Are humans living in the 21st century able to say that they are sovereign? Do we really have complete free will over our lives? Or are we imprisoned by our own ego and the ‘hostiles’ influence? The following quotes are from the writings of Sri Aurobindo. These excerpts summarize the state of free will or the lack thereof in our current era.
“Men are being constantly invaded by the hostiles
and there are great numbers of men who are partly or entirely under their influence. At the present moment they are very active all over the earth. Of course in the outside world there is no consciousness, such as is developed in yoga, by which they can either become aware of or consciously repel the attacks – the struggle in them between the psychic and the hostile force goes on mostly behind the veil or so far as it is on the surface is not understood by the mind.
The apparent freedom and self-assertion of our personal being to which we are so profoundly attached, conceal a most pitiable subjection to a thousand suggestions, impulsions, forces which we have made extraneous to our little person. Our ego, boasting of freedom, is at every moment the slave, toy and puppet of countless beings, powers, forces, influences in universal Nature.
All life is the play of universal forces
The individual gives a personal form to these universal forces.
But he can choose whether he shall respond or not to the action of a particular force. Only most people do not really choose – they indulge the play of the forces. Your illnesses, depressions, etc. are the repeated play of such forces. It is only when one can make oneself free of them that one can be the true person and have a true life –
but one can be free only by living in the Divine.”
This would be correct if we, human beings, were the active free-will, autonomous entities that we think of ourselves as being. But we are not.
The only free will in the world is the one divine Will of which Nature is the executrix; for she is the master and creator of all other wills.
Human free will can be real in a sense, but, like all things that belong to the modes of Nature, it is only relatively real. The mind rides on a swirl of natural forces, balances on a poise between several possibilities, inclines to one side or another, settles and has the sense of choosing: but it is not even dimly aware of the Force behind that has determined its choice. The mind cannot see it, because that Force is something grand and unfathomable.
Behind this petty instrumental action of the human will there is something vast and powerful and eternal that oversees the trend of the inclination and presses on the turn of the will.
There is a total Truth in Nature greater than our individual free will
Behind this seemingly self-acting mechanism of Nature there is an imminent divine Will that compels and guides it and shapes its purposes. But you cannot feel or know that Will while you are shut up in your narrow cell of personality, blinded and chained to your viewpoint of the ego and its desires.
For you can wholly respond to it only when you are able embrace the knowledge when both hemispheres of your mind is capable to integrate to see all things in the self and in the Divine Will of Creation as One.”
The state of ignorance in which you believe that you are the doer of your acts persists so long as it is necessary for your development;
but as soon as you are capable of passing into a higher condition, you begin to see that you are an instrument of the one consciousness; you take a step upward and you rise to a higher conscious level.”
(excerpts from Sri Aurobindo, The Hidden Forces of Life)