and who is trying to catch the right view?

Life is still, still, still and who is it who is thinking to make the right move?

The observer constructs the observed as the observed constructs the observer. The observer freely constructs the observed, as the observer is determined by the observed. Freedom and determinism mutually imply and define each other. As observer is the observed, neither observer nor observed exist as entities. Reality is, ultimately nondeterministic, as it would require an ultimate entity of some kind to determine an outcome. And whatever determined that entity would be another entity, ad infinitum. Thus: nondetermined universe.

The Present 'originates' and *is* past, present, and future.

Determinism that implies causation implies will and prime cause. Determinism is often construed to mean beginningless causation, where no prime cause is established, just a beginningless/endless chain of events, one leading to the other. --Ed Arrons
D: Yes. That's exactly the point, to see this through. It breaks down in the very infinity it necessarily points to. Beginningless causation must "become" simply *begininglessness*. Determinism then dissolves itself in nondetermined Infinity. That's the wonder of it! All apparent cause and effect reality is itself nothing other than acausal Infinity. How else could it be?


Jan Barendrecht
There is a perspective that could be satisfactory for both the proponents of free will and its adversaries. There have been several experiments with identical twins who were raised under very different circumstances and surprisingly, their development was remarkably similar. To arrive at such a similar position when relative conditions are almost opposites, could be explained as exercising a free will, whereas the fact that despite these sometimes opposite conditions they nevertheless "achieved" a similar position, could be explained as destiny.

But the "governing principle" has to be seen in the germination of tendencies (vasanas) that cannot be suppressed in any way; whatever the societal resistance, these "seeds" will germinate and flower by themselves, whenever the "soil" is fertile. It is easy to see that the feeling of hunger with the subsequent "desire" to eat is such a tendency that is rooted very deeply and although it can be made to shut up during a fast, in the course of events it will return in a way that cannot possibly be ignored (unless one stops drinking as well, which is a more or less painless way of euthanasia for Jain monks). Therefore, it is safe to call the mind a wishing tree: any sincere wish, once done, will in the course of events automatically be executed and there is no escape from it. What is called "free will" is but the "work" to fulfill this wish. An idealist, not knowing "how (s)he ticks" can be quite convinced of having an "iron" will to achieve the goal, as probably will the onlookers.

Of course the above goes for ajnanis, for whom separation is "real" and their sincere wishes are always fulfilled, be it one never knows "when" - it is the origin of prayer...


Miguel-Angel Carrasco
I'm curious to know where J.Krishnamurti states there's free will.

The issue of free will is usually raised in connection with that of predeterminism or fate: either there is a fixed plan or script that predetermines our actions, or we are really free to choose. Thus put, the issue cannot be solved, as it is impossible to prove the non-existence of an eternal plan, even if such a plan does not exist.

The issue should rather be considered in the context of causal determinism: whether or not we are determined by conscious or unconscious reasons and emotions.

From a scientific point of view, the question either is not raised, because free will appears only as a subjective feeling and never as a verifiable fact; or should be answered in favour of determinism, because there is no verifiable evidence that any personal decision is not a reaction to prevailing circumstances, an automatic response to biochemical reactions in the brain.

From a philosophical point of view, the issue of free will depends on what kind of weltanschauung (ideology o conception of the world) is assumed. For all materialists, who consider the mind to be a function of the brain, there can be no free will. Only if the minds or the souls are independent entities is it possible to assert their freedom, whereas if they are mere processes or functions of the body no such freedom is possible.

The decisive question, thus, is whether the soul is a separate, independent entity. For a dualist philosopher, it is. But then he has to face the problem of how to explain the interaction between body and soul: if the soul is a separate substance, an entity which does not depend on the body, then how is one to account for the remarkable effects of physical conditions on the soul's reactions, or inversely how is one to explain the supposed control of the soul over the body?

For a nondualist, who sustains that everything appears in Consciousness, and that there is only that One Consciousness, there is no such thing as free will, because all individual body-minds are not real entities, but mere appearances without substance. Where there is no real doer, there cannot be a free will.

What regards Consciousness Itself, being the only and ultimate subject, It is not an object. It is thus free of attributes or qualities. It is free of action, free of decisions, free of choices, free of will. It is pure Freedom.


