I’ve been thinking about the issue of free will a lot lately, as in: How much of it do we really have and how can we get more of it? What got me started on this train of thought was something Carl Calleman says in his new book, The Purposeful Universe (which I’ve written about in previous blogs). He theorizes that to a very significant extent, throughout the history of human evolution, we’ve been little more than puppets, our behavior largely orchestrated by the wave patterns and cycles of the Cosmic World Tree (defined as the ordering and animating principle of life and evolution).
Calleman implies that the elaborate orchestrations of the World Tree have been a necessary part of the divine plan, designed to elicit the most complete repertoire of human behaviors and experience: from the most barbaric to the most sublime, plus everything in between. Why? Because such conditions are the most conducive to human awakening, which is the entire point of the last 16.4 billion years of evolution.
In the wrong hands, this view of the evolutionary process could be used to excuse all the horrible stuff humans have done to one another, as well as to other life forms and the earth, throughout recorded history. But, there’s another way to go with this, I think. Instead, we might focus on whatever measure of free will we actually do have and how we might cultivate more of it. This is where the ego as hero comes in.
One of the biggest questions in the field of psychology has always been: Do humans behave the way we do because of our basic natures, i.e. the character traits we are born with, or because of the various ways we are nurtured and/or not nurtured by our environment. This strikes me as a false dichotomy and, therefore, a flawed question. A better question might be: Where do the character traits we are born with come from? Buddhist and Hindu teachings, among others, would suggest our character traits come from countless lifetimes of experience, during which we have cultivated various strengths and weaknesses that comprise the sum total of who we are today. In other words, one’s “nature” must be the result of some degree of free will exercised in past lives.
The movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, illustrates this point very well. The protagonist, Phil Connors, relives the same day, February 2nd, over and over hundreds of times in the course of the movie. For most of those days, he behaves like a classic baby soul: he freaks out, throws temper tantrums, acts out his fear and frustration, mistreats everyone he comes in contact with, manipulates and seduces women, commits suicide in every imaginable way, endangers the lives of others, etc. Gradually, though, he begins to exercise his free will. He turns his focus to selfless service. He becomes increasingly honest. He acts with integrity. Finally, he experiences one perfect day of impeccable behavior and is released from the torturous cycle of endless repetitions.
The way I see it (and it seems the way Phil Connors eventually saw it, too), the ego really only has two choices: 1) to align itself with Spirit, or the higher Self, in a co-creative relationship; or 2) to give in to the pull of inertia. In other words, to be part of the solution or part of the problem. On an energetic level, inertia is the greatest evil, according to channeled information in the Pathwork* lecture series (#244: “Be In The World Not of The World”). In fact, inertia is so dangerous it amounts to a “freezing of the flow of divine energy,” leading eventually to the loss of human consciousness. On subtle and not so subtle levels, it’s saying a big, fat NO to life.
The first step toward true freedom, then, is saying a big, fat YES to life. It’s the willingness to know one’s Self and the greater world. “Thou shalt not be aware” must be transformed into “I am willing to know.” Paradoxically, it seems that free will is only free when it chooses to align with Spirit in the general direction of increasing levels of awareness. This is because only Spirit is truly free. On the other hand, the “choice” to align with fear or pride or willful ignorance, for that matter, isn’t so much a free choice as an unconscious abdication of responsibility, and the will that succumbs to the pull of this type of inertia is best described as self-will rather than free will.
In order for the ego to align itself with Spirit, it must first cultivate the all-important qualities of strength, courage, humility, patience, commitment and faith. Unfortunately, the forces of inertia will work to prevent the cultivation of these qualities, as well as attempting to derail the process of surrender to Spirit and alignment with the divine. Through such underhanded machinations, Pandora’s Box is opened to a whole host of Self-defeating behaviors that get in the way of fulfilling our destinies.
You name it, we’ve all done it to varying degrees. We’ve allowed ourselves to be too busy, too distracted, too preoccupied with trivial concerns, too influenced by the popular media, too focused on acquiring and maintaining our material possessions, etc. Naturally, all of this doing, doing, doing makes us very tired and stressed out. We feel overwhelmed so we eat some comfort food and take a nap. My favorite escapist fantasy involves curling up in the fetal position in the back of the closet and attempting to hibernate for the rest of eternity. I suspect you may have your own variation on this theme.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We, meaning the healthy part of our egos, can choose to take the high road. To become truly self-actualized, we must make this choice over and over again, until finally it becomes automatic. Once the ego chooses to align with Spirit, it must then confront everything that would seek to prevent this alignment.
The Pathwork lecture mentioned above suggests the following for overcoming inertia:
- 1)Ascertain the exact nature of your inertia and how you rationalize it in order to indulge it.
- 2)Get really honest about the extremely painful consequences of this trait.
- 3)Pray for divine assistance and intervention.
- 4)Totally surrender to the divine plan and your own unique destiny in service to the divine plan.
- 5)Be willing to be temporarily hurt, rejected or put at a disadvantage in service to the divine plan.
- 6)Have faith that this is truly in your best interest despite appearances to the contrary.
And, last but not least, all of the above require doing the difficult emotional work of emptying out the shadow. There is no way around this, no magical solution, in my opinion and experience. The good news, though, is that to the extent we face and heal our pain, the ascension process will take care of itself as a byproduct of that work! Nothing extra required.
Yippee! I think I need some comfort food and a nap now! Right after I thank the healthy part of my ego for its heroic efforts on my behalf! I was about to say it’s a wonder any of us ever evolve at all, given what we’re up against, but then I remembered Phil Connors, the guy in the movie Groundhog Day. Once he figured out he was in a hell realm of his own making and that there were only so many ways to commit suicide, he had all the motivation he needed to undertake the hero’s journey.
Let Phil’s very accelerated, exaggerated turns on the karmic wheel of life be a wake up call to all of us! We can choose the kind of redemptive pain that comes with facing ourselves and doing our inner work or the non-redemptive pain and suffering that are part and parcel of avoidance, denial and inertia.
Hopefully, no more suffering will be necessary…
(*I first learned about the Pathwork lecture series through Janet Morrow, Inner Sight’s founder. The transcripts of these 258 extraordinary lectures contain information channeled by Eva Pierrakos over a thirty year period. For Pathwork’s “Be In The World and Not of The World” and other Pathwork lectures, see:http://www.pathwork.org/lecturesObtaining.html)
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