Happy New Year! (even though there isn’t anything new about it) Hoping that the following year is full of insight, compassion, and care (radiating from all of us). 🙂
“If the moon, in the act of completing its eternal way around the Earth, were gifted with self-consciousness, it would feel thoroughly convinced that it was traveling its way of its own accord…. So would a Being, endowed with higher insight and more perfect intelligence, watching man and his doings, smile about man’s illusion that he was acting according to his own free will.” — Albert Einstein
Many people ardently insist and feel that they have “free will,” an ability to freely choose without being bound by limitations. They each think that some central agency (i.e.,dominator/controller), apart from the contents, is (somehow) freely acting. Thoughts and thinking involve physical processes within (and “as”) the brain, and these physical process are not exempt from the cause and effect sequences that our universe moves as. The very notion of will implies the power of control that the mind has concerning its own actions. If all of these actions are (inherently) reactions, however, that opens up questions concerning what is actually taking place. (Never feel, however, that conditioning and the lack of free will constitute some kind of get out of jail free pass or “excuse” to whip up; we are, each of us, responsible for helping the world to be orderly and pain-free.)
Did real (free) volition not exist in the worm-like chordates and fish that we evolved from but sprang into existence with us? May it, whether we refuse to see it or not, be that free will, in essence, is a concept that has little or no validity for our current mental states? Most of us, either consciously or unconsciously, cling to the notion of having free will. If the mind has control over its contents, who is the controller? Is the controller separate from what the controlled (psychologically) is? If the controller is not something magically separate, then that has an altogether different meaning and significance.
Sensitively perceiving (not merely conceptually) that most all of what we think and feel is totally conditioned and is part of a cause and effect continuum can allow the mind to come upon a new and vital challenge. Can the mind not merely continue to operate in (and “as”) the same old ways (of conditioning) but, instead, function and live (at times) beyond mere reaction? Real liberty and emancipation may come when the mind sees itself as totally conditioned (when it is conditioned) and deeply ensnared in (and “as”) cause/effect patterns and, then, changes (not through reactions, as in the past), but in a wholly different manner. Then there is a possibility of real order, insight, and compassion to function, beyond the norm. He who clings to prison bars forever thinking that he is free will never run disentangled from all the bondage.