Do What Thou Wilt
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.” -The Book of the Law, Aleister Crowley (1904)
I recently read a blog stating that if everyone went around doing whatever they wilt, the world would be chaos. I’ve seen this line torn apart so many times, twisted and distorted by people who harbor so much anger towards the Beast, Aleister Crowley. To be honest, I completely understand. When we look at the man who put the words to paper, we see “the wickedest man in the world”. Despite what I feel to be the consensus of Crowley and his work, I believe there was more to him that is worth examining. His life should be an example for the evil and good inside all of us, and our potential as thinking beings.
Aleister Crowley with his wife, Rose Edit Kelly, wrote the Book of the Law after a shared spiritual experience that led him to believe that he was a prophet of a new age. The Liber Al vel Legis (the Book of the Law) outlines the principles of the spiritual philosophy of Thelema. According to Wikipedia, the word Thelema is the transliteration of an ancient Greek word that means to will, wish, want or purpose.
The words of Thelema were crafted with intention. I do not believe that the phrases above are passive in any way. Opening with the word “do” is a call to action. I think that the ones who are jumping on the phrase as a call to chaos or apathy are missing something. Crowley contended that there is not just one path in this world, but that every person must discover their own purpose. This idea is remarkably similar to those of Jiddu Krishnamurti who spoke of “conformity” having a dulling effect. Krishnamurti also spoke of the need to live by our own light. “Do what thou wilt” means that we should find our own path in life; our own true will.
The push for conformity in the early 1900’s hasn’t changed. We still live in an age where we are pushed to conform; to bow our heads, go to school and allow ourselves to be groomed as “good workers”, find a job with good pay and benefits, settle down, have a family, pay our taxes and be calm, respectable, law abiding citizens. Desires beyond be damned. We live in the same world, and the unfortunate truth is that so many are still buying into the Great American Dream. This path of least resistance is home to millions of Americans, and according to the Hope For Depression Research Foundation, depression causes 490 million disability days from work each year in the US. This statistic was pulled from a study in 2013. I can’t imagine how that number has changed since. This number was also only pulled from the individuals lucky enough to have “disability days” and who admit to depression being the cause of their ill health. The path of least resistance is also the path to our personal hells. There is a deep need for us to find our true paths.
There are a great number of us who see this system for what it is. There was a very intentional design put into place by corporate America to use workers for their gain, but before we get all “Fight Club” about this and blow up the system, I do have to say that it does work for a lot of people. There are individuals out there who are content to spend the majority of their waking hours collecting a paycheck and enjoying their weekends. They find peace in the consistency. This is not for them. This is for those of us who view the consistency as tedium, and feel dread at the thought of non-accomplishment, and for those of us who are not satisfied with a “comfortable life” to the detriment of our souls. This doesn’t work for me. I’m going to make the assumption that if you’re still reading this, it doesn’t work for you either.
The key to escaping this system lies in Crowley’s words, “Do What Thou Wilt.” To the uninitiated, this line would hold a passive tone. Saying “Do what thou wilt” would be comparable to saying “Just stop going to work and do what you want”. Obviously, the latter comment is just bad advice. A lot of us have responsibilities in this world, and though we would love to simply quit our day jobs and do what we want, our actions have consequences. This is where a definite desire comes in. Having a definite desire, or chief aim in life gives you the ability to plant a single target. So often, we come up with a multitude of different ideas for how to escape the monotony, possibly great, but also contradictory. When we do this, we’re allowing ourselves to constantly be pulled in different directions, sometimes even with high-potential. We’re actually hindered from progress when we aren’t committing to a single idea. It is so important for us to have that aim known and written, and to be pursuing it with all your heart, soul, and mind.
What do you will to do? Do you know? Much like the quick assumptions that are made about the Book of the Law or Crowley himself, we make quick assumptions about our own thoughts and desires without taking the time they deserve to fully think through these incredible questions. Throughout life, we’re told what we should want, what we should do, and what we should think. Even the most rebellious of us still hold some of those thoughts that were drilled-in. If you can answer what you want out of life, I invite you to deconstruct that answer and get to the root of the desire. Where did that come from? If it was from you, you may be ahead of the game.
If you’re not chasing or pursuing your true will, then I would suggest that you might not actually have one. You may be close or have a general understanding, but if you’re not constantly finding ways to advance your aim, then it’s either not clear enough, or it’s the wrong one.
If you find yourself in a position where your desires were placed by someone else, or societal norms, it’s time to start the work of self examination. I don’t mean this to sound like an easy task, but in order to know what we want in life, we have to first know who we are.
When we know who we are, the process of determining our own desires becomes significantly easier. We don’t have to filter our desires through what the world thinks about us. At this point, knowing ourselves — our proclivities for good and bad, and what we are capable of, both positive and negative — we can come up with an accurate filter to determine our deepest desires in life.
When we come to this point in our personal journeys, it’s important to consider the latter half of Crowley’s law:
“Love is the law. Love under will.”
Do your desires serve only you, putting down the lives of others for your own gain, or do your desires elevate those around you, offering opportunity for betterment in your own life and anyone who comes in contact with you?
As brilliant as Crowley was, he seemed to have missed this mark. It is equally possible for us to miss the mark if we’re not considering the impact our goals have on the world. His life is a perfect example of what living for your own desires, at the detriment of others, gets you. Crowley chose not to love those around him and left a wake of pain behind him. He destroyed relationships, burned bridges, and hurt a lot of people throughout the course of his life. It’s weird to think that a man can write something so profound and totally miss the mark. This is simply a warning to consider your aim with the respect it deserves. For those of us who want to accomplish great things in this world, our thoughts about how we see it around us matter greatly. If we don’t respect the people around us, there’s no reason for us to expect their respect and support.
When deciding on your true will in life, it’s not enough to say “I want to be successful.” Napoleon Hill said:
“If you ask a hundred people “What is your one definite purpose in life – and what plans have you made to attain it?”, ninety-eight percent of them will answer with something like “I’d like to make a good living and become as successful as I can.” While the answer is good on the surface, if you dig a little deeper, you will find a drifter who will never get anything out of life except the leftovers of truly successful people – those who have a definite purpose and a plan for attaining it.”
He goes on to suggest that to be successful, you must know exactly what you want and lay out a plan to attain it. Anything less than that is drifting. This is a serious question that requires serious time and thought. On this, you’re staking your future.
Take the time and the steps to decide definitely what you want out of life, and plan a realistic way to achieve that desire. Then, write it down. Repeat it daily. Decide today to do what thou wilt.
This is a lot easier said than done. I’ve spent years nailing down my own true will, but I am at a point where I know what I want. If you’re taking the time to give this question the consideration it deserves, you’ll find that the answer becomes a little more difficult to articulate. For a little more guidance, I’d highly recommend reading through Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and The Miracle of a Definite Chief Aim by Mitch Horowitz. These two authors have opened my eyes to a greater reality that allows us to take control over our own lives for the good of ourselves and others.
If you know what you desire from life, what are you letting hold you back? Determine your desire and go after it, so long as you are not stepping on the backs of others to take what you want. This is what we can take from Crowley, and how we can separate ourselves from him. We’re all in the same race, so why not help each other and get there faster.
Don’t buy into fear that says “I don’t know where to start”. If you want it badly enough, you’ll know exactly what you need to do. When the plan comes to fulfill your true will, write it down, and act on it immediately, making use of whatever tools you have. The rest will come.
[Originally published through Conjure Board 05.15.2020]