Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The third component of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, after the Divine Names and the Archangels, is the Qabalistic Cross. This both opens and closes the ritual, with identical wording used both times.
It’s perhaps the easiest part of the ritual to grasp, since it obviously draws down the Light from Crown to feet (Malkuth) then distributes it to the two sides of the body. In other words, it activates all three Pillars of the Tree of Life, within the aura of the magician.
The first instruction for the ritual is often the least heeded. It is ‘become relaxed.’ That is, release physical tensions in the shoulders or back, and be upright but without muscles being stressed. This should result in an alert and attentive stance, but without tautness or nervous anticipation. Magically, it permits energy to flow, and properly performed , the LRP sets a lot flowing through the nerve-channels.
Once ready, the magician either touches the Third Eye, or draws the forefinger down to it from a visualised Kether (Crown) a few inches above the head. The first word or Name uttered is intoned at this point. It is sometimes written as Ateh and other times as Attah, depending on whether you follow Israel Regardie with Ashkenazic Hebrew pronunciation, or the earlier tradition of using Sephardic. I use the latter, given that the Golden Dawn did so.
Either way, the word means Thou Art, and implies direct, intimate linkage to our own Source. While intoning it, you should be seeing a small, brilliantly white sphere of light about a hand-span above your head, and a line of light extending vertically downward.
In the Thelemic version of this ritual, the forefinger draws down this line to Tiphereth, the heart centre, where we intone Aiwass, the name of the messenger and ‘minister’ who delivers The Book of the Law. Here we visualise a second white sphere of light, slightly larger than that above the head.
This step is sometimes misinterpreted as invoking ‘Crowley’s HGA’ into ourselves, and that sparks some marvelously off-base magical disputes. For a start, focusing on Aiwass being Crowley’s HGA, rather than the praeternatural being who declared the new Aeon, misses Aiwass’ function here. Secondly, once the magician has received the name of his or her own HGA, this is substituted in private work. Aiwass is therefore a generic designation, and not a reference to any one Thelemite, even Crowley.
Old Aeon versions of the LRP have the word Malkuth intoned at the heart centre. In Thelemic practice, Malkuth is sounded with the hand at the groin, lightly touching the genitals, and usually with the forefinger pointing down to the feet. At this point, we visualise a sphere of light that is half above floor level, and half engulfing the feet, which should be just touching each other. This sphere is the same size as the one at Tiphereth.
There’s an ongoing debate that varies according to the school of magick people belong to, about whether this part of the ritual is activating chakras, or relates entirely to the sephiroth. For, apart from the top two, the chakras in the usual system are placed at intervals down the spinal column, whereas the Qabalistic Cross is traced down the front of the body. And that, in the Hermetic tradition, is where we place the sephiroth: either at the front of the body, or even projecting forward a little.
So, what are the differences and issues here?
The sephiroth are vessels of light, and each contains all four of the Qabalistic Worlds. They each contain information about one part of the Tree of Life. While the Tree’s connecting paths, the nethiboth, are in constant motion or flow, the sephiroth are in dynamic equilibrium; though reducing this to them being ‘static’ rather misses the point.
The chakras are variously interpreted, and different Asian schools count them differently, so that most Raja Yoga practitioners have a different tally to the Tibetan Buddhists. A widely held view is that there are numerous chakras throughout the body, those running vertically up the spine being simply the most prominent. Each is a spinning centre of energy that’s one kind of permutation of Kundalini, or that responds to its rising. But in my reading of the Indian teachers, while the chakras are highly important, and when activated offer a road back to union with the Divine, they are not regarded as highly as are sephiroth are in Qabalah. They’re less multi-faceted, and probably don’t extend their activity into what we mean by the world of Briah in the Qabalistic system.
The chakras, then, are related to the sephiroth, especially in terms of bodily location, but aren’t identical to them. The sephiroth are at, or toward, the front of the body, and the chakras are located spinally. Trying to force the two systems together does violence to the idea of both.
