The Second Tower: Conformity of the Will


Teresa continues to stress persevering in the struggle with unholy disturbances that will stop at nothing to prevent the adept from reaching Union with the Unborn. Those who dwell in the rooms of the Second Tower are well aware of the power of the Recollective Resolve in order to continue the journey but left to their own merits, they still have the temptation to drop the advance and run back to their miserable states of mind. They are not alone in the struggle, as good spiritual friends are willing to assist them, also by being so disposed to hear the efficacious nature of the Buddhadharma through sutra-reading and then digesting the spiritually-nurturing food of the Dharma.

It is also of vital necessity to let-go and dissolve any former unhealthy relationships that will forestall the effort of going forward with this Resolve. It is far better to struggle alone than to have fools along for the ride beckoning the soul to quit and return from whence it came. She also teaches to forget about any form of spiritual consolations appearing at this stage of the journey—they will eventually come, but they need to be won through much trial and effort. Otherwise it will be like trying to build a foundation on sand. It all must be won at a hard-rock cost, otherwise it’s not worth investing the resolve in the first place.

The real crux of this chapter rests upon the conformity of one’s Will to the Unborn:

The whole aim of any person who is beginning prayer — and don’t forget this, because it’s very important – should be that she work and prepare herself with determination and every possible effort to bring her will into conformity with God’s will. Be certain that, as I shall say later, the greatest perfection attainable along the spiritual path lies in this conformity. It is the person who lives in more perfect conformity who will receive more from the Lord and be more advanced on this road. Don’t think that in what concerns perfection there is some mystery or things unknown or still to be understood, for in perfect conformity to God’s will lies all our good. Now then, if we err in the beginning, desiring that the Lord do our will at once and lead us according to what we imagine, what kind of stability will this edifice have?

Yes, we must make an unequivocal decision to turn our lives over to the care of the Unborn Will. A companion-resource to this series is an excellent text entitled, Will and Spirit, by Gerald G. May. May states his purpose in writing:

It should be understood at the outset that this “contemplative psychology” is not a “psychology of contemplation.” We have had enough of attempts to explain spiritual experience in psychological terms. Instead, I propose an illumination of our psychological experience in the light of spiritual insight. In the same way that will cannot ultimately be the master of spirit, psychology cannot be the master of spirituality. In addition, it should be understood that I am not offering a simple, equal balance of will and spirit or of psychology and spirituality. I believe that for things to come out right, will must make a radical surrender, and psychology must do the same.

May also asserts that, “The fundamental problem in reconciling will and spirit is will’s general refusal to relinquish its claim to absolute power.” I love his take on Nietzsche and others in this regard:

Since will has tended to acquire a number of negative connotations in philosophy, it is helpful to make a distinction between will itself, which is a basic human capacity (according to Kant and Augustine it is the capacity for beginning), and the will to power, which has been described by Nietzsche and others as equivalent to willfulness. One cannot deny that will is a basic experience of human life, at least in our culture. If it is an “artificial concept” it nonetheless feels real, and from a psychological standpoint it must be dealt with. This is true from religious perspectives as well. All major religions address the will in a very basic way. The very word Islam means surrendering to the will of God. Saint Augustine said, “Will is to grace as the horse is to the rider.” And of course there is Jesus’ eternal “not as I will, but as thou wilt.” The will itself need not be seen as destructive in either psychological or spiritual conceptualizations. It is the will to power, the greed for mastery that turns evil. This is the willfulness that we have contrasted repeatedly with willingness. Shakespeare has Ulysses describe this willfulness very well in Troilus and Cressida:

Then everything includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.

More than three hundred years later Adolf Hitler echoed this in proclaiming to his troops that he had achieved German unity “merely with my fanatical willpower.”

It goes without saying, then, that the Will left to itself falls victim to many evil proclivities. Thus, we need to remember to invoke that aid of the Divine-Unborn Will daily.

Let us now again turn to those “Points of Mind Training” with Point Two: Training in Bodhicitta

  1. Ultimate Bodhicitta

This is the Absolute Power of Enlightened Consciousness, or being at one with the Enlightened Mind-stream of the Tathagatas. One must then “Regard all defiled-dharmata or phenomena as a dream.” All this has to do with the Unborn Nature of this Supreme Self-Realization. The true nature of the mind is beyond the limited conditions of birth or death—IT is truly Deathless. Absolute Mind has no color or shape or form—it has never come into existence nor will it ever go out of existence. This unadulterated and direct Ultimate Mind-Realization is thus the fundamental antidote and final healer of any distortions of the afflicted mind. Yet, when one contemplates the reality of the remedy itself, one finds that it is Self-Empty of all nominally diseased attributes, and subsides naturally in Itself; one must then simply relax in this stateless-state. Usually when we use the word Alaya we are referring to the eighth consciousness. However, in this present regard to points to our True Essential Nature, or the Tathagata-garbha. This is the ultimate Union with emptiness and luminosity. When one meditates, then, on the Absolute Nature of the “Ultimate Bodhicitta”, one does not have to imagine and fabricate anything else. One just looks upon and studies the Nature of Mind AS IT IS in Itself. Regarding any Post-Meditation, simply turn-away from all phenomena and recognize what it is—sunya—or Self-Empty of any Real characteristics, it’s all illusory.

  1. Relative Bodhicitta

Teresa would feel right at home with this because it involves reaching out (with the Love-Function of the Unseen Absolute) and compassionately attending to those sentient beings that are apparently real. In other words, extending Good Will. Bodhisattvas as well carry within themselves this compassionate Resolve. This Compassionate form of Bodhicitta also helps to allay the evil nature of excessive pride. It keeps it in check. These Compassionate [Actions] also overcomes the Three Poisons: self-craving (Greed), aversion (Hatred) and indifference. Teresa speaks at great length in The Interior Castle about purging and then transforming these poisons into the Great Virtues—faith, hope and love. Hence, being mindful and aware helps us to clearly discern what is affecting our daily thoughts, feeling, speech and actions when they first arise, and then taking remedial action. The True Mark of a Bodhisattva aligned with the Unborn Will.

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