Dependence and Independence of Man

On the one hand I am free, and on the other dependent. Let us examine these two things, and see whether it is possible to reconcile them.

I am a dependent being. Independency is the supreme perfection. To be by one’s self is to carry within one’s self the source or spring of one’s own being; or, which is the same, it is to borrow nothing from any being different from one’s self. Suppose a being that has all the perfections you can imagine, but which has a borrowed and dependent being, and you will find him to be less perfect than another being in which you would suppose but bare independency. For there is no comparison to be made between a being that exists by himself and a being who has nothing of his own—nothing but what is precarious and borrowed—and is in himself, as it were, only upon trust.

This consideration brings me to acknowledge the imperfection of what I call my soul. If she existed by herself, it would borrow nothing from another; she would not want either to be instructed in her ignorance, or to be rectified in her errors. Nothing could reclaim her from her vices, or inspire her with virtue; for nothing would be able to render her will better than it should have been at first.

This soul would not ever possess whatever she should be capable to enjoy, nor could she ever receive any addition from without. On the other hand, it is no less certain that she could not lose anything, for what is or exists by itself is always necessarily whatever it is. Therefore my soul could not fall into ignorance, error, or vice, or suffer any diminution of good-will; nor could she, on the other hand, instruct or correct herself, or become better than she is. Now, I experience the contrary of all these; for I forget, mistake, err, go astray, lose the sight of truth and the love of virtue, I corrupt, I diminish.

On the other hand, I improve and increase by acquiring wisdom and good-will, which I never had. This intimate experience convinces me that my soul is not a being existing by itself and independent; that is necessary, and immutable in all it possesses and enjoys. Now, whence proceeds this augmentation and improvement of myself? Who is it that can enlarge and perfect my being by making me better, and, consequently, greater than I was?

Soul at Work,Spiritual Leadership in Organizations, 2005 publication


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