Pure will vs. true will

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The concepts of Pure Will and True Will, especially the latter, come up often in discussions among Thelemites. Pure Will is mentioned in Liber AL, and True Will in Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice of Liber IV or ABA (Book 4). Will itself has several connotations depending on the context. Therefore, in order to better understand, it is necessary to look at what Will means and then to take it a step farther to the implications of Pure Will and True Will, in a purely Thelemic context. I cannot stake a claim to which interpretation is correct, but I can at least clear up a few common misconceptions and assumptions.

Let us first look at the etymology of Will. In Latin it is voluntas and this is where we get English words like volunteer and voluntary. In a group of people a voluntary association is one in which several people come together in agreement and are bound (or yoked) by a common purpose, as in a community or church:

The word “religion” has been hi-jacked and debased by the priests of faiths like these, until now it has become a dirty word amongst intelligent, right-thinking people in the Western world. The word “religion” springs from roots meaning piety, the Latin religio, the opposite idea to negligens, negligent, uncaring, unaware. It also springs from a root meaning to join together things that are separate, which in fact is the same meaning as the word “yoga” (compare the English word yoke, which ties oxen together, for example). So religion is a word which describes the process of becoming aware and unified, of joining together all things which are diverse; it is the union of body and spirit, self and not-self, human and god.”
― Rodney Orpheus

On the other hand, we know that several physical functions (such as respiration) are involuntary. In fact, very little is voluntary. The mind as well as the body comprise what we call the Self or our identity, unless we adhere to a mind-body dualism; still, that Self is very small in comparison to the totality of our biological existence. However, that is the reality of the average person: in the practice of Pranayama, the Zelator discovers what it’s like to breathe consciously.

To volunteer means to perform a service or do something willingly, without any form of coercion. It is a free offering or giving of oneself. To say that it is altruism or selflessness is a contradiction in terms; we are the initiator, not some God, nor are we making a sacrifice. It is a sharing with the Other for its own sake – the Not-I, as opposed to the Othering which occurs from oppression. In another sense, it is that which can be realized and controlled by the initiator, for example, our physical movements.

The syncretism of Thelema and an overview of Liber 777 correspondences demonstrate to the aspirant that everything is interconnected. As a result, we cannot know something consciously except by its opposite. And for the human mind in any exercise of logic or reason must be able to distinguish something by contrast with another. This is best illustrated by analyzing and so being able to relate to material manifestations rather than just the abstract realm of ideas.

With this in mind, Will is obviously connected with Magick. Crowley defined magick as,”To cause change in accordance with Will.” Magick, as opposed to the spelling of magic, then becomes not an accident of superstitious evil, witchcraft, or “not of God,” but dynamic. It is expressed as a verb rather than a noun. And verb is where we get words like verbal, which is spoken word (not written). A verb relates between two things (subject and object) and the existence or state of a condition. One of the definitions of Logos is the Word of Christ-consciousness and the magickian, along with origin or expression. That Logos is the Yod of Tetragrammaton, Yod meaning the hand and the secret fire. Yod is attributed to the Hermit Atu; here Logos also represents the Father, who is Wisdom. The Atu itself is about fertility or creation in the earthy sense, the sign of Virgo in which Mercury (psychopompos) is exalted1. Yet change is made by physical manifestation, and we are motivated by visualization rather than verbalization. So too is the Christ “the Word made flesh.”

Will then is not dependent on any one specific temporal action, but a state of being and doing. And to know one’s Will does not presume an acceptance that there is a destiny which one can’t control, denying free will and choice2. As William Henley wrote in Invictus,”I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” If I am on a course of action the end of which I cannot see or predict, I can at least be aware on the journey. Furthermore, this deals with the contending forces of change – in which the magickian finds stability – as can be seen in the Fortune Atu, attributed to Jupiter and the palm of the hand (read: handshake to seal a deal or promise); Fortuna being also a goddess of fate. Also attributed to Jupiter is Change, the decan of Jupiter for Capricorn; but whereas Fortune deals with 3, Change deals with 2 (2 of discs).

