The Archetypes of Ritual
In this chapter we begin the move from theory to practice — from an intellectually grasped system to a lived experience. This process is that of an integration of the intellect with other means of understanding, with other ways of knowing, and should never involve the setting aside of the critical faculty. A primary method of practice in Thelema is through ritual, which is one of the most effective means of directing and unifying the various aspects of one's being. The ritual space is called a temple because it is a place where sacred space is established. It acts as a Mesocosm, or place of interface between the Microcosm of the magician and the Macrocosm of the greater divine reality. Its nature simultaneously reflects and is posited by both. It represents both the magician themselves and their psyche as well as the larger cosmos in an Imaginal aspect. The temple is therefore not only the universe without, but in the heart within.
The ritual space is intended to operate through all four worlds, and in its higher aspects is "not built by human hands". The temple can be built up gradually, both on the physical and Imaginal or visualized levels. It's often good practice to have an Imaginal temple whose complexity stays just slightly beyond one's ability to visualize fully, so that one is always working to concentrate harder. It is generally not necessary to constantly visualize the various elements in the temple during a ritual. Rather, just remain aware of the intention that they be in place, and review them occasionally.
There are many possible variations of symbolic layouts of temples. The most basic one widely used in the Thelemic tradition comes originally from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, itself an evolution of the traditions of Freemasonry. Its basic spaciality uses the four compass points arranged about a central space where the magician performs their work. Often an altar is placed in the center as well. The central area and particularly the magicians physical body itself is the axis mundi, that Imaginal place at the center of the Universe where the worlds meet. Magick is possible at that point. The four directions are typically associated with the four elements, the center being Spirit. Which elements go to which quarters depends, in the Golden Dawn system, on the type of ritual being performed; whether it is 'Elemental' (predominantly related to Assiah / Yetzirah) or Planetary / Zodiacal (related to Briah / Atziluth). For rituals involving elemental Magick, or any general Magick not specifically related to Briah, the planets or the zodiac the attributions are "Terrestrial", or "By the Winds". There is a Classical origin to these correspondences, and they are used in Book I, chapters XII and XIII of Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos.
EARTH N S FIRE
Zodiacal and Planetary Magick use "Sidereal" correspondences, which are based upon the elemental attributions of the fixed signs of the Zodiac, which form a cross in the sky. East is assigned to fire.
WATER () N S EARTH ()
These two sets of attributions have a whole range of additional meanings and uses that will be explored more fully in the body of this book. Generally, the Sidereal attributions are understood as being on a higher octave of type of Magick then those oriented By the Winds. A good way to imagine this is to see them as two stories in the same building. You start by entering Assiah on the first floor, which represents the elemental realm of and Yetzirah. The second floor is the planetary realm of Briah and ultimately the zodiac of Atziluth. Therefore, rituals that use the Sidereal correspondences will typically begin by establishing the quarters By the Winds, then proceed to lay over these the Sidereal ones. This is often said to be "raising" the temple to that level, an expression that comes from Freemasonry. In our example, this would be entering the first floor to go up to the second.
If the four quarters are the four elements, Spirit spatially corresponds with both the center and the east. The association of east with spirit is in addition to, and separate from, its elemental attribution. Placing Spirit in the east represents the direction where the Sun rises, showing the place where light, symbolizing Gnosis, enters the world. It is therefore common for Thelemic temples to place in the east a reproduction of the Stéle of Revealing, the 26th Dynasty Egyptian funerary monument which was a catalyst for the Cairo Working of 1904, during which Crowley received The Book of the Law. It therefore represents for Thelemites the epiphany of the reception of Liber AL, and serves as a visual symbolic resume of the book's message. It also acts magically as a point of contact with the Thelemic current. The east is the place where this current of energy and consciousness enters the temple, which can be Imaginally visualized as a fow of magical energy coming from the east and circling the ritual space in a clockwise direction. The direction is clockwise because this is the direction the sun moves through the sky in the northern hemisphere.
