- Part I - The Meaning of Ritual
- Part II - Re-Introducing the Pentagram Ritual
- Part III - Standard Preliminaries
- Part IV - The Sacred Pentagram
- Part V - Casting Pentagrams
- Part VI - The Names of God and the Four Directions
- Part VII - The Universe Alive and Aware of You
- Part VIII - The Upper Room
- Download parts I-VI of this article series as one PDF
- Download the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram as PDF
Part I – The Meaning of Ritual
Part of Realizing who and what we really are is learning to behave like That. This is one of the meanings of “The Great Work.” Realizing who and what we really are actually compels us to certain behavior. For example, realizing that everything is an illusion, and that you share the same Consciousness with all other beings throughout space and time, compels you. An extension of self-preservation compels you to try to relieve the illusion of suffering experienced by anyone or anything else. This is why we often associate the “wise ones” throughout the ages with healing or heroism, whether medical or magical or mental. This endless work of helping others is another meaning of “The Great Work.”
From the moment of birth some people are fully aware of whom and what they are, and naturally live and behave like That without giving it any thought. They do so having Realized this in past lives because this Realization transcends life and death, birth and rebirth. As the One Consciousness goes on after one’s death, by identifying with That instead of identifying with a dead or dying person, the Realized One does not die when the person dies. They do not identify with a newborn baby as they reincarnate, but remain firm in their identity with the One Consciousness Itself. The habit of identifying with that Eternal Consciousness, and not identifying with any one incarnation, past or present dictates their behavior. We normally incarnate as humans again and again by habit of identifying with being “human.” When we finally identify with the One Consciousness we break the habit of this mistaken identity and there is no habitual compulsion to rebirth, ever, as anything. But this same adjustment of identity to the One Consciousness makes us acutely aware of the seeming suffering of others as though it were our own suffering, because we share the same Consciousness. It is not through a habitual compulsion, but instead from deliberate choice that some Realized beings take rebirth among us. They choose to do so to help relieve our apparent suffering, never losing sight that it is all an illusion that might seem painfully real to those who suffer.
While some people are born with Realization, most of us obviously are not. Most of us typically take the illusion of our lives and deaths all too seriously. Some of us would like to know what these Realized being know, and would like to experience existence the way they do. Some of us wondering “who am I,” and “why am I here,” would like to experience who and what we really are. For our benefit, throughout the ages some Realized beings have tried very hard to help us experience this for ourselves. Some have taken rebirth each time they died, to continue a work of thousands of years, building collections or systems of techniques for realizing who and what we really are. They have left their mark throughout history, teaching, refining, and evolving these systems. Traditional Wicca refers to these beings as “The Mighty Dead.” Another Western Mystery Tradition knows them as the “Ascended Masters.”
Mystical systems are examples of such collections of clever techniques for realizing who and what we really are, and for building the habit of behavior that expresses and celebrates That. Such collections include deliberate experiences and practices such as initiation and meditation by which one can recognize for oneself this reality. Besides oral explanations and profound alternate meanings of seemingly ordinary wording, the collections also include examples of Realization and the resulting behavior in the form of myths and legends.
In addition, these collections include practices that, like mystery plays, allow one to follow a scripted procedure for enacting, exploring, and celebrating the truth about whom and what we really are. These scripted procedures were designed to be performed again and again, to help create the habit of an attitude and outlook that carries over into our daily lives. In this manner they can permanently transform our behavior and our perspective to be more than human, to be more like who and what we really are. They are designed to help us create a permanent habit of identifying not with being “human,” but with the One Consciousness. They are designed to help us develop the habit of seeing everything as an illusion produced by Consciousness itself. These repeated scripted procedures are typically called “rituals.” While there are many rituals, designed and scripted for different purposes and reasons I am here referring to certain special rituals. I am referring to those that have been deliberately crafted to bring us to a realization of who and what we really are, and to help us build the habit of acting like that.
