Friday, June 30, 2006

Operant Affirmations

You've all heard of Affirmations, right? They're very popular with the general New Age crowd and are sometimes considered to be the sort of fluffy spirituality that a lot of magicians ridicule. The basic idea is simple - set aside some time during your day and meditate on a simple statement of intent. Depending on who you read, there are small variations in the method. Sometimes you say the statement aloud a certain number of times, sometimes you write it out a certain number of times, and so forth. Repetition is an important part of the method, and is thought to facilitate making the statement become reality. This is magick - don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Most of the affirmation web sites do not contain much new information, since the method is so simple and on the surface it seems there is little to discuss. Here's one, though, that's kind of interesting - DailyAffirm. In fact, I think a good case can be made that the author of the site, Jeanie Marshall, presents a model of affirmations that conforms to the operant paradigm. It is important to understand that the basic operant methodology is not just limited to formal ritual magick. It can be used in the context of just about any coherent symbol set, even one as open as the basic affirmation technique.

What follows is a basic guide to New Age sorcery, comparing Marshall's method with the formal operant ritual template.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Suggestions for Daily Practice

Daily practice is absolutely vital to any practicing magician. This point cannot be emphasized enough. As I've mentioned, trying to be an effective ritual magician without doing daily practices is like trying to be a professional football player without doing any sort of exercise or conditioning during the weeks between games. It just doesn't work. Unfortunately this point is hard to get across - a number of popular authors in the occult field are researchers rather than actual practitioners, and I have also met a number of magicians who reached a certain point in their practices and just stopped because they felt that they no longer needed those practices. Naturally, if you were to decide at some point that you no longer wanted to work magick, stopping your practices might be appropriate - they take time and energy that could be spent doing other things. Still, the point of learning to do magick is not that once you learn it you realize you don't need to do it. The point of learning to do magick is so that you can do magick! Otherwise it wouldn't be worth the trouble.

So that being said, what sorts of daily practice should the aspiring magician undertake? Here are some suggestions from my own practice.
  • Meditation. If you can do nothing else, meditate. There are many different meditation techniques, and in my experience there is not that much difference between them. You should select a style or technique that appeals to you and go with it. I personally practice Tibetan Vajrayana meditation, but that is a personal preference on my part based on how my mind tends to work. I do think that Vajrayana appeals to many of the same people who find ritual magick a compelling spiritual path - it incorporates mantras and visualizations and because so much is going on in the practice there is little room for the mind to wander.
  • The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or equivalent. This ritual is the foundational ritual of the Golden Dawn tradition for a reason - it works. There are many rituals that are constructed along similar lines, such as Aleister Crowley's Star Ruby, Sam Webster's Milk of the Stars, and others too numerous to list here as the basic form can be adapted to just about any pantheon or set of symbols.
  • The Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram or equivalent. I have found that opening the operant field on a daily basis using the LBRP-LIRH combination is the fastest way to get noticeable results from any subsequent practice. There are also a number of LRH equivalents, such as Crowley's Star Sapphire.
  • The Middle Pillar Ritual or equivalent. The Middle Pillar Ritual was written by Israel Regardie and is a method by which the names of God corresponding the spheres on the middle pillar of the Tree of Life are vibrated while the magician visualizes energy of the appropriate color filling the point on the body related to each sphere. There are also equivalents to this ritual, such as Crowley's "Elevenfold Seal" which appears in Liber V vel Reguli. As a Thelemite, I use Crowley's version which invokes the Thelemic deities rather than the Judeo-Christian names of God used in Regardie's Middle Pillar. I suspect that Regardie was thinking of the earlier Elevenfold Seal when he wrote his ritual, which would mean that the Middle Pillar is in fact a variation on Crowley's ritual rather than the other way around. Nonetheless, I give the Middle Pillar here as a "standard" because I am of the opinion that more magicians are familiar with it.
The above set of practices is completely adequate for the aspiring magician. Daily meditation practice should be done in a separate session from ceremonial practice. Ceremonial practice can consist of the three rituals shown in the order that they are given, and of course more can be added. When it comes to practice, more is usually better. Here are a couple of other pieces that I add to my own practice that may or may not be applicable to yours.
  • Holy Guardian Angel invocation. This is fairly free-form and I add it following the Animadversion. I vibrate the name of my Holy Guardian Angel and visualize celestial light raining down from above and filling my body until I can imagine it glowing from within. I then say the following benediction adapted from Crowley's Gnostic Mass:

    Fill me with the Divine Light, set my True Will in motion, and bring me to the accomplishment of the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.

  • The Prayer of the Aeon. This is from Crowley's Mass of the Phoenix, and is not a mere parody of the Lord's Prayer as it may at first appear.

    Now I begin to pray, thou child
    Holy thy name and undefiled
    Thy reign has come, thy will is done
    Here is the bread, here is the blood
    Bring me through midnight to the Sun
    Save me from evil and from good
    That thy one crown of all the ten
    Even now and here be mine
    AMEN.

    It is a prayer of aspiration to the attainment of the sphere of Kether, the crown of the Tree of Life, in which all opposites dissolve into unity. I use the prayer as the conclusion of my practice, ending on the final vibration of AMEN.
Hopefully this will give you some idea of how to assemble your own practice. Sticking with the practice is what is really important, so you should not try to incorporate anything that doesn't appeal to you. That will only lead to you dropping the practice, which obviously is not desirable.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Magick: Operant Versus Psychological

One of the primary concepts you will see mentioned here often is the idea of operant magick. While the subject is involved enough that I wrote an entire book about it, understanding how I use the term will help you understand how I design rituals. The word Operant is adapted from behavioral psychology, in which Operant Conditioning is the term used for the reinforcement of a behavior according to some statistical schedule that increases the likelihood of the behavior being repeated. It refers to the use of magical practices to influence the likelihood of certain conditions arising in the world - that is, operant magick is magick that directly influences the physical world without working through the intermediary of the magician's attitude or behavior.

