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...

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...

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?

Ted Elser said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I've been trying to create a dedicated daily morning regimen now that I be completed my new temple space. I've been using LBRP and Resh but I've felt something was missing in either my approach or lack of completeness...(?). I had a conversation with a Sister of ours, Soror Gimel, and she directed me here.
Your article made me blurt out "this is what I meant" and laugh with delight! Thank you ever so much brother for your insight and willingness to communicate with others.
Frater Ted Nation

Scott Stenwick said...

You're very welcome. What I do is LBRP/LIRH or Star Ruby/Star Sapphire followed by the Elevenfold Seal from Liber Reguli (which I like better than the Middle Pillar). Each piece serves a specific purpose:

1. LBRP - Microcosmic clearing and purification.
2. LIRH - Invocation of the macrocosmic elements.
3. Elevenfold Seal - Invocation of the macrocosmic divine.

The, during the day, Resh adds solar invocations. Crowley talked about how for "advanced" operations you could use Resh to draw power from the Sun. Try preceding your Resh with the operant field (LBRP/LIRH) and I think you will experience what he was talking about. I know that I did.

Of course, given work and such, it's not always possible to do something that elaborate at the proper time.

John dee said...

Hi :)
I don't see you mention LBRP/LIRP combination so I want to know what effect will it have,or what type or work suitable for that operant field?

Scott Stenwick said...

According to the operant model, a field is a combination of a lesser pentagram ritual and a lesser hexagram ritual. So an LBRP followed by and LIRP is not a field. Rather, you do a microcosmic banishing and follow it up with a microcosmic invocation. That sequence doesn't do very much - effectively, you banish something and then invoke the same thing.

There is one case where it could fit, though I personally find that it's not very elegant. If you are working with the centering field (LIRP/LBRH), it's not always the best idea to lead off with an invoking pentagram ritual without doing some kind of banishing first. So to satisfy that principle, you could use the sequence of LBRP/LIRP/LBRH to open a centering field.

Unknown said...

Following up further with that, a shorter banishing could certainly be used, like at the start of the Field Ritual here:

Scott Stenwick said...

Right, that is how I would actually do it if I were opening a centering field as part of my own work. For that to work really well, though, I think that you need to have some proficiency at banishing before you switch to the method, if for no other reason than to be able to recognize when your "banishing by fiat" is working.

Ade said...

Oh, hey! Thank you for this very informative post! I wasn't aware that the LBRH could be used as a killswitch, that's a very good thing to know. This applies to sigils as well, I figure, right? Since they're only anchored on the magician's consciousness, I imagine one LBRH should easily shut them down. What about sympathetic magic involving material components, like a doll or a lemon or something? Would the LBRH shut it down as well or would you need to undo/destroy the material components first? Thanks!

Scott Stenwick said...

You do want to use the LBRP/LBRH combo as a "kill switch," not just the LBRH. With anything anchored to your sphere of awareness, you need to shut down both the macrocosmic and microcosmic components. Consciousness is effectively holographic, so if you just use the LBRH it could "respawn," so to speak, without actually being shut down.

If, when you cast the spell, you explicitly anchor it on a material object - as in "Spirit xxx, I charge you to anchor your power upon this yyy to accomplish zzz!" - then you will need to destroy the material object first. Sometimes that does it on its own, and sometimes you then need to also use the banishing field.

This is NOT necessarily true if you are just using an object as a link. A doll or poppet, for example, usually just creates a link to the target that you can manipulate by taking action upon or directing focused attention upon. In that case, the spell is still anchored on your sphere of awareness.

Of course, if you used an object that you thought was a link and the banishing field doesn't seem to work, the next step would be to destroy the object and try banishing again. But that usually isn't necessary.

Ae Meth said...

What are your thoughts about using the Opening/Closing by Watchtower for talisman rituals vs. LBRP/LIRH?

Ae Meth said...

