There are very few places in his books where Jed McKenna doesn’t cut it philosophically, but for me, this question of free will is one of them.
I believe that this question can’t even begin to be addressed adequately except from a monistic or non-dual understanding of “Self”. Without that depth of perspective, nothing but confusion, delusion or hopelessness are likely.
The Jed McKenna character flatly asserts throughout the books that there is no such thing as Free Will- a “yes or no” response. But in fact he qualifies this statement by recommending a self generated writing exercise in order to bring one closer to the fateful and necessary breakdown process he calls “spiritual autolysis”.
So thankfully, we have a tiny bit of a paradox entering the picture.
But I don’t think that even this simple paradox-contradiction is sufficiently deep and rich and intricate to begin encompass the mysterious complexity of our reality.
Better yet might be with a paradoxical statement such as this: at least from the point of view of realization of “no-self”, it is our non-self that is determining and actively directing the destiny of the ego or soul. So we have no free will at an ego or soul level, but as our “no-Self”, we do.
Presumably, if Jed could respond he might agree and say that an action such as a writing exercise is not really of an individual’s free will but the hidden hand of ‘god’ silently directing the writer to begin clearing the decks of his beliefs and even his ego-self.
But in many spiritual and religious traditions it is stated the divine gifts and imbues the soul or person with free will. I am not much of a supporter of religious and perspectives at this point in my life but I don’t think I can dismiss this possibility out of hand.
Incidentally, in much of occult literature it is stated that the born personality has limited control over its destiny, and that it’s senior aspect of soul has the bulk of the power in that relationship.
Maybe the question of free will versus determinism is better seen as a delagation of authorship and responsibility rather than an either-or, yes or no perspective, or even a paradoxical “yes we do because we are in actuality the divine ‘no-self’ living in existence and exercising out divine prerogatives thru the vehicle of a body and mind”.
Of the three, I think the truest answer may be a cascading continuum hypothesis. That we are the divine self that cedes a certain degree of control and power to the soul that migrates from life to life, and which soul also cedes a bit of its power and responsibility to the born personality body-mind involved in that physical life.
In my life, I’ve experienced the perception that I was in control of my life. Later, I came to understand something about personal creation techniques and responsibilities, which I believe are authored from our soul level. And in the last couple years, my experience has convinced me that I really have very little control over my life, or, more to the point, to my ‘spiritual evolution’, at the level either of the born personality, or even my soul. What is the Truth about Free Will? It’s not very easy to see.
But if the divine self is ceding some control to the soul, and the soul is like-wise ceding some control to the born personality, then isn’t the born personality in some real, although a complex sense, acting freely and with significant sovereignty?
If you reach out to pick something up, does an observer have the right to proclaim that the hand is just some ignorant ‘lackey’, that is being exploited by a mean and controlling brain? Perhaps there is no distinction worth making except for the troublesome mind-makers of separateness?
Who is it that said genius was keeping two contradictory ideas in mind at the same time? Perhaps it would be in-genius of us all to maintain a healthy acceptance of the possibility of all three potentials co-existing seamlessly and simultaneously.
Perhaps what Jed is saying is that from his perspective the unenlightened person has no free will because the Non-Self has it all.
Although quite honestly, I really don’t know!