Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram has been analysed and “improved,” by various writers who often don’t grasp what it’s about. Yet its pattern is quite simple to grasp. But somehow, basic misconceptions creep in all the time, and they can dilute its effectiveness.
Firstly, the LRP is always – always – invocatory, even if it’s used for banishing purposes. This seems to be one of the more confusing things for some people, and a reason there’ve been many efforts to ‘fix’ what ain’t broke with it. The most common of course is performing banishings counter-clockwise, in the manner of the Star Ruby. This simply confuses things.
The Star Ruby is an interesting ritual, but not one as all-purpose as the LRP. It is a powerful banishing rite, but while Crowley offered it as “A new and more elaborate ritual of the pentagram,” I’ve always had reservations about it in that way. I think it’s potent, but it lacks the catholicity of the LRP. Given Crowley’s subsequent lack of interest in his own creation, he presumably felt similarly about it.
A back-of-envelope calculation this afternoon told me I’d performed the LRP around 14,000 times – in temple settings, hotel rooms, friends’ basements and once, in a panic-stricken moment, on the platform of a German train station – and it still hasn’t lost is efficacy for me.
The ritual opens with the Qabalistic Cross, to fill the aura of the practitioner with light and power. The Thelemic version differs from the Golden Dawn’s original by intoning Aiwass at the heart-centre and moving Malkuth down to the genital region, the point where two people engage in the embrace of love on the material plane. The intoning of the culminating Amen is when the seed already ‘planted’ by calling on Aiwass at the heart-centre is seen or felt to expand and bloom from within, sometime explosively and other times more gradually.
Now, whether the ritual is being used for banishing (McGregor Mathers spoke of it eliminating obsessions more than actually expelling anything) or invoking, the process of calling on the ritual’s energies is itself invocatory, as noted above. I don’t think having the magician move widdershins destroys its powers necessarily, but it does muddle the situation needlessly. The reservoir of power at the centre needs to be conjured to its fullest by the magician moving sun-wise (clockwise). The manner in which the actual pentagrams are traced – clockwise or anti-clockwise in the four directions – determines the ritual’s functional effect, which can be to concentrate power, thus enhancing the energy available; or to expel dispersing or distracting energies, thus clearing the ritual space. But this should be the only difference between an invoking and a banishing ritual.
The sequence of Divine Names used to charge the pentagrams confuses many people, mostly because it’s been treated as a secret. It’s simply the sequence of Names for Tiphereth, Malkuth and Kether, with the final Attah Gibor le-Olahm Adonai (AGLA) marking an explosion of Light into the totality of Nuit, the Olahm. Meditating on this sequence – a beginning at the heart, an extension ‘down’ into the physical and an exaltation to the highest followed by infinite expansion – isn’t a complex or difficult idea.
Now, despite their potency, I doubt many magicians can truly hold in mind the idea underlying the Names in Atziluth. Like the Knights in the Thoth Tarot, Atziluthic energies burn bright and burn out fast. However, a disciplined and loving human consciousness can hold in mind the nature of the Archangels, the beings of Briah, and the core mystery of this ritual is triggered when their Names are intoned.
Some people find it helpful to visualise their wings touching in the corners of the temple; when I was told this idea, I found it helpful but the ‘click’ had happened for me without knowing this. I was able to retain some measure of conscious contact with the Archangels, and to feel the release or sense of acceptance and relaxation that comes at this point. It’s been said that it involves an endorphin release, and that sounds about right to me.
The second iteration of the Qabalistic Cross fills the aura with the reinforced Light-energy from tracing the pentagrams and calling the Archangels. The magician is now well prepared to perform whatever other work awaits.
The potency of the LRP arises from its layered invocation of empowering psychic energies. The stepping down of the energies from the Divine to the Archangelic levels, making something of immense power accessible to the average practitioner, is the essential moment of the ritual, and the key to understanding its inner operation, just as correct technique is its visible requirement. It works by setting up the magician AS a magician, rather than solely by chasing away ghoulies and ghosties. I do have the strong impression it stuns or repels unwelcome or eldritch presences, but it’s always made most sense to me as a means of pulling my own attention back from such things rather than the cruder notion of it being some kind of ritual demon repellent. If I am aligned with my HGA and its power, then I am disconnected and disidentified from anything that can interfere with Its functioning.
I also think that seeing it as a kind of quickie exorcism also detracts from the fun of the ritual. It needs to be performed with care (no lopsided pentagrams, please) but done properly it gives a lift. After those 14,000 or so performances, I still don’t know exactly what happens sometimes, but I always end up more poised and confident than when I started.
Love is the law, love under will,