Do we as human beings have free will or are our lives determined by fate?

This is one of the oldest questions of the human experience. It comes up over and over and over again. The question is always posed from a dualistic point of view. Do I have free will or is everything fate? There is no sense of a middle way, of some other possibility, and so people have argued over the centuries, yes, free will, no, fate., yes, free will. There is also the question of karma, which becomes confused with fate. So let's talk about karma, free will, destiny and choice.

What if human beings do not have free will, and are also not determined by fate, destiny or the will of God? Consider the possibility that neither of these alternatives begin to describe the situation. What if the human life is lived in constant interaction with a complex of forces, energies, experiences and events that is so multi-dimensional and varied that it is impossible to reduce it to an either/or, a duality of free will or fate?

What if at every moment one is the sum of what one has been, and yet at the same time constantly creating who one is to be? The pattern of everything one has done, experienced, is part of who one is. And yet what if there is a greater Awareness in one, that can be called the divine, the true self, even can be called God? What if in that Awareness, that divine presence, there's always choice, always the possibility of creating anew, creating yourself in the image of God?

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In many spiritual traditions the human being is described as the link between heaven and earth. There is this symbolism in the cross, where the central point between the vertical and horizontal axes represents the human being as the intersection of heaven and earth. The Chinese traditions contain the view of the human as the connection between heaven and earth. In the Tarot cards there is the image of the Magician, with one hand pointing toward the heavens, the other toward the earth, drawing down the power of heaven to the earth. How does one integrate that divine consciousness, that divine will if you choose to call it that, that greater Awareness, into the habit patterns, the karmic patterns, the fate or destiny that has been woven out of one's unconscious experience for many lifetimes?

There is in each human being the capacity to know and understand one's conditioned experience. And there is in each human being the capacity to bring to that experience greater Awareness. As one develops one's ability to observe and understand the conditioned experience, one enters into a greater and greater Awareness that contains and embraces that aspect of oneself that is determined by karma, conditioning and what can be called fate.

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The term free will implies that one can do whatever one likes, and that one is free. This point of view is difficult to support. One can see that one is conditioned by experience, by culture, family, and education; in so many ways one is not free, in one's mind and in one's actions. One lives in a world, in a body, in a personality that is created by a complex variety of causes and conditions. And yet there is an aspect of one's consciousness that is free, can make choice, can maintain its Awareness in all kinds of circumstances. One can experience that as clearly and directly as one can experience one's conditioned being . The answer to the question of free will and destiny is neither, and both. The more people believe in fate, that they have no choice, that all is determined by decisions or actions that have been made by some greater power, or by past actions that cannot be escaped, the more they limit themselves . When people believe absolutely in free will, that they are free to create whatever they want or do whatever they want, they deny the reality that they can't do whatever they want. There are conditions that realistically one cannot escape, that one has to take into account, within oneself, and in the world. Either a yes or a no to this question is a limited point of view. A yes and a no is difficult to understand and yet opens the doorway into deeper and deeper Awareness - Awareness that one has choice about how one responds to the causes and conditions out of which one has arisen.

There is a well-known statement in the Hindu tradition often quoted by seekers and devotees: "I am That." This expresses the realization of the path of non-duality, the complete identification of the individual with the non-dual unconditioned Awareness,. The individual being is saying, I am that vast consciousness. Consider the possibility that the reverse is also true: that vast Awareness, that pure unconditioned consciousness, looks at the conditioned self and says with great compassion, I am That.

Here the meditation on duality is helpful. One sits down, places the hands palm up. In one hand you place free will and destiny in the other. Feel what free will might feel like, what destiny feels like. Notice that it's very tied into feelings of power and powerlessness. Notice how dualistic it is, how black and white. You can place God's will in one hand and your will in the other. How do these join, align, and flow together? In your heart and being, your Awareness.

At the end of the meditation bring the hands together with the thought: "Choice." See if you can feel this possibility as an alternative to the duality of free will or destiny: to make choice with Awareness in the context of causes and conditions that exist within and outside yourself. As your hands come together, feel the duality of free will and destiny dissolve in your own Awareness, in your acceptance of the responsibility and possibility of choice.

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