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Conscious Will and Mindful Desire

Conscious Will and Mindful Desire

Crafting the Self Through Ancient and Modern Wisdom

  1. Introduction to Will and Desire
    • Defining Will and Desire
    • Historical Overview of the Concepts
    • Importance in Contemporary Discourse
  2. The Psychological Perspective
    • The Psychology of Willpower
    • Understanding Desire in the Human Psyche
    • Will vs. Desire: The Cognitive Battle
  3. The Philosophical Angle
    • Will and Desire in Ancient Philosophy
    • Existentialist Views on Will and Freedom
    • Will to Power: Nietzsche’s Contribution
    • Desire in Eastern Philosophy
  4. The Esoteric Connections
    • Will in Hermetic Principles
    • Desire in Theosophy
    • Alchemical Symbolism of Will and Desire
  5. Intersections of Will and Desire
    • How Will Shapes Desire
    • Desire as a Catalyst for Will
    • The Dynamics of Will and Desire in Personal Growth
  6. Practical Applications
    • Cultivating Will in Daily Life
    • Managing Desire for Personal Development
    • Techniques from Philosophy and Esoteric Traditions
  7. Challenges and Controversies
    • The Debate on Free Will and Determinism
    • Ethical Implications of Controlling Desire
    • The Dark Side of Will: Obsession and Overreach
  8. Conclusion
    • The Future of Understanding Will and Desire
    • Integrating the Three Perspectives for Holistic Development

Introduction to Will and Desire

Introduction to Will and Desire

The concepts of Will and Desire have been central to the human experience, coloring every facet of our existence from the mundane to the profound. In exploring these ideas, we begin by establishing their definitions, tracing their historical lineage, and understanding their relevance in today’s world.

Defining Will and Desire

Will is often described as the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action. It is the deliberate choice or decision to act in a certain way. It is associated with intentionality, determination, and a sense of agency. Will is the power that enables us to resist immediate temptations in favor of long-term goals. It is the steadfast driver of purposeful action.

Desire, on the other hand, is the emotion or feeling that incites a person towards a particular action or outcome. Desires can be fleeting or enduring, and they often emerge from our needs, wants, or the absence of something. They are the magnetic pulls of our nature, leading us towards what we find pleasing, beneficial, or necessary.

These definitions, however, merely scratch the surface. While Will implies a rational, conscious process of choosing, Desire suggests a more subconscious, emotional impetus.

Historical Overview of the Concepts

Historically, the interplay of Will and Desire has been a subject of contemplation and debate among philosophers, theologians, and scholars. The ancient Greeks had a nuanced understanding of these concepts. Plato famously allegorized reason (akin to Will) and desire as two horses pulling a chariot, with reason tasked with controlling the unruly desires.

In Eastern philosophies, the concept of Will is often interwoven with the idea of Dharma or duty, where right action is performed regardless of personal desire. Conversely, desire (Kama) is recognized as a legitimate aim of life but is also acknowledged as a potential source of attachment and suffering.

The Stoics saw the Will as a means to live in accordance with nature and rationality, while Christian theologians emphasized the Will’s role in choosing good over evil, heavily influenced by the notion of free will.

In modern philosophy, Schopenhauer posited that Will is the essence of reality, and our desires are manifestations of the Will’s striving for existence. Nietzsche, later, would evolve this idea into his concept of the “Will to Power” — the main driving force in humans.

Importance in Contemporary Discourse

In today’s discourse, these concepts have transcended philosophical debate to become integral components of psychological and sociological studies. The Will is central to discussions on self-control, motivation, and personal agency. It is studied in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, with researchers examining how the Will works in the brain and what factors can strengthen or weaken it.

Desire, too, remains a focal point, especially in the context of consumer culture, marketing, and economics. It is the linchpin in understanding human behavior and social dynamics. The manipulation and stimulation of desire are key strategies in the advertising industry, while economics often assumes desire as a constant to explain market behaviors.

The interplay of Will and Desire is also critical in the fields of health and wellness, where the strength of Will is often pitted against harmful desires or habits. The burgeoning field of positive psychology invests heavily in understanding how the Will can be harnessed to lead to greater happiness and fulfillment.

