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"Do What Thou Wilt"

Forums ► Misc Topics ► "Do What Thou Wilt"

"Do What Thou Wilt"
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 1
"Do what thou wilt"
Frequently I come across magical practitioners who speak of exploring Aleister Crowley's Thelema who then misquote "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" as a justification for doing all that they wish. Worse yet, I have seen some who explore this phrase as the justification to what practicing what they call "black magic" in a very similar sense - simply doing what they wish, because they wish it.
This is a grave misinterpretation of the words of a man whose magical exploration within the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and subsequent work on his own, helped to form the backbone of the occult traditions that we experience in modern day. Indeed, his works (and those of the Golden Dawn) undoubtedly influenced Gardner in his creation of Wicca, as well as helped to popularize such practices as Yoga, meditation, and the Hindu exploration of the spirituality that we see so deeply co-mingled within Western magical traditions.

Are we to believe then that this quote, summing up the whole of the law for Thelema - the spiritual tradition founded by Crowley - was simply the go-ahead to do whatever you want? Are the teachings of a man who helped provide us with such deep spiritual roots so ultimately vain and self-serving? Of course not.

The quote "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" is but a portion of the Book of Law from Crowley, in which he reports to have written the laws of his practice, Thelema, as dictated to him by the spirit Aiwass. This spirit, Crowley believed, was his personal Holy Guardian Angel - a term somewhat synonymous with the term Higher Self. (For more information as to communing with one's Holy Guardian Angel, or Higher Self, explore the Abramelin Operation, or the Operations as dictated by the Golden Dawn). Through such dictates, the Holy Guardian Angel reportedly sought to teach a path a path to True Will.

This concept of True Will is the heart of the quote "Do what thou wilt," and thus expands its meaning far beyond the simple vanity of doing whatever one wishes. This Thelemic concept boils down to every individual possessing a driving motivation within their existence, and the Law of Thelema, "Do what thou wilt," seeks to instruct that each person to follow this driving motivation to find satisfaction and fulfillment in life.

Beyond this one Law, we find others describing each person as unique, with their own "True will" ("Every man and every woman is a star") which is just as sacred as your own. And in adhering to your own sacred True Will, it is just as important to refrain from interfering with another's True Will. No matter how much you might desire to do so, interfering with another's True Will would be interfering with sacred nature of who they are at their deepest core. It would be profane and violating to do so.
For, within another sacred law, we see "Love is the law, love under will." This means in turn that by attuning one's self to one's True Self, or True Will, we in turn find love and empowerment. And in seeking this, we seek the empowerment of others, and in so doing find union with every such being in the grace of Love.

So, as you can see, following the teachings of "Do what thou wilt" leaves no place in your magical and spiritual exploration for simply doing what you want, regardless of how it might impact another. It is not a philosophical scapegoat to simply do as you wish for personal gain, amusement, or revenge. If you truly seek to follow the Law, Do what thou wilt and seek the harmony, empowerment, and union found in exulting within one's True Will with others.


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Re: "Do What Thou Wilt"
Post # 2
This is an excellent post and should be read by anyone who is just about to explore or research Thelema. Too many people do believe that it is just an excuse to do what you want. One's true will is usually something inherent to one's true nature and therefore in a sense you are doing what you want, that is the you which is really you and not the false you of the ego and lower instincts.

Just to clarify a little point you also made it is debated whether the terms Holy Guardian Angel and higher self are synonymous with each other. Crowley changed his mind frequently, but discussed it at length in magick without tears that the angel is not the higher self and is an objective individual. Of course stating something is objective from subjective experiences is a risky thing to do.

Thank you for taking the time to write this.

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Re: "Do What Thou Wilt"
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 3
Nicely done. I have always liked the significance of the Thelema "93"

Don't you feel the HGA however is rather sketchy in Crowley's writings due to the fact that he contradicts himself, at first claiming it is within and then later more like a separate entity on the outside yet connected? Most hold to the former rather than the later, as you stated here. Although I believe that it is/can be both within the microcosm and macrocosm.

