Screeching Squirrels

Jonathan Bricklin brickmar at EARTHCOM.NET
Mon Mar 30 14:00:48 CST 1998

> From: Charles Wikner <WIKNER at NACDH4.NAC.AC.ZA>
> Subject: Re: Screeching Squirrels
> Date: Monday, March 30, 1998 2:00 AM
> On Wed, 25 Mar 1998, Jonathan Bricklin wrote:
> > The experience of free will can only be swept away by grace.
> True.  Until then, the experience itself can be understood and
> weakened, in order to avail oneself of that everpresent grace.
> > When I say I don't believe in free will
> This is where the confusion arises: terminology and semantics.
> > I am saying something akin to "I believe in
> > God."  This is not the same as saying I am experiencing a union with
> No problem with that.
> > On the other hand, to assert a belief in free will is to deny God's
> > reality, as Ramakrishna was getting at in what I quoted.
> The problem is seeing them as contradictory (and contrasting apples
> with oranges doesn't help: *belief* in free will vs. *reality* of God).
> Religions see no problem: you are free to love God (or go to hell),
> because compulsory love (or surrender) is a contradiction in terms.
> To acknowledge the experience of free will in no way denies God's
> reality: to affirm the apparent reality of free will is not to
> assert its absolute reality; similarly, to affirm the apparent
> reality of Jonathan is not to assert his absolute reality.
> > As for the perils of disbelief in free will, I think I am handicapped
> > in my understanding by being an American.
> Free will implies choice: that which claims to be the chooser is the ego.
> Therefore denial of (apparent) free will is denial of the (experiential)
> existence of the ego: what is the agent of that denial?  The ego denying
> itself leads to confusion.
> > We have an excess of belief in free
> > will here, and all the excesses of belief in self that go with it.
> Americans are indeed presented with very wide range of choice: so
> the chooser does get rather a lot of practice!  You can appreciate
> why so many want to migrate to America -- it is heaven on earth for
> the ego.  But there is a positive side: when you realise that heaven
> is actually hell (chains of gold are as much chains as those of iron),
> then there is motivation to seek a way out of the prison.
> > A weaker "I" sounds like a good start.
> Yes, indeed.  Then the question arises: how is it weakened?
> Will mere denial do it, or is some other method necessary?
> ________
> Some thoughts on free will:
> Let's say that I am offered a cup of coffee: I have the choice
> to accept it or not.  (I could ask for a glass of water, or snap
> "Don't interrupt me!" but let's keep it simple.)  Assume that
> the circumstances are not of my making, in other words the offer
> of refreshment -- in fact the opportunity to choose -- is simply
> presented.  The act of choosing is generally experienced as an
> act of free will.
> The choice is in fact quite mechanical (i.e. from habit), but
> nonetheless the ego feels that it has been consulted and labels
> this mechanical action as its free will.  How this arises is
> straightforward: the ego identifies with the habit ("I am a
> coffee-drinker") and experiences the act of choosing as an
> opportunity to exercise it will (as the chooser) which reinforces
> the habit (with which it identifies).
> At a later stage I come under the direction of a teacher (or
> doctor's orders for that matter) and the discipline given is to
> drink only water.  That changes the equation somewhat: ego=habit
> becomes ego=disciple (one under discipline) where the choice is
> to follow the discipline or not.  This does take some effort,
> but is eased by faith in the teacher (or doctor) and an
> intellectual understanding of the health benefits of drinking
> water and the dire consequences of drinking coffee.  So there is
> still choice, and the ego still identifies itself with the act of
> choosing, and so this is also perceived as an act of free will.
> After some time under this discipline, the craving for coffee
> weakens and eventually dies, so that drinking water is no longer
> a discipline  but simply natural.  When the knowledge arises that
> the body is thirsty, there is the choice to follow that knowledge
> or not.  So there is still free will.
> If the choice is to ignore that knowledge (which is how ignorance
> is maintained), then there is the choice to follow discipline; and
> if that is refused, then there is the choice to follow desire.  The
> choice runs down to the lowest level, but the body will get the
> water that it needs -- but may also get the poison (caffeine) which
> it does not need and which merely indulges the senses.
> In the main, spiritual disciplines are directed to freeing the
> individual from his own habits -- which are second nature -- so
> that he may live according to his original nature.  In other words,
> the behaviour is no longer governed by the laws of the creature,
> but by those of the Creator, so that it is in harmony with the rest
> of creation.  This seems to be the basic common denominator of all
> spiritual teachings.
> In circumstances where the ego has usurped the power of the buddhi,
> it seems that free will has three components:
>   (a) circumstance presents an opportunity to choose,
>   (b) the choice is based on some value, and
>   (c) the value depends on the identity of the chooser
>       at that instant.
> At first spiritual disciplines are performed in an egocentric way;
> later the fruits are surrendered, and then the will.  So long as
> the ego is perceived as real, there is free will; when the ego is
> perceived as unreal (albeit still experienced), then free will is
> not an issue.  The denial of free will is confusing to the former,
> and irrelevant to the latter.
> I fail to see any utility in the bald denial of free will (it is
> then just an idea to which one is attached), but instead see it as
> harmful to the vast bulk of humanity for whom the ego is very real,
> and who could do with a healthy dose of discipline.
> That said, discussion of *apparent* free will, understanding the
> nature of it, would effectively negate its reality and contribute
> to weakening its grip on the individual.
> Regards, Charles.

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