Freedom and Necessity
It is doubtful whether, either in philosophy or in theology, there is a subject which has raised more controversy and been productive of more contradictory theories than that of the freedom of the human will. When a moral crisis presents itself in our lives, when we are confronted by the choice between good and evil, are we free to choose either the one or the other? If we are free in our choice what then of causality, of God's foreknowledge of things to come, of predestination and determinism, what of the many indubitable instances of accurate prophecy or premonition? On the other hand, if we are not free to choose what then of moral effort, what of all endeavours to lead a noble life, what of guilt and sin, shame and repentance, reward or punishment? It seems inevitable that the will should either be free or not free, and yet, whichever of the two alternatives we accept, we find ourselves landed in contradictions and difficulties and find our theories incompatible with the facts of our daily experience.
Our nature revolts against the iron slavery of a mechanical necessity, a determinism in which we are but as puppets moved by strings. If we accept such a determinism there seems no reason why we should ever attempt to live nobly; since everything is determined anyhow and we cannot escape from the grim necessity of an irresistible fate we may as well abandon all struggle and effort, all aspiration and enthusiasm and descend to the level of a purely animal existence.
There is within every one of us a conviction and certainty of freedom, a rebellion against the idea of a necessity that would compel us and from which there is no escape. It is true that it is dangerous to be led by our instinctive convictions, however compelling and deeply rooted they may be; too often a fundamental instinct is but rooted in illusion. Yet it would be foolish to pass by lightly such a profound conviction as that of freedom; even if we should be logically convinced of its impossibility it will not be denied and will make itself felt in our life in some way or other.
However adverse we may be to the idea that our entire life, in all its actions and events, is predetermined, there are yet aeons which would seem to make such conclusions inevitable. Nothing ever happens in our experience without a cause, every event can be traced back to the influences that caused it, and should we fail to trace it back in such a way this is due rather to our insufficient knowledge of the causes than to the fact that there were no causes and that the result emerged spontaneously. It cannot be denied that there is a causality of thought, feeling and volition as well as a mechanical causality governing mere physical happenings and we cannot escape the conclusion that, if at any particular moment we could arrest the entire universe, there would be present in it the causes of anything that can ever happen in the future, whether such causes would be of a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual nature. It then seems no longer impossible that everything should be pre-ordained, not perhaps by some inexorable fate, but rather by the causes inherent in nature and in man. In the light of this we can see the theoretical possibility that one, who can contact these causes inherent in things, might consequently be able to know the future and foretell it in detail.
Prophecy has ever been a reality in human history; however abundant false prophecy may have been, one case of accurate prophecy outweighs a thousand cases of pseudo prophecy. Such a case was that of a famous Scotch seer, whose prophecies are still remembered.
Some centuries ago Coinneach Odhar Fiosaiche, better known as 'the Brahan seer' was born on the Seaforth property in Lewis. He soon became known for his gift of the second sight which, between the years 1630 and 1680 led him to prophesy many future events, some of which undoubtedly did come to pass. The remarkable feature of these prophecies was that not only a single event was prophesied which, by chance, might have come to pass in future days, but that a number of surrounding circumstances were prophesied as well, which convey the impression that the Brahan Seer did not merely see the main event of the prophecy, but had a vision of the general surrounding circumstances at that time as well. Thus one of his prophecies known as 'the Seaforth prediction ' or 'The Doom of the House of Kintail,' runs' as follows in its quaint wording:
I see a Chief, the last of his House, both deaf and dumb. He will be the father of four fair sons, all of whom he shall follow to the tomb. He shall live careworn, and die mourning, 'knowing that the honours of his House are to be extinguished forever, and that no future Chief of the Mackenzies shall rule in Kintail. After lamenting over the last and most promising of his sons, he himself shall sink into the grave, and the remnant of his possessions shall be inherited by a white-coifed lassie from the East, and she shall kill her sister. As a sign by which it shall be known that these things are coming to pass, there shall be four great lairds in the days of the last Seaforth (Gairloch, Chisholm, Grant, and Raasay), one of whom shall be buck-toothed, the second hare-lipped, the third half-witted, and the fourth a stammerer. Seaforth, when he looks round and sees them, may know that his sons are doomed to death, and that his broad lands shall pass away to the stranger, and that his line shall come to an end. (A. Mackenzie, The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer, pp. 74-75-)
The Seaforth prophecy was current in the Highlands for generations, until, more than a century after it had been uttered, it came true, even to the quaint details of contemporary events and persons given in it. Nor was that the only one of the Seer's prophecies which was fulfilled, and always he not merely predicted some event, but gave surrounding circumstances in almost minute details.
