MIDDLE PILLAR EXERCISE: Balancing Lightwork
In the realm of sacred space, its most striking manifestation is religious man's will to take his stand at the very heart of the real, at the center of the World, that is, exactly where the cosmos came into existence and began to spread out toward the four horizons, and where, there is possibility of communication with the gods, where he is closest to the gods. Every religious man places himself at the Center of the World and by the same token at the very source of absolute reality, as close as possible to the opening that ensures him communication with the gods. --Mircea Eliade/The Sacred and the Profane
The Banishing Ritual and Middle Pillar Exercise are particularly effective because they are a ritual enactment of the basic Creation Myth. In his book, The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade states,
The creation of the world becomes the archetype of every human gesture, whatever its plane of reference may be. Every construction or fabrication has the cosmogony as paradigmatic model.
Techniques of orientation, or aligning oneself to the directions, are designed for the construction of sacred space. The more closely a ritual reproduces the work of the creator gods, the more effective it is in producing the appropriate results.
The model for the creation of sacred space begins from a center and projects horizons in the four cardinal directions: East-West, North-South. This model has been followed throughout history when settling new territory or in the founding of cities. Any individual resides at the center of his/her own existence.
This quadrated circle sets up the conditions necessary for us to enter into the sacred time/space of the archetypes. We may contact the gods through the medium of the sacred pole or cosmic pillar. The Middle Pillar Exercise is a particularized form of this sacred connection.
Sacred time appears under the paradoxical aspect of circular time, reversible and recoverable, a sort of mythical eternal present that is periodically reintegrated by means of rites.
When we enter this psychic region, we experience the feeling of immortality, since our soul is in a time which is equivalent to the "beginning." The principle characteristics of sacred space include the following:
(a). A break in the homogeneity of space;
(b). This break is symbolized by an opening where passage from one cosmic region to another is facilitated (i.e. between heaven and earth, earth and the underworld);
(c). Communication with heaven is expressed by variants of the Cosmic Pillar, which stands erect at the Center of the World.
This Pillar is a useful symbol for the Ego-Self Axis, or the connection between the conscious and subconscious principles of existence. Forming the link between ego-consciousness and the Self, it represents both aspects of the soul working together in harmony. It is known in Magick as the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
The Banishing and Middle Pillar Exercises conform precisely to the creation myth. Since a myth is a paradigmatic model, one can easily understand how it can be a very effective exercise. It establishes your relationship to the cosmos and your conscious relationship to totality. Eliade has said:
What men do on their own initiative, without a mythical model, belongs to the sphere of the profane; hence, it is a vain and illusory activity, in the last analysis, unreal. The more religious a man is, the more paradigmatic models he possesses to guide his attitudes and actions.
With this in mind, we may examine how the Banishing Ritual produces an effective orientation and transformation in the psyche of the aspirant.
1). Construct a circle. In order to "ground" our imagery of the surrounding circle, it is necessary to have a physical model in the beginning of magickal practice. Hammer a spike into the dirt. Extend a string from it which is used for a radius, and inscribe a circle in the dirt. If you have no suitable place which is private enough, purchase two 4'x8' masonite panels and paint a portable model on your floor. Walk around in the circle to get a "feel" for your working area. By placing your body in the circle, you will get a feeling for your special spot, then later this circle is internalized. Visualization will allow you to set up your circle at will, once its lineaments are firmly in mind.
In alchemy, this sacred area was created through a process known as circumambulatio. It promotes focus or concentration on the center. An indirect approach to the center was provided through circumambulatio. In setting off the circumference of your magical circle, you enact this primary deed. It prepares the mind for the influx of archetypal energies. The circle is a receptive, feminine symbol. For a brief exercise, dance slowly into the center, proceeding with a spiral motion.
2). Return to the center of the circle. Imagine a stream of white light flowing into your body from above. This scintillating rod of light penetrating the body, is the masculine force of the spirit. It traverses the planes of existence from spirit to matter. It transforms and connects instinct to archetype. The light may be visualized as extending from a point above the head, widening into a cone shape which is widest at the feet.
3). Perform the Qabalistic Cross (facing East). This affirms the basic structure of The Tree of Life, interpenetrating the physical body, and ordering processes.
1. Touch the forehead, say ATOH (Thou art).
2. Bring the hand down toward the feet, saying MALKUTH.
3. Touching the left shoulder, say VE-GEDULAH.
4. Touching the right shoulder, VE-GEVURAH.
5. Crossing the hands over the breast, say LE-OLAHM.
This is repeated when closing the circle at the end of your rite.
