Whatever may be the outer form or cultural tradition, the aim of any ritual is to increase the potency of the individual. We must bear this principle in mind whenever we design or craft a new ritual.
The aim is not to facilitate the bending of nature to our will, or the rending of the external world into a new shape. Nor is our primary goal to be maximally appealing to the entity or deity we are invoking. If we were to play a tape recording of a ritual upon the altar of an empty room, even if it were spectacularly elaborate, stunningly beautiful, and scrupulously dutiful in its details, there would be no magical or spiritual effect.
The Mind Side of Nature
The purpose of a ritual is to elevation the consciousness of its participants, and it is only in this elevation of consciousness that a ritual finds its power. Our aim in crafting a ritual is the specialized exaltation of consciousness of the individuals involved.
The rules which govern the design of a ritual, therefore, are the rules which govern the holding of attention. A ritual works by appealing to the instinct and the unconscious, on the one hand, invoking a certain emotional state, and on the other hand, holding the attention steadily upon a point of focus. This raises the potency of the individual, elevating the consciousness to higher states.
When the potency of an individual has been raised in a specific and specialized manner, it is possible to come into contact with a corresponding specialized aspect of nature, with which one may do very remarkable things.
For instance, if our aim is to invoke planetary energy like Mars, we seek to raise consciousness in the specialized direction of Mars so that we may then establish contact with this celestial energy stream. Once we establish this point of contact, we may direct this energy to work on our behalf in the accomplishment of our desires.
The purpose of a ritual is not supplication to Mars in order to please the planetary deity and win his favor; nor is it to gain control over Martial energy so that we can harness and direct it. The function of ritual is to work upon the Self, bringing oneself into alignment with the Martial stream of energy that is always and ever-present. There is nothing in the outer world we are seeking to change or manipulate; it is ourselves that we are sculpting by means of ritual.
This is true no matter what culture, religion, tradition, or school of ritual one may be working within. Ritual forms are not intended to be a discipline to train the soul, nor even to be a means of pleasing God. They are designed to enable the light of spiritual forces to be brought to a focus in consciousness. The aim of a ritual is to make use of the little-understood faculties of the kingdoms of the mind, and therein gain access to the “mind side” of Nature.
The Psychology of Ritual
Understanding the psychology of ritual in this way is the antidote to empty superstition and charlatanism, as well as excessive cynicism or skepticism. We may judge the legitimacy of any ritual, not by its elaborate paraphernalia or impressive displays, but by the effect that it has upon our hearts and mind.
Any form or symbol employed in a ritual is a channel for a focus. The outward and visible sign, be it a cup or cross, a staff or wand, crystal ball or feather, is but a focusing point of attention that enables the worshipper to come into psychic touch with the spiritual force which is the animating life of that symbol.
In other words, it is not only the material substance of a sacrament that is the physical channel for a force, but also the vivid, subjective image created in the imagination of the worshipper by its ritual use.
This explanation of the psychological aspect of supernatural power does not in any way detract from its divine aspect. We do not claim that the spiritual reality does not exist independently of our minds or our belief in it; we simply acknowledge the manner in which the spiritual forces
operate on the level of mind.
Divine powers are ineffable and incomprehensible to human consciousness. In order to work with them at all, this power must be embodied in concrete forms or ideas. Sacraments, ritual implements, symbols, and even dress embody primordial spiritual forces and truths which are too abstract for us to comprehend, but which we can in some way emotionally or etherically commune with. By means of pictorial symbolism, the mind is able to contemplate that which it could never articulate or conceive.
Through this contemplation, we become linked with a spiritual potency that performs the work on our behalf. Linked through thought, this spiritual power may pour into the soul and accomplish its divine work. Any physical ceremonial action we might be taking is but the dancing shadow of the power that is working upon etheric planes.
Inflame the Heart with Prayer
It is well-documented that medical treatment actually works better when the patient believes in the doctor and the doctor believes in his approach. The same principle applies to ritual: empty, unfelt prayers do nothing, yet the humblest offering from a genuine heart inflamed with spirit can move mountains.
This is not to say that we may simply make up our own rules for rituals according to how we feel. Laws of natural correspondence dictate the appropriate materials to be used in any ritual, and disregard for these laws only deprives one of force that could otherwise be made use of.
Every deity or celestial energy is associated with colors, plants, incenses, sounds, symbols, and other etheric qualities. These vibrational tones are not merely “pleasing” to the archetypal force being invoked but are indeed manifestations or expressions of it.
Our aim in ritual is to inundate consciousness with manifestations of one energy so that the totality of the psyche is brought to single-pointed focus upon this archetype. Everywhere one looks, one should see only symbolic expressions of this archetype in color, image, dress, and texture. The scent associated with this energy floats in through the nose, while rhythmic music brings our heartbeat into step with its spirit.
The various stimuli in a ritual serve the purpose of bringing consciousness to a single-pointed focus in an exalted emotional state, and herein we gain access to the etheric matrix and bring our will to bear upon causative factors of creation.