Before embroiling ourselves in the workings of ritual magic we need to be clear about or objectives, what we hope to achieve and how we hope to achieve it. Thus we need to further our assumed model of reality and existence in order to understand how the mechanisms of ritual operate and hence why we use ritual magic in order to extend our spirituality. magic is both art and science, the art will come later but for now we must consider the science and as we do we discover that the theory of both science and magic have a great deal in common, it is the practice where there are enormous differences in opinion. In both we must adopt the approach that it is impossible to gain understanding of reality because in observing (and then understanding it) we, by necessity must change it. Hence we construct a model that demonstrates the observable phenomena (our experiences), collects data, makes predictions about further phenomena, collects data, compares the prediction to the observation and updates the model to account for the differences. The process is dynamic, we are constantly updating our model, refining our view so that the model's predictions become more and more accurate. We keep pushing the model until it breaks down and repairing it then testing it again. As data gatherers we are pretty poor however. Our experience, as well as aiding our predictions also clouds our observation with what we expect to observe and in turn our interpretation of our observations. In our spirituality much the phenomena are beyond our immediate sensory perceptions and our immediate sensory perceptions are pretty poor even in their own fields, we cannot, for example, use our sight to "see" in wavelengths beyond those of visible light though we have a pretty fair idea that they exist since we can demonstrate and experience them indirectly e.g. Radio waves, microwaves. In our spirit it is hard to get beyond the world of dense matter, the physical "reality" and worlds that are beyond our ability to even conceptualise e.g. those that have more than three dimensions of space and one of time are exactly where the spirit needs to be in order to operate magic. We have, as in science, to trust a model while being aware that it is merely a representation of the truth and that, provided we ask it only to operate within its parameters and (most importantly) we are aware of those parameters we can be reasonably trusting of our observations made with that model.
It would be fruitless to describe my choice of models for spiritual reality (for there are many), the one I will use is an amalgam of my own making but is essentially the common and popular model of the tree of life and the western (Celtic) magical tradition which has been used successfully very widely. It seems to rarely breakdown in the face of contradictory phenomenal evidence but I must stress again that it is not to be considered fundamentally correct, just a basis of constructing the workings of ritual that, within its parameters, is almost wholly accurate. In my opinion the trouble with so many religions is their refusal to accept their own parameters and the blindness of their faith in themselves and themselves alone, in fact one of the world's most popular religion makes proud of the fact it requires absolute faith in itself to maintain credibility - of course it does, if it never questions itself it cannot be wrong, can it?!!!!
It needs also to be mentioned that no set of ideas can ever be complete in themselves, no philosophy has been expounded that can be said to be either mutually exclusive or all encompassing. This is important for the tree of life theories and other qabalistic ideas, despite being a living system are no exception and although they appear to be beautifully complete and whole do not deviate from their role as either model or partial explanation of the cosmos.
As I stated earlier, the development of these ideas throughout history is of no specific interest here, there are some excellent works on how theories were reached and have changed throughout the ages, we are concerned at present only with the working ideas themselves. That said, the living principles of the tree of life are evident in almost all existing religious doctrines and, by its nature, the tree has been realised in almost as many diverse ways as there are doctrines, what follows is the most simplistic description of magical ritual with as little reference to the tree as a qabalistic ideal as is possible.
There is an underlying multiplicity of building blocks behind the theory, numbers are a vital part of our understanding and the basic concepts are easy to see in terms of threes, fours and fives. The fours are the most obviously recognisable in science and magic and correspond startlingly with each other, the ancient and traditional elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire (the Four Primal Powers in magical terminology) being easily equated with science's four states of matter, Solid, Liquid, Gas and Energy. What is interesting is how the quadrant is built up from a triplet in science, energy - prior to Einstein - being considered a non-exchangeable and highly tenuous link to the other states of matter. This scientific argument raged for many years and time has finally proved both Einstein and our ancient forebears correct regarding energy (fire). The disagreement is ongoing however as science comes slowly to the realisation there is another state "discovered" by quantum theory to the effect that matter may also exist as a quantum particle demonstrating properties of mass or length and also electromagnetic wave properties. It would seem our ancestors slipped up here until we realise that occultists argued for many centuries about the existence of a fifth power, namely the "ether", or perhaps simply "spirit". So is science and magical tradition in accord? Perhaps not but it certainly seems to be more than coincidence that science, in it self-inflated arrogance, has finally come to a similar conclusion as its long standing adversary came to centuries earlier, maybe in the case of the ether / wave properties time again will prove the older and "superstition-riddled" theory to be correct once again.
OK, enough examples, henceforth we shall refer to the magical tradition's terminology but the reader should be on the lookout for more "coincidences".
The structure is an ongoing development, from triad (Air, Water, Earth) through quadrant (Air, Water, Earth, Fire) to quintant (Air, Water, Earth, Fire, Spirit), this is the basis of our theory and it is the dynamic relation of these basic principles that concerns the workings of ritual magic and the underlying relations between them that form the impulses that drive and fuel ritual magic.
To end on an interesting note fully in keeping with our desire to be ever questioning, do we think that if, by observing something we change it, what happens when we start labelling it or describing it in relative terms? Does this also affect its nature? How? After reading the above is it now possible to mentally disassociate the states of matter from the primal powers? If it can be done then throw into the equation the condition that comparison or example using concepts out of the given closed system are not allowed. Try this now.
In the next part of our quest we shall consider the mechanism by which our four primal powers interact with one another and, having now hammered home the notion of not comparing elements inside a closed system with anything outside it, we shall break our rule and do exactly that before going on to look at comparison of closed system to closed system.