Every so often, I hear from students who say that they don’t feel anything when doing ritual. Invariably they worry that this is a problem: that not experiencing tangible results from their ritual practice is an indication of failure or of the practice not working. And it’s easy to see why. There are certainly many people who do get those results and can clearly articulate them. Pat Zalewski talks at length about the astral dynamics of ritual that were perceived psychically by Jack Taylor in Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries. Descriptions of bodily sensations and changes in the surrounding environment and whatnot abound. When you don’t experience any of these things in your own practice, it’s hard not to feel like a “squib” (to borrow a term from Harry Potter) who simply has no magical ability.
I have been doing Golden Dawn work for more than 20 years now, and magical work for longer than that, and I still don’t feel anything at all from ritual in most cases other than a generalized sense of peace and groundedness. The exceptions are with spirit work: I’ve had some subtle but quite distinct experiences when assuming godforms, and I’ve had some quite powerful ones when doing evocations. But do I feel much of anything from the LBRP, or the Middle Pillar, or the like? Nope. Forget about it.
And indeed, forgetting about it may be the single best thing that a student can do in this situation. Some people sense astral dynamics, some people feel energy changes. I am not one of them. And I believe this is simply innate to one degree or another. Just like there’s a normal spectrum of human variation when it comes to phantasia, with some people being entirely aphantasic, some hyperphantasic, and most in between, I have come to believe that the same is true of the type of senses we’re talking about here as well. And all appearances are that where each of us ends up on that spectrum is an inborn neurological trait. Similarly, different people experience psychometry in different ways, with information presenting itself in different sensory impressions, and to different degrees of intensity.
Similarly, I am convinced that to some degree the ability to feel ritual, to sense actual change as a result of it or to receive sensory impressions from it, is a faculty that each of us possesses to a greater or lesser degree but which may seem largely or entirely absent in some people such as myself. At this point in my magical journey, if I were going to experience that sort of thing, I expect I would have done so already. It seems unlikely that this will change any time in the foreseeable future. So I forget about it, and move on with doing my work.
Now that said, do I wish I could feel the astral dynamics of ritual, or sense the subtle changes in energy, or differentiate between the feeling of the banishing and invoking Ritual of the Pentagram? Absolutely. And would it be cool to experience that? Hell yeah. And to be sure, there are ways of developing those senses, just as there are techniques and exercises for working with your visualization and improving your dream recall and things like that. But it’s not necessary, and it’s not something you should expect to experience–because everyone’s experience is different.
And don’t think because you don’t feel anything that the rituals aren’t working. I’ve certainly seen results from my ritual work, and those haven’t been impaired by not feeling the subtle workings of the energies of a given ritual in the moment. You simply learn to measure your magic by different yardsticks, and have to focus on its efficacy rather than on your feels. And you’ve got to remember that just because you aren’t feeling it, that doesn’t mean anything is inherently amiss, or that you’re doing anything wrong.