A Problem Related to Spirituality: Understanding the Concept of Free Will

Until the End of May these blogs will focus on problems related to creating a spiritual life.

Lewis Answers: One of the most commonly discussed ideas among thinkers great and small is whether human have freedom of choice or is everything we do predestined? Historically, there have been two schools of thought concerning whether or not we have free choice. 1. Determinism: This is the idea that for everything that happens there are conditions that dictate that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen. 2: Metaphysical libertarianism: Implies that though there are many factors, variables and events that cross our paths the individual may be able to take more than one possible course of action even under this set of circumstances. Metaphysical libertarianism is concerned with how something is known rather than what is known.

The principle of free will has religious, ethical, and scientific implications especially for a student of the Wisdom Path. Recent  neuroscientific findings regarding free will may suggest different ways of predicting human behavior, which is an essential factor in the creation of life strategies.

Even if free will exists there are always going to be constraints that define how we are able to make choices such as physical constraints (e.g. chains or imprisonment), social constraints (e.g. threat of punishment or censure), or psychological constraints (e.g. compulsions or phobias). In fact, some important thinkers concerning this discussion (compatibilists) will often assert that determinism is not just compatible with free will, but actually necessary for it.

In the end there is actually no way to know if there is or not free will. The illusion of ordinary life convinces us that we are free to choose but there is much evidence that could prove that this is not the case. The best one can do is live daily applying the four pillars that define the Wisdom Practice – Meditation, the study of koans, chop would and carry water, laugh sing, dance and be silent.


Lewis Harrison is a poet, author, teacher, speaker, life coach and contemporary spiritual teacher and mentor. He is the creator of www.AskLewis.com. Lewis specializes in helping individuals and organizations solve basic and seemingly unsolvable problems through the application of principles and ideas drawn from Decision Science, Positive Psychology, Game Theory, Zen, many of the great thinkers and from his personal life experiences.

Lewis will be teaching a weekend program “Make, Choices, Not Excuses” in Oneonta, New York May 3-4

To learn more about Lewis’ work go to “Ask.Lewis.com”

“Like” us on Face book at “facebook.com/AskLewis”

Spirituality in the Digital Age


Now let’s take creative thought and the digital arts, and integrate them with the compassionate and kind life. What arises from this is the Post-digital Path. This term points significantly to our rapidly changed and changing relationships with digital technologies and art forms. It focuses on an attitude that is more concerned not with the digital in isolation but with ways in which digital technology can bring forth with the highest elements of what it means to be a human being human. The Post-digital path defines an ever changing reality that is anchored in enlightenment.

This conversation is important for it helps each of us to define what it means when we say “I’m spiritual, but not religious”> On this path the student must explore ways in which 21st century technology and social dynamics – power, competition, altruism and hierarchy – may affect human conceptualizations of the world. This practice helps us redefine the way knowledge is constructed and used.  This is a real paradigm shift, a shift in the mathematics of a particular reality. Specifically defined, a paradigm is a theoretical and philosophical model, pattern or framework; specifically of a linguistic discipline or a mathematically based or scientific school of thought. The word paradigm was first presented by Thomas Kuhn in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”

Mr. Kuhn’s descriptive word was specifically created to address ideas related to the natural sciences and would not,  in the strict sense of the word, be used outside of a strictly logical or rational model, since to do so is to corrupt the purpose of the definition to begin with. In Postmodernism and Zen there is no rigid view of anything – no paradigm.

You see, the natural sciences are disciplines and schools of thought with specific and definable laws and theories.  They include experiments that might be performed in support of these disciplines and schools of thought, and the laws, rules and guidelines that define them.

The more involved you become in the applying of  Zen, Taoism and post modern thought to creating a life of love, wisdom, compassion, spiritual contentment and happiness many of the distinctions between paradigms, social paradigms, and other forms of belief will disappear while other, more subtle distinctions will become apparent.


To paraphrase Joseph Campbell the pioneering anthropologist: The artist is the clergy for the modern age. I think this is even more so ON the Post-modern and post-digital path.



Lewis Harrison the creator of this blog is a radio talk show host, speaker, consultant, practical philosopher and Contemporary Spiritual Teacher. Lewis is a pioneer in the personal development movement The author of nine self help books on human potential he offers a monthly retreat/seminar “How to Solve Any Problem”.  He also and phone based coaching. He is creating a series of ebooks entitled “Ask Lewis…” which will be available on line.

