Tag Archives: Free will

On Prophets, Priests, and Prodigies

Dearest Father,

I was occupied with a particularly difficult problem a few weeks back. This was not one of the many philosophical and abstract issues that have plagued me for years now, but a mundane, earthly problem, one that concerned my chosen profession. I sat for hours puzzling over the issue, and after consulting with fellows in my trade I came to a hackish but working solution. Of course this was not the first difficult problem I have faced, and the only way it would be the last would be if my death were but a few days away. However, my struggle over this one issue drew my attention to something I appear to have overlooked in letters past.

I mentioned while writing you about free will that one of the many handicaps your children enjoy is our lack of perfect knowledge. At the time I used the point to illustrate how we are slaves to our ignorant, porous minds, minds that render whatever little freedom we possess rather pointless. After all why bother granting us free will when the very tool you’ve given us for making decisions is so easily distracted and cannot retain the things of utmost importance to our survival and salvation?

My recent brush with intellectual difficulty highlighted this in a manner most stark, as the “hackish” solution I came up with was simply a variation of one that a friend had described, hurriedly put together in order to preserve academic integrity. My problem wasn’t the first of its kind I’d seen, but that did not stop it from holding me hostage for hours. And yet this friend of mine, with little thought and even fewer words, managed to describe a solution that seemed so obvious in hindsight I felt a little foolish.

There are many of your children like this, people who can easily see things that millions of us go years if not lifetimes without even suspecting. In the more earthly circles these people are called prodigies, gifted fellows with minds that can see through the logical and mathematical and physical quandaries of our time and give us insights into the tangible nature of our universe. In Fatherly circles, however, we have priests and prophets, people you have chosen to reveal your truth to the huddled, ignorant masses. Of course while prodigies are universally acclaimed in their fields and arts, your prophets and priests are often only loved in select circles, circles that usually grow into compounds and compounds that often transform into Houses.

If one were to assume our earth was a cold uncaring rock that breathed life into our ancestors eons ago, it would not be too difficult to come to terms with the concept of prodigies. A universe that doesn’t care about us would hardly care that only a few of us could parse her secrets. One could even assume that the prophets and priests that act as voices for non-existent Fathers and Mothers were simply prodigies driven mad by whatever realisation had dawned on them, or devious manipulative people preying on the weakness and gullibility of their brethren.

But as all things are when faced with the fact that we have a loving omnipotent Father, the system of prodigies, priests, and prophets seems completely counterproductive. These brilliant people are essentially gatekeepers of knowledge and wisdom, guardians and visionaries without whom our people would still be hiding in caves, scared of their own shadows and worshipping the sun that cast them.  If our Father loved all of us and wanted us to come to him, why would he place this completely unnecessary bottleneck between himself and his children? Why would he limit revelations of his true nature to a very, very tiny segment of our population, tasking all to go through them if they are to truly know his will?

Ironically there are many in the House of the Cross that actually agree with this; they just happen to believe you have already solved the problem. They cite the verses in your Book that mention that your laws are written in our hearts as proof that we all know your will. They point to the very existence of the Book itself as proof that no man need act as gatekeeper to your kingdom; all can read it and see for themselves what you truly want from your people.

The problem with both these statements is readily apparent. If your will was truly written in all our hearts why do we need the Book at all? Why have a Book state what we all know when we could all just feel in our hearts that these things are true? And even more damning, the existence of the Book and the grand theory of liberation championed by its adherents have not led to fewer gatekeepers; they have led to more. These days any one of your children can pick up your Book, read a line of text that has been read by millions before him and claim to have seen something new within it. Such a person would shout from the rooftops that you have spoken to him and made him your prophet, and thousands would flock to him seeking to hear the new truths that they should already know. Of course with such a scenario it is little wonder your House has grown increasingly divided as the centuries have gone by; without authority vested in a chosen few your children have seen fit to disagree on the finer points of every single line in your Book, erecting fresh wings in the House the moment one man’s “truth” counters their own.

Quite evidently your truths are not inscribed in our hearts, or there would be no need for Houses or the prophets that build them. And quite clearly the system of prophets and priests and prodigies is by design, not by mistake. So ingrained is the nature of this system in the world around us that Platocrates and More did not bother to refute it when describing their utopias. Instead they built their cities around it, creating special classes for these priests and granting them stewardship over the perfect worlds they had constructed.

Left with all this one once again has to wonder how it all meshes with your love, Father. What grand plan could you possibly have that can only be served if but a select few know what you want? What great purpose could you have for the child from whom you have withheld both yourself and the capacity to find you? It is becoming increasingly more difficult to even pay lip-service to the concept of your love, dearest Father. When the majority of your children face such terrible odds for salvation, is it little wonder that so many have grown disillusioned with you?