In summary, Will and Desire are not just abstract concepts but are deeply embedded in the fabric of human life. They inform our choices, shape our behavior, and influence the direction of societies. As we embark on a detailed exploration of these concepts, we will uncover their multifaceted roles and the rich tapestry of their expressions throughout human history.

The Psychological Perspective

The Psychological Perspective

In the realm of psychology, Will and Desire are often explored through the lens of individual behavior and mental processes. This perspective offers insight into how we exercise self-control, experience motivation, and face the ongoing tug-of-war between our impulses and our long-term goals.

The Psychology of Willpower

Willpower is frequently equated with self-control, the ability to delay gratification and resist unwanted behaviors or urges. Psychologists have long studied willpower as a finite resource that can be depleted, a concept known as ego depletion. This idea was popularized by the work of social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, who compared willpower to a muscle that can become fatigued through overuse but can also be strengthened over time with practice.

In the realm of cognitive psychology, willpower is often discussed in terms of executive function, a set of cognitive processes that include working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. These functions allow us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. The prefrontal cortex of the brain plays a key role in these processes, essentially acting as the command center for willpower.

Furthermore, psychological resilience — the ability to bounce back from adversity — is intimately connected with willpower. Resilient individuals tend to have a strong sense of personal agency and the ability to exercise willpower effectively, even in challenging situations.

Understanding Desire in the Human Psyche

Desire, on the other hand, is a complex psychological construct that encompasses emotional longing, personal appetite, and the drive for specific outcomes. It is often driven by the reward system of the brain, particularly the neurotransmitter dopamine. This system propels us toward pleasurable or beneficial experiences, and it is vital for learning and survival.

However, desire is not always aligned with our well-being. Psychologists recognize that unchecked desire can lead to addiction, where the pursuit of reward becomes compulsive and detrimental to health and happiness. In understanding desire, psychologists also look at the role of conditioning and environmental cues that can trigger or amplify desires, often beyond our conscious awareness.

Will vs. Desire: The Cognitive Battle

The interaction between willpower and desire is a central theme in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics. The interplay of these forces can be seen in everyday decision-making and long-term goal setting. The cognitive battle between will and desire is often characterized as a struggle between the brain’s higher-level, rational decision-making processes and its more primitive, instinctual drives.

Dual-process theories, such as Daniel Kahneman’s model of System 1 and System 2 thinking, illustrate this battle. System 1 is fast, automatic, and emotional, often linked to desires and impulses. System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and logical, associated with the exercise of willpower and reasoned thinking.

The cognitive struggle is also evident in phenomena such as temporal discounting, where people may choose a smaller, immediate reward over a larger, delayed one, and the related concept of time inconsistency, which refers to the change in preference over time toward more immediate rewards.

In conclusion, the psychological perspective on will and desire reveals a complex interaction between cognitive control and emotional drive. Understanding these dynamics is not only crucial for individual well-being and personal development but also has broader implications for societal issues, such as health care, education, and economic policy. As we delve deeper into the psychological underpinnings of will and desire, we can begin to harness these forces more effectively to achieve both personal and collective goals.

The Philosophical Angle

The Philosophical Angle

Philosophy has long grappled with the concepts of Will and Desire, viewing them as crucial elements in understanding human nature and existence. Across various philosophical traditions, these terms have been dissected and theorized, offering a wide array of interpretations and implications.

Will and Desire in Ancient Philosophy

In ancient philosophical thought, Will and Desire were often seen as competing forces within the human soul. Plato’s allegory of the chariot in his dialogue “Phaedrus” is a prime example. He depicts the soul as a chariot pulled by two horses, one representing the noble, rational aspects of Desire, obedient to the charioteer’s Will, and the other representing the base, unruly passions that the Will must control.

Aristotle, on the other hand, spoke of the rational soul’s ability to moderate Desire through ethical virtue. The right exercise of Will, according to Aristotle, leads to eudaimonia, or human flourishing, where rational desires align with virtuous action.

The Stoics took this further, advocating for a life led by reason and Will, free from the tyranny of destructive desires. They believed that true freedom came from living according to nature and reason, where the Will is not swayed by external circumstances or emotional turmoil.

