The Willl is like a lever that lifts in any direction desired. Yet it may also be the power that decides the direction. It is the factor in human experience which makes or mars character, and fulfils or defeats every promise of nature. If unguided, except by the caprice of the senses, it is the unworthy helmsman that steers the ship directly on to the rocks. But exalted, trained and consecrated, it leads into the harbor of peace and safety. So subtle and wonderful is this grand faculty, that only the closest study and most careful analysis will reveal either its nature, its modes of action, or its possibilities.
From the superficial standpoint it is forcible and sometimes violent, yet always successful in the accomplishment of its ends. This is the external or positive phase.
There are two aspects to every force, one is the positive, the other is the negative. Sometimes this quality which runs through everything is called masculine and feminine, masculine corresponding to the positive, feminine to the passive or negative.
The masculine is always the aggressive, forcible, active, positive power. The feminine is the passive, receptive, hidden, unmanifest potency. Both are equally requisite to the operation and fulfillment of any project, but either may be too much in excess, thereby causing a lack of balance between the two, and the consequent defeat of the end to be attained.
As to Will, it is too often only the masculine phase which is recognized and brought into activity. Will in the sense-man means what is commonly called brute-force, because it is the same exhibition of violent energy directed by Will, as that seen amongst animals, the wild beast attacking his prey or defending his little ones, for example.
Masculine will-force is powerful but convulsive and short-lived; hence while it may accomplish wonders with its explosive energy, it is not to be relied upon for the accomplishment of great ends, unless in wedded harmony with its other half, the feminine.
Note the illustration of this perfect quality of force in the male and female parents. The male acts and gives. The female receives, and silently and secretly carries that which she receives to perfect fulfillment. She is the carrying, bringing to pass power, and while the first exhibition of energy was active, the final and crowning result could only be attained by the patient, persistent, secret work of the helpmeet. So in the dual Will, the positive or masculine must act, remove obstructions, build conditions, put forth energy in the initial step of an undertaking, and then subside into the background until necessity again demands active assertion. The feminine meantime quietly holds, matures, and brings to fruition. Is this not so in the inception and accomplishment of any earnest purpose?
Note the man of the world who has made a success of himself or his work. Is he a noisy, boasting, blustering talker? Nay, rather the quiet, plodding, tenacious worker. He may be left far behind his more brilliant mate. He may seem to sink even below mediocrity as compared with his associates in the social scale. Yet there comes a time when his achievements are known, when all the plodding, self-denying work of years reaps a rich harvest. And all this, not so much the product of his brain as his Will, his feminine Will.
It seems to me that this truth is worth most earnest thought. No soul comes into this world without Will, although people often declare that they have no will, and bewail the lack. But if we look deeply into the fundamental nature and character, have we found one who has not Will, and who does not exercise it in the direction of his wants? I think not one, be he lunatic, imbecile or sane. But upon the whole-heartedness of his wants much depends. It may be that only with his lips he wants this or that. It may be because a friend has suggested it that he wants it, it may be that he dislikes to be different to his neighbors. For all these reasons he will often fail in attaining, but if right deep down in his heart he wants it, so that his very being demands it, though all the world stands and thunders "No!" in his unheeding ears, he will have it.
The surface of the water will make but a light wave that recedes quickly, causing no damage, but beware when the whole body of water returns in the same direction at the same time! This is an illustration of the dual force and action of Will; the upper and lower, the outer and inner which, acting in concert, are absolutely invincible.
The first step in cultivating and using the magnificent power of Will is to concentrate upon a noble aim, and then with a single eye and unswerving purpose work to attain it. Concentration of Will upon a noble purpose is the privilege of every soul. Are we seeking to alive the true, unselfish life, the spiritual life, meaning by that the life that accords with our highest conception of what is God-like? Then surely we have found that the first step is to dethrone self and enthrone Truth—that the right use of the senses is as interpreters and not as dictators. Have we come to the point when we can say, "Come what will, let it cost what may, I will be true to my aim." If we have, and then give the whole force and fervor of our being to the attainment. This is concentration of Will. Quickly will the positive force of our Will sweep all obstacles aside, and make conditions by which the gentle feminine may bring to pass our heart's desire.
But the difficulty some of us have found ere this, is that the subjection and dethronement of the senses, and hence of the self is not accomplished with a mere wish. So deeply in- grained in the very fiber of our being are the erroneous views and ideas inculcated by ages of perverted sense use that many a time, even after we have intellectually and earnestly accepted the higher truth, our old habits and inclinations will force a battle wherein we are victors or vanquished. We may be tempted to judge someone, or to yield to a sensual desire; this is our opportunity to prove the value of concentrated Will. Will we, or will we not, be true to our highest in this emergency? "True to the death," pleads our soul. "True to the death," echoes the heart. "True to the death," urges the mind. "True to the death," thunders the Will, and gathering all the forces of Soul, Heart, and Mind, positive Will hurls them full upon the temptations and they are broken. Thus strengthened and encouraged by victory, both phases of Will gain power and accumulative force until the final victory is won.
—Johann Kaspar Lavater