Friday, November 30, 2007

The Operant Field

I am currently in the process of trying to get my first book published. It is entitled Operant Magick and is essentially a textbook on ritual magick incorporating some of my own personal theories and research along with key concepts from the Western Esoteric Tradition. One of the key concepts that I introduce in the book is the operant field. I use this term all the time when discussing ritual work and it appears nowhere in any other published source on ritual magick, so here's a basic overview of the idea.

Most Western ritual magicians use variations of the pentagram and hexagram rituals. In the Golden Dawn tradition you have the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, in the Thelemic tradition you have the Star Ruby and Star Sapphire, in the Aurum Solis tradition you have the rituals for raising the Wards of Power, and so forth. The normal way this is taught is as it appears in Donald Michael Kraig's Modern Magick, one of the most popular and widely available books on Golden Dawn magick. Kraig says that you start off just using the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and then move on to using the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram followed by the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram at the beginning of every ceremonial ritual. The Golden Dawn taught both banishing and invoking forms of these rituals, but Kraig sticks to the banishing versions and a lot of ritual magicians are taught to do the same.

I started researching these ritual forms years ago and was confused by how little material was available on the invoking versions and when they should be used. In Aleister Crowley's Liber O vel Manus et Sagittae it is kind of a curious fact that he covers the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram followed by an explanation of the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram. I went ahead and decided to try this combination out even though most writers will tell you that you shouldn't use the rituals that way. I was absolutely blown away by the result - all of a sudden my practical magical work got a whole lot better. I set up a number of objective tests and, sure enough, the LBRP/LIRH was amazing. I couldn't get anywhere near the same result with the LBRP/LBRH - even though the only difference between the banishing and invoking forms is the direction in which the hexagrams are traced. When I discovered this I asked around and, sure enough, most of the magicians who I knew who were able to get good results using the Golden Dawn forms had figured out the same thing. Other skilled magicians I know have tried the combination at my suggestion and also found that it just works better.

So what is going on here? I think that most modern writers don't understand how to use these rituals. From a Hermetic perspective the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram represents the psychological realm or microcosm and the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram represents the physical realm or macrocosm. Together the rituals set up a space in which the relationship between microcosm and macrocosm is defined that I call a field. The four combinations of the banishing and invoking forms of the two rituals set up four different fields that are useful for specific magical operations.

Banishing Field (LBRP/LBRH): This is how most magicians begin their rituals when working with the Golden Dawn forms. It is, in effect, the "full shutdown" - it clears mental and spiritual forms from both the interior and exterior worlds. In can be used to completely cleanse a temple, banish spirits permanently, or neutralize a magical effect that is targeting the magician. What it also does, though, is shut down any ongoing spells that the magician has running unless they are bound to talismans or some anchor other than the magician's consciousness. If you are casting a spell that you want to work over the next week, don't end the ritual with this combination under any set of circumstances unless you're convinced you made a mistake and want to stop the spell. The effect that you just set in motion will be negated when the field goes up.

Invoking Field (LIRP/LIRH): This combination energizes all ongoing magical effects, and can be used to begin a ritual that you want to operate in both the interior and exterior worlds. A good example of this is a spell to get a good job. You want the spell to affect your psyche in such a way that you seem more confident and capable, but you also want it to shift probabilities in the material world so that the right opportunity will come your way.

Centering Field (LIRP/LBRH): This combination sets up a field in which the interior world is engaged while influences from the exterior world are neutralized. This field is ideal for exclusively psychological magical work of all sorts.

Operant Field (LBRP/LIRH): This is the one that I use the most. The field clears the interior world and then merges it the with the exterior world, setting up a space in which thought can more easily become material reality. All of the energy of a spell cast within this field is targeted on the macrocosm and the resulting probability shifts show that magick done this way just influences the outside world better - significantly better.

If you would like, try it out and see, and let me know how it goes. I think you'll be impressed.
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gaiawriter said...

The Operant Field...

That is some very cool stuff.

Innovative and simple.

I'll give it a try asap.

Thanks mate!

Ananael Qaa said...

You're very welcome. Let me know how it goes - more ritual data is always a good thing. So far everyone I know who has tried it has had good results.

Lithium Dynamo said...
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Lithium Dynamo said...

Thank-you on your explanation of the various combinations of Pentagram and Hexagrams rituals. I have been recently pondering why Aleister Crowly placed the invoking form of the LBH in Liber O.