Reading these and similar prophecies we cannot fail to come to the conclusion which Prof. Richet gives in Thirty Years of Psychical Research, namely ' that premonition is a demonstrated fact.' Richet continues as follows (pp. 395-6):
In certain circumstances not as yet definable, certain individuals (mostly, though not. exclusively, hypnotizable persons or mediums) can announce events to come, and give precise details on these events that are not as yet existent; details so exact that no perspicuity, no coincidence, and no chance can account for the prediction.
We are therefore driven to infer that the special, mysterious faculty that we have called cryptesthesia, whose nature and modes of action are unknown, is not only manifested for past and present facts, but also for future ones.
After all, the metapsychic cognition of existing distant facts is so marvelous that cognition of the future is not so very much more extraordinary. A knows that B, six hundred miles away, is drowned. How can A know this? We have not the least idea. A announces that B will be drowned to-morrow. It is only a little more marvelous. .In the whole domain of meta-psychic lucidity, so profound is the mystery and so impenetrable the obscurity that a little more or less mystery should not appall us.
Are we then to conclude that time is only a notion of our defective mental constitution, that the future is irrevocably fated, that free will is an illusion, and that there is no- moral responsibility? Long discussions might be raised on that text. I shall not enter on arguments that pertain more to metaphysics than to metapsychics, nor allow myself to be led into vain speculation. I shall abide in the domain of strict facts. There are indisputable and verified facts of premonition. Their explanation may or may not come later; meanwhile the facts are there-authenticated and undeniable.' There are premonitions.'
Are these due solely to human intelligence, or to other intelligent forces acting on our minds? It is impossible to decide. We must be content with exact observation of the facts.
And it would be inexcusably rash to affirm, as I have boldly done, that there are premonitions, if abundant and formal proof had not been advanced. This abundant and formal proof has, I think, been given.
If then there are premonitions, if it is certain that there are and have been people who predicted future events of which no foreknowledge, by telepathy or otherwise was possible, and if such predictions, as in the case of the Brahan Seer, were given with a wealth of attendant circumstances, showing almost a vision of some place at a future time, the conclusion indeed seems inevitable that the future is determined even now (how else could it be known at this moment?) and that our alleged freedom of choice is but an illusion. And yet we feel free!
Analysis of the Freedom of Choice
However overwhelming may be the evidence to show that future events are determined even now and can be known by those who have the super-normal faculty we call the gift of prophecy, even so in every one of our actions, in the very fact of our hesitating and deliberating before we decide how to act, we seem to give the lie to necessity and assert our freedom
When I hold a glass of water in my hand I feel perfectly free either to drink or not to drink, and I should smile at the idea that my choice was not my own decision but a predetermined necessity. Yet we must be very careful not to confuse our feeling that we are free to do as we like with the actual freedom of choice. It is a simple experiment in hypnosis to suggest to the subject that the next day at a certain hour he shall desire to drink a glass of water and that on awakening from the hypnotic sleep he shall have forgotten all about this suggestion. When the hour comes the person will feel a natural desire to drink, not different from that which would usually precede the drinking of a glass of water, and if we asked him whether he chose of his own freewill he would answer that he certainly did. Yet in this case we should know for certain that the action was not one of his own free choice but definitely compelled from without. Thus the feeling of freedom, which is such an important factor in our thoughts on the subject of the freedom of the will, would be present in exactly the same way as when the desire to drink was natural. This proves that it is hard, if not impossible, for us to distinguish between desire and compulsion, and that the argument from the feeling of freedom with which we are so familiar, is not as important as it would seem. It cannot be emphasized sufficiently that in all discussions and thoughts about the question of freedom of the will the fact that we feel free to choose in all matters should not carry any weight; however insistently it makes itself felt, we must be on our guard against sentimental conclusions.
