What Thou Will

Will

I’ve always thought of myself as a person of considerable will. (I seem to remember my mother inferring as much when I was a child, as well).

I was still in my teens when I had an understanding that, whatever goal I set for myself, I could accomplish it, as long as my personal will was strong enough. I never experienced failure in things about which I truly cared. That’s still true.

So yes, I am a woman of considerable will. But what does “Will” mean, exactly. Like most ideological concepts, its definition has changed and evolved for me over the years.

At first it was simply the force behind a strong desire, and a certainty about an outcome. I could make things happen. Will translated desire into action. Action. Persistent, consistent, driven Action created the desired outcome.

In my late teens and early twenties I went through an unhealthy period of alcohol addiction. Upon realizing that I was no longer acting out of my own will but allowing my life to be ruled by the next drink, I developed a desire to rid myself of that burden. I discovered self help groups which convinced me (for awhile) that I was powerless. The reasoning behind that claim of powerlessness is to promote total abstention, which I still believe was totally necessary for me, at that time. But the group discussions continued to focus on that powerlessness, not only over alcohol, but over everything. Let me be clear. I believe, still, that those groups saved my life. I needed sobriety. And the process and philosophy helped me get there. But my evolution required me to come to my own conclusions about life, about personal power and about Will.

My spiritual journey led me to witchcraft, not before stopping to sup, for awhile, at the tables of many other faith systems. I had begun a regular meditation practice, so, naturally, Buddhism caught my attention. Hinduism still holds a very sacred space in my heart. And Taoism just makes a lot of damn sense!

But when I came to understand the reverence for Nature, the concept that everything is connected and the worship of the Divine Feminine which is prevalent in Wicca and paganism, I knew I had come home. (*for now).  And when I discovered the tenets (and the science) of Magick, I came full circle to my belief in my own personal will.

There was a phrase repeated more times than I can count in my Catholic upbringing, and in the Christian based support group I had joined to become sober;

“Thy Will, Not Mine, Be Done.”

That carries a powerful (no, strike that!) PowerLESS message. It says, “I have no say in this. I am submissive. I bow to the will of another and accept whatever that may be.”

I had done that long enough. It wasn’t working.

When Wicca and witchcraft and spellcraft caught my attention, I began to believe, once again, in my considerable personal will. My. Spells. Work.  Nothing gives you more confidence than success. I have changed things, bent reality, achieved my desires with the use of witchcraft (fueled by my personal will).

I am a person of considerable will, after all.

In my studies about The Craft, I became familiar with Aleistar Crowley. This man put forth the idea that we are all like stars of the universe. Stars. That our orbits, unless corrupted by outside forces, are perfect and harmonious. And our orbits are determined by our own will.

Do what thou wilt be the whole of the law.  Love is the law.  Love under will.

 

So how does Crowley define Will?

The following passages are from, “Liber II The Message of The Master Therion”, Crowley’s explanation/interpretation of his prime directive, occasionally quoting from his seminal work, “Liber Legis” or “The Book of The Law”.

“…Again: “Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that and no other shall say nay. For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”

Take this carefully; it seems to imply a theory that if every man and every woman did his and her will–the true will–there would be no clashing. “Every man and every woman is a star,” and each star moves in an appointed path without interference. There is plenty of room for all; it is only disorder that creates confusion.

From these considerations it should be clear that “Do what thou wilt” does not mean “Do what you like.” It is the apotheosis of Freedom; but it is also the strictest possible bond.

Do what thou wilt–then do nothing else. Let nothing deflect thee from that austere and holy task. Liberty is absolute to do thy will; but seek to do any other thing whatever, and instantly obstacles must arise. Every act that is not in definite course of that one orbit is erratic, an hindrance. Will must not be two, but one.

Note further that this will is not only to be pure, that is, single, as explained above, but also “unassuaged of purpose.” This strange phrase must give us pause. It may mean that any purpose in the will would damp it; clearly the “lust of result” is a thing from which it must be delivered.

But the phrase may also be interpreted as if it read “with purpose unassuaged”–i.e., with tireless energy. The conception is, therefore, of an eternal motion, infinite and unalterable. It is Nirvana, only dynamic instead of static–and this comes to the same thing in the end.

