A Big Mac OR A Quarter Pounder?- A Spiritual Understanding Of Free Will.

Imagine you are waiting in line at McDonald’s and trying to decide on a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder. When you reach the front of the line, you decide on the Big Mac. Did you choose freely from these two options? Or was your choice made for you by external factors like your genes, upbringing, and prior experiences. Albert Einstein asserted that every decision we make is a product of prior causes. French philosopher Jean Paul Satre asserted that at each choice point in life we are free to make different decisions. In between these extremes is the view that we have limited or partial free will.

Most of us are not interested in debating whether free will exists. However, most of us are interested in living a comfortable life and making wise choices. A new understanding of free will asserts that via a sufficient understanding of three spiritual principles, we can realize the power of free thought and free will and use it to avoid chronic mental stress, experience more well-being, and make wiser life choices. 

The Principles Behind Our Psychological Lives

Principles—fundamental truths, laws, or facts of nature—account for the operation of every system (e.g., ecological, mechanical, physiological). The principles behind these systems are constantly operating, whether we realize it or not. These principles are impersonal. For example, it is of no consequence to the principles behind electricity if a person doesn’t understand them, touches a frayed wire, and gets electrocuted. The same logic applies to the principles that operate our psychological system. When we have a sufficient understanding of these principles, we can use them in our best interest, realize our power of free thought and free will and use it to experience more well-being, and make wiser life choices. On the other hand, when we have an insufficient understanding of these principles, we can misuse them, cover over our power of free thought and free will, experience chronic mental stress, and make foolish choices. 

In 1973, Sydney Banks experienced a “spontaneous spiritual transformation” during which he realized that three spiritual principles account for everyone’s psychological experiences. Banks used the concepts of Universal Mind, Consciousness, and Thought as metaphors to point to these Principles. 

Universal Mind

Banks saw Universal Mind as the intelligent formless energy that powers all life… a life force energy that enlivens, runs, and organizes the functioning of our body as well as our mind. Universal Mind powers the other two Principles— Consciousness and Thought—that we all use to create our psychological experiences. Banks stated:

“There is only one Universal Mind common to all, and wherever you are it is with you always… constant and unchangeable… All humans can synchronize their personal mind with the impersonal Mind to bring harmony into their lives.”


Banks referred to Consciousness as our power to be conscious, to take in life, to have experience and be aware of that experience… the gift of awareness that allows us to see creation… that enables us to observe and experience the existence and the workings of the world we live in.

Consciousness enlivens our thoughts through our senses and makes our psychological experiences—our feelings, perceptions, states of mind, symptoms—appear real to us from the “inside-out.”


Banks (1998) referred to Thought as the creative agent we use to direct us through life… the power we use to create our thoughts in the first place and make meaning of those thoughts with other thoughts. Banks (1998) said:

… there would be no reality without Consciousness and Thought… Consciousness gives our five senses the ability to react to life: our seeing, our smelling, our touching…This is what brings it all to life. But it can’t come in by itself. It must have a thought… Our thoughts in turn create our character, our behavior, and the behavior of all humanity.

Free Thought & Free Will

Banks asserted further that we all have the power of free thought and free will. That we are either operating from free thought and free will or, like clouds covering the sun, we are covering over this power with our “egos”—our conditioned personal thoughts we misguidedly believe are “absolute truths.” Fortunately, we have a built-in barometer— our feelings —that signals us when we are operating from free thought and free will or obscuring this power with our believed personal thoughts. In the same way that physical pain alerts us to a physical health issue, psychological pain alerts us to a mental health issue—that we are misusing the principles and covering over our free thought and free will. By using the signal of a discomforting feeling to discern that our thoughts are not serving us well, we can avoid re-thinking those thoughts, allow them to pass through, and fresh, healthier thoughts to surface. People have varying levels of understanding of the way the psychological system works— that everyone’s psychological experiences are created from the “inside-out” via their use of the principles of Universal Mind, Consciousness, and Thought, that free thought and free will lie within everyone’s consciousness and manifest whenever the personal mind quiets down, that everyone feels their thoughts and their feelings inform them when they are operating from free thought and free will or obscuring this creative power.

No one has a choice about the thoughts that enter their mind. However, we all have a say, about how we relate to our thoughts. With a sufficient understanding of the principles that operate the psychological system, we can choose freely the way we relate to the manifestations of the system (e.g., thoughts, feelings, perceptions, states of mind)—whether we take these experiences to heart or allow them to pass through.

At a high level of understanding of the principles, we realize that “we are the thinker”—the creators of our psychological lives. Then, our use of the principles improves—particularly our use of the power of Thought. In turn, our choices become aligned more often with free thought and free will—a formless intelligence that breaks through to assist us when our personal mind, or ego, quiets down. When our personal minds are open to and aligned with this formless intelligence, we access fresh, healthier thoughts.

As we come to count on the power of free thought and free will to guide us, we gain confidence that we “know” how to handle life. Our circumstances have less power over us. We realize our power to look away from our personal, often insecure thoughts, allow our personal mind to quiet down, and fresh, wiser thoughts to surface. The moment we realize we are hurting ourselves with our own thoughts we naturally default to “the now.” Banks stated: “When… people refer to the now, they mean the personal mind is free from the contaminants of yesterday’s memories and fears. This in turn frees the mind to see with clarity things as they are, not through distorted memories and apprehensions.”

At even higher levels of understanding, we realize the illusion of concepts. In turn, our mental quietude increases, and we become more predisposed to fall into a space free from the influence of concepts— a space of pure consciousness or Spirit . Banks (2010) stated: “You have to go beyond concepts, and you will find it in the stillness of your mind. When you go from the known to the unknown, from the physical to the spiritual, when you hear from beyond words an inner light goes on, and it brings out inner knowledge and wisdom, inner spiritual intelligence before the contamination of human thought.”


Banks, S. (1998). The missing link. Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine.
Banks, S. (2001). The enlightened gardener. Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine.
Banks, S. (2005).   The enlightened gardener revisited.   Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine.
Banks, S. (2010). The great illusion.   Long Beach lectures.   (Video) Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine.
Bettinger, D. & Swerdloff, N. (2020).   Coming home: Uncovering the foundations of psychological well-being.
Kelley, T. M. (2022).Upside-down & Backwards: The innocent failure of mainstream psychology. St. Pete, FL: Transcendent Publishing
Pranksy, J. (2011).   Somebody should have told us! Simple truths for living well.   British Columbia, CA: CCB Publishing

Thomas M. Kelley, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Criminology & Criminal Justice
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202
& Michigan Licensed Psychologist
248-227-1757 (cell), Email: aa5216@wayne.edu

Dicken Bettinger, Ed.D.
Licensed Psychologist, (retired)
Psychological Educator
360-466-5026 (cell), dicken.bettinger@gmail.com
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