Concepts in Magic: Will

In a previous post, I wrote about how an understanding of Creation as an ongoing process is a powerful concept in magic. In this post, I wish to look at another powerful concept, the concept of the will.

Most people who work with magic are familiar with the definition of magic offered by Aleister Crowley:

Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.

Despite the fact that I am in no sense a Thelemite (which is one of the reasons I don’t add the K to the end of the word “magic”), I find this definition quite useful. Furthermore, it demonstrates that will is central to any magical act. Without will, there is no magic. So this begs the question: What is will?

The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition (as reported by includes the following definitions:

1. a. The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action: championed freedom of will against a doctrine of predetermination.
b. The act of exercising the will.
c. Diligent purposefulness; determination: an athlete with the will to win.
d. Self-control; self-discipline: lacked the will to overcome the addiction.

It is clear from these definitions that will is that part of the psyche that initiates action. It is that which takes a desire that we have, and focuses our time and energy to accomplish or manifest that desire.

It is important to note that desire is not the same as will. In my experience, this is an increasingly common misconception in the magical community and our society in general. Far to often, we express our desires thinking that doing this alone (or even having those desires in the first place) is sufficient to have them met. I’m reminded of the joke about the devout Christian who goes to church daily, only to ask God to let him win the lottery. After many weeks of this daily routine, God finally decides to respond to this request in a very personal day. As the petitioner makes his request one day, he hears a rather annoyed voice from heaven proclaim, “You could at least buy the ticket!”

Truly involving one’s will in the satisfaction of a desire requires both effort and action. Without this effort, this act of will, the desire never comes more than a vain wish. It is the act of making sure that the “rubber meets the road” that makes magic.

Since Crowley offered his definition of magic(k), some have tried to improve upon his definition. Most notably, people have tried to add such qualifiers to the end of the definition as “by means not understood by ordinary science.” This is often done in an attempt to identify the “mystical” aspect of magic and to distinguish it from “mundane” effort. I am convinced that this is a mistake, as it creates an artificial boundary between “mundane” and “magical” effort.

Truth be told, to someone who walks a magical path long enough, every act of will becomes an act of magic. The boundary between the “mundane” and the “magical” dissolves completely, and an individuals conscience efforts blend together seemlessly. The witch who is looking for a new job is working just as magically when she writes her resume as when she is lighting a candle or praying to her gods for their blessing on her search. All of these acts and the power channeled into them work together to accomplish her goal and manifest the job that she needs.

Understanding all conscientious acts as magical acts also explains why so many magical attempts are shipwrecked by “mundane” activities. Consider for example a less experienced witch who does magic to get a new job, but doesn’t not pay careful attention to the creation or modification of her resume. Or perhaps she submits her resume haphazzardly, not putting much effort into the seach process. Understanding that these choices are magical acts in themselves demonstrates that her will is not fully behind her stated outcome of finding a job. As such, her efforts and energies become unfocused, scattered, and less effective. Perhaps they become totally ineffective.

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