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Ritual

The Kabbalistic ritual technique I am about to describe is based on an assumption which may or may not be valid, but which gives the technique a characteristic style. The assumption is “form precedes manifestation”; that is, anything which manifests in this, the real, physical world, is preceded by a process of “formation”, a process described in its general outline by the doctrine of sephirothic emanation and the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. This premise is not so odd or metaphysical as it might seem. Every object in the room I am sitting in is a product of human manufacture. The mug I am drinking my tea out of was once clay, and its form existed in someone's mind before taking shape in fired clay. The house I live in was once an architect's design, and before that, an abstract object in a land developer's scheme for making lots of money. Every object of human manufacture originally existed as an idea or form in someone's mind, and each idea went through a process of development, from inspiration to manufacture - I have described much of this elsewhere in these Notes. It is not a large step to conceive of the whole universe as the product of mind, so that every form of substance - the physical elements, each species of plant and animal - are the result of a process of formation occuring in mind. Where are these abstract minds? They compose a whole which the Kabbalist conveniently labels “God”, and the parts, if we want to refer to them seperately as subordinate components, we call “archangels”, and “angels” and “spirits”, and “elementals” and “devils”. Each of these minds or intelligences holds a portion of the archetypal form of the world in place, and each mind is a form in its own right; each of these archetypal intelligences can be comprehended as a part of Binah, the Intelligence of God and Mother of all form.

When I drop a stone, it falls to the ground. It does this because the spirit of matter inhabiting the stone uses messenger spirits (or angels) called gravitons to communicate with the spirit of matter inhabiting the Earth. It turns out that the curvature of space-time (its form) is determined by the Lords of Matter in an intricate but completely exact way according to the distribution of mass-energy - the details can be summarised in an equation first written down by Albert Einstein. It may seem absurd and retrograde (and William of Occam would certainly turn in his grave) to suggest that what we call the laws of physics are forms maintained in the minds of archetypal intelligences, but as Einstein himself stated, “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible”; that is, it can be described using language. There are abstract forms which describe change in the physical world, and they can be comprehended by mind, and although it is a large step to propose that mind takes primacy over matter, it is a view attractive to the practising magician. It is a view completely consistent with Kabbalah. When I call upon a spirit to modify the law of gravity at a specific time and place, I am not violating a physical law; I am changing it at its source.

If “form precedes manifestation”, then practical magic is about understanding how the future is formed out of the present. The seeds of many futures are planted in the present, and accessible to the magician as the forms of the future. The forms of the future are being progressed by many minds; where they overlap, there is conflict and inconsistency, a situation resembling a bus where each passenger has a steering wheel providing an unknown and variable input to the eventual direction of the bus. In one interpretation (primacy of will) the magician is the person with the most powerful steering wheel; in another interpretation (Taoist nudging) the magician is a person who understands the dynamics of steering sufficiently well to use opportune moments to move the bus in a desired direction. Perhaps both interpretations are valid. In either case, if one accepts the simile, then it should be clear that magic is rarely about certain outcomes. In both cases the magician must have a clear notion of direction, what is usually called intention.

Formation is a process of increasing limitation or constraint. Once something is manifest it is constrained or limited by what it is at that instant. Suppose I want to make a film. It could be a film about anything. Once I have a script I am more limited, but have a lot of scope in directing the film - choice of actors, sets, locations etc. Once I have the rushes my choices are even more constrained, but I still have some freedom in the editing. Finally, once the film is released, I have no more freedom to change it, unless, like some directors, I choose to re-edit and re-issue it. Intention is also a limitation: it is a limitation of will. I chose to make a film, but I could have chosen to write a book instead, or chosen to take a holiday. In choosing to make a film I limited my free-will. I could of course abandon the film project, but a life of incomplete, abandoned projects is not very satisfactory to most people, so my will to complete (i.e. to bring into manifestation) sustains my intention and I have to learn to live with this fairly considerable limitation on my theoretical free-will.

The limitation of will and the formation of the film go hand-in-hand. I can't just intend to make a film: I have to intend to get a script, find some money, borrow the equipment, recruit some actors and a crew. The formation of the film is driven by a fragmentation of my original intention into many components and sub-components as the task proceeds, and activity and intention feed off each other until, knee-deep in the details of film making, I might find myself thinking “I'd give anything if we could get this scene in the can and knock off for a beer.” We have gone from a person with theoretically unlimited free-will to someone who cannot knock off for a beer. Most people who go to work and attempt to bring up a family are in this situation of being so limited by previous choices and past history that they have very little actual free-will or uncommitted energy, a situation which has to be understood in some detail before attempting serious magical work.

