Tag Archives: will

Do what thou wilt

It’s probably the most famous Crowley quote – Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. I’m good at will. I’ve spent much of my life doing things more by willpower than anything else, but it has a price.

Recently, my quest for improved health and my desire for healing has had me looking at brain chemistry. There are a number of things I don’t really experience, and never have – feelings of reward are one of those. I gather that part of what impacts on ADHD brain is a shortage of dopamine, leading to a latching on to anything that gives the person that kind of reward. Short term rewards are thus more tempting than long term goals. That isn’t me. I just use my will to get the needful things done and accept that I never feel anything much around achievement or success. This likely contributes to my ongoing issues with depression.

There’s no way of testing for any of this medically. However, as I poked around in what people have figured out about dopamine, I learned that it is also the chemistry of learning, attention, willpower and concentration. That started me thinking. Dopamine can fairly be assumed to be a finite supply in any given body. Am I simply using all of mine for willpower and attention?

If there was a time in my life when  I didn’t have to push to get things done, I don’t remember it. This hypermobile body has always been challenging, and making my body move, and even trying to keep up physically has always been demanding. Growing up, there was always shame around not being busy, useful, productive. I push through the fatigue. I push through pain. I get up and work when the depression makes me want to just lie there. I push.

At the moment I’m trying to become more aware of when that pushing happens and what it feels like. I’m trying to stop rather than just pushing all the time. More breaks, more rest, more things to lean on, maybe some better planning around how I use my time and resources. It will be interesting to see what happens, and whether cutting back on the willpower frees up some chemical resources for feeling good, or rewarded. If anything interesting emerges, I’ll write about it.

Doing everything by will is certainly stressful. Maybe willing things isn’t that great. Maybe pushing all the time to make things happen isn’t ideal. Maybe trying to will myself into things is no more sensible than trying to force my will onto the rest of the world and maybe I would be more comfortable if I could let go of all that and learn to be a bit softer in myself.

Politics, spirituality and personal power

I’m tapping into to a wider conversation here about politics and spirituality – with reference to a recent Gods and Radicals post about spiritual approaches that enable fascism http://godsandradicals.org/others/confronting-the-new-right/. One of the key points is that we are mistaken if we think spirituality is apolitical, and in being oblivious to the political angle, we make more room for ideas that many of us find objectionable. At the same time, wanting to keep the sacred out of the nasty, sordid business of politics is a perfectly reasonable reaction! So, how to do this well…

Personal spirituality is not political. What that means is that in your intimate moments of interacting with the divine, there is nothing political going on. It’s just you, and what you hold sacred, and whatever numinous, inspirational, challenging, demanding, peculiar things come in that space. Or, to put it another way, what you do privately is your business, there are no thought police.

However, as soon as you are dealing with things of this world, politics are involved and other people are entitled to judge you. How you choose to manifest your spirituality in the world will always have a political dimension. The person who pretends it doesn’t is reducing their own power and scope for conscious self-determination.

The environment is a political issue. If you want trees to hug, animals to bring you omens, or any other interaction with any aspect of the natural world, you have to look at the political implications of your life and practice and the politics impacting on those.

Human interaction is a political issue. Who has power and who doesn’t. Who is included, and who is silenced. Who is permitted and who is denied. How safe people feel. Who is allowed to say ‘no’. There are many of these, but you get the idea. If you have the power to exclude, silence, ignore or force someone else in some way, that’s a power you need to be alert to, and take responsibility for. If you are on the other end of this, then your right to be heard, seen, have space, be safe etc matters, and the odds are your spiritual life is being affected by politics.

It amazes me that anyone could be interested in magic and power, and not want to understand what power they have. It amazes me that anyone could set out to be a will worker and be keen not to know how their actions influence other people. ‘Know thyself’ is an ancient Pagan instruction. If you don’t know what effect you have, then you don’t know yourself. But apparently there are people who are happy not to look at the implications of what they do, even to make sure they aren’t accidentally facilitating a fascist agenda.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I want my actions in this world to be deliberate, and of my crafting. I want to be a deliberate co-creator of my reality. If I do something and it has consequences I didn’t mean or intend or want, I want to know about that so that I can take control and change it. Burying my head in the sand and assuming everything I do gets the results I intend, does not give me that power.

If I choose not to face the uncomfortable possibilities that I could be getting things wrong, I give away my power. In refusing to look at the implications of my actions, I make it easier to manipulate me. I make myself a target for people who would use me to further their own power. I become a tool for someone else to use. Potentially a tool someone else can use for oppression.

I don’t want to be that. I don’t think many people would find that appealing as a way to be.

Magic words and their deployment

Spells and spelling, grammar and Grammarie… magic is often formed of words. It’s not all about high ceremony or Latin. The magical use of language does not of itself have to be that esoteric or arcane, it is simply about how you put your will into the world.

“Oops” is a powerful magical word because of the possibilities it creates and the changes it allows. Being able to say “oops” allows a person to own a mistake. The mistakes we cannot admit to are ones we cannot do anything about. If we have to protect our wrongness, we cannot learn, grow or change. We cannot fix what went wrong. “Oops” allows us to do all those things.

It can be frightening to have to admit failure, ignorance or other shortcomings. “Oops” is a gentle, non-judgemental sort of word. It enables acknowledgement without bringing with it too much in the way of guilt, shame or awkwardness. This is important because guilt, shame and awkwardness tend to get in the way of learning and transformation, and are often barriers to it. “Oops” releases the problem gently, and allows the person saying it to recognise the problem without beating themselves up. This in turn is liberating, and for the person who suffers shame and guilt, or has been shamed repeatedly, the gentleness of an “oops” can itself be a healing experience.

Offering “oops” to anyone else affected by what went wrong is also transformative. This can work in a number of ways. With the problem recognised, it becomes possible to ask for help or information, or whatever else was lacking in the first place. A mistake made in ignorance can be soothed away by the simple recognition that it was not intended to hurt, but it did hurt. The former without the latter is worthless. It is one of the important limits of will working – your will does not define reality, only contributes to it. Therefore if the result is not in line with your will, the result is not wrong, it is the sum of all the factors of which your will was only one. You cannot make reality follow your will by refusing to accept when that’s not happened. If an error has an unintended effect, “oops” allows you to find out what the other variables were, and that gives you better scope for getting what you want next time.

With “oops” in the mix, the way is opened to ask what we do now. What would help? What would get us to where we want to be? What do we need to know? What do other people need to know? “Oops” becomes a gateway, a transition point, an opening up of options.

We need to take our words seriously. Careful use of language gets things done. Careless communication can be self defeating. Small words can have huge implications.