The necessity of volition

I was browsing my old Ruhi 1 book the other day and noticed on the back inner cover a drawing of a circular chart like this:

Transformation

I suppose our facilitator then shared this concept with us — I have no memory of this. But the idea intrigued me because the importance of volition has been so powerfully illustrated lately in my personal life. I mean the personal volition — the ability to consciously make a choice — and not the Will of God. Interestingly, in my mother tongue both words “volition” and “Will” translate into the same word, “volya”.

As I was doing some research of the Baha’i Writings on this same topic, I came across what possibly was the source for that diagram — the words of Abdu’l-Baha:

The attainment of any object is conditioned upon knowledge, volition and action. Unless these three conditions are forthcoming there is no execution or accomplishment.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 100)

Mere knowledge of principles is not sufficient. We all know and admit that justice is good, but there is need of volition and action to carry out and manifest it.
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 121)

LXXVII. And now, concerning thy question regarding the creation of man. Know thou that all men have been created in the nature made by God, the Guardian, the Self-Subsisting. Unto each one hath been prescribed a pre-ordained measure, as decreed in God’s mighty and guarded Tablets. All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. Your own acts testify to this truth. Consider, for instance, that which hath been forbidden, in the Bayan, unto men. God hath in that Book, and by His behest, decreed as lawful whatsoever He hath pleased to decree, and hath, through the power of His sovereign might, forbidden whatsoever He elected to forbid. To this testifieth the text of that Book. Will ye not bear witness? Men, however, have wittingly broken His law. Is such a behavior to be attributed to God, or to their proper selves? Be fair in your judgment. Every good thing is of God, and every evil thing is from yourselves. Will ye not comprehend? This same truth hath been revealed in all the Scriptures, if ye be of them that understand. Every act ye meditate is as clear to Him as is that act when already accomplished. There is none other God besides Him. His is all creation and its empire. All stands revealed before Him; all is recorded in His holy and hidden Tablets. This fore-knowledge of God, however, should not be regarded as having caused the actions of men, just as your own previous knowledge that a certain event is to occur, or your desire that it should happen, is not and can never be the reason for its occurrence.
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 149)

Now this is beyond the power of man, that he should be able by interference or objection to change the heart and conscience, or meddle with the convictions of anyone. For in the realm of conscience naught but the ray of God’s light can command, and on the throne of the heart none but the pervading power of the King of Kings should rule. Thus it is that one can arrest and suspend [the action of] every faculty except thought and reflection; for a man cannot even by his own volition withhold himself from reflection or thought, nor keep back his musings and imaginings.
(Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 39)

Therefore, mere knowledge is not sufficient for complete human attainment. The teachings of the Holy Books need a heavenly power and divine potency to carry them out. A house is not built by mere acquaintance with the plans. Money must be forthcoming; volition is necessary to construct it; a carpenter must be employed in its erection. It is not enough to say, “The plan and purpose of this house are very good; I will live in it.” There are no walls of protection, there is no roof of shelter in this mere statement; the house must be actually built before we can live in it.

Briefly, the teachings of the Holy Books need a divine potency to complete their accomplishment in human hearts. In Persia Bahá’u’lláh reared and taught souls, established a bond of affiliation among various peoples and united divergent religious beliefs to such an extent that twenty thousand devoted ones sacrificed themselves for the Cause of God in the glorious unity of martyrdom. No differences whatever remained among these blessed souls — Christians, Jews, Muslims, Zoroastrians, all blended, unified and agreed through the potency of His heavenly power, not by mere words, not by merely saying, “Unity is good, and love is praiseworthy.”

Bahá’u’lláh not only proclaimed this unity and love; He established it. As a heavenly Physician He not only gave prescriptions for these ailments of discord and hatred but accomplished the actual healing. We may read in a medical book that a certain form of illness requires such and such a remedy. While this may be absolutely true, the remedy is useless unless there be volition and executive force to apply it. Every man in the king’s army can give a command; but when the king speaks, it is carried out. This one, that one, may say, “Go conquer a country”; but when the king says, “Go!”, the army advances. Therefore, it is evident that the confirmation of the Holy Spirit and impelling influence of a heavenly power are needed to accomplish the divine purpose in human hearts and conditions. Jesus Christ, single, solitary and alone, accomplished what all the kings of the earth could not have carried out. If all the kingdoms and nations of the world had combined to effect it, they would have failed.

It is, therefore, evident and proved that an effort must be put forward to complete the purpose and plan of the teachings of God in order that in this great Day of days the world may be reformed, souls resuscitated, a new spirit of life found, hearts become illumined, mankind rescued from the bondage of nature, saved from the baseness of materialism and attain spirituality and radiance in attraction toward the divine Kingdom. This is necessary; this is needful. Mere reading of the Holy Books and texts will not suffice.
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 248)

3 Responses to “The necessity of volition

  • Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Actually this is one of the main things I base my ideas on.
    I am even trying to write down a psychological theory based on these three concepts: knowledge, volition and action.

    Btw, if I may, is your mother italian-descendent?

  • My mother is Bulgarian, so am I 🙂

  • Many thanks for this ‘compilation’ on volition. Useful for study with my team of developers, not to mention a personal focus during the Fast.

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