To summarise: if magic is about making things happen, then the magician might want to understand the process of formation which precedes manifestation, and understand not only the forms which other people are intending, forms which may be competitive, but also the detailed relationship between formation and intention. You don't have to understand these things; many people like magic to be truely magical (i.e. without causality or mechanism), but Kabbalah does provide a theoretical model for magical work (the lightning flash on the Tree) which many have found to be useful. I think it is a mistake to confuse a lack of consciousness of mechanism with a lack of mechanism, just as someone might look at a clock and assume that it goes round “by magic”, and so I'd like to say something more about the concept of limitation, a concept essential to understanding the ritual framework I am going to describe.

We are limited beings: our lives are limited to some tens of years, our bodies are limited in their physical abilities, and compared to the different kinds of life on this planet we are clearly very specialised compared with the potential of what we could be if we had the free choice of being anything we wanted. Even as human beings we are limited, in that we are all quite distinct from each other; we limit ourselves to a small number of behaviours, attitudes and beliefs and guard that individuality and uniqueness as an inalienable right. We limit ourselves to a few skills because of the effort and talent required, and only in exceptional cases do we find people who are expert in a large number of different skills - most people are happy if they are acknowledged as being an expert in one thing. It is a fact that as the sum total of knowledge increases, so people (particularly those with technical skills) are forced to become more and more specialised.

This idea of limitation and specialisation has found its way into magical ritual because of a magical (or mystical) perception that, although all consciousness in the universe is One, and that Oneness can be perceived directly, it has become limited. There is a process of limitation (formation) in which the One (God, if you like) becomes progressively structured and constrained until it reaches the level of thee and me. Magicians and mystics the world over are relatively unanimous in insisting that the normal everyday consciousness of most human beings is a severe limitation on the potential of consciousness, and it is possible, through various disciplines, to extend consciousness into new regions. From a magical point of view the personality, the ego, the continuing sense of individual “me-ness”, is a magical creation, an artificial elemental or thoughtform which consumes our magical power in exchange for the kind of limitation necessary to survive, and in order to work magic it is necessary to divert energy away from this obsession with personal identity and self-importance.

Now, consider the following problem: you have been imprisoned inside a large inflated plastic bag. You have been given a sledghammer and a scalpel. Which tool will get you out faster? The answer I am obviously looking for is the scalpel. The key to getting out of large, inflated, plastic bags is to apply as much force as possible to as sharp a point as possible. Magicians agree on this principle - the key to successful ritual is a “single-pointed will”. A mystic may try to expand consciousness in all directions simultaneously, to encompass more and more of the One, to embrace the One, perhaps even to transcend the One, but this is hard, and most people aren't up to it in practise. Rather than expand in all directions simultaneously, it is much easier to limit an excursion of consciousness in one direction only, and the more precise and well-defined that limitation to a specific direction, the easier it is to get out of the plastic bag. Limitation of consciousness is the trick we use to cope with the complexities of life in modern society, and as long as we are forced to live under this yoke we might as well make a virtue out of a necessity, and use our carefully cultivated ability to concentrate attention on minutiae to burst out of the bag.

We find the concept of limitation appearing in the process of formation which leads to manifestation; in the limitation of will which leads to intention; now I suggest that a focussed limitation of consciousness is one method to release magical energy. Limitation is the key to understanding the structure of magical ritual as described in these notes, and the key to successful practice.

Essential Steps

I decided against giving the details of any rituals. All the rituals I have taken a part in were written by one or more of the people present. I do not think any of the rituals would be worth preserving for their literary or poetic content. On the other hand, the majority of the rituals I have taken a part in have conformed to a basic structure which has rarely varied; this structure we called “the essential steps”. There is never going to be agreement about what is essential in a ritual and what is not, any more than there will ever be agreement about what makes a good novel. That doesn't mean there is nothing worth learning. The steps I enumerate below are suggestions which were handed down to me, and a lot of insight (not mine) has gone into them; they conform to a Western magical tradition which has not changed in its essentials for thousands of years, and I hand them on to you in the same spirit as I received them.

