What is ritual? A Theory.
Anyone who thinks they have a working understanding of what a ritual is and aren’t looking for a new perspective needn’t read this chapter.
For the rest I would like to deal with the theory behind ritual and magick. I will attempt to answer the question “what is ritual?” in the most general sense possible, which allows for application of any kind, from artwork to so-called “high magick” to bricklaying.
My second essay will deal a little with the history of my own exploration and experimentation in this vein. I will also provide some simple exercises I have developed with the assistance of various teachers for embodying and exploring the energies around us and in us.
This somewhat misleading distinction between theory and practice is mirrored by our false division of mind and body. All effortless, perfected action depends on a unity of theory and practice, mind and body, which dissolves these distinctions, even if they are usually fed to us as modular and separate. That which is done well is done automatically, almost accidentally. However it is through the correlation of various “accidents” of this type that you can see your will manifested within your life.
The process of application is ultimately more important than the mental processes of study and contemplation. However we should begin theoretically with this in mind, take in the theory, and then explore those theories in action once we have gained a sufficient base of knowledge to evaluate our results.
When dealing with a topic like ritual in an essay format, we run the risk of mummifying the vitality of the process with our words. A successful ritual is experiential, experimental, rich with symbols and metaphors, scents and movements, all of which have meaning to the participants. When a ritual is pantomimed, it has become dead and must be discarded. Ultimately any action done for a specific intent can be considered ritual, if we borrow Aliester Crowley's definition of Magick as the "art and science of causing change in conformity with Will."
However there is a cultural context to ritual which mustn't be overlooked, which we will unfortunately have to deal with only in passing so that we can move on to the practical heart of ritual: creativity.
The cultural context that arises as a result or the cause of ritual practice is multi-faceted and involves study of past mythic traditions as well as human social behavior in general, however its root can be found in the roots of the words themselves.
A ritual is the same as a rite: a ceremonial act or series of acts, generally associated with religion. The word roots of religion, the latin religio, means to yoke or bind together. In philosophical terms the phenomenology must be tied to ontology. Perception and being are to be brought together, and the rituals are the method for bring about this alchemical marriage. This is also the meaning of the word yoga, as Crowley repeats countless times in his Eight Lectures on Yoga: yoga means union.
Thus the fundamental purpose of myth as the embodiment of ritual and religion is to tie individuals to a cultural source, or to tie individuals to their own source. The function is essentially one of binding or bringing together. You perform ritual to bring the vying aspects of your consciousness into accord with your will. Thus an action that yokes our action and our will together may be considered ritual.
Ritual is a process used to connect us to that source. Although I said it could be applied to any habitual action, this is only so when all of ones habitual actions have been “spiritualized.” To be successful, certain pre-requisites must be fulfilled. For instance, as all ritual serves to pitch us out of our daily lives in some way, there must be a strong quality of the “other-worldly” in the process. Ritual is “deified” or “spiritualized” activity. Something is called “spiritual” merely as it holds a quality that allows us to distinguish it from regular activity.
In its traditional context, ritual may involve calling upon a particular energy to aid you in a task, yet the same principles apply to brushing your teeth every night. Both are tasks carried out with a specific end in mind. Every single habit and action has a cumulative effect on your being. When all actions are in harmony with our internal goals, whatever they may be, we are living our myth or “doing our Will.” When every activity is a ritual, you’re well on your way to manifesting your dream in
reality… or at the very least, living life as if it were a dream.
There is one key difference in most people’s lives between brushing their teeth and practicing ritual magick. The necessity of a distinction between every day life and mythic life is part of the reason for the use of arcane or archaic language in conjurations, however this device may be too cheesy for some. If those devices make you want to lose your lunch, then another technique is probably called for.
In initiations in particular there must be a period of unease, confusion, or nausea before we cease to cling to our self, as we conceive it, and are hurled headlong into the new experience the ritual is creating. I have experienced very few initiations in which I did not at some point resort to the 1st circuit response “mommy take me home!” This is all a natural part of the re-imprinting process. (At the same time this should not give people the ability to have an excuse to take advantage of you. Such people do exist within organizations of all colors.)