Typically, clockwise or deosil movement in the ritual space acts to create or invoke, whereas counterclockwise or widdershins motion serves to banish or dissolve. When a ritual is in progress, there is an optional but very effective procedure of always moving about the temple in a clockwise direction. This serves as a kind of mindfulness exercise. By having a particular way of moving about the room during ritual, one constantly reminds oneself that it is a magical space one is in, thereby reinforcing the efficacy of the ritual. This kind of thing has a long term infuence on the unconscious.
What goes into a ritual of Magick? Most basically, one wants to 1) create the sacred space of the ritual with some kind of opening, 2) perform the ritual itself, and 3) close or seal the sacred space. In addition to their other effects and symbolism, using a standard set of opening and closing procedures when doing ritual allows the microcosm to signal to itself that it is performing Magick.
Prior to the ritual proper, as part of the opening, it is good to attune to the sacred work about to be undertaken. Unplug the phone. If working with others small talk is good, as it creates a social synergy between people, but don't become distracted. No creating stress, arguments or bringing of outside problems into the space should be permitted. Ritual is a time to work towards overcoming our ego limitations, not to reinforce them. A period of quiet immediately before beginning is recommended. A quick bath is appropriate, if time and facilities allow. Ritual attire can be put on following the bath. A simple white or black robe can be used. Certain magical orders may provide additional embellishments. Wear whatever one is entitled to.
The moments of washing and of donning robes can be additionally sanctified by saying these invocations from The Lesser Key of Solomon:
In the bath: "Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, O Lord! And I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
While donning garments: "By the figurative mystery of this holy vestment I will clothe me with the armor of salvation [or substitute 'Gnosis'] in the strength of the Most High, Ancor, Amacor, Amides, Theodonian, Anitor, [or try: 'Nuit, Hadit, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Aiwass, Therion, Babalon'] that my desired end may be effected through thy strength O Adonai! Unto whom the praise and glory will for ever and ever belong! Amen!"
The references to 'Adonai' and the 'Lord' in these and similar traditional invocations are interpreted in the Thelemic tradition as indicating the Holy Guardian Angel.
Standard procedure calls for a banishing to begin the ritual proper. This acts to clear the space magically of all distractions, to set the parameters of the ritual space and to signal the start of magical work. Some form of the ritual of the Pentagram, described fully in chapter 7, is recommended, as it recapitulates in its performance the Imaginal structure of the temple. Magically clearing a space of malignant forces will only be successful if the magician does not immediately invite them back into the circle. Personal conficts or other distractions have no place during a ritual.
A Pentagram ritual can be sufficient for the opening, especially for a shorter ritual. In fact, it forms a complete ritual in and of itself. For more elaborate ceremonies, or for its own sake, a more extended opening can be performed. One of the best steps to add is a Purification and Consecration of the temple and/or a Hexagram ritual. These can be done in any order immediately following the initial banishing. The rituals of the Hexagram are described in chapter 12.
Purification and Consecration are two standard methods of clearing and preparing a sacred space independently of the banishing. As the space represents the magician's own being, these therefore simultaneously act to purify and consecrate the magician themselves. Purification cleans the magician and her space of overt and subtle infuences which would distract from the purpose of the ritual. Consecration invites and dedicates the magician and her space to the overt and subtle infuences which would contribute to the purpose of the ritual. Both Purification and Consecration serve to transform a profane space into a sacred one, but from different directions, so to speak. They are generally done together, Purification first, followed by Consecration. They represent Passives and Actives, Water and Fire, divine Mother and divine Father, Nuit and Hadit. Purification corresponds to the former, Consecration the latter.
Purification is done with water mixed with salt, which allows for the representation of both passives, salt being Earth. The salt is also the magician's consciousness, dissolved in the divine reality. Consecration is typically done with incense. This likewise represents both actives, the smoke being Air and the flame Fire. The rising smoke is also the aspiration of the magician. There are several possible methods of performance. A traditional Golden Dawn method begins by having the magician take the mixed water and salt to the East of the temple. A particular verse of The Chaldean Oracles of Zoroaster is associated with the act of Purification. This is:
"So therefore first, the priest who governeth the works of Fire must sprinkle with the Lustral Waters of the loud, resounding Sea."
