Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
In 1904, an Englishman by the name of Aleister Crowley established a spiritual and philosophical tradition known as Thelema. Incorporating various elements from both eastern and western practice, Thelema stands as a rich, diverse system in which the individual practitioner can attain a better understanding of themselves and the universe through various meditative and magick rituals.
As complex as Thelema may appear at first glance, the foundation of this system rests entirely on two phrases from the text known as The Book of The Law (or Liber AL vel Legis.) The text itself was claimed by Crowley to be transmitted through him by an entity he called Aiwass, his “Holy Guardian Angel” or “Higher Self.” It is divided into three parts, where three deities related to the ancient Egyptian pantheon speak in sequence: Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit, respectively. It remains unclear as to whether Crowley himself believed all of these beings to be actual, separate entities, or rather aspects of the human mind itself. (Magick: Liber Aba, Chapter 7, p. 423)
As for the phrases themselves, they come together as follows: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law; Love is the Law, love under will.” Simply put, this is known as The Law.
What does this mean, exactly? This question is probably the most important thing one could ask about Thelema.
At first glance, some readers might assume that The Law is simply stating “do whatever you want.” This could not be further from the case, and the confusion comes directly from the term “Will.” Within Thelema, one’s “Will” or “True Will” is most accurately defined as their calling, or what they are meant to do in life. The process of realizing one’s True Will is known as “The Great Work” and is the primary spiritual focus of those who call themselves Thelemites. Upon the realization of one’s True Will, acting in accordance with it in all facets of life becomes the primary focus.
If we ignore the claimed transmission of The Law for a moment, the first question on some minds may be “Well, why use the term ‘Will’ at all if it causes such confusion?” As an answer I can only offer my personal view, but I feel that using a similar term such as “destiny” implies a sense of inaction on the individual’s part. In reality, Thelemites are very active in the pursuit of their Great Work, utilizing myriad ceremonial and magickal practices in order to further their spiritual advancement and attain a greater sense of understanding.
As for the second part of The Law, “Love is the Law, love under will,” it refers to the state of being loving in all of one’s interactions. The concept of love provides the foundation for one to discover their True Will and act in accordance with it. Hence “love under will.”
I hope that this short overview of Thelema and The Law has provided some sort of helpful insight. Thank you for reading this, and please feel free to share your feedback!
Love is the law, love under will.