This emotion of dread and awe is intrinsically connected to the religious experience. “The transition then is from an aesthetic (Apollonian) to a properly religious dimension of experience (Dionysian …divine rapture); and the sense of awe, dread or terror that is then experienced is something different altogether from any ‘kinetic’ natural loathing or terror before an odious or dangerous object.” Pg. 353 Joseph Campbell, Masks of God IV.
This is what happens when you proceed far enough to feel the ground drop out beneath your feet. The theory is turning to practice and the ideas you have had became beliefs and now they are being applied to how you experience reality. The practitioner at this point becomes aware of the world of dream, though he may experience it in many ways. Myths are transmissions from this realm.
A successful ritual is an enacted myth. For instance, with invocation, one steps outside of ones normal role, and makes the body and mind a fit receptacle for a particular type of energy, which is codified in symbols. These symbols are impressed upon the mind as words, but during the ritual scents, colors, & etc. all congruent with the nature of the invocation must be present, which further exalt the mind to allow this “deity” to indwell within it. Methods, which we will cover later, vary highly from mantras, postures, visualizations, use of “energy” which is activated merely through concentration, invocations which can done through art, vocal invocations or even to a lesser but more pervasive sense, the stream of consciousness always running through our minds, making our beliefs progressively more concrete.
There is some value in being aware of those who have come before. Otherwise, you may wind up re-inventing the wheel. It is a tried and true axiom of art that you cannot break rules that you are not aware of.
You may feel a little lost when you begin comparing the myths and religions of different cultures. The clothing differs from sect to sect, and from culture to culture. However, there is one aspect that is synchronous throughout all ritual: the participants are brought to a mythological ground vaster than their normal experience through the machinations of the ritual. Ritual alters state of mind and has the power to create entire cultures. Although it is true that the energies you deal with are just metaphors or projections of your own consciousness, it is also true that they have a mind, will, and identity all their own as much as you do. Both are true. It is incredibly important that the would-be practicioner grasp this before dealing with evocation, possession, or conjuration of any kind.
Ritual can put you in touch with any number of different cultural consciousnesses or hiveminds. The ritual ground is archetypical ground, so that for instance in tantric practice one person embodies the god Shiva and the other the goddess Shakti. By taking on this embodiment man is doing the work of Gods.
It is crucial that we can alter our state of mind and that our experience of the world is also grounded in that same mind. It is through ritual that the hivemind and the individual can interact. The child of this union is myth, often embodied in art. Thus you could call a successful group ritual a viral meme, and vice versa.
This common ground is created through the cultural or cultic belief system that is the domain of that mythology. You may in a sense consider the whole of a mythology to be the neurological map or domain from which a culture derives itself. The altar, whether it be a physical altar or merely your sanctified place of work or worship, is a cross-roads between your individual identity and the energies which inform the universe.
What then is mythology? David Maclagan says, “Myth, in its deep structure as well as in its superficial content, is about this compound relation of between body/mind and word/world. It is metaphoric, not in the sense that it uses what we call ‘figures of speech,’ mere rhetorical devices, but in the root sense of the word: ‘carrying across’ the convenient boundaries we establish between sexes, seasons, species and stars. This metaphoric leakage is not consciously contrived, nor is it peculiar to myth; it penetrates, in the act, everything we do, all the sense we make-even in the most narrowly specialized branch of science.”
This quote, used in Jamake Highwater’s exploration of Myth & Sexuality, serves as a good beginning point for us. Additionally, it highlights a crucial point of mythology: that myth is metaphorical and arranged through the commonality in human experience.
Pragmatically, myths that resonate with the largest audience survive. This may seem a somewhat Darwinian interpretation of Aesthetics but whether or not something is “good art,” you aren’t even going to hear about the meme unless if the resonance pattern it created reached you. Through word of mouth, or big advertising budgets.
