I like the idea of surrendering to a higher power. I just don't like the notion that this is God or some other supernatural entity, for I prefer my surrendering to be founded in reality, not illusion.
I'm not sure, though, if surrendering is the right word. Acceptance seems more accurate, but it lacks the imagery of surrendering -- which for me conjures up two generals negotiating the terms of the end of a war that one has won and one has lost.
In this case, what's being surrendered is a belief in free will, the subject I've been writing about recently. The idea of acceptance comes from an understanding that whatever is happening in my life, it is the result of a chain of causes and effects, not free will, so it makes sense to accept my life on those terms.
The main quibble I have with surrendering is that this really isn't a battle between two opposing forces. Actually there is no one to surrender to, and no one doing the surrendering. That's why I lean toward acceptance as a better term, except when I like the dramatic energy of surrendering.
One thing that's being accepted by giving up a belief in free will is that nature is in charge, not us. Meaning, it is the entire universe that is guiding things, not a mythical free will that stands apart from the natural world.
Paul Breer says this in his book, "The Spontaneous Self: Viable Alternatives to Free Will."
According to [William] James, a surrendering of control to a higher power plays the key role in most conversion experiences, the specific object of that surrender being secondary. While in our culture it is God to whom we usually relinquish our power ("Not my but Thy will be done"), it could just as easily be Circumstance or Causal Necessity or Chance.
The secret, as Alcoholics Anonymous has long claimed, lies in "turning it over." For most individuals, what follows from that surrendering of will (or, more accurately, the illusion of will) is [as James says]:
the loss of all the worry, the sense that all is ultimately well with one, the peace, the harmony, the willingness to be, even though the outer conditions should remain the same... A passion of willingness, of acquiescence, of admiration, is the glowing centre of this state of mind.
At what James calls the "glowing centre" of the conversion experience is a kind of power, but it is a far cry from the power of which Nietzsche speaks, the power to overcome either oneself or others through the exercise of will. It is, if anything, the very opposite.
It is the power which comes from seeing oneself as the instrument of a higher will or, in less theistic terms, as a vessel through which the energy of the universe is passing. It is the power of powerlessness, the power that comes from giving up all pretense of authorship, all aspiration to divinity.
In ordinary circumstances, powerlessness implies impotence and frustration at not being able to control events. The powerlessness of which James is speaking, however, is that of someone who sees that no straining is necessary. It contains no "violent effort," no desire to dominate, no frustrated need to prove one's superiority.
The self that has been converted or reborn is emptied of all trace of will and stands ready to experience that transcendent power we usually identify as divine, but which can just as easily be conceptualized as the power of Circumstance.
However described, such power is never experienced as one's own; it belongs to the whole field of forces of which the experiencer is but a part. For that reason, it is not something in which one takes pride. It is simply that which is arising here, something for which one is more apt to feel grateful than proud.
...With the giving up of agency, speculating about either the past or future becomes less interesting. We are drawn more intimately into the present and all the things going on around us right now. In the process, our perspective of how we are related to the world changes.
Seeing ourselves as links in a chain of cause and effect has the effect of reconnecting us with the world. Of course, we have never been unconnected to that world. It has only seemed that way because of our identification with an entity standing off to the side looking at the world or listening to the world, but never entering into it.
When we give up straining either to bend the world to our will or to prevent it from taking away the things we love, we can experience what it is like to live in that world. Because our wishes are less urgent and our efforts less violent, we no longer feel pitted against the world.
Every event, at least in hindsight, appears necessary. When those events involve us, we feel more accepting of whatever outcomes arise here. We not only feel more accepting of them, we find ourselves identifying more and more with them.
We being to see ourselves as a stream of outcomes arising here and that awareness, more than anything else, is what makes us feel connected to the rest of the world.
As a stream of outcomes, we are at the effect of a million past and present events: our genes, our education, friends we have made along the way, the house we live in, our boss's mood, the mail we get, the weather, and even the food we eat.
At the same time, through our own mood, our ideas and perceptions, our looks, our personality, and our physical movements, we represent the causes to which other events must respond.
This feeling of connectedness, while more superficial than the Oneness of Buddhist enlightenment, has the power to dissolve the paranoia which arises from our view of the world as alien and resistant to our will.