Monday, July 11, 2016

Hacking The Middle Pillar

Many years ago now, before I started using the Elevenfold Seal (the First Gesture from Liber V vel Reguli) as part of my daily practices, like a lot of other magicians I practiced the Middle Pillar technique. I say "technique" and not "ritual" because I didn't learn the version used by the modern Golden Dawn orders, but rather interpolated my own based on Israel Regardie's general arrangement and Aleister Crowley's Liber 777.

This is pretty easy to do, because the basic idea behind the technique is simple. The Middle Pillar Ritual proper mostly consists of aligning the sephirothic names of God found on the middle pillar of the Tree of Life with the corresponding points on your body by vibrating the name while you hold your attention at the proper point. So right there, you actually have most of what you need to do what I did. You can make this more elaborate, too, by adding the sephiroth from the Pillar of Mercy and Pillar of Severity.

So when I recently went to look over online versions of the actual ritual, there were a few parts that I found surprising and, frankly, a little weird. I mentioned the Middle Pillar Ritual in the Elemental Work posts, but unlike the other rituals I decided not to link to the "official" version from those articles. If you really are looking for that, one of the places you can find it is here, but I also want to point out some of the differences between my version and the way that the ritual is often taught.

I will add the usual caveat here: if your practice is getting you good results, there's no reason to for you to change anything. My suggestions are based on my own experiments and may not be for everyone. However, if you are just learning this technique, I invite you to try out my suggestions along with the official version and see which seems to produce the best results. In the end, the final rule of magick is that if it works it works, regardless of how pretty a particular pattern might be.

So the first oddity to me, right off the bat, is that according to the source linked above you face west when performing the ritual. I never have done that, and only found out about it fairly recently. I would start facing east, perform the LBRP, and then perform the Middle Pillar Ritual likewise from the west of the altar facing east. Apparently facing west has something to do with the layout of a Golden Dawn temple, which models the flow of mezla as passing from east to west. However, I orient my temple with a central altar space and model the flow as passing from above to below.

Since this orientation is vertical, it seems to me that it should make no difference which way you face, and frankly it's just easier to integrate into other ritual forms without having to turn and face the opposite direction. Interestingly enough, in Regardie's original description there's no mention of facing west. He even suggests that you can do the technique while lying down once you are familiar with it. So I'm not sure how this direction came to be part of the ritual.

At any rate, I soon followed the LBRP in my opening with the LBRH to bring in the macrocosmic elements, and then changed that over to the LIRH once I worked out the logistics of the operant field method. So that's another change from the "official" version - it does not incorporate the LRH, just the LRP. According to my model, then, that version would be basically microcosmic in nature. I am of the opinion that if you want operant results, not just psychological ones, you should incorporate the Lesser Hexagram.

Another point that is a little odd when you think about it, but which I always did anyway, is using of YHVH Elohim as the godname for Daath, even though it actually corresponds to Binah. Now I do know that the godname is used there because Daath occupies the "Saturn point" on the planetary hexagram when you center it on Tiphareth, and also because it maps to the vishudda chackra which Regardie did not want to skip. Logically it would probably be better to use a godname actually matching Daath, but since that isn't actually a sephira, no such godname is found in Liber 777.

An interesting point related to this name and some of the work we've been doing at the Leaping Laughter Ritual Workshop is that Regardie DOES NOT recommend spelling out the Tetragrammaton. We have found that spelling out YHVH as "Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh" is one of the fastest ways to make your LRP less effective. Regardie recommends "Ye-hoh-voh," more along the lines of the pronunciation found in Liber O. But in the section quoted above from Regardie's The Middle Pillar, there's a footnote instructing the student to spell out the name:

7. Daath has no divine name of its own, so in the exercise of the Middle Pillar, it "borrows" the divine name for Binah which is the highest Sephirah that is close to Daath. (Since Daath is usually considered a passageway to the Supernals, Binah would be the Sephirah at its point of termination.) Although Regardie states here that YHVH is to be pronounced as "Yeh-hoh-voh," we see no reason it should be pronounced differently from the way it is pronounced in the LBRP - as "Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh." The term Jehovoh or Jehovah is simply a transcription of the Four-lettered Name YHVH - the letters of which were merely considered as stand-ins for the actual name of God, which was unknown and unpronounceable. We believe that the divine name YHVH Elohim should be pronounced "Yod Heh Vav Heh El-oh-heem" in all Golden Dawn rituals.