Ritual magicians tend to fall into two camps, which I term operant and psychological. Operants believe that it is possible for fixed thought and intention to influence the physical world directly, while psychologicals believe that all of the effectiveness of ritual magick can be explained by a combination of psychological factors. I'm an operant, in that I believe direct influence is possible and have seen it in action. The operant perspective is the more open of the two, in that it recognizes both psychological and operant components of magical outcomes. The psychological perspective, on the other hand, rules out any operant components and has much in common with materialistic skepticism.

This is not to imply that psychologicals do not believe in the effectiveness of magick. Mastery of magick in the psychological realm is by no means without value. Imagine if you could edit your memories - we are shaped to a significant degree by our experiences, and being able to, say, simply eliminate traumatic memories from the mind is a powerful method for shaping your current life. Biofeedback has shown that mastery of the mind also confers some control over physiological processes - Indian yogis can slow their heart rates and breathing, and Tibetans learn to generate increased internal heat so that they can more easily tolerate their native climate. Motivational psychology has been shown to be highly effective in some situations, and magick is similar but better.

One might think being able to do such things would be enough for me, and indeed it would be. The trouble I have with embracing the psychological perspective is that in my own practice I've seen a lot more.

I mentioned in my article on Hermetic Metaphysics that the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory has found evidence that intention can influence probabilities in the material world. The probability shift is tiny, ranging from .01 to .05 percent depending on the subject, so one might conclude that while the shift may be real it is too small to be useful. Without magical training, I tend to agree, but with training and aptitude I believe that those probability numbers can be increased substantially.

Magick is like a martial art for your mind. It trains you to fix thought, manipulate symbols, and visualize forms. Doing it well requires some amount of inborn aptitude, just like becoming a Karate champion or professional athlete, a lot of training, and constant exercise. One of the big problems with the way some writers talk about Western esotericism is that the system is seen as a sort of ladder and once you reach a certain point you can stop doing basic work such as daily practice.

This is a belief that produces a lot of psychologicals, because operant ability requires constant exercise. With my current practice, I find 3-4 sessions a week are sufficient to maintain my ability to influence probability. Anything less and the ability slowly drops away like an underused muscle. New Agers come at esotericism from a radically egalitarian point of view, something to the effect of the belief that anyone can have realization and once this happens you should just be able to do magick without really working at it, but this idea has never made any sense to me. It would be like me saying that with enough practice I could become a professional football player (which is just plain silly - I'm short, not particularly strong, and have asthma, all of which are part of my genetic makeup) and then simply quit exercising and expect to maintain the same level of conditioning.

A really good way to rate your operant ability is to play Powerball. It sounds silly, but I'm completely serious. First of all, maintain your daily practice. This is the foundation of all your abilities, and I will address good daily practice sets in another posting sometime soon. Once you have that down, put together a ritual with the intention of winning the jackpot. Buy a quick pick ticket, perform your ritual, and see how well you do. Buying tickets and performing the ritual over time will give you an experimental group. You will also want a control group, in which you would buy a ticket but would not perform the ritual. After you have two reasonably large groups, compare them and see if there is a difference.

This is what convinced me that there was more to magick than psychology, incidentally. When I do a ritual I always get at least one number out of six and sometimes two. My personal best is four numbers, which was one of the trials from the experimental group. Since the odds of getting one number out of six with a number range from 1 to 60 is 6 chances out of 60 or about 10%, I shouldn't be doing nearly as well. This pattern has kept up for many years so I have a hard time believing it is just a statistical fluke, especially since in the control group my results are seemingly random and match the odds due to chance. I have gotten the best results with invocations of the Sun and of Jupiter, which seem to be about as effective. One magician online claimed that he got the best results with Mercury, but I found that breaking down the experimental group Mercury did not do quite as well.

I highly doubt I'm ever going to win at Powerball simply because of the probabilities involved - the odds of winning are about 80 million to one against and that's one heck of a probability shift. On the other hand, I've made a profit playing even though half of my entries are in the random control group, and if magick is indeed the ability to shift probabilities then essentially it is the power to summon luck. So you never can tell. If I win, folks here will certainly be among the first to know and I'll even post my ritual.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hermetic Metaphysics

Western philosophy generally recognizes three schools of metaphysical thought, those of Aristotle, Plato, and Immanuel Kant. Platonic metaphysics contends that the ultimate reality can be found in the world of ideal forms, or in modern terminology the mathematical relationships that form the basis of our understanding of the physical world. Aristotle's system, on the other hand, contends that ultimate reality rests in the physical world and material objects, and that mathematical forms are merely descriptive. These two schools dominated Western philosophical thought for more than a thousand years, until Immanuel Kant attempted to resolve the contentions between the two schools in the Eighteenth Century.

European Renaissance Hermetics also developed a system of metaphysics that receives a lot less attention in academic circles, but in fact this system includes many ideas that are similar to and predate those found in Kant's system - with one extremely important difference.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion"

Want to know how modern magicians develop their personalized magical systems? Read this paper - "The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion" by Alfred Vitale. It's long and difficult in spots if you're not used to academic writing, but it might just completely transform your perspective. It certainly clarified mine.

Alfred is an OTO brother and a member of the Association for the Study of Esotericism. He presented this paper at the first ASE conference and I was so impressed that I cited and summarized the basic model in my book. It is the most accurate analysis of the process I go through when I develop rituals that I have ever seen.

