Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram

“Neglect not the Performance of the Ritual of the Pentagram”

            --Aleister Crowley, Liber Aleph

In a footnote attached to his poem “The Palace of the World,” Aleister Crowley writes of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, “Those who regard this ritual as a mere device to invoke or banish spirits, are unworthy to possess it. Properly understood, it is the Medicine of Metals and the Stone of the Wise.”
These are no idle words: the LBRP – as it is affectionately called – is nothing less than a symbolic representation of the Great Work, a representation of the path to accomplish that Work, and a practical means of setting oneself on the path that the ritual represents (generating a state of mind conducive to the Work).

The emphasis, of course, has to be on the phrase “properly understood” above. Clearly, the improper understanding of the ritual is that it is “a mere device to invoke or banish spirits.”
Remember, Crowley writes in the introduction to Magick in Theory and Practice – his most well-known work on the subject of magick:

The sincere student will discover, behind the symbolic technicalities of this book [i.e. behind the symbols of ritual magick], a practical method of making himself a Magician. The processes described will enable him to discriminate between what he actually is, and what he has fondly imagined himself to be.

In doing so, Crowley identifies the practice of magick with the heart of Thelema, distinguishing between the True Self and the false thoughts of the mind. And it is the “symbolic technicalities” of ceremonial magick that conceal a “practical method” that enable “discriminat[ion]” between the True Self and false.
That being the case, it behooves us to study some of these “symbolic technicalities” with an eye on attempting to discern this “practical method” and how it works.

The LBRP makes a perfect test case for examining whether ceremonial magick conceals such practical methods behind its symbolic technicalities. After all, the LBRP is among the first – if not the first – formal ritual practice engaged in by most students.
And just a note: it should go without saying that what I’m about to present is my personal take on this particular ritual. Obviously, different practitioners will have slightly different ways to perform the ritual, different visualizations, and different attributions. Readers are advised to experiment with this ritual and come up with their own ways of working.

With that caveat out of the way, it is my intention in this post to turn my attention to the LBRP and examine the way it symbolizes and enacts the Great Work. Indeed, the Great Work is nothing more than the LBRP writ large.

Name That Fallacy!

A reader recently posted a comment to this post of mine – regarding my lengthy debate with Donald Michael Kraig on his blog – that contained the following point, attempting to draw an analogy to claims about magical “results”:

I have never seen Paris.  All I have is admittedly massive amounts of anecdotal evidence that it exists. You could, I am sure, tell me how to get there, and if I followed your directions, and they were correct, and nothing unforeseen interfered, I could go to that location myself.  However, if I had decided beforehand that it did not exist, I might not see it then, even if it were there.

What this commenter is arguing, essentially, is that he (and everyone else who has never personally seen Paris) is accepting the claim “Paris exists” on the basis of anecdotal evidence. For that reason, the implied argument here runs, it is inconsistent to accept one claim (“Paris exists”) on the basis of anecdotes (lots of people who claim to have seen Paris) yet deny another claim (“Ritual magick can cause coincidences to happen”) on the basis of anecdotes (lots of people who claim to have had ritual magick “work” to cause coincidences).
Perhaps I’m overstating the argument. The commenter might not claim that it’s “inconsistent,” per se, but he is suggesting that most people accept a large number of claims not on the basis of personal experience but anecdotes. Therefore, it is at least unfair – if not completely inconsistent – to object so strongly to a claim that only has anecdotes to support it.

Well, I’ve done my best to give this argument its due. Needless to say, it’s a very flawed argument, so it’s time to play…


See if you can figure out what’s wrong with the argument. Read on for the correct answer.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Typhonian Tradition

“They callin’ me an alien, a big-headed astronaut”

            --Kanye West

“Typhon” should be a familiar concept to students of Western Ceremonial Magick, as it appears in the LVX signs as the “destroyer” god (paired with “Apophis”), a symbol of the destruction that precedes resurrection. It shows up in some of Crowley’s writings, perhaps most obviously in the verse that begins Liber LXV
The term “Typhonian” is usually used to signify the tradition of occultism that draws upon – or, at least, was originally largely inspired by – the writings of Kenneth Grant (1924 – 2011), a student of Aleister Crowley who claimed to be head of the OTO after Crowley’s death. For some time, Grant led a small group that called itself the OTO or “The Typhonian OTO” (or TOTO). Following a court ruling that declared the OTO headed by Grady McMurtry to be the owner of the OTO name, Grant’s group changed its name from OTO to “The Typhonian Order (TO).”

