Willpower and The Spiritual Will

What exactly is the will? Perhaps the simplest definition is that will is the metaphysical power of causation. It is meta-physical because that decision and intention to cause something to happen, and which then sets in motion the requisite physiological processes and actions, is itself above and beyond those processes and actions. It originates in the inner, unseen, thinking entity. In much of daily life, however, this power of causation, or causing things to happen, tends to be of the lower forms of will, which are more like desire than like true will.

The Ageless Wisdom or Esoteric Philosophy of the Masters considers willpower to be one of the six Shaktis or principal occult forces inherent in the cosmos and inherent within the human being, although all are to a degree still latent and dormant within those of us who have not yet become initiated Adepts or Masters of The Wisdom. Those Shaktis are named by H. P. Blavatsky in “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 292-293 as Parasakti, Jnanasakti, Itchasakti, Kriyasakti, Kundalini Sakti, and Mantrika-Sakti. It is Itchasakti – more commonly written as Iccha Shakti – which is “the power of the Will.” The six are all synthesised in that great Force which is their Source, namely Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos. These forces or Shaktis are further stated by HPB to be linked with Hierarchies of Dhyan Chohans or celestial beings. “Each of these Forces has a living Conscious Entity at its head, of which entity it is an emanation.”

Will is defined in a range of different yet interrelated ways by Theosophy but one notable definition is that the will is “the energy of consciousness in action.”

It appears that the greater amount of Theosophical commentary and emphasis on the true will or spiritual will is found in the 20th century writings of Robert Crosbie, the founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists, and also those of Raghavan Iyer, who was an influential figure in the ULT. In a magazine titled “Hermes” (published between 1975-1989 by the Santa Barbara Lodge of the ULT) Iyer defined “true spiritual will” as “the conscious direction of energy by intelligent ideation and self-conscious volition” and described it as being “the supreme criterion and sovereign talisman of Aquarian humanity.” According to Theosophy, we are today living in the early period of the New Age of Aquarius.

It should be understood that merely reading these quotes will not develop or strengthen one’s willpower, least of all help to practically develop the spiritual will. One has to begin to EXERCISE it . . . but take care not to try exercising and applying it as a means of metaphysically attracting and achieving one’s material and sensual desires, for although that is popular and widely promoted nowadays, such is really only the whitewashing of black magic.

The right exercise of willpower, the occult (i.e. unseen but very real) power of will, is for purposes of self-control, self-mastery, self-purification, attainment of focus and clear meditative concentration in all areas and activities of life, and an increasingly sustained elevation in consciousness.

You may think you lack the willpower needed to overcome a bad habit, remove a longstanding addiction, master your thinking processes, or gain control over impulsive emotional reactions. But if you have the willpower needed to get out of bed on days when you don’t have to or don’t need to, you undoubtedly have enough willpower to do those seemingly more daunting things. It all begins with making a firm and definite resolve to yourself that “I will use my will!” You must use your will and at the same time never doubt that that power is indeed in your possession. As the will is sevenfold in nature – like everything in manifestation – even what has just been described is still not the true spiritual will . . . but without what has just been described, spiritual will will seem forever unattainable.

There are many more references to the will in the Theosophical teachings than in this compilation but those we have assembled here will hopefully provide an inspiring introduction and overview of this important and extremely practical subject. For the best understanding of all the points, it will help to be familiar with the Seven Principles of the human constitution.

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Under the heading “WILL AND DESIRE” HPB states:

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the main founder of the modern Theosophical Movement

“DESIRE, in its widest application, is the one creative force in the Universe. In this sense it is indistinguishable from Will; but we men never know desire under this form while we remain only men. [Note: This appears to be a reference to what is described as “Kamadeva” on p. 170-171 of “The Theosophical Glossary” by HPB.] Therefore Will and Desire are here considered as opposed.

“Thus Will is the offspring of the Divine, the God in man; Desire the motive power of the animal life.

