Submission Of Will
(From Ouspensky’s “In Search of the Miraculous,” pp. 159-61)
“In the life of an ordinary man truth and falsehood have no moral value of any kind because a man can never keep to one single truth. His truth changes. If for a certain time it does not change, it is simply because it is kept by ‘buffers.’ And a man can never tell the truth.
Sometimes ‘it tells’ the truth, sometimes ‘it tells’ a lie. Consequently his truth and his falsehood have no value; neither of them depends upon him, both of them depend upon accident. And this is equally true when applied to a man’s words, to his thoughts, his feelings, and to his conceptions of truth and falsehood.
“In order to understand the interrelation of truth and falsehood in life a man must understand falsehood in himself, the constant incessant lies he tells himself.
“These lies are created by ‘buffers.’ In order to destroy the lies in oneself as well as lies told unconsciously to others, ‘buffers’ must be destroyed. But then a man cannot life without ‘buffers.’ ‘Buffers’ automatically control a man’s actions, words, thoughts, and feelings. If ‘buffers’ were to be destroyed all control would disappear. A man cannot exist without control even though it is only automatic control. Only a man who possesses will, that is, conscious control, can live without ‘buffers.’ Consequently, if a man begins to destroy ‘buffers’ within himself he must at the same time develop a will. And as will cannot be created to order in a short space of time a man may be left with ‘buffers’ demolished and with a will that is not as yet sufficiently strengthened. The only chance he has during this period is to be controlled by another will which has already been strengthened.
“This is why in school work, which includes the destruction of ‘buffers,’ a man must be ready to obey another man’s will so long as his own will is not yet fully developed. Usually this subordination to another man’s will is studied before anything else. I use the word ‘studied’ because a man must understand why such obedience is necessary and he must learn to obey. The latter is not at all easy. A man beginning the work of self-study with the object of attaining control over himself is accustomed to believe in his own decisions. Even the fact that he has seen the necessity for changing himself shows him that his decisions are correct and strengthens his belief in them. But when he begins to work on himself a man must give up his own decisions, ‘sacrifice his own decisions,’ because otherwise the will of the man who directs his work will not be able to control his actions.
“In schools of the religious way ‘obedience’ is demanded before anything else, that is, full and unquestioning submission although without understanding. Schools of the fourth way demand understanding before anything else. Results of efforts are always proportional to understanding.
“Renunciation of his own decisions, subordination to the will of another, may present insuperable difficulties to a man if he had failed to realize beforehand that actually he neither sacrifices nor changes anything in his life, that all his life he has been subject to some extraneous will and has never had any decisions of his own. But a man is not conscious of this. He considers that he has the right of free choice. It is hard for him to renounce the illusion that he directs and organizes his life himself. But no work on himself is possible until a man is free from this illusion.
“He must realize that he does not exist; he must realize that he can lose nothing because he has nothing to lose; he must realize his ‘nothingness’ in the full sense of the term.
“This consciousness of one’s nothingness alone can conquer the fear of subordination to the will of another. However strange it may seem, this fear is actually one of the most serious obstacles on a man’s path. A man is afraid that he will be made to do things that are opposed to his principles, views, and ideas. Moreover, this fear immediately creates in him the illusion that he really has principles, views, and convictions which in reality he never has had and never could have. A man who has never in his life thought of morality suddenly begins to fear that he will be made to do something immoral. A man who has never thought of his health and who has done everything possible to ruin it begins to fear that he will be made to do something which will injure it. A man who has lied to everyone, everywhere, all his life in the most barefaced manner begins suddenly to fear that he will be made to tell lies, and so on without end. I knew a drunkard who was afraid more than anything that he would be made to drink.
“The fear of being subordinated to another man’s will very often proves stronger than anything else. A man does not realize that a subordination to which he consciously agrees is the only way to acquire a will of his own.”
(From Ouspensky’s “Conscience,” p. 107-109)
O: What does giving up will mean? How can it be achieved? You have mistaken ideas about this. First you think of it as a final action: that you give up will and have no more will. This is an illusion because you have no such will to give up. Our wills last for about three minutes. Will is measured by time. If once we give up three minutes of will, tomorrow another three minutes will grow. Giving up will is a continuous process, not one single action. A single action means nothing. A second mistake is not remembering certain principles to which you give up will, such as rules. For example there is a rule that you should not talk about this system. The natural desire is to talk, but if you stop yourself, it means that you give up will; that you obey this rule. There are many other principles to which you must give up your will in order to follow them.
Q: Does giving up one’s will mean not to act without understanding?
O: You see, this another of your mistakes. You think that giving up will means doing something. This happens very seldom. In most cases you are told not to do something. There is a great difference in this. For instance, you want to explain to someone what you think of him, and you must not do it. It is a question of training. Will can be grown if a man works on himself and makes his will obey the principles of the work. Things that do not concern the work cannot be connected with it, but the more you enter into the work, the more things begin to touch upon the work. But this needs time.
When their chance comes and people are told to do something, or not to do something, they go against it for what seems to them the very best of reasons. So they miss their opportunity. Time passes, and later they may see that they have missed their opportunity, but it can no longer be replaced by anything. That is the penalty of self-will.
About this idea of giving up one’s will: it must be repeated that men nos 1, 2 and 3 have no will, but only self-will and willfulness. Try to understand what that means. Being willful means one wants to do or actually does something forbidden, simply because it is forbidden. And an instance of self-will is when someone sees that you are trying to do something that you do not know how to do and wants to help you, but you say, ‘No, I will do it myself.’ These are the two types of will we have. They are based on opposition. Real will must depend on consciousness, knowledge and Permanent ‘I’. Such as we are, we have not got it. All that we have is self-will and willfulness. Our will is resultant of desires. Desires may be very well hidden. For instance, a man may want to criticize someone and he calls it sincerity. But the desire to criticize may be so strong that he would have to make a really big effort to stop it, and a man cannot make real efforts by himself.
In order to create will, a man must try to co-ordinate his every action with the ideas of the work; he must in every action ask himself: How will it look from the point of view of the work? Is it useful or harmful to me, or to the work? If he does not know, he can ask. If a man has been long in the work, there is practically not a single action that does not touch upon the work; there are not independent actions. In that way one is not free, in the sense that one cannot act foolishly and without discrimination. One must think before one acts. If one is not sure, one can ask. This is the only method by which will can be created, and for this method school organization is necessary. Without school one can do nothing.