By Tim Maroney
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
For a few months, I have been practicing on a semi-regular basis a ritual known as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I've been doing it once or twice every day. I've performed it before, but never on so regular a schedule or with such satisfactory results. To formalize my approach for myself, to aid any others who may be practicing the LBR, and to satisfy the idle curiosity of any gawking onlookers, I have put together this short discussion of the ritual and its symbolism and performance.
First, the ritual itself. I'll just reprint the description from Liber O, a publication of the occult order A.'. A.'. (a name which can't be rendered correctly in this medium -- those apostrophes should be dots, forming a triangle of dots after each "A". Oh well.)
i. Touching the forehead say Ateh (Unto Thee), ii. Touching the breast say Malkuth (The Kingdom), iii. Touching the right shoulder, say ve-Geburah (and the Power), iv. Touching the left shoulder, say ve-Gedulah (and the Glory), v. Clasping the hands upon the breast, say le-Olahm, Amen (To the Ages, Amen). vi. Turning to the East, make a pentagram (that of Earth) with the proper weapon (usually the Wand). Say (i.e. vibrate) IHVH. vii. Turning to the South, the same, but say ADNI. viii. Turning to the West, the same, but say AHIH. ix. Turning to the North, the same, but say AGLA. [Pronounce: Ye-ho-wau, Adonai, Eheieh, Agla.] x. Extending the arms in the form of a cross say, xi. Before me Raphael; xii. Behind me Gabriel; xiii. On my right hand Michael; xiv. On my left hand Auriel; xv. For about me flames the Pentagram, xvi. And in the Column stands the six-rayed Star. xvii-xxi. Repeat (i) to (v), the "Qabalistic Cross."
It's not a good idea to just launch into this thing from a standing start. You should start by evacuating any bodily wastes. If your nose is clogged, clear it. (There are some really gross yogic techniques for doing this if necessary.) It is best to bathe or shower first, and wear special clothes worn only during ritual, but those are secondary considerations and may be disposed of. Remove any serious muscle tensions; I do this in two ways, by informal stretching exercises and by sitting quietly for a few minutes. Finally, heavy food in the digestive tract is bound to interfere to some extent, so don't pig out right before practice.
It is very useful to have a room in your home that is either set aside for ritual, or can be transformed into a suitable room readily. I share my ritual room with my lover, who uses it for typing. This is a fortunate arrangement, since we both want the room to be simple, uncluttered, and non-distracting, and all I have to do is hide the typewriter and throw a cloth over the desk. If you can't arrange something like that, make sure you at least have enough free floor space in the center of the room for fre dom of movement.
Elsewhere in Liber O, we find the banishing pentagram of Earth. It is a five pointed star, point up. To draw it, start from the lower left-hand corner, go up to the top point, and continue from there. It is questionable whether this attribution really matters in any real sense, any more than the shape of the letter "a" effects its meaning, but it is a symbol to which the desired meaning can readily be imparted. Note that you do not draw the stars at the end of your finger, but project them outwards as if your finger was a light-pen.
Also in Liber O, we learn how to "vibrate" the names. The description given is rather confusing and has been known to mislead people -- I didn't learn how to do it right until I joined the O.T.O. (yet another occult order) and witnessed it in person. Here is my attempt to provide a more useful description.
Stand upright. Blow all the air out of your lungs. Hold your arms straight out to your sides. Close your eyes and inhale nasally, imagining that the breath is the name. The exact nature of this imagination differs from person to person. Thus, you imagine yourself inhaling the name into your lungs. As you inhale, sweep your forearms up so that your fists rest on your temples. Imagine the breath moving down through your torso slowly, and through your pelvis, your legs, and finally to the soles of your feet. (Don't do this so slowly that you are hurting for lack of air by the time the name reaches your feet!) The instant it hits the soles of your feet, imagine it rushing back up and out. Simultaneously, throw yourself forward, thrusting your left foot forward about twelve inches and catching yourself on it, your hands shooting forward, bending forward at the waist so that your torso is parallel to the floor. The air in your lungs should be blown out through your nose at the same time, but imagine the name shooting out straight ahead. This is called the Sign of the Enterer. It is essentially a gesture of projection, a strong (even violent) forward thrust. It's also a lot easier than it sounds.
Then withdraw into a standing position, left arm hanging at your side, right forefinger on lips, left foot pointing ninety degrees out from the body. This is called the Sign of Silence. It is passive to balance the active nature of the Enterer.
In the LBR, the effect of the vibrations is to "charge" the pentagrams you drew in the air. This is a psychological phenomenon which is difficult to describe. I won't try. I trust you'll be able to recognize it when it happens, and that you'll be able to tell when nothing happens. The latter will be more common at first -- in Magick, as in every other endeavor, only practice gives real skill. Don't worry, just continue with the ritual and try harder next time. See also below for more on the function of the vibrations.
By the way, I imagine the name "Yahweh" rather than "Ye-ho-wau" because that's the way the Catholic priests taught me it was said. Use whatever pronunciation you prefer. I also use my finger rather than the wand; the only "wand" as such I use in my work is the pen I use to record my experiments in my journal. The use of the finger is a very common way of doing the LBR. Finally, you are supposed to turn back to the East after vibrating AGLA; the instructions are not explicit on this point.