Let’s consider exactly what a ritual is and how it works. This should provide some insight into why rituals are composed as they are, and in turn how to perform a ritual as intended. This way, when performing the special rituals, we will know how to use the ritual to practice shifting our identity to the One Consciousness, and make this our habitual perspective.
Consider that within the scope of the One Consciousness there is One Universal Mind. Consider that, exactly like “your own” mind, this One Mind encompasses many thoughts, ideas, attitudes, habits, dreams, memories and feelings. You have many thoughts, ideas, etc, and they all share your consciousness, being part of your own mind. The phenomena in your mind do not have separate awareness, they are all in your mind, and they all share your consciousness. In exactly the same way, you and everything else in the Universe is a thought, idea, etc in this One Universal Mind. Consider further that everyone and everything shares that same One Consciousness, being the activity and phenomina of the same Mind. Finally, consider that in the same way that thoughts and ideas in your own mind have no tangible reality, neither does anything in the Universe either. What goes on in your head is stuff that dreams are made of. So is everything around you, including the person you think you are. All of this is a dream or thought or fantasy of the One Consciousness that we share. You are a dream in the One Mind. Death is simply waking from that Dream. Reincarnation is simply the habit of the One Mind thinking of itself, dreaming of itself in a particular way. You are a recurring habitual dream that you and the One Mind keep having over and over, yet with more experience each time. You will continue this habit until you gather enough experience to realize that you are the dreamer and not the dream, thus realizing who and what you really are. Then you’ll start to act like the dreamer, instead of acting like something in the dream.
So, if everything is really a thought or idea, what’s the difference between me and you, and a table? Everything is thought-stuff, or idea-stuff in the same Mind, with different emphasis, emphasizing different qualities and characteristics. The incredible diversity in the universe comes from the incredible number of variations of emphasis that are possible.
“Our own” minds are ideas or “trains of thought” in that same Mind, but with a particular emphasis that includes specific memories, activities and habits. This particular emphasis produces what we normally think of as “ourselves,” and is no more than a short-lived idea in the grand scheme of the universal dream.
In the following question lies an incredibly powerful secret: If our own mind is no more than a train of thought in The Mind, and our individuality is only a particular emphasis in That Mind, then what else could we emphasize instead? The answer is boundless. By shifting to another emphasis, we could experience a different state of being, with different qualities, knowledge, thoughts, capabilities and events. By shifting to another emphasis we could be anything, do anything, and experience anything we wish.
But here’s the catch and the reason most people don’t do it: if you want to experience anything outside the possibilities of this human that you identify with, you have to stop identifying with this limited human. You have to be able to shift emphasis such that this limited human is not you, does not really exist. For some people this is terrifying, like self-annihilation. It might be terrifying unless, you Realize that you were never actually this limited human being after all, that you were never this dream at all, that you have all this time instead been the One Consciousness, the Dreamer. If you identify with the Dreamer and not the dream, then you are free to dream anything you like without fear and without limits.
But understand this incredibly important point: Realizing who and what you are does not make you who and what you are. You are the Dreamer whether you realize it or not. You are right now “dreaming-up” your experience, these very words you’re reading. If you’re finding this personally interesting, you might be right now dreaming, through these dream words, that you could realize that you’re only dreaming. You might be dreaming that you could wake up. You might be interested in shifting your emphasis to Realize who and what you really are (the Dreamer). You might be interested in dreaming a different dream, where you are the Dreamer.
So, how do we carry out this “shift in emphasis” that could give us infinite freedom to be anything, do anything, and experience anything we wish? How do we learn to dream “awake” and alter what we experience at will? The Mind changes emphasis simply by shifting attention. The shift could be to something objective (as with something in your environment), or to something subjective (as with something imagined). It is the emphasis that defines your experience. It is the shift of attention that changes your experience. It is the object of attention that defines exactly what the experience will be.