There is a vast amount of confusion to be cleared away before we can approach the problem of freedom at all in a profitable way. Thus our aversion to the idea of predestination is mainly due to the fact that we conceive this to imply a compelling destiny from without, which not only shapes our ends, but determines our future in every detail, making us but pawns in its game. This would rule put all effort, struggle, endeavour or aspiration on our part in the life we lead and do away forever with all ideas of responsibility for good or evil actions done. Yet, when we come to analyze in what way our choice is determined we see that it is not so much a ruthless fate from without which decides us as a self determination from within.
Let us begin with the analysis of a very simple choice, such as whether we shall go out for a walk or not. We feel perfectly free in deciding one way or another, granted that we have no immediate other duties to perform. Yet something must determine my choice, the choice does not make itself and when I analyze what happens before the decision is made I see that a number of outer and inner factors combine to bring it about. The weather may be good or bad, I may be reading a story of absorbing interest and stay at home rather than go out, or again my state of health may decide me toward either the one or the other. Yet all the time I feel perfectly free to choose whatever I will. Apart, however, from the outer factors which go to make up my choice there are factors from within; my natural inclinations may be towards an outdoor life or towards reading and study, the way in which I have spent the last few days may lead me to seek a different occupation now; all these are factors working from within, my own disposition of the moment. In my deliberations before the choice is made I unconsciously imagine what it will be like to go out walking, what it will feel like, and on the other hand what it will feel like to be at home; one or other of the two possibilities will call forth associations of pleasure or displeasure which will finally decide my choice. We might say that at the moment of deciding there is a constellation of factors present, both outer, circumstances and inner inclinations or associations. There is no question of a merely mechanical process, it is not a determination from without only, outer and inner influences combine to bring about the final result-my choice. Once this choice is made it would be quite possible for one who had a complete knowledge of all the factors at work to reduce the decision made to the influences that brought it about. Notwithstanding my feeling of being entirely free to choose whether I shall go out walking or stay at home to read, my choice is determined by the totality of inner and outer factors present at the moment. And with a sufficient knowledge of those the final decision could be known also.
In more serious decisions a similar process takes place. When I see someone fall into the water there are a number of factors which help to decide whether I shall jump in after him or not. First of all there are factors from without ; in the case of a child I shall certainly attempt to save it. If on the other hand the victim is a man, who may be able to swim, I shall feel inclined to watch events and see whether or not he can save himself. Again, I may either be dressed in a bathing costume and thus feel it to be only a small matter to jump into the water, or on the other hand I may be in evening dress on my way to an important public function. These and many more may be the outer factors which in rapid succession make themselves felt and call forth reactions from my imagination. In addition to that there is my inner 'constellation ' of factors. I may be ready to sacrifice for others or, on the other hand, be of a calculating and selfish nature; I may have an innate horror of water or a great love for it ; all these are factors helping to determine my choice.
In the fraction of a second my choice may be made, quicker in fact than it is possible for me afterwards to retrace the different eventualities conjured up in succession by my imagination. Yet, at the actual moment of choice all these combine as a 'constellation' of physiological and psychoses logical factors which go to determine my choice. Reading the history of the event backwards we could, if we had sufficient knowledge, trace the choice made back to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual causes of which it was the result. Even if, at the moment of choice, a sudden inspiration or heroic enthusiasm appeared to descend upon me, sweeping aside all mundane considerations and carrying me on to an action of which normally I should not have been capable, even then it is always possible to determine what made this descent of a lofty impulse possible. It may be that the entire situation, the general conditions made, as it were, an opening through which the highest in me could manifest, it is possible that many years of thought and feeling along certain lines now culminate in an action to which they all contribute, but in each case the manifestation from on high, the inspiration or spiritual influx can be traced to causes, determining conditions, not necessarily physical, but none the less causes. Thus, even in the supreme crises of our life there is a causality which determines the result, and yet our experience of the making of the choice may be one of a wavering to and fro, a hesitation and deliberation and finally a triumphant victory over obstacles or a dismal failure and collapse. These are but, as it were, the method by which factor after factor makes itself felt and sways us emotionally or calls forth a reaction of the imagination, until finally the result is produced.
