The magical qualities of ritual and why and how it works; the efficacy of ritual
By Luc Sala, version September 19, 2012
Rituals have always been part of culture, in whatever form or in whatever the tradition was. They connect us to the otherworld, the sacred, the heavenly, bringing us in the liminal, in-between space where we can in some way access or feel that otherworld. In the world of everyday reality much of these sacred rituals are lost or degraded into commercial events like Christmas or Thanksgiving, with just a shade of the original intent left, hollow forms without deeper meaning. They have become empty ceremonies, they might make you feel good for a moment, make you feel connected to people or memories, but they don't elevate you, don't raise your awareness beyond the normal. That for me is a pity, eliminating the sacred from our lives is like an amputation, leaving us with the barren dryness of rationality and materialism. Not all of us subscribe to the sacredness of rituals, but we do have rituals, like having this morning cup of coffee, going to the football match all dressed up in the right colors and attire, having a Friday night beer with friends. We might call them habits, as we repeat them in an often automatic way, but as they have a symbolic meaning too, that qualifies them as rituals too. Real rituals, let’s call them sacral rituals, tend to bring us to another state of being, to a place which is more connected, more intimate, more with oneself, less bothered with the realities of everyday life, the fears, the insecurities, the problems. But they do also have other effects, they are more than staged psychotherapy or merely self-hypnotizing performances.
Human beings need rituals, we are ritual beings and always have been. At some deep level we need this bridge into another state of being, as an escape or neutralization of an unbearable urge or anxiety like in the case of obsessive compulsions, as a quiet place to feel ourselves, as a way to connect to the wholeness of things, to that otherworld inside of us or to whatever we believe is out there. Rituals are immensely varied, as we as humans are and can have many forms, many goals, many liturgies, but what makes them different from habits, prescribed procedures, or just repeated acts? Some say it's the symbolic aspect, the stylization of actions, others point at the transitional aspects, the liminality (disconnected) state participants of a ritual experience, some see the sacrality of a ritual as defining it. I believe a ritual is a way to connect to the extradimensional and the way to do that is using the correspondences, the often symbolic links between the worlds. I see ritual therefore in essence as a magical act, which requires me to define magic as the overarching principle of being, as the resonance that is existence and creation. Everything is magical, our normal reality is a limited subset of the magic-all. In that view prayer, intent, magical acts, ritual, witchcraft, religion and even play, art and theater and why not psychotherapy are all on the same axis of correspondence between the worlds and are deeply rooted in what we are.
I use in this book the subject of ritual to understand how and what that axis is, how it relates to our mind and why ritual is a fundamental interaction, essential for our well-being in the broadest sense. I wouldn't qualify this as calling for a ritual revival, I hope it requalifies ritual as part of "proper and just" living.
Ritual and magic are very close. I know no rituals that don't have a magical intention, even as I understand that religious people could take this as a sacrilegious remark. Traditionally, the notions and study of religion and ritual were kept far away from magic, witchcraft, alchemy, the sacred separated from the secret, but are they really different? I don't think so. They have a different connotation, different history, different traditions and different academic valuation, but this is mostly because the whole field of extradimensional connection has been corrupted, manipulated, misused forever.
Ritual is practical magic
That magic and ritual are closely related, is now a common understanding among social scientists, but they mean this in the practical sphere of ceremonial magic as if magic is part of ritual. I see it the other way around, ritual is just a part of magic. Magic being the more general indication of the whole, a holistic notion of how the universe works.
Practical magic is the art of using the correspondences, the links between the spatio-temporal dimensions (physical reality) and the extradimensional "space" in an intentional way. In this view rituals are a form of practical magic. I believe practical magic is or can be, depending on the situation and conditions, effective, it works. It will have an effect in the realm it is intended to work in and also has an effect in the other dimensions. Physical action is, in the same manner, a subset of practical magic, as it is intended to work in the spatio-temporal dimensions (fourdimensional space-time), but always has some effect in the extradimensional space. One could say that in the extradimensional there is always a reflection of what we do or what happens in tangible, physical reality, one could call this a karmic mirroring. Nothing new there, this was known to the sages of old, and the scientists of today are closing in on this with the "New Physics" notion that there is no existence without consciousness.
Now this points at an acceptance of the efficacy of rituals, and yes I do believe rituals are effective, they work. They have effects in the psychological realm, in the sociological realm, but through their effects in on an the extradimensional they can also influence or impact the tangible reality. Rituals work, but how and why they work is somewhere hidden in the traditions and writings of the sages long dead.
