Divine Will versus Free Will

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by iBrian, Aug 27, 2003.

  1. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    It is the basic tenet of ritual magic that people have Free Will, and can therefore influence Divinity - even the universe itself - through use of religious ritual, which is often an invocation of sympathetic magic.

    Yet how much Free Will do we have?

    We are born with certain innate predilections - our physical and mental build which will shape our future capacity to fail or excel in a range of different vocations, and our environmental stimuli, that will push us into set areas of interest.

    Point being, that we do not have some form of Free Will, that exists in some form of tabla rasa state before each and every decision.

    Instead, our every decisions are formed through any combination of habitation, environmental sculpting, and natural genetic engineering.

    At what point is any person able to state that they are exercising pure and unadulterated Free Will, absolved of all service to the way our physical and mental expressions have been shaped?

    After all, if Free Will is not free of these factors then is that Will really Free?

    The Universe pushes us in certain ways. I personally envisage this as like a river, which we ride upon.

    The river has a current, and it flows in one direction, then to another, always moving on towards some set pre-destination.

    I call this Divine Will.

    And no one is ever strong enough to fight Divine Will,

    At the end of the day many people are very fond of being able to claim that they have Free Will - and perhaps they do.

    But for some time now I've been happy to say that I am subject to Divine Will.

    In simple terms, it means that I recognise that the universe exerts certain forces both for and against myself.

    I've also found that whenever I try and exert a certain force to move in any other direction, the river of Divine Will always pushes me back on course.

    So, for the moment, I'll simply row row row my boat, gently down the stream.

    After all, that's how its supposed to be done, right?

    :)
     
  2. gatherer

    gatherer Member

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    Every day I pray that our Father in heaven exact His divine will upon me. I have always gone as the breeze blows me, but in keeping constant communications with God, I feel confident that the breeze blows by His breath.

    However, I have never felt 100% comfortable going with "the flow." But by that I mean conformity to the notions and beliefs of the majority. In fact, I have always felt uneasy when I do something that everyone deems right. Because I can't help but feel like we all have it somewhat wrong!

    The only thing I know for sure in my heart, mind, and very soul... is that God exists and His Son Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour. I leave the rest up to Him, and as much of a copout as it may seem, it sure alleviates a lot of stress.

    Blessings to you all. I'm trying to get accustomed to this place and will try to post more regularly. :)
     
  3. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Hi gatherer, and welcome to comparative-religion.com!

    If I may:

    Certainly I'm not advocating going with the flow of the crowd - I see the flow of the river as a distinctly personal experience. Which is all the more important to flow with it. :)

    Sounds like you're flowing well - though I'm curious how this whole concept may relate to "submission to Divine Will" that essentially gives "Islam" its name.
     
  4. gatherer

    gatherer Member

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    Some say the Islamic fundamentalists are generally whacko. But perhaps to the majority of Islam, they are simply doing what they are willed to do by God. So it begs the question... how can one differentiate between divine will and psychosis? Or put in terms of Christian thought, when one feels that God inspired them to do something outrageous, how do they know it isn’t satan inspiring the deed?

    Abraham was willing to kill his own son to show his faith in God above all. Does that mean today that if someone is told to kill their children to prove their faith, they are to do so? Or are they just nuts? What was the lady’s name that drowned her children in the bathtub and said that God told her to do it? Maybe she was right.

    Thanks for the welcome sir, I’ll stop rambling now. :)
     
  5. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    interestingly enough... Stephen Hawking talks about this in his book "A Brief History of Time."

    as you may or may not be aware, physics is currently engaged in a search of an M-Theory (Mother of All Theories) that would be a GUT (Grand Unifiying Theory) of the universe. mr. Hawking speculates that, should one be found, it would have many implications, two of which i find to be rather interesting...

    one.. time travel would be possible. two... if you went back in time, you'd have no free will, since your actions have already been recorded in history. interesting, no?

    Calvinists sort of believe that Free Will also doesn't exists... people are preordained for Heaven or Hell, as it were. many mainstream Christain groups don't agree with the Calvinst Doctrine, as you may imagine :)
     
  6. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Hi gatherer - my comment on Islam is that I believe that a "Muslim", by definition of the word, is simply "one who has given himself to obedience to God".