These are the essential steps:

  1. Open the Circle
  2. Open the Gates
  3. Invocation to the Powers
  4. Statement of Intention and Sacrifice
  5. Main Ritual
  6. Dismissal of Powers
  7. Close the Gates
  8. Close the Circle

Step 1: Opening the Circle

The Circle is the place where magical work is carried out. It might literally be circle on the ground, or it could be a church, or a stone ring, or a temple, or it might be an imagined circle inscribed in the aethyr, or it could be any spot hallowed by tradition. In some cases the Circle is created specifically for one piece of work and then closed, while in other cases (e.g. a church) the building is consecrated and all the space within the building is treated as if it was an open circle for long periods of time. I don't want to deal too much in generalities, so I will deal with the common case where a circle is created specifically for one piece of work, for a period of time typically less than one day. The place where the circle is created could be anywhere: indoors, outdoors, top of a hill, a cellar. It could be an imaginary place, the ritual carried out in a lucid dream for example. Most often a ritual will take place in a room in a house, and the first magical ability the magician develops is the ability to turn any place into a temple. I like to prepare a room with some kind of cleaning, and clear enough floor space for a real or visualised circle. I secure the room against access as far as possible, take the phone off the hook etc. The Circle is the first important magical limit: it creates a small area within which the magical work takes place. The magician tries to control everything which takes place within the Circle (limitation), and so a circle half-a-mile across is impractical. The Circle marks the boundary between the rest of the world (going on its way as normal), and a magical space where things are most definitely not going on as normal (otherwise there wouldn't be any point in carrying out a ritual in the first place). There is a dislocation: the region inside the circle is separated from the rest of space and is free to go its own way. There are some types of magical work where it may not be sensible to have a circle (e.g. working with the natural elements in the world at large) but unless you are working with a power already present in the environment in its normal state, it is best to work within a circle.

The Circle may be a mark on the ground, or something more intangible still; my own preference is an imagined line of blue fire drawn in the air. It is in the nature of consciousness that anything taken as real and treated as real will eventually be accepted as Real - and if you want to start an argument, state that money doesn't exist and isn't Real. From a ritual point of view the Circle is a real boundary, and if its usefulness is to be maintained it should be treated with the same respect as an electrified fence. Pets, children and casual onlookers should be kept out of it. Whatever procedures take place within the Circle should only take place within the Circle and in no other place, and conversely, your normal life should not intrude on the Circle unless it is part of your intention that it should. From a symbolic point of view, the Circle marks a new “circle of normality”, a circle different from your usual “circle of normality”, making it possible to keep the two “regions of consciousness” distinct and separate. The magician leaves everyday life behind when the Circle is opened, and returns to it when the Circle is closed, and for the duration adopts a discipline of thought and deed which is specific to the type of magical work being undertaken; this procedure is not so different from that in many kinds of laboratory where scientists work with hazardous materials.

Opening a Circle usually involves drawing a circle in the air or on the ground, accompanied by an invocation to guardian spirits, or the elemental powers of the four quarters, or the four watchtowers, or the archangels, or whatever. The well known Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram [2] can be used as the basis for a Kabbalistic circle-opening. The precise method isn't so important as practicing it until you can do it in your sleep, and it should be carried out with the same attitude as a soldier on formal guard duty outside a public building. The kind of ritual I am describing is formal; much of its effectiveness derives from a clinical precision. For example, I never at anytime turn or move in an anti-clockwise direction within the circle. When I work in a group one of the most important officers is the sword-bearing sentinel, responsible for procedure and discipline within the circle. When you create a circle you are establishing a perimeter under the watchful “eyes” of whatever guardians you have requested to keep an eye on things, and a martial attitude and sense of discipline and precision creates the right psychological mood. When working in a group it is helpful if the person opening the circle announces “the circle is now open” because there should be no doubt among those present about whether the opening has been completed to the satisfaction of the person carrying it out, and the sacred space has been established.

