Dear Prof. Mele,
I am referring to an article posted on the Internet:
Do we have free will? FSU philosopher awarded $4.4 million grant to find out
Please allow me to speak my mind directly. If I merely repeat things that you already know or state or even the obvious then I do apologize for having wasted your time, Sir.
Here’s a summary of my thoughts on human free will:
I will argue that God did grant us free will. However, I will also acknowledge that there are powerful forces at play that seek to impede and corrupt the freedom of will we have been given.
I believe that the will of a human being is determined by at least three agents: its ego, the intrinsically present spirit and the possible influences due to extrinsic spirits. Granted, the latter kind of agent may be regarded as fringe and rather controversial but speaking from my own personal experience, it is very real and significant nonetheless. Therefore I do hope you reserve an open mind on the matter as I’m quite convinced that this agent is potentially very powerful in subverting the human will.
I’ll go over them one by one and expand on, by brief characterization, the influence each agent has on the will. I end with suggesting how to reclaim our free will.
The ego is understood to be the animal mind, or the mind of the intellectual animal, i.e. the part of the mind that is derived from our animalistic nature. It is the component of the mind that is tied most closely to the material world we live in. The ego is based on, and caters to, our primitive animalistic or biologic needs, urges and desires (lusts). Its prime motivator is fear; predominantly, fear of falling short of what it needs, i.e. food and other essentials needed for biological maintenance. But also, fear of not getting what it thinks it needs, e.g. articles of luxury and mates merely for sexual pleasure. Also featured prominently by the ego, is the fear of not getting enough, e.g. money, power and influence. But also, fear of not being awarded the right kind of social status it thinks it is entitled to, or fear of not being accepted in the social context it finds itself in. In short, it is fear that is driving the ego.
By virtue of possessing a living material body, there is a constant need for sustenance, and by this fact alone, it cannot be plausibly maintained that the ego is afforded pure freedom in any reasonable sense. It cannot be refuted that the need for biological maintenance requires allocation of a substantial share of the will.
Besides serving biological purposes, the ego may choose to socially conform through for instance, adherence to certain kinds of fashion (“dress codes”), or seek refuge to socially cohesive groups. Based on xenophobia and fear of not being accepted, the ego likes to distinguish between friend and foe, between security and threat. Hence we observe social division on the basis of religion, political conviction, race and nationality. In addition, we see division between gangs, sports-teams or something as relatively innocuous as musical preference (Hip-Hop vs Punk vs Goth vs….). Although divisions due to musical preference may be the least exclusive, members of different gangs however, unless they happen to be bound by alliance, routinely seem to be in a state of perpetual war with each-other (e.g. the Bloods vs the Crips gangs in Los Angeles).
And similarly, although probably less severely on average, members of different sports-team seem to also be locked down in a perpetual state of mutual hostility. For example, European football “firms” have a tradition of going at it with each-other in such a brutal fashion that clashes not rarely resemble primitive bare-fist tribal warfare. I am quite sure that such traditions are not confined to Europe but indeed can be found in about every corner of the world, courtesy of the inherently divisive ego.
With respect to will, if peer groups do not tolerate, and even seek persecution of, other peer groups then members of such groups have to surrender even more of their will for the purpose of bolstering hostility (“defensiveness”) against, or perhaps seek evasion of, “threatening” outsiders. And so the ego demands the sacrifice of more will on the altar of cultural submission and group compliance. That is, the will is to be allocated to observe compliance with the group that is belonged to whereas non-compliance or precisely anti-compliance may be desirable to be pursued with respect to outsiders of the group. This psychopathic mentality thus serves as the moral breeding ground to justify committing crime. Think for example of the Mafia, whose members are usually exceedingly loyal and compliant to the gang itself but dramatically immoral towards outsiders of the gang. This kind of uncaring and cruel mentality is characteristic of bands of organized crime the globe over, again courtesy of the ego.
