Free Will vs. Determinism, as Ignorance of Choiceless Awareness


Image courtesy of ~Guiz

From the Advaita to Zen Yahoo Group:


“I believe in both free will and determinism, interacting in some complex tangled way.”


Of course ‘you’ do, as these are both ways of expressing/supporting a belief in ‘I’. Mind weaves opposing conceptual threads into the fabric of self-delusion.

What follows, is a tangle of things I’ve previously shared via twitter to speak to this theme:

We have free will to the extent we are free to believe we choose any of this, as we have a life preordained to the extent we believe it so.

As a “self” we are free to believe we choose, to make worldly choices, but ultimately this only serves to support the illusion of a “self”.

Suffering is having free will and acting like you don’t. Delusion is having no choice and acting like you do.

According to ‘Free Will’ OR according to ‘God’s Plan’? Separating these is the disease.

“Free Will” is an expression of arrogance. “God’s Will” is an expression of ignorance. Both reinforce the false notion of a separate self.

In non-spiritual terms, the whole “Free Will” vs. “God’s Will” debate is just a guilt trip vs an excuse. Pure fiction.

“Choices” are explanations (excuses/justifications) we use to label our natural responses to what arises, including this labeling response.

When choices are revealed to be unlimited, the only choice is to remain choice-less. Responses will naturally arise to what presents.

We take actions in response to what arises. Beyond that, you’re free to believe whatever you like.



    1. Very Wittgenstein. So why do we have similar viewpoints/philosophies, tho’ we were 5+ years apart, and raised by wolves?
      Is it because of innate intellegence/rationality in spite of nurture?
      Love & miss you (irrationality of “feeling” sometimes trumps rational thought.


    2. Is it unreasonable to see that rationality/irrationality are equally divisive functions?

      Wolves might have at least instilled some sense of the integrity and unity of a pack. I don’t recall anything like that.

      Without it, we are free to wander, and learn what we may from all the “animals”. Such freedom is not without cost, and tends to ultimately lead to similar conclusions about the nature of things – at least so long as we avoid adopting some substitute structure.

      Good to hear from you. Love always,


    3. This does make my head spin trying to comprehend it. Little bits seep in at times. So you say that we have no choosing in what presents to us…even if we think we chose something? We had no choice in it? We just respond to what presents to us. I do not choose to turn right as opposed to left? You say when there’s a fork in the road…I respond at that moment?

      Am I even on the right track. :) A.

    4. Well dear Goddess, no matter how it’s said, it will likely sound a bit absurd. Or, “off the rails” if you like.

      I encourage you to simply look at each thought (including memories, future plans, imagination – OK, that’s same thing – actually they all are) as they naturally arise, in response to other thoughts and sensations.

      See if you can find a single thought that is not some form of after thought, and ponder the implications…

      Choices are imagined possibilities (non-existent), that once an action is taken become past impossibilities (likewise non-existent). There’s only one “choice” in the present – the action we take – thus with only one way to go – there’s no real choice.

      Choice is purely a conceptual fiction (the debate over whether or not such illusions are somehow useful – I’ll leave to the theorists). We do what we do – including telling ourselves all sorts of stories of past/future as a learning – perhaps more a coping – tool.

      At first, it seems impossible. Then it comes to be seen as the way it is, and has to be. The other “choice”, is hiding behind the stories – at the expense of understanding choicelessness is not a problem.

      The old story of (easy/difficult/wise/foolish) decisions > resulting in (positive/negative) outcomes > prompting desired(repetitions/corrections) – aka action>reaction>modified action taken by some independent controlling force – are seen simply as a natural flow of action > action > action of/as a living being.

      The “freedom” or “liberation” people seek cannot be chosen. Such illusory choices, can only reinforce the illusion of self (no chooser, no choice) and continue the illusion of “bondage”, “ignorance”, “being unawakened”, etc.

      What many miss in all this, is nothing in the appearance of events changes simply because the illusions are seen through. It will still appear to everyone else that an independent person is making choices. Both the “individual” and “society” are based on this conceptual framework.