Step 2: Opening the Gates

The Gates in question are the boundary between normal and magical consciousness. Just as opening the Circle limits the ritual in space, so opening the Gates limits the ritual in time. Not everyone opens the Gates as a separate activity; opening a Circle can be considered a de-facto opening of Gates, but there are good reasons for keeping the two activities separate. Firstly, it is convenient to be able to open a Circle without going into magical consciousness; despite what I said about not bringing normal consciousness into the Circle, rules are made to be broken, and there are times when something unpleasant and unwanted intrudes on normal consciousness, and a Circle can be used to keep it out - think of pulling blankets over your head at night. Secondly, opening the Gates as a separate activity means they can be tailored to the specific type of magical consciousness you are trying to enter. Thirdly, just as bank vaults and ICBMs have two keys, so it is prudent to make the entry into magical consciousness something you are not likely to do on a whim, and the more distinct steps there are, the more conscious effort is required. Lastly - and it is an important point - opening the Circle is best done with a martial attitude, and it is useful to have a breathing space to switch out of that mood and into the mood needed for the invocation. Opening the Gates provides an opportunity to make that switch. There are many ways to open the Gates, and many Gates you could open. I imagine the gates in front of me, and I physically open them, reaching out with both arms. I visualise different gates for different sephiroth, and sometimes different gates for the same sephira.

Step 3: Invocation to the Powers

The invocation to the Powers is normally an excuse for some of the most leaden, pompous, grandiose and turgid prose ever written or recited. Tutorial books on magic are full of this stuff. If you are invoking Saturn during a waxing moon you might be justified in going on like Brezhnev addressing the Praesidium of the Soviet Communist Party, but as in every other aspect of magic, the trick isn't what you do, but how you do it, and interminable invocations aren't the answer. On a practical level, reading a lengthy invocation from a sheet of paper in dim candlelight will require so much conscious effort that it is hard to “let go”, so try to keep things simple and to the point, so that you can do an invocation without having to think about it too much, and that will leave room for the more important “consciousness changing” aspect of the invocation. When I do sephirothic work I use the sephirothic God, Archangel, Angel Order and sephira names as part of my invocation, and put all my effort into the intonation of the name rather than memorising lengthy invocations. An invocation is like a ticket for a train: if you can't find the train there isn't much point in having the ticket. Opening the Gates gets you to the doorstep of magical consciousness, but it is the invocation which gets you onto the train and propels you to the right place, and that isn't something which “just happens” unless you have a natural aptitude for the aspect of consciousness you are invoking. It does happen that way however; people tend to begin their magical work with those areas of consciousness where they feel most at home, so they may well have some initial success. Violent, evil people do violent and evil conjurations; loving people invoke love - most people begin their magical work with “a free ticket”, but in general invoking takes practice, and the power of the invocation comes from practice, not from deathless prose.

I can't give a prescription for entering magical consciousness. Well devised rituals, practised often, have a way of shifting consciousness which is surprising and unexpected. I don't know why this happens; it just does. I suspect the peculiar character of ritual, the way it involves every sense, occupies mind and body at the same time, its numinous and exotic symbolism, the intensity of preparation and execution, involve dormant parts of the mind, or at least engage the normal parts in an unusual way. Using ritual to cause marked shifts in consciousness is not difficult; getting the results you want, and avoiding unexpected and undesired side-effects is harder. Ritual is not a rational procedure. The symbolism of magic is intuitive and bubbles out of a very deep well; the whole process of ritual effectively bypasses the rational mind, so expecting the outcome of a ritual to obey the dictates of reason is completely irrational. The image of a horse is appropriate: anyone can get on the back of a wild mustang, but getting to the point where horse and rider go in the same direction at the same time takes practice. The process of limitation described in these notes can't influence the natural waywardness of the animal, but at least it is a method of ensuring the horse gets a clear message.

Step 4: Statement of Intention and Sacrifice

If magical ritual is not to be regarded as a form of bizarre entertainment carried out for its own sake, then there has to be a reason for doing it - healing, divination, personal development, initiation, and the like. If it is healing, then it is usually healing for one specific person, and then again, it is not just healing in general, but healing for some specific complaint, within some period of time. The statement of intention is the culmination of a process of limitation which begins when the Circle is opened, and to return to the analogy of the plastic bag, the statement of intention is like the blade on the scalpel - the more precise the intention, the more the energy of the ritual is applied to a single point. The observation that rituals work better if their energy is focussed by intention is in accord with our experience in everyday life: any change, no matter how small or insignificant, tends to meet with opposition. If you want to change the brand of coffee in the coffee machine, or if you want to rearrange the furniture in the office, someone will object. If you want to drive a new road through the countryside, local people will object. If you want to raise taxes, everyone objects. The more people you involve in a change, the more opposition you will encounter, and in magic the same principle holds, because from a magical point of view the whole fabric of the universe is held in place by an act of collective intention involving everything from God downwards. When you perform a ritual you are setting yourself up against that collective will to keep most things the way they are, and your ritual will succeed only if certain things are true:

  1. you are a being of awesome will (you have the biggest steering wheel on the bus).
  2. you have allies (lots of people on the bus want to get to the same place as you).
  3. you limit your intention to minimise opposition (Taoist nudging); another analogy is the diamond cutter who exploits natural lines of cleavage to split a diamond.

