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

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gems from the Forums VI: Invocation

Over at, a poster took me up on details of his practices and explanations of them (which you can read here. In his post, he made the following comment about invocation, a subject that I had not mentioned at all in my post on practices:

Occasionally I perform invocations or other "magical" ceremonies [...] I perform this kind of "magic" because I understand the cabalistic principles to represent certain aspects of my psyche. When I need access to, or balancing in one principle or another, these practices help my mind to change gears. To move more in the directions I would like it to.

In my response to him, I discuss the purpose of Invocation, and – once again close reading Crowley’s words – show how ceremonies of invocation are, in Crowley’s words, a “symbolic technicality” that conceals a method for distinguishing between what a person is and what he fondly imagines himself to be (i.e. a method of discovering the True Will).

Read on for the bulk of my post, with one substantial revision at the end.

I overlooked mentioning Invocation in my post above (probably because I rarely use these kinds of ceremonies any more), but I'll agree with MoogPlayer [i.e. the guy to whom I’m responding in the thread at this point] that the basic purpose of them is to put the practitioner in touch with parts of the Self represented by the forces invoked. The purpose could be anything from generating inspiration for art, to building up one's confidence before a big speech, to helping to consecrate a space to a specific purpose (for example, invoking the energies of Jupiter into a room that one intends to be a professional office at home, etc.).

These "invocations" are purely psychological. There are no oogity-boogity forces leaping out the cosmos to your call because you decided to concentrate real hard: but instead, you're reinforcing in your own mind the purpose of these things. Just as saying "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" as a greeting -- or saying Will or performing Resh -- can function as a reminder of the Great Work, to keep the individual focused on the goal and continually "lift" the individual out of normal thought-patterns, so too can looking at that Mercury talisman in your pocket before the big speech or looking at the objects sacred to Jupiter in the office consistently lift the mind out of its normal patterns and remind it of the focus and goals you have.

There's a deeper purpose to this invocation stuff, too. Recall that Crowley starts Magick in Theory and Practice by affirming:

The sincere student will discover, behind the symbolic technicalities of this book, 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.

So once again, the "symbolic technicalities" of magick enable a student to practice Thelema. And remember, the heart of Thelema is distinguishing between "what he actually is, and what he has fondly imagined himself to be."

All this "ritual magick" stuff is merely symbolic of the process by which a person accomplishes this heart of Thelema.

With that in mind, let's turn to what Crowley says about invocation:

the whole being of the Magician, no minutest atom saying nay, is irresistibly flung forth. In blinding light, amid the roar of ten thousand thunders, the Union of God and man is consummated.

If the Magician is still seen standing in the Circle, quietly pursuing his invocations, it is that all the conscious part of him has become detached from the true ego which lies behind that normal consciousness. But the circle is wholly filled with that divine essence; all else is but an accident and an illusion.

The subsequent invocations, the gradual development and materialization of the force, require no effort. It is one great mistake of the beginner to concentrate his force upon the actual stated purpose of the ceremony. This mistake is the most frequent cause of failures in invocation.

A corollary of this Theorem is that the Magician soon discards evocation almost altogether — only rare circumstances demand any action what ever on the material plane. The Magician devotes himself entirely to the invocation of a god; and as soon as his balance approaches perfection he ceases to invoke any partial god; only that god vertically above him is in his path. And so a man who perhaps took up Magick merely with the idea of acquiring knowledge, love, or wealth, finds himself irrevocably committed to the performance of The Great Work.

It will now be apparent that there is no distinction between magick and meditation except of the most arbitrary and accidental kind. [from Chapter XV, emphasis added]
This is some brilliant stuff. And just as Crowley says of the LBRP, "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," we can also say that anyone who sees the above as mere instructions for performing ceremonies is unworthy of possessing this invaluable instruction.

I've bolded some of the significant parts, but let me go through and put a finer point on them. In the first place, what Crowley is talking about here, essentially, is how the process of creating change in the world (i.e. "magick," that is to say, regular ol' mundane activites) is itself a version of meditation.

