A small treatise on its methods, aims, and results
By Frater Veos*as done in my previous articles, I shall first give the theory of the matter and then its practice* Introduction
From a historical perspective, pathworking as we know it today is a relatively new practice to magick. It at least can’t be more than 400 years old because the Jewish Kabbalah probably wasn’t adopted by the Hermetic schools until around the 1700s. This is an educated guess since the first real fusion of hermetic and kabbalistic teachings hadn’t been published until Eliphas Levi in the 1800s, and it is reasonable to assume he learned it from the Order of which he was a member. However in the works of Agrippa (1500s) we see that hermetic magick was largely distinct and separate from the Jewish Kabbalah and this even occurs as late as the writings of Francis Barrett (1700s) slightly before the time of Eliphas Levi. So then it is reasonable to assume that the synthesis of the Kabbalah and Hermetics occurred in the late 18th century at the latest and the 17th century as probably the absolute earliest. It is largely due to Crowley that the two have become inseperable.
Despite this, there is no written evidence that the practice of pathworking (at least as we know it today) was practiced before the Golden Dawn. Even in the Golden Dawn it was practiced in a slightly different form as just skrying instead of an actual method of self initiation. In fact it is more due to the later members of the G.D such as Regardie and Dion Fortune that we have “Pathworking” as an actual compliment to self initiation, since both of them were the first real advocates of self initiation. Of course we have Bardon as well, but he never mentioned pathworking and so he has no place in this article. There is some evidence that Crowley employed a similar exercise within the A.:.A.:., but it seems to have only been used as a method of testing skrying and astral projection skills.
It is likely that the concept of pathworking originated in the method of group initiation employed by the Golden Dawn and published both by Regardie in his “The Golden Dawn” and Crowley in “The Equinox”. In these initiations, the candidate would stand within a temple that was designed to symbolically represent the sephiroth he had already attained. From here he would be lead symbolically through initiation along the path that lead to the next Sephiroth, at which point he would be lead into the waiting chamber by the Sentinel while the Temple was quickly re-arranged to symbolically represent that Sephiroth to which he aspired. Once done, the candidate was lead back in and properly initiated into this new Sephiroth. As an example, let’s say a Zelator (represented by Malkuth) was to be initiated into Yesod and thus become a Theoricus according the Golden Dawn’s Rosicrucian grade scheme. At first the temple would represent his current attainment of Malkuth. In the east of the temple would be a large banner with the letter “Tav” on it to represent this path’s place on the Tree east of Malkuth. In the North East would be a banner with the letter “Shin” to represent this path, and to the South East was then of course the banner of “Resh”. After an opening ceremony and symbolic trial the candidate would then have to be initiated into the path of Tav which leads from his current attainment to his future attainment in Yesod. Thus the temple would be configured according to the symbolism of Tav and he would be initiated therein. Finally he ended in Yesod and reached his grade of Theoricus.
From this practice we can see how it could have evolved into today’s pathworking. First we had the actual physical initiation of the Golden Dawn into these energy currents. Then when Regardie published these rituals he told his readers not to despair simply because they had no group to perform the ritual. Instead he introduced a concept of self initiation by mentally working through the initiations and imagining every member of the group in their proper place. From this it is not too far of a leap to assume that this practice of self initiation with the paths eventually evolved into Pathworking. Dion Fortune also saw the possible development of this exercise and adopted it for her Society of Inner Light which eventually evolved (due to a schism) into the world-wide magickal order SOL. SOL, along with most other current magickal orders, uses pathworking as a regular and important exercise for spiritual development.
To clear up what may appear to be a self-contradiction, the “pathworking” I was referring to that may possibly be 2-3 hundred years old is the actual physical initiation into the paths as done by the Golden Dawn. I can think of no evidence that reasonably shows that pathworking as practiced today existed before the early-mid 1900s. This later form of pathworking is of course what I will be covering for the rest of this article. The goals and results of pathworking
Pathworking can be used in three main ways:
1) Practice with Skrying and astral projection
2) To attune the magician to a certain sephirah before a magickal operation
3) Self Initiation or a compliment thereof.