Also, can you discuss why you find it unnecessary to banish before invoking a specific macrocosmic element. For example, does it not make sense to perform LBRP/LBRH, then LIRH, in order to create a clear and intentionally designed Operant Field, first clearing any macrocosmic influences already present before invoking the desired planetary power, for example, that you are working with?

Scott Stenwick said...

What my working group found when experimenting with the Opening by Watchtower is that if you have already opened with an operant field, the Opening by Watchtower doesn't add anything in terms of increasing the effectiveness of a ritual. It's longer and more complex, and it feels like more is happening, but the probability shifts are the same whether you do it or not. Used on its own, we found that the LBRP/LIRH as an opening got better results than the traditional Opening by Watchtower.

I came up with a modified version that worked about as well as the LBRP/LIRH at one point, but I was never able to assemble one that worked better. So generally, I just use the operant field these days and leave it at that. At the same time, though, if it works for you, it works for you. There's a lot of individual differences in terms of how well different rituals work with different people, and I only advocate the operant field method as much as I do because I have found a lot of people who agree with my results.

You could theoretically use a banishing field (LBRP/LBRH)followed by an LIRH if you wanted to shut down every concurrent spell you had going and focus your full intention on a single practical result. I have multiple spells running all the time, so I generally wouldn't want to work that way, but I expect there are some situations where it might prove useful.

This would also have the effect of clearing other magick from your general working space as you mention, but I don't find influences like that to be much of a problem very often. Usually the operant field is fine on its own. When you invoke all four elements in a balanced configuration in the LIRH, it tends to balance out any macrocosmic energies that might tend to distort your result anyway.

Ae Meth said...

Do you have a place for the Watchtower Ritual in your work at all or do you find the LRP/LRH combinations more effective for all types of workings? For talismanic work, spellcasting, and other manifestion work, clearly the Operant Field is the preference but I'm wondering if you've found it equally effective for evocations/invocations, divinations, exorcisms (if ever necessary), etc.

Scott Stenwick said...

These days I generally do not use it. This is the modified version here that my working group settled on years ago, which according to the experiments that we did worked better than Regardie's.

Still, as far as we could tell, it adds a lot of complexity and no measurable additional functionality if you are already using the operant field. It was somewhat helpful in a group context because you could have different participants do each element rather than having the whole thing driven by a single officiant, but even then, any positive effect on ritual results was hard to discern.

But again, that's just what we found. If you have experience with the Opening by Watchtower, and you like it and it works well for you, I don't know that I would recommend changing your procedures to match mine. Jason Miller, for example, really likes it and swears up and down that it works better than any pentagram/hexagram combination. So not everyone out there, even on the blogosphere, agrees with me.

You're always better off experimenting for yourself. If you like the ritual and feel drawn to it, by all means practice it and decide for yourself. On the other hand, if the only reason for asking about it is that some other magician has told you that you have to use it or something like that, I probably wouldn't bother.

Ae Meth said...

Thanks again for your thoughtful replies. The article on the Ananael ritual is insightful. I think you've convinced me to hold off memorizing the Watchtower Ritual for it's own sake. If I feel like something's not working with LRP/LRH combinations I'll go to it, but meanwhile I'll focus on other things. The discussions in the comments section has been valuable, I'm looking forward to the publication of this book.

Scott Stenwick said...

This post is from many years ago, and I may have to self-publish it at this point. I spent years waiting while two separate publishers considered it, and neither was willing to move forward. It was "too advanced," or so one of them said. That is, it wasn't a book for rank beginners.

In the meantime, I found some success with my Enochian books, which do include the operant field methodology. So I've managed to sneak some of the material in. There's also a version of my modified Opening by Watchtower (the Enochian version) in Mastering the Great Table.

At this point the problem with Operant Magick is that all the science and brain research I talk about in it needs to be updated with the latest experimental results, which is a non-trivial undertaking.

I currently have a second novel in the works with Moonfire and am trying to get the Mastering the Thirty Aires manuscript done for Pendraig, which I feel like I'm way behind on. Once I get that done, though, I may go back and try to get an updated version of Operant Magick finished.