A descriptive method of this type is one of the most obvious and characteristic features of a particular magical technique, because states of consciousness are usually described using a dense mesh of symbolism and metaphor, and if a magical tradition has been around for any length of time it becomes identified by the details of this symbolism. Given the tendency for maps to be confused with territory, there is a tendency for symbolism to take on a life of its own and become completely detached from authentic magical technique. People confuse magical symbolism with magic; its use as a coordinate system is lost, vast tomes of drivel are written, and every manner of absurdity follows.
I am a Kabbalist by training and use a map of consciousness called "The Tree of Life". This map has been coloured in using a thousand years of symbolism, and the result is called "the Correspondences", and it is a system which allows me to navigate around the dimensions of consciousness with some precision. There are many other maps, some well worn by history, some not, and my choice is a matter of personal preference. It works for me because of the kind of person I am, but it is only a map and I wouldn't pretend that there was anything intrinsically special about it.
Many magicians operate within a religious framework. The Christian Mass is a magical ritual par excellence, and there are several other magical rituals associated with Christianity. Some magicians work within a pantheon - Graeco-Roman, Egyptian, Scandinavian, Aztec or whatever. Some (e.g. Crowley) invent their own religion. A characteristic of all these systems is that they provide a complex mesh of symbol and metaphor, a map for the magician to work within. For any pantheon it is usually straightforward (with some bending, stretching and hitting with a hammer) to identify a personification for the following aspects of consciousness:
heaviness, old-age, stagnation, limitation, inertia
creativity, inspiration, vision, leadership
violence, force, destructiveness
harmony, integrity, balance, wholeness
love, hate, passion, sensual beauty, aesthetics, emotional power, nurture
reason, abstraction, communication, conceptualisation, logic
imagination, instinct, the unconscious
practicality, pragmatism, stolidity, materialism
And once we have gods and goddesses (or saints) to personify these qualities, a weave of metaphors and associations elaborates the picture; the Moon is instinct, fire is both destructive and energetic, death is a sythe, air and mercury are "the same", and so on. The meaning of a symbol is personal - white means "death" to some and "purity" to others. What matters is that the magician should have a clear map, and with it the ability to invoke different aspects of consciousness by using the symbolism of gods, goddesses, archangels, demons or whatever. It does not matter whether the magician believes in the literal reality of the territory or not, as long as he or she treats the map with respect and does not muddy the water by dabbling with too many different maps. There are two principal ways in which maps become muddled, and as the main theme of these notes is the precise use of limitation in conjuction with magical consciousness, I think it is worth mentioning what I see as potential pitfalls. The first pitfall is mixing systems; the second is working with other people.
There is a tendency nowadays to muddle different systems of correspondences together, to add Egyptian gods to a Kabbalistic ritual, to say that Tanith is really the same as Artemis, or that Cybele and Astarte and Demeter are "just" different names for the Mother Goddess, to find parallels between Thor and Mars, between Kali and Hecate, between the Virgin Mary and Isis, until, like different colours of paint mixed together, everything ends up in shades of muddy brown. This unifying force is everywhere as people find universal themes and try to make links between groups and systems.
It is (in my opinion) a bad idea to mix systems together in a spirit of ecumenical fervour. Correspondences are like intentions: the sharper and more clearly defined they are, the better they work. Despite a few similarities, the Virgin Mary is nothing like Isis, and Demeter has very little in common with Astarte. Syncretism usually takes place slowly over the centuries, so that for most people there is no distinction between the classical Greek and Roman pantheons and Mercury is a synonym for Hermes, but to do it in real-time in your own head is a recipe for muddle-headedness.
Symbols can be diffused when people work together in a group. It is a mistake to believe that "power" is raised in direct proportion to the number of people taking part in a ritual. Unless people have been trained together and have similar "maps", then the ritual will have a different effect on each person, and although more power may be raised, it will be unfocussed and will probably earth itself through unexpected channels. When people begin working together there will be a period of time when their work together will probably be less effective than any one of them working alone, but after a time their "maps" begin to converge and things start to improve dramatically. There is nothing magical about this - it is a phenomenon of teams of people in general. I don't like "spectator rituals" for this reason; you are either in it or your are out, and if you are out, you are out the door.
Does it matter what map, what system of correspendences a person uses? Is there a "best" set? This is an impossible question to answer. What can be said is that working within any magical framework incurs a cost. The more effective a magical system is at limiting, engaging and mobilising the creative power of consciousness, the more effective it is at ensnaring consciousness within its own assumptions and limitations. If a person works within a belief system where the ultimate nature of God is pure, unbounded love, joy and bliss, then that closes off other possibilities.
Without sitting in judgement of any set of beliefs, I would say that the best belief system and the best system of correspondences is one which allows consciousness to roam over the greatest range of possibilities, and permits it the free-will to choose its own limitations. And that is a belief in itself.
Suggested free e-books to read:Aleister Crowley - Ahab And Other Poems
Frater Ahyhhgyg - Manipulation Through Astral Correspondences
Louis Claude De Saint Martin - Theosophic Correspondence