Do others encroach on our free will?

Someone asked me recently, “In your view, do we have control of the events in our life or does the Holy Spirit have control over all the events in our life?” He framed this as a question about free will. In other words, who is in control? Are we ourselves in control? Or is the Holy Spirit in control?

In my latest newsletter article (“ Who Made the World?“), I tried to answer this with the analogy of a screenwriter and a director. Rather than explaining that here, I’ll let you read it in the article if you want. My purpose here is to frame this issue of who’s in control as part of a larger philosophical issue about the nature of personal free will.

The Course clearly views the Holy Spirit as having an influence in our minds and in our lives. Even if we dream each situation into place, He can influence that dream. He can make sure it takes a form that is optimally educational for us. He can build into it hidden doorways out of the pain. He can send figures into it who are there for our aid.

The idea that the Holy Spirit can influence us is ultimately the same as the idea that our brothers have an influence on us. In speaking of the Sons of God, the Course baldly states, “Their influence on each other is without limit” (T-6.I.18:2). An earlier passage qualifies this, saying that we can negatively influence others, “but only to the extent to which you reinforce errors they have already made” (T-1.III.5:9).

So the question is, Why can the Holy Spirit influence me and why can my brothers influence me? Do I not have free will? Am I not in control of my own destiny?

If you think about this, however, the idea that I alone affect me is the ultimate separation concept. At the foundation of the Course is the concept that I am not myself alone. I am also my brothers. And in a sense, I am also the Holy Spirit. I share my being with all living minds, including with the Mind of God.

Therefore, even though I have the primary control over the small portion of me that I call myself, the other portions of myself also influence that small portion—because separation is an illusion. How could you possibly be one with me and yet not influence me?

This is exactly how the Course explains this issue. In the Text we find this telling passage: “Miracles seem unnatural to the ego because it does not understand how separate minds can influence each other. Nor could they do so. But minds cannot be separate” (T-21.V.3:6-8). This assumes (as does the entire Course) that miracles are expressions of love to others that actually influence others. But how can this happen, the ego asks? How could separate minds influence each other? The answer is simple and persuasive: “Minds cannot be separate.”

So, yes, only I affect me. But “I” am far, far larger than I can currently comprehend, and ultimately include all of the “I’s” that there are. And we all influence me.


[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]