Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The following is an excerpt from a talk given in Toronto on April 20, 2017 e.v.
The idea for this topic came from seeing the recent documentary on the US writer James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro. Baldwin, if you don’t know his work, brilliantly captures the way that a myth of “the negro” as a separate and inferior kind of human has been interwoven into US society and, by extension, other white societies. Hence, the title, which as a concept was about denying – and defying – being a character in some other group of people’s story. In his case, he knew as friends the civil rights worker Medgar Evers ( depicted in the movie Ghosts of the Mississippi), Malcom X, and Martin Luther King, all of whom were murdered over a span of a few years in the mid-1960s.
Some of our myths are silly or unpleasant. Baldwin realised, as he explains in the old interview footage in the documentary, that some myths kill other people. He’d actually left the US in the late 1940s because he felt he might die because of his race. He came back just as the civil rights struggle was building, feeling shamed by a newspaper photo of a 15-year-od schoolgirl being mocked by white kids as she entered a newly integrated high school.
There are levels to myth. We were all born into the last echoes of what Thelemites call the Aeon of Osiris, when the concept of a god demanding sacrifice and suffering was paramount. Self-denial, especially sexually, was a method used by serious seekers to raise up spiritual power, kundalini as we often say, and to reach for God-realisation. Law was an external thing, based on historic customs and cultural agreements, backed up in many cases with scriptural quotes. We’ve built an extraordinary global civilisation on the basis of this, albeit through colonialism and conquest, and we’re now in the phase of realising the fruits of that. This outcome was anticipated by Christianity and Islam, though not really by Judaism, and the narrative of an ultimate annihilation followed by all of us who have undergone this experience being ‘judged’ for it was solidly established. The notion of actually creating something better out of the wreckage is very unpopular with people who think they’ve bought a ticket to heaven, and that the rest of us are supposed to languish in hell; and frankly, most of us right now aren’t sure how it can all work out. I think a realist has to accept that in some mundane ways, it won’t.
Any person’s True Will can be seen as their individual myth, and myths are archetypal. In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, C.G. Jung gave one definition of an archetype as being comparable to ” the axial system of a crystal which, as it were, pre-forms the crystalline structure in the mother liquid, although it has no material existence of its own.”
A person’s True Will ‘formula’ isn’t just an idea, it isn’t a philosophy, and isn’t remotely something we can decide for ourselves. It is intrinsic to our nature, and applies on all levels of our being, from how we choose our hobbies and friends, to how we can fulfil ourselves spiritually. As it gradually comes more into focus, or more into play, it forms the royal road to Knowledge and Conversation, even if we have not totally seen what it is.
On top of myths, we build stories. Our stories are how that crystal, that axial system, manifests in our outer world. Some of the stories are forged out of early experiences, which might cause us to create unpleasant stories about how we must protect ourselves, or fear certain experiences. As a kid, I was scared of talk in church about the Holy Ghost, which I assumed could materialise out of the sign listing today’s hymn numbers at any moment. Churches upset me, up until I was in my twenties, because of this, irrespective of the belief systems they preached.
A mystery school works by helping us deconstruct our own story-making, until we can begin to discern the Will-myth that underlies it. This is why we use magick: to address a mythic system, we need to work with things that themselves have their roots in the archetypal worlds. And unlike standard-model psychotherapy, we are not trying to wipe the slate clean, but to enhance and elevate this core Will-myth, so that it takes us over more effectively.
Few people will do this work in a few months, or even in a few years. It’s a gradual process, a movement towards and a withdrawal, a repeated reconsideration of ourselves. It’s alchemical, and alchemy is about slow-cooked dinners, not fast food. But as our concept of the Holy Guardian Angel grows, in depth and reach, so does our sense of True Will alongside it. We have to learn to love what it is we truly seek, and to love the process of coming to know it. To do what we will is the whole of the Law, but love directed by that will is the law – its essence, its necessary expression, its method as well as its outcome.
Baldwin’s written work explored the black experience at a time when the freedom the Book of the Law requires was starting to corrode fixed social and financial structures. At the present time, we are seeing those structures under increasing assault, as political alignments crack, and trust in basic institutions (laws, media, elections) declines. He understood he had to get out, and help others get out, of the stories being told – and enforced – by people who projected onto his dark skin all their own inner darkness. As we move into an increasingly uncertain future, knowing and doing our own True Wills is no longer a fun game, nor is it self-indulgent. It’s a necessity for survival. The more we each learn about our Will-myths, the archetypal patterns of ourselves that underlie all the personality structures lying on top, the safer we are. And the more we can orient ourselves with forces that seem to be only destructive, but which are, invisibly and in their own time, pushing all of us along.
In such circumstances, it can seem easier just to look away, and allow ourselves to be pushed. In reality, if we can learn to walk our own roads, we gain enormously in dignity and, surprisingly, in a sometimes elusive yet deep-level sense of rightness and joy.
Love is the law, love under will,