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LATEST DIALOGUES The Paradox of Free Will

fork in the road by Jackey Backman

fork in the road by Jackey Backman

One of my earliest ventures into philosophy, back in high school, concerned the question of “free will versus determinism.” If the world unfolds according to fixed laws, then everything that happens is determined by events that have gone before. Since our brains are part of this world, their state is also determined by preceding events. Hence, so are our thoughts and experiences, and, most significantly, the decisions we make.  On the other hand, we all experience making choices from small things like what to eat, to bigger issues like career and marriage.  We live our lives on the assumption that we do indeed have free will. The two views seem incompatible. Hence the paradox. And the question: Which is right?

I suspect most of you will have pondered this question at some time or other. Many may have landed on the free will side of the conundrum, believing that we do make choices of our own volition. Some on the other side, believing that free will is an illusion. Others, seeing validity in both sides of the paradox, may remain baffled or uncertain.

Over the years I have revisited this paradox many times. In my mid-twenties I wrote a magazine article entitled “And the Opposite is Also True.”   There I argued that it was not a question of whether free will or determinism was correct. I postulated that they were like two sides of a coin; two very different perspectives of the same reality. From one perspective determinism is true; from the other free will is true. But as to what these two complementary perspectives might be, I wasn’t clear.

Then last year, in one of those moments of insight, it all fell into place. I realized that the two fundamentally different perspectives stemmed from two fundamentally different states of consciousness.

But before I explain how this may resolve the paradox, we should first go a little deeper into the evidence for both “determinism” and “free will”.

The Evidence

Determinism, in its original form, holds that the future is determined by the present state of affairs. But this does not imply that the future is fully predictable. For a start, we could never know the present state of affairs in sufficient detail to calculate the future precisely. Even if we could, chaos theory shows that even the slightest uncertainty in the current conditions can, on occasions, lead to wildly different outcomes. Quantum theory added its own challenge to strict determinism, showing that events at the atomic level can be truly random. Today, scientists and philosophers alike accept that the future is neither predictable nor predetermined.

But even though the future may not be fixed in a classical sense, this does not necessarily give us free will. The activity in our brain is still determined by preceeding events—some random, some not—and so are our experiences, including our apparent experience of free choice.

In recent years, neuroscience has found interesting evidence to support this conclusion. In one oft-quoted experiment, subjects were asked to make a flick of their wrist at a time of their own choosing, and to note the position of the second hand of a clock at the moment of choosing. However, simultaneous recordings of the subjects’ brain activity showed that preparations for movement were occurring about half a second before the conscious decision to move.

Subsequent experiments have confirmed these findings. Scientists have been able to detect associated brain activity occurring as much as a second or more in advance of the conscious experience of making a choice. They conclude that our decisions are being driven by unconscious brain activity, not by conscious choice. But when the decision reaches conscious awareness, we experience having made a choice.

From this perspective, the apparent freedom of choice lies in our not knowing what the outcome will be. Take, for example, the common process of choosing what to eat in a restaurant. I first eliminate dishes I don’t like, or ones I ate recently, narrowing down to a few that attract me. I then decide on one of these according to various other factors—nutritional value, favorite tastes, what I feel my body needs, etc. It feels like I am making a free choice, but the decision I come to is predetermined by current circumstances and past experience. However, because I do not know the outcome of the decision-making process until it appears in my mind, I feel that I have made a free choice.

Yet, the other side of the conundrum persists. The experience of making choices of our own volition is very real. And we live our lives on the assumption that we are making decisions of our own free will, and directing our own future. It is virtually impossible not to.

A Self that Chooses?

Implicit in the notion of choice is the existence of a “chooser”—an independent self that is an active agent in the process. This, too, fits with our experience. There seems to be an “I” that is perceiving the world, making assessments and decisions, and making its own choices. This “I” feels it has chosen the dish from the menu.

The experience of an individual self is so intrinsic to our lives that we seldom doubt its veracity. But does it really exist in is own right? Two lines of research suggest not.

Neuroscientists find no evidence of an individual self located somewhere in the brain. Instead they propose that what we call “I” is but a mental construct derived from bodily experience. We draw a distinction between “me” and “not me” and create a sense of self for the “me” part. From a biological point of view, this distinction is most valuable. Taking care of the needs of this self, is taking care of our physical needs. We seek whatever promotes our well-being and avoid those that threaten it.

