Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Simple Pathworking Ritual

Normally I put up all of the technical magick posts on Mondays, but a reader asked me how I would go about doing a pathworking for path 11, which corresponds to the Fool card of the Tarot and the element of Air. Once I worked on that for a bit, it became clear that I could just as easily write up a general article describing my methods for doing this basic magical practice.

The term "pathworking" refers to aligning your field of awareness with one of the twenty-two paths on the Tree of Life and experiencing what that state of consciousness/portion of the universe has to offer you.

Often, in addition to the landscape of the path itself, you will encounter various entities along the way of whom you can ask questions related to the nature and function of the path, both generally and in the context of your life and magical practice.

Donald Michael Kraig talks about pathworking in Modern Magick, and my main complaint about his presentation is that nowhere in his book does he include the Greater Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram. You can do pathworking without them, by prolonged meditation or intricate navigation up the Tree of Life, but the Greater rituals make the process much cleaner and simpler.

Some books present pathworkings as elaborate guided meditations in which you are instructed to experience various specific aspects of the path in a particular order. I don't use those. They are far too constrictive, and I have found that even with a bit of practice, it is easy enough to explore the path on your own "in the spirit vision" without much external guidance.

So here's the method. The temple should be set up with a cushion or chair in the center suitable for meditation rather than any sort of table or altar. If there is an altar, it should be placed in the east. The Tarot card corresponding to the path you will be exploring may be placed on this altar so it can be easily seen. Then the ritual proceeds as follows.

1. Opening. You should always begin with a pentagram banishing ritual of some sort, usually the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or some analogous ritual. I usually follow this up with the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram to open an operant field, but you can just open with a banishing pentagram ritual if you want to limit your operation to the psychological realm.

2. Preliminary Invocation. Even though you aren't explicitly conjuring spirits, the preliminary invocation aligns your field of awareness with the divine and imbues you with authority to address the spirits.

3. Tuning. I do this by performing the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram or Hexagram for the attribution of the path. So, for the requested example, the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram for Air would go here. I follow the schema of Liber O for these rituals, so I personally use the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram for Zodiac signs rather than the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram.

4. Opening the Path. Rather than conjuring anything specific, make the Sign of Rending the Veil to the east. Behind the veil, visualize the landscape of the Tarot trump attributed to the path you want to explore. Then sit down and prepare for your meditation.

5. Exploring the Path. Once you are settled into your asana, visualize yourself standing before the gigantic image of the Tarot trump. Visualize yourself making the Sign of the Enterer, and project yourself into the landscape. Pay close attention to whatever you experience. If you encounter spirits or other entities, you may ask them questions. You should always test them in some fashion. An easy way to do this is to have the entity give you a number related to the path or to their specific answer to your question. You can then consult a reference like Godwin's Cabalistic Encyclopedia or Sepher Sephiroth to see if the gematria of the number is related in some way. If it is not, the answer is likely not reliable.

6. Leaving the Path. When you are ready to return, visualize yourself giving the Sign of Silence and returning to your body. Once you are settled, stand and make the Sign of Closing the Veil as you dissolve the Tarot landscape visualization.

7. Closing. Close the temple with either the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or the Qabalistic Cross on its own. The general rule for this is that if something was done to your body of light while you were exploring the path that you want to hold onto, use just the Qabalistic Cross. Otherwise, perform the full pentagram banishing.

And, basically, that's it for the ritual. It's helpful to have some sort of timer set for a specific period of time that you start when you begin your meditation. If you have trouble visualizing your body of light, a useful trick is to "fake it 'til you make it." Think, "If I were traveling in my body of light through the landscape of this Tarot card, I would be seeing xxxx." That makes it a lot easier to slip into the visualization if you are feeling self-conscious about what you're doing.

Always journal immediately after the pathworking. Every time I try to do it at a later time I wind up regretting it. Just like trying to write down a dream, your memories are going to be clearest immediately after the rite. Some people I've worked with even like to bring a notebook into the temple and write things down as they occur, but I personally find that too distracting because it takes me out of the visualization. Some also recommend dictation, as it is less disruptive to your concentration than writing and these days the technology to do it conveniently is widely available.

Pathworking is a great way to explore the magical universe around you and obtain all sorts of insights, especially if you carefully test the entities you encounter and verify what they tell you as best you can. My magical working group has done many rounds of them over the years, and I can't think of a time when I didn't get some sort of valuable or at least useful information, even from paths that I had previously worked many times.

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Anonymous said...

This method is easier and more to the point than many of the articles I've come across on this exercise.

I'd like to clarify something regarding the Path of Earth, 32bis. Liber 777 gives the 4colors of Malkuth for the King Scale. Does this mean that when doing the GIRP of Earth, each pentagram should be traced in one of the colors? Or will green suffice?

And another thing, just to make sure I got this right. When using a GIRH, is there a need to trace the planetary/zodiacal symbol inside of it and vibrate it?

Scott Stenwick said...

When I do the GIRP for Earth, I trace the Earth pentagram in green. The Golden Dawn (or maybe Stella Matutina) had a "supreme ritual of the pentagram" in which you traced the pentagram of each element to its corresponding direction in the corresponding color, which would look more like what you're talking about. That's a different ritual, though.

