Free will is one of those topics that touches all humans across the board, whether they are Pagan or of a religious bent. There are many ideas regarding free will and its implications, all of which have a basis in religious texts, but none of which have a basis in fact or in social transactions. I will explore this concept, the existence of which we all seem to take for granted as though it goes without saying that it exists, and should therefore be respected as an inviolable trait of humanity. I believe it does not exist, and therefore cannot be respected, and I'll explain why during this post.
Most of the teachings regarding free will come from religious texts, such as the Qur'an and the Bible. Free will is regarded as one of the main traits separating mankind from other species such as animals and even the angels. It is postulated to have been engineered into man during his creation as a gift from God, and as a crown jewel which somehow exalts mankind even above the angels in the sight of God. It is ostensibly the power to decide one's own course of action given a set of conditions and relative parameters, regardless and irrespective of any outside influences.
I suppose it's helpful to define our terms before we continue. Free will is defined in the dictionary as "the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion." I'm struggling to see the difference between that idea of free will and what those of the "animal kingdom" have. It's the idea of self-determinism without outside influence that I have a problem with.
The main problem with the idea of free will becomes apparent when one asks the question "Free from what?", as if decisions and the corresponding behaviors which flow from them are never and should never be influenced in any way. Only they are influenced, all the time and to varying degrees. So precisely how "free" is free will? Not very free at all, as we'll discover.
THE INFLUENCES UPON WILL - A SHORT LIST
There are many influences on our decision-making process, likely many more than we're aware of when making decisions, but these are just a few worth considering:
1. Biological Imperatives - Using Maslow's Hierarchy, we see that there are many physiological needs which must be addressed for an individual's life to persist, and are therefore outside the bounds of decision-making as to whether these things are to be pursued or not. These needs are the acquisition of adequate food/water, clothing, shelter, sex, air, and even sleep. The lack of any of these things is not conducive to life, and so the unconscious biological imperatives which drive their acquisition will inform and drive every higher impulse on both a subconscious and a conscious level. In other words, one cannot decide not to eat or not to breathe ever again if one expects to live, and so these decisions are removed from the playing field since they cannot be controlled. Further, any decisions stemming from these imperatives are inescapably outside of conscious control or will.
2. The Emotional Mind - Decisions are made in the emotional mind long before they are recognized as a conscious decision by the rational mind and acted upon. The emotional mind itself is pre-conscious, and is almost entirely driven by hormones. Therefore, hormones are largely the primary decision makers, and not the rational mind. This does not mean that one cannot consciously decide not to follow a hormonal compulsion, but one cannot ignore them altogether for the most part.
3. Addictions - Addictions impair the emotional mind, and therefore the rational mind by extension. When I mention addictions, I am including not only those proclivities for substances legal or illegal, but also emotional addictions such as power and the drive for domination, along with commonly unrecognized addictions such as television, video games, or even the seeking of approval. Violent and aggressive compulsions can also indicate an addiction to adrenaline. If someone is addicted to something, then their so-called "free will" has indeed been hijacked by that something. Just ask any crack, meth, or heroin addict, or the person who has attempted to stop smoking dozens upon dozens of times.
4. Infections - There are parasites which can and do alter body chemistry in order to create compulsions for the consumption of substances, or other activities, which will create a favorable habitat for them to grow and reproduce. Candida is one such fungal parasite. One of the indicators of candida infestation within the body is the craving for refined sugar, regardless of the fact that refined sugar is toxic to the body. We may call it "carbohydrate addiction", but it's usually just an infection, and candida is one of the most common of all infections, especially in our sugar-addicted world. There are multitudes of these sorts of parasites, which include species of viruses and bacteria, any or all of which can and do hijack our decision making processes.
As we can see, we are driven by impulses far more often and more effectively than we'd like to believe, and these impulses are themselves driven by factors that we are almost never entirely aware of. So how is it that we believe ourselves to have free will, when in its operation our decision making processes are no different from those of "the animal kingdom", from which we prefer to divorce ourselves and arrogantly proclaim our superiority over?
