Rituals are tools - like training wheels. They teach you how to proceed to cause change in an orderly manner one step at a time. Here's an example of an outline of the rudiments underlying a simple ceremonial magick session from start to finish.
A. LRP (Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram) - used to clear and define mental/astral space, and banish any unnecessary thoughts/feelings from your sphere of sensation.
This helps the mage leave (mentally) the normal physical world and shift mental gears in his perception of reality so that he can access and work with the psychic components/parts of his consciousness. There are 3 main parts to the LRP:
1. Activation and grounding of pranic tube through Q-cross. The Qabalistic Cross opens up psychic centers (it's a cut-down version of the Middle Pillar exercise) and also invokes the highest aspect of divinity the mage knows of (Kether - the point source of all - the first manifestation of the universe from nothingness/AinSoph etc.- see Qabalah) to preside over the working.
2. Creation of circle (technically a SPHERE) and banishing of unnecessary elemental energies (i.e. actual energies and/or stray thoughts/emotions). This is the part in the LRP where you draw the pentagrams and connect them all with a continuous circle of light/energy.
3. Invocation of angelic guardians. This takes the place of the older method of calling forth lesser entities to protect the exterior of your circle/sphere. In this current method of calling forth angelic beings, you are simultaneously creating thought-forms (see document on Constructs) from your own energy for the purpose of guarding your 'circle' (which is REALLY a SPHERE that surrounds you, not just a circle) AND you are also invoking angelic forces to dwell in those thought-forms and make them even more potent. It's like you're creating the astral vessels (the form) for those more abstract angelic beings to dwell in temporarily whenever they're needed. Abstract beings need a form in which to interact with you, and often the magickian has to supply this through visualizations (visualizations occur on the astral/emotional/watery level of the subconscious and on the same frequencies as dreams, by the way).
The LRP works on elemental energies and the microcosm (within you) primarily. It's also a GREAT exercise for learning to banish unwanted thoughts and energies from your consciousness. After a while you will have built that ability into yourself through repeated practice, and you'll have a natural ability to recreate the same feelings/effects of the LRP without having to perform it (although it's still good practice to perform it regularly and maintain your psychic 'muscles' for banishing).
B. LRH (Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram) - This continues the process of clearing and defining mental/astral space in preparation of the working. It contains an additional part (the Analysis of the Key Word) that applies to G:.D:. practices.
Brief excerpt for additional clarification from Pat Zalewski's now out-of-print text "Golden Dawn Enochian Magick" discussing the analysis of the keyword (for those who don't have access to that information):
"The signs of the 5=6 grade are broken down into three separate sections. The first is when the Adept or aspiring magician calls out:
This stands for the Hebrew letters YOD NUN RESH YOD which was nailed to the cross of suffering above the head of Christ. Its esoteric interpretation shows that the first "I" relates to the Sign of Virgo, Isis the Mighty Mother. In this instance the Mother is the producer of the seeds of fruit on Earth which represents Spring. The "N" is Scorpio, Apophis the Destroyer - the Destructive Force of nature that represents Winter. "R" is Sol and relates to Summer. The final "I" is Osiris Slain and Risen, and relates to Autumn and all of its characteristics. By uttering this initial keyword, the invoker of this force calls forth and links the power of the Sun into his aura.
- YOD NUN RESH YOD!
- VIRGO, ISIS, MIGHTY MOTHER!
- SCORPIO, APOPHIS, DESTROYER!
- SOL, OSIRIS, SLAIN AND RISEN!
- ISIS, APOPHIS, OSIRIS!
The letters IAO compose a synthetic name relating to the Sun entering Virgo and the introduction of the Air element, which in itself represents Spirit of the unification with the part of the Kabbalistic Soul called the Ruach or "Breath."
THE SIGN OF OSIRIS SLAIN!
This represents the forces of the Equinox.
L- THE SIGN OF THE MOURNING OF ISIS!
The hands here are in a semi-arc position which shows the Sun at Summer Solstice and links with the Life Force of Osiris.
V- THE SIGN OF TYPHON AND APOPHIS!
The hands show a further movement of the arc, which represents the Sun at Winter Solstice, thus representing the forces of Darkness.
X- THE SIGN OF OSIRIS RISEN!