Modern academic researchers and writers are usually very skeptical, deny the efficacy, often describe ritual as a remnant of primitive, totemic, irrational and superstitious cultures, hint at the "forbidden" magical aspects or try to push ritual in the camp of religion, a lost case for them anyway. And yet, our holy books, our myths and dreams and many of todays movies, fantasy novels and TV-series are full of magic, of miracles, prophets and sorcerers. Of course there are serious researchers of the otherworld. In centuries past there were magically inclined theologians, alchemists, often also poets and their heritage lives in churches, masonic lodges, druidic circles, witchcraft covens, esoteric societies and in the ceremonies we still have, like the Olympic Games, Holidays and in baptism, marriage and funeral rites. In the new age movement there are many who have tried and experienced old and new rituals, sometimes borrowing from far-away and half forgotten cultures, and found real value in them. The exploration of the extradimensional, once the domicile of mystics and shamans, has gotten an immense impulse with the re-discovery of psychedelics and entheogens, with magic mushrooms, LSD, XCT and Ayahuasca, just to name a few. But it is good to remember that the great sages and mages of the past probably also had access to similar substances like in the Eleusian mysteries in Greece.
The effects of ritual are often seen as limited to the psychological and social plane, there they clearly have an effect on participants and umfeld, but the question of efficacy in the extradimensional and then back in the physical reality has obviously less clear answers. In the written history many events are described as miraculous, the holy books are full of examples, but the rational minds of today are skeptical, there is little hard evidence in scientific terms. There are of course miraculous events, impressive predictions and sorcerers with exceptional gifts (siddhi’s) and in the religious world even documented miracles, but the general attitude towards magic and ritual remains one of disbelief. This is partly because science doesn’t accept the irrational, even systematical research by para-psychologists and studies into the mechanisms of magic, as this one, are brushed aside. Magic is impossible, goes against the logic, the rational and the accepted notion of causality, locality and the accepted Laws of Physics.
And yet, we all experience the extradimensional, have intuitions, feelings, experience synchronistic events, and then there are the churches, institutions that have always been active in the extradimensional magical realm, that have these prayers, rituals and ceremonies that billions of people believe in. Now if one could accept, that the broader Laws of Nature covering the extradimensional as well as the physical reality are by nature not limited to space-time, and space-time Laws of Physics are at best a subset, the seemingly incongruent claims for magic might be less frightening. For it is fear, for the unknown, the unexplainable, the irrational, the divine, that lies at the root of the skeptical view. And understandably, accepting magic as a real force would undermine and threaten not only science, but society at large, the legal system, morality, human relations and much more. Accepting magic would mean a paradigm shift, of course mostly for the materialistic West. To achieve this paradigm shift, we have to understand better how magic works, what is the relationship between mind and matter, we have to bridge the abyss between science and religion (which is applied magic as I see it). Finding the Higgs-particles and proving the standard model of modern physics doesn’t help us much there, looking carefully at what the sages and wise men of the past have given us is a better approach, if we are willing to see their finding, books, grimoires and rituals as true and de facto effective. That is not an easy task, as their truth is hidden, masked, contorted, adapted as in coming from their worldview, culture, convictions. What is necessary is to combine and unite the findings of psychology, philosophy, sociology and a whole bunch of sciences with an understanding of the extradimensional nature of the wider reality, accepting that we have (and always had) access to that wider reality. Rituals, as a widespread form of practical magic, offers a great opportunity to study the bridges, gateways and correspondences to the otherworld, that is our world too.
Rituals are therefore, in my view, ready for re-evaluation. They are necessary, as a fundamental part of our psychological development and essential in understanding how our world, including the extradimensional realm, really works. Given the bewildered state our modernistic, materialistic and rational world has gotten itself into, we need another paradigm, we need to understand the wider reality. Studying and practicing ritual, as part of the all-encompassing Magic, is a promising path.
So coming back to defining ritual, for me it is creating and proceeding on a bridge to the extradimensional. It can be performed using symbolic acts, tools or words, using their corresponding qualities, or just plain intentional without some coding or intermediary tools, gestures or words. It can be done following specific rules like in a liturgy, or done in a new, original way and never repeated, like in a personal prayer. It can be done alone or in groups, with humans, animals, plants or entities, with good intentions or bad ones, open or closed for participation by outsiders, it can be effective instantaneous, in the normal spatio-temporal dimensions or beyond, and it can take place in sacred places or just everywhere, in cyberspace or in thoughtspace.