It is therefore a mistake to look upon this causality as a compelling fate from without; the most important and decisive factors which help to determine our choice come from within our own character, the usual trend of our thoughts and feelings, our 'inner' life, these are determining factors in the momentous choices we have to make in life. Our natural aversion to the conception of determinism, of a preordained future, is largely due to the mistaken idea that all our actions, all our creative efforts are determined by a blind fate, compelling us from without. If we speak of compulsion we must realize that it is mainly a compulsion from within and that the determinism, in which the future is predestined, is largely a self-determinism. Even so, our innate feeling that we are free to choose will assert itself again and again.
Freewill and License
One of the most confusing factors in any discussion concerning the freedom of the will is that the popular conception of such a freedom is the ability 'to do just as we like.' Freedom of the will to us means freedom to do either the one thing or the other, we are free to go out walking or to stay at home. Yet there are doubtful features about this conception of freedom.
There are only few, if any, people in these days, who are enabled by social and other conditions to do just as they like. But even if we were to imagine a tyrant, possessed of vast wealth and of perfect health, whose word was law in the community over which he reigned, without there being anyone to call him to account or punish him for his actions, then such a tyrant might be able to do as he liked, but he, no more than his meanest slave, could make a choice without determining factors. Whether, in the whim of the moment, he may decide to build a marble palace or to strike off the head of his prime minister, there must be factors to bring about his wish to do so. They may be instincts or impulses of the moment, they may be sudden ideas or the outcome of a long train of thought, but in all cases they must be determined
by a constellation of physical and psychic factors. Even the choice of the tyrant is determined by influences from without and from within which can only bring about the result or the choice to which he comes and his choice is no more free than that of any other man. What is called free will in this case is but license; in the very actions in which he does exactly as he likes, the licentious tyrant is but a slave of his own passing desires, his likes and dislikes, and we cannot call his will free any more than that of a prisoner in his dungeons.
If our considerations of the problem of the freedom of the will are to bear any fruit we must utterly repudiate the conception of a free will as the power 'to do just as we like.' This idea of freedom is so ingrained in the average mind that it dominates all thoughts upon the matter and yet, what is here called freedom is merely the absence of outer or physical hindrances in the carrying out of our desire of the moment. It is true, nothing can prevent the tyrant from carrying out his will, but that does not make his will any more free than that of any other human being, it merely makes the execution of his wishes unhindered. When we decide, or choose, the absence of physical hindrances no more makes us free than the absence of material obstacles makes free the flight of a bullet; it is determined in its flight whether it hits anything or not. Even so our behaviour is determined by factors from within and from without, whether in the carrying out of our decision we meet with obstacles or not. The average mind is so essentially' unphilosophical in its approach to all problems that we must truly clean out an Augean stable of confusions before even an approach to the question is possible.
It is well then to consider first what we mean by the very term free will. When can we call the will free? Surely only that is free which has no limitation, which is not determined or even influenced by anything else, and can we say that ever of our will? Our will, at least in its manifestations in our daily existence, is ever determined by physiological and psychic factors. How then can we call it free? If freedom is absence of limitation and of determination from without, only that can be free besides which naught else exists and is there any human will of which we can say that? In this sense of the word freedom, and philosophically we cannot well take it in any other sense, only the Absolute is free, the relative is ever determined by its very relations in the world of relativity. There is no freedom in the world of the relative and to speak of a free will, to search for a freedom of the will in that world of relativity is as impossible as the quadrature of the circle. The phrase freedom of the will is a contradiction in terms; no will can be free in the world of relativity.
