Lesser Ritual of Pentagram is used to clear and define mental/astral space, and banish any unnecessary thoughts/feelings from your sphere of sensation (e.g. your aura). This helps the mage leave (mentally/figuratively) the normal physical world and shift mental gears in his perception of reality so that he can access and work with his psychic parts. It is often used to open and close a ceremonial working. (It's used at the beginning of a ceremonial session to perceptually 'leave the normal physical realm', or in other words shift mental gears, and then again at the end of the session to banish the forces invoked during the session and make the transition back to ordinary awareness.)
Don't let the point of the weapon fall once you begin making the pentagrams in the air, as you are trying to create a completed circle. Visualize the pentagrams flaming in front of you as you make them (flaming white or with redish-orange fire etc. Many people see them as neon blue. Crowley advocated that they be seen like natural fire, while Regardie said neon blue - use whichever you prefer). You should draw the pentagrams so that they are about 3 feet (almost a meter) high in front of you and of perfect geometric proportions. The top of the uppermost point should be level with the top of your head or thereabouts.
When drawing the pentagrams, make sure that all of your focus is on drawing them! DON'T let your mind wander while doing so or your pentagrams will not carry with them any force or staying power. I always imagine that all my force of will is poured into any pentagram that I draw during ritual. I draw each one slowly and with determination, while imagining that nothing can get through them (if they're made for banishing or as wards) and/or that they are acting as keys (because of the direction of drawing etc.) to tap into their corresponding planes either for invoking or banishing (depending on which one I'm drawing).
Visualize the 4 towering Angelic figures around you (wearing colors attributed to their element) in their appropriate quarters. Those 4 figures act as protectors/guardians. By visualizing them, first they will be like thoughtforms/constructs but through repeated and successful invocation, those visualizations will act as astral vessels for those higher archangelic forces to indwell. (Higher-level beings are generally formless and abstract - they don't have arms legs etc. You have to create lower-level astral vessels for them to animate in order to work with you in most cases.)
Reminder of Elemental color attributions (for Northern Hemisphere only): Air-yellow-East, Fire-Red-South, Water-Blue-West, Earth-Green-North. The Angelic figures may appear in these appropriate colors/quarters, depending on your personal training. For Southern Hemisphere, it is common to switch the attributes of the North and South, so that South corresponds to Earth, and North to Fire.
When casting this or any other 'circle', always remember to move with the Sun during any rituals of invocation. In the Northern Hemisphere, you should start East and move in a clockwise manner (East, South, West, North etc.). In the Southern Hemisphere, you should move in a counterclockwise manner (East, North, West, South etc.).
It is sometimes helpful in charging the pentagrams with energy if you step into the Sign of the Enterer (take one step forward with left foot and extend the arms and pointed hands out in front of you - the symbolic idea is of a person groping for light in the dark) when vibrating the names, and then assume the Sign of Silence (stand with feet together and the left index finger pointed at the mouth) afterward to seal off the current of energy from you. -See Golden Dawn and related systems.
With the performance of the Qabalistic Cross, you're drawing a huge cross of Light through your body and simultaneously activating specific visualized energy centers.
I often visualize the figures of the archangels while also trying to feel the abstract sense of the elements of that quarter with or behind them. Some people like to see the figures holding weapons and being protective of the magickian. That isn't a bad thing to do.
After performing the ritual, you should remain standing for a few minutes and bask in the invoked energies. It's a good idea to practice this ritual twice a day for 6 months at least. The benefits of doing so cannot be over-exaggerated. Repeated long-term practice will enhance the effectiveness of the visualizations and produce the most profound balancing and enlivening effects on one's energy system.
The Orbs of light are Sephiroth (see Tree of Life/Qabalah) and in many cases are said to correspond to Chakras, though visualization of them can be considerably different. The Sephiroth along the Middle-Pillar are the only ones that appear to correspond directly to the commonly known Chakras along the pranic tube. Personally I don't believe that there is much of a correspondance between sephiroth and chakras, since chakras refer to actual energy structures within the aura, while sephiroth traditionally are metaphorical energy centers/areas that are visualized on the body for sake of memory and meditational practice.
