Fate or Free Will

free will

Are we ruled by some predetermined destiny, or are we endowed with the capacity for the exercise of free will? This question has been the source of ceaseless debate among philosophers, religious pundits, and expounders of every persuasion through the ages, and convincing arguments have been made by believers in both camps, as well as those who have thoughtfully proposed some sort of middle way.

Rather than merely re-hashing positions that have already been staked out at length by better minds and more articulate voices than mine, I would simply like to suggest that the crux of the whole issue invariably depends upon one’s level of awareness, or interpretation on perception, which is in turn conditioned by factors such as belief and experience, but more often than not, by second-hand information.

In brief, depending one’s angle of vision, it may appear that we as human individuals are “programmed” prior to our first breath, and that everything that is to happen to us is indeed pre-determined. I will refrain from speculation at this time on the mechanics of such programming — whether it is performed by us ourselves, or in collusion with some “life-between-life” guides, or even by some higher powers who are directing our “soul” evolution.

From another (and perhaps more pragmatic) point of view, it may appear that we do indeed have the power to make changes in the quality of our life, whether in positive or negative ways, and so can indeed transcend our apparent fate by the application of will. This viewpoint can lead to a circular argument, however, since it could be noted that this supposed power is itself pre-determined, or “down-loaded” into the entity like software into an operating system in order to fulfill a destiny.

In and of themselves, both views (and/or some variation of the two) are provisionally true, but all such views are nothing more than conceptual designations, mental constructs, and moreover, are based on the assumed reality of a substantial and enduring “person”. However, the presumption of such a reality is not borne out by thorough deeper inquiry, and that is the salient point of this brief consideration. Indeed, the more we investigate, “To whom does fate or free will apply?”, the more we will discover that the so-called “person” is nothing but a bundle of dependently arising thoughts, sensations, memories, and perceptions, all strung together on an imaginary clothes-line called “I”, and in fact no such independent and enduring person has ever really existed, except in the realm of narrative fiction. That is, the persistent sense we have of some individual person (“me”) is based on a story – a fiction which is comprised of all that we may yet take ourselves to be in our ignorance, or amnesia.

Upon awakening, we realize that both destiny and free will ultimately do not apply. How could they? After all, if there is no concrete and independent person, then there is no place for the concepts themselves to land. Nevertheless, as long as consciousness appears to individuate itself in the form of these human vehicles, there appear to be two truths that constitute our experience of this psycho-physical realm — the relative and the absolute.

On the absolute level, with the liberating recognition that there is no substantial and enduring person, opposing notions of fate and free will are de facto rendered moot. However, since we (as shards of Source Energy) are currently enjoying the illusion of incarnating in an objective world, and within the sphere of our everyday relations here, we certainly can act “as if” we have the power to direct our human hosts towards better behavior and an increasingly more conscious and loving response to life. Conversely, we can refrain from taking responsibility, thereby allowing the “animal” to have its way, with the consequent violence and selfishness that is characteristic of the species when left to its own uncontrolled nature.

The relative, or objective world of duality, is a crucible of blended energies, and a very powerful environment for learning and growth experiences. It has often been described as a “stage” on which anything can happen, including negative events. What matters for us is how we react to our experiences. When we “choose” to react as victims, for example, we tend to reinforce a particular energetic vibration — a negative one. However, we can also turn that negative into a positive, and acknowledge whatever lesson it has to teach. In every experience there is a lesson available, an opportunity to refine our relationship with the world, even if we do not immediately see it. Such choices help to determine what sort of access we will have to the higher frequencies of light vibration.

Consider also that, if life were preordained, it would negate the very reason for incarnating in this realm in the first place. If everything was already scripted, there would be no adventure of confronting the unknown and hence growing in self-awareness. Furthermore, there would be nothing new to bring back to our soul group, enabling the further evolution and expansion of the whole through the addition of fresh experiences.

Consequently, perhaps all we can really say in this regard is that things happen the way they do because the universe is as it is, filled with infinite potential, and we in these human forms are here sampling a tiny fraction of the universal possibilities, as the eyes and hands and feet of Source.

In manifestation then, there appears to be choice and/or choicelessness, depending upon one’s relative level of awareness, though the reality of the matter is not ultimately a subject that the human intellect can definitively apprehend, given the limited frequency at which it operates, along with the accompanying amnesia which characterizes our 3-D experience.

In any case, as the great sage Ramana Maharshi noted: “Find out to whom free will or destiny matters. Find out where they come from, and abide in their source. If you do this, both of them are transcended. That is the only purpose of discussing these questions. To whom do these questions arise? Find out and be at peace.”



About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have several other sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: http://www.pbase.com/1heart Essays on the Conscious Process: https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/ Poetry and Prosetry: http://feelingtoinfinity.wordpress.com/ Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: https://westernmystics.wordpress.com/ Free Transliterations of Spiritual Texts: http://freetransliterations1.blogspot.com/ Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: https://spiritguidesparrow.wordpress.com/ Thank You!
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14 Responses to Fate or Free Will

  1. Bob OHearn says:


    Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will

    Scientists think they can prove that free will is an illusion. Philosophers are urging them to think again.

  2. Bob OHearn says:

    “Everything in this world, no matter how small, occurs because of the constant operation of cause and effect. This body is not yours, nor does it belong to others. It should be seen as the product of the whole of history. In regard to it the wise person will reflect on the nature of conditioning, saying: “If this comes into being, that will arise; if this does not come into being, that will not arise.”

    ~Samyutta Nikaya

  3. Bob OHearn says:


    The commonly held illusion of free will (and the illusion of the somebody who has it) is reinforced whenever life moves in the direction we apparently chose. For a few very lucky people, this happens quite a lot. These people tend (perhaps understandably) to come to the conclusion that anyone can freely choose to go from rags to riches, or from addiction to recovery, or from sickness to health, or from depression to happiness, because—after all—they did it. They chose to lose weight, and they did. They chose to dedicate their lives to social service instead of to being serial child molesters, thieves, or compulsive gamblers. They choose to “take a time out” when they get very angry at their spouse instead of yelling at or beating that person. They choose to be productive, to lead good lives, to do the right thing. Or so it seems to them. And society at large confirms their conclusion.

    But for those who are not so blessed, the illusion of free will and the widespread belief in it is a cruel joke and potentially a source of endless self-hatred, shame, guilt, blame, and a deep sense of being a miserable failure or a worthless bum who didn’t try hard enough, or who “made bad choices,” or in some cases—consider the child molester or the serial murderer—maybe even the very personification of evil.

    So are we completely powerless? Yes and no.

  4. Bob OHearn says:

    Free will and determinism are no longer paradoxical in the sense of being mutually exclusive. Both are correct, depending upon the consciousness from which they are considered. The paradox only appears when we consider both sides from the same state of consciousness, i.e, the everyday waking state.

    I like to illustrate this with Hamlet pondering the question of “To be or not to be?” The character in the play is making a choice. And if we have not seen the play before, we may wonder which way he will choose. This is the thrill of the play, to be engaged in it, moved by it, absorbed in its reality with all its twists and turns. However, we also know that how the play unfolds was determined long ago by William Shakespeare. So, we have two complementary ways of viewing the play. At times we may choose to live fully in the drama. Other times we may step back to admire his creative genius.

    So in life. We can be engaged in the drama, experiencing free will, making choices that affect our futures. Or we can step back and be a witness to this amazing play of life unfolding before us. Both are true within their respective frameworks.

    – See more at: http://www.scienceandnonduality.com/the-paradox-of-free-w…/…

  5. Bob OHearn says:

    Do you believe in free will?

    “Of course, I have no choice.”

    ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

  6. Bob OHearn says:

    At any moment, you have a choice, that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it. Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.

    ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

  7. Bob OHearn says:


    “[T]he soul is beyond all laws, physical, mental, or moral. Within law is bondage; beyond law is freedom. It is also true that freedom is of the nature of the soul, it is its birthright: that real freedom of the soul shines through veils of matter in the form of the apparent freedom of man.”
    “[T]here cannot be any such thing as free will; the very words are a contradiction, because will is what we know and everything that we know is within our universe, and everything within our universe is moulded by the conditions of space, time, and causation. Everything that we know, or can possibly know, must be subject to causation, and that which obeys the law of causation cannot be free.”
    “The only way to come out of bondage is to go beyond the limitations of law, to go beyond causation.” [by self-identifying with soul or spirit] . . . . “This is the goal of the Vedantin, to attain freedom while living.”
    ~ Swami Vivekananda

  8. Bob OHearn says:

    From Sri Nisargadatta, here is an interesting quote:

    “There is a connection between the word and its meaning, between action and its motive. Spiritual practice is will asserted and re-asserted.”

    On the other hand, he also said:

    Q: Is there no such thing as free will? Am I not free to desire?

    M: Oh no. You are com­pelled to desire. In Hin­duism the very idea of free will is non-existent, so there is no word for it. Will is com­mit­ment, fix­a­tion, bondage.

    Q: I am free to choose my lim­i­ta­tions.

    M: You must be free first. To be free in the world you must be free of the world. Oth­er­wise your past decides for you and your future. Between what had hap­pened and what must hap­pen you are caught. Call it des­tiny or karma, but never—freedom. First return to your true being and then act from the heart of love.

  9. jamiem333 says:

    Another amazing piece! Such talent. I hope someday to discuss this topic but have to read it several times and contemplate a response or question/s. More later my friend ❤️

  10. Bob OHearn says:

    “Life is a celebration of free will and spontaneous creation in the moment of now. You do not set out with life plans in great detail, certainly not that of your death. The reason for this is because you do not, ahead of time, know the decisions you are going to make, the feelings you are going to experience and the sense of values and purpose you are going to create in your life. The ‘persona’ of the life you are about to create is not apparent to you yet since the persona which is now who you currently are was created by a great many events in your life, which in fact were not planned at all, but are the result of others deeds and actions, and influences of society and species as a whole. You do not know in advance the cause and effects of these others influences on you before you are born into physicality.”


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