We are thus once again confronted by a problem born of illusion, a question which in itself is wrong. The free will for which we seek as the ability to do exactly as we like, to do either this or that, is but a scarcely veiled necessity, determined from within by factors present in our consciousness which we do not recognize as compelling influences, but vaguely associate with our inner life. Yet our desires and passions, our habits of thought and feeling, our customary ways of acting are determining influences in all our choices and make the very term 'freedom ' a misnomer. When we assert the freedom of our human will we assert about that will something that can never be claimed for anything in the world of the relative.
Our question is wrong because it is the result of two illusions, that of an objective, absolute time with a future that is not yet and a past that is no more, and secondly our illusion of being a separate individual self without relation to the rest of the universe. Time with its structure of past, present and future is the product of our externalized world image; we objectivate that time and believe it to be an external reality. In that illusion of an absolute, external time the past is fixed forever and the future is as yet uncertain, and it is only in that illusion that the problem of the freedom of the will can flourish. The conception of a free will is ever associated with the conception of being able to choose or decide one way or another, that is to say, it presupposes a future which is not yet there, but which can be shaped by our decisions. Since, however, that objectivated time is an illusion we cannot hope to solve a problem born of it; we must withdraw from the entanglements of our world-image and enter the world of Reality where alone we can know things as they are.
The Problem in the World of the Real
Once again we must abandon the realm of illusion in which our many wrong problems originate and enter the world of Reality where alone truth can be experienced. It is only when we withdraw from the illusions of our world image and pass through our centre of consciousness into the world of Reality that we realize how distorted the problem of the freedom of the will really is, what a contradiction in terms it contains and how impossible it is even to attempt a solution.
When we escape from the tyranny of our time-illusion with its uncertain future and experience eternal Reality we realize how much the problem of the freedom of our will is bound up with our usual concept of time. In that illusion the thought can live that somehow we can choose one way or another, that we by our God-given free will can determine the future according to our choice. But when we enter the world of Reality we experience time as an eternal Present and the very thought of a past which is done with and a future which is not yet becomes absurd. As well might the wanderer along the road think of the road behind him as fixed and certain because he, the wanderer has passed over it, and of the road in front of him as indeterminate and uncertain because he himself has not yet reached it.
The gradual evolution, growth and change which we experience in our lives is but our realization of that which we eternally are in the world of Reality. In that world the life-cycle of any creature or thing is a complete being and we look in vain for distinction of past and future. That distinction exists only for us and it is caused by our realization, it does not exist as such in the world of the Real. Thus what we call the future is fully and really present in this world of the Eternal Now as well as the past, and there is no more uncertainty about that which we have not yet experienced in the illusion of our world-image as there is about that which we have experienced. In that world of reality I am, even now, all that in my world-image I shall be in the future, and I am all this not in a vague outline, in principle, but in every detail which shall be.
Sometimes a view is propounded which attempts to strike a happy mean between determinism and free will and which says that, of course, the future is determined in large outline, l that it is certain that definite great events must be accomplished, but that within these great outlines there is room for our human wills to move about, that within those limits we can choose freely how to act. It then depends on the strenuous nature of our endeavours how soon the great events which have to come can be realized, we can quicken or retard evolution, but never finally oppose it. A plausible doctrine this, but a philosophical impossibility. When once we have realized the nature of time and experienced Reality as eternal we can no longer make compromises in which a little eternity is mixed with a little time. We cannot mix illusion and reality; in the world of the Real there is no question of wide and vague outlined within which the individual artist can fill in his own patterns; in the world of the Real we are all we ever shall be.
Our time-experience is but a realization of eternity and the history of our lives is caused by that which we are in the world of the Eternal. We cannot look upon the events of our lives as additions which we constantly make to Reality. As well might we think of the spectator at a moving-picture show as causing the next picture or event upon the screen by his presence, by his perception of the picture shown. What we are in the world of Reality is no more determined by our daily actions and experience than the picture is determined by the spectator. Yet in this case we are spectator, picture and screen all in one; when the history of our lives is unrolled we experience what we ourselves are in the world of the Real.
It is part of our illusion that we should think of our actions as they appear in our world-image, as producing reality. All that to us appears as action, creation, doing or thinking is but our realization of That which is. In that realization eternal Reality appears as an endless chain of cause and effect; one event appears to produce the next event, whereas in the world of the Real all events are but part of unchanging Reality. Thus our struggles, our failures and victories, our hesitation and our choice are one and all our realization of that which we eternally are in the world of the Real.