For artists myths always fascinate as there are infinite ways to clothe the elementary idea of the story, and every new permutation of the same tale reveals new contours and possibilities within its depths.
Through looking at the “myths” of different cultures, we see what issues are part of the culture-complex of a particular place and time, and what is really existentially crucial to the human animal in any time and place. Certain themes remain. Myth intends to provide a connection to our singular source.
Myths only truly have relevance when they have both a cultural and a personal import. For example, the apocalypse myth has taken hold of many of our imaginations because on a cultural level we potentially stand on the brink of a great chaos, which could be the apocalypse of this culture and age, if not our species. Whether or not this becomes a historical fact, it is a psychological fact. Our myths are a symptom of the state of mind of our culture.
Simultaneously this image must also reverberate to us on a personal level. We must be attuned to it. This attunement could be the product of any number of things- fear, fascination, confusion, but I would propose that if the idea of personal apocalypse had no sway over you, the cultural form would be powerless as well.
This is something myth-makers and artists must be aware of, that to be the voice of an age they are in fact speaking on these two levels, separate and yet inseparable. It is not your voice that becomes the voice of an age, but rather the voice of an age which speaks through the artist.
Ritual magick in particular is an attempt at controlling or coming into accord with the world we live in through direct, conscious use of the associations or “alphabet” we use to interpret our experience. Most of us can be categorized into the “attempting to control” or “coming into accord” category. My life changed when I made a conscious decision to attempt the latter rather than the former. It becomes a matter of flexibility. Clearly gradual, cumulative effort is much more effective, and safe, than a flash in the pan.
All emotions and impressions can be categorized in any number of ways and connected to symbols for use. For instance, a pendant upon which you have impressed the qualities of Venus through diligent work will bring about results sympathetic with those ideas.
We can generalize this still further in the hopes that you will see how this can be applied to anything in your life, not just what you consider “ritual magick.” Unfortunately this level of generalization may make what I have to say sound somewhat robotic.
Glasses vibrate as a reaction to specific frequencies based on their size, or we could say, based on their character. If you project frequencies they will create a resonance with congruent vessels, as well as an interference pattern with others. This can be understood in any number of ways. For instance, an individual that later became a friend and business associate of mine happened to write “CTHULU” alongside a cartoon-ish octopus on a piece of paper and post it on his door. When walking down the hall, I saw this, recognized the meme, was amused, and decided to knock on the door. As a result three years later I was running a media company alongside him. This can also generally be applied to the connection between certain audiences and certain artists. Like, if you play Coltrane some people will dig it and others won’t. Coltrane put a message out there that some people heard, and others did not. Furthermore, in a more traditional magickal setting, it is said that the color green, the dove, sandalwood, and number 7 are revered by the energy that we can call “Venus.” If you wish to attain her audience, you might use these in a ritual.
Spoken words, moving images, all have biological, psychological, and electromagnetic effects. Of course all of these are the same “body” perceived in a number of different ways. The idea that philosophy does not apply to magick or that magick does not apply to engineering is as outmoded as the idea that the mind and the body are not ultimately one and the same. (A “damned thing” that is not any definition or system that we use to represent it.)
Ritual is merely creating “frequencies” that resonate the effects we want through sympathetic reaction. If this is done, all you have to do is let them come to you. Though we cannot absolutely foresee the effects of complex probabilistic relationships we can count in the universe reflecting back to us a mirror reflection of what we give it, as yin (soft) gives way to yang (hard) and yang gives way to yin.
In practice this means that one must be what is called “empty” in the internal martial arts. Being empty does not mean being blank of mind, nor does the Taoist equivalent “we wei” literally mean you should simply do nothing. “Calmness in the heart of movement is the secret of all power” is the motto of the Hsing-Chen internal arts school, which I was unfortunately only able to attend for a moderately short time. This may shed some light on the meaning of “emptiness,” as “calm power.” Alert, adaptable, untethered.
