Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Today I was caught up in one of those online discussions about how to identify the True Will. Is it akin to Joseph Campbell’s notion of “Follow your bliss” ? I’d say that isn’t very close. Is it simply about doing what one does, without restriction? That opens up a Chinese nest of boxes, some of which have some nasty surprises in them: not all that we feel like doing is conducive to fulfilling our lives in the broader sense.
And so it went.
Crowley, seemingly contrarian to himself in many ways, speaks of True Will in different ways in different places. At times, he states or implies it’s a phenomenon of natural processes, and thus simply the expression of biological and/or unconscious forces. Then, in places he is explicit that there is a unique, spiritual formula the Thelemite must determine or observe for him or herself, and this done, the higher Gnosis is possible. For example, in The Heart of the Master, he writes:
“The True Self is the meaning of the True Will: know Thyself through Thy Way! Calculate well the Formula of Thy Way!”
In his commentaries to The Book of the Law, I v. 44, he describes True Will as “The true expression of the nature, the proper or inherent motion of the matter concerned.” He adds, “It is unnatural to aim at a goal,” for this is his comment on the verse with the famous phrase “delivered from the lust of result,” which drives most of us a bats at times.
All these approaches, and more besides, are relevant in the quest, for there are several issues to address with the notion of True Will. Firstly, the phrase itself is not in The Book of the Law, which speaks of ‘pure will.’ Crowley himself felt compelled to expound the principle involved by changing the phrasing in his exposition. It was necessary, I suggest, to avoid assumptions about base desire confusing the process.
Secondly, there is a widespread ‘cut-rate’ Thelema around these days that seeks to exclude anything supernatural as both unnecessary and scientifically disproved. The fact that many strands of scientific enquiry (neurobiology, consciousness research, and some – not all – investigations of quantum phenomena) are moving steadily away from the old “reality is reality is atoms” paradigm challenges such assumptions to the core, but resistance to ‘superstition’ can itself be the most resilient of all superstitions, and is stubbornly immune to opposing arguments. This school is quite hung up on will being instinctual, almost animal in fact, without any reference to greater consciousness.
A further take on it forms a kind of Thelemic determinism, holding that a person’s True Will is a concealed and highly elevated aphorism that forms the root of their spiritual nature, as well as permeating the more mundane aspects of life, such as the instinctual self and its lusts. But the aim here must be towards the highest level of realisation.
The simplest way to look at all this is to affirm each of the different perspectives. True Will is a mere intellectual conception unless it is also pure will, operating unblocked by social considerations, anxieties, or the various ways we have of deflecting the instincts. And each and every act we perform is a manifestation of this Will, albeit often one that imperfectly expresses it. For those social needs, anxiety and other mental constrictions all relate very clearly to lust of result: if we must have or we want something desperately, or we feel we must prevent it happening, then Will is being deviated by the mind. All our magick, meditation and devotional activity aims at undeviating such mental considerations.
True Will does boil down, for each individual, to a particular formula, a specific, pithy aphorism that’s going to be true on all levels of being. On the most basic, or if you like, biological level, it becomes an expression of the grace and power undeflected will can attain. On the psychological levels, it engages intellectual abilities as well as aesthetic skills such as creating sculpture or playing music (not merely playing an instrument, which is different). And on the spiritual levels, it wraps up the whole package, providing the unifying ‘ glue’ steadily drawing all the parts of self towards a unified perception of life and being.
As for how to discover and realise True Will, the most elementary answer is that is requires prolonged and close attention. What is you’re trying to do? And what is it, more importantly, you would like to accomplish through this? What effect are you seeking to produce? And, part of the time, what is it that gives you joy?
More mysteriously, why do you find yourself coming back again and again to the same desires and activities? Why do you persist in them on the bad days and strive your best for them on the good ones? What drives the driver, so to speak?
Will itself must want to know itself in order for us, its perceivers and comprehenders, to implement it in the best, deepest and most fully conscious way. Each persistent tendency in us offers a clue, and the longing and love within us will confirm this, if we are only watchful and patient, and simultaneously ready to act. “Every act is an act of love,” Crowley wrote, and in that is perhaps the clearest clue of all.
Love is the law, love under will,