The first use of pathworking given above is self explanatory, so we shall proceed to the latter two. Each path on the Tree of Life represents a certain force according to the Hebrew Alphabet. These forces when applied to the Tree don’t represent the forces in their usual form, but can be looked at as two-fold; Macrocosmic and Microcosmic. Macrocosmically the paths represent the manner of energy generated in the creation of the Sephiroth, and Microcosmically (with which we are concerned) the paths show the force and energy necessary to advance spiritually through Initiation from Sephirah to Sephirah. As such they have a certain connection to the Sephiroth which they connect, and it is this connection which concerns the second use of pathworking as given above.
Some magicians see it as profitable to employ this special connection of the path to the Sephiroth as a method of preparation for magickal workings. Thus if someone wished to perform an invocation of Yesod, then they would begin by pathworking on the path of Tav from Malkuth until they reached the sphere of Yesod. While it is questionable whether or not the energy of the path actually helped attune the magician to Yesod, the psychological result is obvious. Our magician started in Malkuth and felt “lower” than Yesod. By mentally working along the path of Tav he started feeling “closer and closer” to Yesod until finally he reached and broke through into it. At this point he would have opened his eyes from the meditation and felt like he was in tune with Yesod (at least mentally), and now the invocation could take place to attune him to it astrally as well. It is obvious that feeling connected to the force on a mental level will make it easier to become connected on the astral level, and so the benefit in using pathworking for such means is also apparent. The Ordo Aurum Solis is an advocate of this use for pathworking and discusses it to some detail in Denning & Phillips’ “The Sword and the Serpent”, which is an excellent read for those who already know elementary magickal theory and would like something more complex.
The third use given above is that of self initiation. While I disagree that simple pathworking will confer initiation as some suppose, I will consent to the idea that it can perhaps compliment initiation.
Self-Initiation can be defined as “the manner in which a student of the mysteries tries to acquire levels of initiation as an individual and not as a group”. I strongly agree that self initiation-with the above definition-can be done by someone who is adamant in their training and perseverance. However today the definition has more become “the manner in which the student mentally works along the paths and performs the Golden Dawn initiations upon reaching each Sephiroth”. This I can’t agree with completely, though I have seen cases where some results (nothing near initiation) are still attained. This gives an impression that one can simply learn how to mentally Scry and then start methodically climbing the paths. This can’t be the case because Initiation by its own nature has to be at least 3-fold; astral, mental, and divine. That is, it has to act upon the astral body, mental body and soul of the candidate. A full initiation will also act upon the physical body as well since no astral or mental initiation is as involving and effective as an actual physical ceremony for the occasion. Any authority on the subject will agree that nothing can replace an actual physical initiation due to the fact that it fully involves the entire being.
But I digress, so back to matter at hand. If pathworking is to have anything to do with self-initiation, then it should be done as a compliment to and not a replacement of it. The only exception (there is always at least one) that I can think of that could actually generate a level of initiation is if the student managed to master the path so perfectly with skrying that he could astral project therein and master it astrally as well. Once this is done, if the student found the beings who preside over that path, sought initiation and received it from their hands, then I could perhaps admit that initiation is possible with pathworking alone into the paths. Still this would be a rare exception and is a failsafe in itself seeing as how the presiding spirits wouldn’t initiate someone who wasn’t ready for the initiation. Even with this it is questionable as to whether or not the student would have been actually initiated into the path itself or just the force-current, as the two are slightly different. I do agree that pathworking can be utilized as a compliment to initiation though, and I will provide a method of this in the following practical section of this article.Practice
Let it be said that anyone who wishes to have success in Pathworking should have at least mastered the ability to mentally Skry. For some techniques on Skrying and its development I refer the reader to my article “The Art of Skrying” in the Magick Articles section of Veritas. I also recommend memorizing Aleister Crowley’s “Liber 777”for understanding the symbolism of the paths. This is necessary for being able to check the accuracy of your pathworking. The method which I shall provide is a basic formula for all pathworking but specifically for mental pathworking which is the most common form employed today. PathworkingFormula One:
1. Let the student take up his or her customary Asana.
2. Spend at least five minutes performing simple deep breathing techniques to help calm the body and the mind.
3. Close the eyes (if they aren’t already) and mentally maintain a steady first person view as you rise out of your physical body. Continue to Rise vertically while concentrating on the Sephirah you wish to enter.
