Will is a concept encountered time and time again in occult writings, yet it is possibly one of the least understood, or most misunderstood. Percy Bullock (Frater Levavi Oculos), a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn stated that “Will is the grand agent of all Occult Work; its rule is all potent over the nervous system. By Will the fleeting vision is fixed upon the treacherous waves of the Astral Light, but, as it is said, you cannot pursue the Path of the Arrow until you understand the forces of the Bow.” (The Principia of Theurgia or the Higher Magic, Flying Roll XXVII)
The Will in Magick
Colin Wilson identified the importance of the Will and points out that life in modern society has taken away our need to truly know and use this essential inner force:
“Modern civilization induces an attitude of ‘passivity.’ When a Stone Age hunter set out to trap wild animals, he was aware of his will as a living force. When the prehistoric farmer scored the surface of the earth with a crude plough, he knew that his family’s survival through the winter depended on his effort, and his will responded to the challenge. When a modern city dweller walks down a crowded thoroughfare, he feels no sense of challenge or involvement. This city was built by other people; all these shops and offices are owned by other people. He can get through an ordinary day’s work in a state approximating to sleep. Most of his routine tasks are carried out by the ‘robot.’ There is neither the need or the opportunity to use the will.”
Various definitions and descriptions of Magick use Will in attempting to convey the meaning, processes or intention of the magickal arts. For example:
- Aleister Crowley – “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”; “Every intentional (Willed) act is a Magical act.”;
- Dion Fortune: “Magic is the art of changing consciousness at will.”
- Eliphas Lévi: “Would you learn to reign over yourself and others? Learn how to will. How can one learn to will? This is the first arcanum of magical initiation…”
- Edward Berridge (V. H. Frater Resurgam): “To practice magic, both the imagination and the Will must be called into action, they are co-equal in the work… The Will unaided can send forth a current… yet its effect is vague and indefinite… the Imagination unaided can create an image… yet it can do nothing of importance, unless vitalized and directed by the Will.”
- Paracelsus: “determined will is the beginning of all magical operations. It is because men do not perfectly imagine and believe the result, that the (occult) arts are so uncertain, while they might be perfectly certain.”
Both Eliphas Lévi and Paracelsus put great emphasis on the Will; Eliphas Lévi in his statement that “learn[ing] to will […] is the first arcanum of magical initiation” and Paracelsus stating that “determined will is the beginning of all magical operations.”
E.E. Rehmus in The Magician’s Dictionary notes that Will and Imagination are the two natural human powers for altering reality.
Émile Coué formulated four laws of Imagination and the Will:
- When the will and the imagination are antagonistic, it is always the imagination which wins, without any exception.
- In the conflict between the will and the imagination, the force of the imagination is in direct ratio to the square of the will.
- When the will and the imagination are in agreement, one does not add to the other, but one is multiplied by the other.
- The imagination can be directed.
In Flying Roll V (Thoughts on Imagination) Edward Berridge noted similar points to Coué:
- Imagination creates a form on the Astral or some higher plane.
- This form is as real and objective to beings on that plane, as our earthly surroundings are to us.
- This form may have only a transient existence, productive of no important results; or it may be vitalised and used.
- To practice magic, both the Imagination and the Will must be called into action.
- The Imagination must precede the Will in order to produce the greatest possible effect.
- The Will unaided sends forth nothing but the current or force.
- The Imagination unaided can create an image and this image has an existence of varying duration; yet it can do nothing of importance.
- When the Imagination creates an image and the Will directs and uses that image, marvellous magical effects may be obtained.
In Flying Roll II (Part III Three Suggestions on Will Power) Florence Farr describes a method for cultivating the Will by use of a visualization:
“imagine your head as centre of attraction with thoughts like rays radiating out in a vast globe. To want or desire a thing is the first step in the exercise of Will; get a distinct image of the thing you desire placed, as it were, in your heart, concentrate all your wandering rays of thought upon this image until you feel it to be one glowing scarlet ball of compacted force. Then project this concentrated force on the subject you wish to affect.”
In Flying Roll VI, S.L. MacGregor Mathers adds:
“I would suggest that: – Before bringing the scarlet ray into such intense action in the Heart, as is explained by her, that the Adept should elevate his thought and idea to the contemplation of the Divine Light in Kether, and considering Kether as the crown of the head, to endeavour to bring a ray from thence, into his heart – his Tiphereth through his path of Gimel and then to send the scarlet ray into action; the effect will be powerful and the process safer: otherwise there is a risk to the heart, and a risk of fever, if it be frequently done.”
Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary makes the following observations relating to the Will:
“called laws of nature are the action and interaction of the combined consciousnesses and wills which pervade the kosmos. The will pours forth in floods of light and life from the primal Logos. … They … descend, plane by plane and cycle by cycle, into the depths of matter, from which finally they arise again towards their primal source. In this progressive descent and ascent, will is made to manifest in keeping with each plane or state of consciousness which it enters. There is, therefore, the one fundamental kosmic will-ideation, breaking into innumerable streams of willing entities during periods of manifestation, and thus it operates in myriad ways…”
“In the composite human being — the microcosm — there are the divine, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, animal, astral, and even physical wills. The old maxim ‘behind will stands desire’ accounts for the paradoxical influence of this colorless force which is used to energize both good and evil motives. … The origin of good and evil lies respectively in the harmony and the conflict of wills in the kosmos.”
“The ancients held that any idea will manifest itself externally, if one’s attention (and Will) is deeply concentrated upon it; similarly, an intense volition will be followed by the desired result … For creation is but the result of will acting on phenomenal matter, the calling forth out of the primordial divine Light and eternal Life.”(SD 2:173)
The Will upon the Tree of Life
Flying Roll XX describes the location of the Will (both Human and Divine) upon the Tree of Life, as the Constitution, or Elementary View, of Man. The Yechidah, located in Kether, is called the Divine Consciousness and the Divine Will, while the Ruach, located in Tiphereth, is the human Consciousness and the human Will.
The Willed Act
The formulation of the Willed Act is given by Roberto Assagioli in his book The Act of Will:
- The Purpose, Aim, or Goal, based on Evaluation, Motivation, and Intention
- Choice and Decision
- Affirmation: the Command, or “Fiat,” of the Will
- Planning and Working Out a Program
- Direction of the Execution
Assagioli assigned seven categories for the qualities of the Will:
- Energy – Dynamic Power – Intensity
- Mastery – Control – Discipline
- Concentration – Attention – One-Pointedness – Focus
- Determination – Decisiveness – Resoluteness – Promptness
- Persistence – Endurance – Patience
- Initiative – Courage – Daring
- Organization – Integration – Synthesis
Assagioli’s Star Diagram shows the relationship between the Self and the Psychological functions.
Assagioli’s Egg Diagram is a map of consciousness depicting various levels and aspects of consciousness.
- The Lower Unconscious
- The Middle Unconscious
- The Higher Unconscious or Superconscious
- The Field of Consciousness
- The Conscious Self or “I”
- The Higher Self
- The Collective Unconscious
The Will in Kiaism
Kiasism was the magickal system of Austin Osman Spare. It represents no specific way for personal development and/or any sets of instructions but requires the person to devise his personal system of philosophy or magic. Kiaism regards Belief and Desire as the great duality. In this system, Ego is a part of Self belonging to one Being while Self encircles the whole Being. Each “human” Being wills the desire. This desire imagines a new belief and belief by means of conceptualizing new concepts forms the Ego. Spare names these conceptions, “the ramifications of belief” which form different personalities for corresponding Ego. But the mentioned will is a partial one. The Will (emphasized by capitalizing) lies in the realm of Self – pertaining to Kia.
Tarot and the Will
Paul Foster Case, the founder of Builders of the Adytum and a well known occultist, summed up the two principles of Will and Imagination in the symbolism of The Magician tarot card. Case wrote, “The primary manifestation of Spirit is Will, of which Attention – the wand – is the essence, and to which Memory – the wallet – is closely linked. Wisdom, having for its essence Imagination – the rose – is the secondary expression.”
- Mars, Sun, Mercury
- Anahata (Also a connection with kalpa taru, the wish-fulfilling tree)
- Vili (Norse mythology), brother of Odin.
- Pituitary gland relates to human will
- Thymus gland
- Pineal gland
- Tiphereth – Lower (Human) Will
- Kether – Divine (Higher) Will
- Sun (Sol) – symbolises the power of the human will (source: A. Leo)
- The Psychosynthesis ‘Will’ Personality Type symbol of Roberto Assagioli
- Trump: 1 – The Magician
- Suit: Wands
- Symbolism and Astrology: An Introduction to Esoteric Astrology. ‘A. Leo’, 1914
- Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary Online Edition
- The Will Project A comprehensive exploration of concepts relating to the Will.
- Will; Imagination; Will and Imagination – A Three Part series on Will and Imagination from a Magickal perspective.
- Cultivation of Will A exercise in the use of Will.
From the Indo-European Root wel- meaning to wish, will.
- Arabic: إرادَه
- Chinese: 意志
- Czech: vůle
- Danish: vilje
- Dutch: wil
- Estonian: tahe
- Finnish: tahto
- French: volonté
- German: der Wille
- Greek: θέληση, βούληση
- Hungarian: akarat
- Icelandic: vilji
- Indonesian: kemauan
- Italian: volontà
- Japanese: 意志, いし (ishi)
- Latvian: griba
- Lithuanian: valia
- Norwegian: vilje
- Polish: wola
- Portuguese: vontade
- Romanian: voinţă
- Russian: воля
- Slovak: vôľa
- Slovenian: volja
- Spanish: voluntad, albedrío
- Swedish: vilja
- Turkish: istenç, irade