Existentialist Views on Will and Freedom

Moving to the modern era, existentialist philosophers have deeply explored the concept of Will, especially in relation to freedom and authenticity. Sartre, for instance, posited that humans are condemned to be free; that is, we are thrust into existence without essence or predetermined purpose, and it’s through the exercise of Will that we define ourselves.

Kierkegaard also focused on the individual Will, seeing it as crucial in the leap of faith that transcends rationality and necessity. For existentialists, Will is bound up with the responsibility of choice and the burden of freedom.

Will to Power: Nietzsche’s Contribution

Friedrich Nietzsche’s notion of the “Will to Power” is one of his most significant contributions to the philosophical understanding of Will. He proposed that the fundamental drive of human beings is not survival or reproduction, but the desire to exert and expand one’s power and influence. Unlike Schopenhauer, who saw Will as the desire for mere existence, Nietzsche believed Will to be dynamic and creative, a force for overcoming obstacles and achieving greatness.

Desire in Eastern Philosophy

In Eastern philosophy, Desire is often treated with caution, viewed as a source of suffering and illusion. Buddhism, for instance, teaches that Desire is the root of dukkha (suffering, unsatisfactoriness) and that overcoming desire is a path to enlightenment.

The Hindu tradition acknowledges Desire as a natural human tendency but advocates for the control of desires through discipline and understanding of the self. The Bhagavad Gita discusses the importance of acting according to one’s dharma (duty) without attachment to the fruits of action — essentially, acting with Will uncolored by personal Desire.

In conclusion, the philosophical angle provides a rich and varied exploration of Will and Desire, from the ancients’ focus on virtue and moderation to the modern existentialists’ emphasis on freedom and authenticity, and the Eastern perspective’s call for detachment and enlightenment. Through these philosophies, we see the tension and harmony between Will and Desire, each offering profound insights into the human condition and our perpetual quest for meaning and fulfillment.

The Esoteric Connections

The Esoteric Connections

Esoteric traditions offer a mystical and symbolic understanding of Will and Desire, presenting these concepts not only as psychological forces but also as cosmic principles with deep spiritual significance.

Will in Hermetic Principles

The Hermetic tradition, rooted in the teachings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, encapsulates its philosophy in the famed Hermetic principles. Among these, the principle of Mentalism embodies the idea that “The All is Mind,” suggesting that the material universe is actually a mental construct of the divine. Within this framework, human Will aligns with the divine Will; it is through the application of our Will that we, as extensions of the divine mind, shape our reality. The principle of Correspondence, encapsulated by the adage “As above, so below,” further implies that the Will’s power in the spiritual realm finds its mirror in the material world.

Desire in Theosophy

Theosophy, a spiritual movement established in the late 19th century, integrates and synthesizes various religious doctrines and esoteric philosophies. In Theosophy, Desire is often associated with the astral body, a layer of human existence which is the seat of emotions and desires. The Theosophical view suggests that desires are not inherently negative but must be transcended to achieve higher states of consciousness. This transcendence is achieved through the application of the Will toward spiritual ends, rather than material or egoistic ones.

Alchemical Symbolism of Will and Desire

Alchemy, with its rich symbolism and allegorical processes, provides a unique lens through which to view Will and Desire. The alchemical journey towards the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, or the achievement of spiritual perfection, can be seen as the refinement of Desire through the application of Will. The raw materials of the alchemist, often interpreted as aspects of the self, undergo a series of transformations where Will acts as the fire that purifies and Desire as the prima materia to be transformed.

This process is often symbolized through the marriage of opposites — the union of the Sun and Moon, representing the masculine and feminine principles, or the king and queen, representing the higher Will and the lower Desires. Through this sacred marriage, known as the ‘coniunctio oppositorum’, the alchemist seeks to balance and transcend duality, creating a state of wholeness and enlightenment.

It’s important to clarify that in the context of these symbolic representations, “higher” and “lower” do not imply a moral judgment but rather different aspects of the human experience that are to be integrated. The “higher Will” can be seen as the rational, conscious intent and purpose, while “lower Desires” may refer to the subconscious, instinctual drives and appetites. The ultimate goal in such esoteric traditions is not to denigrate or elevate one over the other but to find a balance between the two, recognizing that both are essential components of the self.

