About freewill, thought origination, etc. I do not claim to have the answers but share the following observations.
Our experience reflects two phenomena which can be summed up as the totality of our existence. Those two are the physical and the mental. I believe a little further contemplation reveals that the two can be reduced to one. We are aware of the separation and boundaries of the physical, this thing, that thing, etc. However, when it comes to the mental we experience no such separation. Does not the mental comprise it all? If the mental, awareness or consciousness was divided, bounded, separated or limited how could one thing have awareness of the other? If you and I are defined by our awareness, mentality, consciousness, knowing or whatever you wish to call it and are separate how can we be aware of each other and where or what defines the boundary between us? Obviously, our brain does not confine our consciousness. If it did we could not be aware of anything else. By definition there cannot be an Infinite and anything separate.
Does not the fact that I am aware of me, other people, the world and the universe mean that I AM beyond the aforementioned?
We are aware of physicality changing, seemingly coming and going, etc. and in a constant state of flux. However, awareness remains changeless, invulnerable and cannot be created or destroyed. Can we not then conclude that there can be no limit, boundary or separation within Consciousness? If so, we can further conclude that there is only Consciousness because if there is no separation in Consciousness there can obviously be nothing existing separate from it. There is only, All that Is and we are IT. Many will say claiming to be God is a flagrant affront to God or a terrible sacrilege. But, in fact, the opposite is actually the case. If we claim to be separate from God we necessarily limit Him/Her/IT. God cannot be infinite or limitless and be separated by other “stuff”.
How then do we explain individuality? Since we have established by deductive reasoning that there can be no separation, we can now conclude that there is no separate you and I. Further, since nothing can exist separate from Consciousness, nothing but Consciousness exists.
Yet we are aware. Can we not now further conclude that we are all that is or the Consciousness that we have already established is all? Taking this line of reasoning a little further, while we have awareness, we are at the same time aware of not being fully aware. We seemingly are aspects of infinite intelligence but not infinite or at least not aware of it.
From here we can only speculate. I suggest that Infinite intelligence chose to express and Its only means of so doing was to project an illusion of physicality or that which we experience as this universe with inhabitants of limited awareness. They could not have full awareness or they would cease to be the projection but the Projector.
The next question then is, do we really have individual thinking, freewill and are we really capable of changing or controlling anything? I am, of course, totally aware of how we think we are and how difficult it is to give up such an idea and I’m not going to make judgment one way or the other at this point except to say I have struggled a lot with the question and will simply throw out some thoughts on the subject.
Back to the physical and the mental. We have already established that the physical does not really exist. Only the mental is capable of creating a thought. The physical is nothing but objects including our body and brain. I do not believe a brain ever created a thought. The physical cannot possibly create. The brain may very well act as some sort of filter or receiver but I do not believe it can ever be creative. Further substantiating this is the fact that we do not have much idea what our next thought will be. Nor can we control what it will be or how long or often it may reoccur. Likewise, we have many thoughts we would rather not have at times. If we were controlling them why would we have undesirable ones? You have no idea what your next thought will be but I do and you cannot possibly avoid it unless you stop reading right now. Your next thought will be visualizing a flying elephant. So, I believe it obvious that our thoughts are originating from somewhere beyond the physical brain.
About control of life otherwise. We did not control when or where we were born. We had no control of who were our parents, siblings or status, financial, fame or otherwise. We had no control of our gender, original health, inherent tendencies, etc. We had no control of our early upbringing, how we were treated, what we were exposed to, nourishment, etc. We had no control of our early education or exposure to outside influences, etc. We had no control whether we were bullied or abused sexually or otherwise.
We now do not control our bodily functions, heartbeat, digestion, respiration, etc. We have little if any control over viruses, infections, immune systems, accidents, etc.
We do not control when, where or how we die. We do not control all those little or sometimes big unexpected events occurring daily in our lives. Yet, we think we are in control of our lives.
We think we are making decisions between multiple choices but are we really? We say we could have chosen the other option. But why didn’t we? We weighed the options, consequences, etc and made a decision. In other words it would have required different consequences or circumstances for us to have made a different decision. But only what is, IS. So, was a different decision ever in the picture? Who could deny that things would be a lot different if we were truly determining the events of our lives?
