Recently, there has been some discussion on the blogosphere regarding the importance of intention and will, or perhaps more accurately, the inflation of the importance of these elements. While will-power (initiative) and intention do play important parts in the performance of basic rites within the discipline of ritual magick, they are (of course) not exclusively important. These two elements are part of an overall package, and unless the whole package is known and understood, then all sorts of silly ideas about ritual magick can be entertained by the beginner.
In my previous two books, “Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick” and Mastering the “Art of Ritual Magick,” I believe that I have defined these elements but not in a concise manner. Going over what I wrote years ago has prompted me to revisit these basic concepts and attempt to write about them in a much clearer manner than I had previously in these books. I guess you could say that my thoughts, perceptions and my ability to write has improved to the point where I believe that I can now write a better and clearer set of definitions about the basic elements of ritual magick.
How I define intention and will-power regarding ritual magick is to understand them as important parts of the very beginning foundation of any kind of rite to make a change occur in material reality. Intention is important because it represents the plan for making something happen (although it is not yet implemented) and the will, as will-power, representing the desire and discipline to make something happen. Yet these two elements don’t trump the others and are seldom useful or constructive by themselves. In other words, I have never believed that intention alone can cause something to happen, and that will-power by itself can’t accomplish any kind of important achievement. There has to be a coordination between several elements and it’s important to know what they are and how to define them.
The key-stone to functioning as a successful ritual magician is to be empowered, and what I am referring to here is “self-empowerment.” So you might ask what is self-empowerment? It’s certainly a phrase that gets used a lot if you read books on magic, pop psychology and self-help. It is the opposite of helplessness, which is the usual state of being that most humans encounter at some point in their lives (often, but not always, at the moment of their death), and some people never seem to get beyond this state once their desires are thwarted. If we examine the definition of empowerment then I believe we will find the clues to understanding self-empowerment and how it relates to the practices of the ritual magician.
Looking up the word “empowerment” in the dictionary reveals to us that it has the meaning “to enable, to make able, give power, means, competence, ability, to authorize.” Power itself (in this context) means to do something, to act, to accomplish or achieve. In the context of ritual magick, empowerment cannot be given to someone. It must be earned by experience and personal achievement over time, and that’s why it’s called self-empowerment. A teacher can teach someone how to perform ritual magick, but the student must master the art by themselves and learn to be competent and have the assurance to succeed at gaining their magical goals. That can only be accomplished over time (usually years) and through many experiences (including failures as well as successes). Yet it is only the successes that build up personal magical empowerment, and that’s why a magician will focus on them rather than the failures; since the successes are what have given him the empowerment and certainty to continue the quest, and ultimately, to complete the great work itself.
Where self-empowerment is the key-stone, then discipline is the foundation. In order to be competent at something, one must practice in a periodic and regular manner. A ritual magician uses the cycles of the moon and the sun to partition her world and to fill a practical discipline with daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal rites and exercises. An old saying amply reflects this kind of activity - “Live by the Sun, love by the Moon.” What a discipline should contain varies from magician to magician, but it should have regular meditation sessions and periodic rites of spiritual alignment, including and particularly, godhead assumption. Based on the Lunation cycle, the magician should also regularly practice magical workings. The more experience that a magician has, then (hopefully) the greater will be her self-empowerment. These two elements work together, of course.
Within the foundation of the repertoire of practices of the ritual magician is the ability to achieve a form of ultra-conscious ecstasy. There are a number of different methods for achieving this state, and these can be facilitated singularly or in combination using breath control, trance, dance, mantra chanting, sacramental drug usage, sacred sexuality, bondage and discipline, or any other mechanism that achieves ecstasy. It is said that in magick, ecstasy is the key, and that is quite true; but ecstasy is used to push one’s self into the highest states of consciousness as well as exeriorizing or projecting magical power into the mundane sphere. The thing that all of these forms have in common is that they are achieved through the process of resonance. I define resonance as an iterative process that increases in frequency and amplitude until a climax is achieved. Even if a magician uses sacramental drugs, she must engage in some kind of iterative process to push the altered state into its highest expression.