All of the internal arts focus on “dissolving” ones self. Every stance we take, physically, emotionally, or otherwise, is a compensation. We are constantly existing in a balancing act with our environment. This compensation is a constant dance, a process, which is not static in any way.
Some people attempt to limit the variability of their lives by taking on routines. This routine, when taken to the extreme level that most of us in the “Western world” do, makes us inflexible. Constantly lulled to sleep by corporate consumer culture, life can seem very much like a pattern which results in little more than money changing hands.
This means releasing energetic blocks on various levels and realizing that what we are willing into existence in our lives can be interpreted as lessons. The act of “releasing these blocks” may manifest on various levels and may be dealt with in a multitude of ways. There are times when a voodoo ritual may be more appropriate and others where only a kick in or to the nuts will do. You are the “teacher” teaching yourself these lessons in the hopes of adapting to the changes presented by your life.
Clearly these principle can be applied liberally by artists within their work. Eventually the object itself triggers those associated results without thought or effort. Whether this is the result of psychological suggestion, as Robert Anton Wilson says in Prometheus Rising, “what the thinker thinks the prover proves,” or actual energetic sympathy is a matter of model preference.
To summarize all of this: the ritual is an enactment of a mythology allowing us access to dimensions of our singular and collective being, through the language of symbols with specific connotations, in what is essentially a play-acting process. The energies and beings dealt with may be thought of as real or projection, ultimately they are as real or unreal as any other impression that you might have. Every action, word and gesture has symbolic meaning or mythological resonance. This resonance must occur between the myth or ritual and the individual(s) enacting it, in whatever mediums they choose to Work.
In Hatha Yoga, we find the idea of Niyama, essentially meaning “right acts.” This is the ethical consideration of the Yoga, which helps an aspirant mesh his actions with his intent. Unfortunately a great deal of superstition and rural ethical beliefs clouded this judgment, and so Crowley subtly re-defined this term, still absolutely fundamental to successful Magickal practice. Niyama becomes the ethical laws we must abide by to reach our goals, determined entirely by the nature of our intent. Any magickal intent that is not ultimately aimed at personal emancipation and evolution is questionable. However emancipation and evolution themselves are not ethical things.
Most people don’t start their study of magick, mysticism, or psychology with their sights on the highest. Many started magick in hopes of becoming the popular kid at their high school and within ten years have, almost despite themselves, actually become aware of their Will. All other concerns become irrelevant and petty by comparison. Niyama in many ways is connected to the tool or symbol of the dagger and the flail, as it is a principle often applied for the banishment of traits and wills that are in conflict with our objective. These must be quelled for the operation to be a success. William James’ definition of truth may be the most useful here: “that which is expedient in thought and action.”
If we go about searching our ritual heritage, it quickly becomes apparent that we must learn how to read a myth. Analysis of the history of myth is useless if you don’t see how the symbols relate directly and immediately to you. This calls for unusual creative acumen. You must be able to project your life story into a pile of tea leaves, or explore your psyche through painting. The medium doesn't matter. For those who practice, it goes without saying that there is more than a passing connection between art and magick. Though great magickal success through art does not ensure the understanding of an audience, ultimately ritual or art is enacted to get you from here to there. We do not bear this art so as to be "good." No real evaluation of quality is useful. To simply be what and who we are in the process of creating, and to strive to be more ourselves the next time around- to the magickian, this is what holds value. After use the medium may be discarded as chaff.
This may seem to contradict my earlier statements in about the connections between art and ritual, and of the role of the artist as translator for the cultural dreams of a time or place. While I often see contradiction as a sure sign that you’re doing something right, my intention here is to re-enforce that if an artist wastes time and energy trying to design his art to match a market, he is no longer an artist. This simply cannot be a concern. If it is, you have short circuited your creativity. Surely with any project there comes a time when marketing is a topic for discussion, but it has no place in the fugue state of creation.
The four traditional tools of Western magick may allow us to cut to the heart of ritual and creative practice. Ritual is the practice or embodiment of myth, art is the alchemical method of manifestation, and art is informed by dream. It is through a balanced application of the four traditional magickal tools that we bring these to life. (You could say that breaking down "ritual" into these parts is itself an application of the sword.)