    Of course, I'm sure in that instance it means "in association with following the dictates of the Qur'an".

    However, it's interesting to think of applying it pan-faith as it were. After all, anyone who seeks to serve God first is hopefully trying to rise above their sense of self - or ego - to be selfless to some larger degree.

    You raise a very good point here, though:
    And, ah, Vajradhara - that sounds like an interesting point! Though I'm not a particular advocate of time travel, I can certainly see the problem of Free Will coming into the argument. :)

    (And, perhaps, slightly off-topic - anyone familiar with Babylon 5? There was a plotline in that show that really dealt with the issue of time travel and Free Will in a very accomplished way - ut I digress!)

    An interesting point about the "Will" question, is that I don't yet see any particular emphasis in Neo-Paganism towards serving "Divine Will" - often seems to be very self-fixated, ie, use of magick to serve "Personal Free Will". (Or, am I misrepresenting Neo-Pagans again. :) )
     
  7. Iacchus

    Iacchus God of the Mask

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    The difference between Divine Will and Free Will is that Divine Will is none other than Divine Providence, which explains how the universe came about and man's relationship with it, which is nothing but common sense really.

    As for Free Will, this would be akin to God speaking to man and saying, "Okay, you are free to do as you like but, you are also free to 'suffer' the consequences" - i.e., for having acting out of accord with the Divine Will.

    This would also account for our ability to learn and grow as well. For without freedom it would not be possible. :)
     
  8. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Actually, I was thinking - if perhaps we were to equate Divine Will with intuition, then would that make sense to anyone?

    Is it the overwhelming condition that obeying our intuition is the best course of events?

    Or do people find that working against their intuition is more successful?

    :)
     
  9. brucegdc

    brucegdc Moderator

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    A fascinating question..

    My answer to it is that I try to act in accordance with my beliefs about correct action and to do the right thing. Often this is solidly against the stream of events, society, and occasionally my intuition.

    The "easy" way is not always the right one. Frost's comment about two ways in the woods applies - sometimes taking the least used path makes all the difference.

    I don't know if it is divine will that something will occur. If it is, anything I choose will not prevent it, therefore acting in accordance with my ethics cannot be wrong. It may drive a deity a bit batty, but I have that effect on a lot of people too.

    I find I act against my intuition at times - as someone said, stress is the body's reaction to the mind not being allowed to throttle some idiot who richly deserves it.... my intuition needs to be checked against ethics. Sometimes it's the right thing to do, sometimes not.

    Personally, the Calvanist predestination thing is a cop-out. "I did it because I had to". Somewhat like a kid "She made me hit her....".
     
  10. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

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    This is a very interresting question indeed.

    I can do nothing but agree with the fact that free will cannot be exercised in a complete vacuum. I would still call it free will, though, because we usually always have the choice between a number of choices within certain constraints. In that sense it is free, but within limits. The simple fact that two people want to exert their free will means that one will limit the other, or that they will have to put limits on their free will so as not to start a conflict if what they want is the same thing and cannot be shared.

    I personnally would not call the current of the river "divine will" because that would probably mean that the divine (whatever divinity you believe in) has an active will to direct or guide our actions. I don't believe this is the case. I believe that the divine is much more interested in letting us use our free will (with its limitations) to learn and grow from experience in interaction with the rest of the world. I don't think that this process is actively and willfully guided.

    I would say that the current of the river is a conjunction of chance or random occurrences (the stones of the riverbed, the river banks), and of the flow of combined free will of the living beings (the water of the river). Of course, in that analogy the water has no will so it doesn't fit completely, but if we would assume that the mollecules of water actually had some kind of will of their own, they could move in a number of directions, while still being carried forward to some variable extent by the flow of others.

    But obviously, these are just my beliefs.

    And BTW, Babylon 5 is my favourite TV show.

    Baud
     
  11. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    The point about Free Will within limitations is an important one - from reading some books and people I'm given the impression that Free Will without limitations is being propounded.

    In other words, that we can manipulate the universe according to our will. Although I can almost hear WHKieth's comments on ourselves defining our own reality, the collective experience tends to agree that certain "Laws of Physics" are fairly widespread.

    Perhaps I read it quite wrong (it was a very long time ago), but books such as Richard Bach's "Illusions" left myself with the impression that even the Laws of Physics can be manipulated according to our Free Will.

