Re: Free will (was: Re: Nucleus Accumbens Transplant)

Zenarchy (
Fri, 4 Dec 1998 12:42:46 -0800

Physics has become metaphysics again. Physicists talk about atoms having free will. Some have said that no event can be postulated without the presence of a witnessing observer. Eddington says, “Religion first became possible for a reasonable scientific man about the year 1927.

As far as I know, no one has absolute free will except for Buddha, Krishnamurti, and other enlightened masters. But the freedom of their will (or determined action) has neither desire nor choice in it. So, in a sense they had freedom, but not really any will.

Come to think of it, the term /free will/ may qualify as one of the oldest oxymorons in the language, because either a man has freedom from will, or he remains the slave of will. The idea of free will comes from the ego. The ego likes to flatter itself that it can live willfully, and yet enjoy freedom simultaneously. The ego likes to believe that it can perform this miraculous feat despite all immediate evidence to the contrary. A man of will has no freedom, and a man of freedom has nothing to do with will.

The ego/mind jumps to opposites very easily. It invents dichotomies: either you live as a free agent, or you exist as a slave. Neither idea coincides with the truth, because the ego/mind itself exists only as an idea. (See, for example The Myth of The Mind.)
In the vast interdependence of life, individual humans do not exist separately. Ergo freedom and slavery do not exist except as inventions of the human brain, which tries to enforce its view of reality by popular consesnsus.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the elephant and the fly. A very large elephant walked across a bridge. The old bridge shook tremendously, and a fly sat on the head of the elephant, near his ear. When they had gone over the bridge (they had almost destroyed it in crossing), the fly said to the elephant, “Wow! Did we shake that thing!” But the elephant didn’t hear, of course.

The vast interconnections of life make a human very tiny. The proportion outstrips that of a fly to an elephant. Compared to life entire, a human seems almost nothing. Yet we go on insisting that the bridge shakes because of us.

A man says that he has “free will.” Such hubris! Some argue for free will, and some argue against it, saying that no one really has freedom, that we all live as meat puppets, the strings in some unknown hands. But this also misses. Both arguments fail, because in reality the distinction between the individual and the universe has no validity. If you identify with the whole, then you feel like a master. If you set yourself against the whole, then you feel like a slave. If you understand that the brain invents these distinctions, then you can experience freedom from the entire entanglement.
We people the world with interdependent symbiosis, with neither mastery nor slavery. Understanding that brings freedom. The West finds it difficult to accept this because when Occidentals think about freedom, they think of free will, and when Orientals think about freedom, they think of freedom from the will. Freedom in the contemplative sense means freedom from the ego, the will, the mind, the memory. In the West it means freedom from every barrier, limitation, constraint, but the ego remains – the “I” remains. The ego wants to own that freedom. In the East, when contemplatives speak of freedom, the “I” does not remain in it, because the I exists as part and parcel of the bondage, and the ego goes with the bondage. Freedom remains, not “I” -- that freedom they call /moksha/. Not that “you” or “I” become free.
On the contrary, we become free of ourselves, and no separate selves exist. Self simply disappears, it existed only as a dream anyway, a false concept, an arbitrary viewpoint. Useful, but not true.

As long as we remain in the dream world of separate and discrete selves, we cannot have any real will, much less freedom. Having fallen to an impulse, the mind prefers to believe that it has chosen it. That describes the human condition. Try to understand the accidental nature of your preferences, and see that your decisions come from the same origins.

With hyper-cognition, will and freedom can exist, but then no ego can rise to claim it. If you allow consciousness to expand, it shall displace you, and then it becomes clear that whatever has happened in your life has happened accidentally. In that consciousness, the will exists but the ego disappears. Without this consciousness, freedom cannot emerge, although everyone dreams that it can. We can reduce the whole human problem to a simple thing: To wake up from the dream or not to wake up.

Two planes of thought: the highest plane has it that everything happens as it should – nothing ever goes wrong, nothing has ever gone wrong, nothing can ever go wrong, and effort makes no difference. That signifies the highest truth, that everything goes exactly as it ought to, and to understand this makes one become silent. The moment you understand this, turmoil and strife end. Then whatever happens, you accept it, because this means it ought to have happened as it has happened. You simply surrender to existence and the will of the universe. But if people cannot understand this, then a lower truth (a truth just for the name’s sake, not a real truth) can reach them. We can use a half-truth to help people who can’t grok the whole truth. To those who still live in their egos, the guru says, “Yes, you have things to do, and through your action, things shall happen. If you work hard, you shall find your reward; if you don’t work hard, you will miss out. You have a will, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

This lower truth remains a lie, but some people need that lie, they cannot understand the truth. If you can understand the highest truth, you don’t need the consolation of this lie. People who can’t relax, who have to do something or other, they’ll burst if they don’t have anything to do. For them, the consolation gives comfort. Some day they can also realize that all this nonsense about the mind’s free will has no truth to it. Things happen on their own accord. Nobody really does anything, and nobody can. The day you understand this, you experience perfect consciousness. Then you can relax. Not that you stop doing things -- you continue living your life, but you know that existence does it, not you. You continue to breathe, your blood continues to circulate, Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself. Meditation means nothing other than that.

