There is a single main definition of the object of all magical Ritual. It is the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or, in the language of Mysticism, Union with God.
All other magical Rituals are particular cases of this general principle, and the only excuse for doing them is that it sometimes occurs that one particular portion of the microcosm is so weak that its imperfection of impurity would vitiate the Macrocosm of which it is the image, Eidolon, or Reflexion. For example, God is above sex; and therefore neither man nor woman as such can be said fully to understand, much less represent God. It is therefore incumbent on the male magician to invoke Isis, and identify himself with her; if he fail to do this his apprehension of the Universe when he attains Samadhi will lack the conception of maternity. The result will be a metaphysical and - by corollary - ethical limitation in the Religion which he founds. Judaism and Islam are striking examples of this failure.
To take another example, the ascetic life which devotion to magick so often involves argues a poverty of nature, a narrowness, a lack of generosity. Nature is infinitely prodigal - not one in a million seeds ever comes to fruition. Whoso fails to recognize this, let him invoke Jupiter.
The danger of ceremonial magick - the subtlest and deepest danger - is this; that the magician will naturally tend to invoke that partial being which most strongly appeals to him, so that his natural excess in that direction will be still further exaggerated. Let him, before beginning his Work, endeavour to map out his own being, and arrange his invocations in such a way as to redress the balance. This, of course, should have been done in a preliminary fashion during the preparation of the weapons and the furniture of the Temple.
To consider in a more particular manner this question of the Nature of Ritual, we may suppose that he finds himself lacking in that perception of the value of Life and Death, alike of individuals and of races, which is characteristic of Nature. He has perhaps a tendency to perceive the ‘first noble truth’ uttered by Buddha, that Everything is sorrow. Nature, it seems, is a tragedy. He has perhaps even experienced the great trance called Sorrow. He should then consider whether there is not some Deity who expresses this Cycle, and yet whose nature is joy. He will find what he requires in Dionysus.
There are three main methods of invoking any Deity.
The First Method consists of devotion to that Deity, and, being mainly mystical in character, need not be dealt with in this place, especially as a perfect instruction exists in Liber 175.
The Second Method is the straightforward ceremonial invocation. It is the method which was usually employed in the Middle Ages. Its advantage is its directness, its disadvantage its crudity. The “Goetia” gives clear instruction in this method, and so do many other Rituals, white and black. We shall presently devote some space to a clear exposition of this Art.
In the case of Bacchus, however, we may roughly outline the procedure. We find that the symbolism of Tiphareth expresses the nature of Bacchus. It is then necessary to construct a Ritual of Tiphareth. Let us open the Book; we shall find in line 6 of each column the various parts of our required apparatus. Having ordered everything duly, we shall exalt the mind by repeated prayers or conjurations to the highest conception of the God, until, in one sense or another of the word, He appears to us and floods our consciousness with the light of His divinity.
The Third Method is the Dramatic, perhaps the most attractive of all; certainly it is so to the artist’s temperament, for it appeals to his imagination through his aesthetic sense.
Its disadvantage lies principally in the difficulty of its performance by a single person. But it has the sanction of the highest antiquity, and is probably the most useful for the foundation of religion. It is the method of Catholic Christianity, and consists in the dramatization of the legend of the God. The Bacchae of Euripides is a magnificent example of such a Ritual; so also, though in a less degree, is the Mass. We may also mention many of the degrees in Freemasonry, particularly the Third. The 5º = 6º Ritual published in Nº III of the Equinox is another example.
In the case of Bacchus, one commemorates firstly his birth of a mortal mother who has yielded her treasure-house to the Father of All, of the jealousy and rage excited by his incarnation, and of the heavenly protection afforded to the infant. Next should be commemorated the journeying westward upon an ass. Now comes the great scene of the drama: the gentle, exquisite youth with his following (chiefly composed of women) seems to threaten the established order of things, and that Established Order takes steps to put an end to the upstart. We find Dionysus confronting the angry King, not with defiance, but with meekness; yet with a subtle confidence, an underlying laughter. His forehead is wreathed with vine tendrils. He is an effeminate figure with those broad leaves clustered upon his brow? But those leaves hide horns. King Pentheus, representative of respectability, is destroyed by his pride. Ho goes out into the mountains to attack the women who have followed Bacchus, the youth whom he has mocked, scourged, and put in chains, yet who has only smiled; and by those women, in their divine madness, he is torn to pieces.
It has already seemed impertinent to say so much when Walter Pater has told the story with such sympathy and insight. We will not further transgress by dwelling upon the identity of this legend with the course of Nature, its madness, its prodigality, its intoxication, its joy, and above all its sublime persistence through the cycles of Life and Death. The pagan reader must labour to understand this in Pater’s “Greek Studies”, and the Christian reader will recognise it, incident for incident, in the story of Christ. This legend is but the dramatization of Spring.
The magician who wishes to invoke Bacchus by this method must therefore arrange a ceremony in which he takes the part of Bacchus, undergoes all His trials, and emerges triumphant from beyond death. He must, however, be warned against mistaking the symbolism. In this case, for example, the doctrine of individual immortality has been dragged in, to the destruction of truth. It is not that utterly worthless part of man, his individual consciousness as John Smith, which defies death - that consciousness which dies and is reborn in every thought. That which persists (if anything persist) is his real John Smithness, a quality of which he was probably never conscious in his life.
Even that does not persist unchanged. It is always growing. The Cross is a barren stick, and the petals of the Rose fall and decay; but in the union of the Cross and the Rose is a constant succession of new lives. Without this union, and without this death of the individual, the cycle would be broken.
A chapter will be consecrated to removing the practical difficulties of this method of Invocation. It will doubtless have been noted by the acumen of the reader that in the great essentials these three methods are one. In each case the magician identifies himself with the Deity invoked. To invoke is to call in, just as to evoke is to call forth. This is the essential difference between the two branches of Magick. In invocation, the macrocosm floods the consciousness. In evocation, the magician, having become the macrocosm, creates a microcosm. You invoke a God into the Circle. You evoke a Spirit into the Triangle. In the first method identity with the God is attained by love and surrender, by giving up or suppressing all irrelevant (and illusionary) parts of yourself. It is the weeding of a garden.
In the second method identity is attained by paying special attention to the desired part of yourself: positive, as the first method is negative. It is the potting-out and watering of a particular flower in the garden, and the exposure of it to the sun.
In the third, identity is attained by sympathy. It is very difficult for the ordinary man to lose himself completely in the subject of a play or a novel; but for those who can do so, this method is unquestionably the best.