Our understanding of free will affects every thought, feeling, and action. This makes it valuable to investigate the matter for ourselves.
The value of such an inquiry extends far beyond philosophical mental-masturbatory pleasure. It reaches the very core of YOU and applies to every aspect of human life. In fact, everything you know as life is affected by your understanding and experience of “free will”.
We are not interested in believing one way or the other, rather we intend to experience the truth of the matter and subsequently allow our thoughts, feelings, and actions to be informed by this experience.
Whether you believe in the existence of an independent willful entity or not has a huge impact on the way you conceive of and understand yourself and your life. It will also affect the experience you have of yourself.
Here it is my intention to facilitate your own investigation into the source and nature of yourself. And to help you develop an understanding that is aligned with the truth, as opposed to an assumption or blindly accepted belief.
For this to be a powerful practice you must first be open to the possibility that you don’t really know the truth. Really get that you don’t know if you are the author of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Our inquiry into free will is of greatest use to us if it is experiential.
Doing mental gymnastics around the subject, using concept and logic, can be entertaining and can sometimes have a genuine impact on the way we understand and relate to things. It is important and useful to work with the inquiry on a cognitive level, but the real heart of the matter —the juicy life-altering insight— is found when the inquiry penetrates into your direct experience of self and life.
The following questions can help ground your free will inquiry in your direct experience.
They are simply examples of the type of questioning that can occur for you. The inquiry process is best undertaken in an organic (natural and authentic to you) and dynamic (coming at it from many angles and many methods).
- did I choose to be me? Where did this character come from? If I did not choose to be this one with all its specific qualities and traits, can I be responsible for what it does?
- Where do my actions come from? It seems like they come from me, but what is this ‘me’? where is it located?
- My language, beliefs, behaviors, emotional reactions, and so much more have all been inherited from my culture. Given this, where does programming end and ‘me’ begin? Which actions, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are pure programming and which are me?
The mental component of this subject can help you ‘get a foot in the door’ and empower your experiential inquiry in many ways.
Because the topic is so personal, there may be emotional resistance. Allowing the mind to grapple with the possibility of no free will is a way to familiarize and desensitize your deeply reactive mind. Thinking for yourself is of utmost importance here. It is only by personally addressing the question that you have real insight.
Hearing what others have to say is useful, but don’t confuse this with firsthand experience in the matter.
To help inspire the intellectual side of your inquiry here are some fun videos on the subject. Throw all of this away as soon as you’re done with it. The only purpose of watching these is to see a new perspective and boost your own contemplation
· https://youtu.be/UwjD4hfrDsg sam harris
· https://youtu.be/fecQUZ-ehKQ Leo Gura
· https://youtu.be/NvU43SL-RIA Rupert Spira
· https://youtu.be/Jint5kjoy6I Michio Kaku
Why is it a good idea to contemplate?
- How you understand and relate to your own self and life are largely determined by the construct you hold about free will. Getting wise here will get you wise to life in general.
- Your understanding of other people’s actions is dependent on the way you conceive of their free will. How you feel about them and relate to them is greatly affected.
- By looking into this matter, you will begin to uncover a new world of truth with regards to yourself and reality. Simply asking such a question will have the effect of opening your mind to new avenues of inquiry and insight.
- You will get to know yourself on deeper levels as a result of this inquiry. Happiness and empowerment ensue.
For me, it is just interesting! I want to know the truth. It is my life and all I have is my life. Whether I have free will or not is fundamental to my understanding of my own existence. Nothing is more fulfilling than that understanding.
Common pitfalls that arise when looking into this and related existential topics.
- Mistaking concept for experience. In this case you may have a thought that seems true, and you mistake it for an actual experience of the thing itself. Thoughts cannot be the truth itself. They can only ever be reflections or representations of the truth.
- Stopping before you’ve gotten to the end. It is easy to believe that the conclusion you’ve come to is final, but more than likely this is not the case. When you think you are done, keep going.
- Only looking one way. Our contemplative efforts are most effective when we are open to every avenue of inquiry. When we get comfortable with one way or direction of questioning it can be useful to look the other way. Let the questioning permeate your whole experience.
- Believing in yourself. When you come to a new realization it is easy to accept it as true, because it is all you have. Don’t be afraid to go without an answer for an extended period of time. What comes up might be the truth, but it might be another ignorant thought. You don’t know until you know!
This is meant to kick start your personal contemplation. ‘Free will’ is just one way of pointing to the truth of YOU, which is always our true and central subject matter. The truth is that it does not matter whether you have free will or not. Self and life will continue to do what they are doing now regardless. What matters is that you understand the truth of your own condition. You are already the most important part of your life, so it’s best to know what it is you care so much about!
I recommend you take some time out of each day to contemplate what you are, what existence is, or whatever piques your interest most. By doing this you will empower your perspective and enliven your perception of self and life. Commit wholeheartedly to understand what all of this is before you die. It is a deeply fulfilling and meaningful endeavor you will not regret.
Go for it