Nature and Aspects of the Will

Strong Will

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 4, page 35

… , the strong will is in a sense the most basic as well as the most familiar aspect of the will.

As with other functions, the strength of the will can be developed and increased through practice and exercise.

Skillful Will

The following is fromĀ The Act of Will (The Skillful Will: Psychological Laws), Chapter 5, pages 46-65

Psychological Elements

Many classification of them have been made, but I consider the following to be the most inclusive:

  1. Sensation
  2. Emotion-Feeling
  3. Impulse-Desire
  4. Imagination
  5. Thought
  6. Intuition
  7. Will

The relationships among these functions are complex, but there are two kinds of interaction: first, those that take place spontaneously, one might say mechanically; second, those that can be influenced, governed, and directed by will.

The various psychological functions can interpenetrate and interact, but the will is in a position to direct their interpenetration and interaction. The centrality of the will allows it supremacy through its regulating power, but this power is in turn governed by psychological laws.

Law I

Images or mental pictures and ideas tend to produce the physical conditions and the external acts that correspond to them.

This law is at the base of all psychosomatic influences, both pathological and therapeutic, and it is one of the facts which account for mass suggestion, so cleverly and successfully exploited by advertisers and other “persuaders”: including political leaders.

Law II

Attitudes, movements, actions tend to evoke corresponding images and ideas; these, in turn (according to the next law) evoke or intensify corresponding emotions and feelings.

Law III

Ideas and images tend to awaken emotions and feelings that correspond to them.

Law IV

Emotions and impressions tend to awaken and intensify ideas and images that correspond to or are associated with them.

Law V

Needs, urges, drives, and desires tend to arouse corresponding images, ideas, and emotions.

Law VI

Attention, interest, affirmations, and repetitions reinforce the ideas, images, and psychological formations on which they are centered.

Law VII

Repetition of actions intensifies the urge to further reiteration and renders their execution easier and better, until they come to be performed unconsciously.

In this way habits are formed. … “education is the art of making the conscious pass into the unconscious.”

Law VIII

All the various functions, and their manifold combinations in complexes and subpersonalities, adopt means of achieving their aims without our awareness, and independently of, and even against, our conscious will.

This law has been called by Baudoin the “Law of Subconscious Finalism,” … Paradoxically, paying conscious attention to, or being emotionally preoccupied with, creative processes disturbs then. … This shows the nature of spontaneity.

Law IX

Urges, drives, desires, and emotions tend and demand to be expressed.

Drives and desires constitute the active, dynamic aspect of our psychological life. They are the springs behind every human action. … examined … disidentification from them … Observation has to be followed by valuation.

The practical problem, the issue that confronts us all the time, is this: how to give adequate and constructive, or at least harmless, expression to each of these urges, drives, emotions, etc. To give some expression to them is necssary.

Law X

The psychological energies can find expression: 1. Directly (discharge-catharsis) 2. Indirectly, through symbolic action 3. Through a process of transmutation.

The following is from The Act of Will (Practical Applications of the Skillful Will), Chapter 6, pages 66-84

I. Realizing the Value of the Will

II. Technique of Substitution

III. Psychological Breathing and Feeding

A general recognition of the powerful psychological influence of our environment, to which we are all subject, is still lacking, even though the major problems of today, such as war, the increasingly harmful competitive attitude, and the widely prevalent conditions of fear and depression, either belong to or have their causes in, the psychological domain.

Yet at least a beginning in this direction is being made, and a small but rapidly growing minority of people are developing what might be called a psycho-ecological conscience.

It seems very timely, therefore, to indicate some of the more common harmful factors which pollute our psychological environment, and to suggest skillful-will methods by which we can most effectively deal with them., The principal negative factors are aggressiveness and violence, fear; depression and despondency; greed and all forms of selfish desire. They are true “psychological poisons: which permeate the psychic atmosphere, and careful examination will find them at the root of a very large number of difficulties, both within the individual and within society.

