Our older works are largely concerned with magick, although our use of the term then included theurgy, which is usually separate and distinct as the ‘practice of God’; whereas magick is really concerned with the manipulation of phenomena through the application of the law of correspondences, ‘As above and so below’. There is a difference between natural correspondences and syncretic or systematised knowledge, involving tables and lists of more or less arbitrary assignments, though the latter can doubtless achieve some of the effects desired by the practitioner, something that owes more to auto-hypnotic suggestion than anything else.[1]

This abridged article is from the book Thunder Perfect Gnosis.

Magick: The Spell (detail)The limitation, more or less severe, placed on the possibilities for real spiritual realisation by the systematic approach means we had to revise our approach to the subject quite drastically. Since computers became the dominant force in the world for shaping the minds of men, the urge towards classification and tabulation has by now been taken to the extreme where systems analysts produce popular books about magick. Those who produce these—and there are very many of them—usually have university degrees they are proud of but no real knowledge whatsoever. Most of them are even atheists and among these, a degree in psychology is considered a ‘qualification’, whereas in fact that kind of mentality automatically disqualifies a person from any real initiation or spiritual realisation. These always emphasise a kind of artificial ‘psychism’, where visualisation techniques are used along with the ubiquitous auto-hypnotism. As a consequence we now have book-learned ‘adepts’ claiming high degrees of initiation and whose knowledge extends no further than the ordinary man in the street, though that does not it seems prevent them from pretending to teach and even initiate others, sometimes through the convenient means of internet video links and even social media—which is a kind of oxymoron as anything ‘social’ automatically discounts esotericism.

Magick and its Governance

For all this mania for selling delusion to the masses—who already accept the most fantastic lies from governments, corporations and ‘official’ science—we now place much greater emphasis on theoretical knowledge, by which is meant traditional cosmology and ontology, and the practice of yoga, than at any time before. According to René Guénon,

Of all preliminary means, theoretical knowledge alone is absolutely indispensible, and that later, when one passes to actual realisation, it is concentration that matters most and that leads to it in the most immediate way, for it is directly bound up with knowledge.[2]

We have always, right from the veriest beginning, insisted that one works from the highest principle. While that is no certain guarantee that heedless fools will not come unstuck, the Hermetic axiom ‘As above and so below’ has far greater import than is afforded it by today’s postmodern ‘experts’.[3] Magick, if not torn wholly asunder from its governing principles in the natural and supernatural order, can be very efficacious as a support to the path of true knowledge, and in the times we now live we need all the assistance we can get.

It is seldom realised that many rituals in our older works are fully adaptable to different needs, and that their use can sometimes go much further than the necessarily brief descriptions afforded by such a book.[4] The ‘Ritual for Psychic Self Defence’ provides an example of a ritual where the practical operations can go further than as is implied by the titles and brief description given in the textbook.[5] Cases of actual psychic attack, where the antagonist intentionally takes their malice to the Hermetic level, are rare. While there might be many persons in the world today who would indeed use magical means to harm others, given the availability of the rituals and methods in the public domain, few would be prepared to go to the painstaking lengths necessary. It is well indeed that few persons now have the expertise and knowledge necessary, even if that kind of knowledge is relatively ordinary. Anyone that had real knowledge would never consider such a thing. It is more likely that such an attack would be unintentional, arising from anger or some other affliction.

It must also be said that whatever the real source of  a psychic attack, there must be a sympathetic response from the victim, who is more alike the attacker than they care to admit in so far as they have retained harmful mental impressions that lead to what are called kléshas in Sanskrit, ‘harmful afflictions’.[6] Thus, in understanding the ritual of Psychic Self Defence, it becomes apparent that whether a cause is seen as external or internal, there is a need to loosen the bonds of attachment to harmful sense impressions that, when retained (through the faculties such as memory), amount to serious obstructions to the goal of yoga. The Ritual of Psychic Self Defence can be taken further than that, as we have indicated, but to explain that we need first to refer to the way the ritual is constructed:

The ritual begins as do most rituals with a general opening of the temple that orders the sphere of the practitioner as according to cosmological principles. Every Zelator has a ritually consecrated dagger to symbolise the whole realm of Air, and this is then used to perform a thorough purification of that realm in the name of its various hierarchical names and powers, making the appropriate pentagrams and so forth around the place of work.

It should be mentioned that the ‘realm of Air’ corresponds in this Hermetic schema particularly to Yesod, the ninth sephira called the Foundation in Qabalah. However, the etherial designation is really inclusive of the whole domain of the individual ruach or mind-intelligence.

There then follows a general purification (by holy water) and consecration (by incense perfume) of the person and the place, in all four quarters. Following purification, the element is re-invoked and an Egyptian deity is called in to assist in linking the elemental sphere with higher and divine forces, as well as to place a seal upon the sphere of the practitioner to strengthen it against all malefic influences. Even this very brief overview should be enough to show that the ritual is far more than being about ‘getting rid of’ things, or even of nullifying some external aggression. The deity Anubis is heard to say here,

I stand between the invisible and the visible.

But more than that, as Guardian of the Threshold he crosses the bridge from the unmanifest to the manifest and so is able to return the way he came:

My mother is darkness and my father the night: thus do I come forth, bearing the Ineffable Light!

Anyone that has passed through the Neophyte ritual will recollect from this that Anubis guards the temple outside with a sword and also appears within the circle, as the bearer of the Lamp of Light by which the Candidate is conducted around the new world in which they have entered.[7]

Such a ritual as has here been described also corresponds to traditional magick lore, involving a ‘moving of the air’, or ‘changing of the winds’. We think that enough has been said here regarding the adaptability of rituals.


1. See ‘Systems of Knowledge’, Thunder Perfect Gnosis—Intellectual Flower of Mind.
2. ‘Conclusions’, Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines.
3. Indeed, one of the latter went so far as to reverse the axiom to imply that the higher could be magically forced to change in accordance with the low and very ordinary intentions of the magician. That is a typically ‘satanic’ inversion of the natural order and while it could certainly effect results in the sphere of the practitioner, such results, owing to the inversion, could only increase ignorance and delusion still further.
4. For example Ritual Magick—Initiation of the Star and Snake.
5. Ritual Magick [ibid].
6. See Part Two of Thunder Perect Gnosis, which includes a study of the Vedantic science of the mind. In particular, ‘Yoga of the Mind’.
7. See The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation.

Abridged from the book Thunder Perfect Gnosis—Intellectual Flower of Mind.

The illustration is from the painting The Spell, by William Fettes Douglas (1822–1891), which is held at the National Galleries, Scotland. The full painting can be viewed here.

© Oliver St. John 2023
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