Free Will

“The Pilgrims at Emmaus”, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1648.

The conviction in contemporary times of the equality of all men is the central belief that is the inheritance of the Enlightenment philosophy of the 18th century, an ideal represented in Declaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen of 1789, drafted by l’Assemblee Nationale constituting a fundament of the French Revolution. The foundation of the Declaration is itself a classical understanding of the human nature inherited from Greek philosophy and from the transposition of the Scholastic understanding of the political society, nonetheless, with the abandonment of the traditional cosmological basis and the religious center that would provide for its justification. The revolutionary statement that succeeds in putting an end to monarchical regime in France, is an echo which finds its resonance in the Trinitarian motto of the burgeoning Republic: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.

On the last analysis, the democratic system of political government rests on a classical comprehension of the human nature, formed of a spiritual soul of whose duty it is the State’s to provide for the education of its habits and its tastes in society and the instruction of its intellect in learning to the point of rational mastery and mature citizenship. The central truth of Democracy is that the human individual is a person who possesses eminent freedom and is thus endowed with rights deriving from its inalienable nature in freedom of thought, speech, action, activity and profession, and political assembly. In fact, freedom is the human being’s foundational prerogative, the source of his personal autonomy and the cause of moral responsibility, a reality that separates the Homo Sapiens from the other life forms on the Earth, for the former is able with his reason to form notions, concepts, enunciate ideas and elect choices and decisions based on the judgements of his mind, resulting in actions and behaviour that have a moral quality, either good or evil, some laudable or others deplorable – for that fact, the human person is a moral agent.

The evaluation of moral acts is based on the understanding of the free will and of the capacity to exercise that faculty of the human soul. The matter of the free will of the person is not a simple question, it has preoccupied the minds of theorists since the dawn of philosophy, particularly since the emergence of ethics, metaphysics, and of psychology – that is, of the study of the psyche, the rational soul – within the field. The conception of the human nature owes a debt to the thought of Greek philosophy which considers the human individual as a rational animal, a material substance moved with an immaterial form that endows him with the faculties of reason and of free will, of the passions that pace the heart and the thoughts that animate the mind; consequently, man stands apart from Creation as a witness to a principle that transcends matter and elevates the animal life to the realm of spirituality, itself the explanation for the achievements of humanity: art, music, engineering, technology, science, religion, literature, or even in the deleterious effects of war and injustice. Because the human creature is an animal it is in some sense, conditioned by its natural environment and by its economic activity which influence its very cognition, a reality that is evident in the apparition of race, the physical limitations and the constraints placed by climate and nature on human culture, and the fact that culture itself, race, and ethnicity tend to determine habit, activity, custom, and even moral choice and thought, in a definite way; the result, is the creation of a certain type of human soul, or at least, of human blood which forms the character of the individual and of the society. Reason is a cause of change and is manifest in the psychological life which can alter the existence of the person and direct the destiny of a peoples in a different direction; the rational faculty is evident in the genius, whose intelligence can present novel ideas and expand the mind of a community of persons, enabling for a new comprehension of reality, for in the labor of thought, man fulfills the demands of his humanity and realizes the organization of a society whether in the travail of the scientist and thinker, or the inspiration of the political reformer, or even in the vision of the religious founder.