These are the wand, the cup, the sword, and the pentacle. Success and balance is encoded within the interplay of these four symbols, when properly understood. On the universal level they represent the creative will, fire, which is given form and tempered by water, the receptive quality. This substrate is honed, analyzed, and pared down by the intellectual quality of air, and is finally brought into manifestation in sensations, the element of earth. In the Zohar, a 13th century Kabbalistic text considered primary in that tradition next to the Sefer Yetzirah, these four elements are represented as the father (fire), the mother (water), the son (air), and the daughter (earth.) (It may be of interest to those with some familiarity of these symbols that the mystic reverses the process that the universe uses in manifestation, marrying the daughter and the son, to raise them to the throne of the father.)
We are led to our will through the constant exploration and exercise of our creative vision. When I say “will” I actually mean it in two senses. On the one hand I refer to the simple willpower it takes to fuel this creation to life, a verb, the action of creating it. On the other, I refer to the entire process as a whole as a single, completed unit. We find ourselves, writ large, within our creations, and may only come to know ourselves in this complete way after many years of creative experimentation. This is what it is that you have been working on your entire life, without realizing it. Every single action or piece contains the whole within it. This whole is something that you can perceive directly in any moment.
Many times, when giving advice to people who feel stuck in their creative processes, I have told them that you must use the cup and the wand, and then the sword. The earth - physical manifestation – will be your result. In other words you must be receptive to your intention to create. You may not know exactly what it is that you are going to make but you must nevertheless be open to it and aware of it in some non-verbal fashion.
If you give an idea fertile ground to grow in it will grow, even if the seed remains underground for some time. Give it fallow earth and water. When the time is ripe - you will most likely experience this as a psychic pressure which simply must be released – you must empty yourself and become a medium for the seed to sprout from. This is where the trance techniques that I will share with you come into play.
Finally, once this synthesis has taken place, you can re-order, re-structure, and piece it together into the form that you first envisioned in your imaginative process. Many people attempt to start with the final step and wonder why they are so “naturally uncreative.” Creativity is a process many of us need to re-learn, though it is second nature to any two year old.
In chi gung I was taught that the li (mind) leads the chi. That is to say, it is your intention to create movement that creates movement, before the movement has occurred. The breath follows this, so that eventually there is an integration of the entire system, from intent to action, which flows effortlessly, as a whole. This is the intention or “seed” which lies beneath the fault-line of our consciousness, the essence of a movement or action immediately before it is born to action. If there is no block of this will on any level, then the action is in fact divine. We merely embody it as it manifests.
Ultimately theory and abstraction is only useful when it can be applied to even the simplest or most concrete task. This idea itself is tacit within the four element system. All of the four elemental traits should be developed within an initiate, and it is an application of all four the results in a successful venture. Without pointing fingers, let me say that it has been my experience that many Western traditions, magickal and otherwise, emphasize knowledge over intuition, and don't successfully teach techniques for developing creativity, adaptability, and receptivity. It is much more difficult to teach creativity than rote devices. However I have learned techniques that can help you develop your creativity and receptivity, both on my own working as an artist and creative producer, and in personal classes with trained facilitators in 5 element Chi Gung, Bagua, Ericksonian hypnotherapy and Neuro-linguistic Programming.
My own practice started to veer further and further from the traditional Western esoteric approach as I worked on my own and with various instructors and partners in crime, as I explored the energies within me. These techniques for developing creativity, and energies you can explore within yourself, physically and immediately without any special "arcane knowledge," we will discuss in my second essay.
All of this comes into our practice, whatever it is. Every act that we take has reverberations which we must work to be aware of, always pushing ourselves to the next level - never looking down upon the endless expanse beneath our feet.
I say all of this as a fellow student of myself. There are no teachers in this school. I don’t believe any of this bullshit, that doesn’t keep it from working.
Chapter II. A Creative Ritual Practice.
