Upon the Development of Will-less Will (Part II)
Article ID: 12678
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Grey Glamer
Posted: December 28th. 2008
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Perhaps more than any other human endeavor, the practice of magic requires the cultivation of ego and self-identity. If we define magic as the harnessing of natural energies to effect needed change, then we see the egoist element clearly: To tell the cosmos that it should change on your say-so alone requires no small amount of nerve. As the American novelist Mark Twain phrased things, “The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” And yet every day, thousands of Witches, Heathens, and other magically-inclined souls cast spells designed to bring about change within our world.
For the practicing magician, the will becomes an extension of one’s self-identity. I desire change, and by my will I bring that change into being. In order for the will to bring the necessary leverage to bear upon reality, however, the will must act from a strong, well-grounded source, the magician’s ego. Here I employ the term “ego” as equivalent to one’s self-identity, implying no moral judgment, although the too-fertile sense of self certainly can and sometimes does descend into excessive pride. As a Witch, I must believe in myself and in my capacity to affect the world around me, before I can hope to cast effective spells.
At the same time, I am keenly aware that I am an inherently limited creature, vulnerable to illness and distress. Most tellingly, the genuinely self-introspective Witch will acknowledge that we are all vulnerable to self-doubt. How could one creature like myself, plagued by countless frailties, hope to summon the personal fortitude and strength of will necessary to transmit my will into the cosmos? The answer is simple, though as someone versed in Aikido once observed, sometimes simple things aren’t easy: When we cast spells, we must transcend our ordinary egoism, and instead blend with the infinite power and wisdom possessed by the cosmos we seek to direct.
The merging between one’s individual perspective and the broader universal awareness may sound much like a grandiose abstraction. Certainly without any further explanation, we threaten to relegate this sweeping sense of awareness to the dustbin of unworkable concepts, so let’s attempt to place this heady notion into some practical framework. By doing so, we hope to illuminate the magical concept known as will-less will.
Within the martial art known as Aikido, literally translated way of harmony with energy, blending with an attacker’s perspective and energy state is the first step towards redirecting the force of the attack into harmless channels. In many cases, the Aikidoka literally steps next to the attacker, connecting with their body and often turning to face the same direction. This step can seem counterintuitive; when someone with harmful intent directs energy into you, moving closer feels like the last thing you want. The trick is remembering that the force directed at you isn’t beneficent or malicious; the force is just energy, and only the attacker’s intent makes that energy harmful. By accepting the energy as gift, one can then redirect that energy into less harmful avenues.
Meeting force with force requires that one match the intensity of the incoming attack, but blending with the attacker allows the Aikidoka to effect great change simply by giving the attacker’s thrust a slight nudge. That is, deflecting the attack becomes immeasurably easier when you are moving with the thrust, rather than against. The difficult part is making the leap of faith that stepping into the attack is often the better course of action.
In much the same vein, Witches and Heathens often find themselves casting spells to address adverse circumstances which the universe has thrown at them and their loved ones. We cast healing spells to confront diseases and suffering. We cast prosperity spells to confront financial woes. We cast protective spells to confront physical and spiritual threats against our well-being. With so much confrontation, we can certainly feel like the universe has become our adversary, our attacker. And our response, as magicians, often involves meeting force with brute magical force.
The problem here is that inevitably such efforts are doomed to failure. I am only one facet upon the incredibly complex gem of existence, and my finite ego, no matter how powerful, can never generate force equal to that which the whole cosmos can bring to bear. One might well find this conclusion obvious, and yet over and over many magicians will insist on challenging the proverbial brick wall with their fists, attempting to transform reality through sheer force of will. The lesson? The human will is inherently limited; you can never strike the wall hard enough.
Were this meeting of force on force the end of our story, then we might well descend into nihilism and despair. The Craft, however, isn’t predicated upon the sheer force of one’s will, but rather upon the cunning and judicious application of that will. Here we would do well to recall the above lesson from Aikido: To redirect an attack, we must first blend with the attacker’s force. To redirect the flow of reality, we must first blend with reality. This principle is one key reason why Witches attune with the natural world. Only when we are attuned with our world can we effect changes within our world!
Many texts upon spellcasting admonish the Witch to draw upon the natural energies around them, rather than depleting their personal reserves of energy. This is excellent advice, yet the explanation about how to draw upon ambient energy often misses one crucial point. For many years, I would begin my magical endeavors by directing my will, the extension of my ego, outward to pull inward the energy of Earth and Sky.
My visualization of this operation involved forming a vortex within the center of my being, not unlike a vacuum cleaner drawing in cosmic energy. This exercise often generated intensely heady sensations when working magic, yet my subsequent grounding felt like the crash after the sugar rush.
The truth is, I was drawing upon my personal energy in order to absorb the power around me, which isn’t much better than using your personal reserves to power the spell itself, and consequently upon the spell’s completion I would find myself upon the brink of exhaustion. There’s a corresponding phenomenon in Aikido: you can try to pull your attacker into you, rather than stepping into and blending with the attack, but pulling force into you proves as tiring as pushing force away. In spellcasting, there’s no substitute for blending.
Once I identified the source of my post-spell fatigue, I began exploring other visualizations that would more closely approximate my desired magical operation. Over the past several months, I’ve learned that reaching outward with my senses helps me to blend with the cosmos. Basically I allow my awareness to drift outward into the world around me, while simultaneously journeying inside myself.
I allow my finite ego to merge with the infinite cosmos, without pushing or forcing anything. Aikido’s founder Morehei Ueshiba once asserted, “I am the universe.” With this profound pronouncement, he claimed the grounded stance from which to effect needed change.
Sound familiar? As Witches and Heathens, we must blend with the energy currents that surround us, before we can deploy our will to good effect. Rather than force-feeding ourselves the ambient energy, we should instead adopt the broader perspective of the cosmos. Then, and only then, can we gently steer the universe’s power into benevolent channels through our magical endeavors.
Blending with the universe accomplishes two crucial goals of the magician. First, by identifying with the universe, rather than with our finite egoism, we shake off the self-doubt that can plague the practicing magician. The power by which I direct the cosmos is the cosmos’ own limitless power; no longer am I bound by my individual limitations. Second, all sense of confrontation dissolves when we accept the energy of the universe as gift. Indeed, even problems and setbacks are merely energy that can be accepted and redirected towards better ends.
Such blending constitutes the essence of will-less will. By tapping into the power, which permeates the cosmos, we amplify the power of our individual ego thousands of times over.
More importantly, though, we dissolve the false and ultimately needless dichotomy that sets up my will against unyielding reality. Rather, we broaden our awareness to include the cosmos we share, and from that grounded and immensely powerful position we effect genuine changes through our magic, conveying strength and healing unto ourselves and those around us. Such is the charge, and the challenge, for every sincere magician.
May we walk lightly and with compassion.
Leonard, George. The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons from an American Sensei. New York: The Penguin Group, 1999.
McCoy, Edain. If You Want to be a Witch: A Practical Introduction to the Craft. Saint Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 2004.
Location: Athens, Georgia
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