“Most men live in and by desire, mistaking it for will. But he who would achieve must separate will from desire, and make his will the ruler; for desire is unstable and ever changing, while will is steady and constant.

“Both will and desire are absolute creators, forming the man himself and his surroundings. But will creates intelligently – desire blindly and unconsciously. The man, therefore, makes himself in the image of his desires, unless he creates himself in the likeness of the Divine, through his will, the child of the light.

“His task is twofold: to awaken the will, to strengthen it by use and conquest, to make it absolute ruler within his body; and, parallel with this, to purify desire.

“Knowledge and will are the tools for the accomplishment of this purification.” (“Theosophical Articles and Notes” p. 194)

Will. In metaphysics and occult philosophy, Will is that which governs the manifested universes in eternity. Will is the one and sole principle of abstract eternal MOTION, or its ensouling essence. “The will”, says Van Helmont, “is the first of all powers. . . . The will is the property of all spiritual beings and displays itself in them the more actively the more they are freed from matter.” And Paracelsus teaches that “determined will is the beginning of all magical operations. It is because men do not perfectly imagine and believe the result, that the (occult) arts are so uncertain, while they might be perfectly certain.” Like all the rest, the Will is septenary in its degrees of manifestation. Emanating from the one, eternal, abstract and purely quiescent Will (Âtmâ in Layam), it becomes Buddhi in its Alaya state, descends lower as Mahat (Manas), and runs down the ladder of degrees until the divine Eros becomes, in its lower, animal manifestation, erotic desire. Will as an eternal principle is neither spirit nor substance but everlasting ideation. As well expressed by Schopenhauer in his Parerga, “in sober reality there is neither matter nor spirit. The tendency to gravitation in a stone is as unexplainable as thought in the human brain. . . If matter can – no one knows why – fall to the ground, then it can also – no one knows why – think. . . . As soon, even in mechanics, as we trespass beyond the purely mathematical, as soon as we reach the inscrutable adhesion, gravitation, and so on, we are faced by phenomena which are to our senses as mysterious as the WILL.” (“The Theosophical Glossary” p. 370)

Nature abhors Vacuum” said the Peripatetics, who comprehended perhaps, though materialists in their way, why Democritus, with his instructor Leucippus, taught that the first principles of all things contained in the Universe were atoms and a vacuum.  The latter means simply latent Deity or force; which, before its first manifestation when it became WILL – communicating the first impulse to these atoms – was the great Nothingness, Ain-Soph, or NO-THING; was, therefore, to every sense, a Void – or CHAOS. That Chaos, however, became the “Soul of the World,” according to Plato and the Pythagoreans.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 343)

“That which we call will has its seat in the higher EGO.” (“Transactions of The Blavatsky Lodge” p. 67)

In response to the question of whether there is any other type of prayer than a petition or request to an anthropomorphised conception of God (i.e. God as a personal Being), H. P. Blavatsky said:

“Most decidedly; we call it WILL-PRAYER, and it is rather an internal command than a petition. . . . [Such a prayer is made to] “our Father in heaven” – in its esoteric meaning. . . . We call our “Father in heaven” that deific essence of which we are cognizant within us, in our heart and spiritual consciousness, and which has nothing to do with the anthropomorphic conception we may form of it in our physical brain or its fancy: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of (the absolute) God dwelleth in you?” Yet, let no man anthropomorphise that essence in us. Let no Theosophist, if he would hold to divine, not human truth, say that this “God in secret” listens to, or is distinct from, either finite man or the infinite essence – for all are one. Nor, as just remarked, that a prayer is a petition. It is a mystery rather; an occult process by which finite and conditioned thoughts and desires, unable to be assimilated by the absolute spirit which is unconditioned, are translated into spiritual wills and the will; such process being called “spiritual transmutation.” The intensity of our ardent aspirations changes prayer into the “philosopher’s stone,” or that which transmutes lead into pure gold. The only homogeneous essence, our “will-prayer” becomes the active or creative force, producing effects according to our desire. . . . Will-Power becomes a living power. But woe unto those Occultists and Theosophists, who, instead of crushing out the desires of the lower personal ego or physical man, and saying, addressing their Higher Spiritual EGO immersed in Atma-Buddhic light, “Thy will be done, not mine,” etc., send up waves of will-power for selfish or unholy purposes! For this is black magic, abomination, and spiritual sorcery.” (“The Key to Theosophy” p. 67-68)