The second, very different, line of research involves the exploration of subjective experience. People who have delved into the nature of the actual experience of self have discovered that the closer they examine this sense of “I” , the more it seems to dissolve. Time and again they find there is no independent self. There are thoughts of “I”, but no “I” that is thinking them.

They find that what we take to be a sense of an omnipresent “I” is simply consciousness itself. There is no separate experiencer; there is simply a quality of being, a sense of presence, an awareness that is always there whatever our experience. They conclude that what we experience to be an independent self is a construct in the mind—very real in its appearance but of no intrinsic substance. It, like the choices it appears to make, is a consequence of processes in the brain. It has no free will of its own.

Complementary Perspectives

Nevertheless—and this is critical for resolving the paradox—in our everyday state of consciousness, the sense of self is very real. It is who we are. Although this “I” may be part of the brain’s model of reality, it is nevertheless intimately involved in the making of decisions, weighing up the pros and cons, coming to conclusions, choosing what to do and when to do it. So in the state where the self is real, we do experience our selves making choices. And those choices are experienced as being of our own volition. Here, free will is real.

On the other hand, in what is often called the “liberated” or “fully-awake” state of consciousness, in which one no longer identifies with the constructed sense of self, the thought of “I” is seen as just another experience arising in the mind. And so is the experience of choosing. It is all witnessed as a seamless whole unfolding before one.

When I appreciated the complementary nature of these two states of consciousness the paradox dissolved for me. Whether or not we experience free will depends on the state from which we are experiencing the world. In one state of consciousness there is free will. In the other, it has no reality.

Free will and determinism are no longer paradoxical in the sense of being mutually exclusive. Both are correct, depending upon the consciousness from which they are considered. The paradox only appears when we consider both sides from the same state of consciousness, i.e, the everyday waking state.

I like to illustrate this with Hamlet pondering the question of “To be or not to be?” The character in the play is making a choice. And if we have not seen the play before, we may wonder which way he will choose. This is the thrill of the play, to be engaged in it, moved by it, absorbed in its reality with all its twists and turns. However, we also know that how the play unfolds was determined long ago by William Shakespeare. So, we have two complementary ways of viewing the play. At times we may choose to live fully in the drama. Other times we may step back to admire his creative genius.

So in life. We can be engaged in the drama, experiencing free will, making choices that affect our futures. Or we can step back and be a witness to this amazing play of life unfolding before us. Both are true within their respective frameworks.

A Will Free of Ego

Although, in the liberated state of mind, there may be no free will in the sense in which we normally think of it, there is instead a newfound freedom far more fulfilling and enriching than the freedom of choice to which we cling.

The will of the individual self is focused on survival. Its foundation is the survival of the organism, fulfilling our bodily needs, avoiding danger or anything that threatens our well-being. In other words, keeping us alive and well, fending of the inevitability of death as long as possible. Added to this are various psychological and social needs. We want to feel safe and secure, to be feel stimulated and fulfilled, to be respected and appreciated. We believe that if we can just get the world to be way want it—and here the world includes other people—then we will be happy.

In the liberated state, the ego no longer drives our thinking and behavior. When it drops away we discover that the ease and safety we had been seeking are already there; they are qualities of our true nature. But it is the nature of the ego to plan and worry, to seek the things it wants, avoid the things it doesn’t want. In so doing creates it tension and resistance, which veils our true nature, hiding from us the very peace of mind that we are seeking.

The life-changing discovery of the liberated mind is that it is already at peace. Nothing needs to be done, nothing needs to happen, nothing needs to change in order to experience peace. There may still be much to do in the world; helping others, resolving injustices, taking care of our environment, etc.. But we are free from the dictates of the ego; we are free to respond according to needs of the situation at hand rather than what the ego wants. Here our will is truly free.

First published on the authors web site

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Peter Russell is a fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, of The World Business Academy and of The Findhorn Foundation, and an Honorary Member of The Club of Budapest. At Cambridge University (UK), he studied mathematics and theoretical physics. Then, as he became increasingly fascinated by the mysteries of the human mind he changed to experimental psychology. Pursuing this interest, he traveled to India to study meditation and eastern philosophy, and on his return took up the first research post ever offered in Britain on the psychology of meditation. He has written several books in this area -- "The TM Technique," "The Upanishads," "The Brain Book," "The Global Brain Awakens," "The Creative Manager," "The Consciousness Revolution," "Waking Up in Time," and "From Science to God".

