The Ascent towards Supermind, Part II, Chapter XXVI - The Ascent towards Supermind 301

I had come to a very crucial point last time on the subject of individuation. And I said that at the level of human growth, the deepest experience at the mental level of individuality is obtained in the exercise of will, particularly when you feel the experience of free will. This subject of free will is very important, so I shall go into detail. There are 3 or 4 main stages of the development of will. Imagine a child, who is put into a beautiful room where there are 20-25 beautiful objects around. You are only watching the child’s movements and you will find that the child jumps from one object to the other and the child is happy. Every object gives him pleasure, suddenly at a certain stage you are watching and just say to the child, ‘don’t touch this’. The child doesn’t like it, doesn’t like your stopping him and he says, ‘no, I want this object’ and again you stop him, there is a tug of war between you and the child. At that time child is not aware of what is happening, what he is doing. He is simply expressing an impulse to touch what he really wants to touch, to grapple with the object that he wants to. He doesn’t say that, ‘well, I am free to touch or not to touch,’ because he is not conscious of what freedom means. There is no consciousness of freedom, but when he fights with you it means that he is objecting to your control over his freedom. He may not be aware to articulate it, but what is happening is that he is objecting to the infringement of his freedom. He wants to do what he wants to do. An impulsive selection of an object out of many objects which are present is what he enjoys and any control coming from outside he resists. This is the earliest experience of what we call the problem of freedom, when the child himself is not aware what freedom means. He is not conscious that he is freely choosing one or the other. He is impulsively attracted by certain object and he wants it. So anything that is obstructing from outside is considered by him impulsively, not consciously as an infringement of his freedom. This one of the earliest experiences, at a later stage of development, the child begins to have choice before him. In the sense several alternatives are placed before him of which he becomes conscious as alternatives. When he was playing in the room he was not aware that he would have so many alternatives present before him but now as he grows a little more, he becomes aware of the presence of alternatives. You take him to a hotel, a variety of foods are available. Let us say he is having a buffet lunch, so many items are available on the table and he is aware that so many alternatives are there and he goes on selecting one after the other. You happen to be present with the child and when he selects one thing then you say, ‘don’t take this’. Then he says, ‘no, I must have it’ then there is a tug of war. The difference between the tug of war at a younger age and now is that there is a consciousness. He feels resentment against you, saying that you are not allowing him the freedom. He feels freedom consists in choosing anything that is presented to him; out of so many alternatives, he can choose any thing.

So his definition of freedom is – presentation of alternatives that is the first thing, if there is no alternative then the question of freedom doesn’t arise. If you only give one thing and you say that you take it. The only alternative is that either to take it or not to take it, so only two alternatives. So, very often the experience of freedom is not experienced so much. It is when several of alternatives are presented that expression of the idea of freedom becomes more articulate in his mind. So the presence of alternatives and the presence of a will, which can make a choice, so that there is presentation of alternatives confronting which there is a will, which has the tendency to make a choice and then there is an act of choice. When he is making an act of choice, he still doesn’t understand that this is freedom. But when somebody says don’t take this he suddenly feels that now he is being stopped and he might even be able to tell you, ‘why did you stop me, I like it and I want to have it and I should be free to have it’. You come as kind of barrier and opposer of the freedom. This is the beginning of the child’s experience of freedom. As far as this particular table for buffet is concerned maybe that all the articles which are there are equally good, only mother felt that this particular article is not good for him but basically all the article are really good because in food basically everything is wholesome, healthy, fine, well cooked, so there is no problem as far as that is concerned.

But now we come to a higher level and this is the kind problem which many mothers face, while dealing with the children. A simple example is the choice between play and study, this is a very frequent experience, the child wants to play and the child has to study also. Let us examine this psychologically, what happens exactly. The child has a great interest normally to go for play, it is one of the alternatives before him and he likes impulsively to choose play. He doesn’t choose the study because of two reasons, − one is that there is more labour involved in it, then there is a further problem of retaining what is studied. It is more difficult than mere play. Even in the case of play, if the play is new, if the game is new then he might feel the same kind of problem as there is between play and study, but he knows a game then there is a tendency to repeat it. When ever that alternative is presented to the child, he immediately picks up that particular choice, wherever there is a little hard labour then this problem arises. Between the alternatives, its not that one is good another is bad – both are good play is good and study is good, but in the evaluation of the mother the play has less importance than study in the present circumstances.