☉︎ in 6° Virgo : ☽︎ in 3° Gemini : Anno Vvii
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
To my Unknown Friend: Greeting and health.
The concept of the so-called True Will can be a tricky little beast. It’s thrown around by many that seem to latch onto it as some kind of catch-all for their behavior at any given moment. It’s my “True Will” to do XYZ—from skydiving to couch surfing to bedding someone else’s husband/wife/partner/etc (or trying to, at least). That last one has been legendary within O.T.O. circles for decades. The fact that it’s worked shows just how little we emphasize contextual understandings and proper exegetic techniques within our communities.
What exactly is True Will anyway?
True Will is a Crowleyism. Full stop. Nowhere in any of the Class A texts (the widest category for the foundational corpus of Thelema) or in the Book of the Law specifically is the phrase used. The closest functional equivalent is ‘pure will’ (AL 1.44). Yet so much of Crowley’s work points to a singular concept underlying the meaning of True Will/Pure Will. Part of the issue is Crowley likes to be Crowley: pompous, meandering, difficultly obtuse in places, and (of course) pretends he is the ‘Master of the English Language.’ But the concept he presents is straight-forward nearly everywhere. What “we” have done is alternately defined True Will from a mush of esoteric nonsense within a mishmash of external sources, an impotent “whatever I feel like” excuse, or some equally asinine bullshit from the echo chamber like “to find out what you want to do with your life and then do it” (Campbell. Thelema, p.74).
(As an aside, I’m not going to get into the difference between dogma and doctrine here today—and there is a major difference. There are very few concepts in Thelema which are dogmatically solid, but there is quite a bit of doctrine that is unavoidable, even if legitimately debatable as doctrines are inclined to be anyway. More on this subject some other time. Maybe.)
True Will is, ultimately, that which gives direction to the motion of a Star.
Seems simple enough, but the devil is in the details and I know many can and will disagree on those details. Gunther, for instance, in an effort to undermine Thelema entirely, relates True Will to the concept of ‘Free Will.’ Science would (mostly) disagree with him. So would Crowley and the Book of the Law.
Let’s be clear: Thelema is inherently deterministic. This is not a diversion from the idea of True Will. True Will is the logical result of a deterministic universe within a Thelemic worldview. The Book of the Law provides us with the breakdown of how this all works in relation to us, as individuals, and the intent of our existence. True Will is the specific, essential direction (So with thy all; thou hast no right but to do thy will; AL 1.42b) of the motion (divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union; AL 1.29) of any given Star itself. The general motion of Hadit (Motion-itself; i.e., manifestation, destiny, Ground of Becoming, etc) is what separates (manifests) the Star from Nuit (the Ground of Being). But it is this aspect of essential direction (Khabs), or meaning-itself, that solidifies a deterministic foundation for our existence.
In short, True Will is a colloquial nomenclature by which we define (or express) the quality of Ra-Hoor-Khuit.
But what do we do with this information? What is the point of understanding such minutiae of True Will?
First, we need to clearly grasp the doctrine of Will in order to best present this understanding to others. True Will is liberty, but this particular liberty is also the fiercest discipline we can know. Through an understanding of True Will, we find our place in the world. Our place is not always as the next guru or prophet or best selling purveyor of bullshit. Sometimes we discover that we’re destined to shine as a field laborer or a schoolteacher or a grocery stocker. It’s not always glamorous. It’s not living up to that “past life” as Cleopatra the card reader sold you.
Don’t misunderstand me and think that I mean you can only “be” one thing in life. This isn’t how True Will works. It has to be remembered that True Will isn’t a job or a career or a specific material outcome. True Will is a formula by which we calculate the least obstructive trajectory of our life. However, it is also that manner by which we experience life in a specific manner to the joy of Nuit. It is the collection of experience that expands the nature of Nuit herself. It is the union of love and will that is the expression of the joy of existence. It is our life one, individual, and eternal, that was, is, and is to come.
True Will determines the course of a single existence. I won’t jump into a digression of Thelemic eschatology here, but we need to grasp that each moment is an exhalation of newness and the inhalation of its death to start all over again in the next breath. In the span of that moment, poetically speaking, we have lived an eternity from creation to dissolution into the next moment. This fixation on living forever or over multiple lifetimes in order to ‘get it right’ is, as Crowley says, “imbecile.”
Nuit speaks and says, “I am above you and in you. My ecstasy is in yours. My joy is to see your joy” (AL 1.13). The result of enthusiastic union, which we call ‘love,’ through each joining of our point of view with that of any other experience which changes us, is joy. It must be remembered that not every experience is meant for every individual. It’s not about forbidden experiences, but about available experiences. It is truthful that nothing is forbidden, but it’s not true to say that all is available.
Those who claim that a single lifetime is a waste, in a universe billions of years old, miss the point of existence itself. We are not here to fulfill some “grand mission” of our own apart from this discovery of our True Will. Existence is its own reward. Existence exists for the purpose of Nuit’s pleasure. Yet grasping this True Will allows us to find our own joy in relation to the life we live and provides us with a manner in which to more consciously participate in our own existence.