    Although there's a certain obvious rationale in this argument, with reference to the personal subjective experience, I suspect that this is a very limited argument within the wider arena of this debate.
     
  12. sachetm

    sachetm Active Member

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    Free will is implied by time. Time is a function of creation (existence of things) and vice versa. (If this isn't clear to anyone, let me know and I'll go into it in more detail.)

    God created the world (etc.) and therefore, created time. From this perspective, Divine Will is implicit within Free Will--its source. To me, the question becomes whether God intervenes in that which He's already created. If so, then it's tough to ever know Divine Will because it changes when God decides to change it. If not, then it's a constant--abiding--there to be discovered through some internal mechanism.

    I'm not sure I'd use the word intuition to mean the place within self to find God--a connection I do believe exists--as I think intuition means something else and there are better words to use. Some people use heart (as in letting Jesus enter ones heart), heartsong, spirit, soul, or conscience.

    My personal favorite--and one I've created as far as I know is--Godhead. It's an implicit, though inexplicable connection between God's creation (as the I) and God. Free Will provides the capacity to experience Divine Will.

    Whatever one chooses to call it, one can either choose to access it and listen to what it tells us is good and right or can ignore it: Free Will. From what I've seen, those who access it tend to be productive and happy and those who aver it, destructive and unhappy. Joy, happiness, inner peace seem to be the ultimate tests one can apply to see if they're there.

    I'm sure everyone reading this has felt, sensed, known such moments, when they were in touch and ones when they were out of touch. It seems like this is an implicit ability of man, though one often difficult to achieve for all the internal noise. Therefore, I have to assume that connection exists, by whatever name we choose to give it.

    Just some thoughts on the subject.
     
  13. Siege

    Siege Established Member

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    Two fascinating questions in one evening. Have I mentioned that I love this place?

    I'll need to think about this question a lot more before I answer it properly, but it is one of the ones which has fascinated me. In the meantime, let me toss out one of my stock comparisons which is probably a bit too shallow for this crowd. I'm a card player, and a fairly good one. To me, this is the difference between Divine Will and Free Will. Divine Will is what happens to us; Free Will is how we respond to that. To put it in card playing terms, Divine Will is the cards in our hands, Free Will is how we play them. When I lost my job a year ago, I had little or no control over that event. I did have control over how I responded to it, including biting the bullet and eventually looking for work as an Administrative Assistant rather than a programmer. Had I made other choices, different things would have happened. Right now, I have a reasonable job. Who's to say what would have happened if I hadn't applied for it? Would God have found me a similar job at a different company? I don't know, although I am reminded of the joke about the guy who kept nagging God to let him win the lottery.

    Brian, I'm also a fan of Babylon 5 -- it made me think, as well as laugh and cry! You might also be interested in learning that our own WHKeith collaborated with Peter Jurasik on a book called Diplomatic Act. It's a very good read, and I'm not saying that just because he lets me hang out in his hot tub. Just don't mention Galaxy Quest around him!

    CJ
     
  14. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    I'm really enjoying the comments on this thread - I think there's a general agreement from differing perspectives that we all have some degree of Free Will - but always within certain limitations.

    That's an important issue I really wanted to address, as sometimes my impression from other people is that they see humanity as having Free Will - without limitations.

    I really liked that as well. But is that our intuition - or is even naming that like trying to give God a name?
     
  15. brucegdc

    brucegdc Moderator

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    I don't think we *can* have free will without limitations - even removing deity from the equation, your free will limits my free will to some extent. If we both decide to eat the same apple, we cannot. Our options are constrained by circumstance and other choices.
     
  16. WHKeith

    WHKeith Well-Known Member

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    Wow. Wonderful topic.

    Yes, Brian, I normally would ramble off on a ten-page discourse about determining our own reality--though I must point out that I DO believe in the laws of physics. No amount of believing otherwise will help me walk on air if I step off the top story of a building! In THIS reality, at least.

    Here's a twist on the question. One understanding of quantum physics suggests that each time we reach a decision point--or observe an event with mulitple possible outcomes--what in fact happens is a branching in the universe, one separate reality for each possibility. Flip a coin, and in one universe it comes up "heads," and in the other, "tails." Within the broad context of the multiverse, then--all possible co-existent universes--there can be no free will because EVERY path, and every combination of paths, exists.

