Ritual Magick is Superfluous

Years ago I wrote a ritual for myself. A few days ago I was rewriting the ritual so it could be understood and used by someone else. This is a ritual I’ve used for years and one that I’ve done at least a couple hundred times. As I was writing the ritual I noticed that over half the steps, which I was writing down and explaining so someone else to do them, I no longer performed when I did the ritual.

The ritual is as strong and as effective as its ever been. I don’t need those extra steps, and I don’t usually do them because it saves time. However I still included the steps in the ritual and explained them for the benefit of another. I don’t do this to deny someone else my experience or for the sake of completion, but because those steps are important, and it goes back to the nature of ritual magic.

Ritual magic is always superfluous. For those who may not know exactly what ritual magic is, it’s a broad term which refers to magical acts which require some sort of physical action. This can be as simple as saying a word or phrase that announces your intent or waving your hand, or something very complex that can take multiple people hours to perform and can require days, weeks, months, and even years of prep time. The opposite of ritual magic is psionic magic, which is magic that is performed without any physical action, in other words entirely through the power of ones mind.

There is no magical act that can be done ritually which cannot also be performed psionically. There are also no magical tools which are required to perform any kind of magical act (other than your body, mind, and spirit of course). The actual ritual parts of ritual magic are all unnecessary. Any ritual can be pared down to psionic magic.

Of course there are a lot of advantages to psionic magic. It’s very fast. It requires zero prep time. This also makes it very versatile. It also makes it very efficient. Plus you’ll save money on tools. So why would anyone prefer ritual magic? There are actually a lot of reasons to use ritual magic, and the exact reasons are going to be a bit dependent on the practitioner and what their focus is. I’ll go more in depth into some of those reasons in a moment, but I’d like to take a step back and discuss what all of this means for the practitioner.

As a practitioner of magic, any ritual you do is less efficient than it could be. The fact that it is a ritual means there’s still something in there that doesn’t need to be there. And so with any ritual there’s always something for you to improve. As you do rituals again and again and again you should strive to understand how and why the ritual works. As you do this you should become more and more aware of aspects of the ritual that you no longer need, and you should take them out. You should pare down the ritual until it no longer exists, and at that point you can cast the spell just by wanting it to happen.

Ideally this is the end goal of learning any ritual. It also means that if you’ve been frequently doing a ritual for years, and it’s still as long and as involved as it was when you first started, you’re not reaching you’re full potential. You’re not working to understand and improve the ritual until you really get it, you’re just following instructions.

As someone who is trying to transmit or teach a ritual to someone else, you really have to not give people the benefit of your experience. The fact that you’ve cut out large parts of the ritual and it still works has nothing to do with those parts being unnecessary and everything to do with your personal magical progression.

When you give someone else a ritual you frequently use, at the very least you should give them everything you needed to perform the ritual the first time. You may even need to add in additional parts, because they may not be as adept as you were. This means when you’re teaching or rewriting a ritual, or writing it down for the first time because you’re lazy like me, you have to sort of forget everything you’ve learned and any ability you’ve gained and try to remember what it was like before you ever tried to do this ritual.

Psionic vs Ritual

Just about any spell or ritual you find is going to have at least some minor psionic component to it. Sometimes this is explicitly stated, but more often than not the psionic component is implied and it’s expected that the practitioner will be able to figure it out.

It’s typical that a bit of psionic magic is necessary in a ritual to tie the spell together. However usually psionic aspects are needed in a spell because the ritual writer gave up trying to translate them.

Simple psionics, things like raising small amounts of energy and lowering your shield, can be translated and written into ritual form. It would take a bit of work to do it and you would end up with a complicated ritual to do a simple psionic trick. Meanwhile it’s generally assumed that most magical practitioners will be able to do these simple psionic tricks. They’re not difficult to learn, they’re universal, and really if you want to have any success at magic you need to be able to do this sort of stuff.

A good ritual writer is going to keep going through the ritual, taking out psionic aspects, and translating them into ritual aspects. At some point though they’re going to be breaking down very simple psionics and they’ll throw their hands up in the air and say, “If they can’t do this, I can’t help them.”

