Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Power of Inertia - Curse of the Ritual Magician

[::sound of crickets::]

Arrrgh! OK - I nearly succumbed to inertia in attempting to write this article, so luckily my muse came by and yelled in my ear. (Ouch!) Perhaps the easiest activity for most folks is just plain doing nothing. You know, sitting around, watching Cable Video, playing video games, goofing around with the computer, reading extraneous stuff that has nothing to do with anything important, like comic books or cheap graphic novels - or just looking at online porn. We all have our various vices, bad habits and excuses for not being productive, yet the worst disease that can plague and haunt a ritual magician is inertia - the vice of doing nothing!

Shadow says: “Dude, chill! Stop tweaking out! Do Nothing~ ‘cause it’s the ‘Do Nothin’ Club!’ Pull up a log and veg’ with the best of us!”

There is a lot of lore written about fear and conquering it, including the famous saying of all - “Fear is the mind slayer..” But I think that the greatest enemy and most potent foe is inertia, and hardly nothing is written about it. One could assume that being lazy and lethargic lacks any kind of drama, and it’s such a reprehensible state that it doesn’t require a lot of comments. All it requires is just some motivation to get off one’s backside and do something constructive. Where there are so many words of wisdom to deal with fear and sympathetic admonitions to be courageous, the only pretty words that being lazy receive are stern lectures, condemnations and derision. Still, human inertia has its own special category of vice, that of the sin of slothfulness, which, I might add, is, after all, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

“Slothfulness is the mind killer, and also the killer of any progressive enterprise!”

How does inertia affect the work of the ritual magician and how can it be defeated? First you need to know that inertia seductively creeps into everything that even the most industrious person does, producing stultifying states of complacency, self-satisfaction and generally, resting on one’s laurels. This is particularly true of anyone who at least managed to establish a foundation of occult practices and a discipline. The more you accomplish, the less you have to do, at least on a collective level. Right? Absolutely wrong! It is at this point of accomplishment that the real tests and work begin, and failing to take up those tests and master them will cause an internal and endemic failure, making it hard to override habits and inhibitions to continue the work.

Most everyone is guilty of this failure - and here, I must raise my hand up high like a beanstalk and say that I am just as guilty as anyone else. Inertia is a deadly and pernicious creeping flaw in the work of an initiate, and it’s even worse and more profound for an adept, or a high adept. Whenever anyone has achieved a major accomplishment in any area of life, it just seems so natural to take it easy , to repose, smell the roses and enjoy what has been achieved. That’s all well and good, but if that state of repose lasts for any length of time, then those very same accomplishments are being jeopardized by inertia. It means that one will continue to bask in the glow of being successful, until that glow disappears and the gnawing demons of insecurity and ineffectiveness will return with greater force.

The most important thing that a ritual magician can do is to plan out their ordeals and their magickal workings. Purposefully set aside the time and the days to do the work, and then make certain that nothing short of an emergency will thwart it. Make a commitment that you will stubbornly keep no matter what happens, because trust me, something will happen to interfere with this constructive process. It constantly amazes me that I will feel this power of inertia creep into my will and desire to do something, seducing me into finding an excuse not to do it - to postpone it for some reason or another. I hear the thoughts in my head and emotions in my heart that indicate that I am tired, I don’t feel like working magick, I no longer believe that what I was about to do was really all that important.

What I do when I hear these thoughts and sense these feelings is to make damn certain that my commitment to do the work is followed by action regardless of how I feel. I will only postpone a working if there is a really good reason, such as being very ill or an emergency situation crops up. Still, being unprepared isn’t a worthy excuse for not keeping a commitment. Therefore, one should do the work however prepared one is, and damn the consequences. If the work is marred or screwed up because of a lack of preparation, then that will certainly motivate one to properly prepare for the next working. Taking this attitude forces one to prepare for the work irregardless of how one feels. Inertia is deadly and can kill internal spiritual progress; that’s why we need to make iron clad commitments to do the work.

Don’t think that commitment and intention will save the day every time a working is planned. It doesn’t - the road to hell is paved with all sorts of good intentions and commitments. Even preparations don’t guarantee that the work will be done when it’s planned to be done.  You may take a lot of time painstakingly consecrating your tools, organizing and cleaning your magickal temple, writing the rituals or even planing on taking certain days off. However, unless you do the work, it was all just a form of prevarication - putting things off by focusing too much on the details. You can take days fumigating your beautiful sword and dagger in costly incense, anointing them with balm and holy water, too, but unless you also make a commitment to do the ritual work, all this is just window dressing. Intentions and commitments must be followed with real work, or else it’s just a dodge or excuse for screwing off.

When I write about planning ritual workings and ordeals, what exactly am I saying? How do you determine what to do? The Order of the Gnostic Star has a graduated list of ordeals and major workings that all initiates receive when they join, which helps them to determine the steps required for their elevation and their transformative spiritual and magickal evolution. We call it the “Plan,” but it’s really only a suggestion of what ideally one should do. The real plan is nearly always determined by the practicing ritual magician, based on what he or she already knows, and what needs to be learned and mastered. The Tree of Life itself can supply an excellent graduated set of accomplishments that practitioners can examine and compare against themselves. Looking over this list, anyone should be able to put together their own list of ordeals and magickal workings. (You can find this list in the Order’s Bylaws, located here.)