In the esoteric perspective, Will and Desire are more than just aspects of human psychology; they are dynamic forces that interplay across the spiritual and material universes. The cultivation and mastery of Will, in alignment with the higher principles, and the transformation of Desire into a force for spiritual growth, are central to the esoteric journey towards enlightenment and the realization of one’s true divine nature. Through these mystical traditions, Will and Desire are understood not only as tools for personal development but also as keys to unlocking the deeper mysteries of existence.

Intersections of Will and Desire

Intersections of Will and Desire

In examining the relationship between Will and Desire, we observe a complex interplay that underpins much of human behavior and personal development. The interconnection of these two forces creates a dynamic that is central to growth, motivation, and the pursuit of goals.

How Will Shapes Desire

The shaping of Desire by Will is a cornerstone of self-regulation and personal development. Will, as an expression of autonomy and self-control, has the power to refine and direct Desire towards more adaptive and constructive ends. When we exercise our Will, we are effectively choosing which Desires to pursue and which to ignore or suppress.

This selective attention to Desire can be understood through the lens of values and goals. For instance, the Will to maintain health may shape dietary Desires, steering one towards nutritious foods and away from unhealthy cravings. Similarly, the Will to excel in a career can transform Desires for leisure into a drive for professional development. In this way, Will acts as a sculptor, chiseling away at the raw marble of Desire to reveal the form of one’s aspirations and ideals.

Desire as a Catalyst for Will

Conversely, Desire can also act as a catalyst for Will. The intensity of Desire can energize the Will, providing motivation and direction. When a Desire is strong, it can endow the Will with purpose and urgency, prompting an individual to overcome obstacles and take action.

For example, the Desire for knowledge can propel an individual to persist in their studies, even in the face of challenges. In this context, Desire does not stand in opposition to Will; instead, it feeds into the Will, giving it momentum and focus. This symbiotic relationship is evident in the pursuit of long-term projects and aspirations, where Desire continuously fuels the Will to keep moving forward.

While Desire can be a powerful motivator for the Will, it’s important to approach it with caution. If not aligned with one’s values and goals, intense Desire can lead to fixation and impulsive decisions that may detract from one’s overall well-being and long-term aspirations.

The Dynamics of Will and Desire in Personal Growth

The dynamics between Will and Desire are particularly evident in the context of personal growth. Personal growth involves a deliberate effort to improve oneself, often requiring the coordination of both Will and Desire. Will provides the steady hand that guides efforts towards growth, while Desire offers the passion and motivation to engage in growth activities.

Through the process of self-reflection, individuals can align their Desires with their Will, ensuring that their actions are not only driven by momentary impulses but also by a coherent and purposeful direction. This alignment is a key factor in achieving personal congruence, where one’s actions are in harmony with their deeper values and goals.

Moreover, the tension between Will and Desire can lead to inner conflict, but it can also spur development. The process of negotiating between the two can foster resilience, adaptability, and self-awareness. For instance, the discipline to save money despite the Desire to spend reflects the strength of Will and can lead to financial growth. Similarly, the choice to engage in difficult but rewarding personal relationships can be seen as the triumph of a mature Will over the Desire for ease and comfort.

In conclusion, the intersections of Will and Desire are not just battlegrounds of conflict; they are also the fertile grounds for personal evolution. Understanding and navigating the complex relationship between these forces is key to achieving a balanced and fulfilling life. Through the conscious interplay of Will and Desire, individuals can craft a life that not only reflects their deepest aspirations but also realizes their full potential.

Practical Applications

Practical Applications

Integrating the concepts of Will and Desire into daily life offers actionable paths for self-improvement and personal fulfillment. By applying these principles, one can develop a more disciplined approach to life, a clearer understanding of personal motivations, and a greater capacity for achieving long-term goals.

Cultivating Will in Daily Life

Cultivating Will in everyday routines begins with setting clear intentions. This involves defining specific, achievable goals and creating a structured plan to reach them. To reinforce Will, one can practice self-discipline in small, daily activities, like maintaining a regular sleep schedule or committing to daily exercise, which build the ‘muscle’ of Will through consistent practice.

Time management techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks work into intervals, can help in maintaining focus and building the stamina required for sustained Will. Additionally, mindfulness practices can enhance self-awareness, helping individuals recognize when their Will is waning and allowing them to take proactive steps to replenish it.

