How to Use Magic to Effect Change in Your Life Part 1
The first steps on the Path:
Is being a solitary practitioner for you?
by Frater A.T.L.V.
This will be the first in a ongoing series about how to use Ritual Magic from various schools and sources to effect change in your life, part of an even larger ongoing series about my own experiences with Magic. In this first post I will discuss some very basic concepts and some common issues that effect solitary magicians. This will hopefully help you to decide whether practicing on your own is right for you, or whether you might be better off joining an order. This first post will not get into specific details about rituals, but will give you an idea of what is necessary to be successful as a solitary. In later posts, I will discuss my own personal experiences with rituals and different systems of practical Magick and personal spiritual development at length.
In this very first installment I will be explaining very basic concepts that are necessary precursors to successful Magick, whether used for personal spiritual development, or for practical purposes. No significant results can be obtained from the use of Ritual or Ceremonial Magick until a firm foundation is laid regarding certain basic knowledge and regular exercise of certain fundamental Magical Techniques that balance the Aura or Sphere of Sensation of the practitioner and begin to awaken the sleeping powers that lay dormant in the average individual. The most important of these exercises for the beginner include meditations, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, and the Ritual of the Middle Pillar, which will be dealt with in detail in future posts.
This is harder than it sounds for a solitary practitioner of The Magick of Light. With traditional training, such as is found in orders and schools of Magick like the various Golden Dawn orders, and other esoteric Magical schools, there is a strict Hierarchy and every student is supervised and given direction from a more advanced Magician. Along with this crucial component, there is a set curriculum designed specifically to slowly and efficiently awaken and balance these forces in every Magician. There is also the aspect of physical initiation and of working with a group, which makes learning and practicing much easier as you are not left to fend for yourself.
A common mistake that the solitary magician makes is when they don't fully understand something, and cannot find the answer readily available in their collection of books, or on the internet (not always the best place to to go for accurate info anyways!), they, of course not wanting to simply stop practicing, either continue on without comprehension of the concept, or fill it in with their own ideas. This is folly.
This is not to say that Magick is not a very individual and inward process, as it is most definitely. However, throughout history, magicians have relied on certain basic principles and techniques passed down through the Aeons by their ancestors, that are known to work as they have been successfully applied already in the past with good results.
Another way this can manifest is in the execution of ceremonial rituals or rites. If the magician, having found the school of thought or Tradition they most identify with (we will use the Golden Dawn as an example) and wish to practice, has a doubt about whether or not they are doing something correctly in their ritual work, this can be frustrating and all out devastating to the desired results.
This can also get tricky, however, as there are many versions out there. When one decides to devote themselves to a system of Magick such as the Golden Dawn as a solitary, they should also decide what their primary source for said material will be, to avoid unnecessary confusion. Of course the Magician will use several sources or books, but it is best for a solitary practitioner to have a primary source to rely upon when confronted with different versions of even the most basic rituals, such as the QC (Qabalistic Cross) & LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram).
My personal suggestion is "The Ritual Magic Manual", by David Griffin. It is not only very thorough and detailed, but consistent in the explanations of the rituals of the Golden Dawn. One can easily use this book as their reference for the correct execution of all of the rites and rituals of the Golden Dawn, and it goes far above and beyond Regardie's "The Golden Dawn", also known as "the brick". If one looks at the description of even the basic rituals of the Golden Dawn, in these two books, side by side, they will find that Regardie's ritual directions are slightly different, and with enough research, will begin to find inconsistencies and errors in them as well.
This is not at all to say that Regardie's books are not great to have for solitary Golden Dawn magicians, as they most definitely are. But as I said before, one needs a consistent source that they can refer to when they begin to expand upon the basic rituals and to use other books by various magicians that will no doubt use slightly different methods, especially when these books are from antiquity. You will quickly learn that medieval grimoires and books such as "The Key of Solomon the King" use extremely complicated methods and sometimes month long preparations for even the simplest of rituals.
With the RMM (Ritual Magic Manual), one can fit just about any ritual or invocation into the framework of the Golden Dawn system, thereby making it easier to understand, and just as powerful & successful, without having to learn an entirely new system of Magic and create an entirely different set of Magical Tools to perform said ritual.
On the topic of Magical Tools. If you plan on practicing the Golden Dawn system, I would recommend picking up a copy of "Creating Magical Tools", by Chic and Tabitha Cicero, as it is very thorough in its instructions. It not only tells you how to make all of the magical tools by hand, but also your regalia, along with the furniture and banners needed for a fully functional Temple, should you choose to build one. The written instructions are clear, and all have very helpful diagrams as well.
Now, back to the issue of correctly executing ritual work, and the doubts that almost always arise when working with only Regardie material. Regardie, while a famous magician and important historical figure when it comes to the Golden Dawn, was quite inconsistent and sometimes flat out wrong in his books.
I assume much of this was due to the fact that he didn't write the books until long after learning the material, and also the fact that he didn't actually ever spend much time practicing the rituals in a Temple. Most of his career with the original Golden Dawn was spent as a secretary. Just a simple example, is his incorrect description of the Outer Order sashes and their colors. The colors are referred to each grade based upon the color of the corresponding Sephira, and he got even this most basic concept incorrect in his works.
Regardie also gives versions of rituals that are slightly different than they should be, and they even vary slightly between his own books. You can see where this would get confusing. If you were working solely based on Regardie's books, you would no doubt end up questioning yourself often. With the RMM, you have a consistent ruler to measure by and can always adapt rituals to fit into the framework carefully laid down in it that you find elsewhere, without the worry that you are doing things incorrectly and not getting results. Many solitaries, due to a lack of guidance, continue to do so, and end up so frustrated that they quit the Path altogether, and that is a sad state of affairs.
