Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Magick is Theater <--> Theater is Magick.

I could sit here and quote-footnote about how various cultures used drama as a way to connect with the divine (and still do). It would be hella boring and not get my point across. We live in the age of Wikipedia and Google. Just look it up later. "sacred drama" plus any culture you like. In the meantime, I want to closely examine a few modern, popular WMT rituals and look at what they do.

The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.

From Infinity Network: Guys, in the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn, wands are fire. Just saying.
I don't agree with it either, but seriously.

Everyone has their own version, but what does this ritual actually do? Some quotes from practitioners include:

"maintaining your own Light, and protect you from the overwhelming sea of emotions and energies flying about the world." -- Some Wicca website.

"Removes earthly vices such as laziness." -- A Thelemite posting on a Thelema forum

"You're creating a barrier against anything and everything foreign to your consciousness." -- Random practitioner.

For another, off the wall and hilarious perspective, click here.

The rest, I will summarize. There is a lot of blibbity blabby about "light" and "spheres" and "currents" out there, and symbolism, but for a moment, let's examine what the damn thing actually does to you.

It "protects" you. This does not mean that it will stop you from getting run over by a car, or bitten by a dog. It means that it protects you from non-physical entities..

Hold up.

Agree or disagree: there are thousands upon thousands of idiots who use and abuse invocation on a daily basis to call Chthulu, Satan, various demons and every manner of dark god, dead person and tentacle monster. But not a single invocation-related injury or death has ever been reported, to my knowledge. Ever.

So, let me rephrase that: It gives you an experience that makes you feel safe.This is of course important, because in the practice of magic, we are discovering the most frightening thing imaginable: that we, and we alone, are in command of our own destiny. No one and nothing will stand between us and our own mistakes.We externalize this unrealized fear as we did in childhood: by imagining monsters where truly, there are none.

In other words, we are dramatizing our feelings of insecurity through 'psychic attack' inflicted upon ourselves-- sometimes to the point of unconsciously using paranormal powers to smash cups or spin plates -- and the antidote is to dramatize the ultimate security building fact: Death is not the end, but a respite in the arms of the all-loving divine. Thus, even if you suffer your whole life long, and make the worst mistakes possible, everything is always and forever OK. In the LBRP, as in the Jewish bedtime prayer it is based on, we are calling Deity on every side of us: North, South, East, West, Above, Below, Within. In case the worst should happen, we shan't get lost.

Of course, if you are an atheist, or if you believe that all magick ultimately comes from humanity, this will do you very little good. That doesn't mean that you can't practice magick.

Moving on...

The Rose Cross Ritual

Instructions here.

What does it do?

"It is a protection against psychic invasion from the thoughts of others or from disturbed psychic conditions"

"The Rose Cross Ritual purifies and protects the space without creating portals for the entry of entities"

"Induces a type of will tend to be ignored."

Now that last is extremely interesting, but largely, we are again talking about the effects of the ritual in terms of how it makes the practitioner feel. It produces a change in the practitioner, and not the physical world. However, in this ritual, we see evidence of a peculiar cross-over.

You could say that the invisibility is caused by divine influence, but I think not, largely on the grounds most people are calling on Jesus, and Jesus was not really about being invisible.He was a public guy, and he asks his followers to be examples to others, and to "preach the good news." No, invisibility is not his style.

I would bet, in fact, that people can alternately call on Christ, or Star Goddess, or Captain Kirk, and the ritual will have largely the same effect.


One popular variant replaces the god names in this ritual with "Abarahadabara" which is a Hebrew phrase that has been tortured by European scoundrels and is no longer recognizable to any Hebrew speaker. But it still works. Because it makes the user feel empowered. Because it sounds serious enough for them to experience suspension of disbelief.

The power in this ritual comes from the caster. They have an experience, which in turn creates an emotional response, a shift in self perception, followed by... well... magick.

In case you missed it, the Rose Cross ritual calls for incense. You enwrap your sphere in that smoke, touching it to the corners normally ignored in magic. What are we dramatizing? Can you guess? We are speaking directly to, calling out to, by whatever name, all that is unseen within ourselves. Thus, out it comes. And away we fade from mortal perception.

So effective magic is about having an experience, a feeling, and a shift of self-perception based on a suspension of disbelief.

Five Quotes. Guess Who Said Them.

“What is important to me is not the truth outside myself, but the truth within myself.”

“Success is transient, evanescent. The real passion lies in the poignant acquisition of knowledge about all the shading and subtleties of the creative secrets.”

“Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art”

“Do not run after distinctions and rewards; but do your utmost to find an entry into the world of beauty.”

“The language of the body is the key that can unlock the soul.”

These quotes may as well be about the practice of magick, but they were in fact said by Konstantin Stanislovksi, actor and director. He philosophically believed that imagination was the key to good acting. He also had the following to say about theater, which I find works as well for crafting and executing effective rituals.

"All action on the stage must have an inner justification, be logical, coherent, and real."

Both the circle and the stage can be said to be a place between Heaven and Earth, I think, where imagined creatures and people touch the real world, and through creating an emotional experience in the participants, can dramatically change the world. Just as an actor must know the characters in the play, and be familiar with what is "out of character" for them, one who practices magic must be familiar with his or her gods, angels, archetypes, spirits or what have you.

But it strikes me that in certain cases, we use very complex ritual, names of evocation that mean nothing to us personally, and we find ourselves having the same basic experience over and over again, regardless of the ritual, one that perfectly conforms to the only expectations we can formulate based on the strange glyphs and foreign names and complex gestures we use: "gee that was powerful."

It felt powerful. Power does things. What did it do? What were you dramatizing? What was the ritual saying to you?

In a piece of occult ritual it is possible to invoke actors and know nothing about them. Our mind fills in the details, correctly and incorrectly, causing the myriad of UPGs we see posted on the internet. With theater, we have an experience that naturally explicates the characters. The script is written to create a feeling, provoke a reaction, argue for a philosophy.

What happens when we bring the precision of theater to the practice of magick?

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