Ritual is a much misunderstood term, conjuring images both glamourous and sinister of cowled or naked figures performing unmentionable rites in unspeakable places. This is an indication of the power of the popular novelist's image making faculty to impose entirely erroneous ideas onto those who know no better.
Ritual is undoubtedly a powerful technique, as is all group work that involves the controlled use of the creative imagination. We have already described the technique of Pathworking or Initiated Symbol Projection as some transpersonal psychologists call it. Ritual is an extension of this by adding simple physical actions or words in a ceremonial form.
Although this is a logical and simple extension it carries considerable power and effectiveness with it. This is because it is an 'earthing' of the group's realizations and intentions in an immediate, formal and balanced way.
Ritual can be constructed in many ways and with various degrees of complexity. It can be made into a gorgeous spectacle by means of robes, ritual accoutrements and regalia. It loses no effectiveness however in being conducted in plain clothes. The reason for this is that it is not only a dramatic spectacle.
A dramatic spectacle, be it the Changing of the Guard or a grand opera, can have a deeply moving effect upon spectators and participants alike. However, the effectiveness of good ritual derives from the imaginative involvement of the participants in a deliberate way. In other words, in ritual, more is going on on the inner levels than on the outer. The outward actions are simply movements in a stately dance, so to speak, that physically key in concerted inner contacts, images and energies.
Similarly, there need be no long speeches. The skilful use of the spoken voice can be powerfully evocative in all group work, and particularly so in ritual. It is, however, not the actor's art that is called for - although some actors have the gift without knowing it and possibly despite their training. Charles Dickens obviously had the gift of being able to captivate the imagination of his audience in readings from his novels. His one man shows remain a legendary success. It is what might be called the bardic gift, the story teller's art. Yet here again it is not the whole story because certain actors have a stage presence that can electrify the imagination of an audience. So also a gifted dancer, or political orator. It is what is sometimes called charisma. Some might consider it to be a contact with the Higher Self or with the sub- or superconscious. And although it seems to be a gift rather than an acquirement we would suggest that it works by using the pictorial imagination with great vividness and in complete faith as to its power and reality. This is the faith that will certainly move hearts if it will not move mountains. But when hearts are moved then mountains may soon follow.
By way of illustration of ritual principles we propose to describe a ritual that was devised, using Tarot images, and performed at a weekend workshop. The intention was to involve as many people as possible and give them some experience of taking part in such work, but over-riding this training aim was the intention that it be an effective piece of magical work.
One could conceivably have a Tarot ritual comprised of seventy-eight officers, each taking on the role of an individual card. However this would prove impracticably large in most circumstances and we were intent to produce a piece of work that could be contained in a hall of rectangular shape, holding about thirty to forty people sat round in an oval. Therefore, after some deliberation, it was decided to opt for twelve ritual officers altogether.
The first of these would be the magus or hierophant of the working, who would take the Tarot role of the Fool, and control things from the centre. Therefore a small central altar would also be used.
Four officers were chosen to represent the Elemental forces, one placed at each cardinal point. And in keeping with the general ambience of each suit, the most appropriate Court Card would be chosen to designate them.
East: King of Swords
South: Knight of Wands
West: Queen of Cups
North: Princess of Pentacles
Thus two would be male and two female, and each would carry the appropriate magical weapon and represent certain special forces.
The King in the East would represent the outer bounds of the aura of the planet Earth, and would hold a sword to signify his guardian function. As King of Air he represents, in a sense, the bounds of the Earth's atmosphere, of that which supports terrestrial life.
The Queen in the West would represent the receptive consciousness of the Earth to the cosmic realms, and the influences of outer space allowed past the auric threshold by the King. This receptivity is the significance of the cup that she holds, which in this respect becomes a form of the Grail.
The Knight in the South would represent a lower gateway, and is in a sense an angelic overlord or Elemental King, who is guardian and guide of the elements of nature. He would hold a wand as a controller of the etheric realms of the Fire of the Wise, directing the forces of the inner Earth, or barring their way, as appropriate.