Where do rituals originate? Rituals are often considered specifically human, but there are animal behavioral patterns, that could qualify as rituals, and animals do have specific tics that look like compulsive. If we take the parallels between ritual and verbal behavior in humans, where language is a system of symbols based upon arbitrary rules and ritual can be seen as a system of symbolic acts that is based upon arbitrary rules, we can extend that to animals, knowing that animals also use language. This indicates also, that the roots of ritual lie much deeper than some initial myth or cosmological understanding. They are connected with senses that reach beyond the tangible into the extradimensional, beyond the spacio-temporal tangible reality, into the sacral. These senses, that are actuators too, I call "primes" and they are located somewhere in our system, I leave it to the scientists to figure out where. Sensors and actuators are technical notions, both are transducers, the one is receiving, the other acting. I use the words to indicate that the "primes" receive and send whatever it is that connect to the extradimensional space. For instance, when we experience beauty, we receive and when we love something, we send.
These primes are essential for our existence and behavior. Who can deny that we are driven, guided, ruled far more by things beyond the tangible than by the rational, cold logic of the materialist. Our existence is so beyond the scientifically measurable, so much more related to energy, love, hope, consciousness, beauty, truth and other "ideal" categories that are extradimensional, that we must have a way to interact with those dimensions. I deliberately leave out time, but I do think that magical time, where free will resides, is part of the extradimensional realm and that through the primes we have access to it, can feel or sense the future.
Maybe these primes are organs, systems, maybe our DNA and especially junk-DNA (the large part of DNA that is not directly related to our physical being) plays a part in this, maybe these are a fundamental part of living systems, I just use the term primes. Primes are senders and receivers, and they act in and through the extradimensional space, with some effects in our normal space-time reality too. Primes are not specifically human, animals have them too, and I think beyond that plants, crystals and in a way all existence has something that connects them or it to the extradimensional space. Theologians might call that space God, spiritual people might call it the Sacral, Mother Nature, Love or the Creation Force, Information, Chi, by whatever name it is that, which is beyond the tangible. Rituals in my view originate from these primes, they are a natural reaction to external or internal disbalances, threats, extradimensional information and have been part of our being forever, so there is no historic first ritual, but of course every culture has created its own mythical stories and from there directives and rules for rituals. The result, the traditional ritual, is therefore different in the various and cultures, but has retained some basic root characteristics, like the use of fire as a means of communication with the otherworld.
Apart from the sociological and psychological objectives and classifications we can distinguish two fundamentally different ritual modes, the one being a passive recipient of primal information, like foretelling the future, the other the active influencing the world state, like health, wealth and so influencing the present and the future, or even the past.
The first is the passive mode, the mystical and female kind of connecting to the otherworld, the other the male, the creative, the magical. This is about receiving information, opening up to the sacral, sensing what the primes pick up, which eventually reaches the mind. The mind, through the body, the emotional and archetypical layers, then deals with this primal information, but not always in a straightforward way, emotions and thoughts are filtered, mirrored and distorted.
In the other fundamental mode of ritual, influencing the world, the information goes the other way. What the mind wants, reaches the prime in an equally distorted, filtered and internally mirrored way and therefore might result in something very different from what the original intention was.
These two modes relate also to the distinction between love and truth, the one receiving and heart based, the other active and related to the will. One has to give up the personal will, and here Aleister Crowley was very clear, and align oneself with the divine will. In this sense the magical is a quest for losing the ego, and can have a male or female inclination.
There are people, who by inclination, training or genetic profile are better at "channeling" primal information, at connecting the conscious mind with the extradimensional realm. If they are good at picking up the right message, they are seen as mystics or prophets, if they are good at sending out the right message and affecting the wider reality, they are sorcerers or magicians.