I am not saying that the RMM is the only good book on ritual magic out there, far from it, however, it is in my opinion the very best when it comes to consistency, detail, easy to follow directions, and completeness when working with the Golden Dawn system. It also contains very helpful charts, tables, and color plates with all of the Enochian Tablets, Talismans, and much more. It's best attribute is that it remains consistent throughout, and if one starts at the beginning, and learns first the basic rituals, they will have far less trouble when building upon them slowly as they reach more advanced ones.
Back to the LBRP and the fundamental inconsistencies found in Regardie's books. In Regardie's "The Golden Dawn", it is taught that the Ritual of the Pentagram should be done in the morning as an invocation, and at night as a banishing. This could not be more incorrect. For one, it would be very dangerous to invoke anything and then not banish immediately at the end of the ritual. The only exception being the charging of Talismans and tools, which are covered before the banishing so as to not discharge the force they were consecrated with. Still, all rituals close with banishings, including those meant to consecrate items. To invoke something, especially with a basic, general ritual such as the Lesser form of the Pentagram Ritual, then leave it open all day, and not banish until night time could be disastrous to the magician and those around him.
The Lesser form of the Pentagram ritual is not meant for invocation, that will be dealt with later on after you have prepared yourself with a good foundation. This form of the Pentagram ritual is truly only meant for banishing as a means to balance the Aura and to begin to get familiar with the energy you will be working with.
However this is not the only flaw, as beginning solitary magicians should start out with at least a year of nothing but banishing rituals and certain Rites and meditations that are designed to balance and equilibrate the Aura or Sphere of Sensation of the magician. I know, I said a year! If this is discouraging to you, then working as a solitary magician may not be for you. On top of this all important period of balancing of the Aura, which prepares it for the invocations that will come later, there is also much intellectual and theoretical material that must be learned, if you are to become a successful solitary magician.
Another key element to the beginning solitary magician is creating a magical diary or journal. In this diary you should write down all of your ideas about things you've read, the subjects of your meditations, dreams, ritual results, and anything that might be useful later on to look back at. This allows you to track your progress, which is very important as a solitary, as you will not have the guidance of a teacher. You can also write down mundane thoughts in your journal, and see how they change over time. It is important that you not only write when you do your rituals or meditations, but also when you do not. This will help you discover patterns later on and help you to stay on track.
The process moves quite a bit more quickly when one is working within an order, has direct guidance, a set curriculum, and needs to prove themselves efficient in both ritual and knowledge in each grade level before moving on to the next, more advanced level. There is also a much faster transformation taking place within the Aura of a magician who takes physical initiations, as they are receiving energetic current directly from their initiators.
Do not be discouraged, it is possible! And if you are a person dedicated to The Great Work, you will need to learn a great deal of patience and persistence. I am going to end this very first installment with a list of some recommended reading. The next piece in this series will begin to deal with the most basic rituals and the knowledge that needs to be learned in order to successfully begin this great journey as a solitary magician. In the meantime, you may want to consider whether you have the patience and persistence and strength of Will that is so very key to being a successful solitary magician.
If you find yourself lacking in these virtues, you may want to consider joining an order. However, do not for a second think that simply joining an order will give you the keys to the Kingdom, as in the end it always comes down to you, and how much work you are willing to put in. If you are in this to earn empty titles, then there are orders who will happily give them to you for a fee, but what does this really accomplish? Whether working solitary or with an order, YOU have to do the work! Magic is an inward Path, a Path of self discovery, and no one else can do it for you.
However, having said this, it is still possible to accomplish at least most of what is accomplished as an initiate on your own, if you are willing and disciplined enough to apply the same rigor to yourself. This is easier said than done. With no one watching your progress, no one to report to, and no official structure to your practices, it can and will be very difficult to achieve the same results. This is no different than trying to learn what you learned in school on your own with no teachers, no set class hours, and no report cards. It takes a very determined individual to accomplish such a task.
So, in summary, every individual magician will have their own genius to add to their Magic, but, certain basic foundational concepts and practices must first be learned from antiquity and put into practice for quite some time before one can efficiently apply their own ideas with any amount of success.
Suggested books for beginning solitary practitioners of the Magic of Light:
- "The Golden Dawn", by Israel Regardie
- "The Ritual Magic Manual" (RMM), by David Griffin
- "Creating Magical Tools", by Chic & Tabatha Cicero
It may also be helpful to the beginning student of the Golden Dawn system of Magick to do some research into its founders, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, W. Wynn Wescott, and William R. Woodman, along with the books they have written. Other notable occult authors of import include Eliphas Levi, Cornelius Agrippa, A.E. Waite, and many others. A simple search on Google will provide you with much material to ponder. The beginner should also start to do their own research into Hermetic philosophy, Qabalah, alchemy, and astrology.
Suggested rituals and exercises for beginning solitary practitioners:
- start writing in your magical diary
- meditation, including but not limited to the Neophyte meditation given in Griffin's "RMM" & Regardie's "The Golden Dawn"
- The Qabalistic Cross and the LBRP (these will be dealt with at length in the next post in this series)
I would also suggest that you look into the various ways that one order, the HOGD/Alpha et Omega, is doing it's part to help solitary practitioners and independent magicians, as is discussed in a recent post HERE.
You now have a general idea of what it is going to take to be a solitary Golden Dawn magician, and have a decision to make. Is being a solitary practitioner for you? The next post will deal in detail with some of the fundamental rites and rituals for solitary magicians to properly use in order to lay a firm and strong foundation to be built upon later, and my own experiences with them.