Diffusion of thoughts leads to confusion of results, and promiscuous and desultory thinking is often productive of erroneous and shallow conclusions. But with the subject under consideration — desire and its relation to will — one has a vast field of speculative thought before him, and the premisses one may deduce therefrom are commensurate with the depth and originality of one's mental equipment.
From W. Q. Judge's work The Ocean of Theosophy one obtains quite an insight into the tremendous importance of desire as a leading factor in man's present point of evolution, but the scope or province of desire is not limited to man only, for, to quote Mr. Judge:
It was by the arising of desire in the unknown first cause, the one absolute existence, that the whole collection of worlds was manifested, and by means of the influence of desire in the now manifested world is the latter kept in existence.
However, let us consider desire, or Kama, the fourth of man's constituent principles, more in the light of his present terrestrial existence, and as bearing on his present advancement.
The chief office of desire is to incite man to action, and as no action can be accomplished without bringing into play the will, desire must necessarily be the mover of will, or we may put it as the old Hermetists did: "Behind will stands desire." An appreciation of this fact is necessary if we are to make of knowledge power, or make it usable in the vicissitudes of life. The mere infusing of knowledge into the intelligence is not going to make man wise. It is what happens to these bits of truth after they have entered the various chambers of mentation, how they set our mental faculties into action so to work on them that we realize them. That is the important factor, and this is what makes them so pragmatical. So it is with desire when we realize what a dynamic factor it is in character-building and self-mastery.
Without the requisite intensity and quality, our desires and attempts to pray become a vain exertion, for conditioned desires and thoughts arising from our plane of consciousness must have the adequate force and high aspiring quality if they are to move the will and pass through that occult process called 'spiritual transmutation'; if they are to become an active creative force, bringing down to the grateful recipient the desired result.
Also in relation to imagination one may see the efficacy of desire in facilitating this mental operation so as to achieve the highest results. For, to quote W. Q. Judge again:
if this principle of desire be not strong the master-power of imagination cannot do its work, because though it makes a mold or matrix the will cannot act unless it is moved, directed, and kept up to pitch by desire, (op cit.)
Even our thoughts are rooted in desire, being inextricably bound thereto by both a physical and a mental link, and this is one of the most important reasons why man comes back to earth again and again. Manas, the thinking principle, has a lower and a higher aspect, and at the present point of evolution man spends most of his life in his lower desires, which thus become his main incentive to action. So when he lays aside his worn-out physical body and ascends to the devachanic state of beatitude, the thoughts of his past life, which are relatively permanent, are enmeshed by a myriad magnetic threads in the incipient desires which prompted them. These desires were of a worldly character and they exert an irresistible attraction to drag the bound soul back again into the arena of terrestrial life, to be again submerged in the perfidious illusions that make man forget his kingly heritage.
The control of our most intimate desires and feelings should assume great prominence to all earnest students of Theosophy, because it is the character of the desires and thoughts that we allow to enter our consciousness that determines our thraldom or self-mastery. No one can think of developing will-power without understanding the office of desire, for will stands in the same relation to desire as Atman does to consciousness. Desire is always precedent to will; it stands behind will to execute the Ego's mandates, and cannot in any wise be dispensed with. But sometimes desire seems to be possessed of an intelligence of its own, and becomes the tyrannical dictator, and uses the will to rush man off into actions that he will bitterly regret afterwards. This is a case in which the animal-self, the origin of all ignoble desires and therefore of thoughts, ousts the Ego from its mental throne for the time being, and, abetted by the mind, directs affairs 'on its own hook.' Such is instanced when we are swept away by anger or are led to gratify some beastly vice. The hallmark of the advanced soul is his ability to lead his desires into channels of the Ego's making, and not to be enthralled by the emotions of the lower soul. Now as desire is precedent to will, the degree in which we can restrain, encourage, and purify our desires, will mark the degree to which we have attained mastery of the will itself.
Technically speaking, we do not develop will-power, we merely liberate the will from the bondage of the lower self by the strength of individual effort, and by so doing the Inner Man is freed. This is the work of evolution. To realize then our native splendor, we should know that it is our lower desires that have usurped the Ego's sovereignty, and that this sad state of affairs will continue as long as man chases after the will o' the wisp of sensation, and kneels in adulation and servitude before the animal-self. Realize that this viper of selfishness and sensuality looses its hold on man if he will only stop being the channel through which it receives sustenance, when, like a tree deprived of life-giving water, it will wither and die. Try to focus your thoughts within and withdraw into that part of your nature that stands back of all mental states. It is this consciousness of 'I am I' that should be attained, and the more confidence and faith we have in our ability to reach up into this higher part of our being, the more quickly shall we realize our aim. What an accession of inner strength and feeling of self-mastery will accrue to the individual when he has achieved this!
Use the imagination to picture ideals of strength and self-mastery, for imagination has a very great influence over desire, and is a most powerful adjunct to will-action. Never try to fight a low mental state on its own grounds, but try to direct the attention to diametrically opposite or higher things; for if you remain in the same mood as before and try to direct the battle, you merely goad your seething desire-nature into greater fury. And remember, finally, that all kindly acts tend to draw out the finer desires, and that one is never progressing along the Path so quickly as when engrossed in loving self-forgetting service.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE