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.
Just so, the main source of confusion on the subject is the amnesia with which most of us live in this dense realm, which temporarily blinds us to the bigger picture of existence. The purpose of this amnesia is to create a more impactful experience of the human adventure with which we have temporarily identified. I have addressed this issue in more depth elsewhere, but in regard to the theme of this essay, I am suggesting that there is a difference between human animal response and soul-level response. That is, the human persona is very much limited to predictable behaviors and responses to mundane stimuli, whereas the soul-level response pertains to life-changing decisions that determine the direction of manifestation. For example, issues of morality and conscience might be regarded as soul-influenced matters.
Certainly, much more can be said in this regard, but suffice it to say that the inadequacy of scientific materialism, which posits that consciousness is merely a brain phenomenon, is that there is only a focus on the physical — the body-mind-self complex — which is actually a very small part of the “whole self”. Of course, without the benefit of insight derived from expanded consciousness, it is understandable how conclusions about the mechanical nature of choice are reached. For further elaboration on the amnesia factor, see here
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.”