So where did this come from? I don't have a copy of Regardie's book on hand, but my guess is that it was written by the Ciceros, who annotated the most recent version. But in my experience if you want your Golden Dawn rituals to be effective, DO NOT spell out the Tetragrammaton! The closest pronunciation to the Hebrew is probably "Yah-Weh" rather than "Ye-hoh-voh," but the mere act of pronouncing the word rather than spelling it makes a much bigger difference than variations in the exact pronunciation.

My next issue is Regardie's is the use of Adonai Ha-Aretz as the godname for Malkuth. In Liber 777, the godname is given as Adonai Melekh, which is the one I used. Aretz is the name given there for elemental Earth under the Heavens of Assiah, but that's as close as it gets. I recently was discussing this at our Leaping Laughter Lodge ritual workshop, and I was told that Regardie may have adapted it from the Golden Dawn Neophyte Ritual - the problem being that in the original Golden Dawn system, this is one of the only places where that godname is used.

Another point we discussed at the ritual workshop is that the Middle Pillar could also be performed moving upwards. So you would start at the feet with Adonai Melekh and conclude with Eheieh at the level of your head. I never experimented much with this back in the day, but it would seem to me that this version would correspond to the ascending Serpent of Wisdom while the top-down version would correspond to the Lightning Flash, and I can see both versions being useful depending upon your specific intent. You could also go ahead and do both, which winds up looking similar to one of my Qigong practices.

In Qigong, there is an energy work practice called the Lesser or Microcosmic Orbit. It is performed by visualizing the energy from the base of your spine moving up your back, over the top of your head, moving down your front, and returning to the base of the spine. You then continue to circulate the energy in this fashion for as long as you wish to maintain the practice.

A "Middle Pillar Orbit" would look something like this. Open with your usual procedure, performing at least the LBRP but possibly including the LIRH to integrate macrocosmic forces. Then follow these steps:
  1. Focus your attention at the base of your spine, the muladhara chackra. Vibrate ADONAI MELEKH three times as you visualize a ball of black light forming at that point. The ball of light should be centered on your vertical axis (the spiritual channel) rather than your back and should extend past both the back and front of your body. You can also start and end at the feet, which correspond to the Malkuth point on the middle pillar, but you should still keep in mind the association between that point and the base of the spine.
  2. Shift your attention to the small of your back, the svadhisthana chackra. Vibrate SHADDAI EL CHAI three times as you visualize a ball of deep purple light forming at that point.
  3. Shift your attention to your mid-back, the anahata chackra. Vibrate YHVH ELOAH VE-DAATH three times as you visualize a ball of yellow light forming at that point.
  4. Shift your attention to the back of your neck, the vishudda chackra. Vibrate YHVH ELOHIM three times as you visualize a ball of bright lavender light forming at that point.
  5. Shift your attention to the top of your head, the sahasrara chackra. Vibrate EHEIEH three times as you visualize a ball of white brilliance forming at that point.
  6. After a momentary pause, vibrate EHEIEH three more times without shifting your attention from the ball of white brilliance or the top of your head, as you visualize the intensity of the light increasing.
  7. Shift your attention to the front of your neck, the vishudda chackra, and the ball of bright lavender light. Vibrate YHVH ELOHIM three times as you visualize the intensity of the light increasing.
  8. Shift your attention to the center of your chest, the anahata chackra, and the ball of yellow light. Vibrate YHVH ELOAH VE DAATH three times as you visualize the intensity of the light increasing.
  9. Shift your attention to a point just below the navel, the svadisthana chackra, and the ball of deep purple light. Vibrate SHADDAI EL CHAI three times as you visualize the intensity of the light increasing.
  10. Shift your attention to the feet or the perineum, the muladhara chackra, and the ball of black or green light. Vibrate ADONAI MELEKH three times as you visualize the intensity of the light increasing.
At this point, energy should have been drawn to all the relevant points on the subtle body and the spiritual channel should be fully activated. The official version recommends vibrating each name three or four times, and I went with three here because three in front plus three in back equals six, which corresponds to Tiphareth, the sephira of beauty and harmony.

You can transition from here into the Lesser Orbit quite effectively, visualizing the energy circulating up the back and down the front in a continuous loop. Your tongue should be touching the roof of your mouth, your spine should be straight, and your breathing should be from the diaphragm, deep and slow, allowing the abdomen to fully expand and contract. Also, if you are a student of Qigong, you can synchronize your breathing with appropriate rhythmic movements as you may have been taught.