Managing Desire for Personal Development

Managing Desire is not about suppression but about alignment and balance. It’s important to distinguish between transient whims and deep-seated aspirations. Mindfulness and reflection can help in understanding the underlying reasons for certain desires and in determining whether they align with one’s values and long-term goals.

One practical approach is to use visualization techniques: envisioning how giving in to a certain Desire might feel in the moment versus the long-term benefits of staying true to one’s goals. Journaling can also be an effective tool for tracking Desires and reflecting on their origins and impacts.

Another key strategy is to create an environment that supports desired outcomes. This can involve removing temptations or triggers from one’s immediate surroundings and creating positive reinforcements that align with one’s values and goals.

Techniques from Philosophy and Esoteric Traditions

Philosophical and esoteric traditions offer a variety of techniques for cultivating Will and managing Desire. Stoic practices, such as negative visualization (premeditatio malorum), can prepare the mind for challenges and strengthen the Will by reducing the fear of discomfort or failure.

From the esoteric perspective, ritual and meditation can be employed to focus the Will and clarify Desire. Rituals create a space in which intentions can be set and pursued with focus, while meditation can quiet the mind, allowing for a clearer understanding of one’s true Desires.

The practice of detachment, drawn from Eastern philosophies, can also be useful. This does not mean becoming indifferent but rather cultivating a state where one’s happiness is not overly dependent on the fulfillment of every Desire. Through detachment, one can engage with life’s experiences more fully, with a sense of peace and equanimity, and without being pulled off course by every passing whim.

In conclusion, the practical applications of Will and Desire are manifold and can significantly enhance personal development. Through disciplined practice, reflective understanding, and the integration of philosophical and esoteric techniques, individuals can cultivate a powerful Will and manage Desire in ways that promote growth, achievement, and fulfillment. These tools and techniques can be adapted to fit individual needs and circumstances, providing a versatile framework for anyone looking to lead a more intentional and self-directed life.

Challenges and Controversies

Challenges and Controversies

The exploration of Will and Desire is not without its challenges and controversies. At the heart of these debates lie profound questions about human nature and the ethical implications of our attempts to master these internal forces.

The Debate on Free Will and Determinism

The debate between free will and determinism is a central philosophical conundrum. On one side, proponents of free will assert that individuals are capable of making choices independent of prior causes. On the other, determinists argue that every event, including human cognition and behavior, is determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. This has profound implications for the concept of Will, as the existence of a truly autonomous Will is called into question by determinism.

In psychology, this debate extends into the discussion of whether our behaviors are the result of conscious decisions or subconscious processes and external influences. The compatibility of free will with a deterministic universe remains a contentious issue, with some suggesting that the two can coexist — a position known as compatibilism.

Incorporating esoteric perspectives can enrich this debate, suggesting that free will and determinism might be harmoniously reconciled. Esoteric teachings often delve into the mysteries of how the individual will can operate within a seemingly predestined universe, proposing that there is a higher order that aligns with personal volition.

The esoteric view posits that while our lives unfold within a framework of cosmic law — an order that might appear deterministic — there is still room for individual agency. This is akin to sailing on a river; the river’s currents and contours guide the journey, yet the sailor’s skill and decisions determine the experience of that journey. Such wisdom invites us to consider that within the tapestry of fate, our conscious choices weave patterns of personal destiny, suggesting a symbiotic relationship between the individual’s exercise of will and the universal order of life.

Ethical Implications of Controlling Desire

The control of Desire also raises ethical questions, particularly regarding who is doing the controlling and for what purpose. In societal contexts, the manipulation of Desire can be seen in advertising and consumer culture, where desires are shaped and amplified to drive consumption, often at the expense of individual well-being or societal values.

The ethical use of such influence is a subject of intense debate, highlighting the need for a balance between persuasion and manipulation. At the personal level, the ethics of controlling Desire relate to authenticity and the extent to which suppressing one’s desires may lead to a loss of personal freedom or self-expression.

The Dark Side of Will: Obsession and Overreach

While a strong Will is often lauded as a virtue, it can become detrimental when pushed to extremes. Obsession occurs when the Will is so focused on a particular goal or idea that it becomes all-consuming, often at the expense of the individual’s broader needs or responsibilities. Overreach, another potential pitfall, happens when the pursuit of goals extends beyond one’s capabilities or moral boundaries, leading to a potential downfall or harm to oneself and others.

