Where’s The Will? Or, Liberation in an Instant
One of the deepest mysteries of life is about free will.
It’s obvious there can be nothing like will for a separate entity. A separate, individual will makes no sense, if you think about it: where would it be? Every thing is subject to cause and effect, causation, time and motion… what they call “nature and nurture”, at every moment in time.
And nothing like a Universal Will. Not unless you’re Schopenhauer. (That was a philosophy joke, folks – my apologies to the uninitiated). For a will has to be in relation to something else: a goal, a direction, or at least a different state of things. But the totality is not in relation to anything else.
That is pure imagination and speculation to think that. It has no practical use.
Also, based on insight, one sees or intuits there is a kind of perfection, an intelligence that is difficult to see, but built into the whole. It operates if one does not interfere. This is the whole basis of the Tao Te Ching. This is sometimes as expressed as, “things work out”, or “trust in life and love”: one is a part of and not distinct from a whole field as it were. Of what, it may be impossible to say: some call it “energy”, but that brings with it all kinds of phenomenalistic notions that are fantasy and New Age stuff. Call it the Tao if you want.
In other words, the intuition is that nothing is random. The idea of “random” is again, another fantasy or interpretation or projection of human wish-fulfillment or cynicism or a veil of intellectual concepts to justify something: an observation, or simply a lack of knowledge about what’s happening, in detail or as a whole.
And is anything really happening? If indeed the cutting-edge physicists ad the ancient philosophers are right, and realization is real, and time and space are not real, and motion a constructed illusion, then what could be happening, other than the mind, or an apparent mind, moving? In other words, don’t worry.
This Dream Life
This is a sort of dream-life, as far as all this “stuff” and goings-on – in the same way as when you wake up from a night dream, how concerned are you with those characters and objects you encountered in the dream? You know they were a creation of the mind. This is analogous to how the characters and objects in the waking life are merely part of this whole “play” as it were. The play of Tao.
An Inspirational Interlude (A Break Between Thoughts)
32 • Tao
The Doctrine is the doctrine of non-doctrine,
The Practice is the practice of non-practice,
The Method is meditation by non-meditation,
And Cultivation which is cultivation by non-cultivation.
This is the Mind of non-mind, which is wu hsin,
The Thought of non-thought, which is wu nien,
The Action of non-action, which is wu wei,
The Presence of the absence of Volition,
Which is Tao.
~ Wei Wu Wei, All Else is Bondage: Non-Volitional Living
If nothing is random, then the other interpretation of phenomenal life, this “dream life”, is to think it is all determined: to be fatalistic as it were. This is also a mistaken projection. For everything to be determined, that is, predetermined, one requires not only time, but a rigid relation between the past, present and future. Such a mechanistic view is purely made up, and is not the nature of one’s most intimate experience.
Indeed, if you ask yourself, “Has anyone ever been to the past or the future?” you can see that time is merely a conceptual overlay over experience. There’s no real line going from a past to a future. This was a learned image, a concept.
The experience of life as fluid, free, changeable, ever new and fresh, and creative in the moment, is also available. The fact that it’s available proves that life simply does not follow the rule that it is rigid and determined, like a machine. It does not follow that rule, or any other rule for that matter. If life were rigid and determined, it would always be that way. Call this absolute freedom the spontaneous aspect of life.
The mystery then is — or should I say the apparent mystery, since the mystery is about giving an explanation, not the experience itself — how to reconcile total freedom and spontaneity with cause & effect and determinism?
This contradiction — or should I say apparent contradiction (what we call a paradox) — can, by nature, never be resolved by the mind, by concepts, by phenomenal existence, nor by science or philosophy. It can only be experienced, and accepted as a basic fact of life.
This is a life of beauty, wonder, causeless joy, love, and everything else it’s possible to experience.
However, it is worth looking into, in my experience, this puzzle of free will. This is because we may be running around assuming things are bound, when they are in fact inherently free. We may be suffering needlessly, feeling and thinking we are victims, or underprivileged, or missing out, lacking, fearful, angry, despairing, anxious, depressed, powerless, whatever. At the bottom of that, is the thinking and feeling to be a separate and bound entity. Which, in fact, does not exist. How can a non-existent entity be bound, other than by the assumption of its existence as a real, independent, self-existing entity, one with free will?
The Free Will you truly are can never be grasped.
Yet it is real: as real as the awareness of the experience of the experience of reading these words right now.
Neither passive nor non-passive.
Self-aware and self-existing, right Now.