by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle
At the spring leadership retreat, our Libra Lead Minister Nicole brought up a powerful conversation topic: right motivation. As a community, do we evaluate a volunteer’s, student’s, or minister’s motivation? Should we and, if so, how?
The consensus was that we cannot, not even with those who want only to be famous, who want to be powerful, who want to be lauded by others or control groups and exercise authority over others. While “bad” motives often create a problem for us, they often provide teaching moments to others and ourselves. The community is a cauldron, something we all get into and with that boundary and support, test out how well we’ve learned our lessons. It’s easy to feign enlightenment and peace until someone really pushes your buttons and you are forced to respond.
Many are completely unconscious of motivation, and the process ferrets out where their desires are. Sometimes people have the “right” motive of wanting to help and serve, but it’s attached and tangled to a lot of past issues, making them ineffective. Sometimes the person with a “wrong” motive of clear ego validation precipitates a crisis, but then a healing, and then utterly changes, which is the point of magick and Witchcraft. We can’t expect people to be perfect before they arrive to learn. We must expect ourselves and others to be flawed but willing to be touched and transformed by the magick. It’s in that transformation we find an understanding of our True Will, our Mystic Will.
Right motive is deeply tied to the Eastern concept of right action. From a Western magickal perspective, right action, or dharma, is connected to the soul’s purpose, our True Will. In each action—and each mistake—we hope to illustrate more and more of our soul’s will and embody it more skillfully with each step. There is a right action in each moment.
One of the key concepts of right action is unattachment, or non-attachment, to outcome. I spent a year studying with a wonderful interfaith minister in her earliest version of her Bhagavad Gitaprogram. We studied the classic tale of Arjuna and Krishna tied with examining our own faith and acts of charitable service in the community. Unattachment of outcome is like the magickal axiom of working without “lust for results.” It’s of note that True Will and “lust for results” concepts are emphasized by Aleister Crowley, whose Eight Lectures on Yoga are still read by yoga students today, helping bridge the East and West through shared concepts. You do dharma, or True Will, for the sake of dharma, for it is what is to be done, without thinking about your earthly consequence, how you will be rewarded or punished. The result of your actions is karma, but acting from a place of dharma means you transcend personal karma in those actions. Your result is more dharma.
No one can really judge a person’s dharma, and the road to realizing it. We can offer support, advice, and critique when appropriate, but we must also allow people to make what we view as mistakes, misjudgments, and problems, and then respond to them, when necessary, as appropriate.
In community we look for not only the motivation, but also the result. We can have the best intentions and the worst results. We can have initial bad intentions but create good results. If a behavior is toxic and inappropriate, we must stop that behavior, and we can discuss what motivations led to such behavior with a student or minister. But we can’t always see it coming, or even when we do, we can’t know where it goes. Even with all our astrology, psychic ability, and divination, we have to create the space for people to experience and explore, and also understand what lessons this brings to us. All we can do is set a container, a boundary, and provide guidelines to govern how we will participate together.
My friend Rich Wandel, a Gardnerian High Priest, teaches on how the gods will use your flaws as much as your strengths, and cites Gardner’s love of publicity as the means through which the old gods restored their cults, despite protests from his own covenmates such as Doreen Valiente. While we wish to think we are lauded for our virtues, our faults can serve just as much. We are a combination of things, and we hope that combination can serve when we are in the right place to do the right thing, cosmically, even if our personal vision fails. Ultimately we hope that we align our personal and cosmic true selves and motivations in full consciousness, but until we know, we have to take some comfort in the process of the universe working fully with all of us, virtues and vices, no matter where we are in the process.