The ordinary acceptation is that the human being is a person that acts as a moral agent in the fact that he has the capacity to pose decisions in the possession of reason and in complete deliberation, in consequences of which there is the possibility of praise and blame, in that sense, of responsibility and of accountability. The human being, is inherently free in the life of society and his communal relations contribute to the exercise of his faculties and the development of his moral autonomy. Society appears to determine human freedom as economic class, age, race, ethnicity and religious affiliation can be an indication of behaviour notwithstanding common attempts at the provision of education and the acculturation in social mores and customs and the political habits that are the heritage of the community of persons. Owing to a similarity in education and economic origin, a certain person may display traits in common with another person in similar habits of consumption, of political affiliation, religious belief, and general tastes. It seems that in many respects, children are the product of their tutelage, for religious beliefs and a certain conception of reality tend to be an inculcation of parenting – atheism arises often as a result of an inheritance from parents, or due to a process of rebellion that takes place during adulthood; the life of religion is usually learned from the family unit; divorce which is a particular scourge of post-modern times, is a learned behaviour and offspring have the tendency to repeat the actions of their progenitors in their marital relations, ending in turn in divorce; from socio-economic conditions of poverty and destitution, crime and the consumption of drugs arises in certain milieus; in fact, socio-economic segregation according to race is a reality in the United States, a fact that destines thousands of young Americans to prison every year depending on their color. Culture determines the attitude of the person towards existence itself, and the belief of the individual living under Communist regime in difficult material conditions is one that considers the totalitarian nation as the final end of his activity, and the only true benefactor, standing quite different from the worldview of the one that lives under the Democratic regime of the secular State with its amorphous Liberal creed of freedom, equality, and prosperity. In reality, it is certain that there exists no infallible law of predictive behaviour that is applicable to each individual, for every human mind is different, being the possessor of its own unicity and its genius which in the end, dictate his future very often in co-operation with external circumstances – for it can be acknowledged that man is rarely and fully the master of his own destiny, as he is not the elector of his origin, his upbringing, and of his animal constitution and his psychological endowment; in freedom, however, he responds to the events of his life and adapts to his environment.

Liberalism presents the attempt to elevate human autonomy and affirm human liberty, yet, scientific materialism is a definite denial of free will and a rejection of its necessary reality. The tradition of political rights inherited from the Enlightenment, repose on an agreement on the principle of self-motion and moral autonomy, a contradiction of the subsequent elaboration of the human nature on which Darwinian materialism rests: the realization that the human person is not the apogee of Creation, standing apart from the other animal forms and life beings, and that in truth, there exists no definite human nature, but rather, a human existence in progressive evolution that continually creates itself in response to its environment and conflict, and as a result of chance and mutation, governed by natural laws that are amoral, purposeless, and determined by the inherent logic of matter, yet, are creative and demonstrate design. A tension therefore exists due to the preceding conditions, visible in the scientific attempt to reduce the religious belief to a rational superstition that is no longer compatible with the present state of affairs, and the religious campaign against the diffused atheism of the intellectual elitism and the secularity of the political arm. Determinism, the position that reality is subject to immutable physical laws that rule the orbits of the planets, the motion of the stars, the natural habits of the diverse life forms, and alike the movements of the human soul, directs the universe as a system to an ineluctable end which can be discovered in the changes in material constitution, that is, in atoms and sub-atomic particles, a succession of cause and effect that in fact causes the entirety to act in a pre-determined manner under pre-determined conditions; seems an inescapable law as empirical science in its remarkable power has the capacity to predict natural phenomena such as the climate, the course of the seasons, and the movement of the seas, and the ability to alter them and to modify them according to its needs. Within this system, is man, the testator of a transcendent principle immanent within the visible world, that grants him dignity, infuses value and meaning into life, and offers reason and freedom. Often, the creature is at the mercy of personal influence and of impersonal forces, from society, political power, and Capitalistic interest, to the very forces of nature that incline towards iniquity, misery, and conflict, and result in the conclusion: “I am not free.”

