“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism, the way you play it is free will.” ~ Jawaharlal Nehru
Determinism: noun PHILOSOPHY… Determinism is the philosophical idea that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of antecedent states of affairs.
In this doctrine (for so it is) all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have taken determinism to imply that individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions.
There are many varieties of determinism described, not including the ones we use in Supernoetics™. There is pre-determinism, theological determinism (it’s God’s fault!) and causal determinism. The latter states that all effects have causes and these causes have preceding causes, and there is a whole chain of causal events, stretching right back to the origin of Creation.
A list of a dozen varieties of determinism is provided in Bob Doyle (2011). Free Will: The Scandal in Philosophy. I-Phi Press. pp. 145–146 ff. ISBN 0983580200.
Fatalism is normally distinguished from “determinism”. Fatalism is the idea that everything is fated to happen, so that humans have no control over their future. Fate has arbitrary power, and need not follow any causal or otherwise deterministic laws. It “just happens” but there was nothing you could have done.
Some determinists argue that materialism does not present a complete understanding of the universe, because while it can describe determinate interactions among material things, it ignores the minds or souls of conscious beings.
A number of positions can be delineated:
Immaterial souls are all that exist (Idealism).
Immaterial souls exist and exert a non-deterministic causal influence on bodies (traditional free-will).
Immaterial souls exist, but are part of deterministic framework.
Immaterial souls exist, but exert no causal influence, free or determined, we’re just “attached” to material events and are pulled along for the ride only (so-called epiphenomenalism). We’re the “ghost in the machine”.
Immaterial souls do not exist — there is no mind-body dichotomy—and there is a materialistic explanation for all beliefs to the contrary (it’s all “stuff” doing its thing and this is also the origin of thought; there are no spirit beings).
We in Supernoetics™ are closer to the idealists, meaning that everything is here because we think it’s here and reality is NOT here when we don’t work with it. Quantum physics has gradually forced on us the view that physical events only take place because they are observed to do so; the so-called “observer effect”. The tree falling in the forest is a non-event, unless humans or other sentient entities perceive that it happens (or perceive it has already happened, in the case of a fallen trunk).
So we are able to influence physical events with psychic powers (ESP). It’s a given. Unfortunately, most of us are not very good at it and cannot manifest easily. That changes as you proceed along our Golden Path. But I constantly need to point out that the “laws” of attraction and manifesting are not laws; they are abilities and need to be learned (or re-learned).
We accept the burden of responsibility. To shed responsibility, you must surrender your power—not good. It is better to be powerful and screw up, than it is to be weak and ineffectual. Why? Because better behaviors, leading to better outcomes, can be learned. Learning and wisdom are a better option than disempowering ourselves.
But we are not ninnies and don’t take the rule of responsibility to mean we did everything. We call that “hallucinatory cause”. In other words it’s a delusion.
If bad people do bad things in the world, you are not responsible for that, so do not give yourself a hard time. In a game of soccer, you are not responsible for a bad pass by one of the opposing players.
On the other hand, you are responsible for joining the game, so you are here to play and give it your best shot. If bad things happen, you may choose to try and oppose them or put a stop to evil that you encounter. That’s being responsible in the wisest sense.
Responsibility is a big topic but let me just say this: responsibility is one of the most healing tools in Supernoetics™. To the degree you grant yourself powers and insight, to that degree you are responsible. Those sad individuals who like to push the blame on others… victims, in other words… are pathetic indeed.
A far cry from the divine beings we once were and seek to be once again.
OK, let’s move on to three species of determinism that are especially significant to mental health. Then I’ll close by saying a few more words about “pre-determinism” and the question: is the future already fixed or can we truly influence our outcomes?
Personal Agency (Self Determinism)
Personal agency refers to the choices we make in life, the paths we go down and their consequences.
For humanistic psychologists such as Maslow (1943) and Rogers (1951) freedom is not only possible but also necessary if we are to become fully functional human beings.
Freedom could more simply be called self-determinism and it asserts absolutely that you can choose meaningfully. It is not an illusion. Self-determinism means you are in charge of the energy, space, motions, particles and beliefs in your own immediate sphere.
Note I am talking here about self-determinism, not selfish determinism. The organism/being, at the highest level, is involved with all the rest of creation and destroying the whole is a bad idea for the individual. Somebody coined the term “enlightened self-interest”, which means—if you are very smart—that everything around you is part of YOU and therefore you would want to harmonize and advance it, not hurt others in the pursuit of some trivial want.
