Notes on Ritual Training

By W. E. Butler

There are certain basic laws which underlie the whole art of Ritual, and I want to give you some idea of these laws, for Ritual performed without any knowledge of them tends to be a hit-and-miss business at the best.

First of all, let us see what the word “Ritual” means. According to the dictionary, it is “a formal practice or custom”. This tells us very little, so we must supplement it by a further definition. A “Rite” is a certain sequence of operations linked together by a common object or idea. So, in theological matters we speak of the “Roman Rite” or the “Anglican Rite” when we are referring to the Holy Communion Services of these Churches.

But the “Rite” may be very simple and austere, or it may be very ornate and colourful depending upon how the various operations of the Rite are carried out. These various operations are the “ceremonial” employed – lights, incense, vestments, processions, invocations etc., used in performing the Rite. So the Roman Rite (as it used to be) is an example of a Rite using very ornate ceremonial, whilst the Communion Service of the Baptists is an example of the same Rite performed with the minimum of ceremonial.

Now, both Ritual (the acting out of a common idea) and Ceremonial (the way in which the idea is acted out), are arts which have to be learnt, if they are to be really effective, and it is here that so many modern amateur magicians fall down. They have very little idea as to how to approach the working of a Rite, and even less knowledge of the ceremonial to be used. Usually, they copy the ceremonial given in one or other of the various magical Grimoires and blindly repeat the many mistakes and blinds to be found in such instructions. Sometimes it so happens that the experimenter possesses certain potentialities which may unexpectedly show themselves during the performance of such ceremonies, but because they are not understood by their possessor, the result is sometimes drastic. Another person, performing the same ceremony – again without knowledge – may experience nothing, being protected by their own lack of magical potentiality.

This being the case, it is easy to see why the Custodians of the Mysteries are not keen to instruct ignorant and foolish “dabblers” in the Magical Art. Do you blame them? Remember, the consequences of such unwise instruction would fall upon those who thus allowed the “fools to rush in”. I have seen a good deal of magical ceremonial in my time, and have taken part in it – in both the East and the West – and because of this, I am very wary of the majority of our modern magicians, “whose name is legion, for they are many”. The trouble is that when, through foolish dabbling, they burn their fingers, I am usually the one to whom they come running for help and, although I usually try to do what I can to help them, this occult First Aid is not my work in this incarnation.

Now I have said all this just to prepare the ground for our serious study of ritual working. In this first paper, I want to deal with what I believe to be the most important aspect of any ritual working, but one which is very often entirely overlooked. This is what is known as the “Magical Intention”, and upon this one factor, the whole of the magical ceremony usually depends.

Again, what do we mean by the word “intention”? The definition given is “design, purpose or deliberate aim”. Here the word “deliberate” helps us. It indicates that the “intention” must be clear, definite and purposeful mental action. “Woolly” vague thoughts are of no value here. The intention must be clearly clothed in the right mental forms, and the form thus produced must be energised by the Will. It is this use of the will which transfers a vague wish to do something into a strong intention to do it.

So we have these two aspects of our Magical Intention, and as you will see, they conform to the Qabalistic idea of the Complementarities – Form and Force. But there is another aspect of our Intention, and that is our magical involvement in it. For we must always remember that, although we employ words, objects, gestures, and other outward things, yet the true magical rite takes place within our own personalities. It is for this reason that we assert in a definite form of words that we invoke or evoke in accordance with our intention, and that we are ready to take upon ourselves the responsibility for so temporarily disturbing the balance of forces of the universe. Always, we must acknowledge such responsibility and show ourselves willing to bear the consequences of our use of the Magical Art.

Note that Balanced construction of the Banishing Ritual of the Lesser Pentagram. If we intelligently use this Ritual, then we shall have dealt with all three aspects of Magical Intention in one of its forms at least. Or the Rosicrucian Banishing Rite may be used and here again all three aspects of Intention will be dealt with.

This preliminary Intention to perform our Magical Work in accordance with the Divine will is, of course, of the greatest value. There are those who say that such a ritual is unnecessary, and a vague and sentimental aspiration to the Source of all is sufficient. For them it may be – though my experience of these people suggests otherwise.

There is an esoteric teaching that the highest is mirrored in the lowest, and the Supreme Will is mirrored in the dense physical Body of Malkuth in Assiah. So, therefore we will now consider this physical body and consider what can be done to make of it were perfect channel for the expression of the Will aspect of the Eternal. For, as we have been speaking of the Will behind our Intention, it will be helpful to our ritual work if we try to make our physical body reinforce our will. Here we are not talking about any ascetic practices, neither, at the moment of any Yoga-like exercises. Instead we are going to consider body poise and the ancient language of Mime. He will also, study some of the psychological implications of Mime for this ancient language speaks from our inner selves to bring us to a knowledge of ourselves. Also, and this is very important, it reveals to others through their own inner understanding of it, what we are ourselves, even though we have tried to project another image.

