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The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science
The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science, by Thomas Troward online
The Will is of such primary importance that the student should be on his guard against any mistake as to the position which it holds in the mental economy. Many writers and teachers insist on will-power as though that were the creative faculty. No doubt intense will-power can evolve certain external results, but like all other methods of compulsion it lacks the permanency of natural growth. The appearances, forms, and conditions produced by mere intensity of will-power will only hang together so long as the compelling force continues; but let it be exhausted or withdrawn, and the elements thus forced into unnatural combination will at once fly back to their proper affinities; the form created by compulsion never had the germ of vitality _in itself_ and is therefore dissipated as soon as the external energy which supported it is withdrawn. The mistake is in attributing the creative power to the will, or perhaps I should say in attributing the creative power to ourselves at all. The truth is that man never creates anything. His function is, not to create, but to combine and distribute that which is already in being, and what we call our creations are new combinations of already existing material, whether mental or corporeal. This is amply demonstrated in the physical sciences. No one speaks of creating energy, but only of transforming one form of energy into another; and if we realize this as a universal principle, we shall see that on the mental plane as well as on the physical we never create energy but only provide the conditions by which the energy already existing in one mode can exhibit itself in another: therefore what, relatively to man, we call his creative power, is that receptive attitude of expectancy which, so to say, makes a mould into which the plastic and as yet undifferentiated substance can flow and take the desired form. The will has much the same place in our mental machinery that the tool-holder has in a power-lathe: it is not the power, but it keeps the mental faculties in that position relatively to the power which enables it to do the desired work. 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 is to keep the imagination centred in the right direction. We are aiming at consciously controlling our mental powers instead of letting them hurry us hither and thither in a purposeless manner, and we must therefore understand the relation of these powers to each other for the production of external results. First the whole train of causation is started by some emotion which gives rise to a desire; next the judgment determines whether we shall externalize this desire or not; then the desire having been approved by the judgment, the will comes forward and directs the imagination to form the necessary spiritual prototype; and the imagination thus centred on a particular object creates the spiritual nucleus, which in its turn acts as a centre round which the forces of attraction begin to work, and continue to operate until, by the law of growth, the concrete result becomes perceptible to our external senses.
The business of the will, then, is to retain the various faculties of our mind in that position where they are really doing the work we wish, and this position may be generalized into the three following attitudes; either we wish to act upon something, or be acted on by it, or to maintain a neutral position; in other words we either intend to project a force, or receive a force or keep a position of inactivity relatively to some particular object. Now the judgment determines which of these three positions we shall take up, the consciously active, the consciously receptive, or the consciously neutral; and then the function of the will is simply to maintain the position we have determined upon; and if we maintain any given mental attitude we may reckon with all certainty on the law of attraction drawing us to those correspondences which exteriorly symbolize the attitude in question. This is very different from the semi-animal screwing-up of the nervous forces which, with some people, stands for will-power. It implies no strain on the nervous system and is consequently not followed by any sense of exhaustion. The will-power, when transferred from the region of the lower mentality to the spiritual plane, becomes simply a calm and 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 certainly appear.