Crowley suggests that this can be replaced by Thelemites with a quotation from The Book of the Law:
"for pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect." (AL I: 44)
Take some of the water and make a cross in the East, or a cross and circle, or simply sprinkle three times, or do something else that's coherent, consistent and meaningful. Go to each of the quarters in a clockwise direction and repeat the gesture, including optionally the verbal portion. The procedure for Consecration is the same. The Golden Dawn phrase is:
"And when after all the Phantoms are banished, Thou shalt see that Holy and Formless Fire, that Fire which darts and fashes through the hidden depths of the Universe. Hear thou the voice of Fire."
Crowley's substitution is:
"I am uplifted in thine heart, and the kisses of the stars rain hard upon thy body." (AL II: 62)
There is a more complicated alternative form of Purification and Consecration that originates with the Berkeley OTO. Refer to the diagram below while reading this description. Taking the water and salt, go to the West of the ritual space. Recite AL I:44 and sprinkle three times to the West. Next, go to the South-East corner of the room. Repeat the purification. Repeat again in the North-East corner. Return to the West to complete a triangle, but do not reconsecrate the West. Next, take up the incense and go to the East. Recite AL II: 62 and cense three times to the East. Go to the South-West corner and repeat. Go to the North-West corner and repeat again, then return to the East to complete a triangle shape. Do not re-cense the East.
As shown in the diagram below, these two triangles create a Hexagram shape, composed of an Active and a Passive triangle. The active triangle is formed by clockwise movement, the passive by counter-clockwise movement.
If there is a need felt to verbally declare a specific statement of intent for the ritual it can be said at this point as well. This completes the opening.
Following the opening is the ritual proper which can be thought of as two-fold. First comes an invocation of a general balanced spiritual force. Secondly, the energy of that presence is applied to a particular purpose. In many cases, the opening itself can serve as the first step. Often, however, the magician may wish to make this general invocation more explicit as its own movement. If so, there are any number of possible short conjurations for this purpose, or one can create one's own. They include:
The Adoration to the Lord of the Universe: This is the short invocation used during the opening of the Neophyte initiation ritual of the Golden Dawn. Face East and recite the following:
"Holy art Thou, Lord of the Universe.
Holy art Thou, whom nature hath not formed.
Holy art Thou, the Vast and the Mighty One.
Holy art Thou, Lord of the Light and of the Darkness.
The Adorations of the Stèle of Revealing: This is also sometimes called 'Unity' or simply 'The Adorations'. The text and analysis of these verses can be found at the end of chapter 8. They consist of Crowley's poetic paraphrase of the Hieroglyphs on the Stéle of Revealing, specifically those portions that also appear in The Book of the Law itself.
The Middle Pillar: this is described fully in chapter 10.
Verse 1 of the Holy Book Liber 65: Refer to the body of that Holy Book for this text.
The Bornless Ritual: this is described fully in chapter 13.
The Star Sapphire: this is described fully in chapter 12.
Opening by Watchtower: this is discussed briefy at the end of chapter 7, but is not fully described in this book. See Israel Regardie's Golden Dawn and Ceremonial Magic for details.
The Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram: this is described in chapter 7.
The Greater Ritual of the Pentagram: this is described in chapter 7.
The First Enochian Call: also not described in this book, but readily available elsewhere. This call serves as a general summons of the element of Spirit.
Following this step the general force can then be applied to a particular aim, be it personal knowledge or enlightenment, the spiritual beneft or health of others or more mundane ends. Any purpose of Magick is lawful if it serves to further one's True Will, or to assist others to do the same. Any other operation is, by definition within the Thelemic tradition, "black magic". Note that this definition has only a contingent relationship to culturally determined normative ethics.
These considerations may create a difficulty for those who may not yet consciously know the formula of their True Will. Until they do they can be assured that any Magick to assist in the discovery of their True Will can always be considered in accordance with the True Will. This generally includes experimentation for its own sake.