Andrew Macnab
Does it make any difference whether you or I think there is free will or not? Does it have any practical effect on the living of life? Are the two points of view incompatible or simply the result of different perspectives. Perhaps it is my destiny to work out my own salvation and that of the world with diligence, or my free will to think of all as predestined. One urging a wilful effort to break through and another urging understanding of destiny are not opposite each other, they are speaking to different points of view.

From the point of view of the individual, who sees himself as one of a multitude of sentient beings, there could be free will, that the course of life follows from decisions made, or there could be cause and effect, karmic destiny, or some mixture of these two.

From a deistic nondual point of view, there is one will, all is God(or whatever you wish to call It), so how could there be any other will but the will of God.

Finally, from no point of view, what could be called the nondual nondeistic nonpoint of nonview, which is not no point of view as opposed to a point of view, but simply the absence of formulation of point of view, or of anyone to take a point of view, there being no point to view from and no thing to view, there is no question, no thing that has any attribute like the name of God, nor is there will, nor is there destiny.

Another point about the free will vs destiny question is that it assumes a conventional view of time, of events following one after another, possible causation. If the world is understood as mutual co-arising of phenomena in eternal now moment, the question does not occur.


Marcia Paul
To ask a question based on an either/or framework is a dual question. The nondual position is not either/or but both. We both have the possibility of free will and are predetermined. In a performance on a stage there are actors, a director, and an audience. The actors follow a script, the director has more freedom but is still bound by both what the actors are capable of doing and what the audience wants as well as the constraints of money, time and so forth, but the audience is free to sit back and enjoy it all.


Michael Read
Who Dares to Ask? I created space and all dimensions, realities and beings.
I animated them with Myself.
Nothing else would do.
There was nothing else but Me.

The Mystery of You and I!
Do enjoy it!
Make choices if that is your will.
Follow your destiny if you can find it.

Live as if there is no tomorrow!
The only goal is to be alive.
Open your heart to the treasure that is Me that is You.

We are One. Do you believe this? Too bad.
Do you deny this? Too bad.
Poor Baby wants it all!
Oh, what will you do?
There is nothing else but Me.


Phil Burton
"Will" is usually spoken of in the sense of a force which determines a supposed future. In other words, I *will* continue thinking and typing until the e-mail is complete and sent. It implies the personal subject as the agent of something to be done. It is an interpretation. But I cannot find anything in this moment which corresponds to that meaning. In clear perception, things appear and disappear -- there is no evidence of any will which determines things, just the appearing and disappearing.

In another take, concepts and interpretations of "will" are results of mechanical causation, and therefore invalidate themselves. A need arises to " make sense" of things, and the concept comes to be. Thought itself is a force of nature, and is unwilled.

Things like free will, responsibility, and such -- these fall into the category of socially-constructed myths. They are not so much "untrue" as just irrelevant, because they are just ideas that don't stand scrutiny. The same goes for the opposites of these concepts.

Sometimes freedom is mentioned here which is sort of a vague notion of release (freedom from something). This is not the same as "free will" -- which is a concept about choosing, which depends on the concept of self, which is an identification with phenomena.

There is also a confusion of terms. "Free will" or freedom do not equate to moksha or liberation. In moksha there is absolute freedom as there is nobody there that is an agent of choice. A paradox I guess.

Here is a question -- which arises spontaneously in the moment. Is this spontaneity the same as free will? Free will just seems to be another concept of causation: the notion that "I" am faced with alternative outcomes, and that "I" can and do determine the outcome.

What I think gets lost sometimes in such discussions is: we are talking about a *concept* of free will, not about freedom as such. Spontaneity may be freedom, but does not correspond to the usual concept of free will.

Free will and determinism are joined at the root. There is no sense in contrasting them as concepts (except for the sake of curiosity). With free will I am said to be the subject of causation (the doer). With determinism I am said to be nothing more than an object of impersonal causation. But in the first case, a subject is objectified. A "subject" (doer) is always a particular object, the doer is already done.