Alfred identifies six distict stages in the development and dissemination of a personal magical system. I really can't do his paper justice in a few words, but here is a basic summary of the model.
  • 1. Identification of Pure Esoteric Sets. This stage consists of the study of existing spiritual traditions. Generally speaking, spiritual traditions that have been practiced for a long time are still with us because their methods for transforming consciousness work. All magical operations depend on the manipulation of consciousness in order to produce realization and changes in the objective world.
  • 2. Deconstruction into Functional Parts. This stage consists of separating the tradition as a whole into discrete components, which may be informative (such as correspondences), practical (such as ritual techniques), or theurgic (such as a pantheon of deities). In this way, spiritual traditions may be treated as collections of technological systems with similar components.
  • 3. Extrication of Functional Parts from System. This stage consists of separating a component identified in stage 2 from the tradition as a whole explored in stage 1.
  • 4. Re-Integration of Parts into a Unique, Individualized System. This stage consists of combining the component extricated in stage 3 with the magician's overall practice according to similarities between components identified in stage 2. The system is then tested with the new component in place to determine its effectiveness, and is either accepted or rejected on the basis of efficacy as defined by the magician.
  • 5. Proselytization of System to Gain Adherents. While magicians rarely proselytize in the same way as conservative religious groups, most want to explain their magical systems and teach them to others. Currently, this is most commonly done through the medium of published magical texts, though classes and online discussions represent other vectors of transmission. As a matter of fact, I'm doing it right now.
  • 6. Data Integrity. This is the stage at while dynamic spiritual systems slowly become dead traditions, giving way to orthodoxy. A living tradition loops through the first five stages over and over again, integrating new data as it gains adherents who do their own research and then report back. However, it is a human tendency to identify with ideas and once adherents become attached to the methods of the system they tend to resist changes to it.
This model is, simply put, amazing. The stages match those used in my personal work and in that of just about every effective ritual magician that I have ever known. Read the paper, think about it, and if you're so inclined let me know if the model matches elements of your own work.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Recent Initiations

Over this last weekend I acted as initiator for two First Degree initiations at Leaping Laughter Lodge, the local Twin Cities body of Ordo Templi Orientis. Two weekends ago, I was also involved in a Master Mason degree at my Masonic lodge, Braden #168, for ten candidates - the largest group we have initiated in all the time I have been a member of the lodge.

A hundred years ago most men belonged to fraternal orders of one sort or another, many of which had initiatory rites largely based on those of Freemasonry. These days many books on magick and witchcraft support the concept of "self-initiation" and the popularity of secret and semi-secret fraternal orders has waned from what it once was. Does that mean that formal initiation has become a quaint anachronism, or is it still an effective spiritual technology?

What the concept of self-initiation gets right is that regardless of the rituals and ceremonies you go through and the degree titles you hold, you have to do the corresponding spiritual work yourself. There is no real way around this basic truth. Spiritual realization is experiential - it cannot be taught or even directly explained. Because of this a degree title does not guarantee spiritual wisdom or power. In many organizations, advancement to higher degrees is contingent upon service to the organization rather than actual spiritual attainment, and the fact that someone is a hard worker in the mundane realm says nothing about their capacity for magick or mysticism, or the quality of their realization.

Nonetheless, formal initiation is a powerful method for imprinting the mind with concepts and ideas that will facilitate the spiritual evolution of a dedicated spiritual practitioner who takes those lessons to heart. The secrecy that surrounds initiatory traditions is related to a powerful psychological techique - the mind becomes more sensitive and attuned to information when it is placed in a situation of uncertainty, so an initiatory ritual will create a much more powerful imprint if the candidate does not know what is going to happen. Enough has been published that it is possible with some diligence to locate the degree work of most initiatory orders, but if you ever plan on taking the degrees all you are doing is cheating yourself.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Comselh Ananael Ritual Template Part IV: The Closing Procedure

This posting covers the closing of the temple following the Conjuration and Charge. For the most part, the closing portion of the ritual template is short and self-explanatory without elaborate visualizations. Once the energy has been raised by the rite and either internalized by the participants or placed into a material basis of some sort, the invoked or evoked forces are released and the temple formally closed.

X. The License to Depart

Officiant: O thou (Yod-name) and thy ministers (Heh-name), (Vav-name), and (Final Heh-name), because thou hast-diligently answered unto our demands, and hast been very ready and willing to come at our call, we do here license thee to depart unto thy proper place; without causing harm or danger unto man or beast. Depart, then, I say, and be thou very ready to come at our call, being duly exorcised and conjured by the sacred rites of magick. We charge thee to withdraw peaceably and quietly, and the peace of HERU-RA-HA be ever continued between us.

All: So mote it be!

Officiant: Peh Resh Kaph Tau. The word is PAROKETH. In and by that word (makes the Sign of Closing the Veil), I close the veil.

Officiant moves to the southeast, with all participants rotating appropriately. All then reverse circumambulate three and a half times giving the Sign of Silence when passing the east. The temple should be visualized dropping back downwards into Malkuth where the gold light fades and the room reverts to its normal appearance. At the conclusion of this, all arrive back at their original positions.

XI. Dedicating the Merit

All: May the benefit of this act and all acts be dedicated unto the complete liberation and supreme enlightenment of all beings everywhere, pervading space and time. So mote it be. May the benefits of practice, ours and others', come to fruition ultimately and immediately and we remain in a state of presence. AH!

XII. Closing

Officiant moves to the west of the altar and performs the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.

Officiant: I now declare this temple duly closed.

One knock with banishing dagger. The rite is at an end.

Commentary on this section follows.

The License to Depart is "lawyerly" just like the Charge should be, though I have rarely had problems dismissing summoned entities and it likely does not need to be this detailed. Each of the names used is addressed in the same order as in the Conjuration, and all are instructed to return to their usual places of habitation. Spiritual being do not exactly move from place to place - an evocation or invocation is more like tuning a radio to a specific station than putting a physical being in a specific place, which is why the same entity can be summoned by multiple magicians at the same time. Still the License to Depart is important. It is analogous to "tuning out" or turning off the radio so that the signal is no longer perceived.