      Society, is also just a story – a set of ideas. A meta-concept, like the “self”. Self and society have no clear boundaries, no begin or end. Most just prefer to believe otherwise – and will insist they choose that preference. Then they’ll say it’s not a preference at all, it’s “reality”. Sounds suspiciously like no choice again…

      1. Wow, thank-you Kristopher. It’s a lot to process, and still not entirely digestable, but I’m open to pondering it! :) The ego doesn’t like the idea of being choiceless or not understanding “it”. I will continue to take in your tweets and writings. I see the possiblities of all you say on some level, but intellectualy there is a block or resistance.

        Thank-you for being you. :) A.

    5. It’s crazy you wrote about this topic, my Dad and I had been going back and forth on this the past couple weeks. Reminds me of the Zen thing of why can’t you bite your own teeth? I remember reading something where when some philosopher was a child he was fascinated as to why he never could actually watch himself the moment he fell asleep.

      Take care K.

    6. Also the behavior implications of which side one happens to choose are pretty important in my experience. I’d side with predestination if I could get away with some more sh*t. Then I’d be a mess, “oh what did I dooo!” Assuming free will so I could beat myself up.

    7. Exactly Harris. This either/or BS is all self justification and self flagellation. Going back and forth about it, more of same.

      Good luck trying to explain the non-option of choicelessness to your Dad! It doesn’t sit well with anyone still clinging to a someone. Then it’s business as usual. Sort of what I was gettting into in the comment above yours.

      Thanks for stoppin’ by!

    8. Isn’t a controlling/choosing self just another ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance like God? Meaning we don’t understand something so a self/God must have done it. While in reality e.g. the moon makes the tides go in and the increasing details we have of genetics and environment explain behavior?

      I remember smoking cannabis once and I was absolutely terrified to find that I didn’t feel like I controlled anything, it was horrible, but hopefully not because of an inherant hellish reality to the fact but rather a hell arising from my response..

      The way I see it we are free to do our will but nothing else, the universe surrounding the section of space-time called Hitler was absolutely ripe for, well, Hitler. Saying that Hitler had a choice in the matter is not really saying anything, maybe that it could have been different? But that’s just nonsensical, that something can but wont? Preposterous! That’s like saying fractal patterns can render them selves differently from how they actually do. Introducing Gandhi, or even just an atom wide change in Hitler, in that section of space-time would introduce a fundamental brake in reality. The only thing possible is what happens, so maybe the confusion arises when we mistake the tool of possibilities for actualities or something?

      Does this agree with what you posted? I don’t really understand “When choices are revealed to be unlimited, the only choice is to remain choice-less. Responses will naturally arise to what presents.” though.

    9. More or less, agree – and enjoyed you comments – not that it really matters. ;)

      In a nutshell, we do what we do.

      This includes telling ourselves stories about how we choose/had no choice to do what we do. Sort of a redundancy to add anything beyond “we do what we do” – and seeing it in terms of choice or destiny introduces an inherent contradiction.

      Seeing subject/object/action as separate vs aspects of ‘suchness’ (given your screen name, I’ll assume the Buddhist term is familiar). This reinforces our idea of an independent separate self. Our “choice” being in how we spin the stories about what this character called “I” does – the “meaning” we add – to justify this self so we can be caught in cycles of self-pride over “good” choices and self-punishment over “bad” ones, while leaving the option not to be responsible at all for still other things. Too busy with all that to see the illusory nature of “self”.

      Again, I’ll use Buddhist terms to sum that up: Ignorance, aversion, and attachment. ‘The Three Poisons” – the root of all suffering.

      Eastern traditions lump this so called debate over free will and determinism into ‘Karma’, but as Buddha is reputed to have said: “Karma is intention”. Choice is likewise intentional, thus creates ‘karma’ (same mental shell game – going by different names in different cultures), an aspect of delusion that falls away upon awakening. If that is so, then what is “choice?” or “destiny” but delusion?

      As I write this, I don’t need choose to do so. I realize this seems preposterous to most people, as to them I clearly chose to respond (or was moved to do so by some all powerful force). Sure, you can call it that, but is it really so? Does it matter? Only to ‘False-self”/’Ego”. Only to the character in the stories.

      “I” is a useful tool, we all play our roles, there’s just no need to identify with/as that. That’s where suffering arises, in ignorance of the characters’ illusory nature and attachment aversion to all else in relation to that. In belief in choices and destiny that sustain it’s apparent separation from what it controls and what controls it..

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