Granted there are some spells that can work without any psionic act on the part of the practitioner. There is a variety of reasons why a spell might work, to many to really go through in the scope of this article, but it all really breaks down to spells that work despite the practitioner. Of course this won’t be true of every spell, only certain spells.

Why Use Ritual

You need to know psionics to do magic. Psionic magic is faster, more efficient, and cheaper. So why bother with ritual? Ritual magic actually has a lot of advantages over psionic magic. The specific advantages of a specific ritual are going to be largely dependent on the ritual writer, their understanding of ritual, and what advantages they prefer to exploit. I’ve listed some of the advantages below, however this list is far from inclusive.

You can’t explain psionics: It is impossible, at least as far as I can tell, to adequately explain to someone else how to do a spell psionically. For instance, this a common psionic prosperity spell. What you need to do is draw money that already exists towards you. There’s your spell, go cast it and you’ll be rich for the rest of your life.

I can give you exercises to help you with awareness, energy manipulation, mental clarity, emotional control, and the like. These things are the basic tools of psionics. I can also teach you metaphysical theory so you understand how magic operates. But I cannot give you specific instructions to do a psionic spell. All I can do is tell you what you have to do, and if you don’t already know how to do that and can’t figure it out, there’s nothing else I can do for you. Also if you bought a book from me filled with nothing but ideas for psionic spells, I think you’d be pretty pissed off. And remember, if you’re asking someone for a spell, it’s probably because you don’t know how to do it and can’t figure it out.

The solution is to translate psionic magic into ritual magic, usually with the expectation that the practitioner who receives the ritual will eventually translate it back into psionic magic after performing it enough times.

Of course to do this you need to have a fairly good understanding of both psionic magic and ritual magic and how both operate. Part of this is knowing magical theory, but a good portion of that is insight gained through practical work, mainly breaking rituals down into psionic magic and eventually experimenting with your own rituals so you can understand the relationship between the two. After that you just have to break the spell down into various psionic aspects and then find a ritual equivalent for each aspect.

Rituals provide better focus: Properly written rituals can help the practitioner achieve better states of mental focus, mental clarity, and intent. For instance the simple act of announcing what it is you want to do can greatly improve the chances of success for your spell. It focuses you on your goal, which is now clearly expressed, and it gives you a clear direction. This is just one example of something very simple that can be added to a ritual. There are of course many things that can be added to a ritual to increase focus, and in doing so increase success, some which are fairly complicated.

It makes magic more real: Magical success is somewhat dependent on faith. Not faith in a deity or religion, but faith in yourself, in your abilities, and in the fact that your spells will work as you intend them to.

When you have doubt, when you doubt your magical abilities, or even worse when you doubt that magic is even real at all and start to believe that this is all some fantasy in your head, it has a negative effect on your magical work. And from there it will spiral. The more doubt you have the less success you’ll have, until eventually nothing works and you believe that magic is just another spiritual fantasy practiced by impressionable teenagers.

I’ve gotten a little off track, but for most of us it’s far easier to believe in ritual magic than psionic magic. Ritual magic involves doing certain and specific physical acts to produce a specific intended result, the validity of which is backed by metaphysical theory. We understand this because this basically how we have been taught the universe works. Certain physical acts produce certain results.

Psionic magic on the other hand involves focusing on things, thinking things, feeling things, and possibly manipulating things at an unseen spiritual level, but it doesn’t involve any real action. You can be standing still and apparently doing magic. The people around you won’t even realize you’re doing it. And it becomes very easy to start convincing yourself that all of this is in your head. That you’ve allowed yourself to become impressionable and believe things which aren’t true. That your success is just coincidence. And it’s easier to do this with psionic magic because there is no physical aspect.

It’s also easier to doubt your own success with psionic magic. With ritual magic there is generally a belief that the ritual should work. That the ritual is going to pick up the slack and do a lot of the work. That if you follow the ritual it will succeed. It doesn’t feel so much as if the weight is on you as it is on the ritual. With psionic magic though the weight is entirely on you. You succeed and fail on your own ability, and if you don’t believe you’re strong enough to succeed, you won’t.