Also, with the basic ceremonial forms, you don't ever use the King Scale color for a sphere. The natural color for spheres is Queen Scale, while the natural color for paths is King Scale, and those are the colors that you use for tracing. The reason there are four scales in the first place is that Crowley recommends incorporating all of them into the Sigil of the Spirit when you construct it. That allows the sigil to resonate through all four Qabalistic worlds.

For the GIRH, you trace the hexagram while vibrating ARARITA, and then trace the planetary or zodiacal figure in the center while vibrating the appropriate godname. So yes, tracing the symbol in the center is part of the ritual.

Anonymous said...

I've ran across different styles, each with their own methods on the internet. So it was kind of hard not to get confused :)

Nice of you to help me figure it out yet again.

Thank you for having the patience to answer!

Scott Stenwick said...

Now that is just the way that I do it, as explained by Crowley in Liber O. There are some significant differences in terms of how some of the other modern orders teach it, and what works for me may not be the best method for you.

The key is to experiment and find what works best for yourself.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I've succeeded in doing pathworking just before sleep, without any rituals. The only... protection that I used was my regular active visualisation shielding.

I've also had intense pathworking visualizations after I had performed the LBRP-LIRH using my body of light.

The downside to this is that it was done just before going to sleep and it was difficult for me to write down the experiences because I felt exhausted after returning in my body and fell asleep.

You are right when you say that what works for you may or may not work for others, but luckily for me, your ways fit me well :)

Scott Stenwick said...

Sure, that certainly can happen. In my experience, though, the advantage of using the ritual forms is that the information you get tends to to be more accurate and reliable. Without them, it is easier to get your own thoughts confused with what you are receiving from the pathworking.

Anonymous said...

So I've noticed. I just finished a complete exercise following your method and this might sound like a complete foolishness, but i think I ended up talking to my soul, beeing guided into that direction by a being resembling the image of Sandalphon that I've imagined in other exercises some time ago. My conscious mind still has trouble digesting this experience. I don't even know if this could be achieved so easily. I mean I've read Frater Barrabbas' while ordeal to unite with his Guardian Angel and my logic tells me that it's almost crazy to have had such a conversation with just doing a simple pathworking of Path 32 - Saturn.

I've recorded the experience and i'm looking forward to this night's dreams.

And about the experiences I've done with my body of light before. I'm looking to make it stronger in order to succeed in the exercise Crowley was talking about in Liber O, I think. The one where you use your body of light to go higher and higher until something that cannot be explained in word would happen.

Anyway, shouldn't you be celebrating now? :)

Anonymous said...

Guess this post got lost when the moderation settings were made:

Is it me, or does the path of Tau correspond to the penis shaft/birth canal? It hit me just as I was about to write this post (the one that got lost).

Anyway, is like to thank you for posting this ritual. I've used it to work my way up the ToL doing each path twice. I got some amazing experiences, saw some kind blowing things, talked to fascinating beings and made alot of friends along the way.

I had some intense experiences in my real life after each path, some even harsh, but i guess each path has a lesson that had to be acknowledged and integrated into the mundane life one way or the other.

I'm not blaming it though, in the contrary, I'm satisfied with the results so far. I have 8 more paths to work from Cancer upwards, including. I can't wait for what I'll come across "up" there :)

Thank you and blessings!

Scott Stenwick said...

Sorry about that. But trust me, with the number of spam posts I have been refusing since moderation went in, it was something that had to be done to keep the blog easily readable - especially the Recent Comments feed.

As far as the attribution goes, it depends a bit on how you attribute subtle anatomy, but it works with the 777 arrangement. 777 attributes the svadhisthana chackra to Hod and the muladhara chackra to both Yesod and Malkuth. And in Liber Reguli, he describes the muladhara as "the base of the phallus." So that would fit.

As far as stuff going on in your life while doing pathworking, I maybe should have mentioned that in the article. Especially if you are using the operant field, that tends to happen. You could always skip the Lesser Hexagram and work microcosmically, but as I see it the point is to connect with macrocosmic forces in order to get the most out of the work.

Anonymous said...

No worries about the recent settings. It's better off this way ;)

As for the operant field, I'll use it all the time because as I see it, what's the point in learning a lesson in the microcosmos if you can't apply it in the macrocosmos?

Scott Stenwick said...

Some people like to work the paths microcosmically before moving on to bringing in the macrocosmic aspects, as preparation for the full experience. I think that is fine, as long as they do in fact move on to doing the macrocosmic version and don't get stuck in the psychological realms.

Personally, though, I'm macrocosmic all the way.

Anonymous said...

Yup, macrocosmic is the way to go for me too, especially since I tend to cut corners in my practice no matter how hard it can get :D

John dee said...

Can I test entities by vibrating Divine Name of the path or tracing pentagram over them?

Scott Stenwick said...

I have not found that tracing a pentagram does anything in that context. There really is no reason for me to think it would, either. The pentagram is a microcosmic figure, so I don't see how it would help you test an entity. I would think the issue is that you want to test the macrocosmic component of the manifestation, because imaginary things are still microcosmic in nature.