We need therefore to eliminate them also within ourselves, or reduce them to a minimum. This is a specific task of individual psychosynthesis, and it call for different techniques from those suitable for gaining protection from external poison.

On the other hand, external poisons tend to feed and intensify the corresponding ones ion us. Thus a vicious circle comes into being: the poisons within us open the door to the influence of external ones, while the latter intensify the former. A most effective way to break the vicious circle is to withdraw attention deliberately from these psychic poisons. This will liberate the energy of the attention and allow it to be focused elsewhere, in a direction where it will do the most good. The act of this withdrawal of attention is a definite act of the skillful will and in turn contributes to strengthening the will itself.

1. Aggression and Violence

The first remedial step is to stop intensifying them by unnecessarily focusing attention and interest on them.

2. Fear

It is only as we free ourselves from the overwhelming sweep of collective panic about all of these vital issues that we are truly able to do something about then. So, paradoxically, a person who is sincerely and deeply concerned with bettering economic conditions, ending war, or the like, will be most effective if he does not open himself completely, even in the name of compassion, to all these influences, but rather is able to maintain a centered and calm focus on specific issues so he can clearly see what needs to be done.

3. Depression and Despondency

These are reactions to much that is negative, “dark,” unjust, and unsatisfying within collective human life. While these conditions have always existed, the present period is witnessing their significant increase, to which the mass-communications media are giving an exaggerated and one-sided emphasis.

4. Greed

Greed is an expression of selfish desire which, according to Buddha’s teaching, is at the root of all suffering and unhappiness. Such suffering occurs not only because many desires are unrealistic, and thus can never be gratified, but even more because of the very nature of greed, which is such that no satisfaction lasts for long; it always demands something more.

There are many kinds of desire. … self-assertion, … excessive sensuality,

What methods are to be used but the skillful will to achieve psychological hygiene? The fundamental one consists in withholding attention and interest. .. An even more powerful approach method of substitution: the cultivation of other, better interests, the systematic focusing of the attention on constructive things. This tends to give immunity to the negative, harmful, or poisonous influences. A most effective method, explained by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, is neutralization, which entails the active cultivation of qualities that are the antithesis of the harmful ones” harmlessness and nonviolence in the face of violence; courage in place of fear; joy in healthy pleasures instead of depression and despondency; moderation as a substitute for greed. As for overemphasis on sexuality, the most effective antidote is true love. It is not thus a question of not loving, or loving less, but of loving better.

IV. The Technique of Evocative Words

That certain words, such as serenity, courage, joy, compassion, have their effects on our moods and ideas does not require demonstration.

The first step using evocative words is to choose the one that expresses the quality we want to evoke and develop. We can then put a card with that word printed on it in a place where it will be easily noticed and where it will readily catch the eye:

V. The “Acting As If” Technique

This technique consists in acting as if one actually possessed the desired inner state.

Good Will

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 7, pages 85-90

Thus many attempts are being made to replace competition with cooperation, conflict with arbitration and agreement, based on an understanding of right relations between groups, classes, and nations. All this is basically a question of willing. The success of these attempts depends on the gradual harmonization of the wills of all concerned.

Now the individual will faces another and higher task, that of disciplining itself and choosing such aims as are consistent with the welfare of others and the common good of humanity.

There are two methods of accomplishing this task:

The elimination of obstacles. The active development and expression of a good will

  1. Selfishness constitutes the fundamental obstacle. Selfishness springs from the desire to possess and to dominate, which is an expression of the basic urges of self-preservation and self-assertion.
  2. Self-centeredness. While less obvious and crude than selfishness, it is also a great hindrance because of its tendency to refer everything to the personal self, to consider everything from the angle of one’s own personality, to concentrate solely on one’s own ideas and emotional reactions.
  3. Lack of understanding of others. … will-to-understanding, … knowledge of the general constitution of the human being. … a knowledge of differential psychology, … empathy With understanding comes the abandonment of the inclination to criticize, to judge, to condemn. With understanding is born the recognition that an individual “is as he is,” and in a certain sense has the right to be what he is. For he is the product of an enormous number of collective and individual elements rooted in the past and the present, and all kinds of conditioning over which he did not have control.

