How Does One Change?
• Do we alter the present moment by planning ahead or by being spontaneous?
• Can we alter the future by choosing the course of action that will lead to the most desirable result?
• Is desire simple or complex?
• How does one change a desire?
• How does one change one’s will?
Most of us do what we do today because of the momentum of yesterday, or by reaction to stimuli, without exercising the ability to resist or suppress that reaction. Thus we are governed by past and present (i.e., memory and sensory reaction), which perpetuates vicious circles, retards progress, and prolongs undesirable conditions; whereas the exercise of “free will” consists of and entirely depends upon a consideration of and preparation for “tomorrow.”
The present moment is too late to exercise this prerogative with any expectation of altering the present moment. We can alter our future in cooperation with nature’s laws, by considering between two possible courses of action, and choosing not merely the course of action leading to the “most desirable” result, but the criterion by which we shall evaluate that “desirability.”
The mistake many make is in considering the “will” and “desire” as simple things. They are not simple but complex. It is possible to change the will by “willing to will,” and to change a desire by “desiring to desire” (i.e., by changing one’s criterion).
• What is the source of desire?
• What is the source of will?
• How does one modify reflexes that have already been formed and conditioned?
• What is intellect?
• What determines whether intellect modifies the sources of will or the sources of will possess the intellect?
• Is there a connection between hope and destiny?
Man has two sources of desire and will that are founded in two distinct physiological systems of conditioned reflexes. One of these he shares in common with all animals; the other is distinctly the endowment and distinguishing characteristic of man. Neither of these two systems is “free” insofar as the reflexes have already been formed and conditioned. The freedom that is denied to animals and enjoyed by man is the power and the necessity by reflection to create and modify the growth and development of further reflex arcs (i.e., to make or modify tendencies, habits or hopes).
If we call this reflective and representative ability “intellect,” then this is the seat and source and modus operandi of individuality and free will. For the intellect may lend its aid as a modifier to either one of man’s two sources of will; or man’s two sources of will may engage in conflict for the possession of the intellect. The one is the will of experience, habit, instinct; the other, of the selective development of latent possibilities in the seed. One is the voice of the past; the other of the future. Free will is the gift of prophecy; and the gift of prophecy is free will.
The moment you lose hope and faith, your destiny is established, regardless of your will, like a bullet shot from a rifle that cannot be turned from its course. As long as your optimistic hand holds opportunity, you govern “fate;” but if you drop it through doubt, carelessness or pessimism, you are in the hand of fate’s “destiny,” not of your own will.
• What is will power?
• What determines whether animal propensities or spiritual sentiments will predominate?
• What is the consequence of escape from the conflict of this choice?
Free will is the power. What man believes to be his “will” is but a dam for the capture and use of this power. All is right until he uses his will power the wrong way.
This is the power of the individual, of governing the polarity of his desires by commanding the animal propensities or the spiritual sentiments. Thus he determines which shall predominate, according as to whether he allows himself to respond to instinct (past), or to be influenced by intuition or inspiration (future).
Man’s only escape from this fundamental conflict of choice has been a disastrous one for him (i.e., to reject both instinct and intuition), thus confining himself to the independent operations of the intellect (i.e., to a world of reflective and verbal representations).
Within this sphere of purely intellectual activity, the truth is entirely irrelevant with respect to the physiological and psychological consequences of the reflective and representative activities of the brain and nervous system. For the multifarious combinations of memory sensations create states of mind and motivate action without regard to their “truth” or “falsity” with respect to any criteria whatever.
Until we embody the physiological laws of thought in a logic capable of correlating language with life, more philosophic speculation is barren and without any probability of correspondence with truth....
Our only practical means of insuring the correspondence of our imaginative activity with external or internal conditions... is by the coordinative activity of the entire nervous system as “antennae” in the acquisition of knowledge by “feelings,” which are to be understood only by the selective stimulation of memory elements in the activity of imagination from which all independent operations of the intellect have been rigidly excluded.
This is the domain of religion, not as a system of speculative belief, but as an operative function of intuition and faith that involves and includes the inspiration of all the so-called spiritual gifts, including prophecy and all types of mental phenomena to which have been falsely attributed occult or psychic connotations.
The exercise of the latter to the exclusion of the former produces but half-men and half-truths: i.e., mystics and mysticism. The exercise only of the former produces but half-men and half-truths: i.e., skeptics and skepticism.
The materialism of science and the spiritualism of religion are each in themselves incapable of embracing the whole man or the whole truth. It is only the two together, functioning in one man, not in separate men, that produces the capacity of mankind to a universal consciousness, coordination and understanding.
Italicized paragraphs are from Joseph Sadony's Gates of the Mind. This book, along with Sadony's other works, is out of print. See Gates of the Mind for the complete digital text.