Noumenon, a South African publication, emailed the following question and asked for Barry Long's comments. The editor, Kiben Pillay, said he’d sent the same question to an ‘English spiritual teacher, Maitreya'. As the subject is a source of much confusion I was pleased to respond. His text and Barry Long's reply follow:

Question: There appear to be two schools of thought. One is like Krishnamurti’s, which implies a kind of free will to break through, and the other is like Balsekar’s, which says there is no free will, and that all is pre-determined, even the desire to break through.

Somehow, my gut instinct tells me that Life is like an improvisation rather than being a fixed script, and while I once had a powerful experience of being lived by Life, it still felt like an improvisation, a potential rather than a fixed plan. This also accords with quantum physics.

I would appreciate your comments.

Maitreya's reply: 'Free will is an ego trip that every human is programmed with to allow separation and suffering to occur. Naturally your ego is happy to choose, manifest and generally try to arrange things to its liking.

Clearly life has a different agenda to your ego. This gap between the facts of life, suchness or what is, and your ego agenda manifests as suffering.

Krishnamurti and most enlightened teachers use an ego-based approach to try to get you to be more conscious, loving, total or some other spiritual ideal.

All of which strengthens the illusion of individual power of some kind, and also its shadow: suffering and ego neurosis.

My experience is totally consistent with advaita. In fact there is no rational alternative to advaita.

I understand your gut feeling but suggest you take my hypothesis as a starting point for a journey of experiential discovery into the facticity of life. And use your clear intellect to support your journey. The hypothesis: God is all there is, I am not separate from That, cannot include any free agents with free will.

Every ego and its programme for free will is just a play of consciousness, even yours. Consciousness is all there is, therefore ego-based ideas are the main illusion in life. And the essential means to perpetuate suffering. That is why the understanding of advaita is so potent, it supports the let go into the flow of isness that is freedom here now.'

Barry Long’s reply - My Cows and The Truth

Do we have free will?

No. What we call free will is the perceived freedom to choose. But our choices are extremely limited. We choose what we think will give us pleasure and choose to avoid what we think will cause us pain. Our other choices are about trying to correct the negative effects of past choices. All this gives us a sense of free will. When of course it is bondage, the bondage of most of humanity.

We never make the right choice for long. What we don’t want today is the result of what we once chose. The next choice or decision we make will eventually lead to discontent or unhappiness.

The word ‘free will’ is an invention of the choosing human mind. The term is a cover-up for deception similar to the device of countries calling themselves democratic republics ­ you know immediately they are not democratic.

How do I give up the ignorance of choice? Such a question implies that there is a choice. And you can’t give up ignorance by choice. But stay with me. There’s no flip answer.

Do we have a way out without choice?

Yes. The way out is built into the system by the magnificent intelligence behind it all. My cows are a good example. Once stung by the electric fence protecting the succulent new trees we’ve planted in the paddock they stay well away from it. We don’t. We forget continually that pain hurts. Unlike the instinctively logical cows we try for the succulent pleasures again and again. And we get stung again and again without realising that our choosing is the cause of the pain.

We can’t see the truth of our suffering because our rational minds justify and make excuses for our lack of logic. After a long, long time, and after your self-induced suffering has brought you to your knees (or senses), you realise, like the logical cows, that pain hurts; and you want no more of ‘my’ will, ‘my’ choosing, the cause of the pain. An extraordinary change can then happen within you. Not by choice, but simply by the logic in the system. In other words, when we’ve truly had enough of the repetition of (an) experience, the desire for it dissolves.

Where in all this is God, the indescribable supreme Consciousness?

It’s a question of place: where I, Consciousness, am in God within.

There is nothing but God. God is absolutely everything. Everything is God being God. And God is without limit within and without.

As God is everything, God is also ignorance. How can this be?

Ignorance is self, your self, everybody’s self (which Maitreya and most teachers mistakenly call ego). Your self consists of all your opinions, past hurts, frustrations and emotions ­ all of which were created by past choices. In other words, self is the chooser.

In this place of self, God is ignorant of God.

