by Frater Entelecheia
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
“The great bond of all bonds is ignorance. How shall a man be free to act if he know not his own purpose? You must therefore first of all discover which star of all the stars you are, your relation to the other stars about you, and your relation to, and identity with, the Whole.
In our Holy Books are given sundry means of making this discovery, and each must make it for himself, attaining absolute conviction by direct experience, not merely reasoning and calculating what is probable. And to each will come the knowledge of his finite will, whereby one is a poet, one prophet, one worker in steel, another in jade.”
—Aleister Crowley, Liber CL (De Lege Libellum)
“One must find out for oneself, and make sure beyond doubt, ‘who’ one is, ‘what’ one is, ‘why’ one is. This done, one may put the will which is implicit in the ‘Why’ into words, or rather into One Word. Being thus conscious of the proper course to pursue, the next thing is to understand the conditions necessary to following it out. After that, one must eliminate from oneself every element alien or hostile to success, and develop those parts of oneself which are specially needed to control the aforesaid conditions.”
—Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice
The Concept of a Why Statement
If you’ve read my previous article, you know one of my goals in the Order is to get more people to communicate our core purpose. I elaborated this notion in a series of articles on the Zero Equals Two blog. I’m also running workshops for Lodges, the purpose of which is to put the “why” of the Lodge into a single statement.
The motivating idea behind these articles and workshops—which I got from the work of Simon Sinek—is that people are more interested in why you do things rather than what you do. We have a tendency to talk a lot about our work. This makes sense, because we do good work. The problem is that most of us didn’t get involved because we wanted to do work. Or at least that’s not the fundamental reason. We got and remain involved because of what the work stands for. The work is a symbol or representative of our core beliefs. No one can know what we believe without the work adequately expressing it. But this also means we need our core beliefs in mind all the time, so the work doesn’t begin to represent something else or isn’t done just for its own sake. This is why it is so important to put into words why we do what we do. It helps us remain authentic, which in turn makes us more effective at attracting the sorts of people to O.T.O. who share are values and who will eventually be well suited to do the work of the Order.
Part of what I found so compelling about this idea is that it seemed consonant with Crowley’s notion of the finite true will. As described in the quotes above, the finite true will is one’s purpose in life. It describes the quality of your gift or service in the context of the whole. While Crowley reduces the finite true will to particular professions (poet, prophet, etc.), it seems just as likely that there are many activities and many sorts of professions that can adequately express one’s finite true will. So while a person’s finite true will does not change, the particular way they choose to express it might.
And just as Crowley acknowledges the importance of putting your finite true will into words—indeed, a single word—so too does a Why Discovery Workshop culminate in a single sentence describing the core why of the individual or organization:
“To ______________ so that _______________.”
In this sentence, the first blank describes the primary contribution of the person or organization, and the second blank describes the primary impact of that contribution.
Order-Wide Why vs. Lodge Why
Like true will, the Why Statement is discovered, not created. Crowley created the Why of Ordo Templi Orientis, but that purpose has been elaborated and clarified in various ways by his successors. I recently read through every one of Sabazius’ NOTOCON speeches and extracted anything that sounded like a statement about the purpose or core values of O.T.O. From this list of quotations, I generated candidate Why Statements for the Order as a whole:
“To perform our rituals rightly, with joy and beauty, so individuals may be swept into the presence of the Divine.”
“To love and honor our brothers and sisters, so we may find in the living spirit of fraternity the divinity we seek.”
“To teach, to serve our communities, to create, and to perform ceremonial ritual, so we may initiate the world into Thelema.”
“To appeal to the nobility, curiosity, desire for self-understanding, sense of adventure, and humor of the human spirit, so that it may be liberated, awakened, and challenged.”
There are other possibilities—combinations of “themes” or core strengths—but you hopefully get the idea.
While any organization as a whole has its own, overarching Why, departments within the organization—in our case, Lodges—have their own “nested whys” which elaborate the core Why in a particular context. So just as New York and Los Angeles are both American cities while having their own unique characteristics, Tahuti Lodge and Star Sapphire make unique impressions on their visitors and members while continuing to serve the highest ends of the Order as established by Crowley.
This idea of a unique impression is important. All Lodges are doing the same basic work, but the feeling you get walking into Lodges can be drastically different. It’s not simply a matter of some Lodges being more functional than others. There’s a kind of quality, motivating spirit, or—in the language of Why Discovery—impact that the place has, and that impact is the glue that keeps people joining and working. Understand your characteristic contribution and impact, understand your core strengths that support it, stop trying to make yourself into something you’re not, and you can leverage that for communication and growth. This is not very different from Crowley’s injunction to discovery who, what, and why you are, and to avoid alien activities hostile to it.
