My foray down the path of free will has hitherto proved fruitless. No matter what I do this issue refuses to be resolved. Time after time I have tried, and time after time I have failed to find a meaning for the term consistent with the manner in which it is used. My last letter tried to reconcile our limited freedoms with their utility, reasoning that while pure freedom eluded us perhaps the necessary tools for our emancipation were hidden within our prisons. Not so Father, not so. Our chains seem to me to be permanent, as we lack not just the knowledge but also the ability to free ourselves from the broken, malignant rut in which we have been placed. Having the potential for greatness is useless if one does not have the knowledge to bring such potential to fruition. And seeing our mental deficiency only served to remind me once again of all that your children hope to be, and sadly all that we are not.
As is always the case whenever I think of how terribly flawed your children are, I cannot help but think of how amazingly perfect my Father is supposed to be. As you know the issue of knowledge is one that is very close to my heart; my once little friend has not left my side since I left yours, and I have already expressed what I feel to be the root cause of his presence in my life. I am certain that the power to know things, truly know them, would rid me of him, and in this regard I envy not just your other children, who must have much smaller versions of the fellow on their shoulders, but you, who must have none. As always Father you stand in stark contrast to your impaired offspring, and while such thoughts usually make me question the tales of our parentage I am afraid I must ask you a different question this time. It is one much like those I have asked in the past weeks, and it involves your nature and the ramifications of your perfect knowledge.
Consider yourself, dearest Father. You know all things. You know their causes, you know their effects; you know the intangible stuff from which they are made, the ethereal places in which they reside. Your knowledge it seems comes from your power, as such an intimate understanding of all things that are and will be is only possible because you made all things, willing them into being from mere nothingness with your wondrous abilities. We made the link between knowledge and power and freedom in my last letter and so it should come as no surprise that the freest being in the universe is he that knows all and can do all.
Of course your children, being things as well, are also known very intimately by you. Our habits, likes, dislikes, wants and needs were known by you at the moment of our creation, as were our choices and the effects that they would birth. Your perfect knowledge means that you see an unbroken chain of consequences, starting from the very first choice and reaching all things that we see around us today. This means that you must have known as you performed those very first acts of creation that you would make children in your image, and this also means that you must have known as you made these children that they would fall. And herein lies the problem, Father, for it seems that once again we have found yet another way in which this freedom we claim to have is completely non-existent.
This issue, that of your knowledge and our freedom, is an old one, one of the oldest in the history of trials your faithful children have faced. It first fell into my head when I was but a child but, as parents are wont to do when faced with difficult questions from their children, my father asked me to put it from my mind, telling me that it was not my place to think such thoughts, that all would be revealed to me in time. As you can see Father, all has not been revealed in time as once again I stand asking the same questions I did as a child. I haven’t formally written you about this issue, so allow me to do so right now. If there ever was a matter that required your input, it is this.
Your position Father is one of first mover, first cause if you will. Imagine, as only a child can, you sitting before the beginning of time, contemplating what to make of your universe. You knew then how each little detail you conceived would change the structure of your creation. A little shift here, a slight adjustment there, and all that we know would have been different. Such nuanced knowledge applies not just to the formation of the world, but to the formation of your children. As you fashioned the First Brother, placing the clay bits in just the right order you must have known the consequences of their locations, the effects such configurations were bound to have. You knew as you made him what making him in a certain way was going to do, and so you must have known as you made him that when faced with the forbidden fruit and the beckoning of Eve, his will was going to break. Such far-reaching fundamental knowledge seems to me to be indistinguishable from design, for at this point I cannot tell the difference between knowing the effects of your actions and going ahead to do them, and orchestrating things with certain effects in mind.
This means that there was never a chance that the First Brother was not going to fall, not just because he was flawed and limited and foolish and far from perfect, but because he was made to fall. His fate was written in your head and by your hands before you had even finished breathing life into his form. And this brings me to my question dearest Father, for I must ask it: How then can he be said to have ever been free? How then can any of us? Not only are we in not in charge of who we are and where we’re born and the limits of our knowledge, it seems we are no different from our automatons, whose acts, however complex, are known – or at the very least desired – by their designers as they set about assembling them. We know they are not free because we can tell exactly what they would do; we made them in full knowledge of what they would do, much like you made us. In effect we made them do the things that they do.
Your Book does not even bother to refute this. It is littered with tales of people whose actions and decisions were known before they were born, prime amongst which is the Holy Virgin, sacred mother of the Brother-Saviour. The very existence of prophecies confirms this. How else can you reveal to your children what the future holds if you did not make it so that the future would hold such outcomes, if you did not put your children where you wished, made them how you wished, so that your desired outcome will come to pass? This is the height of manipulation, for you have not just limited your children to prisons of imperfection and ignorance, you have wired them with strings that you tug and pull and place as you will, guiding them to whatever fate you have already planned from the birth of time.
Even as I write this Doubt tries to cast his shadow over my conclusions. He tells me that indeed we are free, that you do not bother with pushing each and every one of us to make each and every one of our choices each and every second of each and every day. Such an act would be tedious to the extreme. He is right, of course, but his reasoning is shallow. On one hand, a being of the power you command cannot, should not, find anything tedious, even if it involves manually controlling the billions of souls you have made over the course of our history. On the other, manual control is no different from automatic control; whether you are actually pushing each piece on the chess board, or whether you lined up the pieces like dominoes and then flicked the first, the freedom of said pieces is not in question. In both cases their actions and their consequences are in fact not theirs but yours.
Now there are those in the House, Universals and Rebels alike, that claim that such intimate knowledge and immense power do not obviate our free wills. They say that your knowledge does not change the fact that we freely choose to do what we do. I could not understand the reasoning behind this when I was younger Father, and I certainly cannot now. What kind of freedom is pre-planned? What kind of freedom is orchestrated? What kind of freedom knows outcomes before they even begin? One can only assume that because they feel like they are free, because they feel like they decide to eat their breakfasts, or decide which words they use to convey their emotions without any apparent influence from their surroundings or you, that because of these feelings, they believe they are free. Of course feeling that you are free is quite different from being free, as our analysis has shown, and this highlights perhaps the ugly truth about this thing we have struggled to define for weeks now.
I fear that this freedom, this free will we cherish so dearly, is nothing but an elaborate illusion, a quirk of the young and weak minds of your children that blinds us to the wires which have been used to work us. And if we are not in fact free in any sense of the word, binary or continuous, then once again on what basis are we judged, Father? Or is our judgement, much like our freedom, nothing more than a gratuitous dance to your pleasures? Is that in essence all that we are to you Father? Puppets and playthings, made to move to the beat of your inscrutable whims? If this is indeed our true nature it is no wonder our world is the way it is, scratched and dinged and broken all over; one need only look to our children to see the eventual fate of toys and amusements.
With fear and trembling,
Your Prodigal Son