Will and Character

By Charles G. Leland.

     "And I have felt
    A Presence that disturbs me with the joy
    Of elevated thoughts, a sense sublime
    Of something far more deeply interposed,
    Whose dwelling is . . . all in the mind of man;
    A motion and a spirit that impels
    All thinking things."
-- Wordsworth.


As the vast majority of people are not agreed as to what really constitutes a Gentleman, while a great many seem to be practically, at least, very much abroad as to the nature of a Christian, so it will be found that, in fact, there is a great deal of difference as regards the Will. I have known many men, and some women, to be credited by others, and who very much credited themselves, with having iron wills, when, in fact, their every deed, which was supposed to prove it, was based on brazen want of conscience. Mere want of principle or unscrupulousness passes with many, especially its possessors, for strong will. And even decision of character itself, as MAGINN remarks, is often confounded with talent. "A bold woman always gets the name of clever" among fools "though her intellect may be of a humble order, and her knowledge contemptible." Among the vulgar, especially those of greedy, griping race and blood, the children of the thief, a robber of the widow and orphan, the scamp of the syndicate, and soulless "promoter" in South or North America, bold robbery, or Selfishness without scruple or timidity always appears as Will. But it is not the whole of the real thing, or real will in itself. When MUTIUS CAIUS SCAEVOLA thrust his hand into the flames no one would have greatly admired his endurance if it had been found that the hand was naturally insensible and felt no pain. Nor would there have been any plaudits for MARCUS CURTIUS when he leapt into the gulf, had he been so drunk as not to know what he was about. The will which depends on unscrupulousness is like the benumbed hand or intoxicated soul. Quench conscience, as a sense of right and obligation, and you can, of course, do a great deal from which another would shrink and therefore be called "weak-minded" by the fools.

There is another type of person who imposes on the world and on self as being strong-minded and gifted with Will. It is the imperturbable cool being, always self-possessed, with little sympathy for emotion. In most cases such minds result from artificial training, and they break down in real trials. I do not say that they cannot weather a storm or a duel, or stand fire, or get through what novelists regard as superlative stage trials; but, in a moral crisis, the gentleman or lady whose face is all Corinthian brass is apt like that brass in a fire to turn pale. These folk get an immense amount of undeserved admiration as having Will or self-command, when they owe what staying quality they have (like the preceding class) rather to a lack of good qualities than their inspiration.

There are, alas! not a few who regard Will as simply identical with mere obstinacy, or stubbornness, the immovability of the Ass, or Bull, or Bear that is, they reduce it to an animal power. But, as this often or generally amounts in animal or man to mere insensible sulkiness as far remote as possible from enlightened mental action, it is surely unjust to couple it with the Voluntary or pure intelligent Will, by which all must understand the very acme of active Intellect.

Therefore it follows, that the errors, mistakes, and perversions which have grown about Will in popular opinion, like those which have accumulated round Christianity, are too often mistaken for the truth. Pure Will is, and must be by its very nature, perfectly free, for the more it is hindered, or hampered, or controlled in any way, the less is it independent volition. Therefore, pare Will, free from all restraint can only act in, or as, Moral Law. Acting in accordance with very mean, immoral, obstinate motives is, so to speak, obeying as a slave the devil. The purer the motive the purer the Will, and in very truth the purer the stronger, or firmer. Every man has his own idea of Will according to his morality even as it is said that every man's conception of God is himself infinitely magnified or, as SYDNEY SMITH declared, that a certain small clergyman believed that Saint Paul was five feet two inches in height, and wore a shovel-hat. And here we may note that if the fundamental definition of a gentleman be "a man of perfect integrity," or one who always does simply what is right, he is also one who possesses Will in its integrity.

