Why Does the LBRP Use Only the Banishing Earth Pentagram
by Faerie K.
The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or LBRP for short can be said to be the basic banishing ritual in all of Ceremonial Magick and other methods of working magick influenced by CM. Not only that, it can be said to be the basic ritual there is. In this occasion, "basic" refers to "what forms the base, the foundation". This ritual is performed regularly by a large number of magick workers of a wide variety of flavours world wide and irregularly by an even larger number of them.
As it is such a basic and widely used ritual, there has been by time created a "LBRP-egregore". You could say that when you are performing the LBRP, you are not only doing it for the effects of the ritual, but also tapping into the current created by all the previous workings of LBRP and those being worked now.
The ritual is basic, but not simple - it is much more than "just a (temple) purifying rite you do before the actual workings".
LBRP is, as the name implies (the) lesser (banishing) pentagram ritual. There is also the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram, which uses banishing/invoking and active/passive forms of the pentagrams of all the elements. However, in this lesser ritual, the Pentagram of the Earth only is used.
Now, why do you use only the Pentagram of Earth? To understand this, one needs to look a bit deeper into the ritual.
Visualisation instructions for the first part of LBRP, the Kabalistic Cross, tell the Magician to imagine hirself growing ever taller to the point where the entire universe seems tiny. However, the feet remain firmly on the ground. This is a clue: earth is where you operate, the sphere the ritual is acting upon. Besides, you are using the pentagram as the symbol drawn and the pentagram represents the material, earthly world.
So, this is an earth(l)y ritual. Maybe this is why there's only the Earth Pentagram used. Well, it's not that simple. Thinking about this a bit further, questions arise. If merely operating on the earth, feet firmly on the ground, makes the ritual need only one kind of Pentagram, shouldn't there be pentagram rituals for the other three elements - and spirit - and using the other pentagrams not only available, but regularly used? Furthermore (and this is said with a wink), if standing with feet firmly on the ground is the reason to use only the Earth Pentagram - who exactly would one do rituals for the other elements? Should one be standing on, say, fire? Even done as just a visualisation, things might get a tad difficult.
It seems to be the time to find the next clue. The first clue pointed towards earth. No, actually the first clue was found even before that - it's in the name of the ritual: "lesser".
The second, err... third clue can be found from the spoken texts of the ritual. With the exception of part three, the Evocation of the Archangels, it's Hebrew. This suggests taking a look at Kabbalah. Granted, merely the fact that this is a ritual of Ceremonial / High / Ritual Magick, should make one think about looking there... You pretty much can't avoid having to learn at least the basic ideas of Kabbalah sooner or later, if you are interested in CM.
The fourth and quite important clue has been present all along: the symbology of the Pentagram. Especially the Pentagram as the symbol of the microcosm, not only as the symbol that contains five elements and connects them all when it's drawn. Taking those four clues (rearranged a bit): Kabbalah leads to taking a look at the Tree of Life. "Lesser" points the look downwards on the Tree. Earth focuses the search to the representation of the material world. Finally, the Pentagram tells it straight (if the former ones didn't already) with the information of the symbol representing the microcosm - the earthly Kingdom of Malkuth. Now there's a familiar term, it's said in the ritual even! For a reason, too.
The following is simplification, so bear with me. Studying each element, gesture, name, word and symbol further is more than adviced!
On the Tree of Life, LBRP acts on the low(est) point, the 10th Sephira called Malkuth. The name means "Kingdom" and it is the sphere of Earth and material existence. Both the element and planet attributed to Malkuth is Earth. Logically, it's direction is north.
Malkuth is traditionally pictured as being divided into four quarters, the four elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water. It is also the plain of elementals and (unlike with any other Sephira) the spirits of the four elements are divided into four categories, including archangels familiar from the rite being discussed.
However, even with the other elements present, one could semi-jokingly say that there is enough attributes to earth/earthy/material to last for all four directions.
Little more seriously speaking, Malkuth is the sphere where what "exists only as ideas" become real, material, have substance. It's immersed with matter. It is "earth/material heavy" and it makes sense that the mage makes sure hir "can handle it" - that's where the mage lives. This Sephirah is also the only one that is attributed to earth. The other 9 Sephiroth are attributed to the three other, "older" elements; the roots of these elements to the Supernal Triad and two sets of three in the two lower ones. So, one could think of the Fire, Air and Water in Malkuth as being "Fire of Earth" (etc), which would make using just the Earth Pentagram even more logical.
Furthermore, even when one uses only the Earth Pentagram, the other elements "get into the rite anyway" with the symbology used and the symbolic stress on the material becomes clearer. Enough with the over-use of quotation marks!
In this ritual, you are - among other things - bringing down power from the upper planes (note the visualisation of light, touching head first and then pointing down touching the genital area) to the plane of (your) operation, physical plane (where it also gets grounded). You are also creating an area of protection around yourself - around you flame the four pentagrams, above and under you are hexagrams.
Checking what different occult fraternities and writers say about the LBRP's relation with it gives more insight. They also give a bit of mixed messages.
For example, Aleister Crowley places the ritualist standing on the "intersection of the paths of Samekh and Pé. You are facing Tiphareth (the Sun), thus on your right hand is Netzach Venus), on your left hand Hod (Mercury), and behind you Yesod (the Moon)." Thinking about the archangels of the Sephiroth mentioned this would fit, especially when one checks closer the Archangel Haniel that's usually placed in Netzach instead of Uriel (Auriel) that gets called in the ritual. According to a Kabbalah FAQ, "Around the 12th to 15th centuries C.E. the name of Haniel came to replace the name Uriel" . Furthermore, the attribution of the Archangels isn't set in stone or otherwise remain the same throught the ages or interpretations.
According to Golden Dawn, you have your back to the Tree (the microcosmic Tree - you *become* the Tree), with Geburah to your left and Gedulah (Chesed) to your right. You are "standing" on Malkuth, though.
If you go by Crowley's placement, the earth-heavyness can still be explained: you're working on the Assiah, the lowest of the four Kabbalistic worlds - the material world.
In addition to this, there are many LBRP variants out there, written mainly by and for the use for people who find it uncomfortable to use the kabalistic - interpreted by many as blatantly Christian - names and symbology of the original. In my personal opinion, if the names called in LBRP do not feel at all fitting, one might want to try the Star Ruby before going for any of the LBRP variants. Why? Consider the egregores.
Or, to quote Aleister Crowley: "Those who regard this ritual as a mere device to invoke or banish spirits, are unworthy to possess it. Properly understood, it is the Medicine of Metals and the Stone of the Wise." (from notes of "The Palace of the World")
In some traditions, those who advance to higher levels of initiations/levels are given a version using four Pentagrams: those of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Furthermore, in some traditions this ritual is done with only the Earth Pentagram, because at an early stage, the novice has not been taught the other ones... However, LBRP in the "only Earth Pentagram" form is not for the use of nor used by beginners only!
Here, I'm going on the silly side. You *can* use any of the five pentagrams in a pentagram ritual. In this occasion, the original question referred to the "standard LBRP", so I'm working from that on. Sometimes getting silly, as it seems.
Kabalah, Kabbalah, Qabalah, or which ever way you happen to spell it...
Aleister Crowley: Magick ("Blue Brick" -edition), p. 691
(Sources, in addition to the mentioned, were several, heh.)