Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The phrase ‘True Will’ doesn’t occur in The Book of the Law. Like much of Thelema, it arose out of prolonged study and meditation of the Book by Aleister Crowley. Realising that the concept intended by Aiwass’ 33 uses of the word ‘will’ and seven uses of ‘wilt’ in the text was about more than any momentary or material need or desire, he expended immense effort considering, expounding and teaching the deeper significance of what was being communicated. And from his already broad grounding in Qabalistic ideas, especially including that of the Chiah, the life-force rooted in the sephirah Chokmah, he developed a simple, self-evident conception of the individual and dynamic truth carried within each person, and which is repressed or expressed, weakly or forcefully, in every human life.
For a large number of people who have read a mere fraction of his writings, he might as well not have bothered. The expression of a will based essentially on ego-needs and pre-existing attitudes and ideas is still one of the most popular notions of our time.
Of course, nobody makes any spiritual progress by repressing drives and desires, unless they are pursuing a particularly rigorous course of training in certain older traditions of yoga or related paths. Even then, the self-restriction is assumed for a temporary period, to attain a particular realisation or series of realisations.
But confining the discussion to such definitions of freedom and of will actively blocks identification with the actual, essential Will that shimmers and burns at the core of each aggregation of characteristics, needs and aspirations we call a human being. In Crowley’s day, the Dadaists and some of the surrealists tried reaching for truth by such means; and while they had some results, the effects were dispersed and not long-lasting, and most of the practitioners moved on to other activities. More recently, Chaos Magick has been another effort to release the inner Beast, which has turned out to be a lesser creature than some practitioners hoped. While it has influenced the psychological approach in ‘mainstream’ Thelema (if we can use such a term), Chaos Magick seems to have moved steadily closer to pre-existing magical norms in its actual practice.
Thelemic Qabalists distinguish clearly between ‘true whim’ or ‘true want,’ which are conscious and ephemeral, and actual True Will. This is where some seekers come to grief, finding themselves unwilling to broaden their perspective to make the distinction, or running in fear from something that seems to resemble the scary Freudian superego, or (modern heresy of modern heresies), a metaphysical idea. But the first encounters with deeper knowledge inevitably have this quality of numinousness, as do many of the later ones. We don’t need to spurn the ‘conventional’ path to the Light to find experiences that are disturbing or paradigm-trashing for us.
Knowledge of the individual formula on one’s True Will is one of the first fruits of true gnosis, and it is essential for paving the way to comprehension of that God-self we call the Holy Guardian Angel. This intuition of our own formula, self-evidently complete as well as disturbing in the extent of its promise and its requirements, is a major milestone. It may have little or nothing to do with what we think or say that we want from life, even though it ultimately fulfils all our deeper desires. But conforming ourselves, over time, to this formula and its significance clears many of the obstacles to understanding what the HGA is ‘saying’ to us.
There are few generalisations that can be offered in grasping our own formula. The guided initiatory path is the surest route to follow, since the presence of other aspirants helps offset the ego’s efforts to derail the process. Working solo does produce results for some, but there is always a limit imposed by what we are willing to include as conscious knowledge when we do so.
One indicator of where True Will can subvert true whim is in areas where things just happen. We are hired for the kind of job we have always wanted to do, or find everyone involved in some group or project is dropping out or pulling back, leaving us in charge or functioning as a key participant despite inexperience or apparent lack of qualifications. We find certain scenarios repeat themselves in our lives, and we accept a measure of responsibility (often, a large measure of responsibility) for handling the outcome. And those “Why does this always happen to me?” situations are frequently indicators of the shadow side of the True Will, where it is repressed or blocked from manifesting in some way, so that our desires and hopes are thwarted in a mirror-image of the inner situation we’re in.
A key thing to bear in mind is that True Will is never about doing a particular thing, such as “To be a superb pianist,” or “To teach disadvantaged children.” It is going to be a pithy phrase that underlies and interpenetrates all we strive to attain, on all levels, from the most exalted to the mundane. Few of us have an easy time accommodating it into our lives, and a lot of apparent (stress on ‘apparent’) surrender is necessary to realise it properly. Only once it is fully engaged do we grasp how much more freedom, not less, we can enjoy from performing it.
Love is the law, love under will,