Have you ever taken time off to listen to your body talking? It does talk, in several ways, and one of these is the language of Mime. Not just the conscious assumption of certain attitudes and movements, but the subconscious presentation of these. So before we proceed to the exercises of conscious Mime we will consider the expressions of subconscious Mime. And first of all let us consider the physical body as a whole.

Sit in a comfortable chair, or lie flat on a comfortable bed, and just regard your body. If your mind wanders away, gently bring it back. Your intention at the moment is to observe your body and its sensations. Having got into a comfortable position, do not make any voluntary move. Have a watch or clock where you can see it without having to move in any way. You are going to perform this “exercise of self-regard” for say, ten minutes. You will find that you may begin to itch in some place or other. Do not scratch or move, but simply regard this itch as dispassionately as you are doing your whole body. Then you may feel the body muscles slackening off at some place in the body. Don’t take any action – just rest and continue to observe the rise and fall of nervous tension. You will find that as you do this exercise every day, there becomes evident a definite relaxation and lowering of nervous tension. You can start it as soon as you have finished reading this paper, and the exercise may be done wherever you may be and at any time. Nor is it necessary to do it only once each day. You can do it at any time, whenever you have a chance. As your proficiency increases, you may start to watch your sensations when doing such things as bathing, washing, dressing, etc. Here the exercise which I have described in one of my books as “thinking boot-lace” can be very useful.

Now let me deal with the rationale of this exercise, for simply to do it, though helpful, would not be as helpful if you did it with a knowledge of how it works. What is our definition of “Magic”? “Magic is the Art of effecting changes in consciousness at will.”

If you will draw a small circle on a sheet of paper with a pair of compasses, you can consider this as a symbol of your waking conscious mind. Now, around that small circle draw a much larger circle. (If the small circle is one inch across, let the larger circle be three inches across.) Make this larger circle a dotted one, not a single line. This larger circle represents your personal Unconscious and it is shown dotted to indicate that it is not impervious, but that influences from the Collective Unconscious can pass through it and affect it.

As soon as you comrnence any definite occult training, as you all have done, you have begun to enlarge the area of your conscious mind – to make that little circle bigger. Sensations of which you were ignorant will begin to infill your consciousness, and to enlarge it. And this exercise of listening to the body talking will enable these inner sensations to rise up and express themselves in the sensations which you are observing as you do your exercises. To this extent, therefore, you are in this exercise effecting changes in consciousness at will. And this, as you will remember, is our definition of Magic. So this is a truly magical exercise and, as I personally can vouch it does produce results.

At the moment, however, you cannot understand the language – you cannot know what the Unconscious is trying to tell you but, as you go on with the exercise, there will slowly develop an intuitive knowledge of what is being told you. For the personal Unconscious (or subconscious, if you prefer the term) will build up for you a workable alphabet through which the meaning of these sensations will be understood by your conscious mind.

One final warning before we close this Instruction. It is most important that there should always be a definite beginning and a definite ending to any psychic or occult work. This is to prevent any tendency to personality-splitting – a tendency which may be latent within anyone. So a “Key-Word” or “Opening Symbol” should be used.

You must make a solemn undertaking with your inner self that, unless you use the Opening Symbol, you will always remain in your ordinary waking state of mind. Only when you use the Symbol with intention will you become open on the Inner Planes. (You will note that the question of “intention” again arises.) You must keep your agreement with you inner self scrupulously, and never break it. Which means that you must not, under any circumstances, do any esoteric work – even of a minor kind – without using the Opening Symbol or Key-Word. You can use any Symbol or Word which seems best to you but, once you have chosen it, you must not alter it until you are ready to take another major step in your work. It helps if the Opening Symbol is visual, but also contains the Word. You can, of course, whisper the word to yourself, or even repeat it mentally. The Key Word may, of course, be a sentence of several words – or a built up word from the initial letters of a sentence. Here is such a Key-Word. The sentence from which is built is levavi oculos meos which means “I will lift up my eyes”, and the Word is LOM. The Opening Symbol in this case could be a Chalice of silver which you would hold up above your head as though filling it from a downpouring stream. This is only a suggestion but I found it very useful when I was working as Officer of the West in the Lodge of the Mysteries.