Frater LVF said...

I really like this idea. Just to make sure that I have it right, I want to propose a scenario.

If I wished to build a relationship with a Planetary Intelligence, I would use the invoking form, followed by the Great Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram for the planet, correct?

How do you propose one ends such a ceremony? Using your theory, I would assume that I would not do a closing banishing at all... right?

Ananael Qaa said...

Yes, that's how you would open your ritual - LBRP, LIRH, GIRH for the planet.

If you want the influence of the intelligence to continue to operate within your psyche, you probably would not want to perform a closing banishing. In cases like that I usually close with just the Qabalistic Cross to ground and balance the operation.

On the other hand, if you were calling upon the spirit of the planet for some practical end, you would close with the LBRP on its own. This releases the macrocosmic form that you just created or summoned to go forth and accomplish its objectives.

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el oso said...

Very good and clear understanding of the field conversions. It is great to see simplicity and clarity in the often clouded/veiled shennagins of summoning operations.

Bum said...

Ananael I just wanna ask, when is the best time to learn the Lesser rituals of the Hexagram?

Should it be after I've familiarized myself with the lesser rituals of the pentagram? Can I practice it alone? That is, without banishing.

What do you recommend?

~Beginning student

Ananael Qaa said...

Sorry about the delay - this is one of the reasons I've added the "recent comments" gadget.

First learn the LBRP. Then, once you have that down, start working on the LIRH. The Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram should always follow the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. Conclude your practice by repeating the Qabalistic Cross after the LIRH. Once you have that down, add the Middle Pillar or something similar. The basic daily practice sequence that I recommend to magicians working with the Golden Dawn forms is LBRP-LIRH-Middle Pillar-Qabalistic Cross. If you have the time, add in a session of meditation following the Middle Pillar.

Darpan said...

Wonderful inspiration! Thank you.

I have a question. At this moment my standard practice ritual is a a pentagram ritual whereby I banish each element in its appropriate corner (using the GRP names and banishing pentagrams for each element) and so clear the space of all elements and leaving just spirit in the center.

Then when calling on the Archangels I feel the influx of the elements as blessings from these archangels.

I see this as a cleansing ritual. Banishing the mundane elements and invoking the divine elements.

What are your thoughts on this idea? Does it fit somewhere in your operant field theory? Or should I just skip this idea and stick with the basic LBRP?

p.s. The idea was inspired by reading:

Scott Stenwick said...

As I see it, such a ritual could fit into an operant field-type dynamic. However, there are two points that I think would help it work better.

The pentagram is the natural symbol of the microcosm, while the hexagram is the natural symbol of the macrocosm. Integrating the two symbols is part of what reinforces the field. The other piece is the elemental directions - between macrocosm and microcosm they switch. So to invoke macrocosmic elements, you want to use the zodiacal arrangement - East = Fire, South = Earth, West = Air, and North = Water.

The LBRP/LBRH combination integrates both these symbol sets. You could certainly use your ritual in place of the LBRP so long as you follow it with the LIRH and I would still think what you would get would be an operant field. Generally speaking, though, any sort of pentagram ritual by itself will define your rite as microcosmic.

You might be able to simplify the process by banishing the elements in the microcosmic order and then invoking the archangels in the zodiacal order within the same ritual. From a logical standpoint that should work, though I haven't tried it personally so I can't speak from experience.

Darpan said...

Thank you for your reply! I'm experimenting with different ritual combinations to see how they feel and what works for what.

Ae Meth said...

One thing in particular sort of alarmed me, the bit about the LBRP wiping out any current workings not tied to a talisman, for example. It led me down a path of further researching the purposes of the LBRP and LBRH and I'm wondering what your opinion of this is:

Scott Stenwick said...

I have met magicians who believed that, but in my experience once a talisman is created you need an LBRP/LBRH combination to really interfere with its operation. In fact, those experiments are some of the data points that went into the creation of the operant field model.

The one sort-of exception to this is that if you close the ritual in which you create the talisman with an LBRP, it seems like the talisman can sometimes be affected if you don't shroud it - that is, cover it with a cloth or something similar.

That effect isn't predictable, though. Sometimes the talisman comes out just fine and I haven't isolated all the possible variables yet. So I shroud my talismans when I close the ritual I use to create them, but otherwise I use the LBRP in their presence all the time with no problems.

Ae Meth said...
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Ae Meth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ae Meth said...