The Princess in the North would represent the Planetary Being of the Earth, the great generating Elemental in whom we live, and move and have our being. She would have a pentacle, placed for convenience upon a small altar table before her, consisting of a dish of coins, supporting a seven branched candle stick.
The remaining seven officers would represent cosmic powers, the Seven Spirits before the Throne, the Seven Rishis of the Great Bear, the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades, the Seven Rays, or whatever other symbolic expression might be accorded these great powers that are beyond the mundane understanding of man. For our purpose, they would be expressed in Tarot symbolism, each having a three-fold aspect, as follows:
1. Magician - Justice - Devil (male officer)
2. High Priestess - Hermit - Tower (female officer)
3. Empress - Wheel - Star (female officer)
4. Emperor - Strength - Moon (male officer)
5. Hierophant - Hanged Man - Sun (male officer)
6. Lovers - Death - Last Judgement
7. Chariot - Temperance - World
(female officer) (female officer)
The amplified meaning of these images is given below. In each case the general ambiance of the traditional meaning of the card is retained but focussed onto the specific purpose of the work in hand. Thus the malefic overtones of the common meanings of some of the cards is over-ridden and all have a more spiritual and cosmic interpretation than would be the case if the same images were being used, say, for a divination about some personal problem in daily life. This flexibility of interpretation and use is one of the great strengths of the Tarot as a magical device and store of symbolism.
The Magician: The principle of creating forms from the building blocks of the created elements, to give true forms for the indwelling of spiritual beings. Justice: The principle of perfect balance, perfect justice, and perfect equilibrium, and the banishment of all that is unbalanced or evil. The Devil: The principle of taking on responsibility for and abreacting all that is not balanced and true, so that only the true and the good shall be expressed. The expression of the true will of the spirit, the resistance to the abuse of free will.
The High Priestess: The pure ground of divine wisdom that gives peace and knowledge of all levels of created being. The Hermit: The principle of eternity that shines like a back-cloth behind the illusion of linear time. The Tower: The principle of opening the will to the higher principles, in all the structures of the creation of the spirit, so that life structures shall be built on the basis of spiritual truth and be towers of inspiration and wisdom rather than of pride and presumption.
The Empress: The spirit of love and co-operation between all beings, in the expression of the family, of groups, of races and of nations, and species, to form a harmonious whole.
The Wheel: The principle of cosmic cycles and the pattern of the dance of life, joyously trodden by all who follow the measures stepped out by the Lord of the Dance.
The Star: The principle of fellowship between the bodies of the starry cosmos, upon all levels of inner and outer space. The love that holds the universe at one, like the apparent pull of gravity that gives spiritual weight to all things by the attraction of like to like in the field of cosmic wisdom.
The Emperor: The power of the spirit, the libido of created life, the might that holds the worlds together and all species in the growing and developing splendour.
Strength: The principle of perfect control of the vehicles of form by the indwelling spirit, and of the willing, loving co-operation of the lower forms of life to the expression of the higher.
The Moon: The principle of reflections of cosmic principles and, through the flux and reflux of the higher cycles, of beings of great spiritual magnitude; forming a true outpost for spiritual expression of sacred life.
The Hierophant: The brooding love of the power of the spirit acting between the planes, from the highest point of inception to lowest point of expression.
The Hanged Man: The principle of sacrifice of selfless love in all created beings, so that the centre of each life is the good of others rather than the erroneous attempt at protection of the self.
The Sun: The principle of radiation of love and light of a sacred planet, taking its place in the myriad hierarchy of cosmic beings, as a new born child in the stellar universe.
The Lovers: The principle of love between individual beings. The loyalties and links that span the ages and the aeons of the cosmos. The microcosm of the whole vast creation in the love between two souls in whatever form of harmonious relationship.
