On the Nature of Free Will in a Perfect Universe

Early on in my magical career, a very wise man casually told me one of the great secrets of the universe.
“Karma is what you make of it,” he said, reaching for another slice of melon and smiling broadly.
“Karma isn’t an inexorable law, immutable in its consequences and outcomes. Of course not! Where would free will, free choice, be in a world where everything you ever did had to be replayed endlessly. Bosh, you’d die of boredom before you ever understood the process.
“No, it’s more like this:
“Imagine that you are faced with a choice – any choice, doesn’t matter. Except that you know that this choice, in some unseen and completely peripheral way, will absolutely change your future, irrevocably. Now choose!
“You see, of course, that the choice is not that simple. Yet we do this every second, essentially with every choice we make, we collapse a quantum probability wave and create a new reality. And so choice can be simple observation: your eyes falling on that person, instead of that object. Heisenberg’s mathematics insist that we are not an isolated spectator of this thing we degrade by naming it ‘reality’. No, the numbers prove and events concur: we are co-creators of our own reality.
“Indeed, so diverse are the perceptions of our individual realities that the miracle of it all is the marvelous coherence. Quantum discontinuity becomes conscious continuity in what must be the greatest alchemy of all time, self-awareness. And it is at this level that the question of karma arises.
“Let me ask you, does a cat or a horse experience karma?
“Interesting thought, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter whether you thought yes or no, the question raises the point of self-awareness. If you give an animal karma, then it must be aware of its state enough to make choices. If you say that an animal has no karma, then they are simply saying that they are not aware in a way that would allow them to make those choices. Either way, the important point is self-awareness, and the right to choose.
“The essence of freedom is the power to choose between good and evil. Is a cat evil because it toys with the mouse before it kills it? The difference, of course, is our power to choose, literally to create, any alternative we can conceive of, not just those that we are given as part of our primate biology.
“The categories – good and evil, or whatever – are actually by-products of our free will. As we realize this, we come to the point of the exercise. At that moment of awareness, at the instant we understand our responsibility for our situation, we can let go of thousands of years of karma, good and bad.”
I thought about this for a moment, then asked, “Are you saying that karma is a function of conscience?”
“No,” he chuckled, “conscience is a matter of culture, usually. The cat is not evil, torture is a part of its nature, and the cat lacks that self-awareness necessary to choose actions that are counter to instincts. The cat lacks an inner sense of will and is, therefore, subject, you might say, to the workings of an absolute cat ‘karma.’
“To say that we live in a perfect universe, where everything that happens is just as it should be, is essentially an animal perspective, a sort of chimp philosophy worked out millions of years ago in the primeval forest. it is just this position that gives up the impression of karma’s immutability.
“Remember: karma is what you make of it. We, the Very Smart Monkeys, have the ability to choose between instinct and intellect, between good and evil on every level from mundane to cosmic. Our choices form the nature of our karma.
“If we choose to hold onto the pain, or the pleasure for that matter, of our evil deeds, then we are embracing the fruits of our karma. But, if we choose to accept responsibility for these emotions, these results, these lusts in a a sense, then karma drops away, like the discarded husk of a seed. But it is a matter of constant conscious choice; we must choose to live our true will.
“Free will has a high price, but nobody said sentience was easy. We can’t allow the animal perception of a perfect universe, valid as it is, to sway us from the release of free will.”
And with that he returned to his melon.

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