Regardless of which is the case, I will suggest that precision and clarity of intention will generally produce better results.

And so to sacrifice. The problem arises from the perception that in magic you don't get something for nothing, and if you want to bring about change through magic you have to pay for it in some way. So far so good. The question is: what can you give in return? You can't legitimately sacrifice anything which is not yours to give, and so the answer to the question “what can I sacrifice” lies in the answer to the question “what am I, and what have I got to give?”. If you don't make the mistake of identifying yourself with your possessions you will see that the only sacrifice you can make is yourself, because that is all you have to give. Every ritual intention requires that you sacrifice some part of yourself, and if you don't make the sacrifice willingly then either the ritual will fail, or the price will be exacted without your consent.

You don't have to donate pints of blood or your kidneys. Each person has a certain amount of what I will call “life energy” at their disposal - Casteneda calls it “personal power” - and you can sacrifice some of that energy to power the ritual. What that means in ordinary down-to-earth terms is that you promise to do something in return for your intention, and you link the sacrifice to the intention in such a way that the sacrifice focuses energy along the direction of your intention. For example, my cat was ill and hadn't eaten for three weeks, so, as a last resort, fearing she would die of starvation, I carried out a ritual to restore her appetite, and as a sacrifice I ate nothing for 24 hours. I used my (very real) hunger to drive the intention, and she began eating the following day.

Any sacrifice which hurts enough engages a very deep impulse inside us to make the hurt go away, and the magician can use that impulse to bring about magical change by linking the removal of the pain to the accomplishment of the intention. And I don't mean magical masochism. We are creatures of habit who find comfort and security by living our lives in a particular way, and any change to that habit and routine will cause some discomfort and an opposing desire to return to the original state, and that desire can be used. Just as a ritual intends to change the world in some way, so a sacrifice forces us to change ourselves in some way, and that liberates magical energy. If you want to heal someone, don't just do a ritual and leave it at that; become involved in caring for them in some way, and that active caring will act as a channel for the healing power you have invoked. If you want to use magic to help someone out of a mess, provide them with active, material help as well; conversely, if you can't be bothered to provide material help, your ritual will be infected with that same inertia and apathy - “true will, will out”, and in many cases our true will is to do nothing at all.

From a magical perspective each one of us is a magical being with a vast potential of power, but that is denied to us by an innate, fanatical, and unbelievably deep-rooted desire to keep the world in a regular orbit serving our own needs. Self-sacrifice disturbs this equilibrium and lets out some of that energy, and this may be why the egoless devotion and self-sacrifice of saints has a reputation for working miracles.

Step 5: The Main Ritual

After invoking the Powers and having stated the intention and sacrifice, there would seem to be nothing more to do, but most people like to prolong the contact with the Powers to carry out some kind of symbolic ritual for a period of time varying from minutes to days. Ritual as I have described it so far may seem like a fairly cut-and-dried exercise, but it isn't; it is more of an art than a science, and once the Circle and Gates are opened, and the Powers are in attendance, whatever science there is gives way to the art. Magicians operate in a world where ordinary things have deep symbolic meanings or correspondences, and they use a selection of consecrated implements or “power objects” in their work. The magician can use this palette of symbols in a ritual to paint of picture which signifies an intention in a non-verbal, non-rational way, and it is this ability to communicate an intention through every sense of the body, through every level of the mind, which gives ritual its power. Here are a few suggestions:

  • each sephira has a corresponding number which can be used as the basis for knocks, gestures, chimes, stamps etc.
  • each sephira has a corresponding colour which can be used throughout the working area: altar cloth, candle(s), banners, flowers, cords etc.
  • many occult suppliers make sephirothic incenses. The quality is so variable that it is best to try a few suppliers and apply common sense.
  • each sephira has corresponding behaviours which can be used during the central part of the ritual.
  • if you are working with several people then they can take their roles from the sephira, and wear corresponding colours etc. For example, a sentinel would use Gevuric correspondences, a scribe would use Hod correspondences.
  • each sephira has ritual weapons or “power objects” which can be used in a symbolic way.
  • every sephira has a wide range of individual correspondences which can be used on specific occasions e.g. a ritual of romantic love in Netzach might use a rose incense, roses, a copper love cup, wine, a poem or song dedicated to Venus, whatever gets you going…

Step 6: Dismissal of Powers

Once the ritual is complete the Powers are thanked and dismissed. This begins the withdrawal of consciousness back to its pre-ritual state.