Once we have conquered the illusion of an objective time, once we have realized the Eternal and know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that It is the only Reality, the only World that is, the question of the freedom of the human will becomes impossible, at least in the form in which it usually is presented. The future is now, as much as the past is now, and nothing can change that future any more than anything can change the past. Past and future are but names we give to our experience of a Reality which is unchanging, and unless that central fact becomes more to us than an intellectual theory, becomes realization, we cannot hope ever to transcend the problem of the freedom of the will. We must conquer illusion before we can know Reality.
In the world of the Real we not only transcend the illusion of an objective time, we also transcend the illusion of being a separate self over against a world which is not-self. It is true, there are some who are so attached to the duality of self and not-self that they would transfer it even into the world of Reality. Sooner, however, could a miser take his hoard of gold with him through the gateway of death than that we can take with us our dearly beloved illusions through the portal of Reality. There is no self or not-self in the world of the Real, there is only That which we ourselves become in the supreme Experience. When, in the light of that experience we consider the question of the freedom of the will we can see how distorted it is, how impossible, from the standpoint of all embracing Unity.
When we inquire into the freedom of the will we speak of the will of a supposedly separate human being; we want to know whether our will is free. But our will is a relative fact. We fondly imagine ourselves to be separate creatures, sharply distinct from the world which we are not, from our fellowmen who are different creatures. In the world of Reality, however, this illusion is no more. We are all things and a separate will becomes an impossible conception. We can now see how in our original question a number of illusions converged; we asked for freedom for the individual will when there is no such thing as a separate being, we asked for freedom in the world of the relative when the very fact of relativity precludes freedom, we asked for the ability to choose one way or another when the future is as eternally real as the past, we asked for impossibilities which an ingenious intellect may succeed in proving to be possible, but which remain-creatures of illusion.
Misinterpretations by the Intellect
Since the intellect is the mind functioning within the illusions of the world-image its questions and problems are always born of illusion and wrong in themselves, and the reality of things will always be unintelligible to it. When we attempt to describe the reality of things the intellect will either turn away in disgust, accusing us of evading the question, or else it will interpret in its way the reality of which we speak, and inevitably land in misconceptions. It is the curse of the intellect that it always thinks in duality and cannot know unity or synthesis. When we say that our apparent evolution is but a realization of that which we are in eternal Reality the intellect interprets this as if we were but passive spectators or instruments in a process which we cannot influence, but which determines us and our future. Determinism, to the intellect, is always a determination of our future by something else, whereas what takes place is self realization, we realize that which we are and are determined by our own eternal being.
When we say that we cannot choose one way or another because the future is a present reality even now, as definitely real as what we call the past, the interpretation of this truth by the intellect becomes the doctrine of an irresistible fate which, with a grim and ruthless determination, forces us into the mould of a future from which there is no escape. The intellect always objectivates and externalizes that which is within, and when it attempts to interpret reality it ever commits the unpardonable sin of trying to make the reality of things fit into the illusions and distortions of the world image to which it, the intellect, is bound. Then, in its pitiable pride, it imagines that it has proved reality to be wrong or self-contradictory, whereas it has but proved its own inadequacy to approach reality or to interpret it.
This is the reason why the facts of reality are dangerous to the intellect; in its misconceptions and its inability to see more than one aspect of the truth it is apt to be led astray by the little it understands and come to grief through its errors. Thus it will say 'if all that is to come is determined even now, why should man strive, why not sit down and do nothing? ' Why not, indeed-if he can. Let him but try, and ere long hunger and thirst, desire and yearning will cause him to act, will drive him into action. Even the action of the Indian fakir, who sits down and refuses to move again, living a life resembling death, is but his realization in time, in the world of the relative, of a phase of his own eternal being in the' world of Reality. Our illusion of having cheated fate by doing nothing at all is in itself determined by factors in our character or circumstances which could not produce any other result, and our life of idleness, if we choose to live it, would in itself be a necessity, our experience of an ever-present reality in the world of the true Being. We cannot cheat fate because what we call fate is our own eternal reality; whatever we do, whatever we say or think is by our action or thinking proved to be part of our eternal reality; our action or speech is but our realization of that which we are.
