I did a class yesterday on the importance of our will on the spiritual journey. My main theme was that we need to challenge the suspicion towards will that we typically carry in spiritual circles—associating it almost exclusively with an ego that is pushing its agenda and trying to force its way—and instead reclaim the crucial importance of will as the engine that drives spiritual progress.
I first defined will as “the faculty of the self that voluntarily moves or intends toward an object of desire.”
I then talked about free will as the idea that no prior chain of causes determines what we think or do. Rather, our choices are caused by us afresh in each moment. They may be influenced by past causes, but they are not caused by those things. They are caused by us in the instant of choice. For this reason, even the Holy Spirit does not know what we will do until we do it.
What is the role of will on the spiritual journey? We seem to be trapped in our “nature,” a prisoner of our heredity and environment. But we have a choice. Regardless of past patterns, we can choose another way. We can then set the goal of reaching this other destination. And we can put all the power of our will behind the attainment of that goal, supporting it with constant choice, being determined to stay focused on that goal, and moving toward it with energy and zeal.
Finally, I talked about two very different problems with the will. One was Helen’s, who had what Jesus at one point called a “superhuman will.” That was good in itself, but her problem was that she “over-invested in many goals.” Her will was divided between different goals, which kept her from putting all her energy into the goal of God.
Bill, on the other hand, had “under-invested in all goals.” He was “not so much goal-divided [like Helen] as not goal-oriented.” Jesus said that Bill had tried to give over his will, which left him without the engine that he needed for spiritual awakening. As a result, he resigned himself to never being able to get there.
In the class, many of us identified with Bill. My point, though, was that even those of us who are more like Helen probably still need to reclaim our will as a crucial part of the spiritual journey. We are used to thinking that it’s all about getting out of the way, accepting, allowing, being willing, letting go and letting God. We need to realize that it is also about utilizing the freedom of choice and harnessing the power of will, about being constant in our efforts, being focused and disciplined, and having a “concentrated drive” (Lesson 186).