On the other hand, the individual is not fixed and immutable but is in a continual state of becoming. Everyone can direct and regulate his own “becoming” process to a certain extent; thus comes into play the responsibility he bears for the beneficent or harmful influence he has on other people.

Transpersonal Will

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 9, pages 106-122

existential vacuum

All needs evoke corresponding drives toward their satisfaction. … Therefore every need arouses, sooner or later, a corresponding will. … Buddha … wheel of causation

“Enlightenment therefore must involve the will as well as the intellect. It is an act of intuition born of the will.” D.T. Suzuki” p. 113 So we need to face courageously and willingly the requirements for transcending the limitations of personal consciousness without losing the center of individual awareness This is possible because individuality and universality are not mutually exclusive; they can be united in a blissful synthetic realization.

I. Transcendence through Transpersonal Love

In full human love there is a transpersonal aspect. … thus there can be at times a combination of sexual, emotional, and transpersonal love. The perfect love could be considered as the union at all levels. … A second kind of transcendence through love is through altruistic love. … A third kind of transcendence through love is the aspiration to unity with the Supreme Being, generally called God or Universal Reality. It is the way of mystical love.

III. Transcendence through Beauty

the aesthetic way

IV. Transcendence through Self-Realization

Maslow has presented an illuminating progression of five stages of evolutionary development. The types belonging to the first two stages are under Theory X. They are primarily determined by deficiency needs. The third and fourth types come under Theory Y. They are primarily determined by drives to self-actualization. The fifth type is under what he calls Theory Z. That is the person who aligns his life with transcending values

Self realization itself has three different stages. The first is the activation and expression of the potentialities residing in the superconcious; .. The second stage of Self-Realization is the direct awareness of the Self, which culminates in the unification of the consciousness of the personal self, or “I”,with that of the Transpersonal Self. … The third stage of Self-realization is the communion of the Transpersonal Self with the Universal Self, and correspondingly of the individual will with the Universal Will. Here we find the highest mystics of all times and places.

Individual Will identified with the Universal Will

The highest aim of a wide variety of spiritual practices is to align the personal will with the Universal Will. It is founded on the understanding that all of the elements of life we experience through living in our mentally constructed reality are manifestations of a united existence/ divine light/ creative force (Indefinable as it is incomprehensible through a human mind).

Though this process is necessarily infinite, it is an endless striving towards the impossible, nevertheless bringing one deeper and deeper into Truth and thus into more fully living.

It is often confused for an extremely existential and transcendent experience, but it is most often described by true proponents of it from any religion as a more simple, natural, and clear experience of life as it is (Such as the Buddhist Dzogchen doctrine that describes the state of ultimate living as a crystal ball or mirror that reflects an image with perfect clarity without being altered or stained by it) One of the clearest and most simple explanations of this philosophy comes from Albert Einstein (Though, despite his quest to ‘know the thoughts of God’ he was not a spiritual mystic of this variety in the typical sense.)

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” -Albert Einstein

This conception of the process to deal with our inevitable illusory experience of Truth is similar to that of St. Augustine “Love, then do as you like,” and even Jesus Christ’s doctrine of absolute love at the root of religious experience. It can be said that love is the only door in human experience to the fuller life beyond our individual experience that we are already necessarily a part of.

The most complete and dedicated explication of this process is in the Hindu “Bhagavad Gita,” a crucial scripture at the heart of the Mahabharata (The world’s longest epic) In it, Arjuna, a warrior forced into civil war to regain a kingdom taken by his usurping cousins, suddenly, at the dawn of war on the battlefield (Often described as a metaphor for the battle within us) faces the reality of fighting a necessary but morally reprehensible conflict against people he knows and loves. Dropping his bow in despair, Krishna, his friend and charioteer, comforts him with the text of the Bhagavad Gita, or Song of the Lord.

