Free will: mind or emotion?

We’ve been discussing free will, and whether we have freedom or not, for a while now. The discussion has, as I’ve noted before, not been very clear. Either the topic is just plain difficult, or the right approach has not been found yet. Perhaps the following may help:

When philosophers discussed free will in the past, they usually referred to the will of the mind, of our thought. Whether we can choose the direction of our lives consciously, with our mind. This is also the easiest misconception (with potentially very sad consequences) of ‘The Secret’ or ‘The Law of Attraction’.

Why is that a problem? Because a lot of our will power is based in our emotions. In fact: a thought that goes against our emotions is not likely to change our lives. This is why I’ve often said that we need to face up to our emotions, even the not so pretty ones. It’s also why psychotherapy and psychoanalysis can work.

I’ve often said, in the past, ‘I want to want a regular job’. Rationally, financially, getting a job was absolutely the best thing. But emotionally I just wasn’t feeling it. And I knew from experience that the best way to convince someone to hire me, was to really want to be hired. So I didn’t even try, which of course was precisely in line with my emotional drives.

Whether it was my need for freedom, for self-expression, my love of the Internet, or even something pathological (I don’t think so, but hey) I liked where I was and where I felt (not THOUGHT) I was going.

Classic spirituality says that the emotions should be ruled by the mind. The mind should be ruled by the spirit, the divine.

I’ve only ever known how to make sense of that as follows: the mind has to take the emotions into account. After all, how can you rule something you don’t know? Having a very strong mind, and having been, like most of you, trained to use it – the issue for me has often not been to strengthen the mind further, but to get to know the emotions and purify them.

The next step, though I think in practice we usually do several things at once, is to learn to listen to that ‘still small voice’ of divine wisdom in each of us.

Seems to me that real freedom means having full insight into each aspect of ourselves (pretty impossible, but bear with me) and being able to steer our course in the world by balancing all that: mind, emotion and wisdom.

It requires all of that, because otherwise our unconscious drives will steer us one way, our mind the other, and the voice of wisdom is not heard. The result is what many people live: pulled this way and that, happiness and sorrow a mere chance. Which brings me to the other approach: if we leave concerns about free will aside, we can focus on what’s really important… How to be happy. And I do think real happiness can only be found by giving.

10 thoughts on “Free will: mind or emotion?”

  1. Free will? Of course. What the Wisdom told me was important, though, was to follow through on It’s directives, once conveyed. All too often humans explain Wisdom away as the product of an over-active imagination. Believe, Obey, & Recieve the next down-load, to use today’s venacular.

  2. Lately I have been thinking about this concept of horizontal transcendence and riding the planet into the future — that there is exquisite design of the at work through the Gaia Theory that we cannot even fathom and that the most important thing is to feel and observe and ask like Jack Johnson sings: Just Like it feels How does it feel? Listen to:

    The last few lines of this song play over and over in my head as I ask myself “How am I feeling?” Am I living in joy? Am I living in fear? With greed, lust, anger? Or simple pleasure at the experience of breathing, tasting, laughing, observing the flow of space, time and emotion . . . How was it that I ever did all the things I have done up till now? I think I have been sleep walking. Barely conscious of the miracle of every moment as my mind set the agenda and propelled me forward.

    Sometimes I feel great, others I feel overwhelmed and very confused by all that is coming at me.

    It feels more “out of control” and less secure than ever before and yet more fascinating at the same time. Is it all speeding up for you too?

    Definitely we are beholden to our emotions. I am learning to trust them more and more

  3. I am just understanding t he importance of our emotional will because, of course, in America we men are taught that we are to suppress our emotions and work only with the mind, and only with the analytical mind at that. I am coming to understand how not following my emotional will, and by doing things that I have intellectually decided but are in conflict with my emotions has really been detrimental to my life. This was timely post and I thank you for it.

  4. Richard: like Al Puglisi said: when you don’t take emotions seriously, you get conflicted inside and ruin your life. This conflict is both a lack of freedom AND a detriment to happiness.

