Friday, August 17, 2012

The "Choice" for Egocentric Anarchy

"If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings," said the Tralfamadorian, "I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by 'free will.' I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.” (Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse five)

“How can we be “free” as conscious agents if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware? We can’t.” (Sam Harris)

“I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer's words: 'Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,' accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper.” (Einstein)

The one thing an egocentric self-concept (“I-ME”) will not tolerate is having no volition or choice over its actions. The ego-self demands this be true. Yet, this demands full control of the thoughts that it experiences from which actions/behaviors originate. Yet, clearly, the idea of NO free-will, if fully and completely accepted, would annihilate the egocentric attachment entirely simply through demonstrating it has NO free-will whatsoever.

The paradox is that there is no free-will as to when, or if, you will accept it. It’s not your choice, because an ego self-concept does NOT in any way make choices of its own free-will. It lives within an anarchy of experience, ruled by random firings of synaptic, neurophysiological networks in the brain/body.

But shouldn't knowing this be a good thing? Shouldn't this be liberating? Unless, of course, the conditioned neuronal pathways firing off randomly in your brain, inform you it's NOT a good thing at all. In that case, you might be angry, confused, ambiguous...well, who the hell knows what you'll "feel"?

To some this is an absolutely absurd proposition and they will refuse to consider it, never really examining how the choices they believe they made or will make in the future, were never really made by an “I-ME” entity/concept and the choice of not considering non-volition is as non-volitional as the choice to consider or even agree or disagree.

Either thoughts arise based on external influences (if you're hit by a car then you’ll experience having no choice but to think about being hit by a car, and even then you will respond through conditioned neuro-circuitry) or they arise from random neurophysiological firings within the conditioned brain/nervous system. Neuron/synaptic circuitry firings send electrochemical messages that are experienced as “thoughts,” that another billion neuron pathways has learned to accept as “me” (a neuroscientist would describe more aptly but i think you get the gist of it).

But now, where did this theory I present come from? I have no factual idea and the fact that I’ve arrived at this idea/thought process (as have many other brighter minds long before me) merely demonstrates that I had no control over its arising as experience. Most likely it evolved through years of conditioned neuro-circuitry, thereby, constructing the neuronal pathways that led me to be influenced by other experiences up to a moment of realization. Of myself, I could not possibly have had anything to do with it, nor do I have anything to do with what comes after.

Really, the only thing an egocentric self-concept can say is that, although these thoughts are not produced by a “me,” it is certainly me that is having them. But if the “me” that is having them does not have any control over their production (thoughts), what does that say about the “I-ME” that believes itself a real entity with the power of control? Who or what is experiencing the thoughts that “I-ME” have nothing to do with producing? Does such an entity even exist, other than as a product of past conditioned experiences that generate randomly influenced brain firings that "I-ME" is NOT even aware are happening in my brain, let alone as to how they evolved to fire off as they do, thereby, initiating actions/behaviors from beliefs/thoughts?

The easiest way of experiencing all this is simply to sit in meditation. As you perform whatever practices you use in seeking to quiet the mind, thoughts simply pop-up out of nowhere and you’re often left to consider, “well damn, where’d that come from?” You have no idea. While deep in meditation suddenly the thought, "I better pay the electric bill," simply pops up outa nowhere. Why did that thought arise instead of any million other thoughts that could have popped up? What prompted that one to come to you the moment it did?

However, you do believe you have the option of detaching or dissociating from that thought, the very basis of your meditation, but only in relation to the mechanics of the meditation practice you were taught, which you learned from outside influences and has a neuronal pathway all it’s own influencing other circuits. Hence, can you say that you were able to extinguish the thought of your own volition? If the action to do that very extinguishing was simply another neuronal pathway? Doubtful, since there is also a circuit formed in the brain to give you your meditation practices and without that pathway, no such practices could be thought of and no "mind-quieting" could occur. Could you say you’re in control of your meditation practices? Doubtful again, since how to meditate and when to meditate are always influenced by outside stimulus. Could you say that you make a conscious decision to learn meditation practices? Hardly, because if you had the potential to study the evolution of “you,” from birth on up to the very moment you engaged the meditation practice, you would most likely see a confluence of external influences, including bodily/physical states and conditions happening outside and inside “you,” impacting and shaping your neurocircuitry, bringing you right up to the very moment of choosing to meditate. States and conditions that you had no control over whatsoever. They simply happened and where processed by you in ways that relied on numerous neural circuits which in turn influenced other neural circuits in turn influencing umpteen billion more, all the while specific circuits in particular fire off an experience of seeming volition and free-choice (" brain tells me I made this choice, so I must have").