Finally, when you decide to conclude the practice, drop the orbit visualization and proceed to a closing Qabalistic Cross. This grounds and stabilizes the energy raised and circulated. Do not conclude by repeating the LBRP, as you want the energy to fortify your body and a microcosmic banishing often can send much of it away.

The Middle Pillar technique is ripe for further experimentation, especially if you want to bring in some of the other attributions from Liber 777. The general form can be used as part of your preliminary invocation, to associate each point of your subtle body with aspects of the godhead. This process can also be made more elaborate by bringing in all of the sephira and their corresponding points, for example as Mark Stavish discusses in his article The Flashing Sword.

One of the most important points about this method is that it incorporates many of the basic ideas and practices of energy work into the Western ceremonial system. When I learned Qigong, I was amazed at how much of a difference it made in my ceremonial work, though I probably should have expected it. Energy work is important, and using it to build up your subtle body should increase your effective magical abilities greatly.

A number of the modern models of magick don't do the subject of energy work justice, when I am of the opinion that they should be teaching it as a central magical technique. Without it, in my experience your ability to produce practical effects can be quite limited.

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Anonymous said...

I find this method as a much needed upgrade to the traditional exercise. I like the fact that both the frontal and the rear regions of the energy centers are activated. I'd have to say that I've also achieved this with the regular MP, but i didn't always feel the specific points so intensly activated at the same time. There were a few times when I felt like I was shooting a massive amount of energy from Tiphareth, for instance, both forward and backword, but not all the spheres at the same time.

It also makes sense to be able to perform it both ways, depending on the nature of the working. I suspect that if you start from the top, you'd go over the front side first and climb up the back. It seems more logical for a mystical ritual for the practitioner to elevate him/herself towards the godhead, rather than to call upon its power like they would do for a practical working.

Don't know what to say about the godnames. It seems that the rituals work fine for me, but I'm gonna try switching them a few times and see what happens.

Wonderful article!

Temperamentvm said...

I've got to try this.

I hacked your NAZ OLPIRT a bit, to integrate it with Regardies "Fountain" method and projecting energy outward to another person. It yielded good results although it left my head spinning. A Solar Grounding ritual (with another tiny hack from MADRIAX worked wonders...

Excellent work Brother :)


Scott Stenwick said...

Thanks! Those are some interesting ideas. I will have to try them out myself at some point here.

Anonymous said...

I've been doing your method of the MP for some time now and I really enjoy it.

I adjusted it by visualising a black beam of light going up the back, from Malkuth to Kether and a white beam going down the front from K to M. Then I perform the fountain by visualizing a black beam of light going up from M to K through the middle of my body and from there white brilliance shoots in all directions, encapsulating me like an egg shell. Then i do the QC inside the shell.

Unknown said...

Excellent! I really like how you have integrated qigong into your writing. Thanks

Steven Desilets said...

So i open with the KC -> LBRP -> MP ->KC ?

What can happen if i do the MP alone, without KC and LBRP?


Scott Stenwick said...

It just will not work as well. That pretty much is all that can happen if you skip steps or whatnot in magical procedures. The sequences are set up the way they are because the ritual forms work best when you combine them in particular ways.

Steven Desilets said...

Thank you for your answer.

Big Twig said...

in section 4 of an essay upon number in 777 crowley notes that 361 Adonai Ha Aretz “embraces all ten sephiroth” via 3 supernals 6 ruach and 1 malkuth. found this after having switched to Adonai Melekh for my malkuth vibration via your suggestion and added a final set (after middle pillar is established) of vibrations of Adonai Ha Aretz while visualizing the entire tree in my aura. creates kind of a pulse of energy in all the sephira while maintaining emphasis on the central pillar and has accelerated the establishing/opening (or at least sensory awareness) of the Paths within my aura. have been doing this for months now to notable benefit as the energies of the side pillars are brought into use without having to perform a full lightning flash or serpent if you’re shorter in time.

Scott Stenwick said...

That sounds like an interesting addition. By all means keep it up if it's working for you!

Philip said...

Regardie is not consistent. He sometimes says to touch the left shoulder first during the QC and the right other times.

In his tape series, he spells out Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh for the LRP but pronounces it for the Middle Pillar.

He presents the MP as purely Microcosmic. Have you written about it's Macrocosmic aspect? I'm google searching your blog for it but haven't found it yet.

As for Qigong, wouldn't the MP be the activation of the penetrating meridian through the center of the body?

Scott Stenwick said...