 

With a deficient mind,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Fathers and Their Children

Dear Father,

I was locked in an interesting discussion the other day with a friend back at home. Having recently discovered that I had left the House completely and was not, as I’d let most of my friends and family believe, simply checking out another wing in the vast domicile, she had taken to evangelising to my wayward soul. Where our conversations were normally about our mundane and carefree lives they quickly became about you and the Brother-Saviour, about coming back home and giving my life back to best Father in the universe. Very many times she failed to understand the depth of my doubt, often telling me that I was simply being difficult, that I would believe if I really wanted to. She is not the first person I have heard this from. Many of your children, it seems, genuinely do not understand how some of us could fail to believe. They think it is simply a matter of choice, that our lack of faith comes from a purposeful effort to undermine you, and not a genuine position of ignorance and confusion. Perhaps this is why many of the people I have spoken to about my predicament have failed to turn me back to you. There appears to be a fundamental disconnect between all of us, a wall that stops believers from truly empathising with those of us that have gone beyond the golden gates.

Our conversation on that day was about freedom and its consequences. As you know one of the central issues that drove me from home is the presence of evil in the world you have made. My friend had just finished extolling the beauties of nature, the magnanimity of our Father, a being that loved the world so much he suffered and died for it. And I asked her – much as I ask myself on many occasions, and as Doubt asks me on the days I am feeling more amenable towards you – I asked her about the people currently suffering through famine in the continent of my ancestors. There are children there, who despite the best efforts of their brethren (some of whom neither know you, nor care about you) will be born, only to die shortly after from disease and starvation. There are those who have known only pain and poverty their entire lives, with nary an inkling of joy. I asked about the war-torn regions in the Middle East, where the children of the Star and the Crescent are locked in what appears to be constant war; where extremists, marching in the name of someone that bears a striking resemblance to you, are murdering people by the thousands, intent that all on this earth bow to their holy vision. I asked about these things and she said, almost nonplussed, “Did Father do any of those?”

In her mind, as in the minds of almost all the children in the House, you have given us free will and so are absolved of all responsibility for the actions perpetrated under this freedom. I was wrong, she said emphatically, to blame you for the deeds of your children.

Ignoring my trials (and failures) at grasping the true meaning of free will, her question brought me to an almost stunning realisation. None of your children would treat their children the way you have treated us. Think for a moment Father, on how parents (the good ones, at any rate) raise their children. An earthly father does not see his two infant sons fighting, with one in real danger of killing the other, and shrug it off, claiming that they possess the freedom to do as they please. An earthly mother does not see her baby waddling towards a burning flame and allow it, claiming that the baby has chosen the fire and so she will respect its choices. Even if the child had already burned itself and still sought to approach the fire no parent would justify leaving it to the flames; no parent would say that because the child really wanted to burn they would let it.

The way we treat our children is centred around circumventing their freedoms, because we see quite clearly that their minds cannot use these freedoms properly. We make our homes childproof; we mash their food into tiny little bits; we swaddle them with the softest clothing. They are young and foolish and fragile, and that is how we, in our love for them, treat them.

But they are children, came my friend’s swift reply. We can distinguish between right and wrong; we know what’s good for us; we are not children. But once again I could not agree with her. Of course when compared with our children we are not children. But when compared to you we are even less than children. The differential between your intellect and ours is far, far greater than that between ours and our kids. And in spite of the fact that the children we birth eventually make it to maturity, we never stop trying to prevent the harm they cause. In my musings on justice I made the point that in its idealisation the justice of your children would aim to prevent harm, using punishment only as a deterrent and not as a tool of vengeance. When our police hear of a potential murder they do not shrug it off and claim that the participants are free. No; they do everything in their power to stop that murder from happening.

And yet it seems our Father in heaven, who loves us far more than we can ever know, refuses to afford us the same courtesy. You know, Father, that we are weak. You know that even when we have the best intentions we still fail. You know that some of us, for whatever reason, do not even have the best intentions. And yet you have not stopped the dictators from murdering millions, the warlords from grabbing children from their homes and shoving guns into their arms. The free will excuse seems immensely shallow because no loving Father, in full knowledge of the limitations of his children, would allow them to destroy themselves so wantonly, especially when the countless threats of the fiery pit down below have done little to quell their bloodlust and violence.