4). Orientation Ritual. There are several extant variations on the theme of the Banishing rite. These include The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, and Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, used in the defunct Order of the Golden Dawn, and the active Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). (20) Another variation is the Setting of the Wards of Power in the Aurum Solis (A..S..). (21)
These rituals begin by quadrating the circle. One form (Golden Dawn) proceeds to the right, turning clockwise E. - S. - W. - N. The other, (Aurum Solis) moves to the left to clear the area, and then to the right to invoke the angels. Since it is traditional that a widdershins movement (leftward or counterclockwise) is a banishing movement, and clockwise motion invokes forces, this detail of the A..S.. ritual seems preferred.
The quadrated circle symbolizes the wholeness of four elements united in the center. This sets up a field with two polarities, synthesized in a central unifying principle. Four is the minimum number of divisions of a circle which represents wholeness.
The four (forms), as it were, a frame for the one, accentuated as the centre...By unfolding into four it acquires distinct characteristics and can therefore be known...So long as a thing is in the unconscious it has no recognizable qualities and is consequently merged with the universal unknown, with the unconscious All and Nothing...But as soon as the unconscious content enters the sphere of consciousness it has already split into the "four," that is to say it can become an object of experience only by virtue of the four basic functions of consciousness. It is perceived as something that exists (sensation); it is recognized as this and distinguished from that (thinking); it is evaluated as pleasant or unpleasant, etc. (feeling); and finally, intuition tells us where it came from and where it is going...The splitting into four has the same significance as the division into the horizon into four quarters, or the year into four seasons. That is, through the act of becoming conscious the four basic aspects of a whole judgement are rendered visible. (22)
In alchemy, the center was the quintessence, or spiritual aspect of matter, which is the basis of the elements. A mandala is a magical circle representing ultimate unity of inner and outer reality. The magical circle is a tool for experiencing the rationally unknowable. The four principles which the aspirant manifests include:
1. openness, or receptivity;
2. plurality of consciousness, or a condition of multiple possibilities;
3. engagement, where the individual confronts the continuum with "right action" or personal intervention;
4. integrability, which indicates a digestible amount of experience of cosmic consciousness.
A unique moment of perfection emerges from the latent continuum. The intervention of this ordering principle promotes realization in consciousness of the underlying unity in creation.
The stable, cohesive nature of the boundary of the circle is represented by its division into 4 parts. 'Four' is the number which represents the soul. 'One' represents God, or God-Realization. Giordano Bruno, 16th Century alchemist, defined magic as "that which unites the soul with God through love." So, this basic orientation ritual is a graphic representation of the unification of material and spiritual realms through mutual interpenetration. The aspirant is the nexus point of the operation where these principles are commingled. Spirit is manifested, and matter ennobled. The soul is protected from disintegrative influence and reconstituted positively, using right action and visualization.
This timeless world is conducive to synchronistic or parapsychological phenomena. This doesn't mean miraculous manifestations of desires or ego-control fantasies. This realm operates on determined patterns of probability. Its proper use is for meditation which leads the personality toward inner concentration and unification.
NO MAGIC SHOULD EVER BE PERFORMED OUTSIDE OF A CONSECRATED CIRCLE.
Anthropologists have noted that ritual and play cannot be separated in primitive civilizations. They interpenetrate and overlap one another. Rituals and games are alike in that both require complete sincerity and complete detachment from wishes and desires. To avoid the trap of "cheating", one has to be passionately involved, but sacrifice any personalistic desire. This reflects a basic religious attitude. Rituals and games need fixed rules and certain specific images to govern their proper unfolding, but they are not completely rigid. A certain amount of playful personal freedom is inherent in the unique artistic execution of a rite or game. Do not conduct your ritual mechanistically; an error in form is more excusable than a faulty approach or attitude. Try to cultivate and maintain a joyous, playful orientation.
Magick is called the Great Work, because what "works" is that which has the power to transform...not because it is conducted in a spirit of disciplined drudgery.
b. Psychic Equilibration and the Middle Pillar Exercise
To my mind, the exercise described as the Middle Pillar is the groundwork of all actual developmental work. It is a process which is the basis of Magic. That this has been but seldom realized is obviously at the root of the futile attempts to do Ceremonial and perform Ritual, of which the general public hears every now and again. Even students of Magic of many years standing have been guilty of negligence in this respect, and also in failing to recommend it to their successors.