You have free will if, when someone insults you, you remain calm, as if nothing had happened; or if, when someone praises you, you remain unaffected as if they had praised someone else. The bodhisattva and the arhat both know life; the one finds it through the emotions, the other through reason. Many ways of knowing life make many lives, but life remains one. The world needs extropians as much as extropians need the world. The world lives inside you, you don’t live inside the world. So you master it, it does not master you. In contrast, the truth masters you, you don’t master the truth. Never forget who does what. Live as a witness, and live forever. Then if you accept any limitation of your own free will, bondage no longer ensnares you. Then whatever you choose, whatever you want to do you can do. To go beyond time, remember that all creation deteriorates in the flow of time, as a mere reflection. Only what stands beyond time as a witness remains true. The ancient and inexhaustible law abides, as fresh as ever.

If you go to heaven by force, it would seem worse than hell; and if you choose hell by your own free will, it seems like heaven, because you keep your independence whole and unchallenged. No one can force happiness and tranquility upon you.

I’ve heard that Mulla Nasruddin was on his death bed. His son asked, “Tell me something of your experiences in life.” Mulla said, “I have learned three things in life. One: if people are a little patient the fruits ripen by themselves and fall. You need not climb the tree in order to pluck them. Two; if people are patient people die by themselves. There is no need to wage wars in order to kill them. And three: if people are really patient women will run after men on their own accord; there will be no need to run after them.” This is the quintessence of Mulla’s life experience. But who profits by the experience of life? <g>

-----Original Message-----
From: christophe delriviere <> To: <> Date: Wednesday, December 02, 1998 6:59 PM Subject: Re: Free will (was: Re: Nucleus Accumbens Transplant)

>Damien Broderick wrote:
>> At 01:51 PM 12/2/98 +0100, Anders wrote:
>> > As I see it free will is a macroscopic property
>> >of an agent being able to behave in a way that is hard to predict in
>> >general without simulating the whole agent
>> >So in my perspective, indeterminism isn't
>> >necessary for free will. But this can be debated for hours
>> I must be mad, getting into this. But here's my 2 cents:
>Why? ;)... well in fact yes... such subjects attracts me like black
>holes .... I've so few possibilities to discuss it and got new ideas
>> If the mind is the brain/body in action, radical indeterminism of the
>> quantal kind *can't possibly* be the source of `free will'. We
>> absolutely
>> do not regard random acts as `free' - in fact, they are as unfree as
>> any
>> acts done under rigid coercion.
>YES!!!!! ;)I'm happy to see that pointed out...
>> The loop-hole in this argument, as I (dimly) understand it, is the
>> sort of
>> story told by non-monists such as Popper and Eccles. If it makes
>> sense to
>> suppose that minds have (or are) a non-physical or `spiritual'
>> component -
>Non-physical equals non-existing in our universe (witch can be
>considered as a closed system)... isn't?
>> whatever that might mean - supervenient upon the hardware of the
>> brain,
>> then perhaps quantal uncertainties can provide the entrance point to a
>> neural cascade causing the brain to enter specific states. Of course,
>> this
>> just pushes back the issue of `freedom of the will' into a mysterious
>> impalpable black box,
>As you have said previously, quantum uncertainty can't logically be
>where FW is hiding, you can't choose for yourself the result of an
>observable before making the experiment.
>> and one for which we have no independent evidence.
>> (But if there is anything to the claims of lab evidence for psi, which
>> I
>> still find provocative [cf. PEAR, Dean Radin, etc], maybe we will be
>> obliged to take into account some such mysterioso realm of being and
>> perhaps consciousness.)
>What I think, is that "free will" like the " I " concept, is just an
>useful heuristic that has been embedded in our brains during darwinian
>evolution. When we believe in "free will", we are somewhat better
>adapted to the world.
>So "free will" is a very useful mere illusion. If you accept that our
>universe function according to some laws, knowable or not, or even if
>from time to time doesn't obey to laws... we can't absolutely not tamper
>with ;)... because we are just the products of these laws in action, of
>this dam dynamically evolutive universe.
>We are the products of the interactions of the objects that compose us
>and our surrounding.
>If I want something, if I have a goal, it's because of my Machinery and
>his interactions with his surrounding.
>Every moment, you can't think or wish something that is not, at least,
>physically compatible with the previous moment.
>Probably "free will" as an illusion is not about physics, but just pure
>mathematical causal logic.
>Like the " I " concept and 'free will", transhumanism/extropianism are
>useful sets of memes that somewhat transform you gradually, for
>example, in a more adaptive, thinking and knowledgeable person, at
>least if you have been exposed to ....