Step 7: Close Gates/Close Circle

The final steps are closing the Gates (thus sealing off the altered state of consciousness) and closing the Circle (thus returning to the everyday world). The Circle should not be closed if there is a suspicion that the withdrawal from the altered state has not been completed. It is sensible to carry out a sanity check between closing the Gates and closing the Circle. It sometimes happens that although the magician goes through the steps of closing down, the attention is not engaged, and the magician remains in the altered state. This is not a good idea. The energy of that state will continue to manifest in every intention of everyday life, and all sorts of unplanned (and often unusual) things will start to happen. A related problem (and it is not rare) is that every magician will find sooner or later an altered state which compensates for some of their perceived inadequacies (in the way that some people like to get drunk at parties), and they will not want to let go of it because it makes them feel good, so they come out of the ritual in an altered state without realising they have failed to close down correctly. This is sometimes called obsession, and it is a difficulty of magical work. Closing down correctly is important if you don't want to end up like a badly cracked pot. If you don't feel happy that the Powers have been completely dismissed and the Gates closed correctly, go back and repeat the steps again.

Using the Sephiroth in Ritual

The sephiroth can be invoked during a ritual singly or in combination. This provides a vast palette of correspondences and symbols to work with, and one of the most difficult aspects of planning this kind of ritual is deciding which sephiroth are the key to the problem. It is an axiom of Kabbalistic magic that every sephira is involved somewhere in every problem, and it is sometimes difficult to avoid the conclusion that all ten sephiroth should be invoked; there is nothing wrong with doing this, but if one goes the whole hog with colours, candles etc., then the temple begins to look like an explosion in a paint factory, and this tends to dilute the focus of rituals if done regularly. A ritual would involve typically one to three sephiroth. An important consideration is balance: when invoking sephiroth on either of the side pillars of the Tree one is creating or correcting in imbalance, and it is worthwhile to consider the balancing sephira. For example, when using Gevurah destructively, what fills the vacuum left behind? When using Chesed creatively, what gives way for the new? The same principle applies to the pairs of Hod/Netzach and Binah/Chokmah.

The Tree is naturally arranged in many triads, or groups of three sephiroth, and after one has gained an understanding of individual sephira it is natural to go on to investigate the triads. From the point of view of balance there is a great deal to be said for initiation into triads of sephiroth rather than individual sephira. The sephiroth are interconnected by paths, and again, the paths can be investigated by invoking pairs of sephiroth. This further extends the palette of correspondences and relationships, and over time the Tree becomes a living tool which can be used to analyse situations in great depth and detail. Unless one works closely with a group of people over a period of time the Tree must remain largely a personal symbol and vocabulary, but if one does work closely with other people it becomes a shared vocabulary of great expressive and executive power - ideas which would otherwise be inexpressible can be translated directly and fairly precisely into shared action via ritual magic.

Clues as to when to invoke a given sephira can found in the correspondences, but for the sake of example I have given an indication in a list below:

The sephira Malkuth is useful for the following magical work:

  • where you want to increase the stability of a situation. Particularly useful when everything is in a turmoil and you want to slow things down.
  • when you want to earth unwanted or unwelcome energy. Also useful for shielding and warding (think of a castle).
  • when working with the four elements in the physical world.
  • when you want an intention to materialise in the physical world; when it is essential that an intention “really happens”. e.g. it is one thing to write a book, it is another thing to get it printed, published, and read.
  • when invoking Gaia, Mother Earth.

The sephira Yesod is useful for the following magical work:

  • for divination and scrying; to increase psychism - telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition.
  • when changing the appearance of something, for works of transformation, for shape changing (e.g. marketing and advertising!)
  • when trying to manipulate the foundation of something, the form behind the appearance.
  • for works concerning the sexual urge, the sexual organs, fornication, instinctive behaviours, atavism.
  • for intentions involving images of reality - painting, photographs, cinema, television etc.
  • for lucid dreaming, astral projection.

