Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Determinism vs. Free Will

It is an age-old question, of course, and down through human history man has wondered to what extent he is free, and to what extent his moods and actions, and his very thoughts are governed or determined by things and forces beyond his control.

In the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, there was a school of thought that held itself to be deterministic. The determinists felt that the molecules in nature ran their course according to inalterable laws, and as the atoms of our body moved, our mind and person were swept along with them. In the nineteenth century, people could do nothing but submit to this scheme for it was forced upon them by the last word of science. Hence, there was said to be a great wave of melancholy among the educated, who felt that human effort in the face of such a universe was void and ineffectual. In such a view, the question of purpose in life was meaningless, and the colours of everyday existence were quite drab.

Whether or not our lives are preordained is not a question that will be settled here. But we should take a close look at our posture in the event that it might be true. Why should it bring a great wave of melancholy? Why should life become meaningless, and why should the colours of everyday existence become quite drab?

Nothing changes. What we believe, or how we look at life, in no way alters or changes its true nature. Whether you believe in it had nothing to do with its effect on your life. The world would still turn, the sun still shine, the alarm clock still ring, and the affairs of the day still confront you.

People cling to concepts of life as though they were their last foothold before slipping into oblivion. By our traditions, we become rooted in certain beliefs and concepts, such as free will, or being masters of our fate. What if we were to find in the future that the determinists are right, that free will is but an illusion; that we are moved by forces beyond our control in every facet of life? Should that be cause for melancholy, or for drawing the curtains on a colourful existence? Not at all. It doesn’t matter what we think life is all about. The only thing that matters is that there is only one Truth, and that Truth is what we experience; what we see and feel each moment of our life.

As Mystics, we say we live in Truth. However, our concepts of that Truth change during the periods of our lives. We once believed the world was flat. Today we believe it is round. We once believed that man lived but once. We now believe he lives in progressing incarnations. We once believed in spontaneous creation. We now believe in evolution. And so, someday we may also say that we once believed in free will, but now we believe in cosmic determinism. And it won’t matter. The colour, the potential for happiness, the sense of freedom, the sense of purpose, will always be part of our human experience, as it is now.

What does matter is that with each new concept we come closer to the ultimate Truth. What does matter is that the closer we come to Truth, the more ennobled life on earth will be, and the closer we will be to living in perfect harmony with our cosmic source.

- Author Unknown

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