"All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good, shall exist;
Not its semblance, but itself; no beauty, nor good, nor power
Whose voice has gone forth, but each survives for the melodist,
When eternity affirms the conception of an hour."
Sage: The importance of the will is so frequently misunderstood that I think we will consider its true nature and purpose for a while this morning. Almost everyone is conscious that willing is not imagining. What the function of the will is, for the most part, baffles and escapes our reasoning.
Pupil: I understand that most schools of mental science teach that one should not try to use or even understand the will, because to make conscious use of will-power leads one astray.
Sage: It is most important that you should have sufficient knowledge of your will not to misuse it, or to be led astray through lack of understanding its place and power.
Pupil: It is a compelling, creative power?
Sage: Correctly speaking, the will is neither one. It is in no sense creative. There are times, however, when a strong will can compel certain external combinations.
Pupil: If will-power can produce certain external results, why not use it to that end?
Sage: Because it was not intended to be used in this way. Conditions brought into existence by mere force of will lack vitality; consequently, the situations brought about by simple will power disappear as soon as the will relaxes.
Pupil: Do the things which are forced into being through the power of a strong will disappear simply because they lack vitality, or because the compelling power relinquishes its hold?
Sage: Both, because of the lack of any real life in them, and because the energy of the will which supports them is withdrawn.
Pupil: I have read a great deal about the function of the will. What does it mean?
The Action or Function of the Will
Sage: It depends upon what you have read about the different kinds of will. The will is the power-control in your mind, which holds your thought in a given direction until a result has been accomplished.
For example: Suppose you wish to go to a certain place; without the will to go there, you could not even start, nor could you retain the thought of the place long enough to arrive. You would start in the right direction, and then, because there was not sustaining power in the thought, you might turn and go in another direction.
Pupil: So it is the will which holds the thought to a given purpose until it is consummated; or keeps an idea in its place in one's mind until it is objectified in form. It might be termed a thought-stabilizer.
Sage: Just so. It is the will which holds your mental faculties in position relative to the creative power which does the desired work. Thought is always creative, as I have explained in my book "The Edinburgh Lectures of Mental Science," page 84: "If, using the word in its widest sense, we may say that the imagination is the creative function, we may call the will the centralizing principle, its function being to keep the imagination centered in the right direction." The will has much the same place in our mental machinery that the tool-holder has in a power-lathe. To my mind this is the will.
Pupil: It is a wonderfully clear statement. It means that success or failure is contingent upon but one thing: mental control, and the will is this controlling factor.
Sage: The business of the will is always the same, that of keeping your mental faculties where they will do the work you intend them to do.
Pupil: Suppose I were conducting a business, but my thoughts were more on an anticipated vacation than on my work. Naturally my business would suffer. How could my will help me?
Practice "Will Exercises"
Sage: The case you relate illustrates a weak will. You know that your thoughts should be kept on your business, but your will is too weak to do it. You should practice will exercises to strengthen your mental energies. These will help you to focus your attention on business or any desired activity.
Pupil: If one concentrated his entire attention on business during business hours, would he be able to relax it later and enjoy his home and play?
Sage: With a properly trained will, you can pick up a thought at choice, hold it until it has finished its work, let it go again, and then pick up another thought, repeating the process again and again if you choose. In short, you can work when you work and play when you play.
Pupil: No doubt it can be done, but it seems to me now that it would be a terrible strain.
Sage: On the contrary, the well-trained, developed will maintains any position you desire without any strain on the nervous system, and its use is never followed by a sense of fatigue.
Pupil: I have always found it a great strain to hold on to any thought which did not abide in consciousness naturally.
Sage: This is an indication of a weak will, which should be strengthened through exercise, the beginning of which should be "a calm, peaceful determination to retain a certain mental attitude in spite of all temptations to the contrary, knowing that by doing so, the desired result will surely appear."
Pupil: Is the will intelligent?
"A Developed Will is the Handmaid of Intelligence"
Sage: The developed will is the handmaid of Intelligence.
Pupil: What do you mean by that?
Sage: In training your will, you will become conscious of the presence of a tremendous power which acts on the plans of the very beginning, or first cause, of every so-called physical thing. This power is the primary Living Intelligence of the universe. Tell yourself what you desire in a clear, concise way, confidently knowing that it is certain to externalize itself as an objective fact, because your will acts upon the unformed creative, or primary, Intelligence, and causes it to take the form that you have determined upon.