4. Firmly visualize that this Sephirah is above you and ascend closer and closer until you meet a resistance (usually gel-like) around the entrance to the sphere. Force your way through until you rise up into the Sephirah.
5. Visualize that you are within a very large and complex temple. The temple should perfectly represent the Sephirah on a symbolic level.
6. Orient yourself as to Cardinal directions in the temple. Establish which way is East, South, etc. and approach the direction in which the path starts.
7. Approach the extremity of the Temple in the direction of the path you seek until you find where the Temple ends and the path begins. Step out of the Temple and into the Path.
8. Progress slowly and methodically through the path, making sure to completely immerse yourself in it.
9. When you have traversed the entire path then firmly visualize another very large temple ahead of you which represents the Sephirah at the other end of the path.
10. Enter this Temple and establish yourself therein.
11a. Descend out of this Sephirah and back into the Body.
11b. Instead of 11a, simply open your physical eyes once you are in the Temple.Comments upon Formula OneStep 1:
By “Asana” I mean any posture which the student has taken to use regularly in his or her practices. It does not have to be a traditional Yoga Asana, but the student should have mastered their asana according to the instructions in Bardon’s “Initiation into Hermetics” or according to the traditional Yoga teachings on the subject.Step 2
: This can be skipped, but I highly recommend it to help calm the mind so that it produces minimal disturbances during the practice. Step 3
: By now it should be obvious that steps 1-4 are those given in my “The Art of Skrying” and are simply basic openings to a mental skrying session. By maintaining a first-person view, I mean that the student should isolate his consciousness/mental body from his physical body while rising. It is very easy to slip into a third person view during this step, which doesn’t produce the full effect of the exercise. Simply start by looking into the darkness of your eyelids but affirm yourself that these eyelids are physical and you are unattached to them. At this point move your point of view forward a little bit and you should be just in front of your eyelids and thus able to see your room. From here simply rise up mentally as with mental skrying but with one difference; concentrate on the Sephirah. This Sephirah of course has to be that which is at the beginning of the path. Pathworking always works from lower to higher, and so you have to begin with the “lower” sephirah and end in the “higher” Sephirah. To elaborate with an example, if the student wished to do pathworking with the path of Resh than he would first have to mentally ascend into the Sephirah of Yesod which starts the path of Resh. After working along the path the student would then finish in the Sephirah of Hod. Step 4
: This step is more psychological than anything else. It allows the student to feel like he or she is in a distinctly different place than the normal world. When you break through into the Sephirah, it should be as though you ascended through a sort of membrane which surrounded the sphere and then climbed up until being able to pull yourself out of this substance. Upon doing this you realize that you are standing on solid ground within an immense temple. The imagery here is somewhat similar to a man crawling vertically out of the ground. First a spectator would see a hand emerge from the dirt, and then perhaps another hand which would help to pull the body out until finally the legs were out and the person was on solid ground. Step 5
: The Temple has to be enormous to create a feeling of being totally contained within the Sephirah which the temple represents. The Temple must appear completely clear to the student and must be harmonious with the symbolism of the Sephirah itself. Thus if we continue to use the example of pathworking in Resh, then when the student first ascended into Yesod he would find himself in a very Large temple. This Temple would be quite dark with the exception of a violet light illuminating the temple just enough to reveal the Indigo coloring of the walls and floor. The Floor would perhaps contain scenes of a beautiful women upon a chariot of two horses riding across the moonlight sky gazing longingly at a young Greek man upon the earth, or it could simply have various geometrical figures inscribed upon it. Every design would be inlayed with silver and student would perhaps see a large altar in the middle of this huge temple upon the top of 9 stairs. Upon the altar is a crescent moon shining brilliantly forth as the center of the luminous Violet light.
