Do What Thou Wilt

Do What Thou Wilt Image
The Book of the Law provides only one “commandment” to the individual by which he must (if he wishes to be taken seriously as a Thelemite, at least) govern his conduct, which is “Do what thou wilt”. Excluding the Comment, this phrase appears in two places in the Book, and is very closely paraphrased in a third:

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” (AL I, 40)

“So with thy all; thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.” (AL I, 42–43)

“There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.” (AL III, 60)

The language here is unequivocal; “Do what thou wilt” shall be the whole of the Law (AL I, 40), and there is no law beyond it (AL III, 60). Furthermore, not only is “Do what thou wilt”, the only “commandment”, but it is also the only right (AL I, 42), and it is an indefeasible one (AL I, 43). Crowley sums this up in Liber II:

“Do what thou wilt — then do nothing else. Let nothing deflect thee from that austere and holy task. Liberty is absolute to do thy will; but seek to do any other thing whatsoever, and instantly obstacles must arise.”

There is no scope for argument, here; the language in the Book itself and in Crowley's commentaries is absolutely unambiguous, and this is crucial to understanding the subject. A thriving cottage industry has arisen providing a variety of divergent interpretations on verses from Chapter I such as AL I, 3 (“Every man and every woman is a star”), AL I, 22 (“Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing”), AL I, 41 (“The word of Sin is Restriction”), and AL I, 57 (“Love is the law, love under will”) in order to twist the text to fit any number of wild and fanciful notions of “right conduct”, yet it is a plain fact that any such notions can only possess validity to the extent that they conform to — and arise necessarily from — the three verses quoted above. The only flexibility of interpretation that we have is in deciding exactly what “Do what thou wilt” means in the first place. The single most widespread and systematic mistake that people make when considering the ethics of Thelema is to suppose that “Thou hast no right but to do thy will” includes an obligation to allow everybody else the freedom to do their wills unhindered by you. It doesn't. Not only is this concept absent from the Book of the Law, but the Book exhorts precisely to the contrary:

“Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world.” (AL II, 21)

“Beware therefore! Love all, lest perchance is a King concealed! Say you so? Fool! If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him. Therefore strike hard & low, and to hell with them, master!” (AL II, 59–60)

“But the keen and the proud, the royal and the lofty; ye are brothers! As brothers fight ye!” (AL III, 58–59) “Stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law” — we may reasonably suppose that the strong need neither our permission nor our assistance in order to do their wills, and the strong are given countenance to “stamp down” the rest. The strong are specifically released from any obligation to consider the will of another — “If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him”. If the wills of two Kings were to conflict, the guidance is straightforward: “ye are brothers! As brothers fight ye!”

Clearly, this libertarian and vaguely socialistic idea of avoiding getting in the way of anybody else's will is just not in the Book, which expressly tells us to forget about anybody else's will, to focus on doing our own, and to “stamp down” (or at least try to) anybody who gets in our way. Yet, this idea is so deeply ingrained, and so endemic, that in order to convince those who have gotten it into their minds it will be worthwhile examining the sources for it, and it turns out there are four primary culprits.

Suggested ebooks:

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Keywords: the grimoire  el necronomicon  chakras and meditation  enochian tables  aleister crowley spells  book of thelema  magick book  astral projection telepathy  francesca de grandis  julian roberts  who is a witch  meditation aids  rosemary edghill  

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