posted August 11, 2004 04:35 PM
Note: This went a bit long, but I believe every bit of it is well worth your time, energy, and attention, and I beg you to read at least as far as is pleasurable. Also, I refer to humankind in the following pages as “man”. It is not my wish to alienate anyone, but I’m just too lazy to bother right now with any radical revision of grammatical policy. Nevertheless, it is an issue I feel is important, and look forward to dealing with very soon.
I’m going to preach, because that’s what I do. I’ve tried talking, but every time I open my mouth… Well, you get the idea. Now, I don’t expect to change anybody’s mind, but, I sincerely believe that I know something, something profoundly important, which many of you may not know, - and, if you’ll humbly permit me, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to at least try to communicate it. …
Have you ever wondered what the Buddhist means when he says that the ego is an illusion that veils the face of divine reality? If you are willing to conceptually explore the outer fringe of this seemingly well-defined entity, the ego, I think you’ll find that there is, in reality, no end of roads. It is far more difficult than we are pleased to believe, to mark the precise place and time where and when a man ends and his environment begins. It may in fact be an utter impossibility. We may find that all boundaries, just like in astrology, are not so clearly defined, but rather, blend indistinguishably in with one another; so that we are, at length, justified in evoking a hypothesis which wholly contains and accounts for both man and his environment. Some would call this God, and, for simplicity’s sake, I will also make use of the term, which seems to me quite as good as any other.
I realize that many of you have already made up your minds as to the existence of “free will”, but I ask that you have, what Nietzsche called, “the courage for an attack upon your convictions”. I have not made up my mind, or, rather, I have made up my mind, but, I do not deem my mind the ultimate authority where ultimate truth is concerned. I can only claim that the concept of free will, as such, is absolutely refuted by the most fundamental dictates of pure logic and reason. And, not only will I make this claim, but (unlike all those who have proposed the existence of a finite will which, yet, eludes all finite limitations) I will go so far as to back it up as well.
“Everything must have a reason (apart from itself) for why it is rather than is not.”
That is the fundamental rule of all logic. As long as we are dealing with finite entities, it holds true. Only reason itself, which is infinite, is without a particular reason for being; and for being such as it is. Again, I am not saying that, even by some mysterious paradox, free will cannot exist, but, I am saying that, in order for free will to exist, paradoxes must be permitted to exist as well. But, let me explain more perfectly why a man, despite any deep-seated sense of personal dignity or entitlement, or any sense of cosmic fair play (a very narrow perversion of the true nature of the karmic law of correspondence), which he may possess, - man cannot logically be regarded as free.
Man did not create himself. Nor is he in any position to step beyond himself, and effectively make an object of himself. He is never the object of reflection; always, the subject that reflects; he is never the self from whom he is detached, but, always, the self who detaches. Sartre referred to this subject as “the pre-reflective cogito”; – it is the self, before it is aware of itself. The fact of the matter is that the self is never seen, for it is, by definition, “that which sees”. Consequently, the self feels, thinks, desires, and chooses; and is in no position to feel what to feel, think what to think, desire what to desire, or choose what to choose. As he is, so shall he be.
Every man is known by his actions, as every tree is known by its fruit. This does not imply that, if a tree happens to bear apples, we can deduce that it might just as well have yielded oranges. Rather, we know that it is an apple tree. Likewise, the spectacle of a man whose actions are selfish does not suggest to us that he might just as well have behaved in an opposite manner; rather, it suggests that he is selfish. When Jesus healed the blind man, the blind man regained his sight slowly, and said, "I see men, but they look like trees." We are no less organic, no less part and parcel of all things.
In order for a man's will to be free, he would have to exist as an island, within a vacuum. This is clearly not the case. All true mysticism takes as its starting point the principle of Oneness, which demands that no individual entity, however puffed-up with pride and moral indignation, can possibly exist independently of the One. There is no cause that is not an effect - indeed; the very division of cause and effect (like all divisions) is purely theoretical. Man does not DO anything; he simply IS himself. Man's will is part and parcel of him, just as he is part and parcel of the One (i.e. of God). Man is made in the image of God, and God, as we know, does not DO anything. God simply IS what God IS (i.e. "I am that I am.").
