Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The Sanskrit word Mudra means a seal, a mark or a gesture. In Buddhism and Hinduism, the gestures are mostly done with just the hands or fingers. In the Hermetic traditions, we encounter dramatically elaborated forms of mudra, yet they’re often taught or learned poorly. If you watch a Youtube video about the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, for example, of which there are dozens, apart from learning how to pronounce Hebrew Names of God badly, you’ll mostly encounter advice on the theory of the ritual. Now, that’s essential, even if many of the theories come from someone’s best guesses rather than from the initiated tradition. But what’s usually neglected is the teaching of style in the formation of the movements. Mudra tends to be taken for granted, as something that’s self-evident or that will emerge as an acquired skill through some sort of osmosis.
Magick is a method of Power. You intone the Names with maximum force, you focus your Will to do so, you hold certain imagery in mind while performing your rite, and so on. Yet the three primary Rays of western magick are Love, Power and Wisdom, and excluding the other two unbalances our practice. ‘Love under will’ is the Thelemic formula, whereby energy is directed towards a union with certain beings or states of consciousness. I stress here that ‘union’ is not the same thing as dissolving into Unity: it is a condition of harmonious interaction between two consciousnesses or types of consciousness. But, with the arguable exception of evocation (and I would dispute this), magick is an expression of Love because it aims to create interchange and growth. Crowley defined black magick as anything not essentially aimed at attaining Knowledge & Conversation, and K&C is impossible – inconceivable – except as an act of Love.
Wisdom is employed in selecting that which is to be invoked, and how, as well as in assessing the results of the ceremony; and, in rising on the planes, knowing when and how to examine the beings encountered. But if our bodily movements are stiff or inelegant, then the three Rays won’t be expressed in their complete and balanced form. The magick is stayed at its inception. Elegant as well as forceful gesture is vital in setting up the encounter.
Magick is almost always performed on one’s feet, so that the whole body is used in the working. We need to relax physical tensions and any distracting ideas, by banishing beforehand. But banishing itself can be blocked or diminished if we’ve not done a few in-out breaths first to exhale and diminish physical stresses.
Whatever we do magically, we are moving. We probably open with grade or degree signs, which are the primary mudras of our system. Actual stance in the temple – poised yet prepared, like a practitioner of a martial art before combat – is critical, because it signals to the subconscious mind what is about to happen, and brings subconscious dynamics into play.
We need to be aware how we hold the sword or the wand, the censer or cup. There should be a fusing of intention, grip and implement – not too tight, for example, because that will constrict energy flow, yet serious in intent. Learn to observe how tension accumulates, especially in your shoulders or abdomen, and work on freeing that.
Pentagrams and hexagrams need to be traced with generous strokes, like a fencer warming up with a rapier. Often, beginners nervously trace pentagrams that are a couple of feet wide, when a sweeping line that’s roughly the length of the body’s height is more appropriate. Speed of motion can come after we have the proportions of the figure straight and equal, and its creation is smooth.
The martial arts analogy is always relevant, because to charge a pentagram is to direct as much force as possible into it, which happens best with a poised but not tensed body. When magical technique is mastered, it’s not so much directing that we do, as releasing pent-up energy. While intonation is crucial – and relaxing the vocal apparatus of the throat and chest is another point to watch for – the body needs to be expressing or discharging what’s being intoned.
There are various means we can use to improve the elegance and effectiveness of our ritual motions. At one point I spent a couple of weeks doing almost balletic motions, in slow-motion, because I couldn’t seem to make my pentagrams flow right; and it helped. Occasionally, as old bad habits have crept up on me again, I’ve spent a session or two at the same thing.
Lastly, we need to remember that ceremonial magick is a form of non-genital sex (unless it’s actual sex magick!) with all that implies about passion and wholehearted participation. There are times to hold back and restrain the energy, and times to release it. Crowley’s genius – or commonsense, if you like – lay in openly acknowledging this fact. The body of the magician is the true wand, and any other implement is a secondary aid to its workings.
In sum: go big, go elegant and just go. “For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”
Love is the law, love under will,