    But saying that it doesn't matter what we do because it's already set is damned depressing, and a no-good way to live life. Within our limited context, from our limited vantage point right here, right now, we can and do make choices where at least the ILLUSION of free will is preserved.

    And the word "illusion" here should not be seen as negative, as it often is within this culture. Those same quantum physicists--along with a large part of Eastern mysticism--define the entire universe as illusion somehow given form by our observation.

    Within my peculiar belief system, I retain the belief that at some non-time in the future, I will be able to look back over my most recent incarnate life and observe the consequences of my (apparently) free-will choices. Perhaps, from that higher vantage point, the illusory nature of free will might be evident; perhaps I'll even see all possible outcomes of all possible choices, in order to learn from the war-zone experience we call life. There is anecdotal evidence supporting this possibility, through hypnotic inter-life regression, and the concept is similar to that expressed by many world religions.

    But, for the moment, at least, I AM incarnate, and I do have what seems to me to be an ample supply of free will, even given such constraints as cultural background, family environment, education, and the fact that Bruce and I can't BOTH eat the apple. (Tell ya what, Bruce--I'll arm-wrestle you for it!) We wiccans tend to emphasize personal responsibility in our lives. "The devil (or God) made me do it" is a cheap cop-out. We think, we act, we make choices, and whether or not we are puppets on strings or truly free agents is immaterial from our current viewpoint. Our (illusory) selves acting within this (illusory) universe possess the illusion of free will, and act on it as if it were "real," whatever the heck THAT means! So it's up to us to make the best choices we can.

    As a side issue related to this, I speculate often about higher powers and spiritual helpers. Every culture on the planet has advanced this idea, whether those helpers be called angels, spirit guides, totems, gods or God, or even the "higher self." If we grant for the moment that these entities have an existence independent from ourselves (they are not, in other words, manifestations of our own thoughts or wishful thinking) and that they do seem to intervene in human affairs from time to time, I find it fascinating both that they DO intervene at all, and also that they intervene so rarely. This seems to support the hypothesis that we are players on a stage--or students in a classroom--and that our apprehension of free will, personal responsibility, and ethical behavior are both under observation and of great importance to these discorporeral entities. That's not to say they'll zap us with a lightning bolt if we make the wrong choice--karma, by this definition, is not punishment but an outworking of balance and choice--but each choice we make IS an opportunity to learn and to express the ways in which we have already learned and grown.

    Hmm. This ramble is even less coherent than usual. Must be the fact that Siege is coming to visit me up here in Maine tonight. Yes, she WILL be sharing my hot tub by about 0500 hours GMT tomorrow. Obviously, there are an infinity of universes where this does not happen, but she and I chose THIS universe! You see? Free will can be a beautiful thing!
     
  17. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Hope you knew I wasn't being purposefully disrespectful, as much as trying to second guess your position from comments elsewhere. Sincerely glad to be corrected on any error. My omnipotence is obviously on bad form of late. ;)
     
  18. Elizabeth May

    Elizabeth May Well-Known Member

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    I like your rambles Bill! They are one of the highlights of my reading here. You take the time to explain what you mean and I really like that.
    :)
     
  19. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    From what he'd mentioned about writing his book on the inter-relationship between quantum physics and magic, I had actually hoped that WHKeith was therefore going to argue from a Cartesian perspective: that of being fundamentally uncertain about the fnudamental nature of reality itself.

    In doing so, I would have expected him to therefore suggest that the nature of Quantum Mechanics would therefore allow for a manifest reality of our making.

    In other words, that there is no objective reality, merely the products of subjective consciousness which in itself is self-supporting and self-determining.

    It could have been a very interesting argument - but I feel now that I may have offended him by trying to second guess his position.
     
  20. louis

    louis Well-Known Member

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    intuition

    From Louis....

    Is there really such a thing as "intuitition" ?
    Or is that just our own subconscious desire for things to
    turn the way we want. To paraphrase the the song :
    "We all know what we want - what we really, REALLY want", whether we are consciously aware of it or not.
    I've never been a fan of Plato and his "intuitive
    knowledge" idea...
     

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