All spell work begins in the same place, which is a desire or a need for something fueled by the imagination. From this the magician puts together an intention, which is a kind of plan of action. A wise plan for a specific end always has a greater overall plan behind it, so that is how the intention and purpose work together to forge a magical working. The intention is a kind of rationale for the desire and fantasy based result, which I call the objective, and it can be established by affirmations and self-promotion that engage one’s self-empowerment. However, if the intention does nothing more than this and there are no corresponding actions, then the intention will likely produce nothing. What makes the intention a truly powerful magical element is the joining of desire, affirmation, imagination, self-promotion, with actions, both magical and mundane. The most important thing that I stated about an intention is that it is a plan, and a plan should have magical actions and also mundane actions. It is also important to schedule your working for an auspicious time (phases of the moon) and determine deadlines for the results to appear, since this defines the proposed working within the boundaries of limits and forces one to take the initiative.
One further step in building up the intention is to translate the objective into a symbolic formulation. The easiest way to do this is to craft a sigil, but there are other attributes that one can use as well. For instance, often it is good to classify the objective in regards to an element or one of the seven planets, and then to find other attributes to identify the objective, such as color, perfume, incense, associated godhead, angelic or goetic spirit, etc. A sigil can additionally represent any of these attributes, such as the color of the ink or paint, the medium upon which it is inscribed (stone, parchment, wood, metallic disk, gemstone, etc.), and then blessed and charged with an incense, perfume and in the name of some aspect of Deity. I believe that translating an objective into a sigil is a very important stage in any kind of ritual magical working. Even if you are using a sigil or a character to help summon a spirit, adding a sigil for the objective to that the sigil of the spirit can further help to determine that goal in a symbolic manner. Minus a sigil, a magician then has to create a construct consisting of the attributes associated with the working, and often these are collected together and placed in a cache or medicine bag. I prefer to use a sigil to translate an objective into a symbolic form. You can find a whole article dedicated to sigil magic here.
Why is this item so important, you ask? Why must we symbolize the objective of a spell in some manner? There are two reasons. The first is to make it into the physical link for the spell, and the second is that it can be more easily acted upon during the symbolic manipulation phase of the spell. A physical link is a handy and succinct representation of the spell’s objective, and it becomes the magical carrier for the spell itself. A physical link is the bridge between the world of spirit and the mundane sphere, so it has an important task of representing the objective within the spirit world itself.
Once these elements have been defined, we can move on to discussing the magical actions, or what would be called a working or an overall spell. A ritual magical working consists of two parts, which is the focusing of emotional forces and symbolic manipulation. It doesn’t mater if the magician is using the energy model or the spirit model; both models use these two elements equally. These actions are performed within sacred space and through a proper altered state of consciousness as established by a meditation session. As part of the self-empowerment, the magician may also employ a personalized attribute of deity within the working, such as that which is acquired through a godhead assumption. The more that a magician can do to bolster his own sense of self through a magically induced spiritual alignment then the outcome will be more potent. It is good to have the Gods on your side when performing a magical operation to acquire something.
So, the elements that have already been determined for a working before the working is actually commenced are those that involve the self and space (various preparations), alignment (god head attribution and/or assumption), defining and building the physical link, and establishing the intention and clarifying the objective. Additionally, the magician should have performed divination on the objective to determine its probability and explore the various associated mundane steps. Ethical considerations should also be weighed (during the divination process), and the magician should feel fully justified in performing the working. The timing of the working and choosing an auspicious date to perform the working is also determined well before the working is to be performed.
Preparations regarding the self are forms of purification and meditation used to transition the mind from the mundane to the spirit world. Also, the space where the working is to be performed is also purified and made sacred, thereby taking it out of the mundane context. A circle can be used to establish a boundary line, and the area within the circle is sacralized with incense, soft illumination, conducive music, and aspurged with either lustral water (salt water) or florida water (water and perfume). Drawing the circle and establishing the cardinal directions are performed by the magician to establish a complete world within the domain of spirit. All of these preparations are performed in a thorough and methodical manner, leading the magician up to that moment where the magical operation will be performed.
