The above title has been selected, chiefly, because, in most works treating upon magic we find it wrongly used, and therefore, take the opportunity of explaining the matter, for, there were no such terms in the vocabulary of the ancient Magi.
It is unfortunate, that, words of ancient origin are not more carefully used, and that, we should attach so many different meanings to the same word. The terms “ceremony” and “ceremonial” are nothing more nor less than, what that eminent critic, John Ruskin, would designate as “bastards of ignoble origin,” which, somehow or another, have usurped the places of “rite” and “ritual.” The word “rite” has descended to us from the Latin “ritus” of our Roman ancestors, and they received it from the more ancient “riti” of the Sanskrit, the Greek equivalent of which is “reo,” and means the method or order of service to the gods, whereas, “ceremony” may mean anything and everything, from the terms of a brutal prize fight to the conduct of divine service within the church. But, no such chameleon-like definition or construction can properly be placed upon the word “rite,” for it means distinctly, if it means anything at all, the serious usage and sacred method of conducting service in honor of the gods, or of superiors, and requires the attendance of the prophet or priest, or some one duly qualified to fulfill such sacred functions for the time being. The ritual of magic, then, is the correct title of this present study, and as such, we shall, henceforth, term it as we proceed with the course.
Man is especially, and above all creatures, an organizing force, and when to this fact, we add the most interior and powerful of his sentimental instincts—veneration for the powers that be, and for the higher, invisible forces of Nature, his “religiosity,” as it has been aptly termed, we cannot wonder that, the earliest races of which we possess any record are chiefly distinguished for their imposing and elaborate religious rites. In fact, it is to the stupendous temples and a colossal sacerdotalism, that, we are indebted for nine-tenths of the relics and records which we possess of them. So true is this that, from what we have been able to discover, we are quite justified in asserting that the ancient races were, above all other things, a profoundly religious people. The temple was the center around which revolved all their genius and art, and the sacred edifice became their grandest achievement in architecture, and its high priest the most powerful individual in the state. In fact, it was in consequence of the real power invested in such sacred office that it was so intimately connected with the throne, and why royalty so frequently belonged to the priesthood or exercised priestly functions. And there can be no real doubt, but that, amongst the pastoral and more spiritual races of Earth’s earliest inhabitants, the priest, by reason of his superior wisdom, was the first law-giver; and, by virtue of his sanctity of person and elevation of mind became their first, primitive king, a patriarchal monarch, whose scepter and symbol of power was the shepherd’s peaceful crook; just as among the ruder nomads of the inhospitable North, we find the greatest hunters invested with the dignity of chief, whose significant symbol and scepter of royalty, upon their Nimrod thrones, was the trusty, successful spear. And the times in which we live have bad their full effect upon these symbols, so significant of rule. The monarch has transformed the spear into the less harmful mace, while the Church has added an inch of iron to the crook. Therefore, the former has become less war-like, and the latter less peaceful, and, verily, in actual life we find them so.
The patriarchal sire, head of the tribal household, was the original priest; and the hearthstone the first altar around which the family rites were performed; and from this pure and primitive original have been evolved, through progressive ages, the stately temple and the sacred person of the despotic pontiff; from the sincere prayer the pure aspirations of the human heart and the joyous offerings of fruits and flowers to the invisible powers around them; and from the souls of their beloved ancestors has arisen the costly and complicated ritual of theology. And, if the theologians of to-day really knew the lost, secret meaning of their complicated rituals, and the unseen powers lying behind their external symbols, their anxieties for the continued life of their dying creeds would be turned to new hopes and faith, which could be demonstrated to their equally blind followers; that, that which they were teaching they knew, and could practically use the knowledge given forth in their sanctuaries; and, instead of offering up their supplications to an imaginary, personal Deity, their words, rites, and ceremonies, would take on the form and power that such should command, and they would become truly, what their title really means, a doctor of the soul. Then could they, intelligently, lead and direct the souls of their followers to the path of Christ (Truth), which leads up to salvation; not a vicarious atonement, but gaining the at-one-ment through the individual soul’s development to a conscious relation, to that Divine spirit, we call God, where it can say “I know.”
Out of those simple gifts, which were the spontaneous offerings of loving remembrance and unselfish charity, have grown the prayers, penances, sacrifices, and servile worship, of sacerdotalism. Out of the paternal consideration and love of the aged sire has evolved the haughty, chilling pride of the selfish, isolated priest, and which reflects its baneful influence upon the worshipers at their feet. They have also changed their once sacred, faithful, and reverent, obedience into suspicion and distrust, and with the educated to utter disgust. The light has been extinguished, and priest and people alike are groping about in darkness.
It is strange, yea, passing strange, the amount of human ignorance and folly that is revealed. When we look upon this picture and then upon that, verily we cannot help but ask the question, is mankind really progressing? We know that it is; we are keenly alive to the truth that the Anthem of Creation sounds out “Excelsior”—”move on,” but how, and in what way (SPIRITUALLY) we fail to comprehend. The cyclic development of the human soul is an inscrutable mystery.
All the considerations above presented must be thoroughly weighed and understood in order to arrive at the true value of “the dogma and ritual of high magic,” as Eliphas Levi terms it; because, amid the vast array of tinselled drapery, the outcome of man’s vain conceit and bombastic pride, we shall find very little that can be considered as vital and really essential to the rites of magic. The show, the drapery, the priestly ornaments and instruments, are to the really spiritual Occultist, but, as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. That they had, and still have, their legitimate uses, is true, but these uses do not concern magic, per se, nor its manifold powers. They awed the popular mind, and impressed upon the masses a due reverence for the powers that be. They were instrumental in holding the untrained passions of the common herd in check, by a wholesome fear of summary vengeance from the gods, so that this pageantry of magic, the outward priestly show, was more of a politic development than a spiritual necessity, an astute but, philosophical method of enabling the educated few to govern the uneducated many. And it was only when the educational and initiatory rites of the temple became corrupt, and the priest became the persecuting ally of the king—when, in real fact, the priest lost his spirituality in the desire for temporal power and place, that the people began to disbelieve his professions and rebel against his tyrannical control.
