Thank you for responding so quickly, and while I have been away myself this last week I hope the delay is tolerable. Firstly, to your previous discourse:
You appear to describe the “true will” as being an exclusive pursuit of a temporal vocation, and I consider this an oft-repeated fallacy which actually has no foundation in Thelema (for “True Will” does not exist in the text, and is misleading I feel). We talk about the “pure will” rather than the “true will”, which is comparable to the saying of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, regarding Karma-yoga:
“Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.”
-Bhagavad Gita, Cap 3 Text 19
“For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”
-Liber AL, Cap I v44
While you desired the freedom to play at entrepreneurship, capitalism, familymanship, sculpture, etc, these are not specific “wills” which are mutually exclusive, nor do they need to be in conflict with the pursuit of one’s Will. Should it be your Will to be all of these things at a given time, then they are all in accordance with that Will.
In my pursuit of my Will, as I understand it, I work: in a College to assist with young people gaining skills; on nightclub doors to help ensure people enjoy their night; organising Conferences and events to assist people to connect with others who practise the same and different esoteric paths and traditions; helping to organise an Oasis of O.T.O. and take part in activities across the country; raising two (that I’m aware of) magical children to be good and decent and, in turn, do their Will. None of these things are in conflict, nor are they any less expressions of my Will for being different facets of my aims here. This is all my karma-yoga, and in working such, allows my Will to express itself.
This leads on naturally to your question:
I had a ferociously committed Thelemic friend once, but he drank himself into a very early grave, all the while proclaiming Do What Thou Wilt.
How do YOU decide whether someone is doing their true will or not?
In my current understanding, someone is most likely doing their Will when they cannot hold themselves from doing otherwise. The Will is that which remains. When everything is lost, if their whole life is disrobed and charred and scattered to the winds, then they are doing their Will because that is the only thing left to do – and on a magical journey, if we do not remove these things consciously then they will be removed for us.
My own view of Thelema ties closely to classical Stoicism. Pop-culture reference: Falling Down is an example of the lesson of the Stoic. On the magical path, we frequently find ourselves in strange if not downright absurd situation, and it is up to us whether we act or react according to our ethics and morals. The film focuses on two leads: Foster (played superbly by Michael Douglas) and Sergeant Prendergast (a likewise brilliant performance by Robert Duvall). They are both on a journey, over the course of one day, and both begin and end right next to each other. While Foster’s story is one of emotional reaction, Prendergast continually manages to act in a Stoic fashion, and thus Prendergast appears to be the “winner” – but they both fulfil their Will.
Foster makes one bad decision after another, beginning with abandoning his car in a traffic jam and walking home across town after being fired – determined to see his daughter and ex-wife, who has a restraining order against him. He declares himself a victim of circumstance, and has a series of bizarre encounters with others who are all also making terrible decisions. He starts with a petty and greedy storekeeper, then goes through some gang thugs, to a white supremacist, and eventually ends up in a position where he is forced to face the fact that he might not be the hero of the story. Each encounter could have a non-violent resolution if he could accept his lot, but instead of making the choice to act rationally and walk away, he responds with unbalanced force and unchecked emotions. The situation quickly escalates, and ultimately he comes face to face with Prendergast as a wanted murderer.
Prendergast meanwhile starts in the same tailback, and his first action is to likewise leave his car – but to support and assist other people. He is on the ill-fated “last day before retirement” which is even called out by the film and yet he is determined to work a full day. In so doing, he makes the connection that Foster is the person making these egregious messes across his city, and pursues Foster despite the obvious danger. He is never rash, he is methodical, and at every encounter he observes and acts accordingly – the exact opposite of Foster, in fact. Even when his colleague is shot and he realises he may die, he resolves to continue, and goes towards whatever fate happily.
As the two finally meet, Prendergast gives one last chance to the wretched Foster rather than shooting him on sight. He asks clearly, “What are you going to do?” and offers the chance to survive. Foster finally understands his actions: “I’m a bad guy? How did that happen? I did everything they told me to.” This crucial line displays his dereliction of personal agency, and in taking the path of least resistance, or the road paved with good intentions, he has completely failed to take control of his own life rather than lashing out at whatever has gotten in the way of his perceived goal – which is forever unattainable.
Foster makes a choice in the end, the only choice he has left: to die. He has absolutely nothing left, even his future rotting in a jail cell cannot hold any hope, all of his potential squandered by carelessly abusing his temporary power. In choosing to die, he fulfils the Will which he so misinterpreted as wanting to see his daughter, and instead looks after her by gifting the insurance payout for his death. Prendergast also is faced with a choice, and shoots Foster to preserve his own life and that of the others to come after him. He makes it to retirement after all – the moksha of escaping the cycle of his working life.
This is a clear triumph of jnana-yoga, as Prendergast has applied Vairagya (dispassion, detachment, indifference to pleasure and pain under all circumstances), or the four Stoic virtues of Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Temperance, to navigate his path through the movie and fulfil his own Will. There is no victory, just the accomplishment of that which was required by both parties to instruct the viewer.
This is how I decide that someone is doing their Pure Will – that whether they choose to or not, they are acting in harmony with others doing their Will, and doing it sometimes whether they like it or not.
As to your friend, who I am certain is sorely missed by the Thelemic community, the accomplishment of his Will is not tied to the state of his liver, or the continued beating of his heart. Did he act in accordance with his Will? Did he accomplish something to leave behind and be carried on? I think that this is a more valid critique of whether he did indeed do his Will. My only concern is that I hope he has gone on to whatever next phase he Wills:
Unto them from whose eyes the veil of life hath fallen may there be granted the accomplishment of their true Wills; whether they will absorption in the Infinite, or to be united with their chosen and preferred, or to be in contemplation, or to be at peace, or to achieve the labour and heroism of incarnation on this planet or another, or in any Star, or aught else, unto them may there be granted the accomplishment of their wills; yea, the accomplishment of their wills.
-Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass
An important point to consider is that “Do what thou wilt” is an injunction given to another, and not a personal statement of intent. Was your friend claiming to be doing his own Will when he drank, or was he fighting to ensure you had the liberty to do your own Will?
With that in mind, here is my second question for you:
We have looked at misconceptions on both sides of our mutual fence; in this essay I brought up the difference between the “True Will” fallacy (which implies a possibly unattainable goal, fixed in dogma) and the “Pure Will”, and “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” being used as an excuse to do as one pleases rather than the imperative of “Hey, whatever your Will is, that’s what you should be doing, and I’m cool with that.”
What misconceptions about Chaos Magick, and yourself perhaps, would you like to set straight once and for all?
All the very best Pete.