Determinism: The Least & Most Spiritual

This is not new, but came up again as I have been reading more by Ramesh Balsekar, a student of Nisargardatta.

Complete determinism is the least and the most spiritual view.

Childhood questions

When I was a kid, maybe around 10 years old, I for some reason got very interested in the whole issue of fate. Is our life predetermined? If so, can we trick it somehow? But if we apparently tricked it, wouldn’t that have been predetermined as well? I don’t know how all these questions came up for me at the time. My parents are pragmatic secular people concerned with day-to-day activities (which was a great blessing for me) and did not bring philosophical issues up much. It may have come from a book or TV.

In any case, I remember walking down a hallway in our house, as if heading for the bathroom, and then abruptly turn around and head the other direction in an attempt to trick fate – if there is one. And also realizing that if there is one, then the whole game of turning around and try to trick it would be fate as well.

Complete determinism

So this brings me to the issue of complete determinism and spirituality.

In the west, determinism is currently mostly associated with behaviorism and a purely mechanistic worldview. The universe is a clockwork (or not too different from it) and it is all just playing itself out with infinite causes and infinite effects. Taken to its logical conclusion, there is no room for individual doers in this view. It is the whole acting through and as individuals, that is all. And there is also no room for soul or spirit. It is completely a-spiritual at best.

The other view of complete determinism is expressed by mystics from any of the world traditions: It is all God. God – the largest whole, beyond and including any and all polarities – is the only activity, the only seer, the only hearer, the only doer. There may be the appearance of individual separate doers, but that is only a temporary appearance – a part of the game of existence, of God’s play, of lila. Again, there is no room for any individual or separate doers. It is the whole (God, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Tao) acting through and as individuals.

So it is interesting to note that the view of complete determinism can be the least or the most spiritual view, depending on which context it appears within. It is also interesting to note that the view of mystics (again) is parallel to the most hard-nosed of science.

In a way, mysticism takes the logical next step that science does not dare to take: there are no individual and separate doers, seers, thinkers, experiencers. It is all the whole of what is – beyond and including all polarities – acting through and as individuals. It is the ocean expressing itself as a temporary whirlpool, a wave, a fluid pattern within itself.

Our own experience

In our own experience, it is pretty clear how this all plays itself out.

As long as we are under the impression of being a separate doer, there is a sense of free choice. We believe in the thought “I”, place it on a segment of what is (our human self or awareness), and create the appearance of I and other, of choice and a doer.

When what is goes beyond this and discovers that there is no “I” anywhere, this whole house of cards falls. Now, we see that it is the whole that is acting through and as this human self. This human self is just a temporary pattern in the world of phenomena, a vortex in the stream of matter and energy. It is all God. God’s movements. God’s play. God’s will.

Or – from the view of our human self – we can say that it all just happens. There is no doer, it all just happens.

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