36 Responses to “The Paradox of Free Will”

  1. July 09, 2015 at 1:00 am, MJA said:


    And if A = B, and B = C, then A = C

    But what about B?

    They all look different to me, so what is truth,

    What can it B?

    Different or equal?

    What should it B?

    To B or not to B?

    That is the question.

    The Nature of B,

    Aristotle, Shakespeare and Me.



    • July 11, 2015 at 8:22 am, Bobbi Jones said:


      • July 11, 2015 at 6:18 pm, Geoffrey Carlitz said:

        From the “Eternal” perspective, everything has already happened…

        • July 11, 2015 at 6:28 pm, Bobbi Jones said:

          Whew! I have nothing to think about then apart from just enjoy the ride? I like that Geoffrey!

          • July 12, 2015 at 2:53 am, Shay Kadosh said:

            Like a sheep waiting to be slautered.

  2. July 09, 2015 at 2:31 am, Tom said:

    A multiverse arrangement would give you/one the ability to ‘choose’ and then progress in the universe where you chose Yes instead of No or A instead of B –

  3. July 09, 2015 at 5:55 am, Kim Lincoln said:

    Already at peace~it truly is that simple! Thank you for your lovely sharing

  4. July 10, 2015 at 3:53 pm, Geoffrey Henshall said:

    A relevant article I have on Google+

    Karma vs. Free will

    So, what do we know about the idea of the Buddhist idea of Karma?

    Likewise, there is a western debate by philosophers on what is the essence of free will.

    I think by bringing another perspective to the discussion it might be helpful.

    Firstly, the discussion here on what karma is, as described by different schools and how it should be interpreted is not an issue here. There are many discussions within Buddhism on its finer points. Generally, the view is that there there are subtle mental events that run in parallel with cognitive thought in the minds creation of objective reality. These subtle mental events are influences which are a product of past feelings and deeds. Our personal view of the world appears to be our own, however, these subtle mental events I mentioned that continuously run in parallel to cognitive thinking, seem to guide us and influence how we feel and about how we see things.

    So, what are these subtle mental events. We all know ourselves, that emotions and subliminal habits exist and therefore influence what we think and do. We feel comfortable with that, so its kind of a synergy of these events, thinking, emotions, habitual tendencies and inveterate beliefs, every moment this synergy moves forward. What happens during the moment is we assimilate our experience into our current view of reality. So this mix of conscious and subtle thought is stored in our memories.

    The next question is, is the cognitive & subtle stored in an assimilated form in memory or, is the cognitive thought separated from the subtle conscious influence, also, does our memory have a system for categorising these separate elements? I would like to suggest it does. Some of the components of each thought could be; dualistic interpretations, preconceived objects, associated subjects, the perpetuity of various elements, physical sense sensitivity, as examples. Emotions and Habits could also be components that could be classified as propensities to the concept. Meaning that they were historically present in the original thought but not part of its objective nature.

    Why do we need to know this, because if karma exists, a part of karma’s meaning is about its function of unpacking past experience into the present. So what I want to suggest here is that there are fundamental reference points, notions that aid in the process of current thought, to pack and unpack thoughts, concepts and relative connections. These reference points are notions that act as place holders to keep memories intact.

    The final point here is that karma is encapsulated in the ‘subtle conscious’ propensities. The reference point within our construction of reality that holds karma is ‘the notion of propensity’ and these propensities are infinite in number and are attachments to all our conscious activity.

    My cover page here is about the God Indra, it is said the Buddha in one of his meditations visited this Vedic god, the teaching that followed this meditation was on the topic of ‘inter-dependant origination’. meaning that everything is a reflection of everything else. Exactly what quantum physicists are asserting now. Karma in this context is a confirmation of this universal law, on a personal level.

    Free will, well there has been many discussions around that ‘is everything determined, fatalistic etc’. or, the idea free will is unfettered volition. Most western philosophers seem to be content to rest in the linear cognitive level of perception for their argument.

    Free will in Buddhism is not talked about that that much directly but there are topics that directly relate. Inspiration is the first topic that comes to mind. Many teachings have inspirational stories, some are divided into the sub- categories of view, meditation and action, the view often has inspirational references. Inspiration leads to intention so, is this free will. Was their introduction to these teachings fatalistic, perhaps!

