Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ceremonial Magic

If you came to this article looking for a magical ritual you can take away and use as is, I am afraid you will be sorely disappointed.  My purpose here is to give any non practising magicians just a little idea of what is involved.

Firstly, for my Christian and Muslim friends I want to dispel the notion that ceremonial magic is a form of idolatory, or even of black magic.  In its purest form it is neither, although the beliefs of some magicians may come close to what may be described as a form of idolatory, and a black magician may well use a distorted form of ceremonial magic.

Another word for ceremonial magic is "theurgy".  A ceremonial magician may also therefore be called a "theurgist".  I will use these terms for brevity.

A theurgist recognizes that there are many different powers "out there".  Some theurgists will view them as personal gods, and therefore would attract the ire of Christians and Muslims alike.  Others will view them much more as Jungian archetypes.  My own view is that the distinction is rather academic, although I would perhaps veer closer to the archetype than personal god view.

Those who have not studied theurgy in any depth may view these "powers" as nonsense, yet at the same time fear any invocation or evocation of them.  Ignorance usually results in fear, so I guess this should not really surprise me.  I am not going to attempt to "convert" those who refuse to believe.  I believe, and am happy to share my belief with those who wish to understand.  Is there any need for fear?  Well, if someone is going to try playing with forces they do not understand, yes there is.  Not because we are talking about devils or evil spirits, but for the same reason you should fear electricity if you are thinking of playing with some powerful electric black box when you know nothing about what is in it or how it works.  Electricity is not evil, but it can still kill you if you use it in the wrong way.

Another great misunderstanding about theurgy is the idea that a god, spirit, or other power is being harnessed purely for the purpose of achieving some material gain.  That should not be the aim of the ceremony at all, although it may nevertheless result in such a gain.

Returning to the Jungian concept, you could view the purpose of theurgy as an individuation process.  Creating a proper balance of all the powers that are there whether we like it or not, by working one by one with each power, integrating each of the archetypes properly into our true self.  The theurgist does this by focusing on one power so completely that this power materializes.  In a very real sense, the theurgist now "owns" this power.  Yet the power itself is something far greater than anyone who has not studied this subject could ever imagine.  Once one power has been properly invoked in this way, the theurgist moves onto the next, until eventually he or she has incorporated all the powers, or archetypes, and (using a term from another discipline) achieves samadhi.  Purists will probably criticize me for mixing terms from very different disciplines in this way, but to me it sums it up perfectly.

If you wanted to achieve individuation in the traditional psychotherapeutic manner this is not something you could achieve by yourself.  You would have to surrender yourself totally to another person.  It would also probably cost you a lot of money!  A theurgist does not surrender himself or herself to any other person.  Also, no money should change hands for the ceremonies themselves - although if you are going to do this properly (and it would be very dangerous to try doing it any other way!) you will need to invest a lot of time, energy, and probably money too assembing all the right magical implements.  When I undertook my first magical ceremony as a teenager I invested many long evenings searching for exactly the right branch to create my magic wand - and then had to time the cutting of the branch to the right astrological alignments.

If this brief introduction has ignited a spark of interest, I encourage you to study some of the masters (and mistresses) of the ancient theurgical art.  I suggest you go back to before the current fad of "new age" beliefs, as these have often corrupted the original pure teachings.  Search for works by Dion Fortune, Israel Regardie or Mouni Sadhu.

As a start, try "The Tree of Life" by Israel Regardie, "Theurgy" by Mouni Sadhu, and "The Training & Work of an Initiate" by Dion Fortune.  And when you have soaked up the wisdom in those three books, you will be ready to acquire the full training and rituals of the Golden Dawn.  Only then will you be ready to start on the great task of theurgy yourself.

PS, the above links are all US sources.  If you prefer UK sources, here are more links:

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