From the above, will-prayer appears to be a deep and esoteric practice or process and although HPB explains the basics of what it is, she does not directly or clearly spell out how to do it, neither in “The Key to Theosophy” nor the few other places where she referred to it. In the absence of such instructions, anyone wishing to use this type of prayer will need to carefully study and reflect upon her words about it (all of which are compiled in the section “THE MYSTERY OF WILL-PRAYER” in an article here) and then try to work out for themselves the best way in which they can apply it. It is clear that various aspects of it must remain a mystery for now.

In an article titled “Jnana Yajna,” Raghavan Iyer briefly offered an example of will-prayer but this should only be taken as one brief and incomplete example: “The light of the prajnagarbha – the Atman beyond and above all the gunas and qualities – is a wisdom that is essentially unmanifest and is the perpetual motion which is pure motionless self-existence. We need to say to the personal conditioned self, “Even though you are incapable of appreciating the grandeur of the cosmic sacrifice, I, that Self which knows that you are incapable, take you and throw you into the cosmic fire.” Now this can be treated ironically but it is also profoundly sacred. It is what H. P. Blavatsky termed “will-prayer.”


William Quan Judge, co-founder with HPB of the Theosophical Movement and also her closest & most trusted colleague

“The system postulates that Ishwara, the spirit in man, is untouched by any troubles, works, fruit of works, or desires, and when a firm position is assumed with the end in view of reaching union with spirit through concentration, He comes to the aid of the lower self and raises it gradually to higher planes. In this process the Will by degrees is given a stronger and stronger tendency to act upon a different line from that indicated by passion and desire. Thus it is freed from the domination of desire and at last subdues the mind itself. But before the perfection of the practice is arrived at the will still acts according to desire, only that the desire is for higher things and away from those of the material life.” (“The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali” Preface, p. xv-xvi)

“The subject of the Will has not been treated of much in theosophical works, old or new. Patanjali does not go into it at all. It seems to be inferred by him through his aphorisms. Will is universal, and belongs to not only man and animals, but also to every other natural kingdom. The good and bad man alike have will, the child and the aged, the wise and the lunatic. It is therefore a power devoid in itself of moral quality. That quality must be added by man.” (“Meditation, Concentration, Will”)

“The subject of the Will has received no treatment, inasmuch as that power or faculty is hidden, subtle, undiscoverable as to essence, and only visible in effect. As it is absolutely colorless and varies in moral quality in accordance with the desire behind it, as also it acts frequently without our knowledge, and as it operates in all the kingdoms below man, there could be nothing gained by attempting to inquire into it apart from the Spirit and the desire.” (Preface to “The Ocean of Theosophy”)

It may be noted that in the above short paragraph, despite saying that the subject of the will has not been addressed in the book, he in fact discloses at least six or seven important and interesting things about the will, for those who are willing to read attentively.

The following comes from a 30 page series titled “Answers To Questioners,” found in “William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles” Vol. 2 (p. 455-456, 458 for these particular excerpts) and WQJ Pamphlet #28 “Questions and Answers.” Some of the most important truths about the will are found in this:

From J.C.V. – What is the true Will? Is it a faculty of the soul? How is it one with the Divine Will and how may we make our will at one with the Divine? Is it something which now we know not, or may we perceive its germ in our own Will, or is it an instinctive movement of the soul?”