Death: The principle of change, of transmutation and transformation, the resurrection or transfiguration to higher forms of expression by stepping through a luminous veil of transmutation or changing of means of material expression. The death known to a fallen world is a travesty, a distorted shadow, of this process. The Last Judgement: The call to the new life of all that is past and in error, of all that sleeps in the vale of illusion. The birth into cosmic citizenship.
The Chariot: The principle of progress from one demonstration of perfect expression to another, in balanced harmony, drawn by the two-fold spirit of love, under the four-fold canopy of perfected expression. The triumphal progress of perfected life.
Temperance: The principle of shared experience, the growing together in light and in love, as experience is shared and loving friendships opened and undergone. (Pathworking and ritual is a form of this experience.) The World: The principle of the perfected Earth. Dancing in a wreath of victory that was once a crown of thorns, surrounded by the four-fold balanced cosmic powers.
The threefold nature of each of the seven cosmic-force officers gives a symbolic link to the story of the three wise men who came, following a star, to bring gifts to the Christ child. This is particularly relevant to a work that was being performed in the time of year that runs up to Advent and Christmas.
However, more is intended than simply an elaborated nativity play. If each performs their part well the working can be the vehicle for higher forces to come into the dark Earth and help raise the planet to 'sacred' status. The general esoteric theory for this conception can be found in some of the works of Alice Bailey and elsewhere. They have become, in fact, fairly familiar, accepted principles in the current climate of esoteric opinion along with much 'New Age' aspiration.
The physical pattern of movement paced out by die seven cosmic officers is important. Their position in the lodge is in a shallow crescent, flanking the Eastern officer, the King of Swords. (See Fig. 35.)
They are, in turn, called by the Fool to make their journey into the planetary aura. They start this at the Eastern point, where the Officer of the East raises his sword in token accolade
and salute, and they proceed in a direct East/West line to the Western officer, who receives them with an appropriate welcoming gesture, holding her cup. This cup, and indeed the group as a whole, in effect becomes a Cup of the Grail when filled with the incoming spiritual energies.
From the Western point, again at the bidding of the Fool, they proceed anti-clockwise to the Southern point. Here the officer raises his wand over their heads as they stand facing the central altar, rather in the manner of the lintel of a trilithon gate, his arms forming the uprights. And in this brief ceremony of dedicated purpose they are given a taper by the central officer.
Then, again at the bidding of the Fool, they proceed past the central altar, this time from South to North. Their taper is lit from the central altar by the Fool, who is representative of the Will of God in the Earth and has control of all forces, however cosmic or spiritual they may be; and who is also Guardian of the one central light of which all other lights are the progeny.
They then light one of the candles of the menorah that is held by the Officer of the North. Having completed their task of candle lighting the officers return to their original places.
From the ground plan of the ritual it will be seen that a figure of eight pattern has been traced E-W-S-N-E. This is in part a contra-flow to the accustomed time cycle of the four Elemental stations that we have described earlier. However, in dealing with these extra-terrestrial forces we are concerned, not with the limitations of time and the cycles of nature but with the effects of transcending them.
Something of the various ways in which force-flows in ritual occur and may be directed has been described in the opening section of our The Rose Cross and the Goddess and is also dealt with in passing in R. J. Stewart's The Underworld Initiation.
Once the seven candles have been lit on the menorah the rite can be fittingly concluded by the Fool leading the Princess of the Earth, the Planetary Being, around the circle of all those present. This traces out an oval path of light, the wreath of victory that is depicted on the Tarot Trump of the World, which also, with the figure of the Fool at its centre, and the Elemental emblems at the Quarters, is in broad terms, the layout of the ritual.