Living Spells: I’m assuming that all of my readers know what the term thought form means. It’s a fairly common term in magic that everyone should be familiar with. The basic theory is that expending energy on thinking something causes a spiritual manifestation of that something to appear. Typically this manifestation is brief as it quickly goes through the energy that compromises it. Although things that are thought of a lot, that a lot of energy is expended on, can end up existing for far longer periods of time. They can exist for years, even decades, after it is last thought about. Usually at that point there are many people expending energy on this same thought in order to sustain it for such a long time.

Of course, as with all metaphysics, if you understand the concept well enough you can develop ways to manipulate it to produce the results you want. You can make thought forms of whatever you want, you can give them an above average longevity, and you can even make them far more powerful than normal. Thought forms can even be made sentient (and this happens naturally too). At this point the thought form is thinking for itself, has unlimited potential for development, growth, and learning, and has a soul and connection to higher planes. At that point it ceases to be a thought form and becomes a spirit.

Many magicians read rituals, and then will spend inordinate amounts of times thinking about them, deconstructing them, and generally trying to determine how they work. Rituals are unique from other things we spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about though, because we also actually perform rituals, and on top of that when most of us perform rituals we’re usually working with very large amounts of energy.

This means that quite often powerful thought forms are created from rituals. With ritual that are very popular, like well published rituals that are hundreds of years old or the basic standard rituals of a relatively large religion, these generally have very powerful thought forms out there. In some instances these thought forms have become sentient spirits.

So with a popular ritual somewhere in the universe there is a strong thought form or even spirit of that ritual out there. When you do the ritual and feed energy into it, this spirit or thought form is activated and drawn towards the ritual. It will often times do a lot of the ritual work, which means you end up with a powerful ritual whose success is independent of the practitioner.

Some of the most powerful rituals out there will work even though the practitioner has no magical ability or skill because of this. In fact some don’t even need you to perform the entire ritual. Often times doing just part of the ritual will be enough to trigger the entire process. This is why you’re not supposed to read grimoires out loud. If you happen to stumble upon one of these living spells in there and start speaking it, you can actually trigger the entire spell even though you have no intent to do so, have done no other part of the ritual, and even if you lack the magical ability to do this on your own.

Symbolism: Much of the power of ritual is tied into symbolism. There’s actually a lot of basic magical theory you have to go through and learn in order to understand the power behind symbolism and why it works. It deals a lot with like attracting like, as above so below, thought form theory, and many other things. There’s so much depth to it, it’s far beyond the scope of this article to fully explain it.

But think of this. Plastic has no metaphysical quality. Actually it’s metaphysical quality is that it lacks a metaphysical quality. It doesn’t hold energy at all. Energy tends to pass right through it. It doesn’t taint energy which passes through it. It doesn’t really produce energy. Metaphysically it doesn’t really feel like anything. Why is this?

The common answer is that it is man made and not naturally occurring (the plastic we’re talking about is anyways). That seems like a good idea, except that steel is also man made and doesn’t occur in nature, and steel has metaphysical qualities. In fact it has some very strong and specific metaphysical qualities and we use them quite a bit in magic. Knives and swords are common magical tools that are typically made of steel.

There’s one huge difference between plastic and steel though. Man made plastic was invented about 150 years ago. Steel is so old we don’t know for sure when it was invented, but we’ve found a 4000 year old piece of steel.

For at least four millenia people have been thinking about steel. They’ve been using it, and working with it, and finding uses for it. They’ve been ascribing qualities and attributes to it. They’ve been associating it with things. They’ve written poems and songs about it. They’ve used it as symbolism in books and plays. It’s found its way into mythology and folklore and religions all over the world. This has been going on with plastic for a mere 150 years.

I’m not going to go into a full explanation, but if you take what you know about thought form theory and like attracting like you should start to get a picture of how various magical attributions came into being, and you can probably start to form a picture that shows why something old like steel has certain magical qualities and attributions behind it and something new like plastic doesn’t.