Also, in its elemental rituals the Golden Dawn, and thus also other orders’ systems deriving from them, placed the chakras on various connecting paths of the Tree. Thus, the Muladhara goes on Tav/the Universe, linking Malkuth to Yesod, while the Svadisthana goes on Peh/the Tower, and the Manipura on Samekh/Art. Tiphereth and the Anahatta chakra at the heart are arguably connected, though some people put the Anahatta on Teth/Lust, linking Geburah and Chesed. And so on.
Overall, it’s most helpful to see this ritual as purely Qabalistic, and to ignore the chakras per se. The rite is well integrated in its use of a Hebrew and Qabalistic frame of reference. There is, for example, no chakra at the feet, yet the central line of light is extended to a sphere there, of about the same dimensions as the one at the heart.
This becomes more evident when we complete the Cross, extending the light from the Tiphereth centre at the heart across to the right shoulder, while the magician intones ve-Geburah (‘and Geburah’). Then, the forefinger is drawn back to the heart and extended to the left shoulder, while we intone ve-Gedulah, an alternative name for Chesed that means ‘glory’ or ‘majesty.’
The final step is integrating. The hands are joined with the fingers extended, while any dagger, sword or wand used for tracing the pentagrams is held upright between the palms. The magician first intones le-Olahm (literally, ‘throughout the world,’ but meaning equally ‘throughout time and space’, then a final Amen (‘be it so’).
It all comprises a remarkably deep sequence. The original Attah implies that Kether is a tight and brilliant condensation of the infinite light of the En Soph Aur. This is never absent, but performing this part of the ritual directs out inner gaze to it. We touch the Third Eye, then draw the line of light down to Tiphereth at the heart. The le-Olahm, Amen part of the sequence is intoned with the hands positioned in front of the heart. In magick, we so easily get caught up in technicalities and the flow of forces that we can forget the critical importance of the heart as the essential centre of illumination.
Intoning Malkuth with the hand at the sexual centre of Yesod has a couple of meanings. Malkuth is sometimes located at the base of the spine, and this is the closest we can elegantly reach to it. Then, it’s here that flesh joins to flesh in sexual union, grounding the erotic and magical energies. Malkuth itself is placed at the feet, which walk and stand upon the Earth, but the physical union, the bodily platform for sex magick, happens at the base of the abdomen.
Geburah and Gedulah are generic stand-ins for the whole of the two side pillars, with names that reflect their general characteristics; severity and majesty. What should happen here is that the light in the narrow central column is drawn across the whole of the aura, more than there being simply a bar of horizontal light linking the two sides of the body through the heart-zone.
This is especially true in the second Qabalistic Cross. The first, at the start of the ritual, can be seen as expressing an aspiration. The second Cross is the fulfilment of that, after all possible light has been called in.
Essentially, this is a ritual that centres us, whether we’re doing the invoking or banishing version. We are not so much eliminating things in banishing, as withdrawing ourselves from them and identifying with the uttermost core of our own nature. By severing our identification with things that are alien to us, or that we have wrongly understood in their relation to us, we readjust that relationship. There’s a similarly equilibrated effect when we invoke. The pentagrams can be seen as defining a ritual space: they could equally be seen as reaching out to the sphere of infinity from the absolute centre of things, wherein we have just traced the Middle Pillar and its two side emanations.
And perhaps this is its ultimate key. The final part of the Qabalistic Cross involves calling on, and in some way visualising, the entirety of space and time (le-Olahm). The Amen that follows this refers to the inmost point of Selfhood; or, we might say, the inmost point that transcends Selfhood, the essence of Hadit. All the rest of the ritual is an elaboration of this alternation of concepts that come at both the beginning and the end of it.
The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram has remained effective over the years. It’s the start – and continuation – of all magical practice because it establishes the most fundamental magical fact: the absolute solitude of the magician, in full, light-saturated relationship to the primary powers of the Cosmos. It’s the most-stripped down representation of such powers and our alignment with them that could be devised. And, in its simple, elegant shift from the divine Names of Atziluth to the potencies of the Archangels of Briah, it’s an ongoing teaching tool of great significance.
Love is the law, love under will,