A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.
We often learn Newton's first law of motion in the context of billiard balls on pool tables. But the same law is readily observed in "man as
machine". I tend to react to men in the same, limited manner in which I tended to react to my own father. I will continue to do so until something
awakens me to what I am doing, enables me to see alternatives, and assists me in establishing those alternatives as part of a new, less restrictive
But human beings are rather more complex than billiard balls; much is required to overcome the force of habit or the trend of history. Consider
dieting as one example of attempting to overcome an addiction (or any other deep pattern) via self-improvement. The mind idealistically embraces the
idea of losing weight, usually rallying itself around some new technique for doing that; but the body remains a distinct voice and force all the
while. The mind may rule for a period; but, come that moment in front of the chocolate shop, when the delicious smell comes wafting out — the body
instantly initiates a coup d'etat, seizing the throne and commencing a food binge that may last days, weeks, or months. When the mind "comes to",
it generally is perplexed about the failure of its program. It vastly underestimated (and never was actually in a position to overcome) the force and
depth of the pattern it was attempting to address.
A more apt metaphor for "man as machine" than the passive billiard ball is "man as homeostatic system": a pattern of activity which, even when
acted on by an outside force, will exert a counter-force, in order to perpetuate the present pattern. It's as though the billiard ball had developed
little "legs" that dug into the pool table surface when it sees another pool ball coming, in order to resist the oncoming "hit"; or as though the
ball could dodge the oncoming ball. Not so easy to knock that ball in a desired direction any longer, even with an outside force!
Thermostats are examples of systems consciously designed to be homeostatic. They are built to keep the house at a certain temperature homeostatically;
a fall below that temperature turns the heater on, while a restoration to the status quo temperature turns the heater off. Just so, upon persisting at
a certain weight for a sufficient length of time, the human body establishes that weight as a "set point" which it vigorously works to restore
should body weight go lower (or higher).
On the basis of similar observations, thinkers as diverse as Montaigne, Pavlov, Gurdjieff, and Hubert Benoit, concluded that what is possible through
self-improvement, or even improvement with the help of other human beings more or less like ourselves, is severely limited.
Necessarily, the help we need for radical change or spiritual maturity, on the one hand must overwhelm our homeostatic system in the manner of a great
"Outside Force"; and yet, on the other hand, it must also pull the rug out from beneath deep patterns in the manner of Something at an even greater
depth (in accord with the principles of depth psychology). The "Grace of God" is a good name for help which both overwhelms from without and
undermines from within.