Our will – the function of the brain that makes us do things, even stuff we don’t really want to do, can best be viewed as a kind of mental muscle. We have a finite quantity of it when we start the day; using it causes our reserve of willpower to deplete. This is why you can have a good breakfast and lunch, then eat like a raccoon come evening – the willpower you would use to make or obtain a dinner that looks more like a meal than a haphazard pile of snacks got tapped out. This mental fatigue – sometimes referred to as decision fatigue – is why fitness professionals recommend working out earlier in the day. It’s much easier to find the willpower to attend a class, hit the gym, or go for a walk in the morning. By evening, mental fatigue is strong enough that most of us are not able to escape the gravitational pull of the couch.
I call this kind of willpower “conscious will”: it is primarily driven by the ego and is spent on managing the ins and outs of mundane life. We use our conscious willpower every time we answer an email, place a phone call, make a delivery, or work on a project.
Within the world of magick, we find a different take on willpower – the idea of the “higher” or “true will”. Popularized by the magickal system of Thelema, true will was explained by Aleister Crowley as a person’s destiny, supported by moment-to-moment actions that operate in harmony with nature and the Divine. To Crowley’s way of thinking, a magician should strive to align themselves to their true will. This Thelemic take on the will has filtered into much of modern magickal practice.
I find the concept of true will interesting, but I’m not fully invested in it at this point. I have strong feelings about predestination and how much of our lives are up to us vs some nebulous wielder of Fate. I suspect that at different times in life, our best alignment changes depending on a whole host of variables.
Within my own practice as well as the magickal system I teach, I work with different archetypes of the Self. The Empowered Witch Self (the version of magickal self without self-sabotaging behaviors), the Embodied Lineage of Witchcraft Self (the self that channels the benevolent presence of the winding Path through the ages), the Minister Self (the self that is perfectly aligned to hold, support, and nurture), the Teacher self (the self with infinite patience and love for the learning process, who holds the best of my teaching abilities) and more. Aligning to these different archetypes allows me to move through life’s changing landscape with more kindness, grace, and impact. We can think of the actions that come from aligning to these different archetypes as flowing from “aligned will.”
The path of the witch is one of liminality: of holding multiple threads of reality at the same time. We know that conscious will can be strengthened the same way we strengthen any aspect of the brain: through practice. Books like “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” encourage developing willpower through simple repetitive practices like choosing to drink water using one’s non-dominant hand.
We also know that how we are aligned is absolutely vital to how we navigate the world around us. When we are relaxed, present, and connected to a purpose or role that is meaningful to us, our thought patterns change. A situation that might spark judgment inspires compassion instead. We make better choices.
These two threads, conscious will and aligned will, can intersect. Most of us desire more willpower – there’s more we’d like to do, see, accomplish, or grow. And this world desperately needs humans who are aligned to something other than their conscious-level ego.
Take a moment, right now, wherever you are, to align to your best self. I’m serious: close your eyes and imagine what that version of you is like. Then, begin to breathe that visualization into your body. When you come back to this paragraph, notice the difference in how you feel. Did you relax? Did you brighten a bit? How do you feel about the environment around you? Aligning to an archetype is an act of conscious will. Actions flowing from that archetype are aligned will. We can use the act of aligning, and the choices we make when aligned, to strengthen our willpower. And, of course, willpower is at the core of magick: spells are meaningless without willing them into existence.
One useful practice for aligning is setting designated times during the day to select the archetype you wish to embody and then align to it. This technique is easy to experiment with: for just one week, set a calendar notification for morning, lunch break, and early evening. When the notification goes off, pause as you did just a moment ago. Align to your best self, to your Empowered Witch Self, to your Minister Self, to your Parent Self, to whichever is most needed at that moment. Keep a record of this experiment and see what you notice about the patterns in your life. Worst case scenario, you’ll have done a few more willpower curls to strengthen that area of your brain. Best case? Well. With willpower, many things are possible. It is the Will of the Witch that gives shape to the world.
So, what would you do with a little more willpower? And what are you aligning to today? Hit me up in the comments.
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