Answer – (1) The will as known to man is that force which he exerts for the accomplishment of his aims – he uses it blindly and ignorantly – and self is always the one for which he uses it. It is used as a brute force. As ordinarily used it has little tendency to lift the personality farther than the attainment of material results. It has for its source, the lower elements of the soul. The true will is a concentrated force working steadily yet gently, dominating both soul and person, having its source in the spirit and highest elements of the soul. It is never used for the gratification of self, is inspired by the highest of motives, is never interposed to violate a law, but works in harmony with the unseen as well as the seen. It is manifested through the human will for things visible.

“(2) It is more that a faculty of the soul, for it is the soul at work. The spirit is unmanifest except through the soul. The soul manifesting the spirit is the true will. The human will is the lowest form of this manifestation.

“(3) As the true will is the manifestation of the spirit through the soul, it must be at one with the divine, inasmuch as the spirit is the divine in man. It is the God in man, a portion of the all-pervading. Asserting itself through the soul, the true will is brought forth and in truth we say, “It is the will of God.” We may make our finite wills at one with the divine by elevating our aim, using it for good or in the search for God, in striving to find how to use it in harmony with the laws of God. By proper use in the right direction the human will becomes purified, elevated, and being exerted only in conformity with our highest ideal, eventually becomes at one with the highest in man.

“In our ordinary material state we know only the human will. Through the human will we reach the divine will. We become aware of the true will through the ordinary will just as we become aware of the soul through the body. It is not instinctive of the soul. The soul is father of the human will – the spirit is father of the true will. . . .

“Let your aim be to find God; your motive, to know yourself for the sake of Theo-Sophia and humanity: your desire, to help humanity, and the True Will will be developed.”


Robert Crosbie established the United Lodge of Theosophists in 1909 as an effort to keep the original & authentic teachings of Theosophy alive in the world

Q. What is the Will?

A. Will is the energy of Consciousness expressed in action, on any plane of manifestation. There are many aspects of the Will, from the ordinary one which is “the will to live” and is expressed in the automatic physical action, such as the heart-beat, digestion, etc.; that of the actions following on ordinary thought, desires and wants; that which is developed by various forms of practice; to the highest phase, that of the Spiritual Will. This phase is developed by true unselfishness, a sincere and full desire to be guided, ruled and assisted by the Higher Self, and to do that which, and suffer or enjoy whatever, the Higher Self has in store for one by way of discipline or experience.” [Note: This has reference to the operations of Karma, since the Higher Self is not a type of personal Being who decides what is good for us.] (“Answers to Questions on The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 109)

“Our first mistake is to make negative resolutions. We say, I will not drink; I will not lie; I will not do this; I will not do that. Whereas the proper resolve to make is that – I will do this, the opposite of what we are now doing. In this case, we make a direct affirmation of will, while the other form of resolution puts us in a purely negative position. Perhaps we have thought with regard to others or ourselves, that because we do not do a number of questionable things, therefore we are “good.” On the contrary, we are merely not bad – again a negative position. True goodness is a positive position.

“To effect our resolutions we have to call on the will of man, for that will is not restrained by any form of obstacle whatever. By will, however, is not meant what is ordinarily called will. We are prone to think that a person who is very determined on gaining his ends has “a strong will,” and is very positive in his character; but such a person exhibits only a kind of will. He has very, very strong desires, rather than Will itself, and will follow them out.

“There are many exhibitions of the will itself, some phases being quite unrecognized. The very will to live is a recondite aspect of Will. If the will to live were not present, we would not live. It is not the body which holds us here but the desire to live. Always behind Will stands Desire. Again, every one of man’s bodily organs and processes was at one time evolved by conscious effort. Even the process of digestion, of assimilation, the heart beat, the various qualities and functions of all the organs were consciously evolved. Now we have bodies which will proceed automatically, while we use our consciousness, perceptions and attention in other directions. Our will, then, operates in reality in every part of our physical life though we may not be able to perceive it and understand it. There is also a mental phase of the will which can be cultivated by practice: the fixed attention, or concentration in certain directions capable of effecting desired results.

