“We do not wish to enter into a consideration of Free-Will, or Determinism. … Among the many reasons is the principle one that neither side of the controversy is entirely right—in fact, both sides are partially right, according to the Hermetic Teachings. The Principle of Polarity shows that both are but half-truths—the opposite poles of Truth. …
“The majority of people are more or less the slaves of heredity, environment, etc., and manifest little Freedom. They are swayed by the opinions, customs and thoughts of the outside world. … They manifest no mastery, worthy of the name. They indignantly repudiate this assertion, saying, ‘Why I certainly am free to act and do as I please—I do just what I want to do,” but they fail to explain whence arise the ‘want to’ and ‘as I please’.” ~The Three Initiates
The Truth of Free-Will
We love to believe we have free-will and can do whatever we want to, but is that really true? If you won millions of dollars in a lottery, would you continue to go to work at the same place and do the same job you do now? If the answer is “No,” as it is for most, than you are not acting according to free will when you get up and go to work. You are doing it out of a feeling of necessity, out of a sense of loyalty to family, or because you were “raised with a work ethic.” None of those reason (and there are more) equate to free-will. If even just occasionally you go to work without truly wanting to, you are not exercising free-will.
Have you ever been on a public beach wearing a bathing suit and felt like pulling the silly thing off and running naked through the waves? Most of us have, but if we don’t actually do it, we are not acting with free will. If we truly had free will, we would do it, but we don’t because social norms, or legal requirements, prevent us from doing so.
Even more that social limits, physical ones prevent us from truly having free-will. We might wish to fly, but it doesn’t happen because of physical limitations. We might wish we were taller, skinnier, prettier, and so on, but our free will doesn’t cause such desires to manifest. So free will exists to some degree, but is limited.
Fate or Determinism
Others believe that we come into this world with a fate. Not just a fate for one or two thing, but virtually everything we do is predetermined.
It may be that most, if not all, of us have a destiny, a primary purpose for our existence here, but not much more than that. I may be destines to be a writer, for example, but not destined to wear the blue tie today, or to buy a particular car. You might say we are destined to follow a particular highway through life, but what we do along the way is generally not fate or destiny.
Free-Will, Fate, and a Master
The Initiates say a master truly has free will, but even that may not entirely be true. The master, or spiritual adept, certainly has more of it than most because she understands how it all works, but she still can’t hold er breath for two hours. And most spiritual schools refer to those students who study hard and become master as the “predetermined”, meaning they were predetermined to become spiritual adepts. So while they may have great freedom after achieving mastership, it was an act of fate that got them there.