This blog is explored more fully through Lewis E-book “A Primer To Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory”. Lewis’ ebook “How to Predict the Future (Not!) ”,  is available as a $7.00 e-book. You can order it directly from Lewis by calling him at 212-724-8782.


Lewis owns a stress management consulting and corporate chair massage company www.eventschairmassage.com


Lewis offers phone-based and on-line life coaching services and a monthly workshop/Retreat – a simple program for decision making based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning subject of the biopick “A Beautiful Mind”.

A Woody Allen Joke About Marriage


Game Theory based strategies deal not with mathematics  alone but with the idea that human often act irrationally

Thanksgiving is a time of family etc. My wife and I were watching  a movie about marriage and ruminating on why some couples stay together and others  get divorced?

Here is funny story, maybe a Zen Koan for you about marriage:


“A man goes to a psychiatrist and explains that his wife is insane.

“Maybe she is a bit eccentric” replies the psychiatrist. “You can learn to adjust to her behavior, after all marriage is compromise”.

“No” replies the man. “She is really crazy”

“What makes you so sure that she is crazy?” asks the psychiatrist

“She thinks she’s a chicken” Replies the man


“She thinks she’s a chicken”

“What makes you think, that she thinks she is a chicken?” Asks the Psychiatrist

“Well she acts like a chicken”!

“I don’t understand” Replies the psychiatrist

The man explains. “Every morning she wakes up and starts to make clucking noises. Then she bends over and starts to peck at the floor like she is eating seeds. Then she waves her arms up and down like a chicken does.”

“Wow” say the psychiatrist, “Your wife really does think she is a chicken”.

“That’s what I told you” replies the man.

“Why do you stay married to her”? Asked the psychiatrist

The man responded instantly, without any thought or sense of irony. “Because I need the eggs!”



Chop Wood, Carry Water: Zen and Artificial Intelligence


Many of the computer pioneers at MITs Lisp artificial intelligence lab in the 1950s had a fascination with Zen Buddhism and Zen Koans. One of the most popular ideas was “Chop Wood, Carry Water”.  What does this mean?”  It means doing what needs to be done with joy and detachment.


On a daily level I am a student of what I like to call the “Wisdom Path” and which is known in Zen as “Chop Wood, Carry Water.” I have been influenced by many teachers and many traditions but I am drawn to one  of the most commonly stated ideas in Zen, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” This is a reminder that there is nothing that one must do in life other than the joyous experience of doing what must be done.  With an open awareness of the tasks in our lives they cease to be tasks.  Work is no longer a burden it is simply what needs to be done. What’s the difference between a job and a burden? The tasks may be the same. The need is the same. What about the frame of mind? Who is chopping? Who is carrying water? Who is in joy? Who is bored?


“On the Wisdom Path there is no great benefit to thinking about being disciplined just for the sake of being disciplined.”  You Chop Wood, Carry Water because that is what needs to be done, not because you convince yourself that it needs to be done or that you “should” be joyous while doing it.


The best discipline is not to think about being disciplined. The idea of self control is wonderful but it is seldom something that can be sustained over the time without a deep sense of what “Is.”


This self awareness comes in time through regular meditation practice. When one becomes self aware one begins to become more conscious of what one does, how one acts and how one interacts with other people and environments. For there to be sustainable change from a life of regret, expectation, psychological agony, and short term gratification requires a life where want and need have merged to create an authentic sense of meaning.


This is the key to knowing what needs to be done and doing it.  Here one embraces “discipline” in the service of joy and love. This is what is commonly known in Zen as “Chop Wood, Carry Water.” There is no manual on how to “Chop Wood, Carry Water”. Each person has their own lifestyle, their own unique emotional, physical and spiritual needs. In the early stages of the Wisdom Path we will struggle to do the right thing at the right time all in the service of getting somewhere. However over time Chop Wood, Carry Water will show us the way to do things by doing nothing, and get somewhere by going nowhere. In time, want and need, expectation and regret, who we are and what we do all shift for us as our own sense of self shifts.



Lewis Harrison is a best selling author, radio talk show host, success coach, life strategies mentor and contemporary spiritual teacher specializing in human potential and personal development.  He is creating the “Ask Lewis…” Series of ebooks


He created the “How To Solve Any Problem” a course  is presented in  three levels that teaches focused and practical strategies for solving a multitude of basic and complex problems as well as exploring a wide range of disciplines.