The sephira Hod is useful for the following magical work:

  • for healing and medicine (Raphael is the healer of God).
  • when dealing with spoken or written communication.
  • the media, particularly newspapers and radio.
  • propaganda, lying, misinformation.
  • teaching and learning.
  • philosophy, metaphysics, the sciences as intellectual systems divorced from experiment.
  • computers and information technology.
  • the nervous system.
  • protocol, ceremony and ritual.
  • the written law, accounting.

The sephira Netzach is useful for the following magical work:

  • when working with the emotions.
  • the endocrine system.
  • when nurturing or caring for someone or something. Charity and unselfishness, empathy.
  • for works involving pleasure, luxury, romantic love, friendships etc. (e.g. parties).
  • anything to do with aesthetics and taste: decor, art, cinema, dress, fashion, literature, drama, poetry, gardens, song, dance etc.

The sephira Tiphereth is useful for the following magical work:

  • work involving integrity, wholeness and balance.
  • work involving the Self (the Jungian archetype), self-importance, self-sacrifice, devotion, compassion.
  • overall health and well-being.
  • communion with your Holy Guardian Angel.
  • the union of the microcosm and the macrocosm.

The sephira Gevurah is useful for the following magical work:

  • active defense.
  • destruction.
  • severance.
  • justice and lawful retribution.

The sephira Chesed is useful for the following magical work:

  • growth and expansion.
  • vision, leadership and authority (e.g. in business management, in politics).
  • inspiration and creativity.

The sephiroth Gevurah and Chesed are best considered as a pair, since any work concerning one usually requires consideration of the other. For example, if you want something to grow and expand (Chesed), will it grow at the expense of something else (Gevurah)?

The supernal sephiroth of Binah, Chokmah and Kether can be invoked, but I would not recommend doing so until you have considerable experience of invoking the other sephiroth - either nothing will happen, or the scope of the results may go beyond your intention.

Other Practical Work

The sephirothic ritual technique described can be used to design an enormous variety of rituals quickly and easily, as the basic format can remain the same. A ritual involving Yesod should have an utterly different feel and effect from a ritual involving Tiphereth, and yet the basic construction of the two rituals can be identical. Because a ritual can be quickly carried out (not necessarily easily, but certainly quickly), sephirothic ritual can be used to add clout to other magical and mystical techniques, such as meditation, divination, scrying, oath-making, prayer, concentration and visualisation, mediumship and so on.

In Conclusion

I wanted to provide in these notes approximately the same information as I was given when I began to study Kabbalah. The person who gave me this information said “You don't need to read lots of books, just go off and do it.” It was sound advice. If you want to learn how to build bridges, read books about building bridges, but if you want to learn about yourself, just go off and do it. “Doing It” consists of invoking the sephiroth and asking to be instructed. It consists of jumping in with both feet when something new comes along. It involves trusting your intuition and conscience. It requires you to question everything. It also requires countless meditations, concentration and visualisation exercises, self-examination, rituals, dream-recording, prayer, whatever you want, but there is no prescription for this, and each person tends to find their own happy medium. As a chronic reader I found the advice about not reading books on magic and Kabbalah hard to take, but I took it, and for something like ten years I lost the habit completely. I'm very glad I did. There is almost enough information in these notes to go off and “just do it”. The information I have withheld I have done so deliberately, as it consists of little things which any person with a small amount of common sense, initiative and trust in themselves can work out. You don't need to learn other peoples' rituals: trust your own imagination and creativity, however insufficient they might seem, and write your own. You need to trust yourself, and that is why I haven't provided a detailed prescription. If you think Kabbalah should be more complicated, then make it more complicated. If you think it is essential to learn about the four worlds, or the parts of the soul, or the beard of Arik Anpin or whatever, then learn about them, but I don't think it is essential to begin with, and there are better and quicker ways of learning than running off and buying the “Zohar”. If you trust in yourself, you will learn what you need to know at the rate at which you can learn it. Kabbalah is only a map (but for the record I believe it is an accurate and useful map), and the entrance to the territory lies within you.

In my experience the sephirothic magical rituals are the key to everything else. If you are afraid of ritual that is fine; lots of people are. If you are afraid of ritual but you invoke the Powers with the attitude and respect that is their due, and you are not afraid to give freely for what you get, then you will get a great deal, and almost certainly a great deal more than you would have expected.

Colin Low 1992

  1. Epstein, Perle, “Kabbalah”, Shambhala, 1978
  2. Regardie, Israel, “The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic”, Falcon Press, 1984

 

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