You see so much about will (internal and personal) and WILL (external, sometimes thought to come from Deity or another source)
I came at this whole topic idea from several difference directions in my mind. And have actually rewritten parts of it several times as thought processes veer in new directions and I consider new ideas.
We talk about having will power, usually as a way of expressing a lack. We use it as a way of refusing to take personal
responsibility for actions. “Oh, if I only had more will power I would be able to do X.” A perceived absence of will in others is seen as a sort of moral failing. “He has absolutely no will power.” (usually accompanied by a shaking of the head)
Let’s not forget about the place for Will in magical work. I recall reading years ago that there were 5 things needed to create magic – To Know, To Will, to something, to something, and To Keep Silent. For the most part, experience showed me that this was mostly a bunch of prettily packaged nonsense. I, and other witches, manage to create spells successfully without taking these precepts into consideration all the time. Which isn’t to say I am going to go chatting to anyone willing to listen, or not, about the spell I just did. But I’m not going to make it some great secret either.
Then of course, you have to whole idea of the law of attraction and manifesting our own reality through will – you just have to will it hard enough and it will happen. If you just have enough will you will be able to bring good things into your life. And again, of course, this comes with the flip of the coin – “He must have some sort of failing because he isn’t manifesting good things into his life”, or “This stuff doesn’t work, I focused on getting £10,000 and it didn’t happen.” While I believe there is some validity to the concepts put forth in these ideas 9after all this is what magic is!), I also think they are misleading. It’s all well and good to spend 15 minutes, 4 times a day on manifesting something into our life. But what about our thoughts the other 23 hours? If you spend an hour each day focusing on how abundance has come to you, but 23 hours focusing on how much is lacking it’s the 23 hours you will be manifesting.
Just to throw another component into this mix, I am also reminded of the idea of Free Will. Do we have free will, or are we all on a pre-destined path determined for us by powers outside of our control?
Is Free Will an illusion?
When my children were younger I would give them the illusion that they were making choices for themselves. Do you want food A, or food B for lunch as opposed to what do you want for lunch. At age 3 they wanted to dress themselves, but had difficulty in picking out appropriate clothing. So, I would pull out 2 pair shorts or trousers and 2 shirts and tell them to pick one of each. They were happy because they got to choose. I was happy because I knew they would be choosing something appropriate for the weather. (Colour-coordination isn’t nearly as important to me as making sure they weren’t trying to wear shorts in the dead of winter.) They were given the illusion of free will within the restrictions I had put in place.
Is it the same way with us as we go through our lives? We have Free Will, but only within the restrictions that have been put in place around us?
Is there even such as a thing as Free Will? Can it be studied scientifically, or can it only be cussed and discussed philosophically? A recent issue of BBC Focus looked at just this subject. Free Will: The Greatest Illusion:
Neuroscientists peering into our brains are becoming ever more convinced that free will is an illusion; simply a creation of our mind that allows us a sense of control. Inside the June 2015 issue of Focus, we delve into the science to find out more…
Will vs WILL
Do I believe the Gods have a WILL for each of us, a planned path that will lead us to ultimate happiness and make sure our every need is taken care of? No. We don’t need to discover some ultimate Plan and look for our One True Path because just by virtue of being we are already on it.
I talked about this a while back in Finding Your Path. All those knocks and detours and spills along this path are there to teach us what we need to know further along. Where we run into problems is not when we fall off our own Path, but when we start trying to fit into someone/thing else’s idea of what and where our path should lead. Stuff doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. Every decision we make leads us forward. We take a left turn instead of a right, follow road A instead of road B. Take this class instead of that. Even a decision to not act is in itself a decision.
I don’t believe our lives are set out before us, firmly set in stone. Each and every decision we make changes our future. As I tell people when doing readings with the Goddess Amulets, if you don’t like the future you see coming to you break that stone by changing your present.
From a shamanic perspective, I think Will is similar to Power. When we give over our will to another, whether that other be a person or a Deity or something else, we are giving them our Power and abdicating personal responsibility. Your will, not mine.
Okay, time to get back on track a bit. I hope.
Do I believe the Gods have a WILL for each of us that supersedes or is better than our own will? Again, no. Listening to wisdom from Deity (however it is defined) can give us greater insight at times because they can sometimes see a bigger picture, and we may choose to heed their advice. And there may come times when we say, “You tell me I will benefit from doing X, and that scares the crap out of me. I trust you though and will do it.”
Our will can match their WILL, but sometimes common sense says – what you are asking of me just isn’t safe or feasible. When a Goddess asked me to tell a Reiki client to swim in the Thames in order to connect to her, I had to put a foot down and say – “Nope, not gonna happen, that wouldn’t be safe.” So we compromised and instead I suggested to the client that she put a handful of sea salt into a bath.
What about will and WILL in spellcasting though?
I believe that when I make a decision to do a magical working, the first step in the moulding of that Energy is when I focus my will on its creation. This can be anywhere from a few minutes to several days before I do the actual spell work. During that time I am focusing my thoughts on that spell and what is needed to create that spell.
I don’t ask Deity to do the spell work for me and I don’t invoke them. I might invite them to witness, and sometimes one may just decide to show up. “Hey Nan, what’cha doing?”
At no time has Deity tried to force their WILL upon me, nor have I ever felt compelled to yield my personal power/will to theirs. They have suggested at times. For instance in recent years when I covered my hair. That was a suggestion from Bridgid, one that I was free to reject or follow. Ultimately, I did decide to follow her advice and did cover my hair for a while. And I did benefit from that experience. Her WILL became my will.
My ideas and views here are not set in concrete. They way I think about the subject may be completely different a week from now as I pull in new information. This is where I stand currently though, however precarious that stance may appear to be.
Read what other Pagans think about “will vs WILL” over at The Pagan Experience.