There is the story of the American in the train who saw another American carrying a basket of unusual shape. His curiosity mastered him, and he leant across and said: "Say, stranger, what you got in that bag?"
The other, lantern-jawed and taciturn, replied: "mongoose".
The first man was rather baffled, as he had never heard of a mongoose. After a pause he pursued, at the risk of a rebuff: "But say, what is a Mongoose?"
"Mongoose eats snakes", replied the other.
This was another poser, but he pursued: "What in hell do you want a Mongoose for?"
"Well, you see", said the second man (in a confidential whisper) "my brother sees snakes".
The first man was more puzzled than ever; but after a long think, he continued rather pathetically: "But say, them ain't real snakes".
"Sure", said the man with the basket, "but this Mongoose ain't real either".
-Aliester Crowley, Magick In Theory and Practice.
“Magick” is in many ways a method for performing psychotherapy on ones self. This may be done alongside more traditional psychotherapy, and according to some rather esteemed in the Western tradition such as Israel Regardie, it most definitely should.
Ultimately magick is a practice of giving meaning to the things that happen to us. It has only been recently, after almost a decade of conscious exploration, that I came to this realization. Many if not most of the “tools” on my altar have personal signifigance, which has been deepened through years of working with them. Aside from the initial signifigance that allowed me to recognize these “tools” for what they were, much of this meaning has been given. Many of the tragedies I have endured in my life have similarly lead to leaps of growth and self knowledge, because I had a tradition – my own! – which allowed me to claim it and give it meaning as an initiation to a new way of being and perceiving the world.
So if it has not already been dispelled, for the time being put aside the useless question of whether magick, energy, spirits, and so on are or are not “real,” and recognize that what we are dealing with here is in fact our ability to make things real, and to give them meaning. Just as it is ultimately not the answers but the questions that are the true catalyst of growth, it is not the meaning inherent in things but the meaning that we give to them that holds value.
With this in mind, it seems most fitting to me to begin my chapter on practice not with a series of exercises, but instead with a little bit of my own history. This will doubtless shed some light on my biases, the angle of my approach, and may also help guide you away from some briar patches that I tangled myself in along the way.
At the age of sixteen I was living in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in an apartment complex near a wildlife sanctuary. Some of my friends and I started going back into the woods on a regular basis and practicing a very free-form Shamanism. In looking back at these events, which I have done at length in the process of writing my novel Join My Cult, I still haven’t been able to pin-point many external sources or inspirations that set it in motion. It was simply as if the woods, or something that we contacted within them, showed us what to do as we were doing it. Even with Occam’s Razor firmly in place, I have found no explanation more satisfactory than this one. My study of the occult per se occurred after this point. Yet, many of the results of my initial fumblings far exceeded the results of the rituals I performed within the confines of the traditions I encountered while studying.
Specific details of these time and mind-bending adventures are also contained within that book, so I won’t belabor the point here. Needless to say, at that age, with no prior experience and no tradition in which to understand these experiences, I was driven nearly mad very rapidly.
After a short stint in a mental hospital, I put aside the approach I had been using before, and started looking for a historic and philosophical precedent. I found that I had been incredibly sheltered in my knowledge before, as I was virtually surrounded by accounts of similar events, as well as many others that went far beyond the scope of my experience.
For the next four years, I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to the pursuit of philosophical and psychological knowledge. I put aside music and the visual arts. I accumulated a great deal of information during this time, however once again my tower came crashing down, if less dramatically, when I realized that by studying these things I was in fact moving further away from them. C. G. Jung once said “religion is man’s way of dealing with a religious experience.” This seems an empty, tautological statement until you realize what is meant by it. The living, breathing mystery of existence will never be the same as the models we create to comprehend it. Furthermore when we deal with these mysteries through maps that we create, they seem safer. They are known.
However the truth of religious experience is better contained within a single breath than the whole of William James’ Variety of Religious Experience. Realizing this, I performed what many saw as a 180 in my undergraduate studies, and went back into art and media, as well as those traditions that had an explicit practice that went along with the theory.