Is it reasonable to say of a man, “He has no respect for human life,” and, in the same breath, to demand that he give that which he has not? Or, a man with profound respect for human life; - ought we to suppose that he might just as well “choose” not to respect that which he respects? Can a cold heart give warmth, or a warm heart fail to do so? Can the devil cast out devils? Can a man gather grapes from thorns; figs from thistles; or goodwill from contempt? We gather according to the treasure of our hearts. A pauper, the man whose cup does not spontaneously run over with blessings, love, and light. Only time and circumstance will prove the substance and worth of a man. But, even so, we are all equal by a higher law, for what have we got, that we have not received?
Are they not truly physicians of no value, who blame the cancer on the very patient it infects? Then, shall only good men receive care; men who have no need of it? “Whereto serves mercy, but to confront the visage of offense?” ((Hamlet)) Free will accuses the patient of harboring the germ; it makes no distinction between the sinner and the sin. But, the one is spirit, the other flesh. We are told that, when asked why a man must be born blind, Jesus replied, “Neither hath this man, nor his parents ((symbolized by Adam and Eve)) sinned, that he should be born this way, but, merely, that the work of God should be made manifest.” It is what it is. There is no ‘why’?
The truth is, we all share One cross, just as we all have a share in “the body of Christ”; the intelligible world. Be not righteous in your own eyes, when you look upon the pernicious man, who now and then bears the greater burden of your karmic yolk. It may be that he who is last shall in some way be first. And, if we have one common purpose, yet, not every member has the same function, but each performs its appointed task, in keeping with the particular grace accorded it. Wherefore, it is said that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and molded one vessel unto glory, another to destruction, and both of the same lump. The Law is not for any one man to write. God’s laws are not breakable, like man’s laws. God’s laws are inscribed uniquely upon the hearts of each and every individual, and they are forever obeyed. Hence, one is neither good nor bad according to the illusory appearances and Works of the Flesh, but, rather, we are all united according to the Grace of the Spirit; which stirs us all indifferently, for the Lord regards no man.
This is truth beyond the duality of good and evil, right and wrong. God is the ultimate reality wherein all things find rapport. Our rebellion is absurd. There’s no sense crying over spilt blood. Just ask Job. Even our rebellion is written into the book of life. We can humble ourselves to this, and be exalted. Or, we can exalt ourselves above God, and presume to usurp with human wills the rulership naturally exercised by the One and only incontrovertible Will of God.
So, shall we abandon goodliness, now that the rule of man is abolished, and we are eternally justified by the grace of God? How shall we? The choice is not our own. Conscience, the Holy Spirit, stirs our blood, and we are goodly. Not because the responsibility is ours, - not to glorify ourselves, or preserve our own names, - but, because the good that is in us can only find expression in and through our wills. Now, we know that there is reason under God, and, for every helpful or harmful act a man commits, a reason exists, whether or not it can be found; reason itself proves all reasons. But, the way of the good man, is not to look for reasons; to excuse, forgive, or love (whether himself or another). Faith is purer and simpler than reason. Faith does not require a reason. Faith does not know “in part”; faith knows “even as it is known”. It never occurs to the man who loves, to look for a reason to love.
The erroneous concept of free will is the lynchpin of the personal ego, and the source of all judgment and objectification. Objectification denies the plainly subjective nature of all conscious experience. Judgment is the antithesis of understanding. To be “in another man’s place” is, plainly, to be that man, subject to all the same influences and conditions that necessarily determined his action. You suppose that you could have acted differently? But YOU are not present “in his place” – you do not enter the equation at all. Do you suppose that a pair of perfectly balanced scales would somehow “freely” tip in your favor, due to no stimulus whatsoever? Or, are the scales not quite so even as you were led to believe? How else could they tip?
"As we see, so shall we speak, and we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
"[I come not in my own name, for I can do nothing of myself; but, whatsoever the Father biddeth me do, that do I. If you knew my Father you should have known me as well. For, whatsoever the son do, that doeth the Father likewise. Either make the tree good and the fruit good, or make the tree corrupt and the fruit corrupt. For every tree is known by its fruit. A good tree CANNOT bring forth evil fruit; nor can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Whosoever has ears to hear, let them hear.]"