The influences that this tradition draws from are diverse, weaving together legend, fiction, “channeled” information, and more into a bizarre tapestry of images that differs from practitioner to practitioner, coinciding only on the point that they tend to involve images generally considered “dark” or “weird” or “evil” in popular imagination (naturally, of course, Typhonian practitioners interpret these images in very different ways). Some Typhonians invoke Cthulhu, the fictitious giant squid created by fantasy-horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Others invoke alien spacecrafts and indulge in pathworking imagination exercises that resemble “alien abduction” accounts. Others imagine having sex with giant spiders or snakes or “Old Ones” or imagine being devoured alive by them as a magical technique. Others meditate on a painting done by Aleister Crowley (“Lam”) that depicts a being resembling what would later be called “Gray Aliens” in UFO lore. Others practice some kind of system inspired by Voodoo. Etc., etc. There are probably as many methods of Typhonian practice as there are Typhonians.
Read on for a discussion of this tradition and its relationship to Thelema.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gems from the Forums IV: A Crystal Clear Understanding

This is the last one of these “Gems” that will be posted for a little while. New content will be up on the blog in another day or two.

This entry consists of two posts made very recently in this thread in which a “Typhonian” named Chris asked the forumites for help in interpreting a nonsense word he received as a “communication” (that is, daydream).

When he posted later on in the thread with an additional “communication,” he correctly apologized for his posts not being “the most AC related thing.” Taking the opportunity to question him gently about how he thinks these “communications” are related to the True Will – or even whether he thought they were related – I quickly discovered that Chris was incapable of offering a coherent explanation of how his practice was supposed to work to reveal the True Will, why anyone would think that it would reveal the True Will, and what criteria he would use to judge that his practice actually was revealing the True Will.

This discovery prompted the following two posts from me about the necessity of interrogating one’s methods of practice.

Gems from the Forums III: Kicking the Habit

From the same private message exchange as the last post. My correspondent writes:

I really LOVE doing [certain actions], however I "know" ( or I think I know) that they are not good for me or my true self in excess: that´s why my question was: Can these things/habits which I really enjoy doing really be my actual true self? or not??? (because I actually enjoy them so much). [...] So in a way restraining yourself is helpful or not for the true self??

My response appears after the jump.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gems from the Forums II: Leggo My Ego

This gem comes from a series of private messages I exchanged with someone on the forums who was new to Thelema. During the course of our exchange, my correspondent asked me:
While reading some stuff I always come across the term "ego" (from a magickal perspective obviously) and I guess the ego represents those "layers of crap of the mind" you mentioned? )the percieved separate "me" by the rest of the people. Is the ego that actual element which we have to "get rid of" in order to reach or discover our will? I am a bit confused overall with the "true self" as opposed to the "ego" (and ofcourse that choronzon-that represents that most harsh parts of it?

My response follows:

Gems from the Forums: Thelemic Vice

Announcing (yet another) feature on this blog: "Gems from the Forums," also known as a silly title to give to reposts of some of the posts I've made to the forums over the years.

Looking back over my post history on that site, I've concluded that I've written a number of very informative and interesting posts there that deserve to see the light of day on my blog, where they might actually be useful or entertaining to some people. Our first entry comes this thread in which a poster asked:

When Hadit says "the vices are my service", what he is saying?
Yes, I know that vice in thelema has no relationshio with vice in drugs and oter stuffs.
Vice in thelema has another meaning. What is this meaning?
My reply appears below: