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Lisa wrote me:
One of my misconceptions as a novice was to think I needed to be in a meditative state to do magick. I spent a lot of effort trying to find the right moment of serenity or calmness. That was great for my stress level, but did not produce any results.
I was trying so hard to clear my mind and get in the right calm, zen like state that I missed all the information the spirits were communicating.
Kol also asked about mental postures, and how to make sure you’re doing magick, not just imagining things.
I’d half-answered this before: Practice energy meditation, use breathing to bootstrap the energy.
But that wasn’t my answer. It was some guru’s answer I’d heard somewhere. I didn’t understand how it works (in particular, how you get energy moving if your mental muscles are hibernating). But repeating it let me feel like I had an answer, which let me stop exploring.
Never stop exploring.
Thanks to Kol and Lisa, I’m exploring how to start magick again, and I have something approaching a real answer now. Over the next year or so, I hope some readers will try it, send me feedback, and together we can crack this problem.
How Magick’s Mental Posture Feels
First, how to know if you’re in the right ballpark. The mental posture for magick feels focused. It’s the opposite of relaxing, empty-minded meditation.
In Initiation Into Hermetics, Franz Bardon says to focus on an image until you can see it as clearly with your eyes closed as when you’re looking at it. This is the right sort of feeling. (Though the exercise doesn’t necessarily get you to magick, just a focused mind).
If you solve problems by holding a lot of pieces in your mind — understanding a computer program, reasoning about chess moves, understanding the motives of your 5 business competitors — that’s the sort of focus I’m talking about.
It’s a focus where your mind is agile, moving, and engaged. That focus alone won’t result in magick. But you won’t get good magick without it*.
*Half-guessing here. No experiments to back it up. But it’s true in my experience.
From Images to Magick
Mental muscles are the parts of your mind that drive magick. Engaging them makes the difference between imagining vs magickal visualization, between theater vs magickal ritual. Later on, you’ll learn to power them and connect them to your brain. But for now, you just need to learn to tell them what you want.
Some people already have some mental muscles awake and paying attention at least some of the time. If that’s you, energy meditation should simply work. Just visualize energy (in whatever way makes sense to you), keep in your thoughts that “glowing mist = energy,” (or whatever your visualization is) and you’re good to go.
But in some people, their mental muscles are totally asleep. This is the group that I (and the other teachers advocating energy meditation) weren’t helping before. Which is a shame, because once you wake up your mental muscles, you can (I think) become just as good at magick as anyone else.
So here’s my answer for you now: LBRP, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. It’s one of the core rituals of Hermetic styles of magick (such as the Golden Dawn).
I know, it sounds like I just grabbed someone else’s answer again. And I kind of did. But this time, I have my own reasons behind it (and they’re not what most Hermeticists would say).
To activate your mental muscles, you’ll need outside help. If you know a mage who can activate mental muscles, they can do it. But you probably don’t. That means you want a “system,” which is my term for the forces that energy healers, psychics and mages channel to drive their magick.
When you do a ritual (and do it properly, in the traditional way), the system associated with that ritual style recognizes the ritual and connects to you. (The implementation of “recognizes the ritual” is complex, I’ll post on it another time). The system then communicates with your mind, finds out what you want, does what it can to make that happen, and also helps set your mind up to communicate with it more easily next time. Somewhere in all that, the system should awaken your hibernating mental muscles.
This doesn’t apply to just any ritual. It needs to be a standard ritual from an established style, or there won’t be a system listening for the ritual you did. You can’t just make something up*.
*That might sound strange from someone creating his own style of magick, but you need to understand how magick works before you can create it. If your goal is to get a particular system to connect to you, and you don’t know how to connect to it based on its signature (which you won’t if your mental muscles are hibernating), then you have to do the traditional rituals, because that’s what the system responds to.
So, if the energy meditation isn’t working for you, try LBRP (or any other good beginner ritual from a traditional style). Doing it for every day for a month should wake up your mental muscles. Then come back to energy meditation, and advance to consciously engaging your mental muscles.
How exactly do you do the LBRP? Sorry, I’m the wrong guy to write that guide. But hopefully other readers can help. (Update: See the comments below for a good link). If you do ritual magick, please leave a comment pointing us to good guides on this. Thanks!If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.
Tags: Mental Muscles, Rituals
Would a non-magickal ritual work? I was thinking of praying regularly again in an Islamic way though in true focus instead of the mechanical-going-through-the-motions way that I grew up with.
Hi Les, with religion, I want to be clear with what I mean by “Work.” If your mental muscles are hibernating (that is, you haven’t practiced magick, and you don’t feel energy during energy meditations), and your goal is to get an external force (a “system”) to connect to you and help you wake them up, then you need a proper magickal ritual from an established magickal style to make the system respond. Prayer wouldn’t cut it.
I visited Notre Dame recently while in Europe. I had expected that all the people praying would do something magickal, that there would be systems buzzing around the place, and the handful of worshipers and priests there that day would be connected to them. But no, there was nothing magickal going on. Prayer (at least the Catholic prayer happening in Notre Dame on that day) is strictly imagination and wishing, with no magickal component.
Now, if you are a practicing mage, meaning your mental muscles are active and you can easily connect to systems, then prayer can be an effective part of your practice. You would connect to the system (consciously or unconsciously), pray, and the system would read your instructions and respond to them. But you have to be able to connect to the system before prayer will be magickally effective, which means it’s not a good tool to start practicing magick for the first time.
Also, if your goal is some sort of religious experience or personal growth or something along those lines, I would imagine prayer could work for that. But that’s not really what I mean by “magick,” so I’m not the right guy to talk about it.
Does that answer you?
Thanks for clearing that up, very helpful. I guess I misunderstood what you wrote and latched on to the idea of rituals, thinking that the Islamic prayer ritual (which is different from normal prayer) will do the same job. I’ll do the LBRP instead.
As far as performing the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP/LIRP) goes, I wrote up this guide and presented it at a Pagan event last fall. It’s relatively complete and should give you everything you need to start practicing the ritual if you’re so inclined.
Thanks Ananael. I was hoping you’d post a guide.
To my readers: If you want to learn or discuss Thelemic or other Hermetic ritual magicks, Ananael’s blog should definitely be on your list.