A ritual is fundamentally a procedure or an attempt to control the information flow from and to the primes. This means bypassing the filters, the distortion and straightening in a sense the process, in order to get the required results, either active or passive. To do this in an effective way is not an easy exercise, for even those who are effective healers, prophets, fortune tellers or magicians rarely know how they do it. They often see it as a gift from the Beyond, some fall prey to the ego-boost associates with these talents (called siddhi’s in Vedic context) and can or will not explain how they do it. At best the (assumed) way they go about it becomes the basis for later rituals trying to emulate their success. Do and repeat exactly what the great sage did and it will work, is the idea. Of course over time some understanding of how these magical processes work became known, at least to some and they have issued guidelines as to how perform certain rituals. This knowledge was usually kept very secret, and understandably, since magic is no toy for children and can backfire in many ways. So over time the original understanding about why and how a specific procedure, gestures, words, songs, substances, sacrifices were to be employed, got lost. The priests or sacrificers of later generations therefore had to stick to the rules, copy the texts and do everything according to the book, meticulously as they did not understand why, assumed every detail was important. In cases where some part of the original liturgy got lost, like what the soma substance in Vedic rituals was, the rituals were performed literally, but became empty and obviously less effective. Another example is the use of golden crowns by kings, popes and gold in ritual attire. Gold has a special quality, it protects against thoughtwaves (things science cannot measure, but are experienced by many and sometimes labeled as synchronicity) and especially in ceremonial situations a crown protects from external influence on what is thought or decided. This is a largely unknown property of gold, but explains why it is so often used in ritual context. A last example of how in traditions the original meaning is sometimes lost is the change in orientation of the Roman Catholic Priest, after Vatican II instead of facing the east or the apse (ad orientem) the priest is now facing the people (ad populum). It made a distinct difference in the ritual gestalt and although seemingly more sharing and democratic, it takes away from the original purpose of the Holy Mass, which is connection to God and not a social happening.
The purpose of a ritual can be varied and has different levels. Often the real intentions are not clear to all. The purpose can be different for different participants, the producer/organizer, the officiator, the priest or priests, the participants or practitioners, the audience, and even those who allow a specific event, the politicians, police or religious authorities. Purposes can be many, like predicting the future, healing, material success, confirming with religious obligations, traditions or ideals, thanksgiving, worship, purification, appaising the Gods or preventing natural disasters, satisfaction of spiritual or emotional-psychological needs of the participants or audiences, obtaining sexual, physical or intellectual growth, testing of capabilities, qualification, strengthening of social stratification, social cohesion, group bonding, achieving trance states, delivery of sacraments like marriage, funerals, just feeling good, a sense of security, moral education, demonstration of social status in respect or submission, initiation, marking a time-change (season-eclips-planets) or status change (rites of passage), affiliation and allegiance, inaugurations, obtaining social acceptance or approval for some event or action (like war) and then a whole array of more negative purposes like hurting adversaries. In fact there are few human actions, that don't have some ritual aspect or at least symbolic actions, in sports, in courts of law, in graduation, in science. There are traditions everywhere and most of them make sense, although not in a rational way.
Looking at what a ritual achieves
Stating that magic and rituals are effective sounds like an unsubstantiated belief, not befitting our rational 21-th century worldview. However, all through the ages ritual and magic were deemed effective and have survived quite a few onslaughts, from organized religion and philosophers. The debate about the efficacy of ritual runs through history, but never seems to come to a clear end. Plato and Augustine are good anchors for the dichotomy and paradoxical views. Plato (in Laws, Νόμοι) argues against magic, he sees it as a poisoning and warns against it. He sees spells as a psychological means of frightening based on ritual action and warns against those who use magic for the personal gain. He thus admits that magic exists, notably spells, and has power over its victims, but he sees it as a psychological game, not something that works because of the influence of gods. Magic is a psychological and, in the last instance, a social problem, the gods do not enter here.
But then in Plato’s Phaedrus Socrates talks about prophesy and divine madness and praises this as the source of the most important blessings granted to men. In Symposium the Athenian identified magicians as maleficent, allowing however a measure of efficacy as a function of the god Eros.
Plato considers sorcerers fake, while Augustine thought that communication between men and gods was possible, but dangerous and had to be stopped or was only allowed in the religious context. Augustine accepts public religious ritual, because it is given and validated by God himself, and because there are the Sacred Writings to base the ritual on. He condemns private (pagan) rituals which serve individual, private and egotistic goals only, and of course in his early years (he was once a Manichaean) had some experience with it.
What has been overlooked, though, is the possibility to gauge or measure what happens during and as a result of a ritual. Some work has been done with brain-scans and MRI and neuroscientist can indicate where and what chemical or electrical activity takes place during ritual (and other altered consciousness) states, but these are like single shot photographs of a small effect of a much larger dynamic process, it's like photographing the tail of an elephant in trying to find out how the animal looks and lives. There are, and always have been, ways to get to a deeper understanding, ways to dig in the totality, das Ding an Sich. In general one can describe these as divination, as ways and means to go beyond the physical boundaries. These methods are in a way part of the magical tradition too, so it's like using a camera to look at a camera. In this book I will outline a method of analyzing and in fact measuring the effect of every step or aspect of a ritual, in order to recover the original effectiveness and understand what mechanism are at play in dealing with the extradimensional realm via rituals. This method, actually a quite common practice in rituals themselves, is dowsing (with a pendulum in my case) of the various aspect of a ritual and developing a systematical method to use subjective data as the basis for understanding intangible phenomena. Dowsing is a subjective process, but yields repeatable results and comparing, parsing, deconstructing the data one can come to interesting hypotheses and draw verifiable conclusions. A question that arises here concerns the reality and the nature of reality, are what we experience or see only perceived subsets of reality, in other words, is what I see the same as what you see? This is a deep philosophical question, let me limit myself to stating that there is measurable physical (tangible) reality and an extradimensional reality, which I believe can be (partially) sensed and subjectively measured.
