Friday, May 14, 2010

The Lesson of Saying Will

I like saying Will before meals. It is a nice little thing and adds to the ritualization of life. It comes highly recommended by Crowley in the first few letters from "Magick Without Tears" as essential and one of the first practices to adopt along with Liber Resh, keeping a journal, and study of Liber AL vel Legis. I think the importance is overlooked by most people, even people who perform it daily.
What exactly is it we really doing and what is the lesson it teaches?

From Thelemapedia: "Saying Will is a short ritual practiced by many Thelemites before meals, serving a similar purpose as saying Grace does for many Christians."

This is blatantly untrue. Saying Grace for a Christian is a thanksgiving to God for the food that he has provided for them. There is no aspect of this found in saying Will.

It goes on further to say, "The ritual of Saying Will is intended to maintain the focus of those who practice it on The Great Work by reminding them that even so mundane an act as eating a meal is an essential part of that Work."

Now this is true, but it is a shallow understanding of the greater lesson.

First lets look at the actual text of what Saying Will involves:

Leader: (knocks 3-5-3) Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

All: What is thy will?

Leader: It is my will to eat and to drink.

All: To what end?

Leader: That I may fortify my body thereby.

All: To what end?

Leader: That I may accomplish the Great Work.

All: Love is the law, love under will.

(knocks 1)

We are doing X to get Y. We want Y because we ultimately want Z. To what end is the refrain. To what end is the lesson and the question you should be asking yourself in every aspect of your life. First what is your goal? What are you working towards and trying to achieve? Do you even know? If you do know, is what you are doing right now aiding that goal, hindering that goal, or does it have nothing at all to do with it?

These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself and you should be doing it constantly with every act. What is the purpose of what you doing? If you practice meditation what is it you are hoping to attain? If you attain that thing, what then? Why do you want to attain it in the first place? Is it part of a larger goal or are you just doing it to do it?

To what end, should be our constant and never ending refrain.

I am practicing asana and pranayama.
To what end?
To still the body and the mind.
To what end?
So that I can practice Dharana without distraction.
To what end?
That I may achieve Samadhi.
To what end?
To experience first hand a non-dualistic state of consciousness.
To what end?
To test the validity of what has been written and achieve self realization.
To what end?

This can go on ad nauseum, but this is the kind of questioning you should be doing. What is your purpose for eating, for going to the bathroom, for going to work, for doing a banishing ritual? Where is all these leading to? If the answers to the questions are getting harder and harder to come up with then you are actually getting some where. If what you are doing serves no purpose then why are you doing it? If what you are doing actually hinders your goals then it should be eliminated. If you cannot come up with a purpose for the act yet still feel adamant about doing it then that should be investigated. The results will be very surprising.

Saying Will is a daily reminder to engage in this line of thinking. To have purpose in all that you do. It is a constant narrowing down of focus and purpose to your ultimate aim, your true will. If magick is causing change in conformity with will then you have to have a purpose for will to be involved. If that is missing then it is not magical and it is definitely not Thelemic.

Have the courage to ask yourself, To what end.


1 comment:

Alex said...

Very impressed with your take on saying Will! There's so much more to it than the "simple reminder" that most people make it out to be. It's easy to underestimate the usefulness of simple daily practices.

I also see Will as a form of Eucharist. It "transmutes meat and drink into spiritual substance," exactly in the way that you describe.

Additionally, like many of the daily Thelemic practices, it allows us to acknowledge that we are divine beings. We aren't thanking some outside being for placing food in front of us--food that we likely worked to earn and prepare. Instead, we are actively and consciously engaging in the fulfillment of our true purpose in life.