I think about Sam Harris’ book “Free Will” a lot. When it comes to moments in my life which do not sit well with me I often reflect if whether these things were bound to happen due to a combination of events which came before it and which I had no control over. When I was facing a fork in the road could I have simply ignored that impulse to go the way I did, and instead go the other way? If I had, would it have mattered?
For this post I am going to take some of the things Harris brings up in “Free Will” and apply them to my book “The Gospel of the Rauschmonstrum.”
The Rauschmonstrum’s Free Will
As “The Gospel of the Rauschmonstrum” points out at the start of the story the Rauschmonstrum is alone. He has been thrown into this world with no sense of where he came from. He has no family and there are no creatures resembling him. Immortal, he has no better way to occupy the time but to wander the Earth. The thing which interests him the most is observing humans. Although he has a genuine interest in them, he also despises them due to the flaws in their nature. It is for this reason he decides to play a trick on Jesus of Nazareth to make him think he is the son of God, putting the events into place which lead to the establishment of Christianity, and the consequences thereof.
However, were the Rauschmonstrum’s actions voluntary? Did he have free will? He took lots of time to put his plan into action, but did he have a choice to make these plans? Was it simply something bund to happen out of a combination of the experiences ol’ Rausch had had up to that point along with the thoughts which appeared in his mind? If these were the only variables in play I would say he does not have free will. However, there is more. Later on in the story when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Rauschmonstrum considers everything he has done to this point and has second thoughts about leading Jesus off to his doom. He considers changing course and allowing Jesus to live on, unburdened of his delusion he is the son of God. If somebody takes opportunities to reflect on what they have been doing, and consider changing before going right back to what they are doing is this not a utilization of free will? I would say yes it is.
Then again, there are aspects about the Rauschmonstrum which make things all the more complex, in that he has the power to do just about anything. (Shape shifting, making things appear and disappear, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc.) Humans have limitations to what they can do and this limits their ability to do as they want. The Rauschmonstrum does not have this problem. I think this only strengthens the case for him possessing free will.
Jesus’ Free Will
In “The Gospel of the Rauschmonstrum” Jesus is just plain duped by the Rauschmonstrum. Ol’ Rausch appealed to false conceptions Jesus already had about himself and reinforced these beliefs again and again and again. How would Jesus have been able to break away from the Rauschmonstrum’s puppeteer strings and live out his life in a different way? The only way would have been for the Rauschmonstrum to change his mind about what he was doing to Jesus, and stop. Since this means Jesus’ behavior was directly dependent on another being’s decision there is no way Jesus possesses free will in “The Gospel of the Rauschmonstrum.”
In the future I’ll probably make a post about the version of Jesus presented in the Gospels and examine whether that character possesses free will.