As expected my friend refused to see my point, insisting that the freedom you have given us trumps all else, that somehow, even though we are less than children before your awesome eyes, we are still to blame for the terrible things we foolishly do to one another. Perhaps she is right. Perhaps fathers everywhere would do well to follow in the example of the greatest Father of them all. I suspect the recent holiday commemorating fathers would have taken on a very different tone if this were the case, however. I doubt any one of us, burned and scarred by the flames, could find it in our hearts to celebrate such fathers.

With love,

Your Prodigal Son

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On the Choices of My Father

Dear Father,

The words Doubt spoke to me the last time I wrote have refused to leave my mind, and as the days have passed my head has been filled with even more terrors concerning your title as Great Arbiter. I am afraid his attempt to explain away the paradox of our freedom has backfired, for if I sounded lost and confused at the end of my last letter, I am far more lost now, and much more afraid.

You see Father, your power means that you are capable of anything. If you say that up is down, up becomes down. If you say that left is right, left becomes right. Faced with such power one realises that you can truly do whatever you want; there are no bounds or limits on the extent of your abilities. Before you existence is a blank slate, putty to be moulded in whatever shape your desire.

This means that you could have created any number of worlds where things were slightly different from this one, where, for example, the First Brother did not partake of the forbidden fruit, thus ensuring that he and his children remained in paradise for all eternity. But you did not. You could have made a world where even after his blatant disregard for your commands he was immediately forgiven and allowed to remain in the garden, but you did not. You could have created a world where nothing he ever did could have violated your will, where it was not his destiny to fall out of your favour and your paradise. But you did not. Faced with all these choices, all these universes, all these possibilities, you chose instead to make the First Brother in such a manner as to guarantee his failure. You chose not to forgive him for his transgressions but to cast him out. You chose not to allow his offspring, guilty of nothing but being born, to return to paradise. You chose to allow disease to flourish, to allow wars and famine and pain to exist for millennia before finally sending the Brother-Saviour, and even then you chose to take him away. You chose to make a universe in which the Brother-Saviour’s sacrifice did not immediately mean salvation, but one where we would have to wait two millennia (and counting) for another, final judgement, when you would cast all the children you damned before they were even born into the fiery pit made ready for them. These horrors are the things you chose.

Even more alarming is the fact that your status as the Great Arbiter is ongoing. You still have the power to speak things into being, to make something from nothing. You can still eradicate all disease with a wave of your hand, reform all sinners, end all wars. You can return as the Brother-Saviour tomorrow and establish a paradise for all men. These things are not out of reach; they are certainly not beyond your ability. All you need do is will them be and they will be. And yet the world around me remains the very same way it has always been. The people starving as I write these words will continue to starve. Those dying will continue to die. Those suffering will continue to suffer.

These are frightening thoughts, dearest Father, for they mean that you are actively choosing to be bring suffering to your children, to watch while they struggle in the harsh world you have given them. This is manifest cruelty, for not only did you make the world as it is, you are refusing to change it. You are allowing the very evil you created to grow and spread, to fester and flourish.

Our independence may be questionable Father, but yours is without doubt; you will not be our Father without it. And if this world, an existence free of freedom and mired in suffering, is what you have chosen for your children, how can we call you good? How can we look to you for guidance? How can we think on your image and rejoice? Yours is not a face of love, but a face of brutality, and thinking on the kind of mind that could do all this and call it good, I am filled with a fear most visceral…

My once little friend is silent, Father; even he has no counter to this.

With fear and trembling,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Words and their Meanings

Dearest Father,

As you have probably surmised, my discoveries on free will and justice have not exactly set me ablaze with love for you. Where I sought to discover the freedom in your children that absolved you of the harshness of your justice, I found instead puppets and strings, little subjects moving to the whims of their master. I have thought long and hard on what these conclusions mean for my prospects of returning home, and I must say Father that it does not look good. I do not understand the crude nature of your justice, but if your children are not freely choosing to turn their backs on you, how is their punishment fair? How can you condemn them to an eternity of suffering when they are simply fulfilling the very destinies you created for them?

Of course I would be remiss if I did not mention that my once little friend has not been silent as I have thought these thoughts and asked these questions. He has tried all too often to find flaws with the reasoning that brought me to this point, and he has failed at almost every turn. One of his statements, however, has stuck with me these past few days and it is one I wish to share with you. I do not think he has found a way to give me hope though; in fact the implications of his words may have served to drive me even further away from the House I once called home.

His words to me were thus:

“You cannot say that your Father is not just, or that you are not free, because he has said that he is, and that you are. He is the Great Arbiter; his word is truth.”