Lewis conducts online trainings and coaching programs as well as residential retreats at the Harrison Center for Personal Development www.TheHarrisonCenter.com.


His most recent book is “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times


You can learn more about Lewis’ work at www.HowToSolveAnyProblem.com




Lewis Harrison is a best selling author, radio talk show host, success coach, life strategies mentor and contemporary spiritual teacher specializing in human potential and personal development.  He is creating the “Ask Lewis…” Series of ebooks


He created the “How To Solve Any Problem” a course  is presented in  three levels that teaches focused and practical strategies for solving a multitude of basic and complex problems as well as exploring a wide range of disciplines.



Lewis conducts online trainings and coaching programs as well as residential retreats at the Harrison Center for Personal Development www.TheHarrisonCenter.com.


His most recent book is “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times


You can learn more about Lewis’ work at www.HowToSolveAnyProblem.com



What is Truth?

Lewis Harrison explores, “You Can’t Handle the Truth”

I awoke about 3:00 am this morning asking myself questions about truth and the distinction between what is truth or fiction? Sometimes this happens – I awake with just a few hours of sleep with some questions bouncing around my head. When this happens, going back to sleep or meditating is a lost cause. The only solution is to “dive” into the question. “is there a naked truth, an undisputed truth?”.

As I thought about the idea of truth that line from the play and movie “A Few Good Men” came I to my mind. The one where Jack Nicholson yells, “You can’t the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

Today Sunday, is a day when many of us express our faith either formally in some house of worship or in some personal way. The idea of faith which is a hope for the truth is closely tied to the idea that one can actually know what is true.


Here are some of my thoughts on this.

It seems that as knowledge and expertise increase, creativity and innovative thinking seem to drop off. There are many reason why this happens but one of the main ones is that once you systematize your world view and the patterns that form out of that a hidden type of arrogance forms where it is hard for a person to believe that they do not know as much about what they think they know and they think they do.

A belief that one knows what is true or “so” is likely to breed arrogance. After all once one achieves expertise in a particular subject, it’s is natural to imagine not knowing what you do. In time one develops a specialized language unique to this level of expertise including various catch phrases, cliché’s and jargon that are foreign to the uninitiated. When it’s time to achieve a specific goal an expert is likely to achieve that goal the way it has always been done effectively. In a corporate environment this is often know as applying “best practices”. Unfortunately the down side of this way of thinking is that it stifles innovation and does not address the issue of new technologies and new ways of thinking

Any innovative thinker is cursed by their knowledge. On one level they can tap into wisdom and knowledge not available to most. On the other hand they can’t even conceive of what it might be like to be as ignorant as the mass of ordinary people.

How does one transcend this dilemma?

To begin with one must create a support system of experts from different disciplines. This can include individuals with highly creative and expansive minds who might even have done work in a related but different field, and who is not in a hierarchal or competitive environment of which you are a part.  You definitely do not want someone in this group who can gain or lose any benefit by agreeing or disagreeing with your ideas.

In this creative environment new types of “common language” that dissolve entrenched and ineffective specialized language will come into being. After all you can’t innovate in a group if everyone is speaking a different abstract language of specialization and expertise.  Part of this support system needs to be creative and artistic individuals whose only purpose is to keep these innovators track. This “outsider factor” forces the group of innovators to observe their reality from a new and different perspective. The result of this is new solutions to old problems and simple solutions to complex problems.

There are some very basic questions that will arise in any field of endeavor that will stump the experts.  Believing that you know the truth who worshipping your own expertise  is one of the great obstacles   to answering these questions

In my exploration of Applied Game Theory and in the Wisdom Path, my term for my daily spiritual practice, it is impossible to know any absolute truth intellectually.  This is not to say that there is no absolute truth, only that there is no way to come to it through a logical, deductive or inductive, left brain stream of thought. Among many great thinkers there is a trilemma (A difficult choice from three options, each of which is, or appears unacceptable or undesirable) .known as The Münchhausen trilemma (named after Baron Münchausen, a German Nobleman who told outrageous stories about his adventures including allegedly pulling himself and the horse on which he was sitting out of a swamp by his own hair).  Also known as Agrippa’s trilemma, this is a term used by philosophers and mathematicians to point out the purported impossibility of proving any truth even in the fields of logic and mathematics.