Now having first entered into the Sephirah that begins the path, it is best if the student be content here and spends the rest of the practice becoming acquainted with this temple. The student can move on to step 6 if he or she is capable of completely forgetting the physical body and seeing clearly all the details of their surroundings, and if the Temple as seen perfectly matches the symbolism of the Sephirah. There should not be one thing out of harmony. Step 6
: This will naturally result if the ability to reach step 5 has been mastered as above suggested. The reason why the cardinal directions must be established is because you must remember you are actually on the Tree of Life. Thus from the perspective of Yesod, the path of Resh is to the North East, Samekh in the East, and Tzaddi is in the South East. This helps the consciousness affirm which Path it is entering upon.Step 7
: From within the Temple, the student then heads towards the direction that the Path is in. Thus for the path of Resh the student heads to the extreme North East of the Temple. By the “extreme” of a direction I mean that the student should go on until reaching the end of the Temple (best symbolized by a Doorway) in that direction and the beginning of the path. Thus in our example the student would progress towards the North East of the temple where there is a doorway bearing upon it the Hebrew Letter of Resh. Having found this door spend however much time is needed until you can clearly see through this doorway and onto the beginning of path, much like looking out a house door into the yard. When you step out of the Temple the student should strongly affirm that the Temple is behind them and they are now on the path itself.Step 8
: In the case of using Pathworking for ritual preparation, then the path should not be too long and should be traversed completely within one session. In the case of self-initiation, the path should be understood by the student as being several hundred miles long and containing its own mysteries and secrets therein. As such, the student in this situation would only be able to traverse a little more of the path with each session. Either way the path has to be seen clearly and there should be no awareness of you physical body. At the end of every session the student should carefully record in their journal what they saw and experienced, testing the validity of their experience with the correspondences as given in Liber 777. The student will of course witness things about the path that may seem totally out of place but that careful investigation can reveal to be in harmony. It is not unusual to encounter several entities during a short preparation work, and in the case of the long self-initiation pathworking sometimes dozens or even hundreds of entities will be seen and conversed with on the student’s journey. Step 9
: The Temple should be seen as a gigantic structure (similar to a palace in appearance) upon the horizon. It thus gets larger and larger the closer you approach it, and by the time you reach the entrance it should be towering over the student. Step 10
: This is the same procedure as in Step Five. Step 11a
: This is for those simply scrying into the path or working along it for self-initiation. Once the Sephirah has been firmly reached then the student should descend back into the body. Even with self-initiation, the student has only mastered the Path itself and can not master the Sephirah in this same manner. Step 11b
: This is for those who use this method to prepare for magickal working. They need to retain the mental connection with the Sephirah itself. *Note that the above given Formula is the general formula for all forms of pathworking, but applies specifically to mental pathworking.*Concerning Astral Pathworking
This technique is basically the same as given in Formula one with one obvious exception; you have to Astral Project at step 3 instead of simply mentally ascending, and then at the end you must return to the body. This requires a whole other field of experience and training. Working in the Astral with the paths is really only practical for self-initiation exercises so that the Astral body can receive the force influx and experience of the path. Being able to work with the paths in the Astral is an imperative practice for self-initiation upon the Tree of Life. Simply mentally working with the paths doesn’t produce the same effect upon the astral body that is needed to help compliment initiation. As the student could easily surmise, the paths are much more involving, complex, changeable, and potentially dangerous in the Astral realm then they are in the Mental.Concerning self-initiation
The Full method of properly working upon the Tree of Life while simultaneously employing all four greater vehicles of your being can not be discussed within the limited scope of this article. There are multiple ways to achieve self-initiation, and working symbolically upon the Tree of Life is one of them. This practice entails a combination of daily exercises, basic ritual work, and using several occult faculties one of which is Astral projection. Mentally working along the Tree of Life is simply not enough for full initiation because it doesn’t involve the student enough. In the process of writing this article I have concluded that it is perhaps beneficial to write another article soon about what exactly Self-Initiation is and some various methods of attaining this. Within this article, I will provide somewhat of an “extension” of this treatise on pathworking by giving a full and satisfactory method of completely working upon the Tree of Life for self initiation by employing pathworking as a foundational exercise. Now I of course can’t give the entire process of Self-Initiation publicly since that is saved for apprentices, but I can provide enough to get the student started on that long journey and perhaps even supply a road-map and compass as well.