Subjectively we tend to believe that we make our own decisions and that we are exercising ‘free will’. What we do not generally do is recognise that there is an entire preceding set of ’causes’ which lead us to the present moment and the very type of choices we make. We may be extremely ‘predictable’ in the regularity of our decision process, or we may be highly unconventional and tend to take the ‘road less travelled’. Either way, we can trace book the roots of that choice to a series of steps that eventually can lead us to understanding the complex causes that made our choices essentially inevitable.

Researchers in the fields of psychology and sociology are able to plot and predict the decisions of masses of people with the largest percentage falling within a tightly defined range, and outliers occurring on either end. They cannot currently predict the decisions of any specific individual, primarily because they do not have all the facts and factors influencing that individual. The largest determining factors for most people are background, education and cultural forces that are relatively easily to identify. The individuality that seems to show up in the outliers can, however, be traced down in most cases to specific events, occurrences, influences, and unique circumstances, all falling within the frame of a series of causative events that lead to the effect of the current choice.

This has led philosophers, sages and scientists to debate the existence of free will from time immemorial. We have the sense of free will and thus the belief in its existence; yet we find that most often we are the plaything of forces and influences that determined how we respond.

It seems that free will is more of an aspirational sense than a reality for us as long as we remain attached to and bound by the external circumstances within which we live. If there is a true ‘free will’ it resides with the Divine. If we can shift our standpoint to the divine standpoint, we then share the free will, yet even this represents a carrying out of the divine intention in the universal creation.

Dr. Dalal notes: “The powerful sway of life’s hidden forces as described in this book shows that man’s sense of possessing a free and independent will is highly illusory as long as one lives in the ordinary consciousness and is bound by the forces which impinge upon it.”

As Sri Aurobindo remarks:: “The apparent freedom and self-assertion of our personal being to which we are so profoundly attached, conceal a most pitiable subjection to a thousand suggestions, impulsions, forces which we have made extraneous to our little person. Our ego, boasting of freedom, is at every moment the slave, toy and puppet of countless beings, powers, forces, influences in universal Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Preface, pg. xi

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 19 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at