Heru-Ra-Ha represents the union of form and emptiness - that is, the entire universe. The summoned entities are thus blessed by the totality of existence. This is an important practice - regardless of the entities summoned, the best perspective is to respect and treat them with politeness, even when it might be necessary to command them. In that case, be firm and courteous, keeping in mind that as a magician you are their superior but just because it is so does not mean that you have any reason to mistreat them or have contempt for them. The proper attitude is summarized well in Liber Librae, the Book of the Balance.

The circumambulations followed by the opening of the Veil of Paroketh are reversed here, with the Veil of Paroketh being closed and then all participants circumabulating counter-clockwise. Each circumambulation and Sign of Silence brings the temple down from Tiphareth one sphere at a time until the space arrives in Malkuth at the conclusion of three and a half rotations.

Dedicating the Merit is another practice adapted from Tibetan Buddhism and discussed in Sam Webster's Pagan Dharma 2. Merit is not the desired outcome of the ritual, but the positive spiritual consequences of performing it in the first place, so you are not negating the results of your ritual by Dedicating the Merit. Instead, you are turning your attention to the interconnection of all sentient beings and the development of enlightened mind. Buddhism teaches that when you dedicate merit to the welfare of all sentient beings (which, by the way, includes yourself but is not limited to yourself) you receive more merit in return because the act of dedication is virtuous. By extending the dedication to the virtue of all acts, not just the ritual, a feedback loop is set up in which merit increases beyond measure because as you receive the merit from performing the dedication that merit is dedicated, producing more merit, and so forth. The eventual result is enlightenment within a single lifetime.

The temple is closed using the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram on its own, without the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram. If the two banishing rituals are performed together, they shut down magical influences in both the microcosm and macrocosm and create what I call a banishing field. This field negates all magical influences it its vicinity. In practical terms, if you have charged a spirit with some task and then close with a banishing field, you stop the spirit from doing anything and the ritual will fail. This can be a good technique if a ritual starts producing unwanted effects or if you change your mind about a spell that you already cast, but otherwise it should be avoided if you want the spiritual beings that you summon to be able to perform tasks that take longer to complete than the duration of the ritual. The banishing pentagram ritual clears your mind, but allows the macrocosmic forces set in motion to keep operating.

This concludes the Comselh Ananael Ritual Template. If you decide to use it to construct a ritual, let me know how it goes and how well the ritual works. We have found this set of forms to be very useful and hope to publish a series of rituals based on it at some point in the future.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Comselh Ananael Ritual Template Part III: The Conjuration

The conjuration follows the Watchtower Invocation. This is the hardest part of the ritual form to generalize, since it must correspond to the energy desired by the magician and as a result there are many possibilities. The colors, godforms, and so forth may be found in Aleister Crowley's Liber 777 and some practice working with the correspondence tables is necessary in order to use them effectively in the construction of rituals. Also, the Greater Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram should be committed to memory along with the corresponding names.

VIII. The Conjuration

Officiant performs the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram or Hexagram corresponding to the type of energy being evoked, using the Heaven of Assiah name as the godname following ARARITA. All rotate appropriately, visualizing the golden sphere shifting to the Queen scale color of the sphere associated with the operation. For elements use Malkuth and for signs of the Zodiac use either Chockmah or the sphere corresponding to the planet that rules the sign.

Officiant: Let the divine light descend!

All visualize a column of light in the natural color (King scale for paths, Queen scale for spheres) materializing in the center of the altar, extending to the edge of the containment structure and running from the ceiling to the floor. There is a short pause. Officiant then conjures the spirit with all joining in on the vibrations of the names. Each of the names should be vibrated a number of times corresponding to the sphere associated with the operation.

At this point four names are used. They correspond to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton - Yod, Heh, Vav, and Final Heh. These letters relate to the four scales of color used in the Thelemic and Golden Dawn systems, the four elements, and the four Qabalistic worlds. The latter association is the most important for selecting spirit names. For the energy of the rite to manifest, the spirits called upon must be related to each other and span the four worlds. As an example, for a planetary ritual the names would be the corresponding Name of God (Yod), Archangel (Heh), Intelligence (Vav), and Spirit (Final Heh). Each name is vibrated the appropriate number of times, and there is a short pause while the Officiant waits to perceive the presence of the evoked entity. When all four entities are present, the Officiant moves on to the Charge.

IX. The Charge

Officiant: Wise (Vav-name), enliven this material basis and imbue it with the necessary will and intelligence that it may sustain itself until its objective is fulfilled, which shall be (state the objective of the rite here). Mighty (Final Heh-name), empower this material basis that it may influence the material world and maintain its own coherence according to these objectives with sufficient strength to guarantee complete, perfect, and immediate success in (restate the objective of the rite here), and with sufficient fortitude that its influence will endure and thrive.

All: So mote it be!

All then begin chanting the four names while concentrating their attention on the material basis. As this is done all should visualize the four beings within the column over the containment structure with the Yod-name near the ceiling and the Final Heh-name just above the material basis. These can be visualized as detailed beings or as globes of light - the Yod-globe in the King scale color, Heh-globe in the Queen scale color, Vav-globe in the Prince scale color, and Final Heh-globe in the Princess scale color. Iridescent energy like lightning in the King scale color should be visualized flowing downwards through them and filling the material basis so that it glows with a pure light in the Queen scale color. Officiant feels the energy building in the material basis, and when it feels "full" rings the bell chime on the next Final Heh-name. The chant stops and there is a short pause. The energy flow stops, but the four beings remain visible and the material basis continues to emanate Queen scale light.

Led by Officiant, all give the Sign and assume the godform corresponding to the energy evoked.

All: (Vibrate Heaven of Assiah name)!

The four beings are then visualized descending into the material basis, which becomes glows with brighter Queen scale light. There is a short pause for this visualization.

