A long time before the existence of modern science, clever people of all cultures had had experiences concerning the origin of the various impulses, which may lead to making decisions. Spiritual and/or religious paths show that it is possible to win the daily struggle for ethical decisions more and more, instead of believing that everything is pre-determined. Nevertheless, some of these people tend towards fatalism.
In most cases, even the ability to think is not a fully conscious one. If someone wants to become aware and remain aware of the feelings influencing thoughts, he or she may have to pay attention to them for a long time, in order to become more sensitive to them. The impulses of will are even more unconscious and great efforts are necessary to realize them fully or, more than that, to "produce" the will to do something freely. For instance, Rudolf Steiner already knew that the will was something unconscious - independent from modern brain research. But he also knew that controlling ones own will is something that can be trained - something which has not yet been reproduced in modern science. Many Christians experience that even more is possible, i.e. "To commit one's will to God". Even for someone who has not yet had much experience, it is still possible to a certain degree. There is definitely an "instance" that helps us to follow this path. Indeed, sooner or later this way leads to a more conscious life. (This practice has nothing to do with being obedient to the authorities of a church.)
In this context, the findings of some modern neurologists point to
conclusions that differ from those found in several scientific magazines. They
measured the biological effects during experimental movement of the hands and
found out that a certain "readiness potential" was already present in
the nervous system as soon as the intention to move the hand became conscious.
Later, the person being tested thought that the action had begun, but in actual
fact it had really started 1/100 millisecond after that thought.**
This only acknowledges that - as mentioned in the paragraph above - the complexity of the human being usually influences its decisions and that conscious thoughts are not the only factor influencing decision-making. However, the "readiness potential" does not mean that people are automatically determined to do so. This would be an inadmissible case of jumping to conclusions. So the "free will" is in no way disproved, as some scientists had thought. Nevertheless, according to the mentioned experiences of the people (which can be looked at as "field research" through the centuries), it would be correct to assume that the mere intellect is insufficient in controlling free will. Thoughts and good intentions can only be a first step to a more responsible role for oneself. Additionally, one should examine the subconscious feelings and unconscious, habitual impulses of the will. Then one will awaken more quickly to the nervous "readiness potential" that exists. So indeed it is possible to aspire to a more responsible life.
Moreover, if, for instance, the electrical potential of the nerves is measured, one should consider that only classical science*****) would speak of "causes". Looked at from a humanitarian point of view, it is possible to see an "effect" in it, like a piano, played by the being including mind, psyche and will. On the purely scientific level, this cannot be decided upon. Likewise, biology cannot decide on if and how God is present in this complicated human organism.***). However, one can find scientific approaches to such questions. Scientists might, for instance, try measuring how a person fighting in prayer against an unwanted impulse manages to change the resulting action.****). However, this method will still not enable them to judge what praying "is" for faithful people.
*) Note, however, the differences in the various development stages of human consciousness (e.g. archaic, magical, mythical and intellectual), as presented on our pages "General viewpoints concerning natural religions" and "Religion as a ‘reconnection’ of man with God…" The sources of human emotions were more strongly observed outside the person at certain times, while at other times they were more strongly observed inside the person. Today’s possibilities in the area of consciousness development are carved out in part 1 of our main text, based on the steps in the life of Jesus. Today, for example, a person can consciously learn – in contrast to earlier, more instinctive means – to again more intensely recognize the relationships with his or her surroundings and the environment and earth. Thus, besides social and ecological insights, there are also general ethical and religio-philosophical aspects that emerge for society.
**) For instance in "Spektrum der Wissenschaft" (Scientific American), April 2005.
***) See our page "Science and the Belief in God" too.
****) See also our page concerning the "Digestion of the daily life".
*****) There is a movie called: "What the Bleep Do We Know?".
topics and main text.