Sunday, 20 November 2011

Fate and Free Will

One of the concerns that many people have about Astrology is the notion of fate.  People find the notion that we do not have free will uncomfortable.  Similarly, modern science is very uncomfortable with this notion and the notion that there are universal laws applying to human beings or to life other than the mechanistic laws of science.  Yet what if all of these are one in the same?  Scientists prefer to think that life is randomly generated and most people prefer to think of themselves as in control of their lives and choices.

A recent article in The New Scientist detailed research into the world's financial network and uncovered the fact that less than one percent of the network of companies were able to control forty percent of the entire network.  It went on to say that "One thing won't chime with some of the protestor's claims: the super-entity is unlikely to be the intentional result of a conspiracy to rule the world. "Such structures are common in nature," says Sugihara....The Zurich study..."is strong evidence that simple rules governing TNCs (Trans National Corporations) give rise spontaneously to highly connected groups".  Or as Braha puts it: "The Occupy Wall Street claim that 1 per cent of people have most of the wealth reflects a logical phase of the self-organising economy."

If each individual is a fully independent and autonomous being making their own choices and following their own direction, how is it possible that their collective actions are mirroring natural systems?  Recent research on the brain takes this even further: "With contemporary brain scanning technology, scientists in 2008 were able to predict with 60% accuracy whether subjects would press a button with their left or right hand up to 10 seconds before the subject became aware of having made that choice" (Wikipedia).

This would suggest that individuals and collective systems are subject to natural laws or systems that play out.  If this is true at the level of organisms, individuals and the collective, it would seem clear that it is also true beyond the earth, in the solar system.  Astrology is a system which describes these natural laws or systems at an individual and collective level with reference to their manifestation at the larger level of the solar system.  Taoism described these laws as The Tao - the eternal nature of things and Plato described them in terms of a priori existing forms.  Whilst modern science does not believe that there is sapient life more intelligent than human beings, this might simply be a failure of conception or perception.  In his book, Lila - An Inquiry into Morals, Robert Pirsig (of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance fame), posits the idea that such being exist in many forms, some of the most common being cities.  Most cities have a lifespan long beyond that of their individual cells (human beings, animals etc.).  Indeed the individual cells all die out and yet the city continues.  No one cell is capable of conceiving the complexity of running the entire city yet it continues to run.  This is not dissimilar to the individual cells in our bodies, all of which die out and are replaced within our lifetime without us ceasing to exist.  We have personalities and preferences and what is more we have a consciousness that exists and is able to conceive of itself.  Yet if you were able to interrogate the individual cells in our body and suggest to them that there was this mystical "Joe Bloggs" which was conscious and could conceive of the whole entity and reflect on it's actions and purpose and loved and cared for it all, the individual cells would no doubt think you deluded and ask you for the proof.  It would be difficult to supply and no doubt there scepticism would be compounded.

This does not mean that this consciousness does not exist but it clearly has an interdependent relationship with the cells and the body.  Cities die if all the individuals die out and leave them.  Human beings cease to be conscious if you kill them.  We have come up with many descriptions for this collective consciousness that might exist at the level of the collective consciousness - Multiple Gods, Tao etc. etc.  Not to be able to point to it consciously (as we still cannot in human beings) does not mean that it does not exist.  Anima Mundi - cosmic mind, seems to describe this awareness aptly.

Another recent New Scientist article described an experiment done into modelling wolves hunting in packs.  This modelling had demonstrated that if you created a simple command for Wolves to keep a certain distance apart from each other, then it replicated the way that Wolves can appear to successfully drive animals into an ambush by other members of the pack.  The implication was that wolves might not be nearly so intelligent or capable of strategy as we had previously supposed.  If this implication is accurate it would only be logical to think that humans are clearly not that intelligent since their financial systems simply follow natural laws similar to simple organisms!

What if it is paradoxical.  What if both exist at the same time, ie. that it is all fated and yet we have free-will and choice?  I have lived my life on this basis that everything is fated (as the I-Ching says, "you cannot lose what truly belongs to you even if you throw it away") and that also I have complete freedom and choice and am responsible for all my actions and this seems to work very well.  In the same way, I suspect that all the people in the financial world were all making individual choices for which they were responsible and yet it was always going to work out according to natural laws. Perhaps the point of the game is that we are the agents for the anima mundi (the cosmic mind) and our free will is important.  If, as the experiments on the brain back in the 1970s showed, consciousness operates 0.5 seconds behind reality and we act and then become conscious rather than choosing consciously and then acting, it suggests that the role of consciousness is as an observer. Perhaps our role is to be the consciousness function for the anima mundi; that the collective mind only evolves, learns and becomes more conscious as a product of our individual work on becoming more aware of ourselves.  Perhaps our free-will is how conscious we are or how we learn?  Could it be that each movement we make in consciousness allows the game to play out in a more evolved way?

1 comment:

  1. Nick, I've enjoyed browsing your thoughts - keep it up.

    As a relative novice of the I-Ching I have noticed something about my experience which is relevant to the question of free will. Firstly that the act of using the I-Ching requires action on my part, it is also driven by some intention on my part (conscious or not!). This, I believe, is not unconnected to what then comes about (in my life). What I've noticed is that I am always drawn to one or two sentences, or even words, from the hexagram/lines I throw. And these aren't always the words that given me the 'easy' option either! Again my experience is that at this point the words become a reality. And the question is, have I now created this reality or was it there (in the universe) anyway?

    Using your car metaphor have I just chosen to take a left turn or have I decided to replace my car with a new model? Or have I even changed destination (or enabled the universe to change my destination) - I'm reminded of my first video game experiences with 'Scramble' where when you get enough points on a level the game 'stops' and you start again at the next level. So a question about your metaphor. Is it suggested that the term ‘car’ or the term ‘destination’ can only be interpreted in one way. Of course ‘journey’ could be Stroud to Bristol via Dursley, it could be from here to a medium sized city via the countryside, or it could be from where I am to somewhere else – this of course is the beauty of metaphor, it requires interpretation which can only happen from my perspective and therefore metaphor always works, it is fixed and not fixed at the same time. This is exactly what Iain McGilchrist talks about in his book The Divided Brain - Master and his Emissary as the differences between the two hemispheres.

    So back to the I-Ching - I know I am engaged in the act of creating my reality and it always works once I accept (or perhaps believe) that. Is this me collapsing the possibilities of the wave function in quantum mechanics? As a metaphor I could see this as taking responsibility for the quality of my driving on my journey, or perhaps whether I chose to ignore the diversion signs.

    This also brings to mind the work of Maturana and Verela in describing ‘autopoises’ (self-creation) which is being shown to describe the [biological] processes of life and their relationship with and to the environment and Sheldrake’s morphic fields. Aren’t these aspects of describing your paradox that life is both fated and free will?