Keep in mind that if you lack the background to perform a specific working, then you will have to get that background through study and research. Thus, reading books, writing notes and building up your personal lore is all part of the work. Preparation establishes the intention of the work, but it must always be followed with a specific commitment to do it. Then on the elected evening, the magician must actually perform the work. Anyway, here’s the list, from steps one through four, as I see it. Further considerations will doubtlessly produce additional tasks or completely new ones.

1. Earth Magick - know how to work practical magick to make things happen on the material plane. This would include protection magick, healing, self-control, grounding, focusing, generating and projecting magickal powers, use and art of self-made sigil magick, basic thaumaturgy, craft magick, trance workings, all forms of divination, and most importantly, Elemental Magick. One could also consider grove workings, godhead alignment rites and exercises, centering, and all forms of meditation and contemplation should be included in this category as well. Earth magick represents the basic foundation for the practice of magick, which is a requirement for any work. I would also add that the magician should also have undergone some kind of initiatory ordeal as well.

2. Talismanic Magick - planetary magick, including astrological magick, will train a practitioner to create charms and focus points of magickal energy backed up by spiritual intelligences. The next step up from working earth magick is learning how to generate talismans and work with planetary and zodiacal intelligences. This is an important prequel to the work of invocation and evocation, theurgy and goetic workings. Learning to work and master the planetary and zodiacal intelligences will assist the magician in learning how to invoke or evoke spirits. Not only that, but mastering the art of talismanic magick has its own benefits, such as bending and warping the natural direction of the material world so that it bestows upon the magician a windfall or some other larger benefit. Earth magick helps magicians establish themselves and maintain their material world, but talismanic magick assists them in making breakthroughs that would otherwise not be possible. The spirits associated with this level are the seven planetary intelligences, the tweleve zodiacal intelligences, and the twenty-eight talismanic elements associated with the lunar mansions.

3. Theurgy and Evocation - Spirit magick, which opens the magician up to the whole hierarchy of angels and daimons. I would have to include in this section the art of priestcraft, where the magician would also function as mediator of sacramental powers, since I believe that this ability goes hand in hand with theurgy. Tackling ritual invocation and evocation is the real test that separates the arm-chair magicians from those who have an actual living practice. While the Order has a regimen of rituals and workings for the magician to learn and master, someone outside of the Order will have to take a different approach. This outside approach will require magicians to acquire, study and master one or more old grimoires as well as study all of the available material in the Golden Dawn and Crowley’s Equinox to ferret out everything relevant. I would also include all four books of Agrippa’s “Occult Philosophy” as well as anything else in print that might help the magician to forge their own system of invocation and evocation. I have already talked about the five classic steps of evocation, which are consecratio, invocatio, conscriptio, legatio and licentia. A perusal of the Solomonic grimoires, including the Greater and Lesser Key, will help one to determine some of the spirits to target. I would also examine the Qabbalah thoroughly, and extract from it a complete list of various angels, demons, and other spirits associated with the complete occult spiritual hierarchy. A true magician develops the capability to invoke or evoke any and all of the relevant spirits in his or her adopted spiritual hierarchy.

4. Greater Ordeals - This category of workings represents the higher end of what a magician can accomplish, so unless you are an experienced theurgist, attempting some of these workings would probably be a waste of time, or even a bit hazardous to your mental health. The first ordeal that comes to mind is the Abramelin working, whether the magician chooses the six month or eighteen month version, or decides to work the version established by Aleister Crowley, which is found in Liber Samakh. The Bornless One invocation rite comes to mind, and so does the entire corpus of the Enochian tradition of magick. It would be really helpful if one could completely master the art of being a priest and prelate for some aspect of Deity, perhaps following some variation of Crowley’s book, Liber CLXXV - Astarte vel Berylli, or maybe the Beatification rite from the Sworn Book of Honorius. Building your own complete system of magick could also occupy this level, or reconstituting some long unused or dead grimoire or body of work, like the Greek Magical Papyri in Translation. Anyway, I am sure you get the idea for this step.

In addition to above progressive list of steps, the erstwhile ritual magician can also independently work on mastering at least two forms of Yoga, some form of Tantra, elective and horary astrology, theoretical alchemy, a couple of foreign languages, take on a few apprentices and help them to master ritual magick, maybe even write a few books and start a magickal lodge. All of this can be done, even as the candidate master magician builds up a satisfying career or business, raises a family, manages friendships and family relationships, and maybe does some world traveling, too. All of this takes time, and after all, isn’t that what we have to work with in the here and now? Time is ticking away at this moment - what are your magickal plans?

So that’s it, from steps one through four. Of course there are more steps, and in fact, in the Order the steps are a little more gradual and use ritual lore for each stage, which I admit the outsider doesn’t have access to. However, this is as good an approximation of the stages that initiates of the Order of the Gnostic Star go through. I must confess that the fourth step is a mixture of the fourth and fifth steps in the Order, but that shouldn’t present any problems.

As you can see, there’s a lot to do - enough to keep anyone busy for decades, or even a lifetime. If you approach this list incrementally, one step at a time, then after some years of work, you will have achieved quite a degree of magickal mastery. Yet whatever you do, don’t succumb to fatigue, boredom or hubris. Just keep on working through your entire life, from the moment you start to the moment you take your last dying breath. Remember, there will be plenty of time to rest, when you’re dead and buried.

Sweet dreams, oh my brothers and sisters;

Frater Barrabbas


  1. Excellent as usual, and remarkably timely; thanks for posting.

  2. Well written, and timely for me as well. In the winter, in the cold time of year, inertia easily creeps up on me. I try to work with where I am in the year - I focus on coding and design projects in the winter, I focus on building things and working on my house in warmer months.