Monday, December 1, 2008

One of the World's Greatest Secrets

is not protected by monks in some shrine in impassable mountains; it is not some abstruse knowledge imparted only to the select, for their use and profit; it is not an invention of religion, organised or otherwise, to extract money from the gullible or to comfort the miserable; you do not have to go into the desert, under the ocean, up mountains or down caves to find it; it is not in the sun or the moon, it does not float in the air or hide behind rainbows; it is so absolutely ubiquitous that it is known to everyone, and treated as false by all but a few. It is everywhere, but no one can see it. They think it is one more dream, an impossibility, something that they are not allowed to have for themselves. The real secret is that it is true.

That secret is the power of the human will. Almost anything is possible if we wish it to be. Often the greatest obstacle to our doing something is that we do not want to. We may think we want to, we may desire the outcome, but we are incapable of taking the steps required to achieve it. It is easier to wait for someone to give it to us, to complain when they don’t, to stagnate in or indolence, make excuses about tiredness, lack of time, bad luck, and a thousand other things, and grow to accept ourselves as weak, inept failures, jealous of those who have not made excuses, have ignored fatigue, bored, distraction, pain and self-pity, and whose reward has been the world. Because the world does not belong to those who sit about wishing someone would let them have it, or that they had the energy to take it; it belongs to those who want it.

And the biggest secret of all is that once you start trying, the results can be unbelievable.

When we speak of the power of the will we mean the ability man has to force himself to do what his fear or laziness or lack of immediate need would normally prevent him from doing. It is well known to those who wish to observe the phenomenon that most, probably all, people, do not closely approach the limits of their physical or mental powers, nor of their power to influence others. The conscious expression of a desire to achieve something, if properly directed, will make it considerably easier to achieve, simply because we will be trying harder than we ever thought possible. By properly directed I mean that we must take appropriate steps towards our goal- simple desire is not enough- but once we have consciously used our will to force ourselves to take those steps the results can be quite astounding. There is no magic force behind this, nor is it some mystical wisdom from ‘the East.’ It is just that we surprise the world by trying harder than it thought we would, and it tends to give us what we want. (By the world I mean the people about us, including ourselves.)

This is the secret behind many movements that promise the acquisition of grace, health, wealth, happiness, fulfilment, love, or whatever one wishesto gain. Sometimes they actually do what they promise, since it is often perfectly possible to do so and this knowledge does not belong entirely to frauds and charlatans. It is, however, frequently used by such people to enrich themselves in money and influence, by making just enough difference to enough people for others to be convinced they can experience the same. Once that is done the leader has no need to do anything at all for more than a few, to keep the thing going. Self-delusion is so much easier than strength of will. (It is possible that Common Purpose functions in this way, though I admit I speak from anecdote, and it does seem to achieve real results.)

Clearly what cannot be achieved by an effort of will is the altering of the laws of physics, the changing of the past, or the surpassing of the actual limits of our bodies or minds, although these things are frequently promised and believed to be achievable. We can conclude tentatively that we are the only animals possessed of the ability to freely assign purpose to concepts and acts; that is, to know why we do things; to have will.

This great secret can freely be exposed to the world, and it will remain a secret. Most people do not want to believe it; so they do not.

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