Monday 27 June 2016

What should we Do, Now? Some considerations:

The Will versus Will-Power

William Arkle's Geography of Consciousness (1974) is so densely written that it is extremely difficult to understand - so it was only yesterday that I grasped the meaning of Chapter Sixteen The Will - and recognised that (without mentioning the term) it provided an explanation for a phenomenon which so interests me: Synchronicity.


My previous understanding was very general and external - that synchronicity was an indirect form of evidence for the reality of a personal God since it implied that 'the universe' was being 'arranged' such that I experienced certain events of special significance.


Arkle's explanation is related to a contrast between The Will versus Will Power.

Will Power is taken in its usual secular and common sense definition, and interpreted as the use of normal psychological disciplines to attain a particular goal.

Will power is a matter of 'getting what we want or believe we need'; it is a matter of strategically using our mind, understanding, predictive ability, force and manipulations to attain an objective.

Will Power may or may not achieve what it sets out to achieve - but it is essentially an attempt to impose ourselves upon the world; and therefore extremely prone to be evil in motivation and effect.


The Will is something altogether different in its nature and operation. It is our true, higher, individual Self; that contains an element of, and is in communication with, God.

Therefore The Will is a source of the power strength, and purpose of God as this specifically applies to our (real) selves.

The Will is therefore necessarily good, and (being divine) this good is harmonised with the good of all other things.

We have no conscious power to influence The Will by a strategic decision - any more than we could change God's will; we can only recognise The Will, and choose either to accept or to reject it.


Mostly we choose to ignore or reject The Will, and instead attempt to impose our false selves upon the world by Will Power.

And mostly this is un-successful - and this failure is both necessary and fortunate as the results of success would be disastrous to ourselves and to others (including the whole environment).

When (as is usual) the Will Power goes against The Will; The Will 'sabotages' our plans, by all kinds of means including psychological sabotage, but not confined to that - since The Will is divine it has power to influence other things in the environment - leading to what may be termed 'bad luck' but is actually a necessary failure to get what we want, because what we want is opposed to what God wants, and therefore creation is 'weighted against us'.


But a person who knows, accepts and lives by The Will (in however brief and incomplete a fashion) finds the opposite - he finds that not only his own mind (mental powers) but also 'things in general' cooperate in ways that are good.

This includes genuine synchronicity - which is a consequence of harmony between ourselves and our environment working towards the good, caused by The Will spontaneously (over time) reproducing in our surroundings 'a drama which represents the significance of our being': i.e. synchronicity, or 'meaningful coincidence' (as we interpret it).


By this account synchronicity is mostly an operation of God-within-us, rather than a situation created by God's power external to us. It is evidence of a truly vast and intrinsically good power - a divine power of subtle harmonisation that we may recognise (or reject); but which it is impossible for us to control, exploit or 'use' to achieve our personal desires.

This also explains divine providence, that sense of God's Will working in the world (but only with our chosen cooperation) can make situations that seem like a near-incredible 'good fortune' by a sequence of apparent 'luck'.


This may be the explanation for Great Men (in religion, theology, politics, arts, sciences etc.) who are (who 'happen to be') in the right place at the right time, and whose (small) decisions and acts are amplified (by invisible processes) to have vast consequences.

Arkle's example is Winston Churchill; whose personal qualities in the role of Prime Minister during the Battle of Britain were a consequence of extraordinary sequences of 'luck' - with world historical consequences.

"If you are a Churchill, you make a few small noises into a microphone, and you set forces in motion in people's natures which make all the difference..."

The lesson is that if we want real power in life, like Churchill, or the Greats in other domains of life; then this can be had only by renouncing Will Power, and embracing The Will.


We tend to suppose that the 'main problem' of life is 'amplifying our voices' - using force, cunning, chance to make the world take notice of what we think is important; but this is the false self at work deploying Will Power.

When the true self, The Will, is at work comes a recognition that our proper main problem, something that only we can do, is to recognise and nurture our true self, our highest consciousness which contains and harmonises with the divine.