This shows the combination of effect of the energy from both the Equinox and Solstice forces. The energy here is then brought down in an even flow, thus cementing itself into the Aura. The entire concept of doing these signs is twofold. The first is that one brings down the Solar Influences by imitation through a process of god-form assimilation when doing the signs, which interrelates with a force called the Ruach, the second functioning part of the Kabbalistic Soul (for a full explanation of this see Regardie's 'Middle Pillar', Llewellyn Publications). The idea is to unify the lower portion of the Soul , called the Nephesch, with that of the Ruach, which is in fact a triggering device by which this is activated and propels the Initiate into higher levels of consciousness." (Side note by Amoris à again, this is showing how this aspect of the LRH is a tool used by G:.D:. members and makes use of their set of symbolism for that purpose - it's good to know why people did what they did rather than following the practice of someone's ritual without any knowledge of how it worked and why.) "The second part of this is that when one does the LVX Signs, one in fact draws down a powerful force from the astral to have at his disposal, which is analogous to injecting him with a "booster."
------End of excerpt from Pat Zalewski------
C. GRP (Greater Ritual of the Pentagram) - This is an elaborate method of creating a link and opening a 'portal' to elemental energies so as to make use of them in an orderly manner. An example of something that might get done at this phase of a ceremonial session is this: The magickian turns to the East and opens link to elemental Air then invokes/inhales some of it into himself for the purpose of creating a spiritual servitor. He then 'exhales' this energy while directing it with his hands into a place (either designated off to the side or in the middle of the circle in front of him) and forcefully intends to create this servitor using that energy he just invoked. He literally 'sprays' the area in front of him and molds the energy by willing it to take the shape that he paints/directs with his hands. He can then turn to the other quarters and open links to those and repeat the process to continue adding on attributions and programming this servitor that he's creating. (This is a really simplified example of something that could be done using the GRP.) Once the servitor (if that's what he's making/doing with the GRP) is finished he sends it off to perform its task. If he's only raising energy to heal someone, then he sends that off to do its work and then systematically closes the links to the elemental energies etc. (You should NEVER neglect the closing of portals/links to other planes after you open them. They don't always close on their own, and leaving them open can create an unbalanced atmosphere leading to mental/spiritual disturbances and even psychosis.)
D. LRP - used here for banishing the energies raised during the ceremony/working.
E. LRH - used here for banishing energies raised etc.
Notice in the above outlined example of a simple ceremonial working (minus the excerpt from Pat Zalewski), that there are 3 main parts.
Some ceremonial workings involve additional stages/phases beyond those main 3 of Opening/RaisingEnergy/Closing, but most of them have that basic idea at their core plus or minus extra formality or additional steps for specific purposes/effects. Openings and Closings are used for banishing extraneous energies before and after the working itself, and to assist in making the perceptual change from one's normal waking consciousness over to magickal/ritual consciousness, and then back again. Most magickians consider making clear distinctions between these two perceptual states both necessary and vital for one's sanity.
After a while of studying ritual formats and outlines, you'll be able to see the rudiments or the essence of how/why a ritual or series of rituals work. You need to learn to see how the parts relate to the whole, and that comes with practice and study. You just start to see the 'patterns' to ceremonies, and when you understand why certain things are done (and what is actually being done with energy and how/why) then you will be able to make up your OWN ceremonies for working. Or, you might decide that you don't need a ceremony or ritual at all! Many of the things that can be done through ritual can EASILY be done instantly without any ritual at all. Go back over my past messages on working with energy spontaneously (without rituals props or tools) and think about how magick is a psychic activity, and you should be able to start working on a more advanced level right away.
Why spend 30 minutes doing something that can be done in 30 seconds if you don't have to? I say, learn the rituals and learn how/why they work and build into yourself the discipline and practice that such study can and will provide. Then, when you can, get practiced at working without rituals and using energy to cause instant change within yourself and in the universe around you.
One of my teachers once told me that if I had to spend several minutes to create an astral fireball to defend myself, then I'd probably end up DEAD. Such things can be done instantly through sheer force of will by learning to spontaneously invoke an energy (it's like 'inhaling' - just pretend you're inhaling elemental fire, or 'red' energy, for example) and then sending it out (like exhaling the elemental fire onto an attacker while directing it into a focused/concentrated point and intending to cause damage) in self-defense.