In it, he describes the necessary submission of the individual will to the higher will within, and explicitly describes a guide to action for Arjuna in how he must forsake attachment to the fruits of his action and simply perform his Dharma with complete dedication and faith. Krishna ultimately reveals himself to be a direct manifestation of that divine force, giving Arjuna an ‘all-seeing eye’ that shows him as death and time and everything in between with thousands of arms and eyes already consuming the army before him, and describes that he is the prime element of everything in existence, from mountains to kings. He assumes his former form and assures Arjuna, and all, that if they come to him and focus with love completely on him, (As the Universal Will) they will without doubt come to him, seeing the divine the same in a king, a cow, and a clod of dirt, and live in perfect peace through selfless action.

(For the clearest explanation of the concepts of the Bhagavad Gita to the Western mind, see Eknath Easwaran’s introduction to his translation)

Mahatma Gandhi used this text as his ultimate guiding force, and, in many ways, literally became an embodiment of the concepts therein, attempting to give himself with complete self-sacrifice, with nothing else, to the necessary will as dictated by, in his words, “the still small voice” we all carry within.
Although the ideas and extremes of this concept are most often found in religious mystics, it is often that history’s best examples of those who live up to the dictates of this aim are people performing seemingly ordinary tasks with the utmost of their ability, as, implicit in the definition of this worldview is that we already are elements of the Universal Will with aspects of the Universal Will in us, so it is by following our Self purely and completely that we experience the divine.

True Will

See True Will for an introduction to the concept of True Will. See also Thelemapedia entry for True Will

Co-creative Group Suggestions

The following is based on work carried out by the co-creative group on the Will Project during the International Congress of Psychosynthesis in Canada from 11 to 15 September 1998. Initially this is provided to give some form of structure to pages. Please edit freely.

  1. View the movie Shine and discuss the aspects of the will (as part of training on the will)
  2. Explore consumerism and the will (or lack of will), including images used to drive consumerism
  3. Create exercises and meditations for each aspect of the will
  4. Teach wholeness of the will
  5. Create entertaining games and interactive exercises on the aspect of the will for all age levels, and for individuals and groups (including families and training groups), create pleasure in using the will.
  6. Explore and research the effectiveness of employing subliminal methods to train the will
  7. Identify and promote the physical benefits of using the will (“sell” the will).
  8. Clarify the connections between aspects of the will and psychosynthesis and their current psychological trends
  9. Clarify the meaning of linguage used in the aspects of the will
  10. Link the language used to talk about the will to the language of other disciplines
  11. Develop marketable tools to reinforce aspects of the will: cards for meditation, visual aids (such as a mobile to illustrate the psychological laws in teaching the skilled will)
  12. Develop a space or room of the will (for the Bologna Conference 2000 and in other contexts)
  13. Develop an instrument to assess the development of aspects of the will in an individual:
    1. Individually administered, self-scoring instrument
    2. Group administered instrument (centrally scored)
    3. Individually administered projective technique (similar in design to the T.A.T.)
  14. Develop language to describe the transpersonal will in order to:
    1. Consolidate an understanding of it
    2. Connect the transpersonal will to practical experience in daily life
    3. Relate the transpersonal will to all psychosynthesis types
  15. Plan and execute cross-cultural research on the aspects of the will (see Relationship of the Will with the Other Psychological Functions below)
  16. Plan and execute research on the diversity of understanding about and use of the will within a given culture (USA, Italy, Canada)

Trance And Its Effects On The Will

The Trance Model as outlined by Dennis Wier in his book Trance: from magic to technology and in papers on the Trance Research Foundation website offers some insights into the Will and influences upon it. See also Trance under Methods for the Development and Training of the Will.

References

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