Self determinism is actually a cute definition of sanity. The opposite: to be insane, is to be controlled by other forces, from poor nutrition, hormonal imbalances, and twisted upbringing, to obsessions, compulsions, demonic forces and phantasms of the mind.
Conscious reflection on our own behavior is seen as the best way of achieving goals and learning from mistakes. Calculation, strategy, organization etc. are interpreted as key elements – not only in governing the choices that we make but also in helping us make the “right” choices in particular situations.
Intention is closely wrapped up with self determinism. Intention means what you want or will to happen. Since it is your choice, it embodies all aspects of self determinism.
If you can do what you want to do (without harming others), say what you want to say (without disparaging others) and think what you want to think (without contempt or dismissal of others), then to that degree you control your own psyche. You are self-determined.
One could even stretch a point and say that if you can behave like a jerk, grab what you want and do what the hell you want, anywhere, anytime and with or to anyone, without scruple, then you are surely self-determined in a limited way.
But you would not be sane.
Actually, factually, it would be true that—behaving that way—you were controlled by other hidden forces within. So you would not really be self-determined. You would be…
That means you are controlled by factors you cannot influence. The determinism is coming from elsewhere. Outside factors. You are at effect, no matter how much you kid yourself about “freedom”. This is similar to the academic definitions I’ve suggested above. Typically, we confine the use of other determinism to the short-range view, meaning in relation to individuals and the forces, events and people in their immediate surroundings.
So you could be “other determined” by an avalanche that took place in your district but without admitting that everything that happens does so because it’s pre-programmed into the fabric of the universe.
If your Mom tells you what to wear, what to eat and how to sit straight at the table, that’s being other determined (which is why kids hate it!) If your spouse is so crabby and demanding, that you find it easier to give in to his or her demands, rather than endure the hassle of constant quarrels, that’s being other determined.
That’s not to say you are a victim. That’s another whole argument. A victim chooses to be a victim, either by not fighting, or as a simple strategy to get what they really want (say peace and quiet, free from financial care).
Does It Matter?
You bet it does. Being other determined not only makes your life a misery; it will shorten your days!
In 1967 there began a famous health study called the Whitehall Study. The name rides on the fact that the British civil service bureaucracy is centered largely on the district of Whitehall in London (similar to saying “Washington” in the USA). It lasted 10 years and investigated the health effects of status or grade within the civil service. What was found was pretty shocking:
There was a strong association between grade level and mortality rates from a whole range of causes. Men in the lowest grade (messengers, doorkeepers, etc.) had a mortality rate three times higher than that of men in the highest grade.
The lowest employment grades were more likely to have many of the established risk factors of coronary heart disease: a propensity to smoke, lower height-to-weight ratio, less leisure time, and higher blood pressure. However, even after normalizing for these factors, the lower employment grades were still at greater risk for a heart attack.
Some other factor was clearly at work. What was it?
Because in lower grades you are totally other-determined. You can’t choose when or where to work, what hours, holidays, can’t set your own pay, can’t take an unscheduled break just because you are overworked and fatigued. You are told what to do, where to be and how to act at all times. Orders, orders, orders. Stress levels were very high.
The seniors, on the other hand, could pause whenever they wanted—noone to censure them—and take longer lunches, if you could justify it as meeting someone important. You also had an expense account. You had longer holidays. But, best of all, nobody told you what to do. YOU were the boss!
It’s the same in life in general: being other-determined means not having the freedom to express yourself, rest when tired, making your own choices, doing what you find pleasurable or arranging the schedule to suit your own preferences.
Being other determined is basically being located in someone else’s space and time, without choice in the matter. Sounds like school? That’s a very bad version of being other-determined. It’s basically training to be other-determined in life. I call it child abuse.
An important cornerstone of mental health is to be able to step in and out of self determinism, and in and out of other determinism, at will. You could argue that’s all subsumed to self determinism—and that’s true—other determinism is only deadly when you are stuck with it and cannot rebel, no matter what. If you allow it, then it’s not really other determinism!
In the broader view, self-determined people want to change things. They don’t like what they’ve got? Change for something better. It’s a healthy and zestful approach to life.
The opposite view is to settle for what you’ve got, to “adapt”, to convince yourself it’s all for the best. This is a life-view I call “toleration”. It’s not the same as tolerance which, as you know, is a worthy state of mind. Toleration means to put up with things that should not be endured: poverty, disease, crime, political abuse, wars and environmental exploitation.
