“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.