The Mental Consciousness Develops the Sense of Free Will

Even the most careful observation we can make of the physical world fails to show us the action of free will. While an innate and extremely precise and powerful intelligence clearly has developed the material world, everything seems to be acting under very specific laws. There is no room for any kind of innovative and unscripted action in the material field.

With the development of the life energy, as Sri Aurobindo points out, we begin to see some other principles of action emerge. We begin to see options, opportunities and a process of selection which seems to be less bound to inflexible and unchanging laws.

The development of the mental energy provides a further impetus to the concept of free will. “…Nature becomes there much more widely conscious of possibility and of choice; mind is aware of potentialities and of determinations in idea which are other than those of the immediate actuality or of the fixedly necessary consequence of the sum of past and present actualities; it is aware of numberless “may-be’s” and “might-have-been’s”, and these last are not entirely dead rejected things, but can return through the power of the Idea and effect future determinations and can fulfil themselves at last in the inner reality of their idea though, it may well be, in other forms and circumstances. Moreover, mind can and does go still further; it can conceive of an infinite possibility behind the self-limitations of actual existence. And from this seeing there arises the idea of a free and infinite Will, a Will of illimitable potentiality which determines all these innumerable marvels of its own universal becoming or creation in Space and Time. That means the absolute freedom of a Spirit and Power which is not determined by Karma. Apparent Necessity is the child of the spirit’s free self-determination. What affects us as Necessity, is a Will which works in sequence and not a blind Force driven by its own mechanism.”

This essential response of the mind to the opportunities for development is not necessarily a solution to the question of free will versus a larger determinism, but it provides us with the sense of intuition that may represent the working of a greater Truth beyond the limits that the mind can effectively grasp, and provides us substance for our further review in this direction.

Sri Aurobindo,Rebirth and Karma, Section I, Chapter 9, Karma and Freedom, pp. 80-81,