Upon the Development of Will-less Will (Part I)
Article ID: 12671
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Grey Glamer
Posted: December 21st. 2008
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Magic is an intense art, one that commands our whole being. When we cast spells, we draw together our intellect and our emotions, our flesh and our soul. We raise power from deep within the earth and across the far-flung sky. We greet the awesome might of the four winds within our Circle, and we call upon celestial realms both ancient and immense. The simplest spell constitutes an intentional act requiring both precise focus and sheer will. And this quality of magic is precisely why we must cultivate a will-less will when we cast spells.
In magical theory, the term will-less will generally describes an emotional detachment from the goal of one’s spell. Because many schools of magical thought endorse an intense emotional involvement with the object of one’s desire, will-less will frequently appears counterproductive. I freely accept the belief that magic requires intellectual and emotional commitment. I also accept that when your heart isn’t set upon the goal, then your efforts both magical and mundane are doomed to falter.
Here we uncover our paradox: Upon first blush, possessing an all-consuming desire for certain change seems incompatible with the perspective held by an entirely disinterested observer. While letting the apparent contradiction roll around within my thoughts, I kept returning to one conclusion, namely that will-less will doesn’t actually describe a detached view at all! Rather, the ideal state of mind (and heart, and flesh, and soul) is one, which transcends our ordinary sense of intention.
To better understand this concept, we must first examine the steps one follows when casting a spell. The Witch begins the spell by forming a desire. The desire constructs the first astral bridge between the Witch and the spell’s eventual goal, whether health, wealth, romance, or something else entirely. In fact, the spell begins the moment you conceive the desire. Moving the beginning of the casting process back to this early stage, conceivably one could argue that all spells are contaminated by the emotional involvement, however fleeting, carried within those initial thoughts. I won’t argue the point. People are what people are, creatures driven by their hopes and their fears. Were we anything less, our species simply wouldn’t have survived into the present.
The Witch has their goal in mind. Now they must refine the idea, employing visualization to sketch out the details of their intention. Again, there must be some minimal interest taken during this process, else there’s no reason to engage the imaginative faculty at all. Detachment seems all but impossible during these early steps.
After forming a clear visualization, the Witch then proceeds to raise energy, using their own personal power to direct the near-infinite energies of earth and sky. The Witch charges the visualization with magical energy, empowering the idea to effect the desired change. During this step, magically significant herbs and stones may be employed, imbuing the energy raised by the Witch with resonances conducive for the type of spell being cast. Lastly, the prudent Witch grounds, returning any excess energy back to the elements and restoring their own personal balance.
Understanding this basic five-step process is important to figuring out when and how personal desires come into play. In the first two steps, forming the desire and visualizing the goal, the Witch’s personal desires inform and guide the process. The third and fifth steps, raising power and grounding, are general for all spells, and both steps can be carried out without much concern for the spell’s eventual goal. The fourth step, charging the visualization, is where our interest rests. (Please forgive the pun.) Here is the place where our desire, our willful will, gets in the way.
Occultist A. O. Spare proposed that when we work magic, we must avoid what he called lust for result. That is, the very act of wanting something often hinders our ability to acquire the desired outcome. The desire for an outcome inevitably produces anxiety about other outcomes, and those fears inevitably compromise the total focus, which magical spells require. We can observe the same phenomenon outside the world of traditional magic. You may know someone who has both the talent and the skill to accomplish their goals, yet when they make the attempt, they inexplicably choke. You may well be that someone. (I would guess most everyone has been that someone sometime in their life.) As Franklin D. Roosevelt observed, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” These words are good advice for the ages, and remarkably good advice for occultists everywhere. Fortunately, once you work through your own anxiety, your spell has nothing else to overcome. Unfortunately, fear itself is the ever-present shadow of desire, and thus proves difficult to banish.
