Friday, October 3, 2008

Basics of Daily Magical Practice

The best way to find out if someone is a real magician is to ask them about their daily practice regimen. If they look confused or stumble through their answer it means that you should take their practical advice with a grain of salt and defer to your own experiences. If they pompously proclaim not only that they do no daily practices but that you should do the same, you should dismiss them as an utter fool and ignore anything else they have to say. It's pretty much guaranteed to be worthless.

Magick is an experiential discipline. That means that you actually have to do it to understand how it works. Study is very useful in terms of pointing you in the right direction, but there's a big difference between knowing how something could in theory be accomplished and actually doing it. I'll repeat this analogy one more time - a magician who does no daily practice is like a professional athlete who doesn't work out aside from showing up to play on game day. Rare talents can get away with it, but the vast majority of us are not nearly so special. Furthermore, even if you can do no work and still get results, imagine how much better you could be with the foundation of a disciplined course of practice.

Most introductory books on magick cover the basic rituals, but in many cases they are vague and incomplete regarding a what constitutes a solid set of practices, so here are my suggestions. These are the standard Golden Dawn rituals that are used by many ritual magick groups, and while as a Thelemite my practices incorporate more of Aleister Crowley's ritual forms, the structure shown here follows the same framework as the sequence that I have been practicing for many years.

(1) The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. This is the best rendition of the ritual that I have managed to find online, though it does contain one point on which I need to comment.

The linked page calls this ritual "The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram Banishing Earth" and has links to other "Lesser Rituals" for Fire, Air, and Water. This is incorrect - the ritual shown is simply the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, which in its standard form uses the Earth pentagram. You don't use the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram to banish or invoke specific elements - you use the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram to do that. The Greater Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram are used for specific ceremonial operations as explained in the text of the various spells I have written up on this site, not for daily practice.

The Thelemic equivalent for this ritual is the Star Ruby.

(2) The Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram. Using the invoking form of the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram here opens the operant field so that your invocation of divinity and statement of intent will be more effective. It also does not shut down spells in progress, which is what happens if you use the banishing form here.

The Thelemic equivalent for this ritual is the Star Sapphire.

(3) The Middle Pillar Ritual. While the Middle Pillar was written after Crowley's death so he could not comment on it, in my opinion the Thelemic equivalent to this ritual is The Elevenfold Seal from Liber V vel Reguli and I have gotten good results using it in that capacity over many years.

(4) The Statement of Intent. When you are working magick you should always be trying to accomplish something. For daily practice, that goal should include spiritual awakening and the accomplishment of your True Will. A sample statement might be something to the effect of "Set my True Will in motion and bring me to the accomplishment of the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness." Conclude the statement by vibrating a word of power such as AUMGN or AMEN.

Another possible Thelemic sequence would be:

(1) Liber V vel Reguli in full.
(2) The Star Sapphire.
(3) The Statement of Intent.

Liber V vel Reguli includes The Elevenfold Seal so you can go straight from the Star Sapphire to the Statement of Intent with this sequence.

Whatever practice sequence you decide upon using, you should do it at least once a day, generally when you wake up in the morning or before you go to sleep. You can also do both, which is great if your schedule allows it.

Meditation is another useful daily practice. I generally keep my meditation session separate from my ceremonial practices because while they complement each other in terms of how they work in your life magick and meditation are based on different mindsets. Meditation is more reflective and receptive, whereas magick is more active and expansive. Also, techniques that work with the body such as Pranayama, Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi are good for building up the more physical aspects of magical practice in addition to helping you stay in better physical shape. I figure if I'm going to work out anyway for health reasons, I might as well be augmenting my magical ability at the same time.

All this sounds like a lot, and it can be. It is very possible to go through periods during which much of your day is spent doing practices, and often this is difficult if you have to work a job and take care of a household at the same time. My recommendation is to start with a basic set, try to be as disciplined as possible about it, and once you have established a consistent practice you can add onto it one element at a time. There's nothing wrong with a simple set of practices if that's what you can stick to, and it's better to be consistent over a long period of time than it is to be "hardcore" for a short period and burn yourself out. However, you should also keep in mind that in magick, like any other sort of activity, the more practices you do the better you get and the faster you will progress.

UPDATE: A good point brought up in the comments is that Crowley considered the Star Ruby and Star Sapphire to be improved versions of the pentagram and hexagram rituals, so the term "equivalent" is inaccurate. I thought about this when I was writing up this post, but I wasn't really sure what the right term would be. I considered "corresponding" but that's not exactly correct either. So I'm going to leave the article as is, but with this additional notation.

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Unknown said...

A few thoughts.

The Thelemic equivalent

I wouldn't call any of these equivalent (i.e. "equal in force, value", etc.). In particular,Crowley notes that Liber XXV is "improved" and I would suggest that and more with the other examples you provide.

the Star Sapphire

While both Liber XXV and Liber XXXVI are complimentary (and are rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram respectively), the one difference that stands out is that Liber XXXVI is to be performed by an Adept within the A.'.A.'. (no such specification being noted for Liber XXV). In particular, the willing separation of the Angel from his client vide the commentary to this ritual (Chpt. 69 of Liber CCCXXXIII) speaks to a pre-existing level of attainment.

Anonymous said...