Led by Officiant, all give the Sign of Mater Triumphans and assume the godform of Isis nourishing the magical child that is the result of the operation.

All: AUMGN!

The bell chime is then rung. The Queen scale light is visualized being completely absorbed and integrated into the material basis. There is a short pause for this visualization. The material basis is then wrapped or covered.

Officiant: There is success.

The sphere of golden light is now all that remains around the temple. There is a short pause. The closing follows.

Commentary on this section follows.

It is difficult to overstate how important the Greater rituals are for effective magical work. Unlike the Lesser rituals, which are general, the Greater rituals are used to evoke a specific force - an element, planet, or sign of the Zodiac. Amazingly, many modern books on ritual magick do not even cover them. The Greater rituals provide a standard way of tuning the magical field to a specific type of energy.

In Liber O vel Manus et Sagittae Aleister Crowley recommends that the Greater rituals use the name of God corresponding to the rite (the Yod-name). In our own work we have found that it is effective to use the Heaven of Assiah name as it is a general name for the force evoked acting on the material plane.

This ritual template includes additional details regarding the containment structure that would be used for an evocation. For an invocation, the lights and beings should simply be visualized filling the temple and at the conclusion of the charge should be visualized dissolving into the participants. This effect can also be produced by evoking the force into the elements of a eucharist within the containment structure and then consuming the elements.

Understanding the Y-H-V-H structure is very important for working ritual magick of this sort. A full commentary on the nature of the four worlds is beyond the scope of this article, but in brief they can be described as follows:
  • Yod-Atziluth-Fire-Kether and Chockmah-King Scale: This is the realm of archetypes and Platonic forms.
  • Heh-Briah-Water-Binah-Queen Scale: This is the realm of creation, in which specific instances of archetypes differentiate from the ideal forms of Atziluth.
  • Vav-Yetzirah-Air-Chesed through Yesod-Prince Scale: This is the formative world where these specific instances of archetypes begin to take form in a process that culminates in material manifestation.
  • Final Heh-Assiah-Earth-Malkuth-Princess Scale: This is the conventional material world, in which the forms of Yetzirah manifest.
The selection of names corresponding to each of the worlds is probably another article in and of itself.

The charge should be as lawyerly as possible. This is not because the spirits will necessarily try to trick the magician as some sources claim, but because like anything magick follows the path of least resistance. If a spirit can create a relatively likely and therefore simple outcome that fulfills the letter of the charge, that is exactly what it will do. If you ask a spirit to bring you a car, it is a lot easier for the spirit to arrange for you to find a matchbox car in the park than for a vehicle to materialize in your driveway. Lon Milo DuQuette has an interesting story about summoning a car in My Life With the Spirits, but for the most part such a thing is really difficult. Kids, on the other hand, lose toys all the time.

The Vav-name gives the evoked energy form and direction, while the Final-Heh name provides the energy itself. Both of these must come together for the ritual to be effective. In the case of planets, the Intelligence is Vav and Spirit is Final Heh. One of the errors in the tradition that appears to originate with Francis Barrett's The Magus is that the Spirit should be used for evil operations and the Intelligence for good operations. In fact, the two work together and are essentially neutral. One shapes and governs the force while the other empowers it. The Intelligence can be evoked on its own for the purpose of obtaining information, but evoking the Spirit on its own is a bad idea simply because it is a blind force that cannot be directed without the Intelligence.

The vibration of the names is then done to charge the material basis with energy. The visualization here is even more complex than the ones found in the Watchtower Invocation, but again, we have found that intricate visualizations such as this one substantially increase the effectiveness of rituals. The four names are visualized in the four colors and then energy flows from Kether to Malkuth through the channel created by summoning at all four levels of the Tree of Life. The energy is in the color of the King scale, as Atziluth is its point of origin. The material basis glows with light in the color of the Queen scale because the related sphere on the Tree acts as a container for the raw energy of the archetypal world.

The sign and godform along with the Heaven of Assiah name seal the energy into the material basis. It is then stabilized and integrated with the sign of Mater Triumphans, the godform of Isis, and the vibration of AUMGN. The Officiant then affirms this by stating "There is success."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Comselh Ananael Ritual Template Part II: The Watchtower Invocation

This posting covers the Watchtower Invocation, which is involved enough to merit its own article. It is step VII of the ritual template, but it can also be performed on its own as an invocation of the four classical elements plus spirit. It is based on Israel Regardie's "Opening by Watchtower" and can be performed using either Hebrew or Angelic (Enochian) words of power for the elements, and both versions are shown here. Our version of the ritual uses the zodiacal directions - Fire in the east, Earth in the south, Air in the west, and Water in the north. Regardie uses the "winds" model of the directions in his version - Air in the east, Fire in the south, Water in the west, and Earth in the north. The zodiacal model corresponds to the macrocosmic universe and fits much better with the Y-H-V-H order of elemental invocations. Try it and see - the difference is remarkable.

VII. The Watchtower Invocation

Officiant goes to the east, takes the fire wand, and makes the supernal triangle facing east. He or she then holds the wand above head level and circumambulates once clockwise. All participants rotate accordingly, visualizing a wall of fiery red light surrounding the temple. Attention should be directed across the altar.

Officiant: And when, after all the phantoms have vanished, thou shalt see that holy and formless Fire, that Fire which darts and flashes through the hidden depths of the Universe! Hear thou the Voice of Fire!

Officiant completes the circumambulation and then traces the Invoking Pentagram of Active Spirit in bright violet to the east with the fire wand.

Officiant: EHEIEH! (Hebrew) or EHNB! (Angelic)

Officiant then traces the Invoking Pentagram of Fire in red to the east with the fire wand.