The Will’s dark side is a subject of cautionary tales across cultures, warning against hubris and the overestimation of one’s power or destiny. It reflects the need for a balanced approach to Will — one that is strong and directed yet tempered with humility and an awareness of one’s limitations and the impact of one’s actions on others.

In conclusion, the challenges and controversies surrounding Will and Desire touch on profound aspects of our existence. The debate on free will and determinism questions the very nature of human agency, the ethical implications of controlling Desire prompt us to consider how we influence and are influenced by others, and the dark side of Will serves as a reminder of the need for balance and self-awareness. Addressing these issues requires thoughtful reflection and an ongoing dialogue that considers the complexities of human psychology and morality.



The exploration of will and desire across psychological, philosophical, and esoteric dimensions has revealed a wealth of insights into the human condition. As we conclude this guide, we reflect on the future potential of understanding these concepts and emphasize the importance of integrating diverse perspectives for a holistic approach to personal development.

In the final chapter of this exploration, we understand that no desires are inherently bad. Existing in this world signifies a desire from oneself, one’s higher self, God, or whatever one names the unknown.

The issue arises in how we pursue our desires, for every action has a reaction. While the ultimate cosmic outcome of our actions is uncertain, it is crucial to research and understand the potential consequences of our actions.

It is essential for individuals to recognize their desires to avoid being influenced by the desires of others and to maintain authenticity. A practical exercise for this is to sit quietly, breathe, and allow your desires to reveal themselves. A universal desire among sentient beings is the avoidance of suffering.

Understanding one’s weaknesses and strengths in this material realm is vital. The greatest power one can wield here is consciousness—the ability to focus on a specific thing for an extended period. It’s important to control where to direct your attention, as your focus shapes your reality over time.

Pursue your desires, strengthen your will through discipline, and understand that nothing worthwhile comes without effort. First, direct your consciousness towards understanding your thoughts. Ask yourself if these are the thoughts you wish to have and what actions you can take to align your thoughts with your desires, thereby gaining control over your reality.

For holistic development, integrating psychological, philosophical, and esoteric perspectives is critical. This multidimensional approach encompasses practical, ethical, and spiritual aspects of will and desire.

In conclusion, will and desire are potent forces that, when properly understood and harnessed, can lead to significant personal transformation and fulfillment. Mastering these forces is a lifelong, evolving journey that mirrors the dynamic nature of human life. As we continue to learn and grow, insights from psychology, philosophy, and esoteric traditions offer valuable guidance, helping each individual to create a life that is not only successful in external terms but also deeply meaningful and purposeful internally.

Allegiance to Essence: A Symphony of Self and Unity

In the quiet of contemplation, I craft my ode to will,

A testament to desire, where silence meets the thrill.

Across dimensions vast, in psychology’s deep dive,

Philosophy’s grand questions, where esoteric thrive.

The human condition, a canvas rich and wide,

Unveils its complex beauty, with every tear we’ve cried.

As this journey concludes, a future bright we see,

Where understanding’s light and dark, sets our deepest selves free.

When asked of my allegiance, my answer rings sincere,

With humanity, I stand, in the essence, crystal clear.

For if angels boast their virtue, and demons their deceit,

Neither claims my fealty, in this tumultuous feat.

We’ve woven our own chaos, in webs of shadow and light,

Yet within this very turmoil, lies our power, our might.

Ascension beckons us all, a collaboration so divine,

Angels, demons, humans together, in a dance that intertwines.

I refuse to play a part in schemes, in shadows cast by others,

My loyalty to humanity, where love and compassion smothers.

The deities and spirits, may vie for our hearts’ command,

But I pledge myself to love, on this, I take my stand.

The left-hand path I wander, where self-awareness blooms,

For the right too often ignores, the ego that consumes.

They claim to be warriors, of a divine and righteous cause,

Yet in their mirror, their flaws pause, inviting introspection’s claws.

So, I pen this poem of will, of desire, and of fate,

A reminder of our journey, and the love we can create.

Let us not be divided, by paths left or right,

But united in our humanity, in love’s enduring light.

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