Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Two recent talks I gave in Ontario were about Will in the Thelemic context. These talks are often wake-up experiences, because I’ve worked for years within a certain paradigm, with a certain set of definitions or assumptions, and I never know what assumptions my audience has. Most people with whom I have some exchange of ideas come out of a different place to me, and I have to trace for them, however briefly, how I came to my view of it all, and what’s meant by True Will.
Crowley himself spoke simply and lucidly about True Will in various places, but the concept isn’t always familiar to people who think of spirituality in terms of states rather than constant change. The expression ‘True Will’ is from Eliphas Levi, not Crowley, though the latter claimed the former as a prior lifetime. The Book of the Law only refers to ‘will’ or ‘pure will,’ but the mature Crowley realised he needed a phrase that embraced the idea on multiple levels, and not just on an external or conscious one.
Some people see Will as almost post-hippie concept, the individual living according to his or her inclinations as they arise: True Whim, perhaps. Others view it as a more vital force, almost Nietzschean, that we should wield as our inner wind listeth. And others, including the teacher I had for sixteen years, perceive it only having meaningful validity as an expression of the innermost Star, the divine origin of ourselves, while the notion of personal free will that manifests in our outer consciousness is essentially a shallow misconception of little serious use. According to this view, our conscious selves can limit, evade or disperse True Will’s intents (‘True Won’t’ in action), but in the end all that’s accomplished is procrastination.
Our concept of spiritual reality usually relates to our self-concept, so that a God-self, Atman, Holy Guardian Angel or some other phrase for the supra-personal is a couple of steps beyond where we’re at, at any given moment. It tends be an idealised version of ourselves, without the doubt, hesitancy or ignorance. It isn’t hard to imagine an HGA that doesn’t have to deal with the apparent tedium, meanness or obstructions of the mundane world, and to build a cosmo-conception round that. But we need to have had a series of visionary or opening experiences before we can really grasp, for example, that the HGA and Nuit, the infinite possibility of all that is or could be, are functionally identical. Most people are more in their comfort zone seeing the HGA as Hadit, which seems to have a stronger affinity with our conventional concept of self (stress on ‘seems’). Or they follow Chapter II of the Book of the Law, and create a fairly conventional cult around the image and presence of the Egyptian god Horus.
The reality though, the total picture, includes all these. And before we can really grasp and incorporate the occult significances of that Third Chapter, we need to have addressed the implications of the preceding two Chapters. Among the theorems Crowley posits in his Introduction to Book Four are these:
“Man’s sense of himself as separate from, and opposed to, the Universe is a bar to his conducting its currents. It insulates him.”
“Every individual is essentially sufficient to himself. But he is unsatisfactory to himself until he has established himself in his right relation with the Universe.”
Will, then, is a pure force that comes out of the very essence of our nature, which is only superficially distinct from the Universe. But it’s really a pretentious irrelevance unless it’s interacting constructively with that Universe. Which might usually be just our family, friends and co-workers most; but for anyone with any pretensions to magical ability, that stretches radically with time. And it’s this stretching that produces a shifting sense of will’s origins and nature, so that we’re less hung up on personal action or self-assertion.
Most charts of the properties of the sephiroth of the Tree of Life put ‘volition,’ a carefully selected term, in Geburah. And there’s no question that a powerful current works via that sphere. But we stress ‘via,’ and don’t say ‘from.’ True Will, the fundamental essence of what propels us through life, manifests via Chokmah, the sephirah of Wisdom at the top of the Pillar of Mercy.
The more we learn about the Tree, oddly, the harder it becomes to hold to a clear notion of Chokmah. It’s past the point where forms exist, even the subtlest ones such as concepts, and there can be a long interval before we refine our ideas of it to the point that we feel we finally get what it’s about. Chokmah is dynamic – we also call the Pillar of Mercy, the Pillar of Fire – and there is no point, or place there that we should identify as Will’s actual source.
Chokmah is part of the Supernal Triangle of the Tree, and so outside of our usual laundry lists of philosophical categories. It expresses the very root of the dynamic side of our nature, and the Will it expresses is active in all corners of our existence.
Crowley’s essay Duty advises the Thelemite to identify his or her overall purpose in life, and to “Find the formula of this purpose, or ‘True Will,’ in an expression as simple as possible.” And this formula, to borrow an expression from Ken Wilber and the integral philosophers, applies in All Quadrants, on All Levels (AQAL). It will manifest very differently in the different parts of our lives, but it will still be the same life-river, or torrent of fire, or abiding truth-of-self, or authentic dharma, or any related phrase you like to apply to it. It will touch on everything, and only the manner of that touching will vary, according to the fragment of our own Universe that we’re addressing.
How to get to this point? It requires considerable honesty and the abandoning of some of our more cherished ideas about who we are (or wish we were). Mystery schools teach a process that, if followed through on, provides the primary keys. But it can be done by anyone – just provided we let True Will show us itself.
Love is the law, love under will,