Again the intellect will say; 'What about striving and struggling?' What about our endeavours to live a spiritual life, our successes and failures? Why strive if our achievements are but illusion? ' We should indeed be wrong if we said that they were illusion and equally wrong if we said they were not. The illusory part is that, while the issue seems uncertain, we think it may fall out one way or another, reality is that what we experience as effort and struggle in our world-image is in very truth part of our real being in the world of the Eternal, a part which we in our world image interpret as 'struggle,' 'endeavour ' or 'effort.' The supreme effort in which we strain every fibre of our being to achieve a certain end is our interpretation of a phase of our real being, as important and essential a part of our eternal cycle of life, as any part could be, but we err when we think the outcome is uncertain.
While we live in the illusions of our world-image we are limited by them and have to acknowledge the relative reality of time. Though I may know that, in the world of the Real, all time, past and future, is an ever-present reality, I have to submit to the time of my world-image, when I want to be in time for a train, when I am dealing with my world-image interpretation of things as they are; I must acknowledge time in its illusions, even while I know reality. The wise philosopher is not he who, having seen the vision of Reality, attempts to force this upon his world-image, but he who, having experienced Reality and knowing it within himself, is able to recognize the limitations and illusions of his world-image consciousness and act accordingly.
Our striving to attain some noble end is not all illusion-, it is interpretation of reality, part of our self-realization. To conclude that, because all things past and future are ever-present reality, all striving and effort are unnecessary and vain and may well be abandoned, would be as foolish as it would be to abstain from choosing any food because we know that our apparent freedom of choice is but illusion: the result would be starvation. He who would live according to the world of the Real in the illusion of his world-image can only end his days in a lunatic asylum; he would be attempting that which cannot and should not be attempted. The interpretation of reality which we see in our world-image, is not the same as reality itself; the features of reality appear in a strange and distorted way in our world-image and we must not commit the philosophical mistake of thinking that we can transfer bodily the conditions of the world of the Real into our world-image. Could we do that it would no longer be our world-image, but the world of the Real. The Absolute can never be contained in the relative, yet he who has realized the Absolute will, living in the world of the relative, find his experience to be as a shining light illumining his way and giving peace in the midst of chaos and turmoil. But never can he dream of attempting to transfer ultimate Reality bodily into the world of the relative.
Such is the answer to those who would misinterpret the fact that in the world of the Real the future is even now present, and find in that a reason for the cessation of effort. Not in this way does the Vision on the Mount illumine our life in the valley; its lesson is not that we can now cease from effort since 'all is fixed anyhow,' but rather that in all our effort, in all our struggles we henceforth feel the Peace of the Eternal. Success and failure, misfortune or good luck become to us matters not to be grieved over or rejoiced in; one and all they are recognized as our eternal Being; however intense our effort may have been, once the outcome is definite to us in our illusion of time, we recognize and know that nothing else could have been, and we are at peace. Thus our vision of reality bestows a serenity on our life, an absence of anxiety and worry which is as the radiance of the Eternal shining in the uncertainty of time.
The Reality of Freedom
The question now remains, what of freedom? The conviction that somehow freedom is the consummation of life, the identification of our highest spiritual state with freedom, is so persistent that, even though we may recognize that the freedom for which the man in the street clamours is but ill-disguised license, we yet feel that there must be true freedom somewhere and that in some way it must be the expression of the highest we can attain.