Individual Why Discovery
But as I’ve suggested a few times already, it’s not just organizations that have a Why. Individuals have them as well. And just as there is a procedure for discovering the Why Statement of a group, there is a distinct process for discovering an individual’s.
Like Why Discovery for groups, Why Discovery for an individual requires a facilitator. Just as a member of the “core” of a Lodge cannot run a Why Discovery workshop for that Lodge, your facilitator for your own Why Discovery should not be your best friend or partner. Odds are great that a person that close to you will project their own understanding of you on the discovery process. For groups you pick someone who is in the Order but a member of a different Lodge. For individual Why Discovery you pick someone who knows you well enough to take an interest in the process with you but who isn’t your bff.
Then the person undergoing the discovery process needs to pick stories from their life that illustrate how they became who they are. This is any incident or person that shaped you into the kind of person you are today. It could be an experience with a mentor, coach, or relative. It can be a particular challenge that showed you something important about yourself. It could be a single life-changing event or series of events. The requirements are that it made you who you are, it had a big emotional impact on you, and you remember details of it. For my own Why Discovery process and one I ran for another person, three stories was adequate.
Once you have your stories and facilitator, you set aside at least three hours to run the process. You tell each of the stories in detail to the facilitator who listens carefully and takes notes not only on the facts of the story but also the emotional significance of each event.
Then the facilitator goes through their notes, and they extract the themes of the stories. These are the overarching, repeating patterns that manifest throughout all of the events. This is the part where you really need the help of an objective observer, as people are generally not that great at spotting the themes in their own stories.
Once you have the themes, you choose two that seem to be more important than the others or around which the others revolve. One of them becomes the contribution, the other the impact. Then you draft your Why Statement. “To [contribution] so that [impact].”
The goal is not to get something perfect but something which is 70-80% done. It should feel like it’s in the ballpark, meaning it resonates with you, it feels “right,” and it’s actionable. And you don’t discard the other themes that came out of the process. They remain as core strengths or motivators. (A similar thing happens by the end of a group workshop.)
Ideally one of these sessions takes about three hours. Mine took about three and a half hours. A session I ran for another person took two and a half hours.
At this point you have a couple options. You can either start putting your Why Statement into practice and refine it as you go. I chose to refine mine by doing the Friends Exercise.
For the Friends Exercise, you ask a few of your closest friends why they’re friends with you. It’s pretty awkward. You tend to get a lot of generic responses at first: you’re funny, you’re thoughtful, you remember my birthday, etc. But your job is to dig into the answers, to find out why those things matter to your friend. Eventually you start getting down into core impacts: how you make them feel, what you do for them, why it matters to them that you do these things.
Their answers to these questions generate more themes. In my case, the themes from the Friends Exercise seemed pretty different from what my facilitator and I unearthed in the discovery process. So he and I got together and spent another two hours trying to put into words the themes that united the themes from both the stories and the Friends Exercise. This brought us into contact with core ethical issues that motivate me. I could tell we were on the right track, because I immediately started applying this new set of themes to really different sorts of scenarios and relationships from my present and past. After two exhausting hours and lots of caffeine, we came up with:
“To cut the shit, so that we can get real!”
This was refined into:
“To suspend the ordinary, so that the extraordinary can show itself.”
Subsequent reflection prompted me toward something more specific still:
“To suspend ordinary beliefs, so that unusual connections are free to occur.”
The magical image that came to me was Atu VI: The Lovers.
As I entered the home stretch, I thought of this passage from Liber AL:
“The word of Sin is Restriction. O man! refuse not thy wife, if she will! O lover, if thou wilt, depart! There is no bond that can unite the divided but love: all else is a curse. Accursed! Accursed be it to the aeons! Hell.”
I will no doubt continue to refine this statement as I put it into action. The most important thing is that I can put it into action, and I feel inspired by it. The particular words are inadequate, but they evoke the right feelings and associations for me, and that’s all that matters.
Doing It Yourself
If you’re interested in how to do Individual Why Discovery, check out Find Your Why. If you would like me to run a group workshop for your Lodge or would just like advice on how to do it, contact me through this blog. While I believe I am getting better at applying these concepts as I go, the group exercises are described in detail in the same book, and technically anyone can facilitate them (so long as they are not a member of your Lodge).
It is my belief that the Individual Why Discovery process offers a practical way to begin to think about one’s finite true will along lines very similar to what Crowley suggested. I believe the group process can be a powerful means to begin to articulate who we are as an Order but also as individual Lodges. The Order, Lodges, and individual Thelemites have particular gifts they bring to the world that make potent changes in people’s lives. This set of concepts and exercises provides a useful means of articulating those gifts and bringing them forth more effectively.
Love is the law, love under will.
Frater Entelecheia is a member of Horizon Lodge in Seattle, WA. He has been an Order member for over three years.