We frequently hear the refrain, particularly in cultures such as the United States, that “I am free and can do whatever I like” in response to dealing with concerns or regulations imposed by society or government. This popular notion of “free will”, that one is able to act as an independent actor without reference to any other person, power, or consideration is an extreme manifestation of the egoism that characterises the development of the individual as he forms a personality and mental character. It must be noted, however, that “free will” is never, and can never be, entirely independent of any relation to the rest of the universe and the trannscendent consciousness beyond the manifested universe.
The human being, no matter how highly developed, remains a product of the universal creation and lives and dies in dependence on that creation. Free will that does not take this relationship into account winds up rebounding on the person who tries to exercise it in contradiction to the needs of the larger framework, whether you are dealing with society, environment, or manifested universe.
It is this attempt to impose “free will” that in fact leads to destruction of the very conditions of maintaining and developing life when taken to its extreme in terms of impact on the environment. We see around us today, all over the world, the effect of the denial of responsibility for the eco-sphere because of our alleged “free will”.
“Our notion of free will is apt to be tainted with the excessive individualism of the human ego and to assume the figure of an independent will acting on its own isolated account, in a complete liberty without any determination other than its own choice and single unrelated movement. This idea ignores the fact that our natural being is a part of cosmic Nature and our spiritual being exists only by the supreme Transcendence.”
It is only by recognition that the sense of an independent free will is properly related to a growth and widening of the power and awareness of the individual that comes about as a result of the spiritual growth that breaks down the barrier between individual and cosmos, and between individual and transcendent, that we can put the concept of free will in its proper perspective, and the individual be seen as a nexus or locus of the action of the cosmic force. Free will in its true sense is an increasing freedom from the limitations imposed by physical Nature, due to the “submission to a greater conscious Power or an acquiescent unity of the individual being with its intention and movement in his own and in the world’s existence.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”