Vibrating divine names does work quite well, though. You can use the divine name of the path or EHEIEH, which seems to work generically. What you are looking for is whether the manifestation intensifies or diminishes in response to the name. A genuine macrocosmic entity will be strengthened, while anything else will be diminished.

John dee said...

"Close the temple with either the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or the Qabalistic Cross on its own. The general rule for this is that if something was done to your body of light while you were exploring the path that you want to hold onto, use just the Qabalistic Cross. Otherwise, perform the full pentagram banishing."
Does this rule applied to tattvas journey to?I think they are quite like pathworking but I'm not sure.Thank you :)

Scott Stenwick said...

I would think so. That would be elemental, so LBRP/LIRH/MP/GIRP-Element to open, and then LBRP or QC to close, depending on whether you want the ritual to affect you after it is formally closed. So if you are exploring a tattva with the sole purpose of obtaining information, LBRP. Or if you are looking to integrate elemental energy into your body of light, QC on its own.

Anonymous said...

Do you think it's possible to explore the zodiac decans in such fashion? The ritual would be the same as you've described it, but only using the hexagrams of the signs. Then one would visualize the tarot card of the Minor Arcana corresponding to the decan they would want to explore, step through it and so forth.

Scott Stenwick said...

Probably, yes. There are specific angels for each of the decans, and I expect you should be able to call those by the permutation of Tetragrammaton for the sign and employing the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram for the sign. You shouldn't need to tune your space any closer than that. Pathworking-type operations with the Tarot work quite well, too, so you could do something like that with just the Greater Hexagram followed by exploration or call on the angel of the decan to contact you and/or help you out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your answer. I was thinking in visiting particular decans in order to understand their nature more, and how it relates to my planets positioned there. Blessings!

Samat said...

Scott, I want to ask. Since with pathworking you are not restricted to planetary hours and chart victors just to have a communication with the spirit, doesn't this make it superior to evocation in this regard? The only point of evocation I see is practical work.
John Dee did not restrict himself to planetary hours and days and the ancients who wrote the grimoires used to practice in hiding. I met a grimoire magician whose group experimented with pathworking and found the technique worked wonderfully and even better than visual scrying.

2nd, I find it incredibly elusive to hold the tarot imagery in mind before closing my eyes and have to repeatedly look at the card and resume. What do I do here? Your pathworking induction ritual which is more of a directed/guided pathworking does not have any tarot card visualization and that seems to work for people as well. Directed pathworking and passive pathworking both have their merit it seems.

3rd, when someone experiences an overflowing of garbage information when they evoke a spirit and have to make it which part of that was the spirit's response, what do you suggest for that? For me, it's zero information, just the darkness of my eyes.

The Golden Dawn suggested learning as much about the path you were about to pathwork into while others say to not learn anything except the basic correspondences so that your mind does not fake the scenario. I think the former is harmless.

Samat said...

It is said that spirits' mood changes depending on the sign their planet is crossing and this is picked up during conjurations. This is why a Solar spirit like Michael might refuse to work with a Capricorn person and might require of that person, far more convincing through ritual and devotional work for Michael and co. before he can finally start working with him without this space racism 'natal' restriction lmao.

Does this also apply to spirits visited in their own realms via pathworkings or only to conjurations? Solomonic magicians don't talk about this but I think that visiting spirits in their own realms exempts them of this mood change because pathworking literature doesn't speak about this.

Mars is weak in Taurus, so if I pathwork to Samael this month to discuss a possible magical working related to increasing courage/bravery, would I be speaking with a weak, cold Samael?

Also, Lilith is recommended for shadow work (which I think also applies to all forms of fear). Does this apply to all forms of shadow form or just her own sphere of influence?

Scott Stenwick said...

I have made this point a couple of times and you seem to not be getting it. The Sun sign is not the most significant aspect of an astrological chart, so Sun in Capricorn doesn't make you a "Capricorn person." That's all modern astrology, and it is different from the Renaissance astrology that magicians should be working with.

Mars being weak in a sign doesn't mean that Mars is weak when Sun is in that sign. Mars is weak when Mars is in the sign. The Sun sign (that is, the month) doesn't figure into that. You have to look at the position of Mars in the zodiac. Mars is currently in Cancer, which is Fall. So that's not a good position for Mars. There are various aspects that can mitigate that. You would get mutual reception, which removes debilities, with Moon in Aries or Scorpio. Positive aspects like trines can also help. And so forth.

The point is that you have to look at the whole chart. If you look primarily at the Sun sign, like modern astrologers do, you are likely to time your operations incorrectly.

So as for the rest of your question, usually when a planet is debilitated the communication with spirits is generally not as strong or intense. But as long as you can get the information, you should be fine. When doing practical operations you need to pay more attention to this because the debility will affect the probability shift.

I haven't worked with Lilith so I don't think I can help you there. "Shadow work" is itself a problematic concept, since it is rooted in the Jungian model of psychoanalysis, and neuroscience has shown all the psychoanalytic models to be largely incorrect. Given her symbolism, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me that she could be called on to overcome fear, but I haven't tried it so I'm not sure how well it works.