    I think there are two elements in the nature of free will. On one hand we internalise intention. Intention in the present reality, is juxtaposed compatibly with our self image, this is an internal process that helps us to feel good or bad about what the intention is. On the other hand, we have an externalisation, the environment, ‘are the physical conditions compatible?’ There needs to be balance in this duality for the concept of free will to be acted upon. The self must be agreeable and the sensory experience must be compatible. Then free will could be applied.

    In the previous part of this discussion I emphasised the role of Propensities, so, now do we need to consider the neutral fields of internal and external intention again, this time in the context of propensities.

    Sorry, there is no intention for you to do some mental gymnastics to figure this out. I am really just pressing the point, that we exist only in the reflection of everything else. Free will and Karma are inseparable.

    Although, free will is a topic that seems to imply the existence of a fundamental self, it is still a concept that is a part of the multiplicity of things. The philosophers trying to create a singularity of free will, will in my opinion be discussing this topic as unresolved for some time yet.

  5. July 11, 2015 at 5:01 am, Frank said:

    Very interesting and helpful. I remember hearing a statement Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said something like: ” We can choose whatever we like, eg plant an orange seed or an apple seed, but once the choice is made, the result is already determined by that choice”. This to me resolved the paradox and made both sides compatible as you suggested.

    The Bhagavad Gita also states something like: “We have control over action alone, never over its fruits”. The fruits are detetmined by God, Nature, the Whole, the System, etc by we can still choose in the present whatever we like, even though to some degree this choice may be affected by the past.

    If we say the past produced the present, then we can say that the past and the present together produce the future. The past is already done, we cannot change it but the present is still open and we have the opportunity to influence the future to the degree of freedom that we have now from the past.

  6. July 11, 2015 at 6:15 am, dimodokos said:

    Very good article!!

  7. July 11, 2015 at 9:17 am, John Browne said:

    For me, this is more evidence of Freewill as a fundamental qualia of reality. The reductionist theory of Determinism says, everything is separate and determined by “cause and effect”, like the fall of dominos. You can’t go backwards. However, Freewill requires the ability to “change your mind”, to change the past by future choices, like forgiving, sharing, self sacrifice, and love.

    This means you are not “stuck”, you are not a “biological robot”. Your life and choices do have “meaning”. You are free to choose which path you walk in life, both “good” or “bad”. And, it means Freewill requires personal responsibility for your choices. They are ultimately under your “control” and not predetermined, like dominos falling. You can “go back” and re-choose.

    This also means our perception of time is an illusion. Time is not linear. “Linear time” is only what it “looks like” from our limited perspective. It is a temporary “rule” here. The past, present, and future are really part of one phenomena. Time itself is not fundamental to reality. You are not trapped forever by a choice or experience. You can consciously return to the “past” and re-choose a different future path if you want to. You understand. You are Free, and your life is full of meaning and purpose.

    • July 12, 2015 at 4:58 pm, Daniel Escobar said:

      If there is free will then there is a reason for guilt, there is blame, there is a soul condemning reason for punishment; essentially, there is heaven & hell(and humans that are closer or farther from being allowed to pass judgement on others). Right? Are u a Christian? “Meaning” is so important to you. If life had no meaning, would you stop living it? Could u stop living it? Can animals choose to live their meaningless lives? There have been, will be & are trillions of human lives that have very very sad trajectories. If u are a Christian all those trillions of lives must accept the blame, guilt & horror of a life which is highly arbitrary with an added bonus of guilt, blame & punishment which free-will offers us. If there is no free will then there can be a part of us that just watches it all happen. That is a “meaning” of sorts. Or, u can continue to think we have free will & making choices which are “responsible” & “right” & basking in the guilt, blame, punishment, or praise of those around u; or not.

  8. July 11, 2015 at 10:00 am, Joel Winter said:


  9. July 11, 2015 at 3:02 pm, alyceobvious said:

    a grand unification theory for philosophy?

  10. July 12, 2015 at 2:07 pm, Will Meecham said:

    It seems to me there is a distinction to be made between free will and *conscious* free will. The neuroscience experiments demonstrate that choices are made prior to conscious awareness. But they do not prove that choices are predetermined. There is still room for whim, in other words, but whim that operates beneath awareness.

    The felt “I” is not the entity making decisions, clear enough. But it seems possible that genuine decisions are still being made. If such decisions occur, they must arise through processes that encompass more of reality than the illusory egoic self: the whole body-mind complex and (by extension) the entire cosmos.

