Scientists and psychologists have debated free will for many years; especially since Darwin wrote “The Origin of The Species.” The argument centers on nature versus nurture; which of these influences our actions more, genetics or environment and upbringing? Steven Cave in his June 2016 Atlantic article, There is no Such Thing as Free Will, presents both sides of the argument. First he describes what happen in experiments when people are nudged to believe they have no free will (determinism). They do not take responsibility for their actions; “my genes made me do it etc.” He draws on Sam Harris’s 2012 book ”Free Will,” to discuss the argument for determinism, and Bruce Wallers, “Restorative Free Will,” for a mitigating if not opposing argument. I cite this article to point out that the long-time debate regarding free will has, within the last twenty years or so, favored determinism. Determinism is contrary to what Jesus teaches in ACIM.
Many sociology/psychology experiments focus on small samples with unique made up procedures to test subjects (often college students) reactions to issues. Brain scans showing pre-movement neural activity show volition of physical decisions; not mindful decision, such as whether I choose to help someone who is suffering or to ignore them. Scientists have no way to examine spirit, which from Course viewpoint is mind, as we see from this excerpt.
The term [mind] is used to represent the activating agent of spirit, supplying its creative energy. [C.I.1]
What does ACIM teach us about free will? Hers is one clear example.
I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked. [T-21.II.2.3-4]
The important word in this passage is, “I.” It is important though, to notice that it speaks about actions of our mind. Thus we cause of our behavior here in the separation. Further, the Course teaches that our mind is split between the right mind, which listens to the Holy Spirit, and the wrong mind which listens to the ego. With free will we choose between the right and wrong mind. We can do that in the separation but not in the reality of Heaven.
Here are two definitions of free will from Ken Wapnick’s Glossary Index for ACIM(2nd Ed).
Free will (1)
exists only in the illusory world of perception, where it appears that the son of God has the power to separate himself from God: since on the perceptual level we choose to be separate, we can also choose to change our minds; this freedom of choice ─ between wrong– and right– mindedness ─ is the only one possible choice in this world; in the non-dualistic state of Heaven’s oneness, choosing cannot exist, and therefore free will as it is usually understood in meaningless in reality. (my emphasis)
Free will (2)
an aspect of our free will within the illusion: we are free to believe what reality is, but since reality was created by God we are not free to change it in any way; our thoughts do not reflect reality, but do affect what we believe and experience to be reality. [the separation] (my emphasis)
Here are some passages from ACIM regarding free will.
From The Teachers Manual #19 What is Justice.
Pray for God’s justice, and do not confuse His mercy with your own insanity. Perception can make whatever picture the mind desires to see. Remember this. In this lies either Heaven or hell, as you elect. (my emphasis) [M-19.5.1-4]
From T-8 The Journey Back, part VIII. The Body as Means and End
The Holy Spirit’s Voice is as loud as your willingness to listen. It cannot be louder without violating your freedom of choice, which the Holy Spirit seeks to restore, never to undermine. [T-8.VIII.8.8] (my emphasis)
From T-11 God or The Ego, part II. The Invitation To Healing
Would you be hostage to the ego or host to God? You will accept only whom you invite. You are free to determine who shall be your guest, and how long he shall remain with you. [T-11.II.7] (my emphasis)
From C-1. MIND–SPIRIT, Parts 5,6, and 7.
5. The mind can be right or wrong, depending on the voice to which it listens. [Right-mindedness] listens to the Holy Spirit, forgives the world, and through Christ’s vision sees the real world in its place.
6. [Wrong-mindedness] listens to the ego and makes illusions; perceiving sin and justifying anger, and seeing guilt, disease and death as real.
7. In this world the only remaining freedom is the freedom of choice; always between two choices or two voices. Will is not involved in perception at any level, and has nothing to do with choice. (my emphasis)
Freedom of choice is free will. We willingly choose between listening to the Holy Spirit or the ego. The first choice leads us back to our true reality as God’s one Son in Heaven. The other leaves us in need of more time to, as Text Chapter 31 part VIII the final section of the text teaches;
Choose once again if you would take your place among the saviors of the world, or would remain in hell, and hold your brothers there. [T-31.1.3]
We can freely choose between our beliefs about ethics and morals, and what we believe is evil. We are not slaves to our genes, but willing learners as to how to make the most of them.
The Holy Spirit is our guide who simply waits for our little willingness to hear its Voice.