Yet modern effete education and psychology teaches exactly this. The gold standard is that you learn to accept and adapt yourself to your surroundings, rather than adapting your surroundings to you. The group mind effect takes over.
We are taught to consider the “needs” of others; it has become a crime to opt out of the regulated healthcare system; political correctness stalks the innocent and free in all walks of life; it is a crime to speak your mind, if you hold certain views (no thought given to your pain in this or your right to disagree with things you don’t like); others are more important than you; ideology is more important than human rights; the group is all and the individual is an insignificant nothing, who is there only to serve the group.
Be aware: self-determinism does not mean, “I want it and I don’t care if the environment suffers.” It means you are expressing the fullest possible purpose and good across all 12 Channels of Being, having regard for the past and a sustainable future, in full. It’s a highly advanced state of mind we call Ultra Rational Thinking, or Supermentality.
Anything less and you are not truly self-determined, you are being driven by hidden, inner forces of irrationality. All destructive actions are driven by ignorance or hidden modifiers that control thinking and behaviors.
You need piloting to take down that buried charge and release deep-seated memonemes. You are being controlled by MIMPS and the thoughts-decisions that spring from them!
All Winners are Self-Determined
Thing is, all winners on Earth were dissident individuals. Nobody ever got anywhere by listening to herd think or being determined by the status quo.
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Walt Disney and Thomas Edison were all educational dropouts. Even Einstein, famously, was no Einstein at school. He dropped out at age fifteen. These men didn’t buy into the existing reality, so they changed it for themselves and changed the world in doing so.
Whatever they claim, their motivation was totally for self aggrandizement and not for “the group” or “the common good” or because “it’s important we do our best”. They were doing it for that good old-fashioned standard of: because I wanted to do it.
As Harvard dropout Bill Gates would tell you, “To win big, you sometimes have to take big risks.” Risk taking is alien to other-determined people; they need to be told what to do.
They are the sheep, meaning they want to be part of the flock and surrender to the shepherd.
The wider issue of control and involvement we might want to call pan-determinism (from pan: everywhere or universal, for example pan-demic or pan-orama). However the term pan-determinism was coined by Victor Frankel and he defined it to mean the belief that people are so over-determined that they have no freedom, no agency. In other words, just overwhelmed by other-determinism; everything is shoving you around.
So I choose pan-orientation (PO), meaning a wider, even more all-embracing, view of things than either self-determinism or other-determinism. PO means you are guided by all aspects of the game, but from a viewpoint on high. You are playing the black and the white pieces on the chessboard; you are playing both sides and want to have a good experience and a good outcome for everyone.
The British have what they call “cricket”. It’s not just the game; it’s the ethic. Cricket is a worldview, which says that to play well—do your best and show fairness, sportsmanship and integrity—is way more important than the mere detail of “who won?” It’s how you play the game, not the outcome, that is the measure of a player.
Thus we repudiate the snide, toxic comment usually attributed to Martina Navratilova, that, “Whoever said winning isn’t everything probably lost”. Such obnoxious dismissal of other people’s realities is typical of arrogant intellectual low-life.
Of course Britain has no monopoly on decency and sportsmanship. In the 2007 Honda Classic, Mark Wilson called a penalty on himself in the second round when his caddie, Chris Jones, inadvertently barked out the loft on a hybrid club Wilson had just used on a par-3 hole. Wilson was honest (and self-determined) enough to summon an official and was told it was a 2-stroke penalty, which cost him the game.
But he didn’t lose!
This is even bigger than integrity and sportsmanship. Think of orientation in terms of playing the chess pieces, the board, both players, the spectators, the judges, the media reporters, every chess book author, the history of chess, the forerunners of chess in Persia, in fact everyone who ever took an interest in the game… plus anyone who was ever connected to, married to, or friends with anyone who ever took an interest in the game… Do you get the point?
We call this bigger view Supermentality. It’s a vast concept indeed.
Other Kinds Of Determinism
Also useful are the terms “soft determinism” and “hard determinism”. As the names somewhat imply, soft determinism is easily manipulated, for good or ill. It’s the equivalent of self determinism. Hard determinism is closer to other determinism, in carrying mechanistic force.
Other terms you may hear are genetic determinism or biological determinism, meaning “it’s all in your genes”! For example, high IQ has been related to the IGF2R gene. This is very shaky ground.