    Whether we believe the cosmos operates with an element of creative freedom or via strict determinism seems to me like a metaphysical question we cannot yet answer. Personally, I suspect (and hope) there is genuine spontaneous creativity operative in the world.

    I agree with the idea that our view of free will depends on our state of consciousness. But to me, it’s a question of whether free will feels individual versus collective.

    • July 12, 2015 at 4:00 pm, Ian Wardell said:

      “The neuroscience experiments demonstrate that choices are made prior to conscious awareness”

      Er . .no. The choice is made when one chooses. In as much as you’re suggesting that neuroscience demonstrates the causal inefficacy of consciousness, then you’re simply wrong. This is an *incoherent* position. See my blog entry:

      • July 12, 2015 at 8:57 pm, Will Meecham said:

        I’ve looked at your post, Ian, and although I understand your reasoning, I don’t think it applies to what I’m suggesting.

        I could say more, but your other remark on my comment makes clear your contempt for my opinions. I don’t have contempt for your ideas, but I find it hard to respect a person who lacks civility. And I see it as pointless to engage in a debate with someone I can’t respect.

        • July 12, 2015 at 11:14 pm, Ian Wardell said:

          OK, fair enough. I think you materialists are barking mad anyway, so I agree any discussion will be fruitless 🙂

    • July 12, 2015 at 4:02 pm, Ian Wardell said:

      “The felt “I” is not the entity making decisions, clear enough”.

      The sheer stupidities and manifest falsehoods that people believe in almost overwhelms me …

      • July 12, 2015 at 8:51 pm, Will Meecham said:

        It must be wonderful to be so sure of one’s opinions.

  11. July 12, 2015 at 3:52 pm, Ian Wardell said:

    “Neuroscientists find no evidence of an individual self located somewhere in the brain”.

    But they can find no evidence for consciousness either. Surely if they can find no evidence for consciousness (and they cannot do so *in principle*), then a fortiori they ought not to find any evidence for a self!

  12. July 12, 2015 at 3:53 pm, Ian Wardell said:

    “We draw a distinction between “me” and “not me” and create a sense of self for the “me” part”.

    Well me, you etc is the self. If *me* doesn’t exist, how do we draw a distinction between me and not me??

  13. July 12, 2015 at 3:54 pm, Ian Wardell said:

    The notion that consciousness is not causally efficacious is simply incoherent. See my blog entry:

  14. July 12, 2015 at 5:48 pm, Scott Miller said:

    The default state of Existence Itself is Infinite Timelessness. That is Reality; all else is illusion. Therefore all appearances of limitation are false, up to and including human and all other biological life, and every objective creation observed by same.

    The “two sides of a coin” analogy is apt, but only makes sense to non-existent limited “selves” currently enjoying the illusion of a one-sided, FLAT coin projecting itself as a 3-dimensional universe. The Infinite nature of Reality requires that all possible events pre-exist simultaneously as quantum potentialities, and that is the Truth behind “determinism.” Free Will can only be experienced by Consciousness focusing locally within the Duality illusion as it explores a unique path, from its localized perspective, up, down, and around the Infinite mountainside. There are Infinite paths to a singular Summit, and we are each freely choosing how to break our own trail towards an unquestionably predetermined destination.

  15. July 12, 2015 at 9:47 pm, Steve Weiss said:

    NO FREE WILL: WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT: By Walpola Rahula (1907–1997) was a Buddhist monk, scholar and writer. He is one of the Sri Lankan intellectuals of the 20th century.

    The question of free
    will has occupied an important place in western thought and philosophy, but
    according to “interdependent co-arising”, this question cannot exist. If the
    whole of existence is relative, conditioned and interdependent, how can will
    alone be free? Will, like any other thought, is conditioned, so-called freedom
    is conditioned and relative. There can be nothing absolutely free, physical or
    mental, as everything is inter-dependent and relative. If free will implies a
    will independent of conditions, independent of cause and effect, such a thing
    does not exist! How can a will, or anything for that matter, arise without
    conditions, away from cause and effect, when the whole of existence is whole
    and relative, and is within the law of cause and effect. Here again the idea of
    free will is basically connected with the ideas of God, soul, justice and
    reward and punishment. Not only is so called free will not free, but not even
    the very idea of free will is not free from conditions.

