"Submit your life force to no one and no thing." -Victor Anderson
As I advanced in my studies, gnosis, and understandings, I have had many teachers in many traditions. I have listened to the spirits. I was initiated and the floodgates opened to Mysteries I am still unraveling (and will be for a lifetime). I have done more work on myself- and as I did all of these things, I came to understand this phrase a bit differently than it was taught to me.
My Witchcraft comes from (for lack of better, less appropriative, less commonly-understood words) a more indigenous, shamanic practice than some. It is often at odds with neo-Wiccans and ceremonialists (or at least novices who seem to think ego puffery is a hallmark of their tradition- not the "higher ups" who have a bit more wisdom and experience) who think the individual, and its "will" is ALL. You know the type: standing in their "protective circle" and bullying entities. "I command you forth!" or "We invoke you!"
I have been there, doing those things and saying those words before- but it always felt weird. Not because I felt that I was less important than these other entities (many in certain religions feel that we are puny and must grovel- this is not what I mean)- but because I felt I was a peer to these non-corporeals.
When I was a baby Witch (1989!) I lived with a boyfriend who was in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He was a good guy, a talented artist, and a gifted magician. He taught me many things and helped me memorize all the lists of correspondences (holy crap, those folks like to compare everything!). We always fought when we did ritual together. I did not have the words back then to make my argument clear, but I do now. It started when he wanted the altar in our rituals to be in the East, and I wanted it in the North. (Back then, I had a neo-Wicca orientation that North was earth, and his orientation was East was air.) He would say, "East is air- it's the human mind, the seat of intellect." This was less than compelling for me. My argument was, "We humans are not the center of the universe. Intellect only goes so far. We must start outside of ourselves. Magic/k is not *just* in our heads."
That was the beginning of me becoming disenchanted with many traditions I once sought and communed with- ones that favored human beings over the rest of creation. Ones that feel we are more special or chosen over the rest of the worlds. Ones that believed that all we needed was will (which assumes individual will and possible force. Many ceremonialists try and bully spirits into doing their bidding. I don't like this behavior in the human realm and I'll be damned if I promote it elsewhere.).
I believe Victor's quote has been abused in Witchcraft circles. I think people, including many teachers who should know better, have used the phrase in a rugged individualist way and it DOES NOT MEAN THAT. They are conflating "life force" with Will (what the ceremonialists call True Will). And life force is not the same thing as Will (with a capital W).
I am much more in line with Robert Cochrane's "Law" of the Witches, rather than ceremonial magick's take on Will:
- Do not do what you desire -- do what is necessary.
- Take all you are given -- give all of yourself.
- What I have -- I hold!" (this has multiple meanings, but one is akin to "Submit your life-force to no one or no thing.")
- When all is lost, and not until then, prepare with die with dignity.
Stay tuned for Part Two, later this week!
*"Sleeper" or "Sheeple" refers to someone who goes through their life in the mundane world without knowing about or understanding the other worlds. It is someone who denies that we are all connected. It is someone who thinks of themselves and not the impact of their words and deeds on others. It is mindset devoid of the divine. An awakened person is the opposite. They understand that we are all connected- that everyone makes an impact with what they do and say. They understand that there is a larger picture that they, as an individual, are a small (but important) piece of. Interpretations vary on this theme- an awakened person can call themselves a Witch, a Buddhist, a Christian, a Sufi, or anything else. It is HOW they interpret the external trappings of their religion that matters.