The obvious practical task of the magician is then to discover what his will really is, so that he may do it in this manner…

Thou must (1) Find out what is thy Will. (2) Do that Will with a) one-pointedness, (b) detachment, (c) peace.

Then, and then only, art thou in harmony with the Movement of Things, thy will part of, and therefore equal to, the Will of God. And since the will is but the dynamic aspect of the self, and since two different selves could not possess identical wills; then, if thy will be God’s will, Thou art That.”

……”Thou Art That” … oooh those lovely Hindu philosophies that are stimulated and awakened at that phrase!

It doesn’t mean “Do What You Like”. It means, “Find your Purpose.” (and by the way, you find this by following your bliss ala Joseph Campbell). And when you find your true calling, you must follow it to the exclusion of all else, to the point that others might call madness.

To quote Sharon Devlin, from her interview which appeared in Margot Adler’s, “Drawing Down The Moon”, when asked to paraphrase Crowley’s statements,

“If we were all doing what we REALLY wanted to do, we would do it in perfect harmony. … If you were what you could be the best, and if you did what you loved to do with all your might, you would create such light and such power that it would give pizazz to everybody in your immediate area, and even those distant, perhaps.”

So, Crowley’s idea of “Do What Thou Wilt” is no feel-good, new-age, love & light bathed path to enlightenment. It is a driven, maniacal, bash-your-head-against-the-wall, frenzied run for the end-zone.

And the fact is that once you’ve found what you’re supposed be doing in this realm of existence, you’d better do everything you can, every day, to reach your goal.  And I pray that you are a person of considerable will.

You’ll need it.

** (for now) – Next up for the blog… Why I’m open to changing my beliefs an any moment.

 

Wicca’s Prime Directive

 

Forward

coven

I’ve recently had several conversations about the pros and cons of being a member of a working coven, versus being a solitary witch.  I’ve had both experiences.  Both are absolutely valid avenues of practice for a witch.  I am very grateful for the challenges and education I received as a founding member of a coven.  In my years as a solitary prior to my coven years, I never pushed myself as hard to gain knowledge, to double check my facts and to practice regularly, as much as when I was a coven-mate.  The accountability and the task of teaching others held me to a standard that acted as a forge for my own learning and magickal power.  I was an elder in a strong and growing coven, with a large public congregation for years.  I was privy to the hierarchical structure, the ins and outs and ups and downs of planning and organizing ritual, both public and private and, of course, the unavoidable personal drama of the members.  It takes a tremendously strong individual to lead a coven successfully.  Politics and personal conflict necessarily enter into the equation.

 wicca study

So, nowadays, I am a solitary, and happy at it.  My practice was forever strengthened by my membership in that coven.  I wrote the following peace at the end of my membership.  My frustration with the system is apparent.  I’ve written this forward from a greater emotional distance than I had at that time.  But the message, regardless of my anger and frustration in the moment, still rings true, so I thought I’d share.

Wicca’s Prime Directive

harm none

Most people who are familiar with the phrase, “Prime Directive” think “Star Trek.” The Federation’s Prime Directive was to avoid interference with the civilizations they encountered. A prime directive is simply a principle upon which rules are based, a principle to which one would defer if the rules or laws appeared to be in conflict with it.

One of the reasons I found the practices of Wicca to be inviting was the lack of a lot of “Rules”. There was simply one Prime Directive; Harm None, Do what ye will. This appealed to me greatly since it has been my experience that there is no rule or law that can be applied across the board in every situation.

Even in considering the Ten Commandments we can find that there would be ethical and reasonable exceptions. Honor thy mother and thy father? What if they are physically abusive? Thou shall not steal? What if one is starving or one’s children are starving? Thou shall not kill? How about self defense?

The appealing thing to me about the prime directive of Harm None is that it requires a person to THINK through all of their decisions. Some have attempted to paraphrase this principle with “As long as I’m not hurting anyone, what does it matter?” But it’s not quite that simplistic. Harm can be defined very broadly. It applies to one’s self as well as others. It can apply to the planet since that affects all of us. One is required by this to consider the consequences, to consider the specific circumstances, and above all to consider the individuals who may be affected. I really like the fact that we are expected to use our brains. There’s no checklist we can scan to let us know that we haven’t “sinned,” so to speak.