This phase of the ritual admits of diversity of method of execution. There are a few key factors, however. One of the most important is the Magical Link. This is the means, subtle or overt, whereby the magician connects the energy of the ritual with its target. An example is called for. Suppose one is performing a ritual to get a job. One can stand in the middle of a consecrated circle and shout "Job!" a few times. This may produce some effect, but in and of itself it is not an effective use of the principle of the Magical Link. Alternatively, one can print up a stack of resumes and charge them as talismans of Jupiter in the same circle, then hand them out to prospective employers. This is a use of the Magical Link. Whatever method of Magick is used, making good use of the link can be something to look out for.
For ease of discussion, application of energy to a specific task can fall under two general modes: Invocation or Evocation.
In Invocation, oneself and one's consciousness forms the primary focus of the ritual, particularly on one's concentration on the desired end of the ritual. This can be performed by a variety of means including mantra, visualization, assumption of god-forms, music heard or performed, prayer or other specialized verbal declarations, symbolic enactment of an appropriate magical formula, as well as drugs and/or sex. Also, if the aim of the ritual can be associated with part of a correspondence set, like one of the planets for example, then that archetype can be particularly summoned and invoked into the magician to manifest the intended result.
Evocation involves many of the same techniques as invocation, but with one main distinction. Whereas in invocation the specific force is generated and focused through the magician themselves, in evocation the energy is directed through the medium of something posited as outside of the magician, which then acts autonomously of its own accord to effect the desired aim. Two primary forms of evocation are talismanic Magick and evocation of spirits. The Eucharist can be considered a special class of talisman. The Eucharist is discussed in chapter 11. General talismanic Magick and evocation of spirits are not dealt with in this book.
This completes the ritual proper. The closing follows, which acts to seal the ritual. There are several methods, but it should to some extent mirror the opening.
Beginning with a License to Depart is a good procedure. Say in a clear voice of command something along the lines of: "And now I say unto all spirits convoked by this rite, depart in peace unto your habitations and abodes, and may the blessing of the Highest be upon you, in the name of Nuit, Hadit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit. And let there be peace between us, and be thou ever ready to come when thou art called."
If the ritual was opened by Purification and Consecration, it is good practice to repeat them again in the closing, immediately following the License to Depart. Likewise, if the opening involved a Hexagram ritual, a banishing form of that ritual should be done. As a general rule, if nothing else, the closing should involve a banishing Pentagram ritual. This should only be omitted if the work has been with a general spiritual energy. The more particularized the type of energy worked with, the more magically important the general banishing is to restore equilibrium.
The previous structure applies principally to rituals of a Golden Dawn ceremonial form. There are innumerable other ways that Magick can be accomplished. The strictly devotional practice and the dramatic performance particularly stand out. (Greek drama originally served a religious purpose.) Liber Astarte is Crowley's instruction in devotional work, and his Rites of Eleusis provide examples of invocation through dramatic production.
Traditional Masonic saying. See also Psalms 127: 1.
Ptolemy, Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos, Symbols and Signs, North Hollywood, 1976, pg. 21-22.
Crowley, Aleister, The Goetia, Samuel Weiser, York Beach, Maine, 1995, pg. 80.
Westcott, William Wynn, The Chaldean Oracles Attributed to Zoroaster, Holmes Publishing Group, Edmonds, Washington, 2000.
Crowley, Aleister, Magick: Book 4, Samuel Weiser, York Beach, Maine, 1997, pg. 215.
Thelema Lodge OTO oral tradition. The author learned this technique from Michael Sanborn.
Regardie, Israel, The Golden Dawn, pg. 120.
Crowley, Aleister, The Holy Books of Thelema, pg. 53.
Regardie, Israel, The Golden Dawn, pg. 137-139. Regardie, Israel, Ceremonial Magic, The Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1980.
See also Crowley's discussion of the Magical Link in Crowley, Aleister, Magick: Book 4, pp. 215-225.
Liber Astarte is included in Crowley, Aleister, Magick: Book 4, pp. 627-637. Crowley, Aleister, The Rites of Eleusis, Mandrake Press Ltd., Thame, Oxen, 1990.