Look at any ancient wisdom tradition and this fact of no free-will is apparent and many post-modern traditions are making this same claim. If you look at “A Course in Miracles" in the text referred to as “Workbook," you’ll see these claims clearly highlighted in the first 20 lessons with the theme, “Your thoughts are meaningless"
“Unlike the preceding ones, these exercises do not begin with the idea for the day. In these practice periods, begin with noting the thoughts that are crossing your mind for about a minute. Then apply the idea to them. If you are already aware of unhappy thoughts, use them as subjects for the idea. Do not, however, select only the thoughts you think are "bad." You will find, if you train yourself to look at your thoughts, that they represent such a mixture that, in a sense, none of them can be called "good" or "bad." This is why they do not mean anything.” (ACIM, Workbook, lesson #4)
In fact, many of the postmodern non-dualists, i.e.,  Ramesh Balsekar, Wayne liquorman, Adyashanti, etc, are proclaiming this “non-doer” status as truth. Not only are you not the doer of your actions, but you cannot even stake claim to the thoughts that proceed and motivate your actions. This can only lead to the proposition that if you are not the source of your thoughts and actions, what the hell are “you” anyway?

But most of all, we have neuroscience easily demonstrating the absolute control of neurocircuitry as basis for actions, in opposition to any form of self-volitional control (the egocentric self-concepts most prized possession!) with the neuroscientist Sam Harris currently leading the scientific claim of NO free-will.

You have simply been jostled and buffeted about in ways beyond your control, some ways your neurociruitry interprets as "bad" some "good," and each choice made, that you interpret as an attempt to assert some form of control, came from brain circuitry that takes “you” out of the equation altogether. Conditioned circuitry is clearly running the show. So simply let it unfold as it will, cause you really have NO other choice.

Sit back in your meditation posture this evening and direct your awareness to your brain’s neuro-circuitry. Experience the billions of synaptic firings sending messages through numerous other billion neuronal pathways prompting additional firings and note which neuron pathways you would like to redirect or extinguish altogether, because those "thoughts" do not serve your spiritual aspirations.

Does this sound absurd? That’s because it is!

But doesn’t this liberate you from the constant pressures to control your world? From the guilt of actions performed or not performed in the past? Why would the fact of no free-will appear to some as absolutely horrifying and beyond comprehension, while others attain enlightenment?

With this comes the realization that the war waged, all these years against reality, in demanding it be as “you” say it should be, was made as a result of reality being experienced in the brain exactly as it is, and it’s time you simply surrender the fight. Let it all simply happen as it will, since you have NO control in what will happen. Make choices in the realization that no ego-self has the capacity to make choices, just a deluded concept bent on ruling its world, and enjoy the choice made.

Obviously, if there is NO egocentric control of events through choices, but only an illusion of control, this will cause many to fear egocentric anarchy.  But choices will be made and must be made, as that is a product of neuro-conditioning as well. Only this time choices can be made with no consideration as to who the maker is and there comes a spiritual freedom in this beyond any choice that ever could be made by thinking one has the volition to make a choice to become spiritually free.

This means “awakening to truth” is definitely a choice, but fortunately, one “you” will NEVER make.

 “All theory is against free will; all experience is for it.” (Samuel Johnson)

Artwork by Pixelnase - "Flying Brain"


  1. I can never get ma head around this non-doer thing, *sigh* concepts.
    Whoever is doing this blog ... well they are really doing it. Somehow you are taking all the credit n blame for it Mike.

  2. "Somehow you are taking all the credit n blame for it Mike."

    Which is just a conditioned response that I have no choice over.


  3. This hurt my brain too much to ponder. Again another well chosen picture to reflect my mind being blown :)

  4. It's okay Annie,

    Sometimes the picture says a thousand words...

  5. The quote at the bottom seems to contradict the rest? Enjoyed your article tho!