What is free will? Some say it defines a human being. Others claim it is an illusion. The more I think about it, the more I realise that everything depends on the definition of a human being. In other words, we must first know what we mean by "I". In earlier posts, I have written about the two "I"s: If Thine I Be Single and Is It I? To sum up, my observations have led me to conclude that there are two distinct entities that refer to themselves as "I". One is the spiritual Self and the other is the (false) ego.
The aims and characteristics of these two are so contradictory that they can't both be "I". One of them must be an illusion or an impostor. Both have their philosophical defenders. The camp that claims that the ego is the real I, are the Social Darwinists, behaviorists, etc.. These people insist that all our thinking and behavior is predictable if the causes are known. They refer to the ego's characteristics (such as greed, aggression, etc.) as "human nature". The spiritual Self is claimed to be imaginary, a psychological defence against the fear of death, or a way to cope with suffering.
Those taking the other view, that the spiritual Self is the true "I", are the spiritual teachers, mystics, shamans, etc. They base their assertion on direct personal experience. It is impossible to offer proof to one who has not had this experience, and yet it's truth is undeniable to one who has. In general, this group has not done an adequate job of accounting for the ego's existence, except to say that it allows for "free will". In "Is It I?"(see link above), I examined the predation theory. This theory is based on a particular interpretation of Gnostic teachings as well as "the topic of topics" according to the Yaqui sorcerer, Don Juan. This constitutes a better model of the observed facts than any other I have come across.
An assumption is often made that free will has something to do with choice. I think this is an illusion and a red herring. The appearance of choice is a result of flawed perception. From the point of view of the Self, there are no choices to be made. The Self doesn't need to weigh it's options. It doesn't need to think or make plans. It simply acts according to it's nature, which is Love. The false ego seems to make lots of choices, but they are not really choices, they are calculations and strategies. It's "choice" will always be a result of it's programmed beliefs. Someone who knew what these beliefs were would be able to predict it's "choice" every time. It simply acts according to it's nature, which is Fear. So it's not about choice, it's about awareness.
The false ego doesn't even want to be free. It wants to be in control. Being in control is not the same as being free because the controller is bound to that which he controls. Control is the opposite of freedom. The ego can never be free in an absolute sense. This is because it is defined by it's separateness. From it's point of view, it is only free to the extent that it is in control as opposed to being controlled. In the world of the ego, coercion is a given. So from the ego's perspective, "free will" can only mean the freedom to control, which is oxymoronic nonsense.
An analysis of freedom and coercion would be incomplete without including the subject of money. One of the accepted definitions of "free" is "not costing money".
Anything valued in monetary terms is not free because it can be owned. Also it's value becomes both relative and finite. If a person is valued in monetary terms, he is not free. He becomes a commodity to be bought and sold. This might seem like stating the obvious but it (if it's truth is clearly seen), has serious implications for "civilisation" as we know it. Money is, and can only be, a technology of coercion. To attempt to build a just and moral society based on money is akin to trying to bake a cake with a hammer.
Freedom can only exist for the Self. From it's point of view, it is absolutely free, always has been, always will be. Because it is all that is, there is nothing that could control it and nothing that it must control. It is what is, regardless of whether it is known. So it isn't a matter of the Self gaining freedom, it is already free. It is a matter of the Self knowing what freedom is. In order for anything to be known, contrast is required. The true thing must cast a shadow, that which is not, in order for it to know what is. The ego is this shadow. The process doesn't end here. There is an experience beyond knowledge, called understanding. At the point of understanding, the shadow is seen to be illusion and it's function is complete. Those who have realised enlightenment confirm this. For them, the ego is no more.
On the basis of all the above and on my own certainty that the Self is the true "I", "free will" should be defined as: the Self acting according to it's nature (which is Love), to realise it's possibilities and know itself. When we realise this we will free ourselves and each other. We will know that "I want you to be free" means the same thing as "I love you".