Our Subjective Perception of Soul Seeking Free Will and the Apparent Mechanism of Nature

In opposition to the external perception of a set machinery of Nature, we have our inner subjective experience of being an individual with “free will” and the power, whether real or not, to override the mechanism in various ways in furtherance of that free will. It is of course true that even this sense of free will has its limitations and only addresses relatively small parts of our daily lives, the rest being fulled governed by the natural systems that operate the human body and the environment within which it lives and acts. It is, however, a sign that there is some aspect of consciousness that does not accept the “mechanistic” view of life entirely.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “We may believe intellectually in a purely mechanical view even of our subjective existence, but we cannot act upon it or make it quite real to our self-experience. For we are conscious of an I which does not seem identical with our nature, but capable of a standing back from it, of a detached observation and criticism and creative use of it, and of a will which we naturally think of as a free will; and even if this be a delusion, we are still obliged in practice to act as if we were responsible mental beings capable of a free choice of our actions, able to use or misuse and to turn to higher or lower ends our nature.”

We work to improve, to grow, to learn, to gain mastery over life and the environment and this effort demonstrates that something in us, which we may call the soul, does not accept the fully deterministic, mechanistic view of existence. “There seems to be a dual being in us; Soul and Nature, Purusha and Prakriti, seem to be half in agreement, half at odds, Nature laying its mechanical control on the soul, the soul attempting to change and master nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 16, The Divine Shakti, pg. 725