The first of several quotes we’ll be reproducing from the seminal philosopher’s chapter “The Apostle Paul and the impotence of the Will” in the second volume of The Life of the Mind:
The Will, split and automatically producing its own counter-will, is in need of being healed, of becoming one again. Like thinking, willing has split the one into a two-in-one, but for the thinking ego a “healing” of the split would be the worst thing that could happen; it would put an end to thinking altogether. Well, it would be very tempting to conclude that divine mercy, Paul’s solution for the wretchedness of the Will, actually abolishes the Will by miraculously depriving it of its counter-will. But this is no longer a matter of volitions, since mercy cannot be striven for; salvation “depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy,” and He “has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills” (Romans 9:16,18). Moreover, just as “the law came in” not merely to make sin identifiable but to “increase the trespass,” so grace “abounded” where “sin increased”– felix culpa indeed, for how could men know the glory if they were unacquainted with wretchedness; how would we know what day was if there were no night?
In brief, the will is impotent not because of something outside that prevents willing from succeeding, but because the will hinders itself. And wherever, as in Jesus, it does not hinder itself, it does not yet exist.” (pg. 70)