Is ritual addressing entities?
Another age-old question about rituals is whether they address only the innerworld and our perception or that they establish contact with an outside reality beyond ourselves. Are rituals calling for real or just imagined gods, demons, entities or forces, is there anything outside we can know at all. Is there something real outside Plato's cave? Again I will refrain from this ontological question and leave it to philosophers like bishop Berkeley. I will just assume, in the Hermetic view, that whatever is out there, is a reflection or mirror of what happens inside our mind.
Is there a ritual state of consciousness?
We know that waking, sleeping, dreaming are states of consciousness, that hypnosis can bring forth another state and that certain drugs like psychedelics can again bring another level of consciousness. Then if we look at the psyche as a multi-level array of id-ego-superego like Freud described it, or of inner child/higher self and subpersonalities as defense-layer around it like I will use in this book, this indicates even more ways of being oneself. It has been stated by anthropologists like Arnold van Gennep and by Victor Turner that there is a specific state in rituals, that they call liminality, where the participant is in a kind of in-between state, in limbo about his position, looses his identification with social hierarchies, and becomes open to new "programming". An interesting concept, that points a specific state of consciousness, but remains a little vague. I think that part of the process of a ritual, not the ultimate purpose but a necessary step to get there, and not always achieved, is to bring the officiator, the participants or the audience in a specific state, that I will for now generally describe as an inner child state. A state of consciousness that has less armor and defenses, is open to much more direct contact with the primes and therefore with the extradimensional realm. A state that shamans all through the ages have reached through various (ritual) means, including music, dance, deprivation, psycho-active substances, ritual gestures etc. I believe true healing and other magical acts can only effectively take place when this altered state of consciousness is achieved.
So there is a ritual state of consciousness, that has to do with being in the less protected and more open "inner child" state. That state has something to do with heaven, with the sacred space, like when Jesus talks about “being like the children to enter the Kingdom (state) of Heaven”. Being in that state offers all kind of possibilities, both in the inner- and the outer world, so reaching that state and using the heightened awareness at various consciousness levels can be a psychologically healing experience by itself and the ultimate purpose of the ritual. In that sense ritual can also be seen as a psychotherapeutic event. For purposes beyond that the ritual state is at least helpful if not necessary to obtain further results. In this light all kind of ritual and magical tools, stories, myths, songs etc. used in rituals can be seen as tools to help attain that state of consciousness. They can be seen as programs, memories, anchors that help the mind to let go of its outer defense systems (personalities, ego) and let the awareness reach past the emotions, feelings, and body reactions to that core of our being, where the primes are pure and accessible.
One of the more common practices in rituals of either a magical or religious nature involves sacrifice, usually to a supernatural being, God or demon, asking to help or intervene on behalf of the sacrificer, the person performing the sacrifice or their family, tribe or nation. Now sacrifice is a physical act, involves an offering of something that has value, and seems to act as a necessary psychological condition to connect the two worlds, it represents a kind of exchange between the worlds, making it a fair deal. A sacrifice can also be a bodily experience, inflicting and accepting pain. Embodiment, stress on the body, in this context sometimes with theatrical overtones, will bring about the ritual state, in which experience and commitment take precedence over meaning and communication. The body is the way to experience the emotional, beyond the consciousness related to ritual texts. The body, the community and the cosmos are so ritually connected in a sacrificial way.
Offering an animal in this context is a symbolic act, a physical token of giving up the ego, a necessary step to enter the ritual state of consciousness again. Sacrificing a human is yet another level of dedication and has to do with accessing the extradimensional, the magical time of free will. The Islamic festival of sacrifice - Eid ul Adha -remembers the prophet Ibrahim/Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to, but then accepted a ram in his place. This willingness is seen in Islam and Bible as proof of his love and devotion to God, but 'resigning oneself to God' can also be interpreted as giving up all personal (ego) desire or wishes, letting go of the will.