How so? The clue is in the fact that the magician -- in order to be successful -- must become completely identified with the invoked force. From there, the result will flow freely, not from any conscious "effort" on the magician's part. Look at these golden words: "It is one great mistake of the beginner to concentrate his force upon the actual stated purpose of the ceremony."

Compare with Liber AL I, 44: "For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect."

"lust of result" can be glossed as "the foolish belief that any particular result will make all of one's problems go away." We might also call it an "if only." "Oh, "if only" I had that job (car, relationship, understanding), my life would be great!" One becomes obsessed with a particular goal, rather than understanding that goals only have meaning in relation to the Will, which is dynamic.

Desiring to "invoke" a force for a "goal" -- which, let's remember is just an analogy for setting oneself a goal in everyday life -- often starts from one of these "if onlies." Crowley is saying that a properly performed invocation can erode one's attachment to the "if only" by completely identifying the magician with the force.

So, for example, say a guy wants to obtain a meaningful relationship, so he decides to "invoke Venus" (go out to places to meet people, turn on the ol' charm, etc.). In order to truly succeed -- says Crowley -- he's going to have to identify himself completely with Venus (the Love aspect of his True Self), and then the result will flow from there. That is to say, before he can truly succeed, he needs to understand that his goal isn't really the main focus of the operation -- it isn't something that's going to make his life instantly better. Just different. Just like every breath makes his life different.

Success in the invocation may yield surprising results: he may come to realize that he’s been entirely misguided, that his desire for a monogamous relationship (or, alternatively, his desire for a series of one-night stands) is the product of thoughts he’s imbibed from the culture or from his circle of friends or from his family. As a result of this realization, he may abandon the initial purpose of the operation or switch its focus. In addition, he’ll stop seeing the operation as so dreadfully serious: he won’t think of himself as a “loser” if he can’t attract a partner (or if his mind still thinks it, he’ll be able to recognize those thoughts for the trap that they are and laugh at them). He’ll be freer to look at the situation objectively and determine what things he needs to change in order to improve his chances for success. And he’ll be able to engage more playfully – and in a more fulfilling way – with reality. It’s not the be-all and end-all of existence to find a partner: it is (and should be) a fun expression of one’s Self.

And that’s the point: he’ll have identified with his True Self more and more in the process, such that the idea of “effort” – in the sense of struggling to force himself to do something that he doesn’t really want to – will be gone.
There will only be left the pure joy of an action prompted by his actual inclinations in whatever situation he finds himself in. Goals, purpose, “success” – these are not absolutes  or necessities, but toys he has fashioned for his enjoyment.

As we read in Liber LXV:

21. Who art thou that dost float and fly and dive and soar in the inane? Behold, these many æons have passed; whence camest thou? Whither wilt thou go?

22. And laughing I chid him, saying: No whence! No whither!

23. The swan being silent, he answered: Then, if with no goal, why this eternal journey?

24. And I laid my head against the Head of the Swan, and laughed, saying: Is there not joy ineffable in this aimless winging? Is there not weariness and impatience for who would attain to some goal?

Now we can see why the "pure will" is "every way perfect": it's not only perfect in itself, it is perfect in "every way" it gets expressed, not just the narrow "if only" way that the mind tries to cram it into.

Continued application may lead the magician to realize, too, that his Self is more than just Love or Communication or Business-sense or whatnot. His Self is something greater than these things put together: that ultimately, each of these "aspects" of Self -- or, rather, his understanding of them -- is a falsified mental construct and not the Real Thing underneath.

He comes to desire more and more to identify with his True Self at all times. And thus he begins the process of the Greatest Invocation of All: The Invocation of the HGA. This operation -- even more than other invocations -- necessitates a passive offering of the magician's Self to the beloved. Preparing the temple (i.e. "banishing" the thoughts and emotions that cover the True Self) and awaiting the indwelling of Spirit.

Invoke often.




  1. Hi, I suppose I'm years late, but I'm fairly new and I found this post to be extremely helpful and enlightening.

    1. A kind word can be late but never unwelcome. Thanks, I appreciate it.