Archive for Free will

Don’t Tell Me!

Posted in Happiness, health, love, Magick, Mysticism, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , on January 23, 2009 by wizardsmoke

If love isn’t a choice, it isn’t love. Love is only special because it is directly in opposition to our best survival-based interests. And I don’t mean love as in sexual desire, because that’s the impulse to procreate. Love is compassion for other people who are actually a threat to our survival.

Thus spake the ‘Smoke on a dorky post to one of his goofy Google groups. Not that anyone paid any attention, but nor should they. People need to follow their hearts! Ha! but you didn’t hear it from me…

Anyway, one confusing issue is that there are no actual correct or right answers to anything. There is only more of the same in any given direction. In the famous scene from The Matrix (already looking so dated!), when Morpheus says that he can only show the door, but not open it for Neo, he’s implying the idea that only you can decide what you want to do. There are no universally correct answers, because you have to live with yourself and your decisions. It’s all relative. It’s like dating someone who alternately wants you to be their slave and boss. As long as we have someone telling us what to do or doing things for us, we won’t be satisfied.

But what is satisfaction anyway? It’s just the absence of craving in the mind. That’s why camping in the wilderness (if you can find it these days!) or periods of extended vacation or retreat are so nice. The environmental humming — the distractions — that the mind feeds on in our daily routine, it all fades away and the mind no longer has any garbage or junk food to cling to. Even if you aren’t actively seeking out some kind of deep meditative experience, you’ll begin to relax and rediscover forgotten memories.

In the entertaining book, North Toward Night, the writer/international sailor Alvah Simon spends a year by himself, living in his small sailboat, in the frozen Arctic passage between Canada and Greenland. During the winter, he finds himself in nearly 24-hour darkness for months. Sitting there in the dark with nothing to do except read a few books and eat, he describes how his memory and imagination grew incredibly strong and potent. And there is no mention of religious practices or meditation or other stuff so many people will often attribute to these psychological events (not to mention, the author’s interpretations of other events as magical or willed by God is pretty charmingly naive). He simply spent so much time on his own, without any other individuals (“social distortion”) to feed upon or supply his mind with choices or actions to mimic.

Actually, what’s so crazy is that our actions reflect our environments and surroundings and social spheres even if we consciously make an effort to resist being affected by them. But there’s no escape — it’s like advertising, you don’t consciously buy into the ads — they infiltrate your subconscious. But you can certainly chill out, see what’s going on around you, and choose what path to follow in best accordance with your desires.

The Answer

Posted in karma, Mysticism, Occult, Philosophy, Ultimate Reality, Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

What is the answer to it all? The conclusion? It seems when we break everything apart, there are just fundamental dynamics and laws which compose phenomena and a bunch of temporal beings which exist in the midst of it all. Ya know: people and animals and gods coming together under the power of belief and the law of karma. But there do not appear to be real answers — no conclusive periods of final spiritual rest.

I’ve long since given up on philosophy as providing an answer or satisfying solution to any problems. Not that I find it uninteresting, and I still read some of it. But as I’ve been prone to say, philosophy seems to be intense artistic rumination on the various branches of thought that exist in dualistic reality. Unfortunately, thought itself is not a means to freedom because thought works circularly or in a rhythm. Thoughts eventually pop, or must come reeling back to the mind. And within all one-sided conclusions or analysis (a la scientific experiments) there is always a reactionary thought or some kind of conundrum. Almost all conclusions of a personal conviction and dualistic nature are only true by the strength or determination of our own efforts.

So, it seems on some level we exist purely by our own belief and following the strengths of our own convictions. Which seemingly agrees with and contradicts Nietzsche’s theory of drives. Nietzsche didn’t really believe in free will and Sartre liked to hop around an exact definition of freedom. Sartre begins to sound like “A” from Kierkegaard’s Either/Or (Sartre was also an extreme-left sympathizer/apologist, who condoned even horrible atrocities in the name of Communism). I’d like to think that the freedom that can exist within the realm of existentialism is the freedom of belief.

Freedom of belief (as I’ll temporarily define existentialist belief on my own terms) is not a conscious freedom of choice, but of a freedom to accumulate one’s own value structure and believe one’s own perceptions. That is, one is free to believe whatever one wishes, and what makes it more true than another’s beliefs is simply the conviction one carries with it. One does not have the freedom to do whatever one wishes, since there are laws in the world and the cosmos, but one is potentially free to color their mind with whatever perceptions they choose. One may perceive any event in any way they so desire.

In fact, this is inherent to the nature of occult practice, of which modern (athiestic) philosophy is acquainted. Sometimes I wonder if the deepest occult realizations are not also the heart of the intellectual mind — a realm of infinite complexity where occult and intellectual cease to exist as useful designations.

In existential terms the only good things seem to be those which are interesting or pleasurable. Thus, for those people who cannot see the karmic result of following their drives, this kind of philosophy is dangerous. But then again how can one, especially a so-called philosopher, believe in something they don’t see or create for themselves? It is a complicated thing, to intellectually assess free will, and I doubt it has any solutions.

The real problem I see with a lot of modern philosophers is that their message is not as profound as their ability to write. Instead of a consistent rhythm of insight, their writings often also consist of excess decorations of boredoms and insecurities. It’s no surprise that lots of black magick texts feature these shortcomings as well: an inability to boil down, condense and concisely transmit a meaningful statement and message. If one’s mind is disheveled, unorganized and constantly distracted, how could one hope to find the answer?

Karma Without Tears

Posted in Buddhism, Philosophy, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Let’s see, where was I? Oh, right… karma. I’ll give a run-down on the concept seeing as <sarcasm> no one else has ever done that before. </sarcasm>

So existence, conditioned phenomena, a.k.a. the world of samsara (the realm of being in which there is suffering) is subject to the law of karma. Karma is not the will of some magical divinity, nor it is swift justice, or based inherently in ethical morality. Karma is simply the rhythm of existence, the result of dualities, the waxing and waning property. Karma is a law, but it is not really dogma, because dogma implies some sort of decree, command or tenet. And don’t get confused: the karma of things is not exactly the same as the Dao or way of things, because karma is a little more specific. Karma literally means intention, and translates to “volitional action”. It understood to refer to the law of cause and effect; that all actions lead to appropriate results.

Karma is strange because it is both very simple and yet very broad and all-encompassing upon its dissection. This is why, in order to maintain a certain ethical volitional quality, philosophical discussions of karma are not always technically in-depth. They can become complicated very quickly.

With regards to free will — karmic law asserts that although an individual’s mindstream will experience the fruition of past karmic seeds (good and bad), the present moment is always ripe with opportunities to make choices of one’s own free will. That is to say, regardless of what transpires around an individual, the individual does almost always have opportunity to say yes or no to their actions — to either get further involved in a situation or walk away from it. Hence, those events which manipulate us beyond our own control or choice are not necessarily divine law or pre-determined events, but the current of the karmic stream we are close to. And karmic streams are not pre-set, for they are in constant flux.

Serious karma from the past eventually manifests in our lives, and sometimes manifests over a long span of time (many rebirths in the mindstream — each of which is not the same person over again, but the karmic inheritor). However, negative karma in this life very often does show up in this life. The more unbalanced a person is, the less aware they are of their own part in influencing the mind stream, the stronger the karmic effects they will reap.

There is much said in religion, and indeed in Buddhism, of the hells a person will fall into upon committing grave sins. This is not inaccurate — the further births in one’s mindstream will be subject to the weight of these volitional actions. Typically, killing one’s parents (or almost any innocent being, particularly another person) accrues karmic weight, heavy gravity in one’s karmic stream. Although a person can repress the negative mental effects of their actions during life, in one’s sleep, meditation or death, the frightening layers of one’s subconscious reveal themselves.

At the moment of death, one’s past actions project one into future births. This is why those who eradicate karmic seeds in their minds can cease to take rebirth, as not only are they aware of the deathless states and the layers of the psyche, but upon passing away they are no longer projected by the karmic fuel of their mindstream. Thanissaro Bhikkhu likes the metaphor of fuel and flame — when one attains nirvana/nibbana, the flame of the mind has finally gone out. There is no longer any fuel to keep the mind burning upon dissolution of karmic seeds.

Deshimaru has some good things to say on the subject in his book, The Ring of the Way. When one initially awakens (which isn’t the same as enlightenment), one understands with their whole being (not just intellectually) that all things are happening at once, all things are in continual flux — a circle. Time is circular, not linear. All beings are interconnected and the same and yet somehow individually unique. The more wisdom and insight one accrues (or is given?) from life practice, the less one is bound by karmic conditions.

To quote from the book:

There is something deterministic, irrevocable, and mysterious about fate or destiny, but not so with karma, in which the rigorous necessity of causality, the necessity that we understand as a characteristic of destiny, is attenuated because our lives are a composite whole and cannot be ruled by the principle of causality alone. There are many antecedents, many prior causes, and they do not systematically produce a single, inevitable result. The activity of the psyche is partly conditioned by these antecedents, beyond any doubt, but it is not totally determined by them.

The human consciousness has developed the concept of voluntary choice, a lucidly weighed option, a possibility that is not inevitable. In the lower orders of nature, the realm of minerals, plants, and animals, phenomena are governed by strict necessity alone, the physical law of determinism. If the required conditions are present, the phenomenon appears. But the determinism of the principle of causality can have no absolute power over the human psyche. The more a person wakes up to reality and understands it, the less influence determinism will have upon that person and the greater will be his or her freedom of action, autonomy, unpredictability.

Of course, many people suffer for reasons that, whether or not there is some karmic law to explain it, are not the results of actions they have committed in their present life or form. Therefore, it is unreasonable to simply declare a person’s state of being to be something they deserve as a result of karmic balance. And after all, without people to help one another, there is little opportunity for positive karma and the accumulation of merit. But the goal is not just the accumulation of positive karma. A good explanation of this interplay of good and bad karma is: bad karma is harmful (especially to the doer) but creates opportunities for good karma. Good karma is beneficial (especially for the doer) but creates opportunities for bad karma. In other words, another person can very easily act on the results of your volitional actions.