The Christian religion presupposes free will, being in itself a theology of history, and a revelation of Divine Personality, as a fruit of a Trinitarian operation, a Divine Person is incarnate of a Virginal Womb and weds the human nature, assuming it to the dignity of Divine Glory. The baptized Christian is stated to be redeemed, meaning that, a freedom from sin is realized in the erasure of Original Sin through the infusion of supernatural grace in the waters of Baptism; in this sacrament, human freedom is restored as the human principle – the soul – is presented sanctified life and the spirit is animated with Charity. Freedom is strengthened with the Bread of the Angels, that is Purity and Intelligence, and whose sacred adoration – the adoration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – protects from evil, dispels darkness, and consecrates human flesh towards the glory of the Resurrection, the realization of an Eternal Banquet of a Lamb, “standing as it were slain” (Rev 5:6), in a myocardial fusion of human will with Divine Will, and of human blood with Divine Redeeming blood; in short, a Eucharistic transformation. The spiritual liberty of the saint is restored in the luminous chrism of Pentecost, that presents an intellectual Enlightenment, a fiery Confirmation in Wisdom that liberates the adoring believer from the constraints of material existence, endowed with the virtue to operate the supranormal, the suprahuman, and the miraculous in the possession of manifold Grace birthing Teachers, Doctors, Prophets, Healers, Saints, Martyrs, and Apostles of the Faith. The sacramental life, the visible vessel of invisible Grace, in truth, operates a divinization of the human person, granting him the relative form of the adopted sons of God, of the inhabitants of Heaven, whose motion is Love, who intellectual light is Reason, and whose desire is Goodness, constituting the creature as a demi-god granted the capacity to invincibly attract the Eternal Word from the Throne of the Divinity with its fiat, an act in the Immaculate, that at the fullness of Time merits the Incarnation of a God, the Son of God, a grace for a humanity made acceptable to behold the Created Face of the Redeemer, and within Time offers a novel Intermediate Coming of Jesus, presenting in the Eucharist His adorable Kiss, culminating in the final Revelation of the King, at the Last Judgement for the coronation of the Messiah and the justification of the poetic Story. The believer is eminently free, for he is invested with the Freedom of the Christ, in the consummation of the Sacrament, a reality that is certainly evident in the affirmation of human free will that is achieved in the co-operation to the motions of Divine Grace; indeed, the reception of grace elevates the human being to the realm supernatural and presupposes freedom, for the act of the faith in the Messiah assented to by the person or in his name by the parents, necessitates an agent that is liberated from compulsion, that poses in full knowledge, and who is able to elect a decision in full responsibility.

Free will is a Divine gift to the human creature, a possession that renders the person an image of the Divinity. It is a faculty that, however, demands to be perfected through Time, that is, throughout the pilgrimage of the Earthly existence towards Heaven and the afterlife and whose term is Love, the perfect communion with the Holy Trinity in the Light that is the Empyrean in the blessedness of the Angels and of the Saints. The human person is the special product of the creation of the Omnipotent God: from the mud of the Earth, the body was formed; then, the soul, a particle of the Infinite, was breathed onto the made-living body, resulting in a composite substance of animal life animated by a spiritual principle. Since the emergence of philosophism, that inclination towards philosophical investigations that in the end negate truth and deny nature, Christian cultures have continually put into question the reality of human freedom. The central question is whether man is the possessor of metaphysical free will, of a libre arbitre that renders him able to change the human condition and affect his destiny against the pressures of his milieu and the constraints of his environment; for in truth, the human being is a social animal endowed with reason and with speech, whose life on Earth is a consequence of conditioning and as such is subject to determined forces above which there appears to be no control. Modern psychology reveals this situation by exposing the effect that society has on the human psyche and also by demonstrating the Trinitarian constitution of the self constituted of the id, the ego, and the super-ego, which in Freudian theory divide the soul and manifest a free will driven by unconscious forces whose causes are found in repressed sexual tension. In essence, in the science of Sigmund Freud, the human person is a sexual animal in whom authentic free will disappears behind Frankensteinian unresolved impulses. In the last analysis, human freedom is as the mercy of biology and of society, of culture and of climate, of environment and of nature determined by genetic inheritance; it is the sempiternal question of nature against nurture, in which biological inheritance or moral education compete to form human personality in the miserable struggle that is the survival of the fittest, a loi de la jungle, in which the individual is moulded by impersonal forces and hostile powers that serve only private preference, economic interest and special consideration over a numerical calculus that is oblivious to personhood and annuls freedom in determinism. Carpe diem is the hedonistic affirmation of pleasured will before the enjoyment of life, a defiant cry put to silence by the monstrous logic of scientific reductionism that conceives man solely as a unity of matter, a collection of atoms moved by the organ of the brain that educes meaning and reason out of neurochemistry, and order and organization out of chaos and disorder, it is the myth of autogenesis, of a self-forming chaos moved by deterministic laws that continually produces novel perfect forms from the creative genius of biological mutation and the transforming power of logical natural laws, in truth, laws that are the result of chance for it is possible in this regard to conceive of a universe evolved within different laws of physics which would serve as its foundation. When naturalism, idealism, and biological determinism are followed in their thought to their logical end, it is certain that free will appears as a myth, an illusion that endures due to a residue of Judeo-Christian spiritual belief and of a classical notion of human nature which before the evidence of scientific fact can no longer be provided rational justification.

