Destiny and Free Will
Quotations on Destiny and Free Will
“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
Are our lives pre-destined or do we control our experience within creation? Are our lives driven by karma accrued from past lives or do we have complete freedom in how we play out our lives?
According to the mystics, our lives feature a mix of both destiny and free will. The effects of past karma serve in large measure to shape our physical and mental development and to determine the environment into which we are born - family, nationality, etc. Many of the major events that will happen in our lives are pre-destined, or are at least highly probable, based on past karma – good and bad.
However, as individualized extensions of Spirit, mankind is also endowed with free will with which to co-create cosmic evolution as well as to exert control over one’s own personal evolution. By free will, mankind chooses many of the events that happen over the course of his lifetime.
The amount of free will versus fate that each person has is strongly influenced by past lives. For those with massive bad karma from the past, they may find their lives dominated by pre-destined events chosen to help resolve their karmic load and minimize the addition of new karma. Others who are more advanced in their spiritual evolution find it quite easy to exercise free will choices and to create within the universal playground.
In all cases, it may be said that each of us is ultimately responsible for the conditions we encounter in our present life since our pre-destined karma, good and bad, is a direct result of choices that were made by each of us in previous lives.
Some use pre-destiny as their excuse to be lazy, travelling through life like leaves floating on the surface of a river, being pulled by the current wherever it may take them. Such indolent persons do indeed have their lives almost totally controlled by fate, where it need not have been so. Blaming one’s supposed karma as an excuse for non-achieving becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
At the other extreme, there are those who do not accept fate, other than their birth conditions and initial surroundings. They exercise their free will and put forth strong, continuous, persistent efforts to overcome any karmic obstacles in their way as they travel through live. Their strong efforts create positive karma that helps overcome obstacles that might otherwise have impacted them. As well, their persistence opens the door to many new opportunities.
As such, free choice can have a powerful impact on one’s life. Good or bad karmic events that are imminent in one’s lives can be altered or possibly completely eliminated by good or bad choices made prior.
From the above, a fascinating model of the universe can be developed, one which is in tune with the latest findings of quantum physics regarding the role of human consciousness on the unfolding of the universe, as discussed in The Enchanted Universe section. In brief, based on our individual past actions, abilities, current mindsets and various other factors, it is possible to predict with a certain probability how each of us will respond to an upcoming choice in our lives. Based on making that choice, the universe will look a little different going forward that it would have looked had we made a different choice, due to the altering of upcoming karmic events as well as due to our mind’s influence on cosmic evolvement. The same process happens for each ensuing choice that we make in our lives. In a sense, the universe that each one of us experiences is unique and is in part a result of the individual choices that we each make in our lives. Because each of these choices that we make in our lives cannot be predicted with certainty, the unfolding universe for each of us becomes a complex probabilistic model. There is a “most probable path” for each of us, but not a certain one. The actual choices that we make as we move through life are the final determiner.
If the probabilistic models for others are combined with our own, an elaborate probability distribution map can be developed that shows how the universe will most likely unfold over time for such a group. The groups could be, for example, citizens in a particular community, or country, or perhaps the whole planet. As such, most probable life paths as well as most probable regional and planetary evolutions can be predicted. As mentioned, this is consistent with the latest findings of quantum mechanics regarding the role of human consciousness on the unfolding of the universe. This topic will be addressed again as part of the consideration of The Enigma of Time and Space in the What’s New section.
In the history of the planet, there have been many times that mystics or prophets have predicted upcoming future events. These predictions are based on the above model. Note that the prophets always indicate that these are most likely events, not guaranteed events. In most cases these predicted future events are warnings of impending calamities, like world wars or catastrophic “natural” disasters. The warnings indicate that unless a large enough group of people change the way they think and make upcoming choices, the world will unfold as such. They come as warnings to change choices in order to avert upcoming disasters. In other words, they are encouragement to change “most likely” choices into better choices to avoid a major global pounding from the school of hard knocks. A successful prophecy is then one that never occurs, i.e. the people heeded the warning and made better choices.