Therefore it follows that if the pure will, which is the basis of all firm and determined action, be a matter of moral conviction, it should take the first place as such. Napoleon the First was an exemplar of a selfish corrupted will, CHRIST the perfection of Will in its purity. And if I can make my meaning clear, I would declare that he who would create within himself a strong and vigorous will by hypnotism or any other process, will be most likely to succeed, if, instead of aiming at developing a power by which he may subdue others, and make all things yield to him, or similar selfish aims, he shall, before all, seriously reflect on how he may use it to do good. For I am absolutely persuaded from what I know, that he who makes Altruism and the happiness of others a familiar thought to be coupled with every effort (even as a lamb is always painted with, or appointed unto, St. John), will be the most likely to succeed. There is something in moral conviction or the consciousness of right which gives a sense of security or a faith in success which goes far to secure it. Hence the willing the mind on the following day to be at peace, not to yield to irritability or temptations to quarrel, to be pleasing and cheerful; in short to develop good qualities is the most easily effected process, because where there is such self-moral-suasion to a good aim or end, we feel, and very justly, that we ought to be aided by the Deus in nobis, or an over-ruling Providence, whatever its form or nature may be. And the experimenter may be assured that if we can by any means will or exorcise all envy, vanity, folly, irritability, vindictiveness in short all evil out of ourselves, and supply their place with Love, we shall take the most effective means to secure our own happiness, as well as that of others.

All of this has been repeated very often of late years by Altruists; but, while the doctrine is accepted both by Agnostics and Christians as perfect, there has been little done to show men how to practically realize it. But I have ever noted that in this Pilgrim's Progress of our life, those are most likely to attain to the Celestial City, and all its golden glories, who, like CHRISTIAN, start from the lowliest beginnings; and as the learning our letters leads to reading the greatest books, so the simplest method of directing the attention and the most mechanical means of developing Will, may promptly lead to the highest mental and moral effect.

Prayer is generally regarded as nothing else but an asking or begging from a superior power. But it is also something which is really very different from this. It is a formula by means of which man realizes his faith and will. Tradition, and habit (of whose power I have spoken) or repetition, have given it the influence or prestige of a charm. In fact it is a spell, he who utters it feels assured that if seriously repeated it will be listened to, and that the Power to whom it is addressed will hear it. The Florentines all round me as I write, who repeat daily, "Pate nostro quis in cell, santi ficeturie nome tumme!" in words which they do not understand, do not pray for daily bread or anything else in the formula; they only realize that they commune with God, and are being good. An intelligent prayer in this light is the concentration of thought on a subject, or a definite realization. Therefore if when willing that tomorrow I shall be calm all day or void of irritation, I put the will or wish into a brief and clear form, it will aid me to promptly realize or feel what I want. And it will be a prayer in its reality, addressed to the Unknown Power or to the Will within us an invocation, or a spell, according to the mind of him who makes it.

Thus a seeker may repeat: "I will, earnestly and deeply, that during all tomorrow I may be in a calm and peaceful state of mind. I will with all my heart that if irritating or annoying memories or images, or thoughts of any kind are in any way awakened, that they may be promptly forgotten and fade away!"

I would advise that such a formula be got by heart till very familiar, to be repeated, but not mechanically, before falling to sleeps What is of the very utmost importance is that the operator shall feel its meaning and at the same time give it the impulse of Will by the dual process before described. This, if successfully achieved, will not fail (at least with most minds) to induce success.

This formula, or "spell," will be sufficient for some time. When we feel that it is really beginning to have an effect, we may add to it other wishes. That is to say, be it clearly understood, that by repeating the will to be calm and peaceful, day after day, it will assuredly begin to come of itself, even as a pigeon which hath been "tolled" every day at a certain hour to find corn or crumbs in a certain place, will continue to go there even if the food cease. However, you may renew the first formula if you will. Then we may add gradually the wish to be in a bold or courageous frame of mind, so as to face trials, as follows:

"I will with all my soul, earnestly and truly, that I may be on the morrow and all the day deeply inspired with courage and energy, with self-confidence and hope! May it lighten my heart and make me heedless of all annoyances and vexations which may arise! Should such come in my way, may I hold them at no more than their real value, or laugh them aside!"

Proceed gradually and firmly through the series, never trying anything new, until the old has fully succeeded. This is essential, for failure leads to discouragement. Then, in time, fully realizing all its deepest meaning, so as to impress the Imagination one may will as follows:

"May my quickness of Perception, or Intuition, aid me in the business which I expect to undertake tomorrow. I will that my faculty of grasping at details and understanding their relations shall be active. May it draw from my memory the hidden things which will aid it!"

The artist or literary man, or poet, may in time earnestly will to this effect:

"I desire that my genius, my imagination, the power which enables man to combine and create; the poetic (or artist) spirit, whatever it be, may act in me tomorrow, awakening great thoughts and suggesting for them beautiful forms."