    According to the
    doctrine of “interdependent co-arising”, as well as the analysis of being into
    5 aggregates, the idea of an abiding, immortal substance in man or outside,
    whether it be called ātman, I, soul, self, or ego, is considered only a false
    belief, a mental projection. This is the Buddha’s doctrine of anattā, no self
    or no soul.

    There is no term in
    Buddhism wider than “dharma.” It includes the conditioned things and states,
    but also the non-conditioned, the absolute, nirvāna. There is nothing in the
    universe or outside, good or bad, conditioned or non-conditioned, relative or
    absolute, which is not included in this term. Therefore, it is quite clear
    that, according to this statement, all dharma are without self, there is no
    self, no ātman, not only in the 5 aggregates, but also no where else outside
    them or apart from them.

    This means according
    to the Theravāda teaching, that there is no self either in the individual are
    in the dharma. The Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy maintains exactly the same
    position, without the slightest difference, on this point, putting emphasis as
    well as on.

    The universe is the
    ātman (soul, spirit) that I shall be after death, permanent, abiding,
    everlasting, un-changing, and I shall exist for all of eternity. Is this idea
    not wholly and completely foolish?

  16. July 13, 2015 at 11:43 am, David said:

    The idea that quantum theory has established that some events are “truly random” is a common misreading of the evidence. Such a misstatement has been put forth by Hawing and others, which is one reason so many people accept it as a fact. Randomness is a subjective point of view and has to do with the naked belief that things could have turned out otherwise. And, to oversimplify, I don’t think that you can say that free will and its absence are compatible or even complementary. (In an interview with Paul Davies, John Bell noted that “no free will” gets us “out of the crisis” of quantum theory. See more in my book God Does Not Play Dice.) Note to Peter: we both spoke at the 1999 Albuquerque conference on Science and Consciousness.

    • December 06, 2015 at 2:27 pm, Joel said:

      I like to look at things as; it happened therefore it was meant to happen and our decisions have a varying degree of influence on the outcome.

  17. July 26, 2015 at 11:51 am, Zigmond Hollis said:

    One of the best articles I have read in a long time. I have also pondered this for years and come to very similar conclusions from a scientific and spiritual perspective. I’m really glad I discovered your write-up today. Thanks for summing it up so well!

  18. July 30, 2015 at 9:02 pm, RexRiley said:

    You write: “In one state of consciousness there is free will. In the other, it has no reality.” So now there are multiple modes of consciousness?

  19. August 10, 2015 at 6:14 am, Tulshiram Date said:

    I am of the opinion that Free will and Determinism are two different entities. Free will leads to salvation and it helps to Self realization .
    Meditation is the basis of Self realization and for meditation Free will which being subjective is most essential. Determinism is objective
    and its basis is cause and effect. For Being Free will is the most essential while Determinism is sufficient for Becoming. More over Deter-
    monism is not of use to quantum physics.

  20. January 20, 2016 at 1:19 am, luke said:

    I don’t think that we can defend the view that the both sides of the coin as you put it are true because they appear to be true from different states of consciousness, I do believe that some true objective reality must be there, and different states of consciousness only expose us to different ways of perceiving that reality, but never fully, and never objectively, so in that sense they aren’t really true, but they can subjectivly be perceived as true, which I don’t find to be a viable conclusion to the question.

    However I have a different way of finding the reconciliation of the two ideas of free will and determinism. The problem of this duality is among other things caused by our lack of understanding what we really are, what the self is and what is it that if free will existed would have it.

    If we know that the brain or better the intellect makes decisions before we are aware of them, and we suggest that we are not the intellect but the consciousness that perceives or follows among other things the doings of the intellect, then it becomes a question of trusting and following the intellect or not.

    It gets specially interested here, if we perceive we have free will by default, we will take intellect as our self and have the experience of free will, but our action will be fully predetermined by the past influences on our psychology which cause our psychology to create definite thoughts and intentions in a way as reactions to the actions of the past, on the other side if we go in to “observer mode” and separate the feeling of I, from thoughts that arise from the mind we will be able to see that in our daily lives we are carried around by our thoughts, which from that point of view aren’t ours, and yes from that standpoint reality would seem more deterministic cause we would see the mechanical nature of our everyday thoughts and actions, but at that moment we have in a sense a chance for a a greater freedom of will, cause we can have a slight possibility to choose which thoughts to follow and which to dismiss.

