Free Will



I have read how we are more evolved than animals as we have free will, and we can use that will to choose what we do and how we live. But I have also read that none of what we do is our (individual) doing - its all god acting through us, even when we are creating bad karma. Do we make our own spiritual choices? or not? Thanks

—karen, UK


Dear Karen:

What distinguishes human beings from lower forms of life – what makes the human a “higher” form – is self-awareness. A dog or cat may perform an amazing feat of intuition, crossing the country, for example, to find an owner who has moved from New York to California, and left the pet behind.

Still, that animal cannot objectively contemplate itself as a dog or a cat. It cannot meditate on the unfairness of being left behind. Even though it has individuality, it doesn’t have a sufficiently defined sense of personal ego to think about itself in that way.

The individual soul manifesting at that time as a dog (or any other animal) gradually grows in awareness. The Masters explain, however, that its progress is not the result of individual effort. Rather animals are propelled forward by the overall expansion of consciousness that is creation itself. Mostly the animals we get to know are pets. To be in association with humans is a sign that an animal has already progressed a long way up the chain of animal evolution. Which is why pets often have quite notable human-like characteristics.

A defining characteristic of the human level, when we finally reach it, is that we have the self-awareness now to contemplate ourselves and our position in life. And, because of what we learn by reflecting on our condition, we can use our will power to change it. We can change for the better – in terms of consciousness – or change for the worse. It is up to us.

Still, we are not free for one reason: we are bound by ego. Master defined “ego” as the infinite soul identified with a limited body. That body can be material, astral, or causal. The material body is the most confining. But because we also have an astral and a causal body, and our ego identifies with each of those, too, mere physical death does not automatically bring spiritual liberation.

Also, merely killing the body does not kill our sense of identity with the idea of being a physical body. That’s why we reincarnate. We find another mother and father who will help us make a new body so we can express what we believe ourselves to be.

So we move around within that self-definition, for many lifetimes, thinking perhaps that we are “free,” but in fact we walking around in a small room. In minor ways – compared to infinitity – we change our point of view, but no matter where we are in the room we are still in the room.

As for God acting through us, there is nothing else to act. We are one with the infinite; no misunderstanding on our part can ever change that.

But practically speaking, as long as we are identified with ego, we experience the limitations of ego, not the freedom of being God.

Thus the need for spiritual practice. We don’t create a new reality by our spiritual effort we realize what has been true for all eternity. That’s why we call it “Self-realization,” rather than Self-creation, or Self-invention.

Our divine nature is always there, waiting, you might say, for us to notice.

So the choice we have is whether or not to reinforce our ego identity or to dissolve it. Every true spiritual practice expands our sense of identity from the limited to the unlimited.

Obviously, this is a huge subject, and this answer only hints at the many dimensions of it. The last letter in Swami Kriyananda’s book of letters, Divine Friendship, talks about free will. You might enjoy reading it.

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Asha