A few months ago I made a post to this blog entitled, “Vibration: A Key to Magick.” In it, I describe the process known as the Vibration of Words of Power. I think knowledge of this technique is so basic to magick that I cover it in depth within the second lesson (chapter) of my Modern Magick.
A reader named John Santos asked a question about this in relation to the performance of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP). He wrote,
How about repetitively vibrating the God Names in the LBRP? It seems more comfortable for me than a single round inhalation and then exhalation to bellow(vibrate) one God Name.
Is there any problem with my method?
I think this is a great questions and there are two parts to the answer.
Tradition Vs. Life
Many years ago, my friend Scott Cunningham asked a simple question: “If Witchcraft is an initiatory religion, who initiated the first Witch?” His answers and writings based on those answers helped revolutionize Witchcraft and move it from a coven-focused religion to an individual or solitary-focused path.
When it comes to magick, I think it’s fair to ask a similar question: How was a ritual, now considered “traditional” (such as the LBRP), originated and created. The answer to that specific question is that one of the heads of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn assembled it from earlier prayers and techniques.
However this leads to a question about the very nature of any magickal tradition: Where did it come from? If it came from some God or god-like spirit, then to change a letter, word, or sentence is not only wrong, it is sacrilege. Some books are treated that way by followers of those books, resulting in thousands of other books interpreting those “received” tomes so people can understand them. They get around the “don’t change a word” injunction by changing the interpretation of the words, not the actual words themselves.
With research, it may be possible to break down rituals and determine their sources and how they evolved into current versions. This is known as a forensic analysis. But to my mind, as Bill Murray chanted in the movie Meatballs, “It just doesn’t matter!” What matters is one thing: Does it work?
This concept is also described in Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law where it says (Chap. III Verse 42), “Success is thy proof.” In short, when it comes to a ritual try it! If it works, use it. If it doesn’t work, modify it so it does work or abandon it. Dion Fortune presented the same idea when she wrote that there is no room for authority in occultism. What matters is whether it works, not what any authority says.
Superficially this seems to imply that the very concept of a traditional ritual is meaningless. Actually, just the opposite is true. It has become a traditional ritual because it has worked for so many people over time. This means it’s an excellent place to begin working. If your attempted modifications to a ritual (because theoretically they should improve the ritual) don’t work you can always go back to the tradition that has worked for so many. Traditions, in my opinion, should be thought of as guides, not gods!
There is a saying that repeating an action and expecting a different result is a sign of insanity. Bang your head against a wall five times and experiencing pain each time should indicate that banging your head results in pain. It’s not sane to think that “maybe the sixth time it won’t hurt.”
If you put all your energy into working with a traditional ritual over a period of time and it isn’t effective for you, assuming that it will suddenly start achieving the goal of the ritual doesn’t make sense. It’s time to look for something else. In its essence, magick is an experimental science. Books on magick are simply science books. If you compare science books from the beginning of the 20th century to those available today, you will find numerous differences. The same is true with books on magick.
A person who reads a book on magick and is capable of doing the rituals in it is a person who does magick. A person who reads a book on magick, understands its principles, and uses them as a basis to experiment and expand upon what was in the book, is a magician.
It is my hope that many of you reading this will treat magick as an experimental science, become magicians (rather than merely performing rituals they read about), and then share what they have learned with others, writing the magickal science books of the future.
So my answer to John Santos is this: Try it! If it works, use it. If it doesn’t, return to the tradition that has worked for so many people.