Also, keeping in mind that the ego thrives on fear, it should be understood that fear not always manifests as fear. If expressing fear as fear is anticipated with shame, the ego may resort to invoking pride, or deluding so-called ego-defense mechanisms (“excuses”) or plain willful ignorance in order to seek evasion of the honest expression of fear. It may be interesting to note that shame and embarrassment too can be regarded as types of fear, namely the fear of being judged or condemned and the subsequent loss of “face” or reputation that may ensue. Due to the fear for receiving the stigma of being perceived as someone less than a “real man” (“pussy”, “fag”, etc.) it is especially popular among (juvenile) males to simply transmute fear into discontentment and anger. On the other hand, the ego may also go to great lengths trying to rationalize or justify its state of fear so as to precisely hold on to certain (freedom restricting) behaviors. I believe that the public support for the currently fashionable but also fashionably hyped up hoopla surrounding the so-called “war on terror” is largely predicated on the notion that the ego views itself as being subjected to systemic external threats (the terrifying terrorist) and on that bases manages to rationalize its state of fear.
As already alluded to, besides the necessity to provide for biological maintenance, a person, through his ego, is willing to sacrifice even more of its will for the purpose of maintaining or acquiring improvement of social fitness/status, or at least the perception of it by the ego. Although not of vital importance, in principle, the custodian of the ego may additionally allocate another part of the will for the purpose of submitting to certain social or cultural codes of conduct. The fashionable phenomenon of allowing oneself to trade one’s autonomy for security ultimately again is very much fear based. Think for instance, of the rigid codes of “honor” (read: blind loyalty and obedience) prevalent among gang cultures. By joining a gang, the new member, apart from receiving some perks (money, women, “protection”, etc.), must accept a good number of obligations that further reduce the remainder of his free will.
So to recap, the will due to the (fear based) ego can be considered to be far from free as it must relinquish a portion of its freedom for the purpose of biological maintenance and it optionally may reserve even more will in an attempt to gain or maintain societal/cultural fitness (i.e. the advantage of group conformity, or at least the perception of it). The goal of biological maintenance and the goal of servicing some subculture may overlap though. One example would be provided by gang culture, where joining a gang provides members with an income, albeit usually unlawfully obtained. Nonetheless, a gang member may also choose to leave his gang, even though this may be a life-threatening decision, one cannot choose to abandon eating and expect to live. Therefore, the allocation of free will for biological maintenance is of vital importance and cannot be avoided, unlike the optional allocation of free will for cultural group conformity. And yet, especially if fears and anxieties can be reduced, often the will does give in to servicing group conformity.
If ego would be the sole agent defining human will, then it could be persuasively argued that human beings, in practice, are but mere serfs of their ego; purely mechanical or instinctual beings where most of their individuality has been traded for shallow herd mentalities, in which one is too fear-stricken and/or too drunken with pride and/or too mesmerized by cultural fluff and mind-numbing distractions to be able to think and act outside of the proverbial box.
The Intrinsic Spirit
Contrasting the rigid and inert ego, is the spirit. Assuming one agrees to its existence, the spirit can be regarded to be the direct emissary of God. Unlike the rash and greedy ego, the spirit is gracious and modest as it is animated by the antagonist of fear: love. Therefore, by virtue of its loving nature, the spirit is patient and lenient and so is willing to take a backseat and relinquish control to the pompous and myopic ego. Since, as far as I know, unlike the biological ego, the spirit does not have to attend to sustenance and so does not have to lay claim to a portion of the will.
Nonetheless, the kind of freedom the spirit enjoys must always be relative to God (and his laws). Since God is the ultimate superior of the spirit, the latter is always obliged to answer to the former for its decided courses of action. I think it can be stated with confidence that, since he doesn’t have to answer to a superior, only God can afford to truly enjoy will that is free in an absolute sense.
Artwork by J. Zarate
Thirdly and lastly there are external spiritual beings that seek to thwart the human will and subject it to their own. These usurpers of human will are commonly referred to as demons in Judeo-Christian religious traditions and jinns in Islamic traditions. While not everyone is subject to their harassment and interference to equal measure, it is understood from the experiences derived from religious/spiritual practitioners (e.g. exorcists and deliverance ministers) that, in practice, many human beings are subjected to these hostile spiritual invaders. Indeed, it is a relatively easy matter to end up becoming possessed. By means of progressively breaking God’s laws, and without seeking forgiveness and penance with God, one progressively risks possession. Additionally, one may also end up in a possessed state not by one’s own volition but by the action of other people, as is the case with inheritable generational curses, witchcraft or sexual violation, e.g. satanic ritual abuse.