Attention is like a flashlight in the dark. Whatever you shine the flashlight on, out of the darkness, it comes into being in the sense of becoming part of your experience. In the analogy of the dream and the Dreamer, attention is the Divine Light and the “food” of all things, by which all find seeming existence. The more attention (food) given, the more “real” it seems. By shifting our attention, we shape our experience. When the Universe shifts attention, it also shapes our experience through the same mechanism because there is only One Dreamer: the One Consciousness.
Let me repeat and stress an important point: Attention is the “food” of all things. This Divine Light (attention) makes the entire Universe and everything in it seem to exist. It gives “presence” to all things. It gives life to living things. Like the lamp behind a movie projector, attention is the power of the Creator, the lifeblood of the dream itself and everything in it.
So, what has all this got to do with ritual? Ritual is a deliberate scripted procedure for shifting attention. It is a procedure for shifting attention to a specific experience. It can be designed to shift our individual attention, and it can be designed to shift the attention of the Universe (actually, the difference is only an illusion that comes from emphasis). Either way, ritual is a concerted act designed to focus attention to a specific emphasis. As described before, this different emphasis, the effect of ritual, can produce a different state of being, with different qualities, knowledge, thoughts and events. This ritualized state of being can be subjective and mind-altering, or it can be objective and reality-altering.
The most direct ritual is as simple as focusing one’s attention on the right object (Assiah), mood, atmosphere (Yetzirah), symbol, archetype (Briah), law, or principle (Atziluth). If you want this shift of attention to seem as real as your every-day experience, your whole mind and whole of attention must be as focused (engrossed or convinced) as it usually is on the illusion of your every-day experience. All you have to do is shift and focus your attention. This is a direct mental ritual. The key to this mental ritual (simply focusing one’s attention) is recognizing one’s true nature: we are not the mind, we are not attention, we are the Awareness behind all things, the Dreamer not the dream. While habitually associating with That, and not with this individual, and habitually acting only from that Perspective, total immersion in any chosen state or experience is as easy as simply “looking.” This is the “highest” form of magic, or in other words, the most subtle and easiest magic, but it is available to you only when you identify with the Dreamer and not the dream. The Mighty Dead, or Ascended Masters never leave this state of mind unless they choose to. Their every thought is a powerful direction of Divine Light, a powerful act of magic. (In the final stages of traditional mystical training, one learns an advanced form of spell casting. In this technique, the simple act of becoming aware of a need, is at the same time, a powerful act of spell casting to ease that same need. Clearly this type of automatic spell casting requires a special mind. It is the Mind of the One Consciousness.)
Most of us have not yet recognized our true nature, or have not developed completely absorbed and habitual identification with Consciousness itself. For us, focusing attention in an engrossed way can be accomplished with more elaborate rituals than simply thinking of the desired experience. We can make use of patterns and associations in the makeup of the Universal Mind which is reflected in our own minds. This means we can make use of powerful “triggers” or “Reminders.” Clever use of these triggers can create effective ways of focusing our attention on specific experiences.
The Magical Alphabet  is a list of symbols, associations and patterns described by the Tree of Life. It is one description or map of the triggers inherent in the Universe and the Mind it reflects. In such a map of triggers are directions for guiding all the senses and imagination to specific experiences, objects, moods, atmospheres, symbols, archetypes, laws, and principles. Where the senses and imagination go, the attention can easily follow. By deliberately combining such triggers (like combining the letters of an alphabet), the Mind can be led to pay attention to any specific experience. The more immersed the imagination and senses, the more easily engrossed the attention can be, and the more “real” the experience becomes. When used skillfully, these triggers can alter our experience, our dream, and ultimately our experience of reality.