In advaita it is taught (Ashtavakra Gita e.g.) that the Self is neither subject nor object, but pure witness consciousness, in which the world-dream appears for a moment. Indeed the "Self" is just a convenient fiction, because in reality it is "404 -- object not found".

It is as if to say:

There are no pink elephants.
There is no lack of pink elephants.
There is no free will.
There is no lack of free will.

There is no anguish when a dream subsides, and it is realized I have no need for that which was desired.


Larry Biddenger
In the face of overwhelming negativity and determinism I say YES, there is free will. Assuming that all will is free will, I looked it up in my dictionary and it said:

will (wil) 1, the faculty of conscious and deliberate action; volition. 2, desire; choice; pleasure. 3, purpose; determination....

As far as I am concerned, everything that is in the dictionary (plus a lot more besides) _exists_. Everyone seems to be poopooing phenomenality as ~ merely ~ illusory. But this illusion is the rock of the ages and the warp and weft of all value. All these qualities in the definition of will are virtues and should be celebrated instead of denied. "No free will" is just a pointer pointing at witness consciousness.


Jan Koehoorn
If there was such a thing as free will, everybody would be happy.

Hans Deunhouwer
It's not about finding a solution to this matter of free will or no free will, but why we are talking and thinking about such things at all. Thinking can not find a solution to such questions nor does it have to ! What happens if such a question arises in the brain ? Why can we not just ignore it. Very simple. I have lots of people around me who ask me "Why are you bothered with such unimportant things ?" So my guess is, yes, they got a point there (I always thought these questions were very very important .........) The only thing thought apparently can do is invent the problem. The brain is inventing all kinds of so-called problems to keep us busy so that we do not have to encounter Reality. What happens if the questions drop ? I know what would happen to me : I would feel bored. So for the time being i will remain a member of this list, to avoid boredom. Until the moment boredom will be accepted as just another facet of Reality, i will feel bored anyway, with or without this list. Thanks for reading this useless post and see you. Some humour on the list would do us good. I am looking forward to it.

More important than the answer seems to be the question if either possibilities can ever be proven. If i have done something, how can i ever know if this action arose from free will or if it was predetermined ? Why do i want to know this ? To get a result out of it ? That would make this question look like all other questions. But this depends of course on the individual person that asks the question.

It seems almost impossible that everything is predetermined, the possibilities of life being so incredibly vast and innumerable and so interdependent. Life is also or perhaps mainly about survival and the element of *potential* seems somehow more suitable, more flexibel, an adjustable factor. But the mind is only a tiny fragment of the whole. How can this tiny instrument ever know ? It is so limited, it seems almost arrogant to think that the mind can comprehend such complexity.


Melody Anderson
It depends on which 'I'/eye I'm looking through. Looking thru the eye of ego, freewill is a given. If not for freewill, the ego would atrophy for lack of use!

Looking thru the eye of Self, the idea of freewill is rather amusing.

Free of what? As Self, what IS there to be free of?

Here's a recent example of what I suggest above:

This week I was not scheduled to work anywhere, and my son was spending the week with my dad.

Thru free will, I had planned a week of introspection .....looking forward to a quiet week of being alone ....for the expressed purpose of "aligning with God's will" for me.

But then my dad called the very first evening away, saying he was bringing the kids back to town for youth night at church....and to say he would be stopping by for a 2 hour visit while waiting for the kids.

And then my sister called saying she was going to be in town the next day and wouldn't I like to do some shopping, and have lunch and stuff....since both our kid's are at my dads?

And then I was asked to help an acquaintance of mine with some computer and bookkeeping problems he was having.

And then a lady called asking me to decorate her daughter's birthday party on Saturday.

This all arose within a 12 hour period!

At first I was so angry....felt intruded upon. I certainly (from my ego 'eye' ) had free will to tell them 'no' and be left alone so I could "be One with God".

But when I stepped back....and looked thru the eye which sees the bigger picture, I could see not only the invitations that arose all of a sudden, but I could see the 'teachings' I've been given these past days superimposed over them.

I have shared these past few days, both here and elsewhere, how I've been given to see that my reclusiveness these past years has been a 'hiding' of sorts from relationships.

I've been given to see, just thru my conversations on and off list how they synchronistically (and powerfully!) tied with my readings of Osho, revealing to me how I have been avoiding not only the pain of relationships, but the challenge of them.