Officiant: ELOHIM! (Hebrew) or BITOM! (Angelic)

The fire wand is then returned to the altar. Officiant goes to the north, takes the water cup, and makes the supernal triangle facing north. He or she then holds the cup above head level and circumambulates once clockwise. All participants rotate accordingly, visualizing a wall of watery blue light surrounding the temple just inside the wall of red light. Attention should be directed across the altar.

Officiant: So therefore first, the priest who governeth the works of Fire must sprinkle with the lustral Water of the loud and resounding sea!

Officiant completes the circumambulation and then traces the Invoking Pentagram of Passive Spirit in deep purple to the north with the water cup.

Officiant: AGLA! (Hebrew) or EHNB! (Angelic)

Officiant then traces the Invoking Pentagram of Water in blue to the north with the water cup.

Officiant: AL! (Hebrew) or HCOMA! (Angelic)

The water cup is then returned to the altar. Officiant goes to the west, takes the air dagger, and makes the supernal triangle facing west. He or she then holds the dagger above head level and circumambulates once clockwise. All participants rotate accordingly, visualizing a wall of airy yellow light surrounding the temple just inside the wall of blue light. Attention should be directed across the altar.

Officiant: Such a Fire existeth, extending through the rushing of Air. Or even a Fire formless, whence cometh the image of a voice. Or even a flashing light, abounding, revolving, whirling forth, crying aloud!

Officiant completes the circumambulation and then traces the Invoking Pentagram of Active Spirit in bright violet to the west with the air dagger.

Officiant: EHEIEH! (Hebrew) or EHNB! (Angelic)

Officiant then traces the Invoking Pentagram of Air in yellow to the west with the air dagger.

Officiant: YHVH! (Hebrew) or EXARP! (Angelic)

The air dagger is then returned to the altar. Officiant goes to the south, takes the earth pentacle, and makes the supernal triangle facing south. He or she then holds the pantacle above head level and circumambulates once clockwise. All participants rotate accordingly, visualizing a wall of earthy green light surrounding the temple just inside the wall of yellow light. Attention should be directed across the altar.

Officiant: This Fire descendeth into that darkly splendid world, wherein continually ariseth Nature, delighting in myriad forms - precipitous, nurturing, winding, and welcoming, ever revealing a body infused with the light of the Spirit.

Officiant completes the circumambulation and then traces the Invoking Pentagram of Passive Spirit in dark purple to the south with the earth pantacle.

Officiant: AGLA! (Hebrew) or EHNB! (Angelic)

Officiant then traces the Invoking Pentagram of Earth in green to the south with the earth pentacle.

Officiant: ADONAI! (Hebrew) or NANTA! (Angelic)

The earth pentacle is then returned to the altar. Officiant circumambulates clockwise back to the west of the altar and faces east. All participants rotate accordingly. He or she then takes the invoking wand and traces the Invoking Pentagram of Active Spirit in bright violet above the altar.

Officiant: EHEIEH (Hebrew) or MADRIAX! (Angelic)

Officiant then sweeps the wand straight down and traces the Invoking Pentagram of Passive Spirit below the altar.

Officiant: AGLA! (Hebrew) or CAOSGO! (Angelic)

Officiant sets down the invoking wand. All make and hold the Sign of Apophis and Typhon.

All: Thee we invoke, who art universe.
Thee we invoke, who art in nature formed.
Thee we invoke, the vast and the mighty.
Source of darkness, source of light.

All make the Sign of Silence. The four walls of light now are visualized melting together into grayish light and forming into a cube that surrounds the temple. Pentagrams in the appropriate colors appear on all six faces - red in the east, blue in the north, yellow in the west, green in the south, bright violet above, and dark purple below. There is a short pause to allow for more detail. Officiant then moves to the northeast with all participants rotating appropriately.

Officiant: The visible Sun is the dispenser of light unto the Earth. Let us therefore form a vortex in this chamber that the invisible Sun of Spirit may shine herein.

All circumambulate three and a half times, making the Sign of the Enterer when passing the east. All should focus on the center of the Table and visualize the entire Temple rising on the planes to the level of Tiphareth, one sphere per Enterer, during which the elemental cube melts into a sphere of golden light. At the conclusion of this all arrive back at their original positions.

Officiant: Peh Resh Kaph Tau. The word is PAROKETH, which is the veil of the sanctuary. In and by that word (makes the Sign of Rending the Veil), I open the veil.

All make the Sign of the Enterer directed at the center of the altar.

All: ABRAHADABRA!

All then make the Sign of Osiris Risen.

Commentary on the ritual follows.

The Opening by Watchtower is often considered an Enochian ritual, but it is primarily a Golden Dawn/Qabalistic ritual even if the Angelic words are used for the elements. It still refers to the Veil of Paroketh, which is not part of the Enochian system, and uses the basic Golden Dawn structure rather than anything from Dee and Kelly's material. This is not a bad thing - the Opening by Watchtower is a nice synthesis of Qabalistic and Enochian concepts and has a good track record among practicing ritualists.

Most books that publish Regardie's ritual do not include visualizations nearly as intricate as the ones described here. I believe that involved visualizations were once part of the European magical tradition, but the teaching lineages were broken so many times by both Church and State persecution that he only surviving remants in the Nineteenth Century were the written texts, many of which were fraudulent (such as the "Faustian" grimoires that emphasized the necessity of a pact with the Devil and mysteriously appeared in the decades following the remarkably similar story of Faust). According to this theory, the visualizations and other basic magical techniques were taught as oral tradition with the written grimoire containing the texts and names of spirits that were too important to be committed to memory.

What I have attempted to do here is fill in a series of visualizations that are intended to augment the basic ritual text. It is important to understand that these visualizations need not be perfect for you to use the rite, and in fact the use of the ritual is the best way to learn them. It will work even if your visualizations are not very good - Regardie himself published the base text without them and they have been used that way to good effect for many years. We have found that the visualizations make the ritual even more effective, and when they are done well by a group of people the results are remarkable. Learn them a little at a time and fill in details as you can hold them in your mind, and not only will your rituals work better but your ability to visualize will rapidly improve.