I know Regardie is not consistent. That is one of the reasons that I started experimenting with variations, and that experimentation led to some of the points in this article.

I'm not sure that there's enough to discuss about the macrocosmic aspect in particular for a whole article. I do mention it in a number of places, though.

The MP is microcosmic if it follows the LRP, and macrocosmic if you add the LRH. From a microcosmic standpoint it activates the spiritual channel through the center of the body and engages the psychological aspects that correspond to the sephirothic godnames.

The MP is macrocosmic if it follows the LIRH, because that ritual engages the macrocosm. In addition to doing everything the microcosmic version does, it aligns your consciousness or sphere of sensation or whatever you want to call it with the macrocosmic principles corresponding to the sephirothic godnames.

Since the macrocosm includes the microcosm but not vice-versa, I always personally do the macrocosmic version.

Adrian C said...


This might be a basic question, but what is the role of the MP in the context of your operant field model?

E.g. what is the difference between the following two ritual sequences:

1) LBRP/LIRH --> MP --> GRH (or GRP)

2) LBRP/LIRH --> GRH (or GRP)

Scott Stenwick said...

Both can work. The difference is that in 1. the MP is being used as a preliminary invocation - that is, to identify the practitioner with the divine. This adds a theurgic component to the purely thaumaturgic method in 2.

There are plenty of other methods available besides the MP that will work for a preliminary invocation. The Bornless Ritual is great, though it's longer. I commonly will use also use the Elevenfold Seal from Liber Reguli in that position, especially when working with the Star Ruby and Star Sapphire instead of LRP/LRH.

TyroneLove said...

So do you pronounce the God names for Daath and Tifereth as Yahwé Elohim and Yahwé Eloah vaDath ?

Scott Stenwick said...

Yes, that is how I do it. I find that pronouncing the name as a word is more effective than spelling out YHVH.

Desmond G. said...

hello! Thanks for the article.
In the Elevenfold Seal ritual, isn't there a circumambulation of light as in the middle pillar?
I have tried the Elevenfold Seal first gesture (thelemapedia) and it is curious that I have felt chakras 1 and 2 much more than with the middle pillar of Israel Regardie. In fact I think I had them closed.
I think that one of the most important points of the Elevenfold Seal is the horizontal component.
Can the horizontal component be somehow incorporated into the middle pillar? Would the incorporation of the flaming sword (zig zag) be a possible equivalent for the horizontal component?
Thanks a lot Scott ;)

Scott Stenwick said...

Keep in mind that when using the Elevenfold Seal on its own, you are already taking it out of context if you are using it without doing the full Liber Reguli. So there is no circulation of light per se, but Reguli also incorporates a bunch of additional steps to move the energy around.

If you want to add circulation of light to the Elevenfold Seal, you would do it at the end right before the closing ABRAHADABRA. I've been known to do Qigong sets at that point and they work fine, so simple circulation should be no issue at all there.

The Elevenfold Seal is explicitly designed to activate all seven chackras, whereas in the Middle Pillar you are missing some of the points. So I'm not surprised that it might feel more "complete" to you.

Yes, the Flaming Sword (where you vibrate the godnames for all ten sephiroth at their respecting points) is a totally viable way to bring in a horizontal component, along with activating more points. It's longer and more elaborate, but it can be a very good more complete practice than the Middle Pillar on its own.

Alex Scaraoschi said...

I may have an idea why the Golden Dawn method of performing the MP implies one is to face West. If memory serves, I've seen ritual diagrams of the temple layout of several Golden Dawn workings. I'm pretty sure they were Outer Order workings, each specific to one of those grades.

Anyway, the floor diagram included the arrangement of the altar, banners, etc. From the perspective of the altar, the magician stood West of it while facing it. Nothing new there, but the floor layout was always arranged in such a way any sephirot above Malkuth that were involved in the working in one way or another were located in the East (upper part of the diagram). So imagine an altar in the center representing Yesod, one in the top-left corner of the diagram (N-E) representing Hod and one in the top-right (S-E) corner representing Netzach.

However, all three were in the East from the magician's perspective, meaning Malkuth was in the West. If you look it that way then if the magician were to face West when performing the MP, they'd have the Tree behind them with Mercy to their left and Severity to their right. When they're drawing down the light they're also using the temple's energy structure to channel that light, since the temple seems to have the energies of the Tree superimposed onto it with Kether in the East and Malkuth in the West.

So yea, you're right when you say it might have to do with the energy flow within their temple.

Scott Stenwick said...

