05/11/2010

The Wise Craft and the Modern Will




One can not do one's True Will intelligently unless one knows what it is.
Aleister Crowley, Magick, Book 4

True Will or Pure Will gives immediate associations to Aleister Crowley and his vision of Thelema. This vision was taken from the satirical stories of the Renaissance humanist Rabelais. What apparently caught Crowley’s attention was how Gargantua erected a hedonistic mock monastery in response to the rules in the 16th Century monastic orders. The Catholic Church was confronted with a series of scandals and heresy, the reformation stirring at its burning foundation…and humanism opened up for ridicule in a level not seen since the Roman poet Petronius wrote his Satyricon.
Rabelais work is wonderful, at the gate of his Abbey of Thelema is written:

 Do here pursue with might
Grace, honour, praise, delight.

It gives a contrast to the hellfire and guilt ridden psychology of the late medieval Church that is about restraint, sin and purgatory. Rabelais says:  for it is agreeable with the nature of man to long after things forbidden and to desire what is denied us. Quite interesting, but this search is undertaken my honorable people who knows when and where to give praise and delight. And it is here the Thelemite vision reveals its utopia.

Crowley was instrumental in breaking the shackles of the Victorian mindset in his time that he experienced quite similar to what we find in 16th Century monastic disciplines, which were the ideals proposed by the Church at large.

I like utopian visions. My hero Plato wrote one called ‘The Republic’, I like Locke and Hobbes when they detail their visions of a perfect society that is instrumental in the well being of its political participants. But it is still a vision, from the Greek root utopia refers to ‘a place that is not’ while its English homophone signifies ‘a good place’. We might say that they are mutually embracing and exclusive. We all want a good place but this is not what the world is. The ideal ventures through the fog of modern reality and serves as a rainbow of hope.

My problem is with the contemporary idea of Will, thelema. This word is taken from Rabelais and he had a distinct target in mind – as such he turned himself into an opposer of the existing order, like Crowley did. So, for me the idea of thelema is a political and social revolt aimed against the current restraints of material society. Crowley’s vision of thelema was developed in response to social and political forces. As such, his idea of Magic as something only being possible by will/intent is not defined or limited to will in the sense of dharma/destiny, but a social and political act. As any political movements thelema catches the attention of rebels and troublemaker that just feel restrained. They are men and women of no grace nor of honour. They demonstrate that thelema is utopia.

What I find interesting is that Crowley later developed this basically political rebellion into something higher. He does speak of the ideal of the perfect nature being veiled within the idea of Will being suggested in other writings, like ‘Duty’. But here he is somehow rephrasing his political intent to be more in accord with the Hindu dharma. It still remains that his vision was one of political and social rebellion. This was the womb so to speak of the further developments of thelema or Will.

Thelemapedia defines Will as following:   

"The concept postulates that each individual has a unique and incommensurable inherent nature (which is identical to their "destiny") that determines their proper course in life, that is the mode of action that unites their purest personal will with the postulated course that preexists for them in the universe."


From my skepticism towards modernism I to tweak an eyebrow seeing that the idea of destiny is considered a postulate. In the same article it is also stated that no one can not know the will/destiny of another and at the same time Crowley believed (in later years) that it was of utmost importance to know the will of a child as early as possible so the ‘correct ordering of society’ could be arranged. He never left sight of the social and political horizon.

Kenneth Grant defines Will in conformity with advaita and dharma in ‘At the Feet of the Guru’, which harmonizes with Crowleys sentiments in Liber Aleph, the only book I consider worthy from the hand of Crowley, moved by the 45th verse in the 1st book of Liber Al: 

“Know firmly, O my Son, that the True Will connot err; for it is thine appointed Course in Heaven, in whose Order is Perfection.” 

This is beautiful and right, but still, thelema, Will, is a concept mirroring Crowley’s vision of a social utopia of honorable hedonistic men and women. Wonderful! But is it really applicable to the nature of witchcraft?
Crowley’s idea of Will as held in contemporary thelemite structures and sodalities goes counter to the spirit of the Craft due to its utopian and political orientation. Not to speak of the focus given on the organizational binary structure – the order vs. the family and the social rebellion vs. the social alienation. Is not the ‘witch’ the one that step back from profane ordering of political structure and nurtures the land in league with the eternal laws of nature? What is the point of the rebellion that imposes social change?

The idea of Will is obscure in thelema, but not in the Craft. The Craft is intimately tied in with the Lady of the Wheel and abides and moves the natural, not social, circles.  Thelema is a modern social rebellion moved by romanticisms and ambition, it is absolutely worldly. The Craft proper will not, as I see it, be properly presented within a thelemite frame of mind as the witch leaps into an active role in modern profane politics.
Etymologically as well ‘will’ carries a desirous and hopeful potency that is strange to the ‘will’ of the ‘witch’. It seems that thelema would resonate better if it was translated into ‘shall’ more than will, as here you do what is necessary and touch upon something vital, namely destiny. Destiny from the Latin ‘destinare’ means intent and purpose, by virtue of divine dictate. Here we find the idea of doing ones destiny with intent in conformity with divine dictate. The witch do what Crowley found close to impossible.

My point is that when we fuse a political utopia with traditional craft we end up in muddy waters because we are diffusing the planes. We want simultaneously to do our destiny and impose certain intents upon society without asking if we have the grace and honor necessary to accomplish this task.

Crowley’s and Rabelais’ vision is wonderful, a society of free men and women, honorable and full of grace that lives according their destiny. I do understand the attraction, but I still believe the fire that moves ‘the witch’ is the need fire and not the ‘lust fire’. If the one transforms into the other it is well and good, but in the end our point of reference must be celestial. We must keep our attention towards the stars where destiny has written our blessing and not in the forceful insisting of imposing our will upon the social structures of the world.

The Will of the ‘Witch’ is the desires of the Land and the Mother beneath our feet.