LEASBURG DAM SP, NM—Reader Lee sent the following email concerning free will:
For some time now (aprox 2 years) I’ve been grappling with the idea of free will. I can’t seem to arrive at a conclusion. The advaita point of view seems to hold that there is no such thing ~ and then just places emphasis on Consciousness. I can’t poke a hole through their logic (eg., Ramesh Balsekar). On the other hand, when ‘I’ arrive at a fork in the road, I can listen to my inner Self (using my spiritual equipment – my sense of truth, what I care about, my intuition) and make the choice to follow through or not. Or, I can make no effort to plumb the depths, the within, at all. If I choose to be or do something, it doesn’t feel mechanical. (Of course, if I’m experiencing a reactionary state it always feels mechanical.) Moreover, most spiritual masters that I’m aware of posit that there is a free will.
I seem to be able to accommodate both sides of the argument ~ even though they seem mutually exclusive. That is I find both credible.
Could you shed some light on this question. It would be greatly appreciated.
Years ago, I used to have a roommate, Greg Timmerman. Timmerman—much like myself at the time—was a very rational, thought-centric person and yet we had two very different methods for filling the ice cube trays.
I would fill them the conventional way, by running the water and moving the tray back and forth under the stream. Timmerman though, would hold the tray at an angle and allow the water to fill the upper slots and cascade down to fill the lower slots. His method was more rational and more efficient because it wasted no water or physical effort.
While he was watching me fill a tray one day, he said, “You know, Wirs, my way is faster.”
To which I replied, “Yes, Timmerman, but my way feels faster.”
What does this have to do with free will? Perception has value. Indeed, no matter what the mind says, perception almost always outweighs rationality.
Another simple example: Practically all theoretical nondualists will tell you that the world is an illusion. That the separation that we see and feel is simply a mental game, that Emptiness is the true Reality and all else is fiction.
Now imagine taking a hammer and slamming it down on one of these guys’ fingers. In their theoretical world, the pain they feel is also just an illusion and thus there would be no reason to react to it.
Will that actually happen though? Will they stand there with a blissful smile and say in a benevolent tone, “The pain I’m experiencing is just an illusion.”
Hmm, I seriously doubt it. Their perception will outweigh their thoughts and theories and—irregardless of what their mind says—they will scream and cry like a little girl, just like you or I would. Why? Because thoughts and theories and philosophies are not Reality. Perception is.
Perception has value. Perception is Reality.
To answer your question Lee: It doesn’t matter what your mind has to say about free will (nor mine, nor anyone else’s). If you perceive free will, then you have free will.
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