--Israel Regardie/The Middle Pillar
The circuit of the Tree of Life represents All possible experiences of human existence. The spheres represent modes of being, while paths are transitional phases between them. The Middle Pillar Exercise circulates the consciousness of the aspirant around all these aspects. The practice of its visualization begins activating only the spheres of the Middle Pillar, in line with the vertical axis of the body. Later, when some proficiency has been acquired, the spheres of the side pillars are added. We then have the entire diagram of the Tree interpenetrating, and ordering all planes from physical to spiritual. This is a fairly profound image produced with a minimum of graphic elements.
Intonation, or vibration, of the God-names makes it easier to drop into the theta and alpha state which Middle Pillar encourages. They are not sung, but rather droned or chanted so that a tingling resonance can be felt to emanate from the corresponding physical center. Experiment with the pitch of your voice to produce a rich, sonorous tone. Put feeling in it, and add your own dramatic interpretation. You set up a feedback system with yourself, and the more often the sequence from intonation to brain wave pattern is reinforced, the easier it will become for you to create this state. Eventually, the aspirant could perform the exercise in the most distracting of situations without loss of concentration.
The goal of Middle Pillar Exercise is the eventual formation of the Philosopher's Stone, or Diamond Body. Many phases of transformation are necessary to work toward this task. One of the operations necessary for the production of the stone is the alchemical circulatio, or circulation of consciousness around the aspects of being. This circulation of the light (consciousness) unites diverse centers. This circulation of one's true, creative, formative energies produces a sense of joy and intoxication, as if one had been freshly bathed. It opens up the reality of an inner world, which serves to break the soul's dependence on the phenomenal world.
Circulation fixes the light. In fact, it builds a body of light, which makes the enlightenment a permanent condition. The light must be visualized as permeating the body, not only inside or outside. While the light means clarity, perception and enlightenment of understanding, as you circulate it around your body, there should be a perceptible physical sensation, as well. Once you begin your meditation, there should be no interruptions; end and beginning are one. To be effective at all, the confirmation in the light should last for a minimum of 15 minutes. Circulatio, or circulation of the light, combines the alchemical operations of sublimatio and coagulatio. Sublimation means generally to have an ennobling effect, and coagulation means to solidify.
During circulatio, one sublimates body and coagulates spirit. Circulation around the aspects of being leads to an equilibrium where one is contained within the opposites. Spirit penetrates soul, and soul envelops spirit. When spirit and soul unite, thoughts are immobilized. The soul "crystallizes" and spirit becomes an effective influence in the personality. This is real-I-zation of the Diamond Body, or Self. The phenomena which used to be experienced as (external or internal light) is now perceived as psychic revelation.
This balancing is a delicate process. It must be performed by the right person at the right time. Sublimatio consists of spirit and soul ascending and descending from lower to higher, and higher to lower, in the imaginal realm. Through it, the spirit hidden in matter becomes visible. Sublimatio is the alchemical form of resurrection.
Sublimatio, psychologically, is the process of raising concrete, personal experience to a higher level, a level of abstract or universal truth. Coagulatio, in contrast, is the concretization or personal realization of an archetypal image. (23)
Sublimatio is a vertical, solar activity. Coagulatio is feminine, or lunar in quality. Excess quantities of either of these potencies may have destructive effects. This is the value of a balancing ritual. The solar-libido, which is creative and life-promoting, may be experienced as scorching dryness or fiery anger. The lunar-libido also has negative forms, which are literal "bring downs." These modes of psychic energy have a wide range of powerful effects on human experience.
Through disciplined use of a balancing ritual, the solar-principle provides an increase in understanding and an expanded field of awareness. The Stone's lunar portion materializes elusive intuitions and spiritual potential. One submits willingly to the transpersonal totality of psyche. This marriage produces the Philosopher's Stone through circulation.
Sublimatio is the vertical, Middle path and corresponds with the element Air. In QBL, Shekinah is the Middle Pillar. She meditates the ascents and descents of the soul and spirit. Through her, the ten spheres of the Tree of Life slowly sublimate into Kether, the Crown (Primordial Air). The "ascents and descents" of the soul are characterized in ancient lore as Angels. An example of this imagery is the story of Jacob's Ladder.
