What Can You Expect from Ritual Magic?
Those who approach ritual magic for the first time usually harbor wildly unrealistic expectations shaped by their confused and erroneous notions of what magic is and how it works. There is nothing wrong with this??"the practice of magic is a learning process. We learn by doing, and making mistakes. Here I would like to give some idea of what a serious person willing to work and learn can reasonably expect to get out of magic on the personal level.
The practice of magic causes change, both in the world and in the self. It acts in two ways. First it changes things the Magus desires and expects to change, though not always in the manner anticipated. Second, it transforms both the Magus and the world, which are in essence one, in ways totally unexpected, and often undesired, by the ego.
Those who regularly practice magic rituals designed to improve their physical health, or enhance their beauty and personality, or to succeed in business, or gain love, or heal and help others, will certainly achieve these goals to a greater or lesser extent, depending on how strongly they are desired. Magic will give you what you want, but not what you think you want. If you pretend to be altruistic, but really are more concerned with your own power and celebrity, your rituals to heal others are apt to fail.
This is not to say that those who practice magic for material ends will fail. Magic is frequently worked for the most practical and material personal reasons with complete success. But your mind must not be divided. You must not believe you want one thing when you really want something else. This split will create conflict that will render the magic ritual impotent, depriving it of focus.
Sometimes when you work a ritual to change a part of the world, you will end up changing yourself. Magic makes no distinction between inside and outside. The two are one seamless whole, and the barrier that divides you from the world around you is an illusion. For example, you may work a ritual to cause a particular person to love you. Such love magic is morally questionable but frequently practiced. Instead of changing the other person, your magic may transform your own personality and behavior so that the other, who before was indifferent to you, now finds you wildly interesting. But to your subjective perceptions, it is the other person who has changed, and is behaving differently.
The regular working of rituals has another effect that is often unsought, at least in the beginning??"the expansion of human awareness on all levels. After a while, the more evolved Magus realizes that this opening of his or her perceptions is a more valuable result of ritual than the petty egocentric goals that had been pursued, and focus shifts to foster this personal growth.
The practice of magic will cause you to see the world in an entirely new way. Things that before appeared to be static will be perceived to be in motion. Everything is constantly moving and changing. Nothing remains where it was; nothing stays the same. You will also see that each thing is linked with all other things, not just by the laws of physics, but in a living way. Everything is alive and aware.
Magic will also change your view of yourself. There will no longer be "me" and "everything else." Everything else is you. You will not be able to run away from things with a clear conscience once you know in your heart that they are a part of you. Moreover, you will see that you are the center, not just of the Earth, but of the universe, which radiates away equally from you on all sides in an unendingly expanding sphere. You were not put here for the hell of it. You have a purpose which is vital to the world, as are the purposes of all living things.
The world is a great conscious being, thinking slow thoughts, aware of what transpires on her surface. She has the power to nourish and to chastise, but is by nature loving and giving. You are her child. You breathe her breath, drink her milk, play on her lap, and die in her arms. Once you know this is true with your heart as well as your head, you will never be able to hurt her again.
Magic will free you from the prison of the present. The results of your actions extending into the future will become ever more clear to you, allowing you to shape your life intelligently. This is the freedom that stems from knowledge. The more clearly you see, the less likely you are to stumble.
An entire world of thinking, feeling beings previously invisible will reveal itself. These spiritual entities, which are not composed of flesh, always surround you??"they are around you even as you read these words??"but your dull, material eyes are blind to them. You cannot feel their touch, hear their voices, or see their forms. As you continue the regular practice of the art of magic they will begin to caress your awareness, particularly during the actual rituals.
Yes, spirits do exist. You can prove this to yourself easily enough through the regular practice of ritual. You will find that you have a harder time convincing others of this fact, even as a person with normal sight might find it hard to persuade a man color-blind from birth of the wonderful difference between green and red. Spirits are experienced subjectively, in that someone whose consciousness has been changed by ritual can see them, while another may not see them.
In some ways, the world has been growing over the centuries. More exotic machines let us see farther into space, reach deeper inside the atom, chart the waves of the brain. In other ways, it is shrinking. There was a time when everyone knew angels existed, and was confident that miracles happened. Anything strange and wonderful might lie beyond the edge of the map labeled HERE THERE BE DRAGONS.
Writing about the spirit Nakhiel, Aleister Crowley observed:
"Thus when we say that Nakhiel is the ‘Intelligence’ of the Sun, we do not mean that he lives in the Sun, but only that he has a certain rank and character; and although we can invoke him, we do not necessarily mean that he exists in the same sense of the word in which our butcher exists."
??"Magick in Theory and Practice
Dover, New York, 1976, p. 8.
I quote Crowley because, in spite of his faults, he is one of the few writers on magic to really think about what magic is and how it works. Spirits do exist. Once you begin to work magic regularly you will know this??"no one will need to convince you. But precisely what spirits are is unknown to anyone. From a practical standpoint, it is enough that they interact with human beings and can be used to cause desired change on the material and mental levels. From this standpoint, they are an extension of ritual??"intelligent instruments that can be directed to carry out specific actions, who will use their own initiative to a limited extent to bring desired ends to fulfillment.
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