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.