We generally jump to extremes in our way of looking at things from our normal, mental viewpoint. Thus, we either want to accept that everything is absolutely determined and thus, every move we make, every action, every reaction, is choreographed down to the slightest detail; or else, we want to believe that we are totally free and independent and we are basically “self made” in our decisions and actions. The reality however is somewhat more complicated than this view. The Bible claims that God attends to the fate of each bird in the field, which implies some kind of micro-management of all activities. This is an example of a belief in absolute determinism. There are others who say that either there is no God or that “God is dead”, implying that we are totally free and unhindered in making whatever free decision we like. Even those who do not acknowledge the existence of some overarching attendant power working out each detail of our lives, may still accept the idea of a chain of cause and effect, Karma, or ‘dependent origination’.
That said, the science of mathematics and, in particular, statistical analysis and the development of the fields of psychology, sociology and social psychology can lead us to a more nuanced understanding of how things occur. These disciplines show that individuals exercising what they believe to be their ‘free will’ actually wind up creating patterns that are able to be both predicted and mapped when there is a large enough “sample” to capture a suitably large population of ‘decision makers’. This is the famous “bell shaped curve” that plots the results in such a way that one can see that the “big picture” direction is carried out, while there are still ‘outliers’ both below and above the primary distribution of results, all of which remains predictable as to the ‘big picture’, while each individual is essentially left ‘free’. Of course, this freedom is also conditioned by the chain of cause and effect, so the actual implementation of free will is a minor aspect of the larger picture; yet, the aspect of free will remains a possibility. The higher one climbs in the ladder of consciousness, the more flexibility and free will is evidenced. Eventually, at the realms of the cosmic Spirit that controls and directs the conscious development of the universal manifestation, the exercise of free will comes to its true fruition.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “The universal forces move by their own force and the consciousness within them — but there is also the Cosmic Spirit who supports them and determines by his outlook and disposing will their play — although the direct action is left to the forces — it is the play of universal Prakriti with the universal Purusha watching behind it. In the individual also there is the individual Purusha who can, if he wills, not merely assent to the play of Prakriti, but accept or reject or will for its change. All that is in the play itself as we see it here. There is something above — but the action of that is an intervention rather than a moment to moment control; it can become a constant direct control only when one replaces the play of the forces by the government of the Divine.”
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 1 Life Through the Eyes of the Yogin, pp. 24-25

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky 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.
YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/@santoshkrinsky871
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at http://www.aurobindo.net
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at http://www.lotuspress.com