Invocation and Evocation
One of the most confused aspects of occultism is the basic difference bewteen invocation and evocation. When one 'invokes', he calls in, or summons a form of universal energy into himself or the ceremonial circle within which he operates. This may be a 'God', an 'Archangel' or the raw power of one of the Kabbalistic sephiroth. When one 'evokes' on calls something forth, often forcibly. This is the form of magick dealt with in such famous books as Clavicula Salamonis (the Key of Solomon), the Black Pullet, the Grand Grimoire and the Red Dragon.
In one of the most ancient magickal texts of the Western Mystery Tradition we may read what has become a fundamental piece of magickal lore, 'That which is above is like unto that which is below, and that which is below is like unto that which is above,' usually shortened to 'as above, so below'. What this means, simply, is that man is a smaller, self-contained mirror image of the Universe as a whole. Every force that exists in the Universe exists also in the soul of man. For example, that force which the Kabbalists call 'Geburah' and the Astrologers call 'Mars' also exists in man, as anger, strength, power, passion and several other manifestations, all of which are in essence the same force.
When we step forth into our Circle and prepare to invoke, we are actually preparing to open ourselves to the force we wish to call upon, allowing that macrocosmic (Universal) force to flood and fill the microcosm (our soul). Generally, we call these macrocosmic forces 'Gods', since as humans we need an image to relate to in order to easily deal with them. For example, if I wish to invoke the force of emotion, Love for instance, it is much easier for me as a human being to construct a ritual invoking Aphrodite than one invoking a nameless energy. Aphrodite has a long tradition of worship, and her image has been built up by this worship for millenia, thus creating a powerful conduit for the force she represents. All I need do to access that force is utilize the correct symbolism and ritual. A quick look in a book on mythology will reveal that Aphrodite has connections with the ocean and doves; these will give me a few things to start with. Examining a book such as Crowley's '777' will give me more correspondences. I now see that other items attuned to the nature of this love goddess include roses and emeralds. So, in constructing a ritual to invoke her, I could decorate my altar with fresh roses, and a seashell perhaps. Knowing as well that the colours of Netzach (the Kabbalistic sephira Aphrodite is associated with) are generally emerald green and amber, I may use candles of these colours on my altar as well. I also might burn rose incense. If I am a ceremonial magician, my circle will surround a seven-pointed star, since Netzach is the seventh sephira.
Now, one of the great uses of invocation by the Ceremonial Magician is as an aid to evocation. When an invocation has been performed successfully, the force represented by the invoked god rushes throughout the magician or witch. In some paths, like the Western Mysteries, this takes the form of a sharing of the body with the God, allowing the Divine a conduit to the material world and giving the invoker a measure of force to employ. When the ceremonial Magician evokes a spirit, this heightened state produced by invocation is paramount to his success. Other cultures though, notably that of the Haitian Voudun and South American Candomble and Santeria allow the invoked God total possession of the physical body, giving the Loa (spirit) freedom to enjoy the pleasures of the material world. The Voudun call this 'being ridden', the reference being obviously equestrian. The author (Amphion) once invoked Aphrodite upon a lady in his younger and less experienced days, and found that he had placed her in a state where she was 'ridden' by the Greek Goddess rather than sharing herself. Once the effects had faded, she remembered nothing about the time Aphrodite inhabited her, but was aware that hours had passed. She found great delight in hearing of her actions and exploits as the goddess of love.
Many methods of invocation exist and every culture possesses some form of this Art. Common themes include trance induction, chants and offerings.
The ceremonial method of invocation generally follows a set, workable formula. To keep it basic, firstly the attributes of the God being invoked are praised, his powers named and lauded. The invocation is then repeated with a greater force as the magician visualizes the form of the God around him, identifying with it and endeavouring to feel that he is the God. Finally, the invocation is repeated a third time, this time reworded as if the God himself spoke the words, for the magician must now BE the God. If he is successful he will know it; for a time he will move and act as that God. Aleister Crowley has much to say concerning this method of evocation in his writings. The curious reader is referred to 'Magick in Theory and Practice' for futher details.
Evocation is truly a sister science to invocation, for they are inextricably linked in their very natures. Whereas the art on invocation calls a force into the magician or witch, the art of evocation calls forth. One invokes a god, or an angel, inviting them and imploring them to manifest, but one evokes a spirit--call it demon, deva, shedu or whatever--forcing it to appear before the magus in the Triangle of Art. Whereas invocation causes the microcosm of the human soul to be flooded with the macrocosm of the Divine, evocation reverses this. The microcosm becomes a macrocosm and in turn temporarily creates a microcosm. To the demon evoked by the magician, the magus is God.
