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True Will is a term found within the mystical system of Thelema, a religion founded in 1904 with Aleister Crowley's writing of The Book of the Law. It is defined at times as a person's grand destiny in life, and at other times as a moment to moment path of action that operates in perfect harmony with Nature. This Will does not spring from conscious intent, but from the interplay between the deepest Self and the entire Universe. Thelemites in touch with their True Will are said to have eliminated or bypassed their false desires, conflicts, and habits, and accessed their connection with the divine. Theoretically, at this point, the Thelemite acts in alignment with Nature, just as a stream flows downhill, with neither resistance nor "lust of result". Crowley's ideas on the subject partly originated with the teachings of Eliphas Levi, whose magical books emphasize the magician finding their magical identity – his or her 'true self', which Levi referred to as the "True Will".
Thelema roughly means "will" in Greek. The phrase True Will does not appear in The Book of the Law, the central sacred text of Thelema. Nevertheless, Aleister Crowley's various commentaries on the Book routinely postulate that each individual has a unique and incommensurable True Will that determines his or her proper course in life. Crowley's invention appears to be an attempt to explain how some actions may be wrong (or "false") when "There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt". Actions that conform to True Will are thus considered to be correct, while willed actions that deviate from True Will may nevertheless be wrong. In The Book of the Law Crowley wrote "Do What Thou Wilt".
"DO WHAT THOU WILT" can often be misunderstood to mean "do what you want". When one says "do what thou wilt", this means that the origin of will directs the path. To understand and act upon one's True Will is a sort of "enlightenment" to Thelemites. The ultimate goal of a Thelemite would be to understand and perform their True Will. True Will directs the individual towards destiny and forces them into the joy of accomplishing what they were meant to accomplish without "lust of result" (outside motivations).
In Crowley's essay The Secret Conference (written under the pseudonym "Gerald Aumont", and prefaced to The Heart of the Master), he suggests that a technique must be devised by which a child's True Will may be discovered at birth, or as early as possible in life, in order to permit the correct ordering of society.
In Crowley's ethical treatise Duty, he identifies True Will with the Nature of the individual. This capitalized "Nature" may be compared with the "Perfect Nature" of earlier Gnostic systems, which was another term for the personal daimon or augoeides, usually referenced by Crowley as the Holy Guardian Angel.
The Message of the Master Therion (Liber II) is a document that attempts to delineate the doctrine of True Will. By reference to Liber Thisharb, Liber II suggests a theory of metempsychosis, whereby the individual True Will is the resultant of a person's prior incarnations. But here as elsewhere, Crowley stops short of asserting objective validity for memories of past lives. He recommends developing "the magical memory" as a means to an end, and connecting the aspirant's abilities and remembered past with some purpose. By definition, the aspirant's True Will must fit the aspirant's nature.
In De Lege Libellum (Liber CL), Crowley defines True Will as the will which "does not rest content with things partial and transitory, but...proceed[s] firmly to the End", and in the same passage he identifies that "end" as the destruction of oneself in love.
- The Great Work
- Thelemic mysticism
- Holy Guardian Angel
- Free will
- Agency (philosophy)
- The Alchemist (novel)
- Coherent Extrapolated Volition