Once in a possessed state, the demons then work to corrupt and inflect the human will towards manifesting more basal and animalistic behavior. They do this through elevating fear- and stress levels in the possessed person, who in a state of incapacitation is more prone to surrender conscious control over their own being. Depending on the degree of success of the demonic usurpers, once decent and acceptable human behavior stands to degenerate into more animalistic mannerisms and modes of action that are congruent with that of the extrinsic spirits. Indeed, the inclinations of the ego and that of invading spirits seem to be most compatible and they both have a common existential basis in fear. The more fearful (or “stressed out”) the possessed person is, the more they surrender their (rational or conscious) control to the demons. In other words, demons have a direct interest in promoting human fear levels. It should come as little surprise that indeed demons quite literally thrive on fear.
One of the main reasons why I know this is through my own experiences and observation. You see, I myself have been possessed by no less than six demons for a period spanning at least 15 years and I was set free only a few months ago. I have had the displeasure of experiencing first-hand what demonic possession can do to a person. Let me tell you, being possessed is far from pretty. And without the need to draw pity, I have had to helplessly stand by as I witnessed, unwittingly at the time, my own scientific career going down the drain. You are welcome to read the rather elaborate account of my deliverance story here:
Tragedy and Sin, Forgiveness and Restoration – My Own Deliverance Story
N.B. A particularly aggressive and formidable demonic spirit, that I also have had the displeasure of being possessed by, is known in Christian circles as the Jezebel spirit. I’ve also written quite an elaborate blog on this exceedingly warlike spirit what some even call “Satan’s woman”:
When Love Yields to Fear – What Is a Jezebel Spirit All About?
To demons, the prospect of possessing a person is like a drifter having the prospect of trading his cardboard box shelter under a leaky bridge for a luxurious penthouse apartment. A human being can rightly be regarded as a luxurious vehicle (or sometimes also a “milk-cow,” as was the case with me) that lies ready and waiting to be exploited for their pathological pleasures and sinister plans. In other words, demons favor human possession more than anything, and so they work diligently trying to tempt human beings into sin so that they are provided with the legal reason to invade and as such, advance to usurp the will of the victim.
The Human Predicament and its Resolution
It’s a sad fact of modern society that, especially in Western societies, the cultural emphasis predominantly lies on the glorification of the indulging ego. Apart from the necessity to service biological sustenance, being part of human culture and society, in practice entails the relinquishing of additional portions of the will. Especially the idolizing of the “god” of consumerism, entices us to pursue abundant yet redundant material luxury as well as the pursuit of (perverse and decadent) excesses of sexual gratification. Think for example, of the immensely popular but equally enslaving (Internet) porn “entertainment”.
Further onslaughts on our being are delivered by the medical industry, which by drugging our minds silly, if not downright chemically lobotomize us, seek to rob us of the very potential to exert will. There exists a sad trend in psychiatry to put profit ahead of the care for the patient and so, in a real but paradoxical sense, the perceived mentally sick, including scores of children with vulnerable still developing nervous systems, are being treated by the practically mentally sick, the pill-pushing psychiatric industry. See my note Psychiatry Going Psychopathic for more on this subject.
A similar kind of damage is administered by the equally popular fast food industry that, through the infusion of toxic and excito-toxic agents such as aspartame and MSG into food, claims even more of our capacity to rationally decide our own future and destiny. The fast in fast food really would better be understood as, for example: fast acquisition of excess body weight, or fast delivery of nutritional lobotomy and yes: fast deterioration of general health and ultimately therefore also fast delivery to the grave. Without the need to bitterly exaggerate, it can be confidently asserted that the medical industry together with the fast food industry, in practice, work to zombify us and kill our will at the very root.