Imagine that a person states that something is “true”. I may then ask “How do you know that it’s true?” The person may then respond with some proof or evidence that it is in fact true.  Yet that same question can be asked of the fact or proof, and any subsequent proof. As I stated, the Münchhausen trilemma is that there are only three options when providing proof in this situation:.

  • Circular      Arguments – Here a theory and proof support each other (i.e. we repeat      ourselves at some point)
  • Regressive      Arguments – Here each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum ad (i.e.      we just keep giving proofs, presumably forever)
  • Axiomatic      Arguments – Here you must question even that which appears to be obvious,      self evident, unquestionable or based on accepted precepts (i.e. we reach      some bedrock assumption or certainty)

The first two methods of reasoning are essentially flawed. As for the third, many great thinkers going back to the great Taoist and Zen teachers as well as the Greek skeptics have recommended deep questioning of all accepted values. The trilemma, then, is the decision among the three equally unsatisfying options.

Looking at this idea metaphorically as presented by the ancient Greek philosopher Agrippa we must deal to with following obstacles to logical ideas about truth and what is true:

  1. Dissent – The      uncertainty of the rules of common life, and of the opinions of      philosophers.
  2. Progress as ad infinitum      – All proof requires some further proof, and so on to infinity.
  3. Relation – All      things are changed as their relations become changed, or, as we look upon      them from different points of view.
  4. Assumption – The      truth asserted is merely a hypothesis.
  5. Circularity      – The truth asserted involves a vicious circle. Here you would say      something is “so” and then make a justification for it. However even the      justification requires a justification or support.  Thus any proposition of any form       can be endlessly (infinitely) questioned, much like a child asking      “why?” over and over again.


If these ideas get your mental juices flowing you might want to explore the following thinkers and ideas:

*Plato’s Third Man Argument

* Tarski’s Undefinability Theorem

* Godel’s incompleteness theorem

* Any Zen koan





Lewis Harrison is a pioneering speaker, success coach and practical philosopher specializing in human potential and personal development.  He is the creator of the “Ask Lewis…” Series of ebooks.


He created the system known as Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory (LHAGT). This body of work is presented in  a 2,000 page manual offering  effective strategies for solving a multitude of basic and complex problems as well as exploring a wide range of disciplines.



He is the owner of  Events Chair Massage www.Eventschairmassage.com

Lewis conducts online training and coaching programs as well as residential retreats at the Harrison Center for Personal Development www.TheHarrisonCenter.com


His most recent book is “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times

Zen Koans, Quantum Theory and Science

Those who attempt to merge Quantum Theory  with Zen, Taoism, and others Wisdom Paths from a purely superficial level will often fall into the trap of embracing superstition, or some “fluffy” new age idea as truth, while ridiculing scientific thought and logic as rigid and unenlightened.  This is unfortunate because science, when applied appropriately, is a great gift to the seeker of both knowledge and wisdom.
The word, “Science”, from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”, refers to a system of gathering knowledge (research) so specific, that one can correctly predict a reliable outcome consistently. This system -the scientific method -was introduced by Sir Francis Bacon, and it is through his strict definitions that the scientific revolution has come to be what it is today.  It is through Bacon’s definition that the outcomes of research form a scientific body of knowledge.

There is actually a much broader definition for the word “science”. One might also define science as a systematic knowledge, particularly any highly skilled practice, technique, or technology that is capable of resulting in a correct prediction or reliable outcome.  There are different disciplines that fit this definition, including social science, formal science, and natural science.  There are also cross -disciplines between the sciences, an example being biophysics.

Even the three categories I have just named are not rigidly defined, and in fact there are many important thinkers that do not agree with this approach to defining the sciences.  Nonetheless, I began with this approach because I had to begin somewhere, and this approach seemed as reasonable as any other.

1.      Natural Sciences.  These are organized categories of information that involve the study of phenomena or laws of the physical world.  Among the most well-known of the natural sciences are physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and so on.