The elemental weapons are placed in the zodiacal position, usually on an altar in the center of the ritual space though you could place a small altar for each element at the appropriate quarter just large enough to hold the tool. The supernal triangle alludes to the three spheres at the top of the Tree of Life and is traced by imagining the Tree in front of you and tapping Kether, then Chockmah, and then Binah. The weapon is held above the Officiant's head as he or she circumabulates, and the wall of color should follow the tip of the weapon.

EHNB is Angelic for Spirit and is used for both Active and Passive Spirit, whereas in Hebrew different Spirit names are used for the active and passive elements.

The fourth line, for Earth, "This fire descendeth into that darkly splendid world..." has been rewritten from Regardie's version. The original ritual had "Stoop not down into that darkly splendid world, wherein continually lieth a faithless depth, and Hades wrapped in gloom, delighting in unintelligible images, precipitous, winding, a black ever-rolling abyss, ever espousing a body unluminous, formless, and void" and we decided that this statement was far too negative toward the element of Earth and seemed unbalanced from the others. The dichotomy stating that Spirit is good and Matter is evil has corrupted spirituality in Europe and America for far too long.

The Hebrew words used at the altar are Eheieh (Active Spirit) above and Agla (Passive Spirit) below. The Angelic words are MADRIAX ("The Heavens") and CAOSGO ("The Earth"). These words are used because Angelic has only one name for Spirit, EHNB.

"Thee we invoke, who art Universe..." is adapted from the liturgy of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn. The original line,

Holy art Thou, Lord of the Universe
Holy art Thou whom nature hath not formed,
Holy art Thou, the vast and mighty One!
Lord of the light and of the darkness.

is much more supplicating, and the version used here invokes the divine directly instead. It also has been rephrased to eliminate the separateness between nature and spirit.

The Veil of Paroketh is the veil that separates the sphere of Tiphareth from the elemental world. The Officiant opens the veil, and then with the Sign of the Enterer the members of the group pass through it, like stepping through a curtain. ABRAHADABRA is Crowley's Word of the Aeon corresponding to the grade of Adeptus Minor and therefore Tiphareth, and is vibrated to communicate arrival at the sphere. The Sign of Osiris Risen also corresponds to Tiphareth.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Comselh Ananael Ritual Template Part I: The Opening Procedure

Stick around here long enough and you'll see this a lot. This is the first posting in a series covering the ritual template used by my magical working group, Comselh Ananael. The name of the group means "Circle of Secret Wisdom" in the Angelic language used in the Enochian system of magick. We have been working together doing experimental ritual work since 2002 and the ritual template reflects the current structure of our work as it has evolved over the years.

This posting covers the opening procedure.

I. The Temple

The ritual space is set up with an altar in the center upon which is placed a containment structure of some sort. The Holy Table, Sigillum Dei Aemeth, and Ensigns of Creation will work well in this capacity, as will a Goetic triangle or some similar structure.  Present on the altar are a bowl of salt water, incense corresponding to the work at hand, bell chime, banishing dagger, invoking wand, and the four elemental tools placed to the appropriate macrocosmic (zodiacal) directions - Fire in the east, Earth in the south, Air in the west, and Water in the north All of the weapons and implements should be outside the containment structure. The material basis, which is the target of the rite or an object with a magical link to it, should be placed inside the containment structure. This may also be a scrying stone or mirror if the intent of the rite is to communicate with the summoned entity.

This template is written for a single Officiant with any number of participants, but people may also trade off as Officiant during the rite. We have done this in most of our rituals and still had good results. If scrying is the objective of the ritual, the scryer should be seated looking into the stone or mirror at the begining of the Conjuration section.

II. Opening

Officiant moves to the west of the altar and inhales fully, placing the banishing dagger at his or her lips. The air is then expelled as the dagger is swept backwards.

Officiant: Bahlasti! Ompehda!

Officiant then performs the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, moving around the Table and casting across it. The other participants rotate appropriately.

III. Taking Refuge

Officiant: We take refuge in Nuit, the blue-lidded daughter of sunset, the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night sky, as we issue the call to the awakened nature of all beings, for every man and every woman is a star.

All: AUMGN.

Officiant: We take refuge in Hadit, the secret flame that burns in every heart of man and in the core of every star, as we issue the call to our own awakened natures, arousing the coiled serpent about to spring.

All: AUMGN.

Officiant: We take refuge in Heru-Ra-Ha, who wields the wand of double power, the wand of the force of Coph Nia, but whose left hand is empty for he has crushed an universe and naught remains, as we unite our awakened natures with those of all beings everywhere and everywhen, dissolving all obstacles and healing all suffering.

All: AUMGN.

IV. Generating Bodhichitta

Officiant: For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is in every way perfect.

All: All is pure and present are and has always been so, for existence is pure joy; all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass and done; but there is that which remains. To this realization we commit ourselves - pure and total presence. So mote it be.

V. The Magical Field

Officiant performs the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram, moving around the Table and casting across it. All participants rotate appropriately.

VI. The Preliminary Invocation, Purification, and Consecration

All clasp hands over hearts, and say:

Now I begin to pray: Thou Child,
Holy Thy name and undefiled!
Thy reign is come: Thy will is done.
Here is the Bread; here is the Blood.
Bring me through midnight to the Sun!
Save me from Evil and from Good!
That Thy one crown of all the Ten
Even now and here be mine. AMEN.

The bell chime is then rung.

Officiant raises the bowl of salt water, and says:

Creature of water, by the names of Gabriel and Auriel we bless and integrate thee by this symbol (traces circle). Through thy watery being let this temple be purified that the god (vibrate godname corresponding to the rite) may manifest within.

