"Grace Versus Will in New Thought"

by Dr. Larry Morris

In India, they speak of the way of the monkey and the way of the kitten. They observe that the baby monkey has to hold on to its mother's back for dear life while they are racing through the forest. But the kitten can relax and let go because its mother carries it around gently and protectively. It seems to me an interesting question in New Thought: are we pursuing the way of the kitten or the way of the monkey; are we "letting go, letting God" or are we doing it through our own will, our own efforts? Is it our will or God's will that is being done? And if it's our will, are we being willed by God to will what we will?

Though all of New Thought espouses the principle of surrender to God — "Not my will but thy will be done...." "I of my own self can do nothing, the Father within me Who doeth the works" — there does seem to also be some personal effort required on our part. When we do absolutely nothing, nothing seems to happen. We speak of planting a seed in the ground and nurturing it in order to reap our harvest. Religious Science teaches a methodology, a science of the mind; Unity teaches the twelve powers of man that we need to learn to access, and Divine Science also teaches a "practice of the presence of God" implying a kind of self-discipline and use of the will.

Different New Thought teachers seem to emphasize one or the other aspects of this issue. Joel Goldsmith said that if in prayer he didn't feel some "click," some inner assurance of God, he wouldn't go to his office that day. Others in New Thought seem to be more related to Mohammed's dictum, "Trust God, but tie your camel first." I like Michael Becthwith's question, "Whose life is it anyway?" If it's God's life, we can relax and "let the God times roll." But there does seem to be something that we need to do, the doing of which lets the God times roll. We either put ourselves in alignment or agreement or we are put in alignment or agreement with the way in which our Grace (our Good) can come to us. So we may find ourselves at times working very hard struggling to surrender. Perhaps from God's point of view, we really don't have to struggle so much, but from our point of view, we can see no other way.

The first breakthrough in New Thought seems to have been Quimby's struggle with his horse. Quimby, who was very ill, was told by his doctor to go for a daily horse and buggy ride. When they reached the beginning of a big hill, Quimby's horse refused to go forward. Quimby started yelling at the horse and even whipping the horse. And Quimby got so excited that his illness simply went away, disappeared, vanished. Was this "healing" through an act of will or God's Grace? Catherine Ponder tells the story of a woman with chronic back pain for over twenty years who one evening happens to see a beautiful waterfall at sunset. As she is gazing at the beauty of the waterfall, suddenly her pain goes away, never to return. Grace or Will?

When we had to move our church during this past year, we had to work very hard to find a new location and move into it quickly. Yet, did we "have to move" or were we being moved?

It seems to me, finally, that God's Grace can even include our will and what we think we are doing and why we think we are doing it. How do we get on this path we are on to begin with if not through Grace? (We all have lots of friends and perhaps family members who don't have a clue as to why we are doing what we are doing.) Perhaps the real solution to this, at times, apparent division between our will and God's will for us lies in seeing our life from a larger perspective. In Taoism, they speak of the True Tao (the true way of life) as that from which you cannot deviate. And in the Unwobbling Pivot, Confucius says, "You do not depart from the process [the way of your spiritual unfoldment] even for an instant / what you depart from is not the process."

I think that we are all kittens; that we are being guided, comforted, directed and nurtured every step of our way and that even that which doesn't look like Grace, that too is Grace. Since there is only One Presence, where we are, Grace is. So we really can relax and let go.