Having seen the theory of the four levels how are they used? The first thing to emphasise is that this is a convenient way of explaining the key principles of magick rather than a step-by-step guide. Both the simple Shamanic spells using natural items with the occasional recycled tin as a makeshift cauldron, and elaborate Ritual Magick using expensive equipment and highly structured ceremonies both incorporate them in their rituals.
A good example of this is candle magick. Preparing the candle by cleansing, oiling and charging the candle involves the mental and physical levels. The emotion behind or arising from the spell engage the emotional level, and calling on a particular Deity or Spirit/Universe through petition or reciting from a sacred text connect with the spiritual one.
Basic folk magick also uses these principles. The outer preparations on the physical plane, such as gathering the materials, are all that usually remain in records of old spells and rituals. You have to look closely to see the other levels at work and imagine yourself back in the time the spell was developed. Usually the spell was to influence another person, so the act of getting things such as nail clippings or hairs belonging to the person would begin to engage the emotions.
Once the spellcaster had these items things you would have to perform certain actions and speak certain words. This would usually be at an unusual time and place, both of which would focus the mind – bringing in the mental magick side of things – and make the emotions even more intense. Usually a Deity, either one local to the area or one antipathic to mainstream beliefs, would be called upon thus covering the Spiritual aspect of the spell. Without knowing the underlying principles of what they were doing the results would be a bit hit and miss but if the spell was a traditional one it suggests a reasonable success rate.
In Mexico when I was just starting out on the magickal path this sort of spell was very popular. A cousin of one of my friends at school was infatuated with an American woman who wasn’t interested in him. Don’t ask me how but he managed to obtain an item of hers and, in a ritual carried out at the full moon on top of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, bound to something of his. This last action was probably even harder than getting her item considering the trigger-happy guards there at night.
The symbolism of this act is obvious and, to some extent it worked the woman became a lot friendlier towards him and they began to meet for lunch two or three times a week. But that is as far as things went and, after a couple of months, he met another girl with whom he did take things a lot further and that should have been the end of it.
Except it wasn’t. Everywhere he went he kept bumping into the American woman. His new girlfriend was very jealous and the term ‘Platonic friend’ was not in her vocabulary and it caused a great deal of trouble between them. For some reason the spell he had performed completely slipped his mind, and it was only when my friend reminded him of it that he untied the items and, I heard, mailed hers back to her. Perhaps it was this last act that caused her to leave the country a week later thus solving the problem.
As you can see from the above account even using the four principles system will not always yield the result you want. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “The fault is not in the spell, but in ourselves” usually in planning the spell or, when doing the ritual, not fully focussing on the desired outcome. The only other stumbling block is failing to follow the policy of ‘fire and forget’ and constantly thinking about the results or worrying if the spell is working. The current magickal theory goes that any leftover energy from the spell is drawn into working against the outcome in accordance with the spellcasters whims.
Of all the principles emotion is the one that gives the most ‘power’ to a spell, and links to the other levels. The physical ‘props’ must have an emotional connection to stimulate the mental level, and the spellcaster must feel an affinity with the spiritual forces evoked or petitioned. It is a standing joke in many training circles for Pagans, and Ritual Magick that emotional people can get all the correspondences wrong, and even do the spell at the incorrect time and still get an accurate result because intention and emotion overcame those obstacles.
Hopefully the explanations and example have given you enough information and confidence to incorporate these magickal principles into your ritual and magickal practice. Through experience you will find the right balance of physical preparation, mental focus, emotional arousal, and Spiritual attunement to get the results you want from your magickal study.