Contrary to popular belief among most brain scientists
today, I will argue that free-will not only exists, but ultimately is all that
remains in an ever changing, uncertain universe. In order to understand the body
of my argument, well need to delve into quantum physics, Skinnerian
behaviorism, neurological imprinting, brainwashing and metaprogramming.
Here is Robert Anton
Wilsons definition of Von Neumann's Catastrophe of the infinite regress.
A demonstration by Dr. Von Neumann that quantum
mechanics entails an infinite regress of measurements before the quantum
uncertainty can be removed. That is, any measuring device is itself a quantum
system containing uncertainty; a second measuring device, used to monitor the
first, contains its own quantum uncertainty; and so on, to infinity. Wigner and
others have pointed out that this uncertainty is only terminated by the
decision of the observer.
What this means, and has been proven time and again in
experiment after experiment, is that without a conscious observer, quantum
states remain uncertain and in a state of indeterminacy. It is the conscious
observer that makes the uncertainty wave
function collapse out of an either/or maybe into something "real".
No experiment has yet been able to remove this observer from the results.
Therefore without consciousness, there is no wave function collapse, and no
"reality". Scientists, including Einstein have been fighting this
conclusion for more than 70 years, when he said, God does not play dice, but
experiment after experiment has proven this to be the case. The Aspect
Experiment in 1982 and its dozen follow up experiments have reproduced this
non-local consciousness dependent result. This is most troubling to determinist
materialists as it goes against their training and every other working
scientific theory. Yet the power of quantum mechanics has made itself known in
almost every field of technology and industry.
So why hasnt this shattering revelation made greater
waves through the scientific community? I honestly dont have the answer to
that, other than history is full of old paradigms dying slow, hard deaths. So
rigid in their thinking are people (and therefore scientists), that as Thomas
Kuhn, the author of the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), said, "The triumph of a new paradigm may
therefore depend as much on this generations dying off as it does on decisive
confirmation or refutation, as more traditional philosophies of science
understand such things." This is an important point, which Ill get back
to in a bit.
Meanwhile, as our understanding of the brain has
increased, we have been able to isolate and tie numerous psychological functions
to deterministic brain chemistry. Tweak a molecule here, get a psychological
effect there. Apply an electrode there, get a psychological effect here. This
has led most neuroscientists and cognitive researchers, including the likes of
Francis Crick, to conclude that any conception of having free-will is an
illusion. Francis Crick says,
All your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your
ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free-will, are in fact no more
than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated
He is only partially correct, as we shall soon see.
Eastern yogi philosophers and psychedelic aficionados have
said similar things as Crick. Either through advanced meditative techniques or
psychedelic ingesting, these people have temporarily transcended their neural
conditioning and brain programming, and from this higher, more self-aware perspective, have correctly
concluded that most of what makes up "them" is arbitrary programming,
robotic behavioral patterns inserted either through conditioning or imprinting
at certain stages of their life.
So what are imprints? Imprinting was first demonstrated by
Konrad Lorenz in the 1930s when he was able to imprint himself as the mother to
hatched ducklings. He discovered that there are moments of imprint
vulnerability where an electrochemical bond
is formed in neural circuitry that precedes any further conditioning. Another
way of looking at this is imprints are hardwired neurological patterns, whereas
conditioning is composed of looser, more easily reprogrammed softwired
patterns. Conditioning can be changed by positive or negative re-enforcement,
but imprints require something altogether more traumatic. We could say that
imprints form the basis of our personality and remain unchanged throughout our
life, except under the most traumatic of experiences. It is here that the
science of brainwashing comes in.
The most notable case of brainwashing is the story of
Patti Hearst, who having been kidnapped a "rich daddys girl", came
back six weeks later as a different person, robbing banks, and proclaiming the
birth of a new "peoples liberation". This brainwashing was
accomplished through a combination of drugs and extreme trauma. Kept in a
locked closet for weeks, taunted by her captors, and fed only the smallest
amount of food, Patti went into extreme shock, and in turn become imprint
vulnerable. Unbeknownst to her, and after weeks of torment, these same captors
befriended her as if they were the ones rescuing her. As they opened the closet
door, they immediately started calling her a new name. Loving, comforting,
feeding and taking care of her, they gave her a whole new identity and
narrative. Claiming that her abductors were working for her father, she
immediately came to love and accept these people, her saviors, completely
forgetting her old life, and accepting this new reality imprint without
question. In short, she was brainwashed.
Ok, so where does free-will come in? So far it seems like
Ive decimated every last shred of free-will and human dignity. Yes, and for
good reason! Unless we understand the full extent of just how brainwashed and
programmed we are, we will never have anything close to a free-will. To be
free, it first helps to intimately understand just how imprisoned we are by our
own nervous system. Freedom comes from knowledge, not ignorance. To know
thyself is the pathway to liberation and freedom, as I will now explain.
Lets start with simple conditioning. An addiction to
something would be a good example of strong mental conditioning. Most people
who are seriously addicted think they cant stop their addiction, feeling they
are slaves to their nervous system programming, compelling them to get more of
whatever it is they are addicted to. We know that addictions can happen at both
the psychological level like gambling, or in the physical (central nervous
system level) like crack cocaine. If the person has a strong enough desire to
seek adequate help, they can with assistance overcome their addiction. Some people
are strong enough to be able to do this without help, but the majority look for
others support to get them through the thick of it. Is this desire to overcome
their mental conditioning the same as free-will, or just another higher level
of programming? Some would argue that there were other programs, super-programs
that eventually re-wrote these lower subroutines of addiction. Or what some AI
researchers like to call super-goals.