Pupil: That does not sound so difficult. Of one thing I am certain, that is, that my entire environment is the result of my habitual tendency of thought. Also, that when I know that I should turn my thoughts into other channels, but do not, simply letting them run along the lines of least resistance, it is because my will is weak and untrained. Will you please tell me the quickest way that this can be remedied?
You Acquire Energy, as Well as Ambition, by Exercising the Will
Sage: I will give you a few exercises for developing the will, and from these you can fashion others to suit your own requirements. In the first place, it is important to realize that any tendency to strain will be detrimental and must be avoided. Such exercises are not only interesting, but stimulating, and if persistently practiced will keep your ambitions from lagging. They will give you new impulses, renewed energy, and determination to be and to something better and greater than anything in the past. Once you are fully conscious of the place and power of your will, in the mental realm, to keep the creative energy at work in formulating your desires, you will realize that it is very susceptible to training, and you will never again be content to live without its constant use, for it would be like living only half a life.
Pupil: May I ask a question right here? I am a fairly good pianist but dislike to begin my practice, and, although I enjoy it once I have begun, to start is always a struggle. If I were to compel myself to practice on the piano at a certain time every day, would that develop and strengthen my will?
Sage: It would help, but the greatest benefit would be in the direction of making you a better musician. The best way to strengthen your will is to practice exercises for the sole purpose of strengthening the will, always remembering, while taking them, that your effort is for self-training and self-control, to the end that you many realize yourself as a part of the great universal whole. In this way you gain a peaceful centralization, which, though maintained by a conscious act of the will, is the very essence of rest. With a well-developed, trained will, your thoughts will never wander from the consciousness that "all is life, and all is good, and nature, from her clearly visible surface to her most arcane depths, is a storehouse for good."
You have the key to her great treasures, and whatever appeals to you most at any particular time and place, is that mode of the universal Living Spirit with which you are at that moment most in touch. Realizing this, you draw from out the universe streams of vital energy, which make the very act of living a joy, which radiate from you vibrations that can turn aside all injurious suggestions. This is surely a good and sufficient reason for developing the will.
Exercise for Strengthening the Will
The will is weak because of lack of exercise. Training the will is very much the same as training the muscles. Its development is gradual. Only will can develop will; consequently, you begin with what will you have, and expand and strengthen it thought its action upon itself. The weak will manifests in two phases: over-action and under-action; the former as impulsiveness, impetuousness, and the life, and the latter as lethargy, phlegmatism, etc.
It is good to begin each day with a resolution not to hurry, and not to leave any task unfinished. Effort in this direction is of inestimable value. There should be only one object in your mind with reference to your exercise --the development and strengthening of your will. At the time have no thought of your improvement as a musician, for if there is any ulterior motive, your will-training will be lost sight of.
Cultivate the Feeling of Contentment
Cultivate the sense of contentment, and begin your exercise with that feeling, determining to do it in a happy frame of mind. This is important. Take your exercise at a time of day when interruptions are least likely to occur, for 7 consecutive days, 10 consecutive minutes a day. If an interruption occurs during the exercise, start all over again. If you forget the exercise for one day before you have finished your course of 7 days, begin the entire set again and go through with it uninterruptedly.
Place a notebook and pencil by your side before beginning. Now take fifty matches, beads, buttons, bits of paper, or any other small objects, and drop them slowly and deliberately into a box one by one, with a feeling of contentment and satisfaction, declaring with each movement, "I will to will." The one and most important thought is that you are training your will for the particular advantage of having a trained will, and this is why you should cultivate the feeling of contentment. The only method by which you can study the development of your will is by self-analysis and introspection, so, when you have finished your practice, ask yourself such questions as these: "What did I think about the exercise while I was doing it? Did I believe it would really cultivate my will, or did I do it just because I was told to? Did I actually concentrate on dropping the matches into the box, or was I more concerned with their arrangement, or was I distracted with other thoughts, good or bad? Was I watching the time impatiently, or was I consciously engaging in thoughts of satisfaction and contentment? Did I have a sense of strain, or did it brace me up? Do I believe that it will really train my will if I faithfully follow it up long enough to prove it?" etc., etc.
Write down this series of questions and answers in your notebook. You will find it both interesting and encouraging to keep this record and thus watch your progress.
Stimulating an Interest in Your Will Exercise
You can stimulate interest in your exercise by varying your resolution or intention. That is, one time hold a conscious attitude of joyously willing to will, another of powerfully willing to will, another of peacefully, and another contentedly, etc., etc. These variations in the exercise with the suggestions for introspection, which have been slightly changed, were taken from the best authority, as far as I know, along the lines of will-training, and I am positive will bring the attainment of a firm, strong will, and an intelligent use of it.