He or she then goes to all four directions, tracing a circle with the bowl and asperging three times at each quarter.

Officiant then raises the incense, and says:

Creature of fire, by the names of Michael and Raphael we bless and integrate thee by this symbol (traces cross). Through thy fiery being let this temple be consecrated that the god (vibrate godname corresponding to the rite) may manifest within.

He or she then goes to all four directions, tracing a cross with the incense and censing three times at each quarter.

This last section is then followed by the Watchtower Invocation, which will be the starting point of the next posting in this series. Commentary follows.

Section I.

Section I is mostly self-explanatory. A containment structure is used to receive the manifestation of the spirit when this ritual template is used as an evocation, and to keep the consciousness of the spirit from becoming entangled with that of the magician. It may be used without the containment struct for an invocation rite, in which the spirit is deliberately summoned into the field of the magician's consciousness.

Section II.

"Balasti! Ompehda!" is from The Book of the Law and serves as a sort of preliminary banishing. It is then followed by a formal banishing ritual such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or one of its equivalents.

Section III.

Taking Refuge is adapted from Buddhist practice and is discussed in detail by Sam Webster in Pagan Dharma 2. Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha (awakened mind), the Dharma (specific teachings), and the Sangha (community of practitioners). The use of the Thelemic deities is shown here was inspired by Ordo Sunyata Vajra's Diamond Sapphire Gem of Radiant Light.

We have found this to be an effective practice in that it directs attention to the ultimate goal of realization at the beginning of the rite, preceding any specific statement of intent. Realization should be the goal of any magical operation - even one designed to produce a mundane outcome or some sort. Every time magical energy is used and directed, the practitioner's spiritual development further unfolds.

Section IV.

Bodhichitta is another Buddhist concept, referring to the supreme enlighented mind in which all of reality is seen as an interplay of purity and presence, or emptiness and luminosity. Like Taking Refuge, it is discussed by Sam Webster in Pagan Dharma 2. In addition to cultivating realization, this statement at the beginning of the rite helps to counteract attachment to the outcome of the operation. Such attachment usually hinders magical success.

Section V.

A magical field is created when a pentagram ritual, representing microcosm, and a hexagram ritual, representing macrocosm, are combined. The field used here is called an operant field and is best used to create change in the macrocosmic realm. By using a banishing pentagram ritual, we clear space in the microcosm of the our own consciousness, and then we invoke the macrocosmic elements into that space using the invoking form of the hexagram ritual. This causes microcosm and macrocosm to interlock, so that thought can more effectively influence matter. This is the Lesser ritual because this is still the general opening that is used with every rite regardless of its intent.

Section VI.

The prayer used here is Aleister Crowley's "Prayer of the Aeon". It refers to the nondual awareness beyond the dualistic concepts of good and evil found in Kether, the crown of the Tree of Life. The bread and blood in this case refer to the physical being of the magician, rather than the body and blood of an external savior.

Purification and consecration is relatively standard. For purification, salt water is water and earth, the circle symbolizes the passive elements, and the archangels called are related to the two passive elements. For consecration, incense is air and fire, the cross symbolizes the active elements, and the archangels called are related to the two active elements.

This ritual form serves to open the temple in an effective manner and prepare it for the next phase of the rite, the Watchtower Invocation.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Scrying with the Brain Machine

I know a lot of ritual magicians who claim to be really bad scryers. This is not a new problem; John Dee worked with Edward Kelly in the sixteenth century because Kelly was a good scryer and Dee was not. It is however something of an annoying problem - many sources contend that scrying is a natural psychic ability and has little to do with magical skill and training. Indeed, over the years I have had no problem evoking spirits and sending them out to accomplish various tasks, and my track record of ritual successes is pretty good. Still, I've never really been able to see the spirits with which I am working.

That is, until a little over a week ago.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Association for the Study of Esotericism Conference

I have just returned from the second Association for the Study of Esotericism national conference in Davis, California. As a practicing ritual magician, it is difficult to express how fantastic it is that esotericism is finally beginning to warrant serious consideration among academic scholars. Esotericism has had an enormous influence on the history and philosophy of Western civilization, but even ten years ago the mention of anything esoteric was met with dismissal by scholars of every subject from psychology to the humanities. Here is a link to the conference schedule, which was entitled "Esotericism, Art, and Imagination."

In a way it is fitting that the conference would be the first story posted on this blog. The intent behind this site is largely the same - to facilitate the discussion of the sorts of spiritual techniques and methods that are usually found in various esoteric traditions, along with their history and influences upon popular culture, history, and philosophy. ASE was founded with a similar objective, and their full mission statement may be found here.

One of the issues that tends to arise when practitioners and scholars get together is the so-called edic-emic split. Edic refers to the objective inquirer's perspective, whereas emic refers to the perspective of the practitioner involved in the subject being studied. Some investigators believe that the only way to ascertain the true nature of any subject is to observe it from the outside without becoming involved in it to prevent the biases inherent in the insider's perspective from dominating the conclusions of the work. On the other hand, others like myself believe that the purely objective approach is profoundly limited especially when addressing subjects that depend upon interior states of consciousness. The best approach, in my opinion, is to embrace both perspectives and that is exactly what ASE has appeared to have managed to do.

I also attended the first national convention in 2004, and this time around the papers presented were even better, which is high praise considering that they were excellent in 2004. There were about the same number of attendees, though I was pleasantly surprised to run into more members of my fraternal order, Ordo Templi Orientis, and most of the people that I really liked from the last conference were also present at this one. Also, I picked up a number of interesting ideas that will help me in putting together my next book.

All in all, I highly recommend the conference and other work of ASE. The next conference will be in 2008, and according to what I heard this last weekend it will be in Charleston, North Carolina. My thanks to everyone who made this conference possible, and to ASE for working to advance the study of esotericism in the academic world.