Behaviorists are strong believers in determinism. Their most forthright and articulate spokesman (read: pig headed) has been B. F. Skinner. Concepts like “free will” and “motivation” are dismissed by Skinner as illusions that disguise the real causes of human behavior.
Of course B F Skinner was self determined when he ordered a soy latte at the coffee shop or yelled at his wife. But nobody else is!
Skinner actually dismissed the whole idea of a mind as a “convenient fiction”. We apparently run around and do things because we are compelled to do so. In Skinner’s scheme of things the person who commits a crime has no real choice. (S)he is propelled in this direction by environmental circumstances and a personal history, which makes breaking the law natural and inevitable.
For law-abiding citizens, an accumulation of reinforcers has the opposite effect. Having been rewarded for following rules in the past the individual does so in the future. There is no moral evaluation or even mental calculation involved. All behavior is under stimulus control.
The Higher Third
This is Buddha’s preferred way of thought and Being; the Third or “Middle Way”. All opposites, he taught us, are dichotomies; there is inherent stress and tension in opposites. There is judgment and potential conflict in a divided view.
Having one, then you want the other. Or espousing one, then you reject the other, on principle. It’s all “me and them” or “them and us”. Cravings and disagreements all spring out of a world of duality (self-determinism and other-determinism are both dualities).
Better to see the two (the dichotomy) from a third position, which is neutral and has a wider wisdom. It’s the “bigger picture”, if you like, in the way that a pan-orama is a bigger picture than normal.
How often have you not liked something or been in disagreement with someone, but when you got the whole picture, you were happy with the situation as-is?
The Middle Way implies a balanced approach to life and the regulation of one’s impulses and behavior, close to Aristotle’s idea of the “golden mean” whereby every virtue is a mean between two extremes. Extremes in other words are a kind of vice.
Sphere of Being
It is a fundamental in Supernoetics™ that being equates to space. All things being equal, the bigger our sphere of influence, the bigger our being.
Everybody has their own sphere of influence, bounded by what my friend Heidrun Beer calls an “awareness horizon”. The smaller this sphere of being, the more likely it is that a person gets into a dichotomy, seeing his or her options limited by lack of choice. Other people, with their influences, are seen as a threat, instead of potential allies. It’s a “me-or-them” bind.
People who have lost too much of their life force in traumatic incidents are the most likely to experience a diminished sphere of influence. This leads in turn to a tendency to be hostile, to lash out and often (covertly) to attack. Remember, there is a fundamental mechanism to polarize and to seek, if not actually create, opposition. An atmosphere of win-lose is created, which is hardly helpful to anyone.
Win-lose games are pretty aggressive and often destructive. Cooperation is better; that’s a win-win game. The best games of all are where everybody wins (like the Supernoetics™ game). Confrontation almost always leads to conflict.
What Supernoetics™ seeks to do—indeed it’s almost a definition of what we do—is to enlarge the individuals sphere of influence. We expand pan-orientation to the point of magnificence and that indefinable quality: presence.
It’s important to develop a high-level style of communicating, especially when debating problems. It is also a matter of education, especially of family upbringing. People who have learned an aggressive style of problem-solving in their childhood will have to un-learn a lot and develop a more harmonious and more loving way of handling problems as they mature.
Is There Free Will or Is The Future Pre-Determined?
I get this question a lot. Should we just give up on the idea of free will? Are we not just kidding ourselves? Physics is predicated on the supposition that the future already exists; it’s out there. So how can we believe that we are really making choices, when what we get is coming up ahead?
The answer is so ridiculously simple, I wonder anyone has a problem with it!
There are an infinite number of futures out there; all of them ready built and ready to run. It’s just as the scientists say—the future is real and is out there.
But which future? The answer is any future you want. They all start off equal. They are all pre-determined. But these days we don’t believe in just “the future”, we should speak of all possible futures (plural). We don’t necessarily have to embrace Hugh Everett’s endlessly bifurcating futures model… you know, the future splits into two at every moment, depending on the choices made; there’s a “did answer the phone” and a “didn’t answer the phone” pair of universes out there.
But it’s clear that endless realities exist and we create them and get to choose. It’s back to what I said about the idealist view earlier on. Reality isn’t real, reality is what we encounter and what we think is real.
Let someone else get the future you don’t want. You go for it and pick the one you like best! That’s self-determinism.
It’s the only way to live because the “everybody just lay down and did nothing future” doesn’t really exist anyway! As we say in Supernoetics™: don’t let yourself be part of the problem, be part of the solution.