“But the real and true Will is known as the Spiritual Will, which flies like light and cuts all obstacles like a sharp sword. It is that Will proceeding from the highest spiritual part of our natures which causes man to be an evolution from within outwards, through all the forms of substance that have been, and to continue evolving instruments in this state of matter.” (“New Year’s Resolutions”)

“We have no stability of mind, and we must get that. But the power of concentration cannot be used if we imagine ourselves to be changeable, perishable beings. We think that in order to “develop,” we must change. It is not true. We need to change our fundamental ideas, our minds, our modes of thought, our instruments. That is where the development comes. If we are ever going to learn to concentrate, we must concentrate from the basis of the steady point in us, the Perceiver, the Spirit, our real unchanging Immortal Self. We cannot come to or connect with that Power in ourselves unless we realize that all life is One, that all beings like ourselves are moving on the same path. In that way we realize Universal Brotherhood in a spiritual sense: Altruism should actuate us in every thought, word and deed.

“If we consider these things we shall see how far away we may be from making a beginning in the direction of Occult Knowledge. A beginning has to be made, and the sooner we start the better. It calls for the arousal of the Spiritual Will. Will is not a thing in itself, a power in itself. The will is consciousness in action, as distinguished from consciousness inactive. As soon as we think or desire in any direction the “will” works. That will is weak or strong according to our idea of ourselves, our thoughts, our desires, our aspirations, our considerations of our weaknesses, our limitations. If we realize that we are Spiritual beings and think and act in the right direction, at once the Spiritual Will begins to work, the power of Concentration is strengthened, the feeling of responsibility grows, the whole nature begins to change, to be transformed – the Great Transition is going on.” (“Occult Knowledge”)

“The whole force of evolution, and the whole power behind it, is the human will, so far as humanity is concerned. We do not realize that every form occupied by any being is composed of Lives, each undergoing evolution on its own account, aided, impelled or hindered by the force of the higher form of consciousness that evolved it. For this universe is embodied Consciousness, or Spirit. And just as a single drop of water contains within it every element and characteristic of the whole ocean, so each being, however low in the degree of its intelligence, contains within itself the potentiality and possibilities of the highest. The will of the Spirit in action has produced all.

“The great Message of Theosophy has provided for every interested enquirer the means by which he may know the truth about himself and nature. Just as the Elder Brothers have provided in the past, so They have again in our day. Everything that Humanity needs has been given to us. But can you give to any one what he does not want? Can you cause to enter into the mind of another what that mind will not receive?

“There has to be an open mind, a pure heart, an eager intellect, an unveiled spiritual perception, before there is any hope for us. As long as we are self-centered, as long as we are satisfied with what we know and what we have, this great Message is not for us. It is for the hungry, for the weary, for those who are desirous of knowledge, for those who see the absolute paucity of what has been put before us as knowledge by those who style themselves our teachers, for those who find no explanation anywhere of the mysteries that surround us, who do not know themselves, who do not understand themselves. For them there is a way; for them there is food in abundance; for them this whole Movement is kept in being by one single will, the Will of the Elder Brothers who have carried these great eternal truths through good and evil in order that mankind may be benefited; not desiring any reward, not desiring any recognition, desiring only that Their fellow men, Their younger brothers, may know, may realize what They know.” (“The Creative Will” – this and Crosbie’s other articles can be found in the books “The Friendly Philosopher” and “Universal Theosophy” which are published by Theosophy Company, as are the writings of Blavatsky and Judge)

For some of Raghavan Iyer’s statements about the spiritual will, please see the final section of the article The Work and Message of Raghavan Iyer.

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“Learn first our laws and educate your perceptions, dear Brother. Control your involuntary powers and develop in the right direction your will and you will become a teacher instead of a learner.”
(Mahatma K.H.)

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