872. We may summarize the question of free will as follows. Human beings are not inevitably led into evil. Their acts are not predestined and the crimes they commit are not the result of any sort of destiny. They may have chosen, as a trial and form of repentance, a life in which they will be tempted to do wrong, either because of the surroundings in which they are placed, or through circumstances that occur, but they always have their free will in determining their actions. Spirits therefore exercise free will in the spirit life by choosing their next life and trials to complete and human beings exercise free will by leveraging their power of yielding to or resisting the temptations to which they have voluntarily subjected themselves. The purpose of education is to fight these wicked propensities – a duty that it will only be able to fulfill thoroughly when it is based on a deeper and truer knowledge of the moral nature of human beings. By knowing the laws governing the moral nature of humankind, we can modify it, as we already modify intelligence by education and physical health by hygiene.
Every spirit chooses its future physical life according to its degree of purification at the time they are wandering and free from matter. The spirit is free to make this choice, as we have previously pointed out, based on its free will. This free will is not lost through incarnation. If an incarnate spirit yields to the influence of matter, it succumbs in the trials it has chosen for itself. However, the spirit can call out for God’s guidance and the support of good spirits for strength and assistance. (See no. 337)
Without free will, there would be neither guilt in doing wrong, nor merit in doing right. This concept is so well recognized that the world always assigns blame or praise of any deed to the intention, that is, the will of the person committing the act, with will simply being another word for freedom. People could not blame their wrongs on their bodies without abandoning their reason and condition as human beings, which would place them on the same level as wild animals. If they could do so with regard to what is wrong, they would have to do the same for what is right. Whenever individuals do right, they claim this merit and would never think of attributing it to their bodies, which proves that they instinctively refuse to renounce the most remarkable privilege of their species, the freedom of thought.
Fatalism, as commonly understood, assumes a prior and binding predestination of all the events of human life, regardless of their importance. If this were true, people would be machines without a will of their own. What would be the purpose of intelligence, if it were always overruled in all its action by the power of destiny? This destroys any sense of moral freedom. There would be no such thing as human accountability, and consequently there would be no distinction between good and evil, or virtue and crime. God, who is supremely just, could not punish people for faults that they were forced to commit, nor could they be rewarded for virtues that they do not merit. This would contradict the law of progress because humans would not be motivated to improve their position since their actions could make it neither better nor worse.
Fatalism, however, is not a meaningless word. It really exists with regard to the position held by all human beings on Earth and the roles they fill. Fatalism is a consequence of the type of existence their spirits chose as a trial, repentance, or mission. They are subjected to the digressions of the life they have chosen, in addition to all the intrinsic temptations, good or bad. This is where fatalism ends, because human will determines if they yield to those temptations or not. The details of events depend on the circumstances that human beings cause by their actions, and they may be influenced by the good or bad thoughts suggested by spirits. (See no. 459)
Therefore, fatalism exists in the events that occur, because they are the consequence of the choice made by our spirit in what type of existence to live. However, there can be no fatalism in the results of those events, because human beings can often modify their results by using their own judgment. Therefore, there is no fatalism with regard to the acts of our moral life.
People are victims of an absolute and inescapable destiny only at the time of death. They can neither avoid the fate determining the length of their lives, nor avoid the kind of death that is destined for them.
According to common belief, human beings derive all their instincts from themselves. These instincts proceed from their physical bodies, for which they are not responsible, or from their own nature, which would provide them with an equally valid excuse for their imperfections. If such were the case, they could rightly claim that it is through no choice of their own that they are what they are. Spiritism is more moral. It admits the free will for humans in all its fullness and, in telling them that they yield to a vile suggestion made by another spirit when they do wrong, it makes them fully accountable for their actions. It recognizes their ability to resist contemptible suggestions, which is easier than fighting their inherent nature. Accordingly, Spiritist theory dictates that no temptation is irresistible. People can always ignore the invisible voice addressing their inner consciousness, just as easily as they can ignore a human voice. They can always withdraw from the suggestions tempting them to do wrong by exerting their will against the temptation. They can ask God to give them the necessary strength, and call out to good spirits for help. This is what Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer when he told us to recite, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
This theory of the cause of human action is the natural conclusion of all the teachings the spirits offer now. It is not only sublime in terms of morality; it also greatly enhances the self-respect of human beings. It shows them that they are as free to escape the shackles of an obsessor, as they are to close the doors to their houses to unwelcome intrusions. They are not machines, powered by an impulse that is independent of their will, rather, they are beings capable of reasoning, and possess the power to listen, to compare, and to choose freely between two different suggestions or recommendations. We should add that individuals are not deprived of their initiative when receiving advice. What they do is of their own volition because they are still spirits, although incarnated in a physical envelope, and as human beings, they still maintain the good and bad qualities they possessed as spirits. The faults that we commit are rooted in the imperfection of our spirit, which has not yet developed the moral superiority it will acquire over the course of time. Despite this fact, the spirit is still in full possession of its free will. The purpose of corporeal life is to purge all the imperfections of our spirit through the trials we endure. It is precisely these imperfections that weaken us and make us vulnerable to the influence of imperfect spirits. They take advantage of our weakness when they try to make us fail in our tasks. If we are victorious in the struggle, our spirit is elevated, if we fail, our spirit remains, as it was no better and no worse. However, the unsuccessful attempt will give way to a new attempt, which is a repetition of the same trial that may delay our advancement for a very long period. As we improve, our weakness diminishes and we give less and less power to those who would tempt us to wrongdoing. As our moral strength increases constantly, low-order spirits cease to act upon us.
All incarnate spirits, whether good or bad, make up the human race. As our planet is one of the most backward worlds in the universe, there are more bad spirits than good spirits, and perversity is widespread. We must do our utmost not to have to return to this world after our present sojourn and to deserve admission into a higher world, one of those privileged worlds, where goodness reigns, and where, once we get there, our time in this lower world will only be a brief, vague memory.