Re: Does free will exist?
I wonder if the Bible couldn't be viewed as a collection of ancient self-help books. I get a distinct feeling from the New Testament that there was a considerable amount of teaching and guidance that didn't make it to the final edit(s).
That the OT God and his NT characterisation are different may derive from the needs of the Chosen People in their relevant eras. Perhaps, after the thousands of years of conflict, war and ethnic cleansing, someone thought it was time for a new mind-set. I think, though have no scholarly examples to explain why I think this, that the current collection of books should probably not be presented, as they are, within the covers of a single book. It has caused confusion. It's a little like asking people to accept that there is something mystical about the alphabet simply because dictionaries and encyclopaediae use it extensively to co-ordinate their explanations of life and understanding.
What has happened, I suspect, is that some books have been compiled together which, for the most part, support each other and require little in the way of detailed explanation for the jist to be imparted. The books which have been left out, but which could have been included and perhaps should be included if we are to have a more rounded understanding of the times, are those most likely to highlight this or that apparent contradiction or confusion.
The Koran appears to be different in one subtle respect: While the Bible is said to be a collection of writings by people who were "Inspired by the Holy Spirit" and collected together by a select committee similarly inspired, the Koran purports to be the Living Word of Allah.
Incidentally, there are different versions of the Bible, including variations in translation, even among Christian communities, but that is more to do with freedom of speech than freedom of will, I suspect.
Religious indoctrination, from whatever source, is guidance towards how to enjoy and experience life more fully and contentedly. But they aren't the only source of this kind of kindly suggestion. Right up to today there are authors who encourage us to turn our bad experiences around, to view them in a new perspective and to take hope from the trials under which we labour.
Psychiatrists and psychologists try to help us analyse our decisions and to identify the ones which underpin our most regular habits, good and bad, and the similarities between stages of psychological analysis, self awareness, alchemical myth and spiritual enlightenment are, I think, astounding. Such contradictions as there are between them seem, to me, to be matters of opinion at best and interpretation at worst.
The common ground that these all seem to occupy is that of encouraging us to exercise our free will, but to do so in the morally, ethically and prudently "right" way. The Bible directs us towards finding the Love of the Creator and applying that Love to every cell in our bodies and the prize is that we will become miracle-workers on Earth and live in Heaven after death. Isn't it interesting that what self-help books there are describe a very similar kind of injunction to locate the centres of our self-worth and, through this, exercise some kind of magical thinking enabling us to become healers and mind-readers. Psychic books tell us that the centre of our being is at the centre of the Universe where all consciousness meets. And Jung spoke just as loudly of the Common Unconscious as a psychological origin for consciousness.
So, all along we are being told how to access freedom of will. Does this suggest we don't have it until we've jumped through the appropriate hoops?
If we accept that most of our waking life is spent in some kind of day-dreaming state, whereby we perform familiar acts with repeatable subsets of actions, that we adopt and entrench habits that allow us to engage with Reality with the minimum of effort, that we rarely have cause to recall a specific event in a normal day and have to make anniversaries out of everything out-of-the-ordinary, then it seems that we show little sign of actually exercising freedom of will.
But if we further accept that we are capable of reaching outside our containment areas of habit, ritual and mundanity as circumstances require or as intent to develop and progress demands, then it becomes clear that we are capable of stretching ourselves beyond our programming to a place where free will becomes more likely.
Perhaps this is the conscious exercising of our consciousness. And perhaps it is a capability and not a given. Perhaps true Freedom of Will is not possible until we have explored the limitations within which our Will currently operates.
I hope this isn't too rambling and incomprehensible, because I think I may actually be on to something here.
Who'd 've thunk it...... ?