The criterion for success in the ritual is equally ill-defined, a "feeling of cleanliness". It is as hard to state this sort of thing exactly as it would be to tell someone how to mix a dye of a particular shade of red. All you can do with such fundamental perceptions is label them, not describe them.
All right, there's the mumbo-jumbo. The real action takes place on the psychological level, and if you ask me the real effect is equally psychological. Not all practitioners would agree; many would say that the real effect is to create a fortified and cleansed area on the astral plane, which they think of as a place as "real" as Hoboken. It doesn't really matter for the purposes of this discussion. I'm now going to step through the internal or "astral" correlation of each part of the ritual.
The "Qabalistic Cross" is a self-consecration. It makes the magician (icky word -- I feel like I ought to have a few pigeons hidden in my pockets...) a sanctified instrument for the performance of the rest of the ritual. Here are a few tips on getting the self-consecrating effect.
Linger on each phrase for as long as it takes to remember the meaning. The "thee" is your own higher self, if you're a humanist. Think of it as a baptism using light rather than water. Imagine that your body has "centers" which you are bringing to life by anointing them with your hand. There are five such "centers". At the end of the Cross, remain for a moment in that posture, upright, hands clasped, feeling the Cross within yourself, yourself as the Cross. This should cause a sort of purified perception of the body. Again, practice is the key -- just remember to pay attention to the meaning and to consecrate yourself with reverence and devotion to your higher self.
If you prefer monotheistic symbolism, read "God" for "higher self". Even for monotheists, the consecration is of yourself, although "by the power of God". The two symbolisms can be turned into each other with less effort than a topologist requires to invert a torus, so it doesn't really matter.
The "vanilla" version of the Cross is not what I use, nor what most Thelemites use. Instead, we go "Atoh" (touch brow, or Ajna Chakra), "Aiwass" (touch breast, or Anahata Chakra), "Malkuth" (touch genitals, or Svadisthana Chakra), and then the rest as normal. "Aiwass" was a name Crowley's H.G.A. or "external manifestation of the higher self" called itself by. If you attain to the Knowledge and Conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel (a term chosen because of its absurdity), use its name instead of Aiwass. Don't expect this to happen tomorrow or next week.
Drawing the pentagram will be easy or hard for you, depending on whether you are good at visualization. I'm not, so it's hard. I am getting better with practice. Ideally, the stars should be of flame, drawn in the air, but if you're like me you will have no cause to complain if you just see a faint outline. Do not use drugs to increase your visualization abilities unless you are willing to become dependent on them, a bad idea. If you are experienced with drugs, it may be useful to get stoned first every once in a while just to show you what it ought to be like. One "trick" I discovered is to visualize a vertical line first, and draw the star using that to orient yourself. The Cross should help you visualize the vertical line.
The pentagram is a very powerful symbol. There seems to be a more than arbitrary connection between it and the microcosm, e.g., Man (in the androgynous sense). The central pentagon represents the torso, the top point the head, the other four points the limbs. No need to go into the symbolism of the averse pentagram now, since it's not used in the LBR. For a humanist like me, the stars are essentially reflections of the higher self, given life (breath) by the vibrations of the God-names. For a theist, they are anthropomorphic manifestations of deity, summoned by the vibration of God-names. Again, it makes little difference, so long as the symbolism is of the microcosm. They are given form by the drawing, life by the vibration, identity by the steps (x) to (xiv). Some people do very elaborate visualizations of angelic guardians on each of (xi) to (xiv). Because I'm not yet a good visualizer, I am content for now with strong feelings of presence, identity, and divinity in each of the four directions. A horizontal cross is built up step by step as you say, "Before me Raphael", etc, with you at the center; and the position of your arms forms a vertical cross. If you have done everything correctly, and you are something like me, you will feel a quite peculiar rising and expansion when both of these crosses are formulated. For me, this is when the real banishing takes place, during "For about me flames the pentagram, and in the column stands the six-rayed star." After this is done, the invoked "archangels" maintain the banishing effect, guarding in all four directions. Of course this is all bushwah -- the importance lies in the psychological effect, which is quite sufficient for most people. Whether there "really is" an archangel standing there keeping out inimical spirits is not important. The "feeling of cleanliness" is what matters.
The final Cross is an affirmation of the completeness and symmetry of the ritual, and a new self-consecration. This is more efficacious than the previous Cross because it is done in a banished environment. One is now ready to do a formal invocation, an evocation, a meditation, or whatever the overall purpose of the ritual is. The LBR is a preliminary, although it has a beneficial effect on you in and of itself, and can profitably be done as a stand-alone ritual. I do it before some of my prayers to the Source of All Life, the Sun, which I do four times a day (at the obvious times), but that's another subject. It should keep away the horrible ickies that turn so many novices off to Magick.
With practice, you will no doubt come up with your own style of performance, and your own different symbolism, just as I've done. Different people do rituals as differently as actors play parts, even though the lines and motions are fundamentally the same. Slavish imitation will get you nowhere in Magick -- I'm just trying to provide some advice that would have been useful to me.
Love is the law, love under will.
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