And in ritual symbolism works in the same way. We are able to illicit a spiritual response from a common symbolic act which in turn can be changed into a physical effect.

Showmanship: A lot of people want the show. If you’re doing a spell for someone else’s benefit, they probably want a show. If you’re charging them, they’ll most likely insist on it. In a perfect world people would only be concerned with results. But in our world people want a show.

They want to know you’re doing something. They want it to be something mystical. If you’re charging them, they want to know you’re doing work for the money you gave them. Psionic magic is horrible for this purpose. If someone pays you $50 for a prosperity spell, and you just stand still for a second and then say “done,” they’re going to want their money back. Even if as they’re asking for their money back they notice a hundred dollar bill on the ground, they’ll still want their money back.

Ritual however is something physical they can see. A lot of times even that isn’t enough though. So a lot of ritual is actually there just to look cool or mystical. A lot of it is nothing more than showmanship, usually just added in there for the benefit of an audience. It sometimes also helps with my earlier point of making magic more real.

14 Responses to Ritual Magick is Superfluous

  1. Rob says:

    I really enjoyed this post. Do you have any books on psionic magic to suggest me?

    • Rob says:

      Unfortunately I haven’t found very many good books that discuss psionic magic. One of the few I would suggest is Illusions by Richard Bach. It’s a fictional narrative, but there is actually quite a bit of information on basic psionic practices hidden in the text.

  2. Diogeneia says:

    Yet another enjoyable article, kudos!

    I would like to say, that I see in this article an evolution of thought that is likely to continue on and produce an idea that you touched on, but seemed hesitant to adopt. (And this hesitancy is completely natural, not a weakness by any means). To compliment your article, I offer the following:

    ALL magick is psionic insomuch as it is the manipulation of energy by means of conscious thought energy. All magick. Even summoning magick, “prayer magick”, Law of Attraction “magick”, magick which uses tools (some tools can store, amplify, and reflect energy)is intrinsically psionic.

    Ritual is the application of extrinsic discipline to our thoughts and actions, enabling us to reach and maintain the level of focus needed to affect another energy system (i.e. event, person, whatever).

    Think of ritual like a form in kung fu or a kata in ninjitsu. You practice them over and over, but in a fight, only the essence of the form or kata reveals itself. (You aren’t standing in a horse stance before you fight and you aren’t thinking “my leg should be here and my elbow there”). You do. The energy, the essence was always there. You practice the form to empower the essence. You practice the ritual to empower your focus/the influence level of your thought energy.

    We practice forms, katas and rituals because human beings are buzzy creatures. Our minds are always looped in thoughts. Rituals should help us to think about the task at hand rather than the laundry in the next room or the cussing out our spouse gave us earlier. So the rituals themselves are nothing more than tools.

    When sharing a ritual with another person, I recommend considering their experience level. If it is below yours, provide the entire ritual. Let them edit as they see fit and as they grow.

    I am not arguing for or against ritual, by the way. It is a tool like any other. I think the goal is to empower ourselves through focused thought. That can be done by studying yoga and martial arts as well.

    Of course the caveat is that I could be wrong about everything, but I don’t think so. ;-)



    • Rob says:

      Thank you.

      All though I may not disagree with some of your points, linguistically I don’t want to define ritual magic as a form of psionic magic, because ultimately all that will do is limit my vocabulary and ability to describe magical processes.

      I also think that your idea of ritual being a means to achieve focus is true, but seeing that as the only or primary purpose of ritual is limiting. Ritual is useful for so much more. After all focus could be achieved through other easier methods, like meditation, or even through sheer mental power.

      Likewise unlike a kata or form, ritual is used in practical magic. It is not usually an exercise meant to train you in how to do spellwork, it’s actual spellwork that is usually meant to have some sort of affect on the universe.

      • Diogeneia says:

        I suppose it’s ultimately a matter of spiritual and magickal philosophy…and perhaps a matter of the moment.

        I enjoy the feeling (illusion?) of order and control some rituals provide. They also allow me to quantify my results in ways that help me refine my magick. This is how our precursors discovered things like the best times of the day or calendar to perform certain magick. It’s easier to pass through a door that is open all the way, afterall.

