Meditation on the Law of Thelema
Wicca was started by Gerald Gardner sometime in the forties. His new religion was a mish-mash of philosophies ranging from traditional English folk religions, Ceremonial Magick, and the works of several fraternal organizations. He was also a follower of Alistaire Crowley’s work, and this had some degree of influence on the original ideals of Wicca. Crowley’s followers tended towards using the Law of Thelema as it became known. “Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law. Love under Will.”
The Rede itself is an altered, and simplified, version of this Law. This can be taken literally, just as any rule or law can be when a person does not wish to think about the meaning of it or the spirit of the law. By examining the underlying meaning, however, a person is able to understand the morality that is attached to it.
The first part, “Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law” is often taken alone, without the remaining parts, in order to justify doing whatever a person wishes to do without thought of the effects it will have on others. When looked at closer, though, it becomes plain that this is not what the statement means. First, the capitalization alone tends to call attention to the important factors.
This emphasis on Will and Law are very important. The capitalization of Law makes one believe that there are absolute laws and rules guiding our lives and paths, and that breaking these laws is a “bad thing.” What might result from doing these bad things is left to the imagination of the practitioner. How, then, is a person supposed to know what the Laws are and how not to break them? This is done by living according to Will. Will, in this case, is not living by however you want to live. It is living by True Will, the path that is laid out before us at the time of our birth. By following Will, we stay on that path and do not stray from it.
Many traditions believe that a person can know their path and their true Will by listening to the Self, the soul, or to God. It is an intrinsic path that is a part of each person, if they can only find and listen to it. It will tell them the right thing to do and how to do it. The first part of the Law of Thelema, then, tells a person how to live. Follow your true path and only your true path.
The next part tells us what the Law itself is. “Love is the Law.” Love, here, is not passionate love, romantic love, or any of the things that humans think about when they think of love. Instead it is an expression of the Divine in a person and what holds the universe together. It is the ability to sacrifice for someone that is a stranger, and it is the love that the Gods have for everything around us. It is the Order of nature and the world that tames Chaos.
This force, though, has to have its own set of restraints, or it, too, would become Chaos in the end. This is the third part of the Law. “Love under Will.” This brings us full circle back to the self. Your true path can tell you what the loving action is that needs to be taken. Sometimes that means healing someone, and sometimes that means cutting them loose to drift until they find their own Will.
When the Rede is looked at in the same manner, remnants of the Law can be seen. “An it harm none, do what thou will.” Looking at the second part first, a faint echo of “Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” However, the emphasis on true will and what the Law is has been removed, leaving a person looking to the first half of the Rede for the way to apply it. “An it harm none” looks nothing like the last half of the Law.
A person is left looking at trying to define harm to understand how they are to live. Harmful is defined as causing or capable of causing harm, or injurious in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Under this definition can be found words such as: malevolent, churlish, bitchy, malicious, catty, spiteful, malignant, treacherous, merciless, vindictive, evil, wickedness, curse, scourge, poison, pest, shame, and abuse. Undoubtedly, these can be bad things, but they still do not tell a person how to apply the Rede. Harm is subjective to the person that is creating it and to the person that is receiving it.
This, then, is why so many people reject the Wiccan Rede in favor of other methods of living a moral life. There are times when being malevolent is what is called for by your Will. If you are following the true path that is yours, then doing such will bring you no harm. There are consequences to every action, including inaction. Examine those consequences in order to see if they are something that can be shouldered easily or if they will be a burden to great to bear before performing an action….in other words….think.
(Meditate on these ideas for several days)