Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Martin LeFevre: The Will is Never Free

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

The Will is Never Free

A neuroscientist named Benjamin Libet made a remarkable discovery at the University of California, San Francisco in the mid-1980’s. Placing electrodes on volunteer’s skulls and forefingers, he asked them to move their finger whenever they had the urge to do so. He found, to his amazement, that his machine registered a “readiness potential” in the brain 200 milliseconds before the person was conscious of the urge!

In the words of another scientist, Libet could, “predict what the person would do before the person was actually aware of having decided to do it.” This means that rather than our decisions coming from the ‘top down,’ they are actually being made from the ‘bottom up,’ that is, from the ‘unconscious.’ Brain studies are confirming Freud’s contention that most of our mental and emotional life is unconscious, or at least subconscious.

But what does this mean for free will? It means there is no such thing--the will is never free. But does that imply our actions are always psychologically predetermined? Not necessarily. There is individual responsibility and the possibility of freedom, but they have nothing to do with conscious choice and the will.

Obviously we all face many choices; it’s the idea of freedom in choosing that is false. It implies a chooser, a supposedly separate entity. There is no such such thing; the chooser is inevitably conditioned. The sovereign ‘decider’ is a delusion.

All mental activity is conditioned to some degree. The will is the concentrated expression of the ‘me,’ and the ‘me’ is never free. It is a conditioned construct based on an illusion—the inherent separateness of the individual or group.

The self may be necessary up to a point as an organizing principle for thought, but believing in its actuality, and experiencing the world in terms of a separate ‘me,’ is the source of all division, darkness, and evil.

If one negates will, who or what then is in charge, directing one’s action and life? There is a latent intelligence within the human brain, the same undivided, unwilled, uncontrolled, and essentially uncontrollable energy within all the processes of life, from stars and galaxies to lions and hummingbirds.

When the entire mechanism of thought is no longer dominant in the brain, and the will has been negated, there is contact and communion with the source of life’s energy and drive. Humans once knew that undivided energy in a lived way, before the Agricultural Revolution. We cannot go back however, but must go forward, consciously awakening a new mind.

Being deeply aware of the movement of thought as a whole, one sees when one is looking and acting from the ‘unconscious’ content of the mind. And being mindful of this terrain (even if one doesn’t see it all), one is no longer unconscious, and one ceases looking and acting from it. That’s why it’s essential to be self-knowing.

When the content of the unconscious as well as conscious mind is still, the brain sees without the screen of symbols, memories, and conditioning. In the stillness of the mind through method-less attention to the movement of thought, the brain/mind has a completely different quality, and one simply sees the right thing to do. The illusion of ‘free will’ gives way to the actuality of freedom in attention and awareness.

Insight, clarity, and freedom are not functions of thought, but of the spaces between and the stillness of thought. The brain can and must be anchored in self-knowing and attention, rather than in symbols and memories.

Acting from stillness and insight, there is no interval, no gap between deciding and doing, because there is no illusory ‘I’ from and through which one’s actions flow. There is simply seeing and doing, and one acts with intelligence.

Control is another illusion (after separateness) to which we cling. And as we can see with governments, and especially empires, the greater the need for control, the more ruthless, violent, and malevolent they are.

One realizes each time the meditative state is awakened that at a deep level one knows nothing and is nothing. This realization is tremendously liberating, even if it lasts only a timeless minute, for it clears away the crud and lights the way ahead.

Can a sufficient minority of people in all cultures free themselves from the yoke of conditioning, and ignite a psychological revolution? Human consciousness is not inexorably attached to the useless, accumulating, crushing weight of the past. Thinking and acting out of stillness is the true basis of human freedom.

************

- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: martinlefevre@sbcglobal.net. The author welcomes comments.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news