Liber AL say: “For Pure Will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.” “Pure” means complete or clear. Pure Will then, is Will that is clear (clairvoyance, clear vision); it is honesty or integrity which is vital essence (time is of the essence or utmost importance) but also with a beginning – not necessarily with end; or rather, the end may be a new beginning, just as Death is a part of Life.

Psychology and introspection gives a grasp of one’s inner nature. It also helps to process past traumas and without that one cannot process the emotions and hence “feel” them along with many physical sensations. It leads to being stuck in sorrow and all sorts of indecisiveness in action and hence, a lack of spontaneity in what is called Pure Will. It’s not bogged down with the burden of baggage from skeletons in the closet. As it is said,”Let sleeping dogs lie.” Also:

Hear me, ye people of sighing!

The sorrows of pain and regret
are left to the dead and the dying,
the folk that not know me as yet.
(Liber AL chII v.17)
Is a god to live in a dog? No! But the highest are of us.

(Liber AL chII v.19)

Look at a dog (the opposite of a god – read backwards) we have so long used the reward/punishment system to discipline their behavior. Ironically, many up until now have used the same for their children – and it’s not effective. 

Speaking of meaning, I also find that in order to understand something it is more relevant to ask what an event or a person means in my life (the “point,” sotospeak) – or even my own existence – than to ask “Why?” which is a never-ending circle and may encourage claims to absolute truth. We don’t always have the answers, which anyway end up being what we want to hear, or rationalizations.

The Hierophant represent the energy of wisdom and mastery on all levels of being. That is spiritual (wands), intellectual (swords), emotional (cups) and physical (disks). It is number 5 in the major arcana and corresponds to the number 5 cards in the minor arcana. The Hierophant energy is the source of inner guidance, the “Inner Teacher.” When in balance with the energy of the Hierophant one has mastered the problematic energies of the minor arcana. spiritual strife (5 of wands), mental defeat (5 of swords), emotional disappointment (5 of cups) and worry (5 of disks). Tap into your Inner Teacher for guidance and direction and you’ll find the answer.” – Aris St. James3

What then of True Will? I’ve seen discussions on this devolve into petty disagreements over what is “True Will” and Thelemites connect this to whatever immediate plans they’re making, as if somehow that will inject them with sacred importance and justification by attaching that label. They seem to prefer True Will because it has a nice ring to it – very sanctimonious.

Originally, Crowley mentioned True Will in Magick and Theory and Practice, stating it is,”a course, depending partly on the self, and partly on the environment which is natural and necessary for each.” This is nature vs. nurture. He also speaks of one being ignorant or going against their True Will and being able to influence their environment efficiently by “qualitative and quantitative understanding of the conditions.” So here it is closely associated with Magick, but I think more in the sense of initially exercising whatever “truth” means to the magickian, so it is not universal. It also implies destiny or fate which is a constant or static end. As contrasted with Pure Will in Liber AL, perhaps True Will does have purpose and “lust of result.” I think that rather than a spontaneous expression, it would be the culmination of all actions with the conscious intent of a greater purpose, or aimed towards the search for Truth. It also automatically implies,”False Will,” which is contradictory. Therefore, Pure Will is the most relevant concept of the two.

“No future triumph or metamorphosis can justify the pitiful blighting of a human being against his will.” – Peter Zapffe

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” ~ A. Camus
“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” ~ Christopher Reeve

Love is the law, love under will.


Sunday, April 20, 2014 ev 9:24am

Sol in 0 degrees Taurus

Luna in 8 degrees Capricorn

Dies Solis


The Book of Thoth, IX. The Hermit, p. 88-89.

In drawing this as a Venn diagram of overlapping circles, it resembles the Vesica Piscis (http://www.halexandria.org/dward097.htm). Change and Will may be the circles with Magick being the overlapped section.


About Cammy

Self-employed freelance writer
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