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According to Assagiolo, founder of the psychological movement known as psychosynthesis, “any act of will actually takes place through six clear stages:

  1. investigation (finding out what it is we wish to do);
  2. deliberation (considering all the different things we wish to do at any time and selecting the acts most relevant to our current situation);
  3. decision (deciding upon the one act that is most important to us at the present time, and clearly formulating and stating this desire);
  4. affirmation (staying connected to this decision through constantly re-affirming that this choice is what we really desire to achieve);
  5. plan (thinking about the different ways we can actually make whatever it is happen);
  6. execution (doing it, finding ways of carrying out the intended plan, either in entirety or step-by-step.)

 

Every choice we make involves these six stages to a greater or lesser degree. It might be that for a particular choice we know what we want, hardly have to deliberate over it at all, and are able to quickly plan and execute the action necessary to succeed. For example, our choice to go to a nearby shop to buy something we need. On the other hand, we might not really know what we want, and we might endlessly deliberate over the choices and never actually decide what to do. Then again, we might know exactly what we want and yet not know how to go about planning and executing the necessary actions. Our desire could be something well worked out, but for which the execution needs to take place at a particular time.  If we choose to view a sunset, we will only be able to make it happen at the right time of day.

While our acts of will always include all six stages, they rarely do so in a linear fashion. For instance, while planning we may need to go back and deliberate even further when we may also discover that we have not quite got the choice right.  Often we need to keep going back to our choice to keep affirming it, over, and over. Constantly returning to the affirmation stage to focus on and strengthen our choices is usually a good technique because it reinforces the planning and execution of our desire.

We also have to consider that every choice we make affects everything and everyone else.  For example, if I choose to eat a particular piece of fruit right now, you will never be able to eat it either now or at any other time. That may not seem so serious – after all, there is usually plenty of fruit to be found elsewhere.  In other circumstances, however, such knowledge takes on much more significance. Someone may choose to ignore the knowledge that lead-free gasoline is better for the environment.  That they continue buying leaded gasoline seems to make no difference, because what difference can one person actually make? Yet in reality, the situation will continue worsening over time if we all maintain this outlook.

We must make our choices clearly and with heart, and be aware of this global effect, yet we must not allow such knowledge to make us impotent. Rather we must try to align ourselves with the flow of nature so that our choices add to rather than subtract from the evolution of consciousness and [the sustainability of] our planet.”1

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Following my volunteer experience in Camden, New Jersey, I became exceedingly curious about how to expand on the program content provided to the Camden kids from an interreligious and intercultural perspective.  To me, it seemed as though there was still an important element missing from the worldview taught at Kids Alley pertaining to accepting, celebrating and embracing diversity.  I see this as an essential measurement of the humanity, humility and commitment to religious pluralism and tolerance needed today especially in light of the demographics, socio-economic makeup of the city, and gang violence that continues to prevail there among the youth. For example, Pastor Vivian regularly shared stories with the volunteers about the number of children whose funerals she had to very sadly preside over that year. I am of the view that often the things that most divide us also tend to harm us; disconnecting us from our true nature, our spiritual selves or the universal experience of oneness.

 

  1. Kasser, J. and Shah, N. (2006). The Metaethics of Belief: An Expressivist Reading of “The Will to Believe”. Social Epistemology Vol. 20, No. 1, January-March, pp. 1-17. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.