I've been given to see how narcissistic I have become in my reclusiveness.

So when I see the marriage here of 'teaching' and 'opportunity', I can see how the question of freewill can seemingly be answered both ways.

I can see that the ego can choose to ignore the opportunity and 'movement' presented (and based on experience be sure to be given both the opportunities and the lessons again very soon!).

In other words, I can choose to struggle against the tide, until I'm worn out, or I can simply see how Existence is moving me... and relax into it.

What was interesting to note is that the moment I relaxed into what was unfolding for me the other day, the anger and the crankiness was no more.


Yesterday I had planned to write about free will and destiny.

Well, here I am. Destiny unfolded, or more correctly is unfolding, minute by minute, second by second... instant by instant.

So I am here, that is fact. Can't change that. Oh, it is true that I can change the "content" of destiny, even if I sit here like a bump on a log and "do" nothing. What I think, changes how it looks for me. I could have decided not to write today after all. If I had not, I would have changed what I had intended destiny to be, however destiny itself, was destined to be exactly what it finally ends up being.

Destiny exists ultimately in the NOW. Any past event is written firmly, any future event is also written. We just don't know what it will be. We can say that it turned out to be distinct from what we guessed it would be. We can change what it will be "at will", but we are actually only changing what it was predicted to be. It finally is what it is.

What does that say about free will however? What a beautiful balance these two things have. Sort of like a conscious structure ever in balance.

I cannot change what "will be", but what "will be" is what I make it. How far can this go? What are my limitations in will?

Could it be, that the strongest will wins? Some higher will, may determine that my "time" is up for instance. There's not much I can do about that! Something more down to earth; I could decide to make a million bucks! You just have to go and do it! I've tried to do it a couple of times. It's not easy, I came upon some life`s decisions that I wasn't willing to compromise, so I chose those over the million bucks.

But actually it's a lot more subtle than that. Destiny plays instant by instant. The decisions that effect "will" are made instant by instant, and as such each decision is a much smaller and seemingly less important decision. A rapid, almost automatic response to some stimulus, the decision made without considering how it will affect the others that unfold. If one really looks at this, these small instant by instant decisions are very important and very powerful if one is "in condition" to perceive them without being destracted by the condition of the moment.

The condition of the moment... What is that? It's how I perceive things. It's been shown time and again that when two people are looking at the same thing, what they see is almost always distinct. Sometimes sharply, as in a robbery for instance. Sometimes much more subtly, as in two lovers wathching a sunset.

But i's more than that. The "condition of the moment", has an extremely powerful hold over our existence. It is what controls our existence. We see so many things that we cannot control. The color of the leaves for instance, gravity, why life itself is accepted as a given, although, if you really think about it, how can it be? Why is it that there is anything, instead of nothing at all?

OK, I wouldn't walk off the nearest cliff, as a matter of testing my will against, what would that be, the will of "nature"? But if I am aware in a detailed manner of the condition of the moment, and if I try not to let my "imagination" modify what I am seeing, I should have much more success in excersising my will.

I have done a lot of work, looking at the edges of consciousness, looking at where consciousness disappears. Each new discovery moves the boundry. Dreams become more lucid, life becomes more like a lucid dream. In the end there is one big lucid dream or nothing at all. In a timeless world, the two become one.

Go figure. Anyways, in this world, a lot more is possible than one can imagine.

Destiny happens, against any will, but what we make of it is up to us.


Ed Arrons
Looking for free will, it appears only in the "not-me". Yet in most actions, will located in "me" appears to be the initiator. This can be described as a *sense* of will resulting from the shift in consciousness of the observer looking outward to the object of the action.

Tim Gerchmez
There is simply neither free will nor predestination from a "nondual" standpoint. There is no freedom of choice, neither is there anything preventing choice. From a "relative standpoint," these two viewpoints clash endlessly, while the universe takes no notice and goes about its business, utterly oblivious.

Jody Radzik
Isn't the whole question rendered moot when we ask ourselves, "Who is the one who exercises free will?"


Discussion between Miguel-Angel Carrasco and Dan Berkow