"The Will" is an important component of Western Magic, if often ill-defined in practice and discussion. I have defined it as a personal coherence, wherein ones self is so unified that its directives and activities produce clear results - be that in magic or other activities. I consider it essentially the same as "Te" in Chinese culture, the Self of Jungian psychology, or the Freudian ideal where an aware Ego replaces incoherent Id and mechanical Superego.
Building Will, exploring Will, etc. is of course something important to a Magician - that quality is what lets us achieve results as well as personal well-being. There are meditations, exercises, goal-directings, banishing of demons internal and external, etc. that people apply to clear their minds and develop that curious, important quality.
One technique I find useful in developing the Will, is ethical self-analysis and adaption of ethical stances.
Our initial ethical stances and beliefs do not come to us by choice, of course. If we are lucky our parents, peers, and culture provided us a useful ethical system and encouraged us to analyze, understand, and improve our stances. Or if we're unlucky, we get something, to put it charitably, that is less than ideal and is more pure imprinting than anything else.
Unfortunately I think a lot of us aren't overly fortunate in our ethical upbringing and experiences. Ethical situations and issues can be unpleasant, constricting, and confusing because of our pasts and our culture. Trying to imagine a sane discussion of ethical issues on American News, for instance, is something I put in the realm of "extremely unlikely".
So, let's work on our own ethics. When one examines ethical situations and choices, when one decides ones stances and decides on ones codes, one can actually have very profound experiences:
- To understand why one holds beliefs is very informative - even if at times one discovers unpleasant truths.
- To confront unpleasant situations and analyze ones beliefs and actions is informative and strengthens one's resolve.
- To make conscious decisions as to how one can and will behave - and why - is to take responsibility for oneself, providing freedom from unconscious imprinting and making choices conscious.
- To understand how ones magical system(s) affect and recommend ethics helps one connect themselves to that paradigm.
- The exploration of ethics allows the exposure of deep psychological structures so they may be leveraged, addressed, or healed.
- Exercising and developing one's ethics also lets one be "inoculated" against surprises in the future where one can be paralyzed by an unexpected ethical conflict.
I myself find a good sit-down with ethically stimulating literature to be great for personal growth - a little Confucius, a book of classic tales and legends, etc. can provide wonderful fodder for consideration and analysis.
Working actively on my ethical development and contemplation has been helpful to my magical work, especially that of a psychological nature and in my energy work (obviously). I'm more comfortable with myself, more sure of my choices, and better able to rally my resources, and feel more 'in place' in the magical systems I work within. In short, it helps develop my Will.
So next time, before that meditation or work at banishing that personal demon, consider a read of a good classic on ethics or similar.