The point is that impulses, not rational thought, drive decisions far more frequently than we'd like to believe, and far more often than so-called free will does. Most importantly for the purposes of this post, the impulses of others are precisely what magick targets within them, regardless if you directed your spell directly at them or not.
For example, when the topic of love spells comes up in discussion, most practitioners believe that it is wrong to target a specific party with your spell as that will tamper with and influence their free will. Instead we are supposed to do a non-specific spell and allow the universe to bring this desired person to us. That is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard of.
If you do a blanket spell such that you draw compatible parties to yourself for purposes of dating, you will have little to no control over any traits or qualities within them that you do not desire, even if the spell works. Let's say you do draw an astrologically-compatible partner to yourself with your magick, but then you discover (usually after you've fallen for them) that they have some long-standing mental illness, or anger or trust issues, or herpes, or perhaps they are from a cultural or racial group that is incompatible in some way to your life or family. Maybe they're a raging alcoholic. Your magick may have worked, but you've still failed to get what you truly want.
Unless you specify every single thing that you want in a person, and are willing to wait until a person fitting those specific parameters becomes single and enters your sphere of influence (which could take a long while), you're still getting the luck of the draw. And for what? Because you didn't target the one you actually wanted because you were afraid it would affect their free will somehow? Tell me exactly what doesn't affect their will, especially when armed with the knowledge found in the preceding section. Tell me exactly why we are held to a higher standard than the rest of the entire natural world, of which we are a part?
If you target a specific person with your love spell and are successful, and then find out later that you aren't compatible with them, at least you aren't left with feeling as though the universe made a mistake, or that somehow you should have phrased your intention differently. Trust me, I've been there.
MAGICK INFLUENCES FREE WILL - SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
Everything conscious acts upon everything else in order to either expand it's sphere of activity and to live as abundantly as it intends. The roots of all plants impose upon and invade the soil to displace it, regardless of whichever organisms live and find their homes within it. Cats will interrupt your sleep when they are hungry, no matter how early it is in the morning or how late you went to bed the night before. Dogs will interrupt your favorite television program when they have to go outside and relieve themselves. Small children could care less about whatever it is that you're doing when they have a boo-boo, or perhaps a crayon drawing which they've decided requires your immediate attention.
Men routinely impose their will upon other men (and women), as that is a general and even expected trait of alpha masculinity. Women do the same thing to men and even other women using their own powers of femininity and emotional coercion. Magick is simply a non-physical form of influence and coercion, and is logically no different from any of the above examples.
POWER AND POSITION TRUMP SO-CALLED "FREE WILL", AND ALWAYS HAVE
The overall point is that power and position can and will trump anyone's decision-making process or free will, either intentionally or not. It happens all day, everyday, and in every conceivable way. Therefore I contend that although the idea of having free will may sound good, it doesn't really stand up to scrutiny as to whether it actually exists the way we think it does, so it shouldn't even be considered at all.
If an organism living in your gut unbeknownst to you decides that it wants you to eat salty foods, then you will feed it salty foods because it is in a position to demand those foods and has the chemically-directed power to make you comply. If the government decides that it wants 20% of your income, then it will get 20% of your income, because it has the position and military power to force your compliance. If your wife decides that she is withholding sexual intercourse for some perceived wrong on your part, then you simply ain't getting any from her, because she has the position and sexual power to block your late-night advances.
It is no different with magick, nor should it be. It's the way nature itself has been designed by our creator, and we as practitioners of magick (black, gray, or white) simply operate within nature's law, especially those of us who are attempting to accomplish the work of self-deification, also known as The Great Work.
Those with the position and power to make a thing occur at their whim have every right to do so until they are effectively resisted. And those who demonstrate having a weak will, or who are unaware of your intentions and/or workings upon them, should not be respected at all with regard to whatever behaviors or resources you can magickally or mundanely elicit from them, whether they've decided that they want to do what you want them to or not.
If they can resist your magickal influences, or mundane coercions, that's great for them. If not, then too bad, and life goes on as it should.