The opportunity can be taken of bringing a gift to each of those present in recognition of the gifts they have helped to bring to the Planetary Being. In this case a glass marble was chosen, which seemed fitting in various ways. Like the Tarot itself it is part of a game, and a children's game at that, which make it particularly appropriate to Christmas. Also its spherical shape make it representative of the world. And its substance, glass, is appropriate in that silicon is the most common element on the planet. Indeed it gives pause for thought to consider that besides water and air as common substances that support and sustain life, the earth is abundantly supplied with silicon which, in the form of the silicon chip, seems set to be the basis of a new civilization, world-wide, whose technology utterly surpasses all that has gone before. Finally, the glass marble is, by its attractive colouring, a surrogate jewel, and thus a fitting example of how the Earth itself may transform to the jewel of the Earthly Paradise, in its ideal, unfallen, potential.
Most rituals in so far that they consist of the spoken word have a script. In this case, with twelve officers and a fair amount of movement, it was felt that this would prove a distraction. Yet it was too much to expect those participating to learn extensive parts by heart at such short notice.
Therefore it was decided to have no script at all. The bulk of the spoken words were given extemporaneously from the centre by the Officer representing the Fool, with only very simple token affirmative responses required from the other officers, such as 'There is'. Thus, for example:
Fool: Is there one here delegated to represent the Element of
Air within this lodge? Officer of the East: There is.
Fool: Then come to the altar to receive the symbol of your office, the sword.
The whole ritual sequence was conducted in this fashion, from the consecrating of the Elemental tokens of the four Quarter officers, through to the processing and candle lighting of the cosmic-force officers, and to the eventual circulation of the lights and the giving of the gifts.
This had the advantage of simplicity in telling each officer exacdy what to do, step by step, and demonstrating to all present the function expressed and intended.
The only script that was used was in fact a set of Tarot Trumps which were laid in the appropriate order on the altar. The central officer simply took each in turn at the appropriate point of the ritual and turned it over when its force had been invoked.
This kind of aide-memoire is useful to have, because in powerful ritual conditions it is not unknown for the conscious mind to be wiped clean of images and concepts by an influx of psychic force. This may be intuitively or spiritually illuminating in the longer term, but can play havoc with the immediate efficient performance of a speech that is committed to memory.
Again the importance of the concerted use of the imagination must be stressed, particularly in relation to the transformations of the cosmic archetypes. Thus effectiveness of the work depended upon the faith and pictorial ability of all present to visualize the transformation of each officer in appropriate form at each particular station.
For example, when the first cosmic officer stood in the East beneath the upraised sword, he was visualized in the form of the Magician, and a brief pictorial description was given by the officiating officer to co-ordinate this. Then when he arrived at the West he was visualized in the form of a figure of Justice, the balance holder. And then in the station of the South, proceeding to the final earthing of the cosmic force, he was seen in the form of the Redeemed Fallen One.
As to results, whatever these may have been in terms of objective realities at various levels, or upon the consciousness of other participants, it certainly, together with the path working already described, which was performed at the same weekend, had a powerful and unexpected effect upon the present writer who was the principal celebrant. This was a creative impulse of great and sustained intensity part of the results of which are to be found in the following section of this book, a set of extended workings based upon the Tarot archetypes, which came through over the course of a period of three weeks.
The effect of these, properly used, should be to open up yet greater depths beyond the surface appearances of the Tarot images. Before proceeding to this, however, it will be appropriate to say something about the art of Tarot divination.
Although those who practise it may not realize the fact, divination is a ritual magical act.
That is, it is a polar working conducted by two officers, even though they may not be dressed in ritual regalia. By the mutual agreement of their coming together for the purpose, a ritual team is formed, one as the Querent, the other as the Interpreter of the oracle.
The Querent poses the questions of enquiry to the oracle; the Interpreter consults the fall of the cards to interpret the answer. It follows from this that the cards themselves are a form of structured code, or language, between the planes. And also that there is an inner plane presence who is the third pole, or inner communicator, in the ritual structure. (See Figure 36.)
Thus the work should be performed in an attitude of due seriousness if worthwhile results are to be achieved. Both officers should maintain the attitude of seeking guidance from a respected source of knowledge and wisdom.