Such ignorance, or self, is demonstrated by the lack of knowledge of God without limit. And the cause is the lack of self-knowledge, the lack of knowledge of your own ignorance. So self-knowledge is to begin to know your own ignorance.

In the place of self or ignorance, God is not logical, only rational. To be logical, is to put first thing first ­ self-knowledge. Rationalists put second thing first. A good example is the scientists who put information of the material world first before knowledge of their self. This applies to most people. Then by rationalising, the clever self finds sufficient reasons in itself to conclude that there’s nothing to know but the external existence.

What happens when you give up all desire to have ‘my’ own will, ‘my’ own way?

‘My’ consciousness is altered. It changes from self-consciousness, which is the selfish way of the chooser, to consciousness no longer fixated on self but focused increasingly within. After a transitional period which may take many years, the consciousness becomes pure Consciousness. ‘I’ merge with the pure intellect and realise God. I am then one with God, the source. I have no choice in my life. I am one with God’s will, the only will, which is every moment, now. I want for nothing. All is provided. I am complete. For now. For in truth, there is no end, no end to God.

Some realised teachers erroneously imply that they are God. But God is realised as knowledge every moment and can’t be held on to as knowing. I am that but I am not ­ a paradox beyond description but not beyond being.

Now to your preamble and question. There can't be two schools of thought in truth. In fact it is the different schools of thought ­ the religions and philosophies ­ that have helped create the ignorance of self and spiritual confusion.

First you should note the self-evident truth that once you’ve truly had enough of an experience, the desire to experience it again dissolves. This dissolution is change and change implies movement ­ movement in the consciousness. This is not by any decision but, as I’ve described, is by the way of things in God’s mind in which we live and have our being.

Krishnamurti, whether consciously or unconsciously, recognised this. He saw the possibility, as you say, of breakthrough. Advaita, from the premise Maitreya describes, apparently does not recognise this. If it does not, it is deficient in truth.

Such movement of course is the movement of consciousness from ignorance to less ignorance. Take the example of Maitreya himself (whom I’ve never met) or Barry Long. Both of us were once steeped in ignorance. Then gradually, which is movement, more and more of our ignorance was shed for us until we realised as our own being the astonishing source called God. So in Maitreya’s knowledge there may be as he says 'no rational alternative to advaita'. But there is a logical alternative and that’s the one presented by our two lives and what I’ve described above ­ the divine scheme free of duality without excluding self-evident ignorance.

I must point out that anything Krishnamurti might have said about free will refers to the freedom of being one with the divine will.

Balsekar I have no knowledge of except what you say he says: that all is pre-determined, even the desire to break through. To me, such an assertion by a teacher is due to an imperfect realisation of God or Consciousness.

The truth is:

The source, God, is always drawing back to itself the consciousness wherever the consciousness is in the scheme of things. That movement of consciousness is the only thing that is pre-determined and it accounts for the entire dynamic of life before and beyond death.

About your ‘gut instinct’. You are right. Your powerful insight of being lived by Life is the truth. It is not a feeling; it is knowledge. Life is an aspect of God and your consciousness touched that and was informed by it beyond argument. That knowledge is unshakable in you. The only thing is that as yet it is not uninterrupted living knowledge. I suggest you don’t take Matreya’s hypothesis as a starting point, but live from the point of your own realisation. Focus as much as you can in your daily life on that which was revealed to you; for there is much more to it than you’ve expressed.

Nothing is fixed, all is moving every moment. All is new in the Consciousness of God. So again you are right. All you have to do is live it.

It seems to me that the validity of the many different ideas of truth expressed by spiritual teachers depends on the depth of the teacher’s realisation of God. As God is everything, and without limit within, there is an enormous range of possibilities of God realisation, some just within, some deep within and some...who knows?

All we can do is assess a master, apart from his presence, by the extent and depth of his realised knowledge of truth, life, love, death and God ­ and his practicality.

Thank you for writing.

Barry Long

A couple of days later the editor asked for clarification of three points in the article.

Read, his questions (with reasons) and Barry Long's reply to each