THE MIDDLE PILLAR EXERCISE
By Israel Regardie
is my confirmed belief that several weeks at the very least of patient application
to the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram should precede any effort to perform
the Middle Pillar. For one thing, it will have trained the student in several little
tricks of routine and magical technique quite apart from the intrinsic virtues of
the exercise, which is to purify and cleanse the entire sphere of personality to
the end that the higher self may manifest through a purified body and mind.
It will be realized how necessary analysis is as a preliminary rou tine to magic. The student should have arrived at a fair understand ing of himself, his motives, and the mechanism of his mind, and integrated himself more or less thoroughly so that no dissociation or serious neurosis exists within the psyche. For the presence of a powerful complex of associated ideas in the unconscious, or a marked dissociation splitting off one part of the psyche from the other, will have the effect of short-circuiting the flow of energy generated or released by the Middle Pillar. An explosion in the form of a complete nervous breakdown, or even of the destruction of mental stability, will be a likely result. Many instances have been known of unprepared students contracting fatal physical illnesses through attempting work of this nature, though this is more true where Eastern exercises have been unwisely attempted. Some of these unfortunates, when the dis sociation was rendered complete, have succumbed to chronic melancholia or taken their own lives. These warnings are not intended to be portentous or terrifying, but only to impress upon the student the solemnity of these undertakings, a journey of self-conquest than which nothing could compare in importance or seriousness.
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. The name of the exercise is taken from the position of the central Sephiroth on the diagrammatic Tree of Life. (See Pic 2 - Below) This exercise concerns those centers numbered one, six, nine, and ten. It also includes the shadowy center drawn in dotted lines, placed between three and four.(1 - See index at bottom of page) ' For various reasons I cannot go into detailed metaphysical explanations as to the underlying philosophy of this shadowy Sephirah, though students who desire more infor mation about it will discover the elaboration of this theme in my Garden of Pornegranates and My Rosicrucian Adventure. Suffice to say here that it arises from a consideration of the process of evolution on the one hand, and the two pillars previously referred to, on the other. The ancient philosophers who developed this system believed that as man evolved, that is to say as he developed sufficient control over his emotions as to be able to remain poised in a detachment from the dual pull of the opposites, so there developed within him a new faculty of discrimination and spiritual discern ment. Psychologically this idea has been verified. For it has been said that as the over activity of the superficial mind, the flitting from one thing to another, prevents creativeness, so equally does inertia, dullness and the unwillingness to move. If fact, any of the two extremes or opposite modes of behavior or thinking are characteris tic of the unevolved man. As was said by one magician "The Secret of Wisdom can be discerned only from the place of balanced power" (2) - that is from between the two temple pillars. Poise at a third point, which neutralizes to some extent the violence of the swing of the psychic pendulum from one extreme to the other, is the result of cultivating equanimity representing an equal capacity to be either at rest or active, interested or withdrawn at will, and not from emotional compulsion.
This central point between the two symbolic pillars of the opposites, the place of balanced power from which the working of the opposites may correctly be viewed, is the implication of Daath, which is the name of this shadowy Sephirah. Rightly it is shadowy and the word is used advisedly for in the majority of us who have not culti vated the difficult art of avoiding the opposites, the development of this new principle has proceeded with the utmost slowness. It is a new factor of adaptation or equilibrium, especially between the two broad divisions of consciousness - the ego on the one hand with its desire for adjustment to modem life with its refined and non-natural conditions, and on the other hand with the superficial levels of the instinctual life, concerned with primitive things, of