If you remember Father, in our bid to discover the meaning of truth we realised that a lot of what we took as fact was nothing but simple arbitration, statements that appeared to make sense but lacked the proof that would reveal their real truth value. We concluded then that absent verification all statements must remain arbitration, neither true nor false but open for discovery and deliberation. We also concluded that even under such rules you remain untouchable, for you are the Great Arbiter; your arbitrations become truth from the sheer force of your will.

We referenced this viewpoint when we discussed free will. Unwilling to accept that you were a simple machine, bound to always pick the good option when presented with a choice, we surmised that you must be above good and evil. You made good and evil; whatever you dictate to be good becomes good. Whatever you dictate to be evil becomes evil.

Applying the same concept to justice and free will gives you the crux of Doubt’s statement to me. You are the Great Arbiter. Whatever you define to be free is free; whatever you define to be just is just. I cannot claim that your justice is unjust. It is your justice; it cannot help but be just. I cannot claim that our freedom is bondage. It is your gift; we cannot help but be free.

If one ignores the powerfully circular nature of this argument it would appear that Doubt has floored me completely. But as I mentioned before his statements only served to drive me further from you, as the true implications of this point seem almost too terrible contemplate.

I would like you to consider what his statement really means, Father. It means that we cannot, not now, not ever, know what anything means. Your children, of limited minds and hearts, have (for as long as we can tell) used signs and sounds to communicate. When we say or do certain things there is a tacit agreement amongst us for what those things mean, or what they are supposed to mean. It is this agreement that has enabled to us to form societies. Without it even your noble House would not have been built, as the children that remained after the Brother-Saviour would not have been able to communicate with the world and spread your word. This tacit agreement is what allows us to have general feelings (if not outright definitions) for such words as good, evil, love, freedom, and justice. Now these definitions may vary from culture to culture, from House to House, but within these cultures and these Houses they are generally agreed upon. The very existence and survival of their institutions depends on this.

Now consider yourself, dearest Father. We are told that you love us. That all the other Fathers and Mothers and Uncles and Aunts in all the other Houses are not only false, but that they do not love us the way you do. Only you truly cares. Only you truly wants what’s best for us. These messages, coupled with the sacrifice of the Brother-Saviour, have been among the biggest reasons that many have been brought to the House, and that many have stayed within it. And accompanying these statements is a fundamental understanding of the concept of love, of benefit, of harm. That which brings fulfilment is borne of love, that which brings happiness is beneficial, and that which causes suffering and pain is harmful. You are none of the latter, Father, and all of the former, or so we are told.

Against this one looks at the world born from your lips and sees pain and suffering, fear and hurt, bondage and predetermination. We see a justice apparently motivated by as much negativity and spite as the crude offerings of your flawed children. We see punishment for punishment’s sake, pain for no other reason than pain itself. We see children created solely for salvation, and others only for damnation. And if we are to believe that you are the Great Arbiter, and that you have termed these things good and loving and just, then we must also believe that this pain and suffering, this our lack of freedom, is indeed good and loving and just.

Thus the words that we use to communicate the love and justice and freedom and happiness that we believe come from your House are apparently meaningless, for they can have their meanings changed at will. They can mean one thing and their complete opposite at the same time, for you have spoken it. Does freedom today mean bondage? Does it mean predestination? Does it mean captivity? Does good today mean genocide? Does it mean the condemnation of little children for the sins of their fathers? We cannot, of our own admittedly feeble faculties, say. We must first consult with you, and hope that you deign to bestow upon us your answers.

Perhaps more terrifying is the fact that this means that a good amount of the people called to your House have had the wrong impression about you from the very beginning. It is hard to believe that those that heard about your all-encompassing love believed that within that love lay the capacity to create some children solely for the purpose of burning them. No loving parent on your green earth would do such a thing, yet a quick study of your world and a short perusal of your Book reveals such acts in great detail.

Of course there are some within the House that believe that our lack of understanding comes from the less than perfect nature of our minds, but this, much like the assertions made with regards to the First Brother’s faculties, does not vindicate the state of your world. Ignoring our apparent lack of freedom this would mean that the salvation of a good chunk of your children is purely circumstantial. If our fundamental understanding of love and justice, the intuition with which we analyse the world, is not complete due to our failings, then there is nothing but chance to dictate who comes to you of his own volition. The very tools we have to understand what you do and why you do it are flawed. That anyone comes to you in the first place is a wonderful combination of luck and opportunity, and that people fail to understand your ways should be expected. In fact, if one looks upon the various Houses and tents and institutions the world over, all separate and distinct from the House of the Cross, this is exactly what we see: a vast majority of your children that simply does not get you. And yet true to form you have taken it upon yourself to condemn these people, and to cast them out of your sight. And this is good, Father, because you have said that it is.