2.       Formal Sciences.  A “formal science” uses words and terms with very specific definitions (formal language) and combines them with deductive reasoning as a means for creating a system by which some well-formed specific formulas, rules, and codes can be derived from others that are more general.  Within the category of formal science is mathematics, logic, statistics, information theory, and theoretical computer science.  All of these use deductive reasoning, and tell us that if something is true in one game, (a class of things in general) this truth applies to all legitimate players in that game. (Class)  The key, then, is to be able to properly identify players in the game. (Members of the class) Mis-categorizing them will result in invalid conclusions, for example; “He is a vegan.”  This is based on the logic that in the vegan game, (class) a person does not consume foods that contain meat, fish, eggs, poultry, dairy, or any other “animal ingredients.”  Thus, if a person says, “I am a vegan,” we can have a certainty of what he or she means by this, since the meaning of the word “vegan” is very specific.  The power and importance of this approach in science, and certainly in game theory, is that it frees us from the need to examine the eating habits of each and every vegan we ever come across.  Because of the validity of specialized and specific language, combined with the deductive approach, both key elements of formal science, we are able to make an assumption that is useful, efficient, and effective.  Without deep exploration, we can reasonably assume what “I am a vegan” means.

3.      Social Sciences.  The term “social science,” like “game theory,” is an umbrella term for many different games of organized knowledge and information.  Social science games, as I now call them, require that one explores aspects of human society in ways that cannot be easily explained mathematically.  Among the most familiar social sciences are;  anthropology, communication, criminology, cultural studies, developmental studies, economics, history, linguistics, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, social network analysis, social psychology, sociology, and social work.

So there it is, three types of science, organized in a not-so-neat package. I say “not-so-neat” because many important thinkers question where something like computer science even fits the definition of what a science is.  Bacon would have required real-world experiments to come to some conclusion about truth or fact.  Many of the sciences that are based on the definition of a “formal science” lack any real-world experimentation to support their conclusions.

On the Wisdom Path, science becomes a tool for understanding and applying information. Science is not “truth.”  It is just science.  As I began to organize my thoughts into the book you are now reading, I surrendered the need for an empirical basis to prove any one point.  Instead I decided to follow the path of most of the scientists I spoke with, and treat the formal sciences as science, simply because they are extremely important.  In fact, all quantitative sciences – including many of the social sciences such as sociology, psychology, anthropology etc, depend on them.  It may be an ongoing debate as to whether or not any of the formal sciences can be named a true science, but unless one chooses to become a monastic, then the sciences can be invaluable – especially when you come face to face with hierarchies, competition, the need to define goals and priorities in relation to the hundreds of sub-disciplines, sub-categories, and specialized games within games the game of life.

This way of seeing the world is explained effectively in The Kālāma Sutta (also known as the Kālām Sutta.  The Kālāma Sutta  is a discourse of the Buddha contained in the Aṅguttara Nikaya of the Tipiṭaka, and is often cited by students of some Buddhist traditions as the Buddha‘s “charter of free inquiry.”  This means one needs  to respect the use of sound logical reasoning, arguments, and the dialectic principles for inquiries in the practice that relates to the discipline of seeking truth, wisdom, and knowledge, whether it is religious or not.

The Kālāma Sutta is also used to support the concept of applying conservation and balance to one’s Wisdom Practice, especially concerning one’s conduct in practical matters.  In short, the Kālāma Sutta is opposed to blind faith, dogmatism, and belief spawned from faulty reasoning. More consistent with the scientific method than traditional, faith-based religion, the Kālāma Sutta insists on a proper assessment of evidence, rather than a reliance on faith, hearsay, or speculation.


Lewis Harrison is an speaker, consultant, and Contemporary Spiritual Teacher. He is a  pioneer in the personal development movement  The author of nine  self help books on human potential he offers seminar, workshops, retreats and phone based coaching.

He is the author of the Comprehensive book Healing Depression naturally www.HealingDepressionBook.com

He created the course on Life Strategies www.LewisHarrisonsAppliedGameTheory.com  – based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash the Nobel prize winning subject of the biopick “A Beautiful Mind”. Lewis holds regular stress management,  and meditation retreats at his Spa in the Western Catskills. Learn more at Thecatskillsbedandbreakfast.com

His company offers on-site chair massage through www.eventschairmassage.com

Lewis hosts a weekly radio show “What Up” that explore game theory. The show broadcasts Wednesdays and Thursday on WIOX 91.3 FM  – 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM (EST).  The show is also available as an internet stream at the same time period at WIOXRadio.org