So we had a small Imbolc rite, and toward the end we were saying our usual blessing, which ends along the lines of “…grant us that fulfillment of Love under Will, which is Perfect Happiness.” I started thinking about these two concepts, Love under Will, and Perfect Happiness. In the Craft that I was taught, there are several phrases used which are nuanced. The distinctions are not always readily apparent by the language employed. Some are original, and some are bits and pieces gathered from the wider context of Western Esotericism, which encompasses many currents.
Reading through some of the excellent thoughts on cultural appropriation that have been offered recently, my group had an interesting conversation on where these terms originated, and what they mean in our practice. The concept of Love under Will is a direct transplant from the works of Aleister Crowley, and was first transmitted in 1904 in the The Book of the Law (Liber AL vel Legis). The complete concept is sourced to two phrases, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” and “Love is the law, love under will.” In Thelema, the greeting of 93 is used to simplify this concept and to welcome fellow initiates.
I have not been trained in that system, but venture that the works of Crowley have had such a worldwide impact that it is difficult to find a contemporary Western tradition that has not been influenced by this concept in some form. Regardless of one’s feelings of the infamous life of Crowley, simple history has proven that this particular concept was a game changer, and changed the dialogue of alternative philosophy in the West. In my early Wiccan training, Liber AL was required reading, and the concept of “Love under Will” was described as a core ideal in magickal practice.
Again, I cannot speak for the interpretations of other traditions, and do not venture that my take on these matters is authoritative by any means. I can only describe how this concept has influenced me, and subsequently how I have explained it to others whom I have worked with. Would this be an incident of cultural appropriation? Its possible that the argument could be made. However, when this type of radical thought is unleashed on the world, a dam breaks. Trying to contain an idea whose time has come is like trying to hold back the tide. We can source it, we can credit the originator, but to redact or inoculate it from current dialogue is futile. I feel no guilt or shame sharing this concept with others, and feel that Crowley was not interested in magnifying those emotions whatsoever when publishing his ideas. So what is Love under Will? The most concise answer that I have used is “Self-determination.”
As every man and woman is a star, each one of us has a trajectory in this life. Whether we have chosen this prior to incarnation, or this task is laid upon us by another, (Ancestors, Godhead, the Great Pumpkin, etc) there is an arc to the pattern of our circumstance and experiences that is unique and important. Determining this meaning is an act of Will, and it is up to the individual to discover and maintain their orbit through the universe. Regardless of whether one has an individualistic or devotional path, the Will is a necessary component in the equation.
So then we come to Perfect Happiness. Talk about some loaded language. Happiness itself is a debatable concept, many cannot quantify what it is, but most of us recognize when it’s lacking. Happiness is a kaleidoscope, the view changes as life turns us one way and then another. As circumstances are fluid, the parameters alter. For myself, the idea of Perfect Happiness has always coincided with the with the concept of “Love under Will” or self-determination. In a personal sense, the times when I have lost a sense of self-integrity, or sacrificed some part of myself with the idea that this will eventually work toward the greater good have always ended in disaster. No one wins, and time is lost backtracking to a place of alignment.
I suspect that others fall into this trap as well, failing with the best intentions. Seems my meat suit needs to be reminded of this idea every decade or so. One cannot magnify the joy of others on starvation rations. We need to be happy in order to create happy. A friend of mine recently stated that happiness is always spontaneous, but I respectfully disagree. Happiness is like a muscle, you have to exercise it. Use it before you lose it, our happiness circuits can become atrophied. This is the reason we include this prayer to the Gods and to ourselves, in every ritual.
We pray for the knowledge of our true path, to stay in orbit, to follow our trajectory. We pray to receive that joy that accompanies living a life that is self-determined, the happiness that comes from our conscious choices. Some decisions do not always have optimal outcomes, but we own these experiences. They are authentic, powerful, and beautiful.