“If you want to bake an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” Carl Sagan
I had an interesting debate with someone this week into which I gently interjected the idea that there might not be free will. The response was….shall we say, somewhat hostile. And it made me reflect on the hilarity of the whole situation. Consciousness appearing to enjoy the forgetting of itself. The illusion so tightly veiled that we simply cannot see. Also, the pain of waking up.
It also occurred to me that our society, as it has evolved, simply could not function without the mutual agreement that free will exists.
How could you hold someone responsible for a crime? How could there be structured societies based on freedom, if freedom does not exist?
From the perspective of yoga, we hit some particularly ripe territory. For here is perhaps the world’s most ancient practice designed to uncover the absence of doership, and in our modern world it has evolved into the brashest of ‘self’ improvement tools. After a few years on the mat people cease becoming people, they become ‘yogis’ and ‘yoginis’. A quiet moment of response is no longer chilling out it’s ‘pratyahara’. Most peculiar is the arrival of ‘yoga championships’, in which contestants battle out…. well I’m not sure exactly how that works…
In short, the individual seeking freedom finds ever more complex webs of identity spinning out around them, particularly dense webs at that. The ‘spiritual seeker’ is one of the last refuges of the ego, and it’s a veritable Hitler’s bunker.
And at the heart of it all, there is simply no one home. Consciousness is dancing a jig of difference. Playing at individuality. Exploring form, enjoying form, enjoying the masks, enjoying difference. In perfect emptiness….Astonishing!
Put simply, the myth of free will depends on there being an individual.
Yoga is the practice of discovering there is no individual, either as a body, or a mind.
Union is the discovery of what lies before this body/mind
When it is seen that thoughts simply appear, we cease to feel responsible for them. What a relief!
When it is seen that we have no control over thoughts, except as whether or not we choose to take delivery of them, what a relief!
When it is seen that we are the pure awareness in which, not merely thoughts, but the body and the entire manifest world appear, there can only be astonishment, utter wonder, tears streaming.
Burt Harding put this perfectly when he said: ‘The movie of our life is being replayed like a movie-video, however, with one exception, we can either accept it or reject it as it is being replayed. Do you see the simplicity of it? When the ego, through ignorance, rejects the movie then we have suffering. If we accept the movie, we have enlightenment.”