This does not call for mystagoguic trappings and a portentous atmosphere, which are the accoutrements of superstition rather than of appropriate technique. Quietness, order, freedom from interruption, subdued lighting and perhaps a pinch of incense, provide the correct conditions for successful working. Certainly one must avoid trivializing the operation. It is not a casual chat, still less a form of light entertainment. It is a serious consultation with a potential guide, philosopher and friend who happens not to be present in a physical body and whose mode of communication is through the coded fall of an agreed system of images.
As with all systems of divination the Tarot will do as it is done by. Treated with respect it will respond seriously to any enquiry. Treated trivially then trivia will result. Abuse it in any way and it will react accordingly.
INNER PLANE BEING
INNER PLANE BEING
The basic pattern of operation is the Querent and Interpretter sitting opposite one another at a table on which the cards can be spread. This is not unlike the picture on the card of the Magician. The table becomes in effect an altar of operation, or put more simply, a focus of attention. (And the original meaning of the word focus is the hearth of a sacred fire.)
It matters not which quarter of the compass they sit. Generally speaking wisdom is held to come from the East, but in oracular matters it can equally be associated with West or North, as the more passive poles of the magical compass, and indeed the Interpreter could equally well sit in the South, with the Querent in the North, the traditional place in the Lodge of the neophyte, the quarter of greatest symbolic darkness. In practical terms, let the Interpreter select what seems intuitively the most appropriate in the physical circumstances.
Having agreed that it is the Tarot that is to be consulted, and at a particular place and particular time, then the conventions of the method to be used must be decided. This is for the Interpreter to choose, and custom, practice and ease of function are the key factors.
It is a good plan to have the Querent write down the question and state it verbally at the commencement. This clarifies the mind and focusses the intention - two essentials for successful magic.
Then have the Querent shuffle the pack, in a still, reflective frame of mind until he or she intuitively feels it is time to stop. The cards are then put down, and by tradition, cut three times by the Querent, using the left hand (or the right hand if naturally left-handed). The cards are then taken up by the Interpreter for the spread.
The Interpreter should select a spread that is appropriate to the type and nature of the enquiry and its complexity.
A short spread that gives good results, and which has been reproduced in many books on the Tarot, is the so-called Celtic method given by A. E. Waite in his Key to the Tarot. This uses ten cards. However, there are now many books available on the subject of how to read the Tarot cards and every pack that is sold usually has a booklet of instruction that goes with them. There is no point in our duplicating all or any of these; we seek only to lay down a few basic principles so that the wood may be seen in spite of the trees. Any diviner likely to be worthy of the name will evolve a personal method based on meditation and experience.
Similarly there is little point in our listing out various divinatory meanings for the cards, many of which, from various sources will be found to be contradictory. The meanings are best derived personally from one's own set of mind and philosophic standpoint. There is no substitute for playing with the cards physically, mulling over them and communing with the ideas behind them over a long period of time.
Of course, if one is using an esoteric pack certain meanings will be implied by the pictorial symbolism of the cards. If one is content to accept these meanings they will work well enough. However, there is much to be said for working with the old traditional designs, such as the Marseilles Tarot, which do not intrude latter day esoteric sectarian assumptions, and so retain an invaluable flexibility.
In the last analysis it is an excellent and rewarding exercise, and not only for divination, to design and make one's own cards. Whether or not one embarks on such a project, having one's own special pack, dedicated to the purpose, and kept in a private undisturbed place, perhaps wrapped in black silk, will be helpful.
As in all magical procedures, it is not so much a matter of what one does, or even believes, but the way that one does it. Faith, sincerity, dedication, and respect for the inner powers will, with time and application, bring their own tuition and due reward.
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The pathology of the poet says that the undevout astronomer is mad the pathology of the very plain man says that the genius is mad and between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand analogous excesses, the sovereign reason takes the part of a moderator and does what it can. I do not think that there is a pathology of the occult dedications, but about their extravagances no one can question, and it is not less difficult than thankless to act as a moderator regarding them.