Amen - Possibly means something like "So Be it" or "So mote it be" (based on a few medieval translations of Christian prayer I've seen). I've seen the word Amen alternately translated as "hidden", "that which is hidden", "he who is hidden", or "the hidden one." I see this as a reference to the Point Source, and/or the unknowable aspect of unmanifest divinity. Could derive from the Egyptian god Amoun or Amen in that case. Since I'm not Christian, I prefer to use the word in this latter capacity.
YHVH = the Tetragrammaton (Greek for "four-lettered name"). In ages past this name, often transcribed incorrectly as Jehovah, was considered too Holy to speak out loud. It was thought that whoever could speak this name correctly could perhaps destroy the universe. This is a name often used as the highest title of/for divinity in semi-Jewish forms of mysticism and can be used to represent the entire universe and all things in it. To some, the name is symbolic of the 4 principles in nature and expresses the male and female aspects of the universe (this shows a Qabalistic concept of a 4-fold universe etc. - see info on the Four Qabalistic Worlds). According to a past conversation with one native Hebrew speaker, YHVH might be a combination of 3 words (AHIH - "will be"; Hoveh - "I am"; Hayha - "I was") synthesized together to imply the concept of Eternal Existence.
Brief excerpt from Joseph Gikatalia's (1248-1323) "Shaarey Orah" (Gates of Light), found in Aryeh Kaplan's "Meditation and Kabbalah":
"The Unique Name, YHVH, denotes the essence of our Blessed Creator, and everything depends on it."
(I take the term 'everything' to mean all of manifestation.)
Some Hermetic attributions of YHVH: Yod (pronounced "yohd" or almost "yode") = Fire = King/Father. Heh = Water = Queen/Mother. Vav = Air = Prince/Son. Heh (sometimes called Heh-Final, as though it were one of the 'final' letters of the Hebrew alphabet) = Earth = Princess/Daughter. The idea of the cycle of creation expressed is roughly that Fire unites with Water to create Air (i.e. steam) and Earth. Air is the spiritual result of the union and goes upward into spiritual manifestation while Earth is the more material aspect of the union (supposedly) and goes downward into more material manifestation. Fire and Air are masculine while Water and Earth are feminine.
ADNI = Adonai (Ah-DOH-nigh) = "My Lord." Often used in reference to one's higher self or spiritual divine essence, or the core of one's being.
In some forms of traditional Jewish Kabbalah, this name is sometimes seen as a vessel or 'storehouse' of YHVH (or the supreme spiritual essence of all things), and is the name used to access all other forces. It corresponds to the lowest sephira Malkuth, and no other name or force may be accessed except through this name. This could be indicative of having the human ego call upon the higher-self/HGA aspects (or higher spiritual component of one's self) first in order to access anything beyond one's self.
AHIH = Eheieh (Eh-HEH-yeh) = "I will be." Often used in reference to Kether (see Qabalah), or the crown chakra.
AGLA = (Ah-Geh-LAh) = Ateh Gibor Le-olahm Adonai = "Unto thee be the power to the ages my Lord." I've seen an alternate translation as "Thou art great forever my Lord."
Don't get hung up on the steps of a ritual. The temptation for the beginner is to see a ritual as just a series of steps without realizing how they interconnect or what they're trying to accomplish. (Remember, it isn't the ritual itself that makes a working effective, it's your intent while DOING the ritual and your ability to work with energy and consciousness that make it effective or not.) It takes some practice and knowledge of theory to do it, but you should endeavor to see through to the essence of a ritual, and look at it for the ways in which it uses the rudiments of energy working. Look for the patterns ;)
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 - supreme manifested unity below Ain Soph - in some ways, 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 - if you just build a psychic/astral 'circle' then that isn't covering all the possible means of entry into your aura now, is it?) and banishing of unnecessary elemental energies (in the form of 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 the circle. In this method of calling forth angelic beings, you are simultaneously creating thought-forms (see my article on creation of spiritual servitors/constructs/thought-forms) 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 by banishing elemental energies from within and around you primarily. It's 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).
Repeated practice is necessary in order to make this (and other similar ceremonial workings) effective. You have to build the meaning/intent/ability into yourself over time. Repeated practice reinforces this - you can think of it as psychic weight-lifting. You can't just do it for a couple weeks and expect to achieve or maintain results.