A fascinating example of the interaction of karma, destiny and free will is one that the great mystic Paramahansa Yogananda has written, regarding the relationship of Jesus with his disciple, Judas.
“Judas was one of the twelve because Jesus had accepted him as a spiritual son in a former incarnation ….. Judas had been a good disciple; but at the end of his former life, just before his death and rebirth as Judas, his mind had become dark with egoistic greed and desire for power ….. Nevertheless, Judas had within him a plenteous store of good karma by which he attracted in his present life the blessing of close association with Jesus .…. On more than one occasion, Jesus distinctly told Judas that he was going to betray him. Judas, by the exercise of free will and prayer, could have freed himself from that karmic compulsion to succumb to evil. Jesus did not mention the betrayal to torment Judas, nor to provide him with a justification of inevitability, but to warn him against the treachery that his karma was fomenting within him. Through his omniscient knowledge, Jesus scanned the inner nature of Judas and his karma of past incarnations, and thus lovingly gave Judas a chance to change his malevolent karmic pattern.”
The highest free will choice available to us is to decide to leave behind our limited, dim and illusory existence in the depths of Plato’s cave and to begin the ascent up to the cave entrance and out into to the sublime and euphoric life in the supernal realms outside the cave. However, most of us, like Plato’s cavemen, tend to be comfortable in our current existence and fearful of any changes. As Yogananda wryly noted;
“[Man has] such a delusive attachment to the instrumentality of a physical body that even if God were at this moment to offer liberation to the masses, I daresay not many would be eager to depart this merry playground – to leave behind their accustomed bodily residence with its possessions and sensory opportunities … The body-identified sense-oriented are rigidly unconvinced that it is worthwhile to forgo known pleasure for the arcane bliss of Spirit.”
Yogananda himself was fully aware of the splendors of the worlds beyond. The following is a brief extract of his description of an early experience in cosmic consciousness that he had as a young man. As he says, it was “a disappointment almost unbearable” that he felt upon having to return to his body.
“In my intense awareness I knew that never before had I been fully alive … An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The Spirit of God, I realized, is exhaustless Bliss … The entire cosmos, gently luminous, like a city seen afar at night, glimmered within the infinitude of my being … Suddenly the breath returned to my lungs. With a disappointment almost unbearable, I realized that my infinite immensity was lost. Once more I was limited to the humiliating cage of a body, not easily accommodative to the Spirit.”
It usually takes a long time of living in the dark depths of the cave to get mankind to make the choice to get up and climb out. In the meantime, our lives continue in the pattern of some karma-induced destiny and some free will choices; the balance between the two dependent on our past and present choices.
“This is the way everything works: The universe functions like a giant mirror, sending back to you what you project into it with your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings - and the past patterns you’ve established. The reason people often don’t have what they want, or don’t get what they consciously claim to want, is that they have counter-programs running deep within them that broadcast the opposite intentions into the universe. The forces of your past feelings and beliefs put into motion the creative currents that orchestrate the circumstances of your life today … When you ﬁnally realize that the universe reflects back to you what you’ve been holding in your consciousness at the deepest levels, your life will change. For one thing, if you really take in what this means, you’ll do some deep soul-searching to uncover how you’ve created your own reality. Once you see this, you can learn how to create other realities. Being aware of the mirror universe also encourages you to become much more mindful throughout the day because you realize that you’re in the process of creation all the time … This understanding reduces everything to a very basic process. If something in your life isn’t working the way you want, you don’t have to look outside yourself for the causes. This knowledge empowers you to create your life the way you want it to be … The universe contains all possibilities waiting to manifest, and it supports whatever you create through your inner beliefs and intentions. While many people continue to make excuses about why something isn’t working in their lives, many others are busy achieving success with very nearly the same tools and circumstances.” ~ Jonathan Parker
Additional quotations on Destiny and Free Will are shown on the left.