He who expects to appear in public as an orator, as a lawyer pleading a case, or as a witness, will do much to win success, if after careful forethought or reflecting on what it is that he really wants, he will repeat:

"I will that tomorrow I may speak or plead, with perfect self-possession and absence of all timidity or fear!"

Finally, we may after long and earnest reflection on all which I have said, and truly not till then, resolve on the Masterspell to awaken the Will itself in such a form that it will fill our soul, as it were, unto which intent it is necessary to understand what Will really means to us in its purity and integrity. The formula may be:

"I will that I may feel inspired with the power, aided by calm determination, to do what I desire, aided by a sense of right and justice to all. May my will be strong and sustain me in all trials. May it inspire that sense of independence of strength which, allied to a pure conscience, is the greatest source of happiness on earth!"

If the reader can master this last, he can by its aid progress infinitely. And with the few spells which I have given he will need no more, since in these lie the knowledge, and key, and suggestion to all which may be required.

Now it will appear clearly to most, that no man can long and steadily occupy himself with such pursuits, without morally benefiting by them in his waking hours, even if auto-hypnotism were all "mere imagination," in the most frivolous sense of the word. For he who will himself not to yield to irritability, can hardly avoid paying attention to the subject, and thinking thereon, check himself when vexed. And as I have said, what we summon by Will ere long remains as Habit, even as the Elves, called by a spell, remain in the Tower.

Therefore it is of great importance for all people who take up and pursue to any degree of success this Art or Science, that they shall be actuated by moral and unselfish motives, since achieved with any other intent the end can only be the bringing of evil and suffering into the soul. For as the good by strengthening the Will make themselves promptly better and holier, so he who increases it merely to make others feel his power will become with it wickeder, yea, and thrice accursed, for what is the greatest remedy is often the strongest poison.

Step by step Science has advanced of late to the declaration that man thinks all over his body, or at least experiences those reflected sensations or emotions which are so strangely balanced between intellectual sense and sensation that we hardly know where or how to class them. "The sensitive plexi of our whole organism are all either isolated or thrown into simultaneous vibration when acted on by Thought." So the Will may be found acting unconsciously as an emotion or instinct, or developed with the highest forms of conscious reflection. Last of all we find it, probably as the result of all associated functions or powers, at the head of all, their Executive president. But is it "the exponent of correlated forces?" There indeed doctors differ.

There is a very curious Italian verb, Invogliare, which is thus described in a Dictionary of Idioms: "Invogliare is to inspire a will or desire, cupiditatem injicere a movere. To invogliare anyone is to awake in him the will or the ability or capacity, an earnest longing or appetite, an ardent wish alicujus rei cupiditatem a desiderium alicni movere to bring into action a man's hankering, solicitude, anxiety, yearning, ardor, predilection, love, fondness and relish, or aught which savors of Willing." Our English word, Inveigle, is derived from it, but we have none precisely corresponding to it which so generally sets forth the idea of inspiring a will in another person. "Suggestion" is far more general and vague. Now if a man could thus in-will himself to good or moral purpose, he would assume a new position in life. We all admit that most human beings have defects or faults of which they would gladly be freed (however incorrigible they appear to be), but they have not the patience to effect a cure, to keep to the resolve, or prevent it from fading out of sight. For a vast proportion of all minor sins, or those within the law, there is no cure sought. The offender says and believes, "It is too strong for me" and yet these small unpunished offenses cause a thousand times more suffering than all the great crimes.

Within a generation, owing to the great increase of population, prosperity and personal comfort, nervous susceptibility has also gained in extent, but there has been no check to petty abuse of power, selfishness, which always comes out in some form of injustice or wrong, or similar vexations. Nay, what with the disproportionate growth of vulgar wealth, this element has rapidly increased, and it would really seem as if the plague must spread ad infinitum, unless some means can be found to invogliare and inspire the offenders with a sense of their sins, and move them to reform. And it is more than probable that if all who are at heart sincerely willing to reform their morals and manners could be brought to keep their delinquencies before their consciousness in the very simple manner which I have indicated, the fashion or mode might at least be inaugurated. For it is not so much a moral conviction, or an appeal to common sense, which is needed (as writers on ethics all seem to think), but some practical art of keeping men up to the mark in endeavoring to reform, or to make them remember it all day long, since "out of sight out of mind" is the devil's greatest help with weak minds.


This is taken from The Mystic Will.





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