Do we need tools, liturgy
Ultimately the human mind or better the soul in a ritual (altered) state of consciousness should be able to do magic without any tools, implements, substances, symbols, music, magical spells or formulas or gestures and in any place or circumstance. The mind however, needs help in concentration, one needs to align body, mind and heart to get into that state. The tools help to get there, and repetition and a familiar and safe environment (sacred space) helps to get beyond the threshold that separates one from the extradimensional, magical realm. Act like cleansing, purification and in fact many things in the liturgy of a ritual are nothing but familiar signposts towards the gateway, they have been psychologically anchored and help to get from the 3-dimensional to the appearance to the significance to the ultimate virtual of the sacred or magical. Preparing oneself and the place and tools recalls the anchors, the routines, the neural pathways that were constructed on previous occasions, in that sense Magic is also a craft. Beyond initiation the priest, shaman or magician needs practice, he needs the memories and anchors to ease the transition from the normal to the sacred, and the tools and (part) of the liturgy help him there. Again routine and being accustomed to the liturgy is the paradoxical condition, based upon a sense of safety, for entering the liminality of otherworld. Experienced users of psychedelic substances know that there is always this moment of insecurity, of fear, before ingesting something, and that this should be so, otherwise the trip might be flashy and visually interesting, but not transformational. The power of a ritual is therefore never in the tools, but in the practitioner, who can use them to align himself with the “work”. Of course some acts, words, routines, tools are better at this than others, as they better reflect subconscious or symbolic correspondences or are better aligned with the psychological processes involved in entering the ritual state. The language of dreams for instance is more effective addressing the unconscious layer of archetypical symbolism than rational words.
Alejandro Jodorowsky in his works on psychomagic explains why what he calls shamanic psychotherapy works as a healing path using the power of dreams, theater, poetry, and shamanism and concrete poetic (symbolic) acts. He notes that psychological realizations can cause true transformation and as illness in his view can be seen as a physical dream that reveals unresolved emotional and psychological problems, can heal. Jodorowsky thereby points at the process of integrating or breaking apart the dysfunctional persona a patient identifies with, to connect with the deeper self. This comes close to my notions about how the quarrel between subpersonalities or masks and the inner child (deeper self) are the key to resolving not only health problems.
The ritual space, often a circle and cleansed and protected by various means and calling for various protecting entities, is a feature found in many rituals. It provides first a safe place, but then it becomes, apart from the physical situation, first a symbolic sacred space and then a virtual sacred environment, as a place where the further ritual acts can take place. If the sacred space is temporarily there, it is usually created and closed after the ritual. In many rituals, were there is a lot of emotional or spiritual energy, there are usually people assigned the task of holding space, meaning they kind of check the boundaries and if necessary step in to scare or neutralize incoming energies.
Systemic constellations, the work of Bert Hellinger, throw another light on how rituals and especially their special liturgy and physical placement of participants, priests and officiators tune in to a metadimensional realm. His constellations are in a way ritualistic, they create a virtual environment that yield information about family and other relationships, transgressing time and distance. There seems to be a correspondence between physical postures, distance, orientation and that what happened before in the family.
Can we measure the effect of acts, tools, liturgy
Using divination techniques it is possible to measure basically all aspects, effects and energies of a ritual. What is necessary is some kind of understanding of the matrix of a ritual, its stages and the roles of the various participants, in other words some idea about what is happening. Such measurements can be repeated and will yield reproducible results, although these are basically subjective. Yet by comparing and calibration more objective data can be established. A methodology and scale called Bovis-scale has been developed to determine the energetic quality of water and can be used for other qualities.
The results of measuring energies and other characteristics of many rituals, magical acts, holy places, also in relation to what the participants and officiators intended, experienced and took home after a ritual has given me much insight in how a ritual functions, this essay is part of that understanding.
Magic, good or bad
Historical the word magic has had two meanings, one a positive, signifyinga highly elevated and esoteric form of practical wisdom indicated as magia, based on the perceived effectiveness of mystical patterns and intelligences, possessing real efficacy in nature and in human affairs. The second, far more negative, is the disapproval by theologians and religions of various popular practices and techniques, seemingly because of their perceived inefficacy in nature and human affairs, but also to keep magic out of the hands of the common people, for many reasons.
Often one speaks of black magic, or left hand magic, as opposed to white magic, black meaning the intention of the magician is not benevolent.
There is also the distinction in positive magic, as aiming at an "Do Y so X will happen” or negative magic or taboos “Don't do Y or X will result"