So with something like the Magical Alphabet , rituals can be composed that will again and again draw the attention to, and engross one in a specific experience. Sometimes the target experience is extraordinary. When the wanted focus of attention is especially unfamiliar, a ritual can be designed to lead from the “normal” state of mind to the desired one in steps or sequential mini-rituals. First, a mini-ritual is performed that brings a mental state not far from “normal.” Next another mini-ritual is performed that brings a state a little further away from “normal,” and so on.
As mentioned, this principle applies whether the focus is to be that of the individual mind (subjectively mind-altering) or of the Universal Mind (objective reality-altering). In the former, it is possible to make something subjectively real, in order to provide direct experience of a state of being (such as being the Dreamer, or the One Consciousness). Repeat performance, making this ritual a habit, by definition changes one’s “typical” state of being. In the latter it is possible to make something objectively real, as in producing magical changes in one’s environment. The comprehensive use of ritual is where both of these techniques are applied, in stages. In this case, the operator is led to a personal experience, possibly of a state greater than, or other than normally human. Then the Universal Mind is engaged to empower that state in an externally real sense. Not only is the operator completely absorbed in the focus of attention, but the seemingly greater Universal Mind is too. The experience becomes completely real both subjectively and objectively.
So ritual is the act of focusing attention (the “life-blood” of all things), typically through “triggers” that engage the imagination and the senses, according to associations and correspondences inherent in the mind. For the nose: there are specific choices of incense. For the ears: specific words of power, music and prose. For the eyes: specific colored symbolic objects and visualizations. Added sensations can be included for touch (eg. a kiss on the cheek), and for taste (eg. wine) if wanted. For the imagination, all of these are combined into a subjective experience that further directs one’s attention. With the right combination of imaginary and sensual components, an atmosphere is built up. This can be enhanced by a particular location, as in a cave or cliff-top for example. The rational mind can be engaged through mechanical or mathematical components such as technical symbols like numeric squares and sigils. The “habitual” mind can be engaged through long and exact preparation, timing and repetition or practice. (Engaging the habitual mind is important, because habit is the strongest force in the universe, and the strongest force in our own minds.) A progression of sensations can be assembled that play out archetypal themes or myths, engaging the mind in the experience of the associated archetype, deity or principle.
So, with the knowledge of certain “triggers,” it is possible to direct one’s attention, one’s experience to anything at all. What would be the most important experience to have? What would the most important ritual be for? Of course, that would be a ritual that helps you and others to escape suffering. In the jargon of Western Mystery traditions, that would be a ritual that helps you complete The Great Work.
What is it that gives you the power to alter experience and reality? Not ritual. You have this power because you share the same One Consciousness that continually creates the illusion of an entire universe. You are creating your own reality right now, you just might not notice that you’re doing it. In fact, without realizing that you are the Dreamer and not the dream, as the perfect magician, you will continue to work your habitual magic of experiencing what you are accustomed to experiencing. Out of pure habit, fear of change and fear of the unfamiliar, with absolute magical power you will go on as you are and unconsciously influence (or limit) the success of any ritual or magic you might attempt. You will naturally impose a limitation to that which is familiar. This habitual self-definition and self-limitation, as it powerfully interferes with any out-of-the-ordinary intentions you might have, is called “the Negative Will.”
[Applying the Magical Alphabet  to the Concept of “Habit”
Habit is assigned to the sphere of the Moon, the sphere of cyclic rhythm. This tells us that habit is built of repetition and that habit creates repetition. This tells us that building and breaking repetition gives power over habits. The cyclic sphere is Yesod, which means “Foundation.” So habits are the foundation of the illusion we call reality. The archetype that embodies this sphere is called Gabriel, which means “Divine Strength”. So habit is the strongest force in the universe. Repetition is the most powerful technique in the universe. (One might think of love as stronger, being a direct expression of Consciousness itself, arising from the act of recognition. But there is a mystery in the relationship between love and habit that is beyond the scope of this article. For the moment, suffice it to say that love and habit are equivalent forces, habit arising from pure primordeal love.) Yesod is called “The Storehouse of Images.” So habit is memory, and memory is habit. Repetition creates memory, and memory creates repetition. The magical vision of Yesod is “the Vision of the Machinery of the Universe”. So when one understands habit, memory and cyclic rhythm as the Foundation for the illusion of the universe, one understands the machinery of the universe, or how the Great Illusionworks.]