And insofar as this achieved (and whether we know this is happening or not, and whether we are personally credited with it or not) the goodness of a true self in higher consciousness will quite easily and quite naturally be 'amplified' and propagated by innumerable instances of 'luck', sequences of meaningful coincidences: synchronicities.

Repost from 2014:


John R. said...

I've been feeling a lot like Sisyphus lately. This post gave me that feeling of epiphany. Thanks!

George said...

But how do you distinguish between your true self and the false one you wish impose thru will power?

It seems to me that will power involves the conscious, ego self, whereas accessing the true self would involve reducing conscious control and submitting to spontaneuity, perhaps.

You have defended ego, bruce, and have criticized eastern religions, and have even once or twice promoted purposive, conscious action (which sounds very much like will power).

If will power is a conscious attempt to impose our will, then surely the alternative is reduced conscious control, and rather than an imposition, a submission to the spontaneous.

Surely this sounds quite similar to eastern religions (which is perfectly compatible with christianity. As you probably know, Eugene Rose was very keen on taoism, and one of his disciples wrote s book Christ the Tao), as well as a cal to reduce ego control and purposive, goal oriented action.

Bruce Charlton said...

@John - You are welcome but it was not my doing - Just as I was about to retire for the night I strongly felt that this post was needed (I very seldom repost anything) and so I did it. Now I know why!

@George - This is not an easy matter to do for most people in the modern world.

The first step is metaphysical - which is to acknowledge that there is a true self, which is usually distinct from the false. The next is to develop a discernment for the heart - the feelings which come from the true self, which may be rather weak and intermittent. Then to recognise when the true self is active, and when not.

In mortal life there are, I think, very few people who live wholly (or almost wholly) from the true self.

If this is unconscious, then that is the situation advocated by Eastern Religions (as a generalisation - also early childhood and hunter gatherer consciousness) - but according to the lineage of Coleridge, Goethe, Steiner, Barfield and Arkle - the Western destiny is to move forwards from where we are now to a conscious living from the true self - in which purposiveness and alertness and self-awareness are retained.

I have been writing (and thinking) a lot recently about this, in multiple posts - you could word search the above author names to find the material, and/ or look at my Arkle blog.

George said...

Thanks, bruce. I've read your posts on this subject.

However, what if coleridge, barfield, etc are wrong? Maybe original participation is all there is. It seems to me there is a reluctance to admit that western man has simply gone down a wrong path, instead we have a need to explain it as a necessary step towards a higher synthesis. Its very Hegelian.

History as progress, tho, is a secularized version of Christian salvation, so I'm suspicious of it.

Is there anything in Christianity that suggests humans are evolving towards a higher consciousness in THIS world rather than the next? And that basically ireligious ways of thinking are a stage on that path?

Bruce Charlton said...


I think this is a matter not susceptible of argument or proof - (like many important matters) it can only be settled by direct personal experience. So, to investigate the matter further, you yourself need to try to attain Final Participation (or whatever it may best be called) albeit briefly and partially - and if you can do so, then you may be convinced. If not, then not. But there is (I believe) no 'method' for doing this - as Arkle said, we much each 'quarry out' our own unique path - by intuition, study, trial and error.

William Wildblood said...

I think there is something, at least implicit, in Christianity to suggest this movement towards a higher consciousness, and that is the difference between Adam before the Fall, fallen Man and Christ. Christ was not just Christ. He was also the representation of how a perfect man, one with God, could be. So the journey is depicted in the Bible from unself-conscious oneness to conscious separateness to conscious oneness. It's there if you look though admittedly not stated outright.

Bruce Charlton said...

Adding to William's persepctive - Mormonism focuses upfront on life as a matter of spiritual progression, of which this can be seen as an example. Eastern Orthodoxty focuses on theosis - which also involves a tranformaton of consciousness. Even Protestantism has contained the idea of sanctification - which amounts to much the same. All of these spiritual ideas are about a change in our way of thinking, being, relating to the world.