Do humans have free will?

Do you do what you want, should, ought to? So what is holding you back? Why do we become depressed, get into a state or even break down? Is there sometimes a lack of rational behaviour among us? Why is there not always consistency in what we do? Are we as a society doing the right things? Do we understand fully the processes leading to decisions?

People have ideas they are willing to kill or die for – how has this come about? How is such great importance created? Where does evil come from, goodness?

These are big and basic questions. Can you think for yourself or is the mind – intellect, emotion, reflexes – in control of what you think and do? What happens when you have a choice? What are the processes taking place: do it now , later, pick a green one, a cheap, expensive, what to say … the are many considerations to go through. There is often a certain mechanicalness involved, a certain efficiency. Or is it the subconscious that decides for you?

Being rational is surely possible – putting your intellect to work – making a rational decision and then stick to it – we can do it if we understand how. But for whatever reason this is not what we do. We are not logical, consequences may or may not matter, we have all sorts of habits, we dream, are lazy, avoid conflicts, we procrastinate, we hurt others.

This we do individually, and when this is summed up for all of society’s behaviour the result is not always easy to understand – the result is often puzzling, even catastrophic.

It need not be like this. Most of us can learn to follow the golden rule and be rational, true to ideals, show love, get rid of greed, share, make progress and so on.

To achieve this we must find out what we are, who we are. This means doing hard work of self-observation to find what we do, how we do it, when we do it.

Most adult people are ruled by habit, behaving like machines, sometimes doing incredible things, letting things happen to us without stopping or changing it.

When we know ourselves we understand what is going on in our body – intellect, emotion, movement – and can start to interact with the world in new ways. This knowledge does not change anything  – it merely makes information available so that we possibly can be better people and have better lives. Our habits can be understood, our processes also.

The inner machinery of our body is complex, in a constant state of activity, and to be in charge of yourself you must work hard to understand your own processes. After that many things can happen: you can find your aims and work towards them, you can be really present in association with others, the range of choices open to you may expand, you can take deep control of your world, you may interact better with the large society around you.

A few people have started this work of self-observation, Gurdjieff being one who has described the work necessary. It is hard, requires discipline, long term determination.

So will it matter – will it foster better thinking and decisions for you, for the world? Rational, connected, mature, ethical decisions? Make us stop daydreaming – good or bad – cut through the crap to find sensible action?

These questions are complex. It is about each persons perception and reality which is highly individual – our senses, our inborn essences, our learning make us what we are. By choosing self-observation we can start a process of getting closer to what we are, find attentive interaction with others, obtain closeness to the cosmos we live in.

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