In reality, free will remains a mystery for man himself. It reveals the mystery of man’s finitude and of his inherent questioning before the misery of his existence; in the face of the existence of God, the question that man is posed with, is the personal weight of the self, the I, the ego that is the source of his autonomy before existence, of his constant questioning, his search for meaning – evident in the life of religion, science and philosophy – wisdom and happiness, and of that moral responsibility for self-determination, that process of affirmation that is at the heart of sentient life itself, and of rational agency. The human creature is a self, a soul, that is, it is eminently free, responsible, yet limited and contingent. At the heart of this mystery, is revealed in fact, primeval evil, that dark genesis according to which, the deformation of the Divine Plan and Order takes its origin, in the primordial “non serviam” of the angelic defiance is revealed a tragic attempt: that of finite creation, which is finite being that seeks to create Infinite Light, that is a primal force for entropy, the disorder of freedom and the uncertainty of material direction incarnate in Time; it manifests itself in the auto-determination of contingent existence. Self-determination governed by the primordial poles of positive forces and negative forces rationally present and spiritually extant within creaturely freedom, is a necessary condition of the finitude of the created being before the Immensity of its Creator posed with the essential question of the finality of its existence: “Would you adore Perfect Beauty?”. However, it leads in the primal test that is the labor of confirmation in Goodness to an auto-determination that attempts to create the self apart from the motion of Divine Grace, and thereby, manipulate Light, create Light, and form Light into a dark sun that presents a false Enlightenment.

The Christian religion is the guardian of authentic humanism, of that ecology of man that respects the creature in his animal substance, in his moral formation, and in his spiritual dimension, in fact, in the totality of the human being – the person. It is an anthropology that takes its origin in the self-revelation of God within History, the prime protagonist of human events who directs Time towards its purposeful end realized in the Second Coming at the time of the Last Judgement. In the Christian theological conception, freedom is human, at once social, cultural, historical and moral and spiritual, found in the interaction of a composite of factors that find their source in the rational soul that is the reason for the image and the resemblance of God found in man. In the human spirit, free will is liberated from the constraints of matter, removed from the considerations of biology, illumined by a pure and lucid intellect, in a reason that judges rational end according to Divine Wisdom and is consecrated to the Truth in a spirit of Eucharistic adoration, begetting an adoptive sonship, a divinized creature that is rendered able to impose Divine Reason on human reason, and effect the Divine Will on the human will, introduce a new spiritual infusion, a new Dispensation of Light incarnate in the saintly life that can change the movements of the human hearts and direct History towards its supernatural end, the finality of Eternity that completes human freedom and perfects human reason.

A freedom that is conditioned by the past, lived in the present situation, and yet, able to form the future; free will, is itself an extension of Time in the rational soul whose movement is the metaphysical hope that participates of the common act of being that is present within Creation itself. Freedom, is the perfection of Time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s