The Supernal Triad (top 3 spheres of the Tree of Life) represents the three aspects of knowledge: the Crown, Wisdom (the Knower), and Understanding (that which is known). In Kether, the Crown, all opposites reside in total union. It reconciles oppositions which are distributed throughout the other spheres.
One may be redeemed through this self-knowledge. But there is great danger in direct revelation of the archetypal psyche. The danger lies in calling up the pure archetype, which ego-consciousness is never able to assimilate or integrate. Therefore, never invoke Spheres, but always use Pathworking. If one succumbs to the disintegrative effect, the personality is annihilated in the Abyss of the transcendent imagination. This is the psychological equivalent of drowning. The alternative is release from the personal ego attitude toward active participation within the archetypal dimension. Behavior does not become archetypal. It already is, if only you care to notice.
Dreams, Active Imagination, and the practice of Ceremonial Magick may be seen as forms of coagulatio. In the process of circulatio, there is a resurrection of the Soul of Body. Images are an expedient mode of access to the knowledge of the soul, as it circulates rhythmically throughout every cell of the body.
The body becomes subtle and spirit gains body. One is able to maintain daily functions in the ordinary world without losing intimate contact with the archetypal dimension. In fact, this connectedness to daily life is essential to balance soul-travel in the archetypal realms. Maintain ordinary pursuits except during the allotted meditation period.
This indirect penetration to the core-of-being produces fulfillment. One may use conscious, purposeful action to intentionally produce experience of unconscious non-action which is purposeless. This is a natural preparation for death, the experience of awareness without the constraints of time/space.
The dynamic activity associated with ego-conscious (the desire to know, to penetrate and illumine) culminates in a cessation of effort. The rational process of controlling imagination defers to another power. This experience of silence and tranquility is known as Shekinah, or Sophia, Divine Wisdom. This means there is an emptying of the personal attachments of the ego. Man then experiences a timeless incarnation of the universal aspect of being.
The alchemical process described through this circular thinking is imaginatio. This indicates an abstraction from concentration and active fantasy. Its negentropic effects are a product of the Self. "Free-energy" enters the field of time when it leaves the archetypal world. In sublimatio-coagulatio, something new is created, and negentropic potential becomes available. This is commonly described to have a cleansing, or healing effect.
Through sublimation, the spirit hidden in matter becomes visible. "Primitive thinking" or anima consciousness (a diffuse awareness of potentials), is more suited to maintaining opposites in harmony while this ordering process continues along mythical patterns. It might be thought of as an archetypal ordering process, a "Way." When disorder is not ordered by archetypal processes, it falls to the ego.
A middle path between "primitive thinking" and directed, goal-oriented (ego) thought points to the type of sublimation which Jung speaks of in Aion. The ego system has a linear form of segmented, irreversible time implanted as a result of the directed thinking and historical development of the self. A relationship between the ego and the self is possible through the transcendent function. This is not built up with directed thinking, but with circular thinking, the negentropic source: imagination.
Middle Pillar Exercise provides a fail-safe, balanced form of participation in the realm of imagination, which is central to psychology, alchemy, magick, and physics. If, for some reason, you dislike using Hebrew God-names, correspond the qualities of these spheres with god-names from another Pantheon. It is best, however, to pick a pantheon and stick with it, for consistency.
BALANCING RITUAL: The Middle Pillar Exercise (for alignment with the higher Self)
Visualize a brilliant ball of white light above your head. The ball is to be about 1 1/2 to 2 ft. in diameter, just above the head. As you visualize, chant "EH-HE-YEH" three times, quite slowly. If you do it correctly, you resonate within your own body, causing physiological and psychological changes.
Next, imagine a rod of light descending through your head to your throat. It changes colors there and becomes pale lavender. The ball of light is visualized as the same size, only the color changes. Chant "YE-HOH-VOH E-LOH-HEEM three times.
The ball then travels down to the center of the chest. The color changes to gold. Chant "YE-HOH-VOH E-LOAH-VA-DA-ATH", three times, slowly.
Once a concurrent visualization of the centers is obtained, and the sequence of chants finished, the ball travels back up through the body to the head. From the head a stream of energy goes down the left arm, left leg, the entire left side of the body, coming back to the head via the right side of the body. This energy then travels down the from of your body, coming back to the head via the right side of the body. This energy then travels down the front of your body, through the feet, and comes back up to the head via the spine. At that point, it becomes a fountain, spewing forth multicolored light, after spiraling up from the feet a third time.