Supposedly it was thought by some G:.D:. adepts (whoever was responsible for the format of the LRP) that most negative or 'evil' influences existed only on realms on the level of Earth/Malkuth and below. Hypothetically, banishing Elemental Earth (according to the student's knowledge and use of Qabalah) would cover any sort of negative entity or undesireable force. If nothing else, it would banish the condensing/coalescing force that negative forces would need for possessing a form in which to manifest. Basically, the LRP performed with only Banishing Earth Pentagrams functions as an anti-manifestation banishing ritual. It would also be suitable for beginners in this format since most lodges start with the element of Earth in their teachings and (elemental) grade initiations.
Excerpts from 'The Middle Pillar' by Israel Regardie on the proper performance of the Qabalistic Cross (in quotation marks)
"Let therefore the student consider his higher and divine genius, the core of his unconscious, as of the nature of wisdom and love and light, visualizing its sphere of activity as having an affinity with the region immediately above the head. After some seconds of this quiet recollection, let him raise his hand above his head, then lower it to the forehead and vibrate the first word "Ateh" as though formally to affirm the presence of that genius. The hand employed should then be brought in a straight line down to the region about the diaphragm. Vibrate the word "Malkuth." As this is done, let the mind dwell on the fact that as the hand descends, so does a stream of light descend from above, a steady brilliant ray of light permeating him through and through. A shaft of light is thereby formed which extends from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. Strictly speaking, Malkuth, the last Sephirah, is referred to the feet. For convenience's sake, however, we touch the breast or solar plexus with the mental recognition that it is the region of the feet that actually we have reference to and to which the shaft of light is directed. This forms the first half of the exercise. Some seconds pause should take place here, in order to visualize and feel as strongly as is possible the presence of a brilliant ray of light."
Summary: Visualize a great white orb of brilliant light above your head. That light represents the core of your being or 'higher-self' for this exercise. Then, as you say the word "Ateh" and then "Malkuth" you bring that light down into yourself in a straight line penetrating straight to your feet. This forms the 'middle pillar' and is comparable to the 'pranic tube' for those of your who've studied the common chakra systems.
"Then, shifting the attention from the central pillar of light to the [right] shoulder, let the student consider that here is a reservoir of enormous power, and vibrate the word "ve-Geburah." A ray of light should be commenced here in the imagination, and visualized to penetrate the breast until it reaches the [left] shoulder, when the remaining word "ve-Gedulah" is vibrated. Thus is formed the horizontal shaft or cross-bar of this cross of light."
It will be noted that I've altered the publicized version of the above text to reflect the drawing of the cross of light from the right to the left shoulders, rather than left to right. This is in line with traditional Hermetic (Golden Dawn) thought and is the way I first learned.
"The first gesture traced a light-beam from head to foot, while the second one traced the ray from shoulder to shoulder. Interlocking the fingers on the breast, and vibrating the final word "le-Olahm Amen," the student should endeavor to see a cross of light actually standing within him. None but very few may hope at once to succeed in feeling this, in obtaining the pulsing sensation of a cross of light vibrating within. It will require persistent and regular exercise before this sensation makes itself apparent. It is a significant development, marking a definite stage in growth. Some little preliminary practice in the art of visualization may be necessary, as well as in acquiring the ability of giving utterance to the names so that the sound appears to vibrate in a given spot. When this is acquired a name can be vibrated in the head, the palms of the hand, in the thighs or feet, or elsewhere at will. As skill is obtained, and the sense of the cross of light becomes more marked and definite, the opening practice can be extended. That is to say, prior to visualizing the center of light above the head, the student should endeavor to expand the sphere of his consciousness. By this, it is meant that he should try to imagine with the eyes closed that the body grows and grows until the physical form heightens to such an extent that the head gradually touches the ceiling, goes through the roof, and finally that the semblance of a vast figure with the head in the clouds of space is obtained, the feet resting securely on Earth. In fact, from this exalted point of view, the Earth seems but a small globe beneath the feet. Having obtained this sense of expansion, and it may be accompanied by a heightened sense of consciousness or of ecstasy, then let him visualize during the first vibration that the ray of light descends from the heavens upon his head, penetrating him and eventually illumining the region of his feet which are set firmly upon the Earth. The sense of expansion is a definite one, rendering the performance of the gestures of the Qabalistic Cross a much more vital and significant experience."