    So what I am trying to say is that I believe that determinism and free will are not as you put it two sides of a coin simultaneously true, but rather a scale from no free will to absolute free will which I think is out of our reach, but we can in a way strive towards it and become more free with right, sincere and intelligent effort.

    Just a bonus thought here, I think one of the easiest ways to make and maintain an act of free will is the effort not to do anything, to stop moving, to stop taking your thoughts and feeling as something of your creation, but rather as something happening to you, cause I don’t see any mechanical way that would bring about such an effort, everything in life always pulls and pushes us around to act or better said to react, but to choose not to react, to remain still is, I believe an act of free will.

  21. May 12, 2016 at 10:45 am, danishgirl said:

    Thanks for a thoughtful, well written article.

  22. May 12, 2016 at 8:52 pm, dana (dany) said:

    this sounds like a context confusion; CHOICE IS A RELATIVE CONCEPT; THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO CHOICE; in the phenomenal, material, manifest environment there is the illusion of choice–in the neuomenal, absolute spititual realm choice is not; hence, a cross-contextual error–thanks dennis

  23. May 17, 2016 at 3:59 pm, mayagaia said:

    Realize many will view this as a crank commentary – but in my (Google) “nirvikalpa samadhi journey”, in the ascending state of duality I was confronted by who/what the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says – “When the soul reaches that borderland of the cosmos, Agni takes possession of it.” and the thought became implanted in me – “to continue, you must agree to die.” This demanded my making a free-will choice to continue into the unknown or return to phenomenal life. Choosing “yes” – my journey proceeded – where my Self was annihilated and my consciousness transformed to a deterministic state of non dual union with Brahman. Suggests Alan Watts was right – our consciousness has a 200% reality – with free-will in duality and determinism in non duality – IMO.

  24. May 26, 2016 at 11:57 am, nathan said:

    This is something I’ve struggled with for quite some time, and still do.

    The individual self (the ego) is almost certainly a construct–we can experience this easily enough through thought experiments and/or presence. If choice is only perceived by the ego, then it seems choice would be illusory. At least insomuch as the ego is illusory.

    It sounds as if you’re holding a sort of compatibilist view–that choice is real in that we experience it as real. Sort of a “this is the definition of choice” perspective. This would be as opposed to the idea that there are multiple possible outcomes and there is (somehow) a choice to be made.

    It seems like this “no choice” conclusion is inevitable within a causal chain, but seems to be even more apparent if we try to conceptualize timelessness. Without an unknown future of possibilities, “choice” becomes even more illusory. I mean, either I am or am not going to go the library tomorrow–my perception of choice is nothing more than my not knowing which one will happen. There’s still only one outcome.

    This isn’t criticism though. I feel like this was a really well written article on something few people have really thought through. It’s just difficult to even comprehend how something so fundamental to our entire experience might just be an illusory construct.

    Thank you for writing this.

  25. March 11, 2017 at 3:27 am, Lawrence said:

    Great conclusion at the end. The last paragraph of “A Will Free of Ego” says it all. Thank you Peter.

    The recognition that “Love” is within, brings gratitude. This Love is absolute and eternal, as has been said that “Love is all there is.” Our experience of Joy is in direct proportion to our choosing to recognize this. As spiritual beings, that is really our only choice as we either resonate with the truth of Spiritual Reality or not. That is the First Law. The Second Law is the Law of Karma, which is where the cause and effect of the first choice will play itself out in time. All the other laws and prophets hang on these two laws.

    A little poem is offered here:

    “I Bring My Soul To Thee”

    Our Father, The Love in the Center of all,
    I bring my soul to Thee,
    For when my will becomes Thy Will,
    Then truly I am free.

    I come to Thee for Thou are Great!
    The time is now…, and the rest will wait.
    For here it will be, as Thou can see,
    The place where all do truly agree.

    So, I thank Thee, Father, for this gift called life,
    For my breath, my will, my hands, and my wife.
    Such as all this I never could see,
    Without your Love which allows it to be.

    Yet, this world – the stars, this earth, and its charms,
    Merely seems to be endless in all of its forms.
    For surely, after much has been said and done,
    We’d each have to know there could be only One.

    So, I thank Thee, dear Father,
    For this very one thing more,
    And that is for Your Great Love
    Forever within each and every core.

    ~contributed by Lawrence

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