Therefore, by virtue of our extremely unhealthy and degenerate cultures, it may appear, from a pragmatical point of view, that we indeed are but mechanical beings – sometimes even downright zombies – who are completely at the behest of the carnal whims of the ego.
And if that is not enough, there are sinister extrinsic spiritual beings who have dedicated themselves to the utter destruction of humanity and are ever lurking and ready to usurp even more of our will:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
Although I do not dispute that there is ample room for improvement, I refuse to believe that being mere robotic slaves is our ultimate destiny and it can not be what God has intended for us. God is a god of love, grace and mercy (2 John 1:3, 1 John 4:8 and Ephesians 2:4-5) and the notion that he would not grant us the possibility of free will clashes with his very nature, which, to be consistent, has little place, if any at all, for coercion and control. God is not a dictator – nor wrist-slapping and butt-spanking über-nanny, if you will – and it is also stated quite clearly in the Bible that, by following the way of Jesus, we do have a chance at gaining freedom:
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
Since freedom cannot be had without free will, Jesus promises that if we know the truth we will see our will freed.
And so, what is that truth that Jesus talked about?
I already argued that the supreme enemy of freedom is this sink of the will called ego. To further lend credence to this idea, next is another favorite arena of the ego in which it excels yet at the same time further promotes the enslavement of its keeper:
An Eye for an Eye
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42
By proverbially turning the other cheek, you basically forgive your assailant as you free yourself from the self-imposed burden of having to commit will (time and energy) into preparing for retribution, which, when expressed, is likely to be met with a reciprocal retribution coming again from the assailant. Similar to two heavy-weight boxers exchanging body blows, the vicious cycle of reciprocating vengeance could, in principle, go on indefinitely or until, at least, one party becomes too incapacitated to continue. As long as the heat is on, both parties have their will tied up into trying to formulate and execute their destructive plots of vengeance.
By breaking this will-enslaving cycle, through forgiveness, the victim as well as the victimizer may direct their will power for other, ideally more constructive and benign, purposes. Indeed, as long as the victim sees himself as victim and works to exact revenge, it is true that not only is the victim not free, but that even further enslavement becomes a likely outcome if solace is sought in surrogate means of gratification in an attempt to alleviate the pain and suffering sustained. The possible consequence of acquiring a substance addiction, or indeed the pursuit of any other kind of addictive behavior, further robs the victim of freedom and of free will.
And so the capacity to liberate the will is positively dependent on the capacity to forgive.
N.B. This address should not be mistaken as an advocacy for the unconditional dismissal of justice. Indeed, I do not advocate that crime and evil acts should simply be excused and forgotten through forgiveness. However, and although I still need to spend time thinking more about this, I believe that the current system of penalizing crime offenders does not serve society well. I believe that it is principally wrong, to do as our transgressors and simply fight fire with more fire. Indeed, the prison system in its present form could easily be mistaken for an academy of crime rather than being a system of correctional facilities. A step in the right direction for example would be provided to introduce a mandatory apology by the perpetrator to the victim(s). I also think that community service instead of incarceration is a proper measure. But I am digressing, and the discussion of this subject matter, interesting as it is, falls outside of the scope of this letter.
So how can one possibly be able to forgive one’s assailant or victimizer? As stated in the book of Matthew, Jesus encourages:
Love for Enemies
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48
Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes and while your enemy may have done you harm, you in turn likely may have harmed your enemy. By praying for your enemy you (psychologically) prepares yourself to eventually forgive your enemy, while your enemy ideally contemplates the same if he, in turn, prays for your possible transgressions. See my previous piece, Love Your Enemies (Matthew 5:43-44), for more on this.
Since it is the defiant and vindictive ego that stands in the way of the realization of forgiveness, it is the ego that is the enemy of freedom and so Jesus his promised freedom can only be attained with its defeat. The more the ego is subdued – i.e. the more we manage to overcome the subservience to our fears, possibly fortified by possessing demons – the more we will gain in freedom and free will.
Worship of the ego is the deception that leads to enslavement. In the spirit lies the Truth and freedom.
This is what I believe is the truth that Jesus alluded to in John 8:31-32.
It is up to us to choose between fear and love, between enslavement and freedom.