I remember hearing the phrase “Rules are for fools” in the past. I dismissed it, at first, as a flippant, but catchy, disregard for authority. But upon closer inspection, it really makes sense to me. There is no specific rule or law that has ever been put down on paper BEFORE someone committed the transgression. If everyone was able to conduct themselves in a manner which was in keeping with common sense and the principles of “Harm None” or “Do unto others as you’d have done to you”, then rules wouldn’t be necessary at all. But that, of course, is not the case. Rules are necessary… unfortunately, because there ARE … well… Fools who are not able to simply act by the nature of the prime directives (conscience). The fact is that when one encounters a principle of behavior such as “harm none” or “treat others as you’d like to be treated” one cannot deny their validity. These principles stand on their own merit and the recognition of their ultimate Truth comes, not from the mind but from the gut.

Now… I do understand that “Harm None” is actually an unattainable ideal. There are times, of course when we have to choose the least harm in any given situation. But the prime directive encourages us to do our best.

So what’s the relationship between the Prime Directive and the written rules?

Lets consider the idea of affirmative defense in legal matters. Generally speaking the laws of society try to follow the general principles of ethics. But there are times when acting ethically and obeying the law are two separate things. If someone is screaming for help from inside a locked, private home, breaking and entering suddenly becomes ethical, if not strictly legal. If a loved one is seriously injured, we may justifiably break traffic laws in an effort to get them to the emergency room. All of the laws of a society should be subject to Ethics. Any law that cannot be excepted under special circumstances is doomed, eventually, to do more harm than good.

So too, Covens and Traditions of witchcraft have their rules.

Some rules apply to ritual practices, i.e.; casting circle, calling quarters, invoking deity, etc. These rules would derive from the written and oral traditions of the particular branch of witchcraft to which the group adheres. Sometimes they are the preference of the High Priestess or Priest in the case of more progressive groups. But they are generally seen to be valuable, important and worthy of following due to some experience which has proven them to be effective or enlightening in some way. Blind-folding and binding initiates is not an uncommon practice. And it does serve its purpose. It’s a transformative death and rebirth process. A shroud and some form of submission can be very useful in creating the psychic energy required. But what of an initiate who, through past traumatic experience, has a sensitivity or phobia in these areas? It is the responsibility of the High Priestess to be aware of these issues and to determine whether the ritual practice would do harm to the individual.

Some rules apply to the structure and hierarchy of the Coven, i.e.; High Priestess/Priest; Council or Elders, Initiates, Novices. These rules would determine what roles are to be taken by the members in their respective positions. And just as in the hierarchy of any society, these delineations are necessary to keep order, especially in larger groups. However, it must always be remembered that Witchcraft is a spiritual practice. Recognition of fellow souls as equals is part of that. And this particular area of coven life is highly prone to causing hurt feelings in cases where certain workings and/or meetings are exclusive to certain groups of members. Communication is key here in ensuring that everyone understands their roles and what is required of them. However, in the case of the occasional and unavoidable break-down in communication, when a person innocently appears to attend a group meeting or working that is not intended for their own group… how much harm can there be in allowing that attendance? Considering the mind-set of the individual is important here as well. Some members may easily accept that they came to the “wrong meeting”. Others might be deeply hurt at the exclusion. In the face of turning someone away with an attitude of “You’re not one of us”, the inclusion of a novice in the workings of an elder group doesn’t seem very damaging, does it? Which scenario would cause the least harm? It is imperative that these considerations be taken into account.

The fact is that even though there are rules in place and those rules have validity and value, the prime directive of Harm None TRUMPS THEM ALL. On this subject I stand firmly with Henry David Thoreau; “If the law requires that you be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.” The practitioner must still consider, in EVERY situation, what action would cause the least harm. To do less would be to demean the title of Witch.

Next up…. a discussion of the meaning of Will…

Will