The solution proposed by A. O. Spare and developed by the practitioners of Chaos Magic is the employment of sigils, or abstract representations of the spell’s desired outcome. Sigils are simple to make, but can be breathtakingly powerful in their execution. One of the more common approaches to making sigils has the magician write out the desired outcome in one sentence. The spell’s caster then crosses out all duplicate letters, and reorganizes the existing letters into a pattern that is unrecognizable as the original word. Letters can be rotated or reversed, nested inside one another or arranged by other designs. The finishing stroke of one letter may become the beginning stroke of the next. The permutations are virtually endless; the crucial thing here is that the sigil cannot be recognized as the original desire.
When I cast spells that call for sigils, I design the sigil on paper long before I conjure the Circle. I pour my hopes and my fears alike into the act of making the symbolic vehicle for the spell’s desired outcome. By allowing myself to feel, and to feel intensely, all the desire and anxiety associated with the spell’s objective, I charge the spell with the emotional potency needed to empower the spell. The sigil acts like a battery, holding the power that will be directed outward from the Circle.
Once the sigil has been drawn, the Witch must carry the sigil into the Circle. When marking sacred time and sacred space, we attempt to establish a balance between mind and heart, between spirit and flesh. We release the imbalances that manifest as stress and tension, and ideally, we approach the universe from the calm, still center of our being. Thus, when we conjure the Circle, we must conduct the magical operation without allowing ourselves to focus on the urgency of our magical operation. Insofar as we are able, we should direct our attention to the casting of the Circle and nothing else, and when our anxiety emerges, we must simply acknowledge those concerns and then release them.
Make no mistake: Letting go can be difficult. The Witch casts their spell to effect some change, and oftentimes that change proves urgently needed. When you work healing magic for someone who is gravely ill, releasing your very real concern about the recipient’s medical condition can be very challenging. Herein the reflective Witch would do well to recall that we should act with perfect love and with perfect trust. When we work magic, we must trust the efficacy of our magical endeavors, and we must trust the universe to transmit our benevolence via the best means possible. Within my admittedly limited experience, this confidence grows concurrently with the deepening of one’s magical practice. Experience breeds confidence!
Once the Witch has marked the Circle and has called the Watchtowers, they may then charge the sigil. Within my own practice, I light a tea light candle to represent the spiritual flame we all share, trace the sigil before me with my wand, and then draw the magical power represented by the candle flame into the abstract pattern. During this part, I focus upon the shape only, and not what the shape represents. My subconscious mind and the energy pool contained within the candle’s flame both know what the sigil represents. Any interpretation by my conscious, waking mind can only interfere with the path that the spell’s energy must follow.
By separating the emotionally charged act of creating the sigil from the intellectually focused act of charging that same sigil, I adopt the attitude of will-less will. While constructing the sigil, I pour out the emotional strength necessary to effect the needed change. Once I stand within the Circle, though, I release all emotional baggage that could interfere with the execution of my will. I make the leap of faith, placing ultimate trust within my efforts to realize the fundamental benevolence of the cosmos. After I dismiss the Circle and ground, I destroy the sigil, usually by burning the paper inside my fireplace. This last step is crucial – Once you’ve set your spell into motion, the time for doubts and second-guessing yourself has passed.
One might reasonably charge that such an approach smacks of self-deception. To some extent, the employment of sigils does indeed entail fooling oneself, and yet such trickery often proves necessary to demonstrate that we can accomplish what we believe we cannot; a little glamour often unmasks the larger falsehood.
As Witches and Heathens, we must learn to cast our spells with perfect love, and without fear. Sigils and other symbolic devices allow us to blend our frequently tempestuous emotional involvement with laser-sharp focus. By cultivating will-less will, we can better empower our spells, bringing truly effective healing and prosperity into our world.
Grimassi, Raven. Spirit of the Witch: Religion and Spirituality in Contemporary Witchcraft. Saint Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 2003.
Nema. The Way of Mystery: Magick, Mysticism, and Self-Transcendence. Saint Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 2003.
Location: Athens, Georgia
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