Another elucidation of karma is that it is a rhythm. That is to say, each time a person does something, it will become easier to do again. Eventually one has ingrained impulses into one’s mindstream, which often manifest in the body either as compulsive physical habits, neuroses/psychoses or illnesses.

Karma as a rhythm of waves, has the same dimensional properties as water. Each movement of the water creates more waves, which in turn builds momentum for more waves. Eventually we become unknowingly subject to our own habits, ensnared by desires and emotions built up by messy impulses and reactions we do not watch closely. Thus, in practicing a mindful practice (which can really be almost anything that is pure and devoid of desire for profit, sex, status, etc.) one can calm the mind and be aware of impulses. This is what Deshimaru means when he says people can change their karma through zazen.

A final, physical metaphor I would use for karma is that it can be explained by looking at an audio wave in a music-editing program on the computer. Initially a sound file looks like a bunch of blurry waves, which go up and down, back and forth across the 0 decibel line. But zoom in on any wave and it seems there are even smaller waves inside of that one. This continues endlessly, like a fractal generation. These are like waves of karma in the mind. In some sense, all beings share an interconnected karma; a connection which becomes more immediate with social groups, families, friends and so on. A person is a very small karmic wave, part of a larger karmic wave, but there are ever smaller karmic waves of action, speech and thought.

I think many people do not want to believe in karma because it strikes them as dogmatic, or wishy-washy, or they misinterpret as some kind of moral judgment. And secretly we all wish to discover things for ourselves, to feel that our own perception is unique or accurate. And really, isn’t life less romantic or exhilarating if the answer to all our questions and existence is right here in front of us? Romance and fear, they always result from events in which we cannot see the entire picture.

There are a bunch of good resources out there which explain karmic law:

Since karma is primarily a Buddhist concept, the discussions tend to have a Buddhist context, thus they tend to be imbued with the Buddhist moral sense. I don’t necessarily think Buddhism is the one true religion, but I do think the Buddhist canon contains some of the clearest elaboration upon the cause and result of all existence.

(Inter)dependence

Posted in Buddhism, karma, martial arts, Philosophy, Reality Bites, society with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Kind of like kids and teenagers, old folks tend to really cherish their independence. Of course it’s a different kind of independence,

But this has me thinking about depending upon other people. I hate depending upon other people, because it means having less control over one’s actions and takes on a subtle form of humiliation, of submission. I don’t like having power over others, or making others depend on me too much either, so go figure — I’m complicated. Ah, but there are moments when interdependence is awesome right? Like when you need to find a job or living space or life partner? Sure, it makes life easier, but then again it’s also another constraint on your “freedom”.

Are constraints on freedom unavoidable? Is this bad? In his famous work, ‘Beyond Good and Evil,’ Nietzsche proclaims the qualities of independence and self-exertion to be “good” values. “Bad” values are those of self-sacrifice and submission to the state, the group or party, as well as the notions of equality or democracy that accompany such a submission. He sets up a paradigm of human existence that echoes a lot of the trappings of karma (Nietzsche was an academic fan of Buddhism, as he mentions in his later anti-Christian work, ‘The Anti-Christ’).

To summarize (or is that paraphrasing?) his ideas, he thinks that the past (made up of previous causes) gives rise to our drives and desires, which in turn cause us to create our values and judgments. Simple enough stuff, basically stating that there is no isolated original cause of our worldly decisions nor is there any unbiased, pristine value judgment that we can make.

A ha! but that’s nothing new, Mr. Nietzsche! The Buddhist organization beat you to getting that on paper about 2000 years prior! ‘Course, it seems so impressive when someone writes it all down on their own, right? Gives some semblance of personal willpower or whosits.

One of the reasons I really wanted to pursue martial arts and other stuff as a kid is because I always loathed the way older people, or more helpless people, have to depend on others and yet feel miserable for it. Ah, not like I’m some cold, heartless machine. I’m a real team player (there is no I in EGO, HAHAHA!) But, for some reason, sometimes people just don’t want to help you out. Nobody knows what’s best for somebody else now, do they?

I think that everyone wants to be independent at the bottom of their heart, at the most subtle layers of their being. Of course we all want democracy and charity and peace and friendship too. But the workings of society and the world, they encourage people to be overly dependent on one-another in a way that’s malicious. But, in our society it’s seen as some kind of cool, smart, business ability to make buyers or stockholders dependent on your market decisions, or trade secrets, or connections.

In the famous Broadway musical play, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, the main town is a poor Jewish shtetl in Poland. When one of the main characters is asked how the townspeople make a living, he responds with, “we keep busy doing each other’s laundry”. In other words, fake, charitable jobs. A lot of human existence is like that, particularly in times of overpopulation or resource scarcity: work becomes like charity. We become dependent upon others, but in a way where we’re putting our livelihood and faith in them.

That’s the clincher. That’s where you suffocate. Working for other people: there’s no freedom in that! But neither is there in turning the tables, in making others rely that way upon you!