        But to my way of thinking, the ultimate goal is to transcend the physical and effect the universe as PART of the universe–which, in my spiritual philosophy, we are. This is the basis for concepts like the Law of Attraction (LOA). Although, folks who use the LOA also have certain rituals they do to help them focus. That might be a whole ‘nother topic though! lol

        Anyway, thanks again, Rob. Very interesting stuff!

  3. So far I still use ritual forms in my magical practice most of the time because they work better for me than psionic magick alone. With psionic magick I can do a probability shift of about 60 to 1 against, whereas with forms I can hit 100 to 1 against and higher. I’ve also noticed that even when doing psionic magick, if I combine it with some sort of physical gesture (like, say, holding out my hand and making a motion as if drawing something toward me as I do the visualizations for something like the “money drawing” spell mentioned above) it seems to work noticeably better than if I use visualization alone.

    One aspect of working with forms that you don’t mention is that I find it’s much easier to do a form-based ritual in a group than a strictly psionic one. If everyone knows the same steps and they can see and hear what’s going on it’s a lot easier to stay on the same page, so to speak, when running through a rite. In my experience group rituals can be a lot more powerful than individual ones, but only so long as the group works together in a coordinated fashion. Forms make that a lot easier, especially once everyone in the group knows the basics well.

    Charles Cosimano published a series of books on psionics that he has now made available as free e-books. They can be found pretty easily via Google – I tried including the URL with this comment but I think the WordPress spam filter blocked it. Cosimano’s a weird, over-the-top dude, but he’s one of the few authors who has published books explicitly on psionics. I haven’t worked with any of his material personally so I have no idea how useful it is, but you can’t beat the price.

    • Rob says:

      I think most people who have taken the time to develop ritual skills tend to get more out of ritual than with psionics alone. The people I met who claim ritual is always weaker usually haven’t spent much time developing ritual skills.

      That being said, I think most of us can break any ritual down into psionics and have it be just as effective with enough practice, in the same way I believe that a person can develop completely psionic powers that can, ultimately, dwarf any ritual ability.

      After all, at its most base level magic breaks down to having a though and then having it instantly manifest into reality. If you could manage to do that all the time with everything, it would be a true mastery over reality and magic (there’s probably a level beyond that, but I haven’t even gotten to this point yet, and I doubt very many people have).

      Personally even when I do break spells down, much like you I tend to keep some ritual aspect like a simple hand movement or statement of intent, because it tends to make it a bit more powerful for very little trouble. I also try to learn how to do the spells without that component though, because I know it may not always be convenient, and with some spells it’s never possible. For instance, throwing fear on someone when you talk to them. Obviously you can’t make a statement of intent because your mouth is busy, and if you start waving your hands around you look like a jackass and it entirely ruins the image you’re going for.

      In my own practice I’ve found that I have to be vigilant in developing both psionic abilities and ritual techniques. I’m usually able to squeeze quite a bit of power out of ritual, so naturally I’m drawn towards developing that, but when I ignore psionic training what ultimately happens is I start to become weaker and fail to develop to my full potential. Not only am I not reaching my full psionic ability (and am actually regressing a bit) but my ritual ability isn’t reaching its full potential either. At the same time the rift between my psionic and ritual ability is growing larger, which once again pushes me towards developing ritual techniques over psionic ability. I have to be aware that this is happening and I constantly have to push myself to psionically train.

      I agree with what you said about using ritual in groups to keep everyone on the same page. I’ve actually mentioned that in the past but I blanked it out when I wrote this article.

  4. Chris says:

    While I’m not challenging your thesis, I would like to add some extra perspective on the nature of ritual. Firstly, (while I believe, as you said, there is a linguistic necessity to make clear distinctions) in terms of metaphysical theory (i.e. Hermeticism), all things are mental. There is ultimately no distinction between what may be considered a “physical” or “mental” act. Also, if you would consider ritual as an artform, it has a beautiful and numinous character in itself. Saying “ritual is superfluous” is like saying painting or theatre is superfluous. Yes, in terms of sheer results or “payoff”, ritual is superfluous. I, however, would like to defend ritual, or any artful action, as valuable in itself. I wish not so much to promote “romanticization” of ritual, or magick in general (as you suggest in section entitled “showmanship”), but perhaps a spirit of “romanticism”. Just something to consider.

