There is a third factor that intervenes in the debate about free will and determinism and that is ‘random chance’. In that concept, there is basically no plan, no framework and no way to manage or control events, which thus can occur through random occurrences with no predetermined end. Both the notion of free will and determinism are overturned according to this conception. One can exercise free will, but it comes to naught as chance intervenes and defeats one’s will. One can believe in determinism, but chance again breaks down any predetermined patterns.

With a deeper examination, it becomes obvious that the complex interactions and play of forces we observe in the development of the world, our society, our own lives is clearly not due to random chance. Chance adds in the factor that we frequently forget about, that there are forces unseen by us and unforeseen in the event, that may modify, change or overturn an established pattern of activity or development. The limitation is in our ability to see and understand, not the working of the larger forces themselves, which were there and carrying out their action along their own lines of action.

We can see numerous examples in terms of the economic development of human civilisation. Industries that flourished in one age were destroyed in the next period by new technologies, unseen and unforeseen, arising to provide a better and more effective solution to the immediate issues at hand. Thus we notice major disruptions in the shift from a mechanical industrial activity to a digital form and businesses and jobs dependent on the older form disappear while new ones arise. There is a play of forces here that effectuates change in a large framework, while individual effort and initiative may prosper or fail within that frame. It is not a matter of chance, as it follows lines of development that can be seen from a new perspective that can understand the patterns as they emerge.

On the other side, there may be unintended consequences of certain activities, such as the impact of climate change due to human activity that leads to a warming of the planet. As a consequence of the forces at work, disease vectors gain new areas for action, certain regions are subjected to intense droughts, or severe flooding, or enhanced power of storms, or increasing levels of heat or cold as the patterns change. The ocean food chains may collapse as warming waters change the life-environment in the seas. Ocean circulation patterns are changed, and potentially disrupted and major consequences can ensue. This represents a play of forces which we can identify in our world today!

As these things become obvious, we begin to research ways to modify and mitigate the impacts, we develop new ways of dealing with our life needs and potentially can find solutions that advance the development of human civilisation while reducing or eliminating the negative side effects. The crisis brings an opportunity and as we respond to the opportunity new powers of awareness and forces of action are developed. In some cases, the issues are so extreme and outside the scope of the human intellect, and it then becomes necessary to shift to a next level of consciousness which has the requisite scope, viewpoint and powers of action needed to resolve the crisis.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “I have not said that everything is rigidly predetermined. Play of forces does not mean that. What I said was that behind visible events in the world there is always a mass of invisible forces at work unknown to the outward minds of men, and by yoga, (by going inward and establishing a conscious connection with the Cosmic Self and Force and forces,) one can become conscious of these forces, intervene consciously in the play, and to some extent at least determine things in the result of the play. All that has nothing to do with predetermination. On the contrary, one watches how things develop and gives a push here and a push there when possible or when needed. There is nothing in all that to contradict the dictum of the great scientist Sir C.V. Raman. Raman said once that all these scientific discoveries are only games of chance. Only, when he says that scientific discoveries are games of chance, he is merely saying that human beings don’t know how it works out. It is not rigid predetermination, but it is not a blind inconscient Chance either. It is a play in which there is a working out of the possibilities in Time.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 1 Life Through the Eyes of the Yogin, pp. 7-8

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 20 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at