Indeed, nothing that exists is a waste. All of existence is the necessary and sufficient manifestation and extension of Nuit’s desire. “The only sane solution is … to suppose that the Perfect enjoys experience of (apparent) Imperfection” (NC to AL 1.8). We will gather that experience whether we “like it or not,” but it is far more enjoyable for us if we learn our place and lean into it. Unhappy is the person that remains stuck in a prison of ignorance and regret.
Second, Crowley talks about distilling the formula of [True] Will into “One Word” (Liber ABA, p.134). How do we get that word? Isn’t True Will just a feeling or a conviction? (I’m often asked.) No, it’s not. (I always reply.) I remain convinced that those who lack the ability to explain their True Will in a single word haven’t actually worked through any understanding of that Will in Motion. They are tackling True Will as a singular goal to be reached, or a thing to be held in hand, rather than a process of epistemological alignment with the ground of being through ongoing depth of exploration.
Crowley insists, in multiple different ways in various places throughout his corpus, that the Great Work is the manner by which we come into the Knowledge and Conversation of our True Will, of that distillation of our Will into a single Word, a personal logos, or self-referential meaning-itself. How? Crowley, again, states “The Great Work therefore consists principally in the solution of complexes” (NC to AL 1.8). This is quite specific. It doesn’t happen with a single ritual attempt or over a weekend or two.
This solution of complexes, this Great Work, is the archeology of personal existence, expression, and meaning across multiple validity domains. This is a process that is life-altering, to say the least. It changes the very understanding of life itself. Nor, in my opinion, does it ever stop being necessary to plumb the depths of our True Will, to find the aspect and angles of our Will to better express it through our daily intentions and actions. Even if one should cross the so-called “Abyss,” reconstructing one’s personality and ego structures completely, the human capacity for generating new complexes remains to start anew. It’s a cyclic spiral of spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and psychological evolution in the Aspirant (for that is what one remains no matter the level of attainment).
Granted, it sounds very Freudian, and I’m quite sure that Crowley was thinking of Freud’s work when he wrote that definition. However, we’ve progressed beyond the Victorian era and the psychological techniques of that era. While Freudian psychoanalysis is worthwhile, there is far more to this process than merely sitting on a couch and talking about dear ol’ mom and being spanked as a child.
I believe that any number of processes—psychological, magical, and mystical—are capable of providing this level of insight. In fact, Crowley himself said that the consistent use of the Book of the Law, of the Law itself, as “the Universal Key to every problem of Life, and then apply it to one particular case after another. […] Thus he will assimilate the Law, and make it the norm of his conscious being; this by itself will suffice to initiate him, to dissolve his complexes, to unveil himself to himself …” (NC to AL 3.60).
There is a mystery, I believe, underlying Crowley’s explanation that is very simple to grasp. When we talk about Thelema, we have to understand that this revelation comes in two forms: a general revelation and a special revelation. The latter is the Book of the Law. This makes up the specific and special revelation of the Law of Thelema. The former, however, this general revelation is found exemplified in another quote from Crowley about the Law of Thelema when he says “‘Do what thou wilt’ is to bid Stars to shine, Vines to bear grapes, Water to seek its level” (Liber ABA, p.510). The Law exhibits itself through all natural processes of manifested life. By merely understanding this conception of the Law, of its connection with our True Will as an expression of that Law, its regular and consistent application resolves complexes and reveals our True Will in the process.
But even though we’ve defined True Will, ultimately, what exactly is it? That is the 93 million dollar question after all, right?
The simple, brief answer is ‘destiny understood,’ one’s specific meaning-in-life and the expression of it. It is to be “conscious of [one’s] own consecrated course, and confidently ready to run it” (One Star in Sight). It is Hadit set apart (consecrated), in Motion, and nurturing its own Nature (direction) to the fulfillment of Nuit’s self-expression and expansion (change) through division and development (Liber ABA, p.248fn; AL 1.22, 29, etc).
While not a definitive exposition, I think it’s a nice start to something more.
Love is the law, love under will.
 Critical thinking skills aren’t exactly renowned within the occult community either—and just because I choose to associate with some of the brightest and best (even if only peripherally online) is no indication that they are the norm of our culture. I’m just extremely lucky in my friends and acquaintances.
 Though it has been claimed that he may have borrowed it from Levi.
 The conundrum of determinism vs free will is something of a long-standing philosophical argument, but I think we can resolve that too in Thelema (not here or today, but I do believe that is a possibility).
 “I think that we are warned against the idea of a Pleroma, a flame of which we are Sparks, and to which we return when we ‘attain’. That would indeed be to make the whole curse of separate existence ridiculous, a senseless and inexcusable folly. It would throw us back on the dilemma of Manichaeism. The idea of incarnations “perfecting” a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile. The only sane solution is as given previously, to suppose that the Perfect enjoys experience of (apparent) Imperfection” (NC to AL 1.8).
Updated: 27 May 2022