    • Diogeneia says:

      Indeed. Beautiful point.


    • Rob says:

      Unlike theater magic has a practical purpose. It’s meant to produce a very specific result which is not directly tied into the performance. Theater is meant to produce a result, but that result is a directly tied into an audience seeing it performed.

      Take architecture for instance though. It’s also an art, but it has a practical purpose. In judging a particular work of architecture, efficiency is incredibly important. No matter how beautiful a building might be, if it can not perform the primary function it was designed to perform, it’s bad art. If on the other hand it is super efficient and performs that function better than other buildings can, it’s really good art.

      Also I don’t think that ritual is the art form. Magic is the art form, and ritual is just one of the mediums through which it can be expressed. Although requiring a slightly different skill set, psionic magic is as creative, beautiful, and artistic as ritual magic.

      • Chris says:

        Well, I have to say, I think art has a practical purpose. You speak of having to know about magickal theory to fully understand ritual. As someone who studies and creates art, I can tell you that if you look at some of the more thoughtful ideas about art there are very high purposes for it indeed. Ones not very different from magick, either- expression of inner realms, courting or depicting the unseen, raising consciousness, etc. I don’t think that just because certain art forms have more or less “tangible” functions, or that an audience is typically involved, essentially separates the two disciplines.

        I would definitely agree with you taking it into deeper detail by saying that magick is the art and the various ways of expressing that art, i.e. ritual, is the medium. I would also agree with your statement about psionic magick having beauty and artfulness as well. My intent was not to qualitatively compare ritual versus psionic magick. Aside from splitting hairs, I think you generally get my point…

  5. LauraB says:

    Kudos to everyone in this discussion. First off, Rob, this article was exactly what I needed to read to convince me that Magick is in fact for me. There is something about the “showmanship” of ritual Magick that made me inherently suspicious. I guess it’s just the nature of how I’m wired, and wanting to understand the inner workings of everything.
    I love your description on why ritual Magick works regardless of the practitioner. Before reading this, to me the ritual did seem like a lot of superfluous fluff here to convince the mind, but in my case, did just the opposite. However, after reading your post, I can now appreciate the ritual and the tradition and I love how you call them independent spirits. As I understand it, it’s an energy vortex that has been built up over centuries (or better, millenia) and by performing a prescribed ritual, you are allowed access to that energy vortex, or spirit, which would otherwise be unnoticeable and inaccessible to the inexperienced.
    I can also appreciate the ritual more with Chris’ notion of it being an art. I think of myself as an artist (practicing architecture) and seeing the ritual as a form of art actually gives me the incentive to work with a structure and make it art, bringing in that special something from the creative spiritual realm that I already am practiced to access on a regular basis. It makes starting ritual Magick feel less daunting and more fun and inticing to me.

    I have to say I loved everyone’s comments and perspectives on this and found it very helpful and motivating. It was the exact thing I needed to read to open the door for me to this magical world and move past my hesitation. Thank you Rob and thank you to everyone commenting for sharing your thoughtful expressions and experiences!

  6. biskityas says:

    Thank you for this post. It clucked so much into place regarding my practice. I have only done a few ritual spells, with great effect, but feel like the ritual was the prompt or something to focus on. I read tarot and get a great connection when reading them that goes beyond the cards and their prescribed meanings. It is the magic around me I can read not the cards. It is a beautiful and exhilarating experience linking into the magic. I always feel excited and giddy when it happens.

    I wish to further my practice, I am amassing a herb garden this year to start an apothecary. I am interested to read more of your blog and it’s lessons.

  7. Vallin says:

    I have definitely reached this point. My first wife–who taught me–was a ritualist when we met, but she reinvented her workings to practically chaos. I’ve been studying Chaos and quantum magick for some time, and while I still have a Full Moon candle ritual, I question its efficacy and efficiency.

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