InÂ my previous post in this current series, I described how authorÂ Michael Snuffin (in thisÂ post)Â describes the concept of the powers of the Sphinx and how they are centered on the writings of Eliphas Levi and Aleister Crowley. These powers are:
â€˘ To Know
â€˘ To Will
â€˘ To Dare
â€˘ To Keep Silent
For Pagans reading this, those powers are often calledÂ The Witches Pyramid, sometimes adding a fifth quality, to go.Â In this current post, myÂ previous post, and my next two posts Iâ€™ll be discussing these four powers and how theyâ€™re associated with magick. I previously discussed “To Know” and how knowledge, in an of itself, can help you achieve change in conformity with your Will: magick. Here I’ll discuss the second power of the Sphinx.
The development of the Will is one of the biggest challenges to a magician. What even is “The Will?” How do I get it? How do I maintain it? How is it useful?
As you may know, I graduated with a B.A. in philosophy from UCLA. Let me tell you that the debate as to what “The Will” is has existed from the earliest of times and continues to this day. And if you can even agree on what “The Will” is, the debate on whether we have “Free Will” extends it.
For this post I’m going to go a bit backwards. I’ll start with the concept of Free Will. I think most people will agree that having a Free Will means being able to make choices free of any external constraints. For example, you might choose to have dessert before your main meal. To do so you must be free of social limitations Â and the influence of those who might ask, “Are you crazy?Â Nobody has dessert before the main course!” To have free will, your only limitations are internal ones: “If I eat that dessert, I’ll get fat, and I don’t want to be fat.” Of course, the next question would be whether your desire not to get fat is really a self-generated desire or is based on social limits and taboos.
Luckily, for our discussion we don’t have to go to this endless debate over whether or not we really have Free Will. We’re just looking at the concept of Will. If we eliminate worrying about freedom (I’ll leave that for you to decide!), we’re left with the idea that the Will has to do with the ability to make choices. For a magician, I would define “The Will” this way:
TheÂ Will consists of two things:
1) The ability to make choices
2) The drive to follow or accomplish those choices
The first part is commonly called making up your mind. Sometimes, doing this can be based on emotions. “I want to get back at them for what they did to me!” Sometimes it’s based on knowledge and cool thinking: “This is the best college I can go to for the degree I want.” Most often, however, the choices we make are based on a combination of knowledge, emotion, and external influences.
For the magician, however, it is the second part of this definition that is more important. It is that part of the Will that is often called “willpower.” We often make up our minds to do somethingâ€”I’m going to read XX books this year. I’m going to go to the gym 3 days a week every week this year. I’m not going to have that piece of pie in the refrigerator. I’m not going to get drunk tonight, etc.â€”yet fail to carry through on our decisions. Why do we fail? Most people will say, “It’s because you don’t have the willpower.”
But that’s not true! The problem is not that we lack willpower, it’s that we don’t know how to access it. Our minds often omit negatives. Repeating “I will not eat that piece of pie” is accepted by our unconscious minds as “I willÂ not eat that piece of pie.”
You see, all decisions happen instantaneously. Every decision you have ever made has been made instantaneously. It may have taken seconds or minutes, days or weeks or even longer for all the figuring that leads up to the decision, but the decision happens instantaneously. Where does this happen? Obviously not in the conscious mind. Our conscious minds tend to be rather slow and limited. Therefore, decisions have to occur in the subconscious or unconscious (I use the terms synonymously) minds.
Control the Unconscious?
It would seem, then, that in order to develop willpower we need to control the unconscious. Unfortunately, by definition, the unconscious mind (except for a few very limited functions), is generally beyond conscious control. So part of the function of the magician is to master this Power of the Sphinx by developing some control over the unconscious mind.
There are several ways to do this. Crowley suggested a rather brute force way. Make your mind up to do something and slash your arm with a razor blade every time you fail. InÂ Modern Magick I suggest the alternatives of either making a mark in a small book you carry with you or wearing a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it every time you fail. These are much safer and will definitely limit the number of scars on your arms!
There are three levels to this exercise. The first is physical. Make up your mind to perform certain common actions in an unusual way. For example, make up your mind to only open doors using your left hand. The second is verbal. Make up your mind not to say a common word, such as “I.” The third is the most challenging and is strictly mental. Make up your mind not to think about something. At first the marks in the book or snaps of the rubber band for failure will occur quite often, but they will decrease in number. Try each levelâ€”physical, oral, mentalâ€”for one week, beginning with the physical level.
There are other means to reach the unconscious. The unconscious mind thinks in symbols, not words. Design a symbol to represent what you want to do. Here’s a hint: the less obvious the representation of the symbol for the reality, the more effective it will be. Focus on your desire and make some squiggles, knowing that they represent your desire. Your conscious mind may not know what it means, but your unconscious will know. Clear you mind and focus on this symbol several times a day.
Rituals are another great way to send information to the unconscious mind. Design a simple ritual for achieving the goal you desire and perform it regularly.
One of the most effective ways of installing ideas into the unconscious mind is through hypnosis. Two great books on hypnosis for this purpose are:Â Self-Hypnosis for a Better Life and Self-Empowerment through Self-Hypnosis.
Using these techniques and resources should allow you to both make up your mind to accomplish something and then have the willpower to do everything necessary to achieve it. By mastering these skills you’ll have mastered the 2nd power of the sphinx.
One last thing, having the ability to make up your mind also means having the ability to change your mind. Continuing to do something after it becomes clear that achieving it is not good for you or those around you is not an indicator of willpower, it is a sign of folly, intransigence, and outright stupidity.