The Surface Personality and the Inner Person: Bound Will and Free Will

If we consider carefully the wellsprings of action in our surface personality, we find that there is no reality to the concept of free will, and that our actions are conditioned and determined by both our individual karmic chain of past consequences, and by the impact of the universal being of which we are a part on our action. We like to believe that we are somehow separate and distinct from this universal manifestation, and that we can thereby be free of its influence, but this is an illusion, not a reality. Sri Aurobindo discusses this issue: “The dealings of our will with Karma and consequence have to be envisaged in the light of this double truth of man’s individuality and man’s universality.” and “It becomes clear enough that our ego, our outward personality can be only a minor, a temporal, an instrumental form of our being. The will of the ego, the outward, the mentally personal will which acts in the movement cannot be free in any complete or separate sense of freedom. It cannot so be free because it is bound by its partial and limited nature and it is shaped by the mechanism of its ignorance, and again because it is an individualised form and working of the universal energy and at every moment impinged upon and modified and largely shaped by environing wills and powers and forces.”

The inner person, connected to the transcendent and the universal Being that is manifesting and unfolding the universal creation, partakes of the freedom of the Spirit and is one with the consciousness that directs and drives the manifestation.

“The inward will in the being which is in intimacy with that Power is the real will and this outward thing only an instrumentation for a working out from moment to moment, a spring of the karmic mechanism. That inward will we find when we get back to it, to be a free will, not armoured in a separate liberty, but free in harmony with the freedom of the Spirit guiding and compelling Nature in all souls and in all happenings.”

Sri Aurobindo,Rebirth and Karma, Section I, Chapter 10, Karma, Will and Consequence, pp. 88-90,