Negative Will is a manifestation of habit. Being the strongest force in the Universe, habit is what keeps the whole illusion going, keeps it from changing too drastically and too quickly, and makes things seem real. Habit is not an enemy therefore, but a part of the Dream that makes it convincing. Without it you would stop your rhythmic breathing as you slept. You wouldn’t seem to exist. But if you want to perform the magic of transforming yourself into something other than human, you need to shake the habit of thinking of yourself as human. For this reason, many rituals engage clever techniques to bypass personal habits, and bypass interference by the Negative Will.
One of the best ways to bypass the Negative Will is to turn your attention to who and what you really are. Most of us who are not among the Mighty Dead, or Ascended Masters need help doing this. We need triggers to help us turn our attention this way. For this reason, the most effective rituals always emphasize the ultimate Perspective: that you are Consciousness manifesting itself by casting the Divine Light of attention, that you are expressing its Will through the act of directing Divine Light. The ritual will not confuse you by making you think that it is a human being that is directing Divine Light. The ritual will instead speak of some Ultimate Being doing so. But the secret is: That Ultimate Being you are talking about when you perform the ritual, that Ultimate being is you. It is who and what you really are. All the prayers and salutations, descriptions and reminders about the Ultimate Being are about the real you, about the One Consciousness. The ritual is not talking about someone other than your true self. So next time you pray to that Ultimate Being, know that you are reminding yourself with the words of that prayer, reminding yourself of things that describe the real you that is not human, but so much more.
So to bypass Negative Will, the first act in a well designed ritual is always a reminder of who and what you are, amid your ordinary every-day life. An example of this first step is the mini-ritual called the Ankh of Light, often used as the first preparatory exercise in rituals of Western Mystery systems. The first word in that ritual, “Ateh,” means at once both “I Am” and “Thou Art” (referring to the Ultimate Deity). Saying this word aloud must be for you an immediate reminder that the sensation of “I Am” is the same as Ultimate Deity. The rest of the Ankh of Light ritual extends that experience of Ultimate Deity through all experience. This initial emphasis created by the Ankh of Light asserts that the Ultimate Deity is the real operator of the ritual, who utters the Word of God, not a limited human individual. It is the Mind of the Ultimate Deity that focuses attention (directs Divine Light) on the desired end, not the limited human individual. This is what you must have in mind as you perform the rituals, and this is the perspective from which you must act, at first in ritual practice, and then throughout your daily life.
Ritual therefore can be simultaneously both operative, and instructive. It can be instructive in that it can point out the actual experience of being the One Consciousness, and not merely human. It can be operative in that it can help you behave, even for a time, like you are not a human being, but behave with the knowledge that you are Consciousness itself.
As we all know, repetition is the way to direct habit. Repetitive ritual can direct even this most powerful force in the universe (habit). It can change not only the environment (which seems solid and objective only because of habit), but also one’s character (another form of habit), and most importantly, who or what one habitually identifies with.
There is only one difference between you and me, and the Mighty Dead or Ascended Masters: they have a powerful habit of identifying with the One Consciousness (and nothing less), which is also a powerful habit of behaving like That. All you need to do, to escape suffering and relieve others from suffering, in other words, to complete the Great Work, to join the Mighty Dead, is to build the same habit. Repeatedly performing the right ritual can help you do this. Luckily, the Mighty Dead or Ascended Masters have crafted for us many such rituals over thousands of years.
One such ritual is modestly entitled “The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.” In following parts of this article, we will closely examine in this ritual, its performance, meaning and significance, and the way to perform it to make the most of its clever and beautiful design.