Ok, this has some computational basis, but I think its a bit of a stretch to
describe in adequate neurological terms precisely how overcoming ones
programming is not the beginnings of something more uncertain and
indeterministic. Remember the indeterminate conscious observer in quantum
mechanical systems? Well get back to that.
So what are these supergoals then? I think there are many.
The next layer beyond conditioning as I mentioned earlier is neurological
imprinting; hard-wired electro-chemical bonds that program behavior and our
subsequent perception of reality and self. Almost everyone youll ever meet has
never re-imprinted their nervous systems. However, for those lucky or not so
lucky individuals who have taken a large quantity of a psychedelics (what John Lilly calls
metaprogramming agents in his groundbreaking book, Programming and
Metaprogramming in The Human Biocomputer) these electro-chemical imprints
can be re-programmed, or re-imprinted too. Lilly described this ability to
re-program our programs, meta-programs.
He then goes into considerable scientific and rigorous detail describing all
the ways we can metaprogram our own brain, changing its programming as we see
The question now needs to be asked, if we are nothing more
than our programs, imprints and conditioned reflexes, then who is the
"we" who is doing the programming? Who is the metaprogrammer? Some
might remain steadfast and say that this new higher you is also just a collection
of programs, or metaprograms. In either case, for those of us lucky enough to
have metaprogammed ourselves and not been metaprogrammed against our will
(brainwashing), it sure feels like we are a lot more free than we are
ordinarily. Any so-called free-will we have in an ordinary state of
consciousness feels contrived and robotic compared to being in a
metaprogramming state. So if nothing else, this thing called free-will is
relative. There are states where we are more "free" than others.
John Lilly has gone further in exploring the depths of the
mind and the limits of metaprogramming, and said that after a while of
metaprogramming, you eventually realize there are limits to certain
metaprograms, or what he also likes to call beliefs about beliefs. Robert Anton
Wilson is fond of calling them catmas,
with dogmas being absolute beliefs, and catmas being relativistic metabeliefs.
And as you play around with metaprograms, then there is a new "self",
the self that is meta-meta-programming!
Programming ones own metabeliefs. Or what John Lilly also liked to call supra-meta-beliefs. John Lilly quickly realized there is no
limit to this self-recursion when he uttered his most famous quote,
In the province of the mind, what the mind believes
to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits to be found
experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be
transcended. In the mind there are no limits.
In other words, as you become more aware of your
supra-metabeliefs, you can continue upwards to meta-meta-meta-beliefs, ad infinitum the neurological
equivalent of the Von Neumann Catastrophe. If this relative scale of increasing
neurological metaprogramming freedom is not some kind of free will, then I
think the meaning itself has been destroyed, and for no damn good reason, other
than dogmatic stubbornness on the part of people unwilling to let go of an old
dying deterministic paradigm, against the new empirically verifiable new
paradigm of quantum mechanics. All physical systems are subject to quantum
mechanical principles, which are in turn subject to a conscious observer. So no
matter how you slice it, the conscious observer is both separate and a part of
the physical world. Consciousness it would seem is a fundamental in the universe,
possibly the one and only fundamental, preceding all other observed physical
properties, which are determined by consciousness.
Quoting Robert Anton Wilson again:
Since all human knowledge is neurological in this sense,
every science may be considered a neuro-science; e.g., we have no physics but
neurophysics, no psychology but neuropsychology and ultimately, no neurology
but neuroneurology. But neuroneurology would itself be known by the nervous
system, leading to neuroneuroneurology etc., in an infinite regress.
But as John Lilly humbly admitted, even though in the mind
there are no limits, the body on the planetside trip has definite limits locked
in by biology. So as long as we return to and operate within it, we are subject
to its limits. However, each day we are becoming more aware of how these
genetic limits work, and soon will figure out how to overcome those limits,
first with genetic engineering, then nanoengineering.
So here we are altering our own molecular DNA, and soon
the entire physical world, down to the atomic level. Another way of looking at
this is, having evolved out of the slime, DNA is now becoming recursive enough
to begin altering itself with intentionality and purpose towards something
stronger, smarter, and more versatile. Going further, the atomic world is now
becoming aware of itself, and as it becomes aware of these limits, just like we
becoming aware of our own programming, will begin to re-program this matter to
become more expressive to this internationality, to the logos, the memeplex
that is our noosphere.
Will this self-recursion ever end? Probably not. Do we
have free will? As I have shown, free-will is a matter of degree. It is easily
demonstrated that we can increase the levels and degrees of freedom as we
become aware of our own limits. I would say, not only is there free-will, but
eventually everything in the universe, including the very essence of ourselves
will become re-defined by it. In the end, everything will change, but one thing
will remain and increase: the level of our free-will, our consciousness, the
fundamental that is and comprises everything.
Crick, Francis. The Astonishing Hypothesis: The
Scientific Search For The Soul. Scribner
reprint edition, 1995.
Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 1962.
Lilly, John C. Programming & Metaprogramming In The Human Biocomputer. Three
Rivers Press; 2nd Revised Edition, 1987.
Wilson, Robert Anton.
The Illuminati Papers. And/Or Press, 1980.