Sitting here watching the ice storm raging outside my New England home, and drinking far too much coffee, I was inspired by this. Strangely I've been lately organising my thoughts and Work into a more logical process. My daily discipline perhaps needs more discipline. Thank you for this post.

Charlie said...

This is a very helpful post, thanks.

That point you made at the Paganicon presentation, about using Invoking rather than Banishing Hexagram, makes a world of difference. I've been working with these 3 as a daily practice, and it has a coherency and what I'm tempted to call a solidity or center, that I didn't get with the Banishing Hexagram.

Looking forward to your Mystical Heptarchy book.



Scott Stenwick said...

@Charlie: I'm glad that you're finding my hexagram methodology useful, criticisms from Donald Michael Kraig and others notwithstanding. It's an innovation (note: I'm not calling it a "blind") that I've found very useful and a number of others have reported very positive results.

master bates said...

@Scott,I'm surprised that the daily praxis of the solar adorations re Liber Resh, has not been mentioned. This has to be the bedrock of any practice imho. One only has to read Crowley's records, to realize he was practicing Liber Resh daily right into old age.

Scott Stenwick said...

The deal is that I do not include it here because I am not necessarily assuming that everyone reading this is a Thelemite. Resh is certainly a significant part of Thelemic practice, but I wrote this for a wider audience and have no idea if anything similar is taught in the Golden Dawn or in other modern magical systems. If it is, beginning magicians should probably include whatever adorations their system or order teaches in addition to my recommendations here.

master bates said...

I am not a thelemite, but I do practice (or try to) the daily 4 solar adorations a la Liber Resh, as out of all the versions out there, I find it the most satisfying. And that is from someone who's attempting to pursue a Christian/Gnostic path! Lol

Scott Stenwick said...

Okay. I think you are the first person I have heard of who does Resh and is not a Thelemite. Devotional work in general seems to be helpful for magicians, but there are a lot of different ways to do it and it's hard to codify. Resh is one method, and Crowley also has Liber Astarte. Moloch's latest post on magical practice talks about devotional work with your spirits and ancestors. And so forth.

The point being, magicians who resonate with a particular kind of devotional work should add that to their daily practice in addition to the rituals I outline here.

Adrian C said...

This is some fantastic material! I'm really loving this blog. I was wondering if you could offer some feedback on the following program of daily practice in the Golden Dawn tradition:

LBRP+LIRH (Operant field)
Middle Pillar (Greater Middle Pillar once a week)

LBRP+LIRH (Operant field)
GIRH or GIRP (alternating all the elements and planets)
Statement of intent

All rituals are opened and closed using a Qabalistic Cross. For example, QC --> LBRP --> QC --> LIRH --> QC --> MP --> QC.

I'm particularly curious if you think the GIRH/GIRP+Statement of Intent combo would achieve anything without evoking a particular spirit. The Statement of Intent is taken verbatim from this blog post.

Scott Stenwick said...

The GIRP or GIRH can work without a evoking a spirit. After all, spirits have magical power that they can contribute to an operation in order to make it more powerful, but you also have your own magical power and can do some effects without them. Chaos magick, for example, pretty much runs on the power of the operator because it doesn't generally work with external spirits (though, to be fair, the system is so eclectic that it can be hard to characterize and I've known a number of chaos magicians who also do ceremonial work with spirits).

My main concern, though, is that you are likely to have days on which your statement of intent works better or worse depending on how in harmony it is with each element and planet. So you could get a really strong effect with Jupiter and much more subdued effect from Saturn if your intent is about expansion, growth, and so forth. I personally only use the Greater forms when I am actively doing a ritual, to tune the space for the specific energy I am trying to move or the specific spirit that I am trying to conjure.

Oh, and you don't need a Qabalistic Cross before and after the Middle Pillar. It already is kind of a "super QC" all on its own. Oh, and what's a "Greater Middle Pillar?" Not familiar with that one. You do want to close your entire practice with a final QC, though, to seal in the work that you have done in the course of those practices. So with what you're talking about here, I would adapt it like this:

Middle Pillar

Middle Pillar
Statement of Intent

I think that may work better for you. But as always, try it and see. My first rule of magick is if it works, it works.

Adrian C said...

The Greater Middle Pillar is an exercise I got from John Michael Greer's book Circles of Power. It's essentially an expanded Middle Pillar with some extra visualizations and circulation of energy.

As for using the GIRH/GIRP, the intent is partly to reinforce the statement of intent, and partly to get routine practice on the ritual forms so that I can internalize them for when they're needed in a more serious ritual.

I agree that the effect of the statement of intent could vary depending on the planet, but I figure that using a "planet-neutral" statement like the one you gave in the blog post ("Set my True Will in motion and bring me to the accomplishment of the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.") would be broadly compatible with the nature of all the planets and make that less of a concern.

One thing I didn't mention is that I perform the GIRH for a planet on the day of that planet (e.g. GIRH of Mercury on Wednesday), so it's a neat way to organize the days of the week as well. I have a similar scheme for elements, but since there are only 5 classical elements, I assign them each to days of the week, and on the remaining 2 days I do the Rose Cross. So essentially I alternate "planetary weeks" during which I practice the GIRH for a given planet with "elemental weeks" during which I practice the GIRP and R+C. The advantage of this system is that it's a convenient way to practice all the major ritual forms in the Golden Dawn system, while also reinforcing the system of planetary days and hours.

Eventually I plan to add seasonal rituals, but for now this seems ambitious enough.