What intent is not

Intent is different from other possible causes of activity (such as instincts and urges, reflexes, desires, aims, or will). The distinction between will and intent may need to be clarified because it is not self-evident. Intent is a pre-thought, pre-language (in other words pre-construct) phenomenon, while will has a cognitive basis, closely related to decisions. Animals and young children do not show much will (they may exhibit the peculiarities of their character, but this is not will). They do not have an overall conscious control of their actions. Intent, on the other hand, is present in all life forms from the start, although it may not be strong and is often muted by more intense determinants. Will can be triggered by intent but also by other factors (e.g. social pressure, rational principles etc.).

The already mentioned Libet's experiments (p.108) provide experimental support for the difference between will and intent. In the case of a voluntary action, such as moving a finger, for example, a pre-verbal and pre-thought energy impulse (intent) fist initiates a neuronal activity. This is called readiness potential (a tension before an action, detected by EEG as a voltage change in a brain region associated with such action). Formulating the impulse (a cognitive process known as decision and normally associated with will) comes later. It is like a driver who first starts the engine, and only after a few moments moves the car. So, in a way, the engine is prepared for the action before the driver decided to move the car (but after s/he had intended to do so). Congruent with Libet's own conclusions, will (decision) has a purpose either to veto or proceed further with the act (see Libet, 2004).

To summarise, the main difference between intent and other phenomena related to action is that the former is not structured (so it can never be precisely formulated) while the latter are. Roughly speaking, will is based on decisions, desires on imagination, and aims on thinking. Of course, these processes are often intertwined. For instance, intent can underlie an aim (that, as a rule, has a convergent role). The aim can provide a form for intent, but intent is still necessary to sustain the act. Other processes in the body and mind can also trigger, modify, contribute or block an intent, but they do not have intent. Such activities are reflexive or conditioned responses. Only the self-soul intends.

What intent is

Intent is the ability of the self to affect and utilise its energy field directly (rather than through constructs). Intent does not act, but creates and maintains tension (creates potential), so that the energy itself spontaneously tends towards a resolution. In a way, intent can be seen as content in a search of a corresponding form. A simple activity such as looking for a word may illustrate this. A person knows what s/he wants to express, but s/he is searching for the way (form) to express it. The tension so created is the result of one's intent. Once the word is found, it is experienced as a release (as if a light was turned on or a dam opened). Polanyi and Prosch summarise this process:

Heuristic tension in a mind seems therefore to be generated much as kinetic energy in physics is generated by the accessibility of stabler configurations. The tension in a mind, however, seems by contrast to be deliberate. A mind responds in a striving manner to comprehend that which it believes to be comprehendible but which it does not yet comprehend. Its choices in these efforts are therefore hazardous, not "determined". Nevertheless they are not made at random. They are controlled (as they are evoked) by the pursuit of their intention. These choices resemble quantum-mechanical events in that they are guided by a field which nevertheless leaves them indeterminate. They are therefore also "uncaused", in the sense that there is nothing within the possible range of our knowledge that determines or necessitates that they become precisely what they do become. (1975, p.176)


The wave energy from the soul can produce manifest effects due to the receptivity of the brain to scalar wave-propagations[1] and the sensitivity of the neural network to the chaos dynamics. The latter means that vast collections of neurons can shift abruptly and simultaneously from one complex activity pattern to another in response to extremely fine variations. In other words, neural activity is susceptible to so-called chaotic attractors that can amplify the minute fluctuations and affect an overall process although no exact neural path is determined. This is why intent cannot be specific and yet it can influence a general trend.

It is suggested that the effects of intent can be detected in experimental settings as the above mentioned readiness potential. Readiness potential is linked only to intentional movements, and not to reflex actions such as a scratching or pulling away from something painful. Libet also noticed that if his subjects had chosen not to actively participate in his experiments, readiness potential was very different, which is another indication that it is related to agency and intent (even if the decision to act comes later).

  • [1]. Scalar waves have magnitude, but unlike vector waves they do not have a specific direction.

The functioning of intent

The effects of intent on the brain is relatively slow and weak:

The self-conscious mind does not affect a direct action on these motor pyramidal cells. Instead, the self-conscious mind works remotely and slowly over a wide range of the cortex so that there is a time delay for the surprisingly long duration of 0.8s... It is a sign that the action of the self-conscious mind on the brain is not of demanding strength. (Popper and Eccles, 1977, p.365)


This is not surprising if the intensity of the material world is taken into account. Intent can be and often is, in fact, muted by stronger influences: physical or social conditioning and the individual will. It is possible to pay no attention to or to override intent. Thus, in many cases it does not make a significant difference. However, if maintained, intent can have an accumulative effect (like drops of water that individually produce negligible results, but their prolonged action can break a rock). This can lead to a more fulfilling outcome, but is not easy because it requires abstaining from immediate gratifications (e.g. fantasies or other substitutes) and sustaining the state of suspension, which is not always comfortable. On rare occasions though, intent can take over. It is felt most intensely in so-called flow experiences that occur when the waves produced in the brain become synchronised. Many engaging activities such as writing, playing sport or an instrument or discussing an interesting subject can produce this effect (after the skills have been acquired). Such an event, compared to the usual brain activity, is the equivalent of laser light in comparison to normal diffused light. It is experienced as an effortless but highly focused state, like being in a tunnel or on rails (in the words of the late Formula One champion, Senna). It also includes an ambiguous sensation of not being aware of oneself and still being in control at the same time. This is because the ego personality, that we normally identify with, remains in the background. Intent initiates brain activity directly, rather than through its constructs which is usually the case (although, of course, the awareness of constructs is still preserved). So, performance can be faster and less energy consuming than when consciously controlled. Being in such a state is not always an advantage though, since it can lead to losing sight of a larger perspective. A highly focused state normally narrows the scope of awareness[2].


The relationship between awareness and intent

The energy of the soul can be shaped unintentionally. In fact, every experience and information restructures the energy, which happens all the time and does not have to involve intent. Intent depends on awareness, because without awareness it cannot be directed. This means that one has to be aware in order to intend, but this is not to say that one has to be aware of shis intent permanently. Some intents and their context may be forgotten (the person is not aware of them any more) and yet they can still have an effect. With increased awareness (as in lucid dreams, for example) the potential for intentional control grows as well. Conversely, intent can direct awareness, too. Not by guiding, for instance, our sensory apparatus, but by creating tension that spontaneously turns awareness in a direction that would lead to a release. Moreover, besides affecting direction, intent may also play a role in the process of selecting and extracting pieces of information.


The development of intent

Although it may be very weak, intent is present from the start, and like awareness it also grows through evolution and development. Intent is a delicate force, so the less a soul is developed, the smaller its role is. With an increase in the complexity of the nervous system it is much easier to balance stronger factors and be more frequently responsive to the minute influences of intentbbb. This means that humans have a greater potential in this respect than animals. The souls of animals are mostly shaped through an interaction of bodily instincts and their surroundings, while the self, although indispensable, has little direct effect. As already mentioned, intent does not seem to be strong even in humans, but there is still substantial scope for growth within the existing boundaries. These boundaries, or the physical aspects of life and how they relate to the above elements, are worth considering, so they will be addressed next.

  • [2]. Moreover, these states may be pleasant and conducive to achievement, but they rarely contribute to development. The circumstances need to be favourable too, in terms of not producing an unpredictable resistance, and overcoming resistance is what leads to a constructive change. Similar to so-called ‘peak experiences', these ones provide a glimpse of possibilities, but are not fully integrated in most cases.