Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Free Will
Choice and Creation
This “choosing” on the part of the universe is not the same as predestination. Predestination implies that there is a plan spelled out somewhere in which everything that is going to happen has already been determined. Here, we are talking about a universe that is intelligent and creative, where what is going to happen in the next moment cannot have been planned because it’s going to come out of this moment, rather than out of some plan written at the time of creation. So from this perspective there is no predestination, but there is also no free will.
Everything that happens is totally spontaneous. In non-theistic terms, everything is done through the will of the whole, or in theistic terms, through the will of God. But when most people think of God’s will, they conceive of Him as though He were a human being who has ideas about what is going to happen, as if He had a blueprint and was going to make everything conform to it. This is a very limited idea of God. Maybe God is so intelligent that He can create the universe moment to moment without any blueprint!
Facets of Unity, pg. 121
Free Will and Point of View
Student: So there's no free will?
Almaas: From within the manifestation it appears as if there is free will. If you look from the source, no free will exists. So it all depends from where you look. Whatever you see is produced by the flow. It does not get you off the hook, though. As long as you experience yourself as a separate self it is best to take responsibility. If you do not take responsibility the flow will manifest in darker and more difficult patterns. However, if you take responsibility in a real way, not by feeling guilty but by being responsible in your dealings with the world, the more that responsibility will manifest the flow in a lighter and more illuminating way. Authentic responsibility is our way of experiencing the illumination of the flow that culminates in its revelation of the true nature of the pattern, as the creative outflow of the Logos, the Patterns.
Student: The real difficulty for me seems to be trying to reconcile the two viewpoints.
Almaas: They're completely reconcilable. The phenomena are identical. You're just looking from different directions. Either from this direction or from that direction. That's all.
Diamond Heart Book Five, pg. 315
Free Will and the Soul
The soul also has the capacity to shut off awareness of the rest of the Universal Mind, and focus on one part of it, like the physical. A whole viewpoint develops based on that orientation towards physical reality. I think that is why it is said that we have free will—we have the capacity to say “no” to some aspects of reality, to live as if our own limited knowledge were all there is. And from that perspective, we make choices. In that sense, we do have free will.
But from the perspective of the Nous, there is no free will. It is all the Nous anyway. At the locations called souls, Nous operates in a certain way: A particular location can cut off its perception such that it believes that it is running the show. Yet the same soul that has the capacity to delude itself also can work to clarify itself and begin to see the Nous, and begin to allow it to function. You can call this process surrendering, allowing the will of God, simply being, or just non-doing.
Diamond Heart Book Four, pg. 337
Since Holy Freedom is surrender to whatever you are experiencing, then judging it or trying to change it indicates that there is no surrender to Holy Will. But if you judge your lack of surrender, this indicates a further lack of surrender to Holy Will. Surrender doesn’t require certain conditions. At any moment, there is the possibility of completely letting go of trying to control things and letting the universe be, instead of believing that you can and should rearrange it. Egoic pride is the belief that you have your own will and can have your own way, and can change things in the universe. It is the belief that, “I’m going to do it my way; I’m going to have things be the way I want them.” This pride manifests in the body as a constriction of the fontanel at the top of the head which blocks Living Daylight, and thus, blocks the whole perspective of Holy Will.
The specific delusion that arises due to the loss of Holy Will is the conviction that there are such things as separate entities who have their own wills—it is the delusion that there is a separate you who can have things go the way you want them to. We saw that the delusion associated with Holy Transparency is that you have a separate self, and here the delusion is that this separate self has a will and a choice separate from the rest of the universe. We are not saying that you don’t have free will, but that you don’t have a free will separate from the whole. You want your way instead of seeing that the universe has its way, manifesting through you. We have seen that the best approach is to surrender to the universe, thereby actualizing yourself. Then you become who you really are, because you are whatever the universe happens to be unfolding within your consciousness at any moment.
The following passage addresses what to do when you see that you are taking yourself to be a separate entity, and integrates the whole triangle we are working with:
Know the state of pure and total presence to be a vast expanse without center or border.
It is everywhere the same without acceptance or rejection.
[This is the Holy Truth.]
Blend the nature of mind and its habit patterns into non-duality.
[This is Holy Omniscience.]
Because entities, whether subjectively conceived or directly experienced,
[when you believe you are a separate entity or are experiencing someone or something else as separate]
Are present as ornaments of one’s own state of being.
[This is Holy Transparency.]
Do not accept or reject them.
(Longchenpa, 1987, p. 42)
[Brackets are author’s comments.]
In other words, even when you believe you are a separate self and are experiencing discrete entities, recognize all is still the Holy Truth, so don’t accept or reject it. If you accept or reject any part of your experience, even what is delusional, you are identifying with the belief that you are a separate entity. This is a very subtle teaching in which the way one practices affects what one believes, and what one believes affects the way one practices.
Facets of Unity, pg. 127
The Question of Free Will Depends on Where You Stand
The understanding of free will from the perspective of realization, particularly from the view of totality, is quite subtle. The view of totality recognizes the truth of all views. If we start with the assumption of being a separate individual soul, and if we consider that to be an unchanging condition of reality, then it’s reasonable, even preferable, to believe that we have a free will. We act from the perspective of having a choice, and that is one way that Total Being manifests—as an individual with free will. But from another view, that of the nondual dimensions, we realize that what is happening always arises from a place deeper than the individual soul, and the individual soul is simply the location of that experience. What looks like choice from the individual perspective, from the boundless perspective is revealed to be our appropriation of the dynamism of Being itself. From boundlessness, we see that whatever happens is not a result of our individual or personal will. The view of totality sees how the truth of both of these perspectives is connected. When we assume that we have free will, we take responsibility for our actions and gain the possibility of choosing wisely, which means optimizing our own and others’ experience. This wise choice, from another perspective, is Total Being from its boundlessness waking up in a continually brighter way. So how you see the question of free will depends on where you stand and which view you take. You can say there is free will, and you can say there is no free will, and you can also view the entire matter of free will as irrelevant to freedom.