In this article, I will be unpacking the largely misinterpreted teaching that “no one has free will in your reality.” This particular teaching is very common in the Neville Goddard community in reference to the chapter “Free Will” in his book The Power of Awareness. It is not particularly long, so I do recommend reading it in its entirety first so that we can unpack it together.
Firstly, Neville’s thoughts on ‘free will’ have been largely distorted to the point that entire spin-off theories have emerged from this misinterpretation, such as the common phrase that “no one has free will in your reality”. This phrase is often used as an explanation as to why it is possible to manifest a relationship with a specific person. There are many reasons why we may adopt this distorted belief, but one in particular is clear: we fear that we could not manifest a relationship in any other way, so we convince ourselves that others are not making their own decisions or having their own thoughts, but are simply experiencing the ones we decided for them. This is not the case, nor is it what Neville meant when he described the whole world as “you pushed out”. Again, this misinterpretation gives rise to teachings such as “they [the other person] are only thinking what you are thinking” or “they are only doing what you decide they are doing”. The fact that everyone is you pushed out is actually pointing to the truth that we are all one Consciousness split into individual consciousness, and with this individuality comes our own thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. It is simply not true to say that no one else is feeling their own feelings or thinking their own thoughts – they absolutely are, the issue is that the manifestation community is making this into a problem.
For many people, the belief that nobody has free will and that others are only acting according to what we decide does not deeply resonate and feels a little “off” but they cannot put their finger on why. The reason this teaching does not feel quite right is because it is a distortion unconsciously used to validate the ego self. Due to our fear and belief in separation, our ego has to make other people “not real” or automatons that we are controlling, so that we can feel safe and protected in a situation that actually requires us to be raw and vulnerable. Because the ego is essentially powerless, it has to declare that it is God and that it that the world is bending to its will, however this is a misunderstanding.
The world is not bending to our own individual will, although this is how it appears. It is bending to the will of God, the Creator, for the events we experience throughout our lives are the exact events needed in order for us to wake up to who we truly are. It is true that we do not have free will, but not in the way this is commonly taught. When we are under the veil of the false self and we confuse the ego to be who we are, all decisions we make are coming from the limitations of our own conditioning. It may appear that we have free will, as we are taking actions, making decisions, and forming opinions from what appears to be our own accord, however this is not entirely true as such things are all part of our individual conditioning. For example, let’s say you desire to become a millionaire. This desire is based on what your ego self believes becoming a millionaire will afford you — this is normal of course, and does not make it wrong. All desires are based on what we think we will glean from them; all desires are inevitably moulded by the ego self. Sometimes, we will refute that our desire is shaped by our ego because we don’t want to feel guilty about wanting what we want — this, too, is coming from the ego!
So, your desire to be wealthy, married, successful, or whatever else, is only based on conditioning you have around what these things mean to you, a meaning that you are projecting onto your desire based on how your ego has been conditioned throughout life thus far. When we are blind to the limits of our own conditioning, we are not truly exercising free will because the reason we desire what we desire is simply because we identify with an imaginary notion of who we think we are. However, this illusion of free will is temporary — and all illusions can be shattered.
True freedom (or “free will”) is the fruit of the spiritual awakening process: we awaken to our true selves as God, and in doing so we identify less and less with the conditioned ego self, until eventually our actions in the world are motivated from the true self, which is Consciousness. When are aware of and operating from God Consciousness, rather than conditioned consciousness, we have attained true freedom and can exercise free will because we are no longer bound by the limitations of the ego. This is the true meaning of “there is no free will”: all of our actions in the world are based on the ego identity and its conditioning, and only until we awaken and start operating outside of our previous limitations are we truly free.
“The illusion of the free will to do is ignorance of the law of assumption upon which all action is based.”
This particular quote from the chapter “Free Will” is often used in isolation to back up the solipsistic theory that no one has free will besides yourself, and that others are mere puppets to which you are pulling the strings. Of course, when you read this quote on its own, it is very easy to misinterpret it or project your own meaning onto it because it is not being read in its full context. This is why we must be mindful of cherry-picking the teachings, and by cherry-picking I do not mean exercising critical thinking and taking what deeply resonates with you, for this is healthy and should be encouraged. I am talking about when we twist the teachings to validate the ego’s insecurities. In this case, the ego self is not tapped in to its true power as the Creator, so it creates a false sense of power by concocting the notion that no one else has free will and that we can control whoever we wish. This is actually the opposite of what Neville said. Let’s look at the quote in its wider context:
“The question is often asked, “what should be done between the assumption of the wish fulfilled and its realization?” Nothing. It is a delusion that, other than assuming the feeling of the wish fulfilled you can do anything to aid the realization of your desire. You think that you can do something, you want to do something; but, actually you can do nothing. The illusion of the free will to do is ignorance of the law of assumption upon which all action is based. Everything happens automatically. All that befalls you, all that is done by you — happens.”
Already, the original quote is now transformed when we read it as part of a paragraph, rather than a single line separated from its original meaning and intention. As you can see, Neville is saying nothing here about controlling others nor does he for the rest of the text. Instead, Neville is saying this: There is nothing we need to “do” in order to experience our desires, for manifestation is the phenomenon of the physical (or “outer”) world reflecting the inner world of the individual, for there is no separation between the two. Because of this, conscious manifestation is a result of being who we wish to be by cultivating the inner world to match — it is not a process of “doing” something in order to make something happen. For example, a desire that has successfully manifested did not happen from the act of repeating affirmations (“doing”) but by being the version of self who has the desire, and from there, inspired action will naturally flow.
“It is impossible to do anything. You must be in order to do.”
Our doing, in other words, the embodied actions we take in the world are a result of the state of being we identify with. What Neville is truly saying is that in order to experience what we wish to experience, we first must be the embodied version of self and cultivate the inner world to match.
“In the law of assumption your consciousness of being is the Father’s will. The mere wish without this consciousness is the “my will”. This great quotation, so little understood, is a perfect statement of the law of assumption.”
Here, Neville is illustrating that it is the will of our higher self (or God) to become conscious of who we truly are. When we understand who we truly are, we know that there is nothing “to do” in order to experience what we wish, for we are one with all existence and inseparable from it, therefore we cannot want what we already are. When we consciously manifest from the true understanding of ourselves as God, we simply align with who we would be if the desire was a fact and we embody this state of being in our everyday lives. When we try to consciously manifest from the ego self, we are operating under the assumption that we are separate from God and that in order to manifest we must do all sorts of actions in order to make it happen – but the ego does not have the freedom (or “free will”) in which to make it happen, because the ego self is not the source from which the desire is manifested. The source from which the desire is manifested is our true selves as God.
The message that Neville is conveying in this chapter is very simple. In short, he is saying that we only attain free will when we are no longer identified with the ego self but are living from the knowledge that we are one with God. Only then are we truly free. He is also explaining that there is nothing you need to “do” in order to manifest, that the focus only needs to be on being the desired version of self and the Divine Mirror will reflect it back. This teaching was never about others having “no free will in your reality” or the mistruth that they are thinking what you are thinking. The simplicity of Neville’s original message strikes a huge contrast to the way in which this particular teaching has been distorted over time, and is a reminder of why we must always be critical of the information we consume, as well as being responsible for the information we put out there to others.