Will

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Will, in the Theosophical tradition, is one of the occult forces of nature that can be used by human beings, not only physically and intellectually, but also magically. In Hinduism this force is referred by the Sanskrit term Iccha-Shakti (devanāgarī: इच्छाशक्ति icchāśakti), which can be translated as "will-power."

General description

In the Theosophical view the will power is seen as a universal force that manifests in different ways on the different planes. H. P. Blavatsky wrote:

In metaphysics and occult philosophy, Will is that which governs the manifested universes in eternity. Will is the one and sole principle of abstract eternal MOTION, or its ensouling essence. "The will," says Van Helmont, "is the first of all powers . . . . The will is the property of all spiritual beings and displays itself in them the more actively the more they are freed from matter."[1]

This force is present not only in human beings, but also in animals, and even in inanimate things:

What is the WILL? Can "exact science" tell? What is the nature of that intelligent, intangible, and powerful something which reigns supreme over all inert matter? The great Universal Idea willed, and the cosmos sprang into existence. I will, and my limbs obey. . . . The mysterious effects of attraction and repulsion are the unconscious agents of that will; fascination, such as we see exercised by some animals, by serpents over birds, for instance, is a conscious action of it, and the result of thought. Sealing-wax, glass, and amber, when rubbed, i.e., when the latent heat which exists in every substance is awakened, attract light bodies; they exercise unconsciously, will; for inorganic as well as organic matter possesses a particle of the divine essence in itself, however infinitesimally small it may be.[2]

In fact, Blavatsky stated that the force of will manifests in different way through all the seven principles of nature:

Like all the rest, the Will is septenary in its degrees of manifestation. Emanating from the one, eternal, abstract and purely quiescent Will (Âtmâ in Layam), it becomes Buddhi in its Alaya state, descends lower as Mahat (Manas), and runs down the ladder of degrees until the divine Eros becomes, in its lower, animal manifestation, erotic desire. Will as an eternal principle is neither spirit nor substance but everlasting ideation. As well expressed by Schopenhauer in his Parerga, "in sober reality there is neither matter nor spirit. The tendency to gravitation in a stone is as unexplainable as thought in the human brain. If matter can--no one knows why--fall to the ground, then it can also--no one knows why--think. . . . As soon, even in mechanics, as we trespass beyond the purely mathematical, as soon as we reach the inscrutable adhesion, gravitation, and so on, we are faced by phenomena which are to our senses as mysterious as the WILL."[3]

In its intellectual and higher forms, however, will is active only in human beings, among all the physical kingdoms of nature. This means that human beings have the capability of self-consciously directing the will-power. In H. P. Blavatsky words:

Will is the exclusive possession of man on this our plane of consciousness. It divides him from the brute in whom instinctive desire only is active.[4]
Man, the most perfect of organized beings on earth, in whom matter and spirit — i.e., will — are the most developed and powerful, is alone allowed to give a conscious impulse to that principle which emanates from him; and only he can impart to the magnetic fluid opposite and various impulses without limit as to the direction.[5]

In one of his letters, Master K.H. makes an interesting connection between faith and the activation of will. He wrote to Mr. Sinnett:

You have not the faith required to allow your Will to arouse itself in defiance and contempt against your purely worldly intellect.[6]

Will and Magic

One of the most evident operations of the will can be seen in its power to translate a non-material mental intention to, for example, move an arm, into a neurochemical reaction that produces the actual motion of the limb.

Will-power; force of desire; one of the occult Forces of nature. That power of the will which, exercised in occult practices, generates the nerve-currents necessary to set certain muscles in motion and to paralyze certain others.[7]

This same power can be used for occult purposes in order to produce magical effects. H. P. Blavatsky wrote:

Paracelsus teaches that "determined will is the beginning of all magical operations. It is because men do not perfectly imagine and believe the result, that the (occult) arts are so uncertain, while they might be perfectly certain.".[8]

In fact, acts such as prayer, religious chanting, meditative visualizations, and so on are conscious or unconscious acts of magic. As such, there is an important responsibility attached to how we carry our these activities:

ENQUIRER. Do you mean to say that prayer is an occult process bringing about physical results?
THEOSOPHIST. I do. Will-Power becomes a living power. But woe unto those Occultists and Theosophists, who, instead of crushing out the desires of the lower personal ego or physical man, and saying, addressing their Higher Spiritual EGO immersed in Atma-Buddhic light, "Thy will be done, not mine," etc., send up waves of will-power for selfish or unholy purposes! For this is black magic, abomination, and spiritual sorcery.[9]

Will and desire

Mme. Blavatsky stated that the forces of will and desire are related. She wrote:

Desire, in its widest application, is the one creative force in the Universe. In this sense it is indistinguishable from Will; but we men never know desire under this form while we remain only men. Therefore Will and Desire are here considered as opposed.


Thus Will is the offspring of the Divine, the God in man; Desire the motive power of the animal life.
Most of men live in and by desire, mistaking it for will. But he who would achieve must separate will from desire, and make his will the ruler; for desire is unstable and ever changing, while will is steady and constant.
Both will and desire are absolute creators, forming the man himself and his surroundings. But will creates intelligently—desire blindly and unconsciously. The man, therefore, makes himself in the image of his desires, unless he creates himself in the likeness of the Divine, through his will, the child of the light.

His task is twofold: to awaken the will, to strengthen it by use and conquest, to make it absolute ruler within his body; and, parallel with this, to purify desire.[10]

Free will

Modern science tends to maintain that free will is an illusion, given the fact that thoughts and decisions are produced in the brain, and the brain is subject to deterministic laws of causation that don't allow a for free, unconditioned, response. Blavatsky rejects this argument saying that thoughts do not originate in the brain, but in the manasic principle or the "psychic individuality", which is beyond the plane of physical matter:

By "psychic" individuality we mean that Self-determining power which enables man to override circumstances. Place half a dozen animals of the same species under the same circumstances, and their actions while not identical, will be closely similar; place half a dozen men under the same circumstances and their actions will be as different as their characters, i.e., their psychic individuality. But instead of "psychic" we call it the higher Self-conscious Will.​[11]

While all human beings possess this self-determining power in their higher nature, at this point in evolution the thinking process in the majority of humanity takes place mostly at the lower level of the "desire-mind" or kama-manas. In this context, it seems as if there is no free will, because the will is generally conditioned by desire, and the latter is conditioned by the external circumstances. But this is not the only possibility of action. In Blvatsky's words,

Whenever [the mind] disconnects itself, for the time being, with [from] kama, becomes the guide of the highest mental faculties, and is the organ of the free will in physical man.[12]

Free will has its origin in the higher mind or Ego. However, to be able to be expressed through the brain, the participation of the lower mind is required, and here lies a level of free-will that belongs to the lower self:

The "Higher Ego" cannot act directly on the body, as its consciousness belongs to quite another plane and planes of ideation--the “lower” Self does, and its action and behaviour depend on its free will and choice as to whether it will gravitate more towards its parent (“the Father in Heaven”) or the “animal” which it informs, the man of flesh.[13]

See also

Notes

  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 370.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 144.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 370.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. X (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 109.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 144.
  6. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in Chronological Sequence No. 126 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 422. See Mahatma Letter No. 126 page 2.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 150.
  8. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 370.
  9. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing House, [1987]), ???.
  10. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. X (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 109.
  11. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 357.
  12. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 358.
  13. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 366-67.