Secrets of the Kabalistic Cross
In my previous blog post I described why the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram remains a valuable rite. In this post I’m going to begin looking into the first section of the ritual, known as the Kabalistic Cross.
According to Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, the book responsible for originally revealing the LBRP to most people, here are the complete instructions for performing this part of the ritual:
- Take a steel dagger in the right hand.
- Face East.
- Touch thy forehead and say ATEH (thou art)
- Touch thy breast and say MALKUTH (the Kingdom)
- Touch thy right shoulder and say VE-GEBURAH (and the Power)
- Touch thy left should and sayÂ VE-GEDULAH (and the Glory)
- Clasp thy hands before thee and say LE-OLAM (for ever)
- Dagger between fingers, point up and say AMEN
And that’s it. It doesn’t seem like there’s much there. In fact, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. How can I say this is an important ritual when all you’re doing is touching yourself with a dagger? And if you’re holding a dagger, what do you do with it when you clasp your hands? And then, how do you put it between your fingers? And how is reciting the last verse of the Lords Prayer in Hebrew while doing a version of the Roman Catholic crossing of oneself (and that’s odd considering the original Golden Dawn manuscripts said not to allow Catholics into the GD, but “with pity”) going to accomplish anything magickal?
As I wrote in the previous post of this series, “The full details [of this ritual] were expected to be given [to you] by your mentor in the Order.” I don’t claim to be such a mentor in any GD group, but I believe I can share with you the concepts that help make this section important.
This final passage of the Lord’s Prayer first appears in the Gospel of Matthew in the Christian Bible. Modern versions of the Bible have this passage in parentheses. That’s because this passage is not found in the oldest copies of this book. It was added. So why is it there? Is it possible that some mysticâ€”perhaps an early Kabalistâ€”knew that by adding this to the prayer it changed the very tenor of the devotional from hope to a magickal act?
On the mundane level, there is a very important meaning to these words. The “thou” described in the English translation refers to the Divineâ€”to God. To most people, even 125 years ago, there was the mundane, physical world, and “the house of God”: churches, synagogues, cathedrals, mosques, etc. In this ritual you identify the physical world everywhere, including right where you stand, as being part of the Divine. Since you can’t see, feel, touch, etc. this other “world,” it’s evident that there is something non-physicalâ€”a spiritual or astral world or “plane”â€”that intersects with our physical plane. Wherever you are can become spiritual because its nature is spiritual. You don’t need to go anywhere. You just have to recognize it. Therefore, one of the purposes of this passage on the mundane level is to open you to the greater realityâ€”there is more than the physical world.
But what is this greater universe that belongs to the Divine, is non-physical, and is spiritual? How can we learn about it? For most, it is just an amorphous concept. But, if you were a traditional Kabalist (or a member of the Golden Dawn), you knew there was a map of the spiritual plane. It’s called the Tree of Life and has had many forms over the centuries. The current most popular version looks like this:
If you can read Hebrew, you’ll see that the circle at the bottom reads “Malkuth” (pronounced mahl-koot) just like the second word of the ritual. The word in the circle in the center on the left is “Geburah,” the same as the third word in the rite (the “ve” means “and” or “and the”). An alternate for the word in the circle in the center on the right is “Gedulah.”
So what we’re doing is pointing out that the greater spiritual universe is not only without, it’s also within.
If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that the ritual seems to put these on the opposite sides of the body when compared to their positions on the Tree of Life. However, imagine you are backing into the image of the Tree of Life. You aren’t merely observing it (in psychology this would be called a “dissociated” experience). Rather, it is literally part of you (an “associated” experience). So on an inner, spiritual level, you are literally uniting yourself with both the physical, mundane world, and the spiritual, non-physical, world. Wow! This ritual is starting to look more and more important! And to that I say…
We say “Amen” after most prayers. Look it up in most books and you’ll see that it’s supposed meaning is “So be it.” Spiritually and Kabalistically, however, the meaning goes far deeper.
As with many old magickal folk traditions, as well as traditions that evolved from folk magick, the Kabalah uses word and number codes to keep spiritual information out of the hands of the mundanes. One such Kabalistic system is that of using acronyms, creating new, magickal words from the first letters of a phrase of words. As a non-magickal example, the word NASA is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. “Amen” is such an acronym (in the Kabalah it’s called a Notarikon), too.
There is a traditional Jewish prayer that is quite old. Today it is performed as a call and response with the Rabbi making a statement followed by the congregation giving a repetetive phrase. That phrase is
Al Melech Ne’ehman
It means, “God [Alâ€”pronounced "Ehl"] is a faithful [ne'ehman] king [melech].” The Notarikon for this phrase is AMeN (generally pronounced “ahh-mehn,” although different dialects and tradition have differences including “ahh-main” or “oi-main”). Therefore, when you say “Amen,” you’re saying that “God is a faithful king.” But faithful to what?
The concept goes to a third level of meaning for the word, beyond mundane or spiritual and all the way to magickal. It means that there are certain spiritual laws in the universe, and if you do something to follow those rules, even though God is free to do whatever God wants, God is agreeable to following the second part of the bargain: If you do X, God will do Y, not because God has to do this, but because God has given hir word to do so.
Thus, if you perform this ritual, you will blend your magickal abilities with the authority and power of the Divine for the purpose of banishing your area and making it sacred.
In this section we’ve seen the outer, inner, and magickal meanings of the words of the first part of the LBRP known as the Kabalistic Cross. Its key points consist of understanding there are physical and non-physical or spiritual planes, and this ritual teaches you how to work with them, blending yourself and your energies with the spiritual, linking with the Divine and the energy of the Divine, and working with all worlds to make the area, right where you are, a sacred place.
In the next installment I’ll be going into how to sound the words, do the visualizations, and perform the physical actions to make this ritual highly effective.