Crowley does tend to speak circles around some of his theories/philosophies which makes them confusing. I'm sure his chronic illnesses and the drugs didn't help him to think with the clarity he otherwise could have. But I'm also sure the same goes for why he was so close to the spiritual, battling the chance of death his whole life.
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Re: "Do What Thou Wilt"
Post # 4
It wouldve made sense if the other half of the thelemic rede had been stated. An it harm none. Not to mention that crowley himself practiced necromancy.
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Re: "Do What Thou Wilt"
Post # 5
An if it harm none is part of the Wiccan rede, Crowley did not practice necromancy anything to do with spirits of deceased and working with them, which he called spiritism, he despised.

As for the HGA concept, I agree it can be both. However in private he taught that it was an external being, this is according to accounts told by Karl Germer and Phyllis Seckler (two people who continued his teachings. There are many magicians who believe in the objective individual theory, the majority of people who don't are Israel Regardie lovers.

There is a division in the opinions of Thelemites. My opinion is that I can't really specify what it is until I have attained it I have no qualms with it being the higher self or an objective individudal. However the majority of evidence suggests Crowley did believe it to be an objective individual, and having know and read the account of one magicians attainment it seems to be an objective individual.

Crowley in his youth went through a major skeptical phase and the majority of his major works were published at this time, even after Liber Legis he remained skeptical. His published works were for the general public, he didn't want people to just dismiss his works as being fluffy, for lack of a better word, and so catered them to suit all i.e. those who believe in the supernatural usually don't care if a psychological explanation is given, if they apply the work they get the mystical experience. It is the skeptics who have the trouble of wanting to do magick because they feel it is all rubbish, however once they apply the methods they may get results.

If we look at Crowley's diaries which were not published until after his death it is clear he was a firm believer in the supernatural, however this view is not acceptable to a wide range of the public.

So a younger Crowley said x, an older Crowley said y, Regardie said x and Thelemites tend to cross that bridge when they get to it!

I personally remain in the middle and can see support for both views and have no qualms with either.

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Re: "Do What Thou Wilt"
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 6
Crowley contradicted himself, certainly, but much of that comes (as others have said before me) as presenting information for public consumption and then having views that might be of more use to those who have advanced further within their spiritual studies.

For my part, I have experienced a great deal that I might otherwise outright dismiss in public. Why? For the simple fact that encouraging the exploration of these things that I have experienced tends to lead to a great deal of drama that we on SoM simply call "Fluffy." People seek these experiences and therefore believe they have had them when really they are jumping at shadows and making a lot of noise.

As for the nature of the High Guardian Angel being the Higher Self and the High Guardian Angel (H.G.A.) being an external being, I would say that both schools of thought upon this are equally true. Again, I say this from personal experience and it is not something I tend to discuss in great depth publicly due to the way that new practitioners tend to take the idea and run with it headlong into dramatic fantasy.

But to clarify, in a manner similar to what Crowley describes as having had his H.G.A. dictate to him the Book of Law, I have encountered a spirit that I believe to be an external being and who has made a deep impact on my life and my spiritual beliefs. However, beyond this, many rituals seeking contact with this H.G.A. more or less attune one's present mind with one's Higher Self, and thus help one better seek, follow, and attain True Will. Rarely does an individual truly conjure the presence of a true, external being through such works - at least insofar as I have observed.
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Re: "Do What Thou Wilt"
Post # 7
Excellent topic. Although I must admit I have never liked Crowley.
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Re: "Do What Thou Wilt"
Post # 8
So what you are saying is that there are thelemic wiccans, i will guess in america, and thelemites too. And they are different. (i mixed up crowley and lovecraft, crowley was the sexualy deviant drug addict who died in his early 40s' right?) and i know, the necronomicon is fiction supposedly. Ive only read parts of it.
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Re: "Do What Thou Wilt"
Post # 9

Thelema and Wicca are two different religions. Thelema was conceived prior to Wicca, whilst the two have 'crossed paths' there are usually differences in practice, but it would depend on the individual.

Crowley did use drugs and was considered a deviant in his time, nowadays he is no worse than most celebrities. He was over 70 when he died and this was in 1947.


I agree with what you say, the true will would lead one to attain higher self, I have seen suitable evidence to suggest both schools of thought. Either way, the experience which occurs seems beautiful and indescribable by those who attain it. Again I don't label something until I have experienced it, and I am far from that stage. However the methodology of approaching knowledge and conversation is to treat the HGA as a separate entity.

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Re: "Do What Thou Wilt"
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 10
Neither Wicca nor the Necronomicon have anything to do with what is being discussed here. :)
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