What I’m wondering about is your experience with the effect of the LBRP on ongoing workings. If you have a working which has not yet manifested, a working for which you have not created a talisman or other physical tie, is it your advice to avoid the LBRP until the working has manifested, or until you've given up or until you don't care anymore whether it manifests? Or are you advising just that the LBRP not be used at the end of a working because placing it at the end of the ritual would interfere? What I'm trying to get at is whether you consider a daily LBRP to be ill-advised as it would interfere with unmanifested workings performed in the past.

Scott Stenwick said...

No, in my experience the LBRP by itself is fine. My own regular practice includes the LBRP/LIRH operant field combination and I don't have any trouble with ongoing operations.

When using this method, the idea is to conjoin your personal consciousness with the macrocosmic realm, which is done using LBRP/LIRH. Then, you release the constructed magical form into the macrocosm by closing with the LBRP to disconnect from the field. So once the form is out in the world, the LBRP won't affect it.

At least, that's the basic idea, and it seems to hold up under every experiment I've run.

Ae Meth said...

Thank you for that clarification, I think I was confusing opening and ending placement of the rituals, but it makes a lot of sense to me now and I'm going to give it a try.

Scott Stenwick said...

You are welcome. One of the issues when working with the LRP is that there are a lot of people in the tradition who teach that it does actually banish macrocosmic spirits, which is not precisely correct. What it does in those cases is disconnect your field of consciousness from that of a spirit, but if the spirit is linked to anything besides you it still will be present. The way that I generally make talismans exploits this behavior - at the conclusion of the rite, the LBRP disconnects the spirit from me but leaves it linked to the talisman.

Unknown said...

My heartfelt thanks for the work you've put into understanding and describing the operant magick model.

I'd like to ask if you could check my understanding of the types of fields. Could you give me some feedback on what's written below? It would help me to see what I'm getting right, and what I'm missing or misunderstanding.

(I've described this mostly in energy model terms, but I think it could easily be rewritten in terms of a spirit model without much fuss.)

It seems like the invoking pentagram opens the aura to external energy flowing into the magician's inner energy body. In the context of setting up a field, the LIRP configures the subtle body into a receptive/connective mode where it easily interfaces with the outside world.

The banishing pentagram operation seems to send LVX (which was invoked during the qabalistic cross) outwards through the aura, sort of like flushing the energy body out from the inside. In terms of the field, the LBRP seems to put the subtle body into a more projective, less connected mode. That makes it useful for ending rituals by sending the ritual out into the world.

Moving on to hexagrams-- the LIRH evokes LVX energy into the external environment, and its effect is to excite whatever energetic things are happening in the area. The LBRH does the opposite, dispelling energy and calming energetic phenomena.

As for the combinations...

Banish micro, banish macro: this combo is easy to understand. It cleanses the magician of external influences, then dispels them from his/her surroundings. It interrupts any ongoing spellwork.

Banish micro, evoke macro: a more complex operation! After flushing oneself clean, the magician evokes LVX into the environment. I say "evokes" because it feels weird to describe a hexagram ritual as an invocation. I don't get the impression that the energy is being channeled through myself. It seems to be summoned from the remote source, directly into the surrounding area. In fact, this particular field configuration won't allow the evoked energy to flow into the magician's subtle body at all, because the subtle body isn't configred to receive anything. It's in projective mode, making it well-equipped to send the magician's intentions out into that mass of excited energy. Said energy then goes out into the world and modifies probabilities in line with the magician's intention.

(Random note: While the banish/banish field is well equipped to purify a space, it's a bit of a blunt instrument, sort of like opening up a black hole to suck everything up. I've found it's sometimes preferable to open an operant field, then do a space-clearing ritual that removes the unwanted energies while leaving desirable ones to stay.)

Invoke micro, evoke macro: this one opens your subtle body up, brings in a bunch of LVX, and lets it flow both out to the world, and into you as well. Any spellwork will achieve its results both through changing you, and changing your circumstances. (This is my preferred setup for solar work. If I'm going to draw 28 hexagrams, I damn sure better feel hot, tingly, and charismatic by the time I'm done.)

Invoke micro, banish macro: This field would be good for working directly on yourself with invocative practices. You'd enter a receptive, energized state, and dispel any distracting/meddling influences in your environment. Then you could focus on some sort of fully microcosmic work, like perhaps the supreme ritual of the pentagram.

So, what's good, and what needs more work?