    The funny thing is: when you learn to work with your emotions, you can also learn how to not let them rule you. Which is after all – male or female – what happens with most of us. Unwatched emotions will run this way and that. Compare to training one dog, and having another one that’s shut up in the basement. One will behave. The other will wreak havoc once released from that basement.

  5. Psychoanalysis was a great experience for me. (FYI)

    Undertaking a formalized education is an adventure in vicarious experiences. We know that some of what we learn arises from another’s personal experiences, yet we must disconnect our own need for experience.
    In the context of the model use the word “indifference” to describe that which lies outside of our experience. We use the expression “cultivating indifference” to describe the surrender of our own experience to another’s experience.

  6. Interesting post.

    Emotions themselves are not bad. It is how we respond to them that can cause problems for our spiritual growth and sense of well-being. Perhaps emotions should be viewed as information instead of something to be controlled. As information, they can be used to make better choices, which after all, is what exercising free will is all about.

    What if emotions are how God, or Spiritual Source, is trying to communicate with us?

  7. To me, “free will” is mindfulness that we create our experiences, whether we do it consciously or unconsciously. We create what we focus on, what we put our emotional energy into, at the level at which that emotion is calibrated. Scared? You will create more scary stuff. Happy? You will create more to be happy about. So if you don’t like what you’re living, pay attention to what you’re thinking and feeling, and then start changing those thoughts and feelings. Thoughts evoke emotions and emotions create. What do you think, how does it make you feel? How do you want to feel? How would you need to think to feel that way? Emotion is the creative force of the universe. We need to channel it wisely. For that reason, I’m a big believer in positive prayer. Give thanks in advance for all the good that you would have in your life! An attitude of gratitude creates happiness. Try it and see!

  8. Free Will is one aspect of Natural Ability, which is also recognized as our Spiritual Inheritance. The other 3 are Appreciation, Faith, and Peace. Together these consistently connect us to the Divine within. However, learning from the physical experience has taught us how to use our Natural Ability as separate. Being separate, we continue to look where natural ability is being used separately to define Perfect Love, which is the physical experience. The harder we try, the more we believe we are a failure. The physical solution is not a solution at all. Instead it is an emotional time warp. The problem is spiritual, not physical, and calls for a new approach.
    Without reference to the Wholly Divine, we are emotionally inept at defining or recognizing the Perfect Love that dwells within. Instead we use the reference of past emotional influences, which interfere with us of having what we really want. What we really want is to be happy, but the physical attempt to fix the happiness problem seems it must come from a physical solution. This causes us internal anxiety, as an internal conflict attempts to dictate where our true happiness must be found. This is called mind chatter.
    Perfect Love is perfect acceptance of the Divine Natural Ability that dwells within. When all Natural Ability (free will, appreciation, faith, and peace) come together as One, this is referred to as inner knowing. We have all, at some point in our lives, been aware of perfect inner knowing. This is because it is impossible to completely separate ourselves from the Divine within.
    Because of the inability to reference whole Natural Ability, which attaches us to Perfect Love, a way had to be made to help us access this reference without really understanding what this meant. This is the purpose of miracles. Miracles bring together all Natural Ability into One for us to define the Divine within. It takes time to recognize when this is occurring, because we are so full of what we believe we already know based on physical learning.
    Because all of our Natural Ability is perceived as separate, we do not feel connected to our Source of Love, and so believe our free will has failed us. This is not the case, as a decision to use Free Will to join with the Divine within cannot be ignored. This call is heard by the Sound it produces, which is a call to join with the Perfect Love within. Because we do not understand, we do not appreciate our own call, and therefore do not continue to offer the faith necessary to produce the evidence of peace, where Perfect Love can always be found.
    Our Will is free only when we are joined with Perfect Love. Until we begin to use our Free Will to join with the Divine within, we will continue to question ourselves and the Free Will, which is our Perfect Right.

  9. free will in some of the old wisdom considered as third angle in human apart from heridity and environmental mean a human being is born with this and his liking and path in life get decided with this sense this word is closer to essence in forth wayof gurdjieff.

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