Thanks for sharing that. It probably does have something to do with something straightforward like the layout of GD temples. The Thelemic system shifts that to an up/down orientation with regard to energy on the Tree instead of east/west - "in the column shines the six-rayed star" and the same statement in Greek in the Star Ruby.

Alex Scaraoschi said...

Makes a lot of sense considering the technical and symbolic differences. It seems I can't find a diagram like the one I've mentioned in the previous comment, but the second one from this link clearly shows the 29th, 31st and 32nd paths being assigned to the East and in the same way I've described above:

Whether the diagrams are correct considering there's variations even between Golden Dawn stuff out there given various authors have published such material, I do not know. But many other diagrams I've come across depict such a pattern with respect to paths so I guess that's how they actually do it.

But yea, "before me flames the pentagram and behind me the six-rayed star" (or whatever exact verbiage they're using) is one thing, "in the column shines the six-rayed star" is another.

Scott Stenwick said...

The shifts in the Thelemic system are more obvious looking at Crowley's reworking of and commentary on the LRP. The magician faces east, and should visualize themselves at the intersection of Samekh and Peh facing Tiphareth - which would indeed imply that from that perspective Malkuth is west and Kether is east - when tracing the pentagrams and calling on the archangels.

But for the macrocosmic portion of the LRP - the visualization of the six-rayed star in the columns - he switches the orientation to up/down from east/west. So one possible interpretation of this is that he is treating the macrocosmic flow as vertical and the microcosmic flow as horizontal. Notably, when you transition to the LRH you are working with the signs of the zodiac as they appear in the natural work rather than an orientation based on the perception of the world from your personal perspective.

Alex Scaraoschi said...

You know, it kinda makes sense to view the microcosmic flow as horizontal and the macrocosmic as vertical. You've just time me some food for thought from a somewhat philosophical perspective, beyond the Pentagram and Hexagram Rituals. Thanks!

Z said...

Your link to the official version of the MP ritual is broken

Scott Stenwick said...

Updated from the wayback machine. Should be working now.

Desmond G. said...

Hello! I have practiced the full Liber V vel Reguli ritual for a little over a year. I would like to share my feelings. If there is any reader who is reading my experience please do not continue reading, I do not want to influence. I start to narrate.
What I feel is that the chakras are open, energized and aligned. When I have had the sensation of having a cold or "broken" aura, Liber V vel Reguli has transformed the aura as if it were a candle flame. A red aura perhaps, energized and erect. Very curious that after doing the Liber V vel Reguli and I have had any mundane purpose has been achieved more easily as if my mind had a favorable influence on any project, from wanting to meet someone on the street to improving other rites. A wonderful ritual.

I'd like to ask a second question here: 2) Haven't you thought about doing elemental rites with the Liber V vel Reguli aside? I mean doing the complete Liber V vel Reguli and then doing a rite of fire, but with the pentagram inverted. Obviously with the new configuration that Liber V vel Reguli offers, with taurus in the east and such. It should be quite powerful for charging talismans. Really and as I have understood, the configuration of space through Liber V vel Reguli allows the descent of the spirit in matter. So a rite of fire set to Liber V vel Reguli should be very good.

I would like to know your point of view Scott. Thank you very much and sorry if I have extended.
All the best.

Scott Stenwick said...

1. You are invoking the four elements along with the Sun, so Malkuth plus Tiphareth. I could see where the combination of those would give the results you are reporting.

2. I would not do it as you describe. Liber Reguli is an adaptation of the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram for Malkuth, which is why you use all four elements. To adapt it into a Greater Ritual of the Pentagram for an element, you would do the ritual with that elemental pentagram and godname at all four quarters, but otherwise in the same sequence. I have not personally done this, but I expect that it would work.

Philip said...

I took a break from magick for about a year because I was getting pressure headaches with the Middle Pillar and even the Qabalistic Cross. I started up again and the headaches started back immediately.

Any ideas? I try to place the tip of my tongue behind my teeth and breathe at the Dantian but it doesn't seem to help. Thank you.

Scott Stenwick said...

I would recommend breathing like that but you are already doing it.

Maybe try practicing the world's easiest Qigong set. Tongue to the roof of your mouth, dantien breathing, and then feel energy rising up the back as you breathe in and raise your hands from about your navel to your forehead, then feel energy dropping down the front as you lower your hands back to about your navel.

See if you can do this without headaches. If you still get them, try it without the arm movements and just stick with visualization. If it works without the arm movements, slowly add them back in.