As I stated previously, the actual magical working consists of the focusing of emotional forces and symbolic manipulation, in that order. The first step is to harness the passion and emotions that are the driver of the magical and mundane intention. If a magician feels ambiguous or lacks passion about a proposed magical objective, then whatever is done will be weak and likely ineffective. Conversely, the greater the passion that a magician feels about an objective, then the potential for success is greater. Passion is an emotional energy, and establishing a base of this kind of energy will help charge and empower the working. While it is not singularly important that the energy be given any kind of definition (some still think energy is just energy), I believe that defining and articulating the energy makes it more precise and capable of driving the process. The easiest way to define the energy is to use an invoking pentagram of a specific element, and to set these to the four cardinal points and then draw them to the center of the circle through a spiraling circumambulation (from the outer periphery to the center of the circle - a deosil spiral) .
Symbolic manipulation is where the magician uses tools and symbols to express a symbolic meaning or ideation within sacred space. Of course, setting or consecrating a magic circle and performing various other rites with tools, drawn devices (lines of force, circles, spirals, triangles, pentagrams, hexagrams, etc.), intoning incantations and words of power, and using various visualization techniques are all a form of symbolic manipulation. Aside from assisting in defining the base energy of the working, the operation of symbolic manipulation that is critical to a simple spell is joining the physical link to the raised energy (called empowering the link), and thus when the energy is so imprinted, to perform an exteriorization rite (thereby projecting the power to the actual objective outside of the circle).
Empowering the link is where the charged and consecrated sigil is brought into the center of the circle at that point where the power is fixed, and then an association is made between the sigil and the latent energy. At this phase of the spell the magician can visualize the objective and also the intention, including all of the mundane actions, and focus that into the power using his hands or tools. The accumulated magical power, which is the emotional passion associated with the desire for the objective, has now been imprinted with a clear intention and objective, and it is ready for exteriorization.
An exteriorization is achieved through resonance, and this can be accomplished through several different mechanisms. This could also be when the magician employs some form of ecstasy as a method of exteriorizing the collected and imprinted energy. I often use a widdershins spiral and a simple chant, and as I proceed from the center to the out periphery of the circle, I can feel the intensity and the stress of pushing the power increase with every step. Even the chant speeds up and increases in volume as I get ever closer to the outer circle. I plan this spiral so that I will only transcribe the circle three times, and at the end, I will project the power out of the circle with every bit of energy that I have. Sometimes the exteriorization is so potent that it causes me to fall to my knees in exhaustion.
As you can see in the example above, I have used the energy model to describe a simple spell. A magician could also use the evocation of a spirit (typically an elemental, planetary or goetic spirit) to achieve a material goal. In that situation the whole working would be orientated to performing the evocation, and then the intention of the working would be presented to the spirit to achieve, often with some kind of exchange. To perform this kind of working, the magician would have to be proficient with evocation, and that would represent a kind of working that would be somewhat more complex than what I have presented here. However, the use of a sigil that would symbolize the intention and the objective would still be fashioned, and this would presented or imprinted on the character, tool or sigil used to evoke the spirit.
The various stages that I presented above is called the master pattern of ritual magick, and there are seven of these stages. The master pattern consists of the elements of self, space, power, alignment, empowering the link, exteriorization and divination. You can find an article in my repertoire that amply covers each of these elements. As for divination, I am a firm believer that divination should be performed both before and after a working to ensure that the magician is fully informed at all points during the working. You can find an article outlining the master pattern of ritual magick here. I have also discussed these concepts more thoroughly in the article about sacred geometry in the energy theory of ritual magick, and you can find that article here.
To recap what has been discussed in this article, I have proposed the following nine elements as important attributes that are found in a simple energy based working or spell as practiced in ritual magick. These nine elements are:
- Self-empowerment and discipline - the competence to perform the working
- Intention - plan, including magical and mundane actions
- Initiative or will-power - desire to take action
- Emotions, desires, imagination, passion - the basic magical power
- Objective - goal
- Physical Link - symbolized translation of intention and objective
- Symbolic manipulation - magical and symbolic actions (performed in sacred space)
- Altered states of consciousness and sacred space
- Timing - an auspicious time for the working
As you can see, it takes a number of elements, an overall structure and emotional passion to achieve a goal through the art of ritual magick. Not one of these elements is exclusively important, although some of the elements might be either omitted or glossed over without destroying the effectiveness of the overall working. However, I believe that part of the discipline of ritual magick is to thoroughly develop and work each of these elements, since the more that is put into a magical working the better will be its potential outcome.