Shortly after realizing this consciously, I was immediately provided with a variety of teachers. As it is said, when the student is ready a teacher will appear. First it was someone I met online who claimed to be a part of a mystical order of one kind or another. This claim held no sway over me, nearly everyone in the “scene” is a member of one society or another. However this individual started appearing to me in dreams and teaching me things there. This stopped as quickly as it had began after a “dream conversation” where my teacher told me I needed to be more mindful of my body and my emotions, and make myself a fit vessel for the energies I wanted to call upon.
A few months later I was in a grocery store and was approached by an individual who had been practicing Shaolin Kung fu for over ten years, and who was looking for some students. I told him I was interested, however I had no money. He said that wasn’t a problem if I could start immediately. My ex-wife and I proceeded to work with him for six months, and those six months changed my life. When I met him I ate poorly, spent all of my time in front of the computer, and smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. After my first class my entire body felt like jello. A month later, I had quit smoking and was eating organic. This wasn’t the result of a single choice to change my ways or quit smoking, those never worked. This change just happened naturally as a result of the training. (Now I still spend too much time in front of the machine but otherwise the change still remains.)
This pattern was repeated countless times in a variety of traditions. Teachers would appear, begin teaching me, and then I’d hit an edge and would be shuffled off to train elsewhere. All of this has been “purely coincidental” however the full story, which would probably fill a full length book, makes “pure coincidence” seem a pretty meaningless phrase. I relay all of this to you to show how our lives have a current to them, and if you release yourself to it, and have faith in it, there is no knowing where you might wind up.
I have been working with the Chinese five element model for two years now, however for the following ritual template I am going to use a four element model so as to remain congruent with my previous chapter.
To begin, find yourself a place where you will be free from distractions. This can be a small plain room or a mountaintop. There are likely benefits to working outdoors, however for a variety of reasons this often isn’t possible. Lack of viable serene mountain views shouldn’t be an excuse to stop practicing.
The more you work in this location, the more you will develop a ‘ritual’ within it. Ideally every aspect of the space should have a meaning to you. If you can expand this to your entire living space, then you have really made it yours. This is difficult if not impossible if you are sharing living spaces with others however, and may actually cause serious contention when people ritualize the same space differently without approaching it as a group effort. This may seem inconsequential but I have seen it destroy friendships and even unleash what I would call “demons.” Alternately when people aren’t able to ritualize a space they often ignore it entirely, which brings along its own problems along with it. If you are not living alone, bear this in mind. There are reasons why a lot of the old “traditional” magickal books insist on hermitage. This is one of them.
You may want to construct an altar. An altar is a physical model of your mental models. It let’s you take physical objects that represent forces or thoughts processes and play with them like an eight year old playing with transformers.
Your altar can be made of nearly anything, and should be developed as a model of your world-view. If you switch practices, say from Thelema to Tibetan Buddhism, you may want to construct a new physical model.
However the template I’m going to present to you doesn’t require an altar. It just allows you to work on physical objects that you can build resonance with. All of this can be done entirely mentally without Dumbo’s feather.
To begin, sit or stand, depending on whether you feel you need to bring your energy level down or up. Breathe deeply and regularly. By “deeply” I mean this literally, feel it expanding all the way into your pelvis. However do not force the breath, or try to control its duration. Focus your attention on a point just beneath your belly button as you do this.
If you are standing, bring your feet about shoulder width apart. Next focus on where your weight is being distributed. Rock loosely and lightly forward and backward until you come to a point where it is perfectly distributed between the front and back of your feet. Let your legs bow slightly. You needn’t be in a full kung fu horse stance, the point is to keep your knees from locking. This will block the flow of energy. Stack your vertibra one at a time, tilt your head slightly forward, and bring your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
All of these motions should be very subtle. You needn’t overemphasize them. The intention of doing them should be enough to cause the required physical shift.
