Conscious beings take many forms: you, me, a tree, a moose, a paramecium, all manner of flora and fauna and microbes, and probably not the Stone of Davasko. Functions follow form and forms follow function as consciousness plays as their bodies, developing and evolving them. Each body has particular needs, abilities, durabilities, vulnerabilities. A pine tree might survive a lightning strike that would vaporize a moose. A bacterium doesn't mind being eaten by an alligator quite as much as a crane. A housefly can aspire to sing opera but it hasn't got the vocal cords. And I can't zip around the house on the ceiling fan currents as my favorite aria plays.

I, a drop of consciousness inhabiting a sapient human, find myself able to intend quite a bit more change than I can manifest. My intent is limited by my ability to put it to use with body. Similarly my attention is limited by my body's faculties. I am unable to perceive everything that occurs in my immediate vicinity at once. I miss what people say from time to time. No, I didn't just see that falling star. Dang it!

I am not very good at driving this thing either. I often have thoughts I don't intend to have. My mind misbehaves. Sometimes I have feelings I can't anticipate. My heart skips a beat. I trip or miss or drop when I mean to step or hit or hold. My body is a temple… of accidents and luck.

But I take in oodles of sensory data through my thirty-odd exteroceptive and interoceptive senses] and pass it through my continually refining filters of perception to harvest the qualia that comprise my subjective experience of reality. I would like to pay more attention or manifest more intentions, but I am limited by the rules that govern this physical reality—like gravity, the speed of light, and the quantum of action—and by the capabilities of this body I inhabit and the vulnerabilities of the mind I possess. What many call free will is that limited set of choices we can make and experiences we can have on this mortal plane.

Free will

Do you find yourself in the same situation? Are you able to imagine and intend changes you cannot enact? Then you too have limits. You too have free will. Congratulations!

If you are so compelled, please submit your differing perspectives on causality (wherein it is deterministic or random) to the email address listed on the title page. I welcome the opportunity to interpolate how consciousness constructs or manifests phenomena that many attribute to determinism or random chance. Before you mail that letter, please take a gander at the section on belief herein.

Choices happen at many scales

Where do we observe mysteries in causality? Where do we apply randomness as an explanation for phenomena that arose out of a field of apparent possibilities with no apparent chooser or conscious actor?

At the atomic level, we describe electrons as orbiting within an orbital cloud of possible positions. We attribute the variable, unpredictable path of the electron around the nucleus to randomness, to the manifestation of a possibility that once resided in the quantum vacuum field. With no more admission of mysticism or ignorance, we could attribute the path of the electron to the minuscule intent of a conscious pilot of that electron. Whether the pilot experiences embodiment as the atom itself or the electron has little bearing on the validity of this model of the potential conscious behavior of subatomic particles when compared to the model of randomness based in quantum uncertainty we now blindly and unsatisfiedly espouse. Self-organizing systems like atoms, cells, and organisms seem to demonstrate conscious behavior (observation and choice, attention and intention) unlike non-self-organizing aggregates of these holons. Holarchies—the self-organizing hierarchies of holons—gain new abilities that their component parts do not possess. Consciousness does not emerge or express in every semblence of matter or energy, but it may arise much more than we once assumed.

Electrons are charged, so one could say they feel the electric field around them. They feel attracted to positively charged bodies and repelled from negative ones. Making subtle choices, and forming unconscious habits based on the past success of these choices and the choices of those like them, is the behavior of conscious beings. These are phenomena of the mind.

Alfred North Whitehead, a philosopher and mathematician who composed a congruent theory of relativity contemporaneously with Einstein, views mind and matter as being related by time. Mental causation looks from the present to the past. Physical causation works from the past to the present. Material events are composed of expired past experiences. New choices are made by drawing possible futures (projected based on understanding of past causations) back into present action. Observation and choice drive reality.

Christian de Quincey explains Whitehead's theory of reality as momentary bubbles of experience that pops and form from the spray of past bubbles popped. "Subjectivity (consciousness, awareness) is what-it-feels-like to experience these possibilities, and choosing from them to create the next new moment of experience."