There is indeed freedom. When we enter the world of the Real we do experience freedom, not the illusion of freedom which was ' to do as we liked,' to have our own way, to choose without compulsion, but a true Freedom in which we are free because there is nothing outside us to limit or compel. As long in the illusion of our world-image we imagined ourselves to be separate individuals with a will of our own, surrounded by a world full of opposition and of other creatures with wills of their own, our demand for freedom was as impossible as would be the demand of a swimmer that the water should not wet him. In our very assertion of individuality, in our separateness we are unfree, since we are limited by all that which we are not, influenced, opposed and compelled by the surroundings in which we live, by the character with which we identify ourselves. Our very physical existence makes us unfree, we are bound in one place and can only move about on the face of the earth by the aid of complicated technical means. When a man says 'I am free ' his very assertion is a contradiction, since 'I ' can never be free and Freedom comes only when 'I ' is no longer. It comes in the world of Reality when we are indeed no longer the separate creature, the individual separate from a surrounding world, but when we are That which is all things past and present. In That we are free.
Nothing now can limit or compel. We are the road on which we walk as well as the man we meet and the stream we have to cross. When suffering or misfortune comes to us we still are free, since we are that which hurts us as well as the one who took that which was ours. Here then is freedom, when Nature by her laws no longer limits or compels us, when we are Nature and her laws our will, when man no more opposes or restrains our will, since we are all men. The phantom freedom, for which we so loudly clamored when we were bound in illusion, now seems a paltry and a petty thing, impossible and full of contradictions. In the joy of our true Freedom, we no longer need it, since we are That which contains it and infinitely more. Who would desire a thing when he is all things, and what greater freedom can there be than that which becomes ours when we are ultimate Reality, beyond which and outside which nothing is? Then are freedom and necessity seen as one, necessity the way in which freedom appears to man, bound in illusion.
Knowing that Freedom we are invincible. Nature in the strength of her elements, may oppose us, man in his violence imprison and humiliate us, all we have may be taken from us and yet we shall be rich beyond imagination, being all things, and live in utter freedom, since we are prison as well as prisoner. Our will is free when it no more desires to do this or the other thing, but when it knows that whatever happens is its own expression. Such is the Freedom of the Will.
If we were asked whether this conception of necessity and free will which we gain in the world of reality agrees with either the doctrine of determinism or with that which upholds the freedom of the will we should find it difficult to give an answer, since under these terms such very different things may be understood.
There is a determinism which is materialistic and mechanical, in which living man is ignored, in which creative effort is ruled out and all is made part of a mechanical chain of cause and effect. Here man is conceived to be determined even as the reactions in the laboratory of the scientist are determined and can be calculated. In such a determinism indeed there is no place for creative effort, no place for vision or inspiration, man is leveled down to a merely physical event. But man is more than that; he is an emotional, mental and spiritual being as well as a physical one, the factors which determine his choices in life are factors of emotion, of mind and spirit as well as physical influences. In the theory of materialistic determinism the real, inner, creative man is ignored; determinism here is but a ruthless fate, compelling man from without.
Some, on the other hand, who teach the freedom of the will present this, as if in the midst of the physical chain of cause and effect there take place irruptions from within through which man in his freedom is creatively manifest. Such psychic irruptions, like the actions of a deus ex machina, are then not causally determined, but are looked upon as spontaneous and unaccountable; our freedom is considered to be an activity, entirely undetermined by anything from within or from without. There is, however, a causality of psychic events as well as a causality of physical events, the inspiration of the poet, the dream of the social reformer or the vision of the saint, however far removed they may be from mere physical happenings, are yet causally connected with preceding events, and even their irruptions into the physical realm are made possible only by certain conditions which provide the necessary opening. With regard to this physical world they certainly are creative, they mould and determine; in their creative activity, however, they are causally connected with other events and psychically or spiritually determined.
We hold then, with the determinist, that the future is determined, we differ from him in that we look upon that determination, not as coming from without and being of a material nature, but as the realization, in the illusion of time, of ever-present Reality. Determinism in man's life thus becomes self-realization; man's future is predestined by that which he himself is in the world of the Real.
We hold with those who teach the freedom of the will that man's greatness is his creative power which, from the world within, can and does mould the physical world; we, however, do not look upon this creative activity as causeless and unaccountable, but as determined from within by spiritual, mental or emotional facts.
Finally and above all we look upon the Freedom of the Will not as the power to do as we like, to do one thing or another, but as the supreme glory of that realization in which we know ourselves as all that is. In that unity we are free, in that Freedom necessity itself is but the expression of our own being.