And therein lies the problem with the belief in you as the Great Arbiter, dearest Father, for if your justice, an institution barely distinguishable from that of the lowest of your children, is in fact fair and good and loving, then those words have lost their meaning. And if our freedom, a state barely distinguishable from the pre-arranged motions of actors in a scripted play, is in fact freedom, then that word has lost its meaning as well. And if words can lose their meaning at your whim Father then what is the point of even trying to understand you? What has been the point of my journey, my quest for both you and the great Sophia? In a single moment this very page could mean something completely different simply because you willed it to be so!

I suppose in the end my journey truly is nothing but a pointless exercise. After all, Father, wasn’t my fate already decided before I was born?

With sadness,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Freewillium

Dearest Father,

I have tried, and I have failed, to define free will. I embarked on this stage of my journey in an attempt to absolve you of the harshness of your justice, to find something that made it seem acceptable, if not ideal. The reasoning was that ultimately you cannot be held responsible for our bad decisions. Empowering your children with freedom meant exonerating yourself from the consequences of their actions. Harsh though your judgement, one would be unable to cry foul if he freely chose to be on the wrong side of your favour, if he and he alone were solely responsible for the actions that led him to your wrath.

But week after week and trial after trial it has become clear to me that this free will is something that cannot be defined. We looked at good and evil and found you lacking. If free will is the ability to decide between what is good and what is evil then you are not a free being; you can never choose evil. We looked at power and limitations and found ourselves lacking. In a world of bounds and limits your children are anything but free, constrained and tied to consequences and occurrences we did very little to create or cause. We looked at “limited” free wills and found ourselves lacking once again. Any freedom you have given us is completely nullified by the fact that we are ignorant children with imperfect minds. We will fail because we do not know any better, and this is how we are by design. Lastly we looked at your all-encompassing knowledge and boundless power, and came to the realisation that against such infinity our freedoms, even the smaller, limited kind, are nothing but charades. You are already very aware of what each and every single one of your children will do. Like the designer that makes his automaton in full knowledge of its potential actions given certain situations and circumstances, you created your children. In light of this, claiming that we possess any kind of freedom behind our wills is about as silly as claiming that our programmable machines have freedom behind theirs. We may feel like we do, and for all we know our machines “feel” the same way, but that does not change the reality of our (and their) situations. As I iterated at the end of that particularly depressing missive, we are your toys, your programmable machines, and only you know what the true purpose is behind our existence.

Despite all of this Father, I cannot shake the feeling that I have free will. I keep telling myself that I choose to write the words on this paper, freely, compelled by no one and no thing but myself. Knowing that this choice is not truly free, understanding intellectually that I am no freer than the tools with which I write to you, I still feel free. It is perhaps one of the greater feats of the imperfect minds you have given your children, where we cannot even come to grips with our true limitations, insisting instead on clinging to concepts we know make no sense and cannot be defined, simply because they feel right.

Such feelings led to needless hope that perhaps something has been missing from my months-long analysis, that I may have overlooked an important detail that would lay bare this puzzle of free will and bring me to a better understanding of your grand plan. And yet day after day of racking my brains has borne no fruit. If there ever was a question I needed you to answer Father, it is this. So much of House dogma and mythos is dependent on the existence of free will that I fear that my belief in its absence may prevent me from ever returning home. If we are not free Father then this is nothing but an extended game for your benefit and pleasure. Anything we happen to get out of this is simply luck and chance, not some product of the deep love you hold for your children. The few among us that make it to the Great Upstairs were destined to because you made them to make it up there, and the rest of us never stood a chance, regardless of what our weak, wishful minds tell us. Much like the sinking heart that emerged from my scrutiny of your justice, thoughts such as these make me sad and shocked. This is not what one has come to expect from the Father that died for his children.

And yet, I still wish to believe that I am free. Perhaps it is above my feeble mind. Perhaps free will is a fundamental constant of our world, something supreme and abstract that cannot be defined but is intuitively understood. Perhaps it comes from an undetected substance called freewillium that you possess and that you included when you breathed life into the First Brother and his companion. Perhaps this amazing substance allows you to design your children with their futures fully-known, as well as imbue them with the “freedom” to choose who they want to be, where they want to go. After all, when sense and reason fail Father one has to resort to hand-waving to make things fall into place. As has happened in all the times I have been unable to make sense of the opposing viewpoints put forth by your Book and your House, I must accept that this is just the way things are and that my childish mind would never understand your holy and perfect purpose.

If my words ring hollow dearest Father, it is because they are. I have never felt so far away from home.

With sadness,

Your Prodigal Son

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