It is very obvious that our lives are being greatly influenced if not totally controlled by outside forces.
So, you ask, what then is the point in it all? Why this essay? Why make the effort to be good? Why not just live fast, love hard and die young? You are what you are and you’re not going to deviate from it. Afterall, you’re not really in control!
Does it really matter whether or not we are in control? If it makes us feel better, than fine. What difference does it really make if we get over there and realize that, hey, we weren’t really in control afterall? Will we not just laugh and say, I sure as hell thought I was.
Or could it be that within the projection, the mentality of the inhabitants really does have freedom of choice? It’s all illusion anyway but as Thomas Troward said, even though it is illusion, because it is a projection of the Almighty it is real as far as we’re concerned.
In keeping with the spirit of the question, I will answer it not in the way that I would like to ideally, but in the way that my circumstances seem to compel me. Having to get to sleep soon, I don’t have time to craft a thorough answer, (which nobody will probably bother reading) and if I leave it until tomorrow I might not remember what I was going to say. Here then is my circumstantially compromised, short order version of my contribution. I’ll be happy to go into it in further detail later on if anyone is interested.
1. Mental and physical are neither the same thing nor different things, they are opposite ends of a continuum of sensory-motor participation, which is, in my estimation, the fundamental component of the cosmos.
2. Free will and determinism are similarly not mutually exclusive but are defined by and help to define the aforementioned opposite ends of the universal continuum, which can be best understood as public and private ranges of experiential ontology. Public experiences are based on spatial extension, and private experiences are based on temporal narratives, and the two aspects are orthogonal/perpendicular in every way. They two ends also merge in another range of the continuum, which I call the profound edge, where transcendent experiences blur the boundary of private and public.
3. Physical matter actually is ‘real’ in the sense that the foundation of realism lies in the persistence of matter’s spatial extension, which acts as the single firmament of public interaction. All other interaction is biographical and private.
4. The nature of free will is complicated because our understanding of the nature of human consciousness is still very primitive, made more difficult by the seemingly irreconcilable approaches of what could be called the Oriental program, which places subjectivity as the absolute foundation and materiality as derived illusion, and the Western program which leads to the opposite and mutually exclusive conclusion. In my analysis, the opposition of these two programs to each other is a critically important revelation of the nature of consciousness itself, as the capacity to select either extreme and to dial between them mirrors the function of human culture and individual psychology in general.
In my opinion, strict adherence to either the Eastern or Western extremes tends to lead to a pathological worldview, in the sense that fanatical defensiveness and hypocrisy replace a respect for the plain truth. Moving forward to a new synthesis requires, in my opinion, that we keep the Eastern model of hierarchical levels of awareness (chakras, alchemical monochord, etc) but reconcile it with the Western model of physical scale (molecular, cellular, somatic, geological-evolutionary, astrophysical). The way that I propose arranges the sensory-motor experiences hierarchically so that our personal awareness and participation is flanked by a sub-personal or root range of qualia and a super-personal or meta range of intuition and inspiration flavored feelings, insights, and connections.
Anyhow, yes, our personal will does have a modicum of freedom, which expands in proportion to how deeply ‘within’ the context is. Within our own imagination, we have a fantastic degree of freedom, but are still limited ontologically by our human description and by the physics of privacy itself. The further we get from the immediacy of our private realm, the more that our freedom is constrained by the confluence of our own sub-personal and super-personal agendas as well as the nearly infinite impersonal agendas which surround our body in the public presentation of our world. To make things happen in the public world requires slowing our will down, ordering it strategically and persistently, matching the conditions of our environment, and making all manner of compromises. In the end, we may not see that much is left of what we thought we had intended personally, but nevertheless, we were the ones who had to pay attention and care about the outcome, so that’s something. Besides, often we find that the surprises that we discover in the public world are beyond what we could have intentionally dreamed up for ourselves, for better or worse…and that, I suspect is usually part of the larger (super-personal) agenda… if there is one.