The Path to Will


Will may be connected with passion, but passion is not enough since passion may be blind. Passion is significant, but must be associated with disciplined practice. Passion alone will not create the works of the artist or the products of the writer. Superior results require practice. Disciplined real-world, practice creates congruent local networks. This is so because practice is specific to content. If the practice is ballroom dance, then the network is fashioned in accord with ballroom rhythms and movements. The formation of a congruent local network provides specific mastery. Mastery provides the scaffold for will based upon knowledge and experience of ballroom dancing, but it is relatively specific. Outside the area of competence, will is weak and faltering.


Some types of discipline such as economics seem to offer a more inclusive network for integration of experience. This may be so since some economic systems are inclusive and connect means of production, history, and politics. As intellectuals are well aware, substantial energy was invested in this enterprise by Marxists. And for generations, Marxism served not only as an “economic”, social, and political theory, but also a basis for individual identity.

Not all economics is so ambitious. Some economics veers toward mathematical modeling, with little concern for underlying content. Such endeavors, while general and abstract in nature, still define a local network –albeit one that is abstract and schematized. Only when reflected (or self-reflected) in terms of content can mathematical modeling bridge (and interconnect) local networks.

Even ballroom dance may “transfer” to economics or philosophy in the sense that some economic scenarios are like a slow waltz and others like a fox trot. Such formulations are based on metaphor. The use of metaphor involves reflected knowledge, but the reflected knowledge is not ballroom dance. It is thought about ballroom dance and economics; that is, however shallow or deep, it is a new network construction. Reflected or higher-order constructions which stand in hierarchical relation to local networks are both inclusive and selective.

No shortcut based on local disciplines appears to exist to integrate and harmonize knowledge and purpose. In a natural world, the integration of knowledge and purpose arises through life experience rendered coherent and examined by reflection.

Of course, a purely natural world is partially a mental fiction. As social creatures, we are socialized to ways of thought, behavior, and action which pervade our history, education, institutions, interactions, beliefs, and language. Our culture, to the extent that it is a culture, to the extent that it has unity, is already organized by rules of regulation. As social creatures, we reflect our culture. So its unity, and its confusions are our own. In a sense, to study our society is to study ourselves; to understand our society is to understand ourselves.

Culture, Religion, and Self

How do we discern the rules of regulation of our culture and ourselves? No handbook, no rule book will do. Words and formulas alone will not do. The deep rules of order are imagistic as well as linguistic. The deep rules of order are symbolic as well as syntactic.

The common culture suggests that the imagistic/linguistic substrate of a culture is in its mythos and religion. The imagistic/linguistic substrate is pervasive, and like water to fish, invisible to its inhabitants. How can the invisible mythos and religious foundation of a culture become recognized and deciphered?

The mythos and religious foundation of Western culture is the bible; of Muslim cultures, the Koran; of Indian culture, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata and Ramayana; of Asian culture, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism; and of traditional cultures, traditional myths and stories. The rites and rituals associated with these religions fill out and dramatize meanings contained in the mythos. Rites and rituals are a necessary adjunct to full participation and comprehension of the structure of meanings that organize culture and self.

Knowledge of and participation in religion is the cultural short-cut to integration of local networks. Religion provides an imagistic/linguistic framework for the connection of independent domains of experience and their coordination.

The will reflects unity, but unity is hard won. Unity is gained through discipline. Local discipline provides circumscribed will. Discipline that examines the domains of human experience and/or awareness/reflection that embraces the foundations of culture transcends the local and integrates character and personality. To the extent that the mind is whole, intention is undivided. To the extent intention is undivided, so is the will.

The practical import is to understand oneself, to integrate oneself, one needs to study and participate in some variety of its substrate religion. I do not suggest that one must be a conformist. The paradox is the more that one knows one’s culture and one’s self, the more likely one is to form strong positions based on comprehension, the more individual one becomes, and the more potent one’s capacity of integrated will.