Thursday, 15 January 2009

Can our will be free?

Reg, in his comments to my last post, has asked again for some clarifications. I am certainly not averse to acceding to this request.

The first question regards Glastonbury and my training as priest of Avalon and how that relates to my identification of a voice I perceived as genderless as that of the Goddess. The first time I had even heard of Glastonbury was in the late 60s in an article in an an underground magazine called "Gandalf's Garden". In it, there was an explicit reference to the Tor being the "yoni of the landscape goddess". This caused a literal physical shiver and an inner "of course!" I had never read of the Goddess as a living entity before - there had only been charming but irrelevant (as I then saw them) stories from Greece and Rome. But, at that moment, I seemed thoroughly to assimilate this entirely new perception. And, despite many strange alleyways in the future, it never entirely left me, although I buried it deep at times.

Thus Glastonbury and Goddess were inextricably linked together. Even though it would take over 25 years before I first visited the town, I always knew that it would someday be important to me. And so it was - for a long time being the centre of my universe. So, when I decided to become a priest, it was not the immediate response to the voice but a delayed one. When I heard the voice in the kitchen I had little concept of a personal deity - a vague and amorphous and definitely genderless presence was all. But when I answered the call, it was to the Goddess I dedicated myself. The call and my answer, although separated by a couple or so years, were linked. That is the best I can do here - although Avalon/Glastonbury is certainly worth many posts in the future.

Reg goes on to say:
I think that there is ultimate reality, and that it is our perception of it which is so malleable. Just because we are essentially subjective beings who have no chance of knowing true reality from a hole in the head, doesn't mean that reality is itself an illusion.

I think that I agree with Reg but that is only a belief. I have no real evidence for it beyond a subjective feeling that it must all somehow make some sort of sense. In this, I may be wrong, however, and it may all be totally random and meaningless. What I am wary of, however, is putting Goddess - or God - or the flying spaghetti monster- or Science- or whatever else - into a box labelled "ultimate reality". Perhaps there is only chaos and a reality truly "without form and void (with) darkness on the face of the deep". I suppose that I am looking for a spirituality which will embrace all possibility and not exclude any.

I am not sure whether I am clarifying or further muddying - but am enjoying the process so will continue.

And I come to a question about Imagination. Reg asks:

I'm somewhat confused about existence as "imagination". Would this be our imagination or something else's? If something else's, I don't know how you could have a sense of being a "player"; you would be a puppet rather wouldn't you, whose free will was also an illusion.

This is the question that has stimulated me most today. When I wrote about this in my last post, the passage he refers to just seemed to write itself - I did not give much thought to it. And looking back, I cannot find anything I wrote that I would edit out now. So, just what did I mean by imagination?

This is a word I associate with William Blake - a man of whose thought and genius I am only just beginning to have any sort of understanding. I do not see Imagination as the property of anyone - neither human nor divine. One way I often look at it is as an unchoreographed but coordinating dance - where all move in harmony even though each moves according to their own nature and as an expression of it. Or, perhaps, like a good jam session, where each musician expresses their own skill and personality but remains aware of the needs of the larger whole - the music. Therefore, they move from lead to backing to silence to lead again - each ceding place to the other. None of them sacrificing their own ego in the process but realising that the full expression of their own music needs them to be aware of and accommodate themselves to the music of others. For only then can the full music be heard. In these circumstances, which of the musicians owns or controls the music? None. Which musicians have lost autonomy? Again none. Who has lost? None. Who has gained? All - for music has its own rules. As does imagination - it is not a zero sum game. It is not either-or but both-and. It is beyond duality. It is not for nothing that the most hidebound fundamentalists - of all the Abrahamic faiths - have had a major problem with music!

I would like to spend a bit of space looking at the question of free will versus predestination which Reg has raised and extend it a bit. And personalise it. I cannot speak in the abstractions of academia in which the word "I" is almost heresy. I must use it - for all I know is gleaned from perceptions filtered through the mesh of personality.

For most of my life I, in fact, had little free will. I reacted to external events in ways that had been determined and laid down very early in my own socialisation process. I inherited from my family a set of given responses and internalised a whole galaxy of assumptions about myself and my capabilities. And these acted on the unconscious level. I was not really aware why I behaved in the way I did. Patterns were set - so that, like Pavlov's dogs, I would react to stimuli in conditioned ways. Despite having relatively few obvious external constraints, I was as free as a monkey in a cage - or a laboratory rat. I was powerless to change my responses to stimuli. Action/ reaction was all. My own inner censor ensured this through the imposition of shame concerning all and any manifestation of true spontaneity.

It is only recently that I have begun to see the full extent of this enslavement to reflex/reaction. And it is only now that I am beginning to see the paradox intrinsic to this. Free will is only gained through knowledge and acceptance that one aspect of personality is a collection of impulses and reflexes that have been acquired from others. I may never fully eradicate these and that is really no problem. Again and again, I may find myself repeating the same pattern. Furthermore, the more I fight the pattern, the more entrenched it becomes and the less free will I possess.

The paradox is that it is only through not fighting for self- assertion and not striving for an unachievable perfection that i am beginning to see what free will means. My free will is part of a larger will - a larger music - a larger Imagination. I can keep it locked up in my cell of shame or i can allow it to fly - to soar in the summer sun - and winter snows - and to sing its true song> A song that is in harmony with all other true songs. My will has been locked away - and I must free it. I am only just now beginning to.

So my answer is that I see free will as something that cannot exist until there is awareness that one is enslaved to the past. After that awareness, and only then, can free will even have a chance of existing. How can my will be free when I do not even know what it is?

For me, Inanna is the courage to exercise free will. To demand it. At each stage of Her descent, she demands entrance. She has "turned her ear to the Great Below" and will not be diverted from Her course. She has chosen the path of conscious choice as opposed to the path predestined.

I will close here, because it is late and I am tired. I welcome all and any comments - providing they are polite - and wil return to this subject later.

1 comment:

muzuzuzus said...

many many moons ago when I was 15, I was suddenly finding myself on a ride along the M1 (i think it was that road) from London to Glastonbury. The guy who arranged it said Glastonbury Tor was the centre of fairyland...!
There were about7-8 of us. The organizer had brought some powerful LSD, Windowpane it was called, and we took these micro sized tabs as the sun began going down

Next memory. Me part of them schambling up Glastonbury Tor which looked and felt like a very large hairy egg!

We got to St Michael's Tower, and we weere all running around exploring it, and the outside and looking at the amazing views. This was very first time--maybe only time--I actually SAW the wind blow. I saw the gusts of wind as not linear (because they are not the lower we are) kind of like spiralling waves.

We all become very ecstatic and we all are attracted to each other and put our heads together in the little building, and I see our heads connect like some living organism with tentacles, like an Octupus

The guy speaks of there being a spiral stair way to the underworld of the faeries, so we all began moving in a spiral and going a little faste, and I swear I have memory of the level of the ground seem to rise up around my chest area and seem to see a spiral stairway. I freaked because I thought I saw a weird-shaped being sat on one of the 'steps'

nest memory~~it was very windy and we'd been up ther many hours, and one girl said the wind was pushing us out, which is seemed to be doing, so we went with it and descended. ....I have the idea I will post about this at my blog in the future. I hope I have given you a taste :)

I agree with you about free will. I also like to call it the Power of Choice