Love and Will

Within Thelema, the two most common words put together are love and will. If we accept that love is the desire for connection, then we can suggest that love is the truest expression of Will; one cannot love without it being a truly willful act. But as with all things, “pure love” is an ideal rarely if ever achieved. The question then becomes, how can I know the difference between love and not love? This is indeed an ancient question, and the riddle will perhaps never be solved—and perhaps the only real value is in the attempt, anyway.

Within Thelema, another basic tenet is the notion of personal uniqueness. Although all people share similar qualities of humanness, Thelemites seek to express themselves as original beings, with thoughts, preferences, and motivations that are theirs alone. Therefore, a dialectic is set up—on the one hand is the drive to be unique and the other is the expression of a universal force. As such, there is the danger that one will try to manipulate his or her love in order to make it somehow original.

However, love that is filtered or altered is diminished, and quite against the point of love, which seeks to flow unhindered. At the same time, how love is expressed through action is an important decision. This is where we humans get into much trouble. It is therefore useful to examine what we think might be the basic qualities of love.

A key element in real love is the acceptance for the object of desire to be only exactly what it is. This is why love requires the ability to see clearly, to be able to grasp the nature of things.

But here we have another dialectic—change exists within the nature of all things. No person, idea, or object that exists is static, even when they might seem so. Therefore, part of loving acceptance is an acknowledgment that the object of desire will, in one way or another, change over time. No easy task!—to accept something for what it is, including the fact that it will not remain the same.

And yet, we humans crave stability and predictability. This is part of our genetic heritage, and it is good to accept that. Knowing that this is a part of being human, we can then ask, to what degree is my need for stability getting in the way of letting something be what it is? You yourself can no doubt think of many examples of where this can be problematic—within intimate relationships, within an organization or community, and, importantly, within the self. Connection is a key element of love, but love demands that that connection be flexible enough to allow for change.

Love is further corrupted by the drive to change the love object into something that it isn’t in order to pander to one’s own prejudices or needs. This gets tricky, because sometimes people that we love requires external interventions, such as with, say, a family alcoholic. A more basic example is the raising of children, who require constant guidance. Is raising a child or committing an ill family member not loving? Common sense says of course those can be loving acts.

When it comes to love, this is where the rubber meets the road. Naturally a child needs to grow up to know all the things a person knows and to have boundaries put in place—to withhold those things would be cruel indeed. But on the other side is the drive to make that child into something he or she isn’t in order to fulfill the dreams or avoid the fears of the parent. Therefore, we can say that how love is expressed is a matter of seeking an optimal balance between letting something be and reaching out to exert influence.

This last part is worth commenting upon, for love is deeply influential. This is something that cannot be avoided—to love something is to change it. Connection can be seen as an exchange of energy or information, and that exchange creates a difference, both within you and the other. The nature of the change, however, will be unique for every object and person. And this is a partial answer to the original question of originality: although love is a universal force, the connections one makes and how those connections influence change will always be unique.

As was hinted above, all of these principles can be applied to the individual alone. Certainly it is of great value to learn how to love oneself, which entails an honest and deep exploration of the self along with an acceptance of what is found. Internal connection with the self is no different than outward connections with others—it brings change.

This then is a central practice of the Thelemite—to learn how to love, for to learn how to love is to learn how to be Willful. This requires a high degree of self knowledge so that one can differentiate between love and other egoic motivations. It requires the development of wisdom to be able to tread the path between knowing when to leave something be and when to intervene. Learning to love also requires developing a strong character, so that one can connect with others with acceptance for what they are, along with the ability to accept their inevitable change. And as one increases in these areas, one can become ever more open to more connections, which is walking the divine path to the greatest attainment, Union with All.