The powers that be, are now wielding their sword of justice, and unfurling the knowledge of freedom and truth to the aspiring mind of man. He has begun to feel his bondage and the yoke of oppression. The words of promise and love, instead of lifting him up to the God he has been taught to worship, bow him down in slavish obedience to his priest. Mankind cannot remain in this mental and spiritual darkness much longer. Already I see the break of day, the dawn of a new life, a new religion; or, rather, the re-establishing of the true, which is as old as Time itself. There is but One Law, One Principle, One Word, One Truth and One God.
The original requirements for the office of priest, and the rites of magic, were, as shown, a primitive, i.e., pure mind; one that had outgrown the lusts and passions of youth, a person of responsibility and experience; and even to this day the priest of the Roman Church is called by the familiar title of “father.” And as Nature does not alter her laws and requirements in obedience to the moral development of the race, we may rest assured that the same requirements, of ten thousand years ago, still hold good to-day. You may enter your magic circle, drawn with prescribed rites, and you may intone your consecrations and chant your incantations; you may burn your incense in the brazen censer and pose in your flowing, priestly robes; you may bear the sacred pentacles of the spirit upon your breast and wave the magic sword to the four quarters of the heavens; yea, you may even do more—you may burn the secret sigil of the objurant spirit; and yell your conjurations and exorcisms till you are black in the face; but all in vain, my friend—all in vain. It will prove nothing but vanity and vexation of spirit unless the inward self, the soul, interblends with the outward Word, and contacting by its own dynamic intensity— the elemental vibrations of Nature—arouses these spiritual forces to the extent of responding to your call. When this can be done, but not until then, will your magical incantations have any effect upon the voiceless air. Not the priestly robes nor magic sword, not the incantations, WRITTEN WORD, nor mystic circle, can produce Nature’s response to Occult rite; but the fire of the inward spirit, the mental realization of each word and mystic sign, combined with the conscious knowledge of your own Deific powers—this, and this only, creates Nature’s true magician.
Who and where can such be found? Are they so few that the echo answers back “Where and who?” Yet, there are many such upon the Earth at the present time, but the present mental conditions forbid them making their identity known. They would not be recognized and accepted as the TRUE teachers, but reviled and persecuted and dubbed as insane. But silently, they are sowing the seed of truth that will spring up and bear fruit, where and when least expected.
Because evil is so active, truth is not lying dormant. The spirit of God, that Divine spark of Deity within every human soul, never sleeps, never rests. “On and upward” is its cry. “Omnia vincit veritas.”
The grand sublimity of man’s conception of at-one with the Infinite Father, at-one with the limitless universe of being, at-one with, and inheriting, all the sacred rights and inalienable prerogatives of the ineffable Adonai of the deathless soul, is the only test of man’s qualification for the holy office; for, as Bulwer Lytton has truthfully said, “the loving throb of one great HUMAN HEART will baffle more fiends than all the magicians’ lore.” So it is with the sacred ritual. One single aspirational thought, clearly defined, outweighs all the priestly trappings that the world has ever seen.
The success of all incarnations depends upon the complete unison of VOICE and MIND, the interblend of which, produces the dynamic intonation, that chords with the inward rhythmic vibrations of the soul. Once this magical, dynamic, vibration is produced, there immediately springs into being the whole elemental world belonging thereto, by correspondence. Vocalists who hold their audiences spellbound do so by virtue of the magical vibrations they produce, and are in reality practical, even though unconscious, magicians. The same power, to a degree, lies in the voice when speaking, the graceful movement of the hand when obeying the will, and the eye rays forth the same dynamic power and becomes magical in its effects.
These powers are exercised more upon the physical plane, and no better illustration can be given, than, the power man is able to exert over the animal when gazing into its eyes.
Here, as well as in incantations and invocations, within the power of the will, lies the success or failure.
At this point it may be asked, what, then, is the use of magical rites, of symbols and priestly robes? We answer, in themselves alone, nothing, absolutely nothing, except the facility and convenience we derive from system, order and a code of procedure. To this may be added the mental force and enthusiasm of soul which such things inspire, just as men and women may feel more dignified, artistic, and refined, when dressed in accordance with their ideas. So may the average priest feel more priestly, holy; and consequently, more powerful mentally; when arrayed in the robes of his office and surrounded by the outward symbols of his power and functions. But, in themselves alone, there is not, nor can there be, any real virtue. The same may be said of the incantations. The words used in their composition are the hieroglyphics of mystical ideas. Therefore, the correct pronunciation of the words or the grammatical construction of a sentence is nothing, if the underlying idea is conceived in the mind and responded to by the soul. Will and motive form the basis of true magic.
One word more and we have completed our subject. Magic swords, rings, pentacles, and wands, may, and often are powerful magical agents in the hands of the magician, by virtue of the power, or charm, that is invested within them when properly prepared; but apart from such preparation, by those who know, they are as powerless as unintelligible incantations.
All the foregoing are aids, but if physical manifestations of magical forces be required, there must always be present the necessary vital, magnetic pabulum, by means of which such phenomena are made to transpire; and in every case, to be successful, the assistance of a good natural magician, or seer, is necessary; for without this essential element the whole art, in its higher aspects, becomes abortive.