When the energy is moving downward, you should exhale; when it is moving back towards the head, moving upward, you should inhale. When the ball is at your feet, in the beginning of the exercise, it may be expanded to include the entire sphere of the earth, as the god-form is literally The Lord of the Earth.
The visualized colors, and vibratory nature of the chanted god-names, turn on the endocrine system. The harmonization of right brain and left brain functions is symbolized in the harmonious blending of the circulation.
Frequent (once daily, minimum) practice of the middle pillar, doing the visualizations and doing the chants, will create an energy reservoir which balances the personality, promotes growth, initiates repair or healing, and builds a reserve for times of stress. It forms the basis of a firm foundation for further experiments in self-transformation.
Middle Pillar Exercise provides a fail-safe, balanced form of participation in the realm of imagination, or the psyche. A practice of this type, whether a psychological exercise or a magical rite is central to psychology, alchemy, magick, and physics. It forges a conscious link with our Source, and a road or means of communication for consciousness to travel along--it is a Way. Through it we come to know and understand our inner guiding principle and work toward realizing our Divinity. Tiphareth represents our inner guiding principle, but Kether is our sainthood, or Mastership. The Middle Pillar links up the various up the various aspects of our Being from Body-consciousness, to Ego-consciousness, to Self-Realization, mystical experience, and Perfection. The gulf between our animalistic nature and our incarnation of Divinity in the Master-soul is symbolically expressed by the vertical column of Middle Pillar.
THE MIDDLE PILLAR EXERCISE may be corresponded with Tiphareth, since it seeks to align us with the higher Self. The establishment of a conscious dialogue between the ego and the Self is the goal of both Jungian Psychology and High Magick. We can consciously work toward this goal. Its psychological aspect deals with establishing an "ego-Self axis" or line of communication. Likewise, in Magick the same vertical connection between the mundane and transcendent is sought. This seeking is active and a procedure has been established to realize the goal. The procedure is a visualization exercise wherein we build the Tree of Life within our physical, astral, causal, and divine Selves.
Middle Pillar Exercise concerns spheres known as #1 Kether; Daath; #6 Tiphareth; #9 Yesod; and #10 Malkuth.(see diagram, next page.) The ancient philosophers who developed this system created a symbolic means of depicting how to gain control over your emotions enough to remain poised in detachment from the dual pull of the opposites. This develops within you a new faculty for discrimination and spiritual discernment. The mind moves from the superficial to the depths wherein lie creativity and meaning. "The Secret of Wisdom can be discerned only from the place of balanced power, "--that is between the two outer pillars, along the Middle Pillar where all transformations of consciousness occur! This is freedom from emotional compulsion, and yields equanimity.
This central point between the two symbolic pillars of the opposites, the place of balanced power from which the working is correctly viewed, is the implication of DAATH, the shadowy Sphere. Doing Middle Pillar, you magically create the sphere DAATH as an imaginal gateway to mystical experience--another dimension of experience. It is a new factor of adaptation or equilibrium, not a given within the basic scheme. It is the result of actively seeking, then experiencing, the transpersonal Divine through grace. It is this new factor of adjustment which is known variously as the Golden Flower, Rosy Cross, Philosopher's Stone, Diamond Body, etc. and is linked with Tiphareth as the seat of conscious awareness of the higher Self.
To the central spheres and shadowy Daath are attributed five Divine Names of God. They are the Names of God on each of the five planes expressing the vibratory rates of various grades or degrees of consciousness. No religious or metaphysical theory attaches to the employment of these names--they come from the Judeo-Christian system. You can be any religion and employ them without conflict. They are keys which open doors to different parts of our being, the existence of which hitherto we have been kept in ignorance. The words should be committed to memory:
1. KETHER (brilliant ball of white Light above head): AHIH (pronounced Eh-hay-yeh)
DAATH (ball of lavender-blue light at the throat) YHVH ALHIM (pronounced Ye-hoh-voh E-Loh-heem)
6. TIPHARETH (ball of brilliant golden light at heart) YHVH ALOAH ve-DAAS (Ye-hoh-voh El-oah ve-Da-as)
9. YESOD (violet sphere at genitals) SHADDAI AL CHAI (Shah-dai El Chai)
10. MALKUTH (olive green or black sphere under the feet) ADNI HARTZ (Ah-doh-nai ha-Ah-retz)