Evocation is truly a potent manifestation of the Art Magickal in which any aspect of the unconscious may be called forth and given a visble physical form for a while. What is meant by this is simple. If I choose to ritually evoke Asmodeus, whom the grimoires name as a spirit of lechery and lust, what I am actually doing is giving a form to the dark, lecherous qualities of my own subconscious that I may reorder or command them. All the power tied up within my unconscious mind dealing in any way with lust or lechery may then be bent to serve my purposes.
The methods given by the grimoires are often long and tedious rituals, with elaborate instructions governing a prodigious number of tools and items all crucial to the success of the ritual that must be made and consecrated. Modern ceremonial magicians claim that the rituals of the grimoires, such as the Key of Solomon and the Black Pullet, work very effectively even today, but that the nature of the rituals as psychological tools are such that they must truly be followed to prevent danger from coming up and harming the aspiring magician. Also common in the grimoires are the sigils, or seals of spirits. These are sometimes smooth, linear symbols created through the Kabbalistic method of Aiq Bakar, the Planetary Kameas, or the Rose Cross Lamen of the Order of the Golden Dawn. They are constructed rather simply, actually, once the method of their construction is understood. Sometimes, however, as is the case with the Book of Ceremonial Magic (formerly titled 'The Book of Black Magic and Pacts') the symbols are strange drawings, more akin to the scrawlings of a child than the graceful artistic sigils of the Kabbalah. In this case, the sigils were often 'recieved' in visions or meditiation, sometimes even via astral journeys of the magician. They represent the idea of the spirit in a strange drawing that may mean nothing to the conscious mind but a great deal to the unconscious.
In order for any evocation to be successful, a period of purification is undertaken by the magician. This often involves a fast, abstaining from sexual intercourse, works of piety and even social isolation. Then, when all is prepared, the magician begins his invocations. Yes, invocations, for before a spirit may be successfully evoked the mage must be filled with the power of a God. Otherwise, as a mere human, how may he act with any authority towards that which he has called forth? Most ceremonial magick is based around a Judeo-Christian belief system, and therefore the god invoked is naturally enough the YHVH of the Bible. However, in much modern magick, especially the system of the Golden Dawn, a god from world mythology is chosen. For example, let us assume that I wish to evoke Kedemel, the spirit of Venus, for a magickal purpose involving the Venusian in my life. I would therefore likely choose a god associated with the sephira Netzach on the Tree of Life, for Netzach is the sphere of Venus. I could perhaps choose Aphrodite, or Eros. Perhaps even the Vodoun loa Erzulie, or the Babylonian Ishtar.
Now, if I truly wish my rite to be effective, I must also follow the correct chain of command, invoking not only the god of Netzach, but then the Archangel and Angel of the same sphere as well. In keeping with the above example, I would beseech YHVH Tzabaoth (God of Armies, and godname of Netzach in Kabbalistic magick) to send his Archangel, the beautiful Haniel unto me. I would then humbly request that Haniel send forth the angelic legion of Netzach, the Elohim, unto me, and then ask Haniel, the angel of Venus, to send unto me Hagiel, the Intelligence (or good spirit) of Venus. I would then command Hagiel to assist me in my summoning of Kedemel. All this is time consuming, but has a purpose. It allows a greater magickal and psychological force to be built up, and also assures that my evocation does not upset the 'balance' of the universe, meaning my my own psychological well-being.
There are no shortcuts in evocation. Some of the rituals are quite disturbing to the modern mind, involving even the blood sacrifice of an animal. It must be remembered however that when these magickal rites were developed blood sacrifice was part of religion. The Old Testament requires it of the followers of God to atone for sins, as set forth in the Mosaic Laws of the Pentateuch. If you are planning on evoking a demonic force, plan on facing the demons of your own humanity, including the ugly fact that life feeds on death, and if you wish to give even temporary life to an aspect of your mind in the Triangle it too must be fed. Certainly, incense may be used, but to a poorer effect. Ideally, the blood of the magician may be used, for this sacrifice is freely given and therefore sheds great power.
I will not elaborate further on the topic of evocation here; many books are in print that describe the methods and rituals of the practice. The interested party may consult the Key of Solomon, the Legemeton, the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage or a number of others.