Bring your hands to cup your stomach, at the same time focus your attention on breathing up through your legs. When you exhale, feel that intention collecting under your hands. In a few minutes, they may begin to grow quite warm.
If you are sitting, do the same however you obviously needn’t worry about your knees. Pay extra attention to the straightness of your back, and to make sure that your head isn’t jutting forward like a turtle.
Now you are ready to begin.
Fire - Energize
Focus on what you would like to accomplish. This can be a change within yourself, or a change in your situation. Ultimately, the two are the same, its just a matter of where you want to cause the change first.
If you like, you can draw a symbol to represent this intent. If there is another way you would like to represent this will to yourself, as visual, audio, or scent, feel free to do so. If you are working traditionally you may want to study the Qabbalistic associations in works such as Crowley’s 777. However congruence is more important than historic precedent. It is more important that you always use sandalwood to “mean” the same thing, than that sandalwood “means” Venus. (These comments ONLY apply to invocation. When it comes to Evocation or Voodoo, stick to the tradition. If you give the wrong offering to an Eshu you might be in for some real trouble. Dabble at your own risk.)
Once you have represented this intention as a sigil, you need to energize it. This can be done in countless ways. It could be visualized prior to sexual activity and then repeatedly throughout the act, to be visualized most intensely at orgasm and then forgotten. It could be done through deep breathing, and visualizing the symbol of your intent while holding a crystal that you later intend to give to someone. It could be done through visualizing this symbol while doing jumping jacks. The crux of this is that you should work yourself into a fervor. Your ego must be displaced momentarily.
When you reach this peak point, visualize the symbol being shot off into the distance. Forget about it.
Water - Receptivity
Now, lie down and close your eyes. You may want to continue the previous invocation by burning incense that you have associated with the intent, or music. Relax every muscle in your body. Let your thoughts go. They will naturally flow from one idea to the next, but don’t be moved by any of them. Just be aware of them.
After doing this for ten minutes or so, tell yourself that your intent will be manifested in the easiest way, and that you are receptive to it. It might seem pointless to talk to yourself like this, but it does matter. The subconscious is listening. (With that in mind, think about the thoughts you have throughout the day. Do you think those are going unnoticed?)
Now sit up. Take note of your mental, emotional, and physical state.
Next, as you prefer, you should draw, paint, write, sing, dance – whatever feels right and comes most naturally to you. For the purpose of this invocation you needn’t worry about whether or not what you create is ‘good.’ However you should put all of your attention on it. Just because it isn’t “serious” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously.
The focus of these works should be strictly internal. Though the result may be art, your intent now is strictly for you, to discover something in you that you didn’t recognize before. Though this may be linked to the intent you ritually invoked, it shouldn’t be the conscious focus of your work here.
For best results, during the next week you should repeat “Fire” and “Water” before moving on to “Air.”
Air - Discriminate
Now look through what you’ve created the previous week and edit it. Obviously this is a different process with visual art, than music, or writing. It means the same thing regardless – cut out the parts that aren’t congruent with the big picture. When you are doing this you should cease the “Fire” and “Water” stages.
From an uncarved block of wood you have something in front of you. It may or may not be “good,” however it most definitely is a message you are trying to tell yourself. Think about it.
Earth – Manifest / Forget
This is the easiest “step.” Let it come to you. If you like you might want to take your work and burn it. Some invocations require this sacrifice, others may not. If it is required, chances are a twist of fate will destroy the work for you. As always, for best results, repeat often.
About The Author:
The “author” (a.k.a. agent139, Jamie Curcio, James Curcio, Frater Gazebo, etc.) has shown unprecedented commitment to undermining the fabric of reality one meme bearer at a time since 1996. He has done this primarily through international creative and subversive semantic projects in music, writing, and visual art. He was a founding member of Evolving Media Network, and is presently a meme bearer for the Z(enseider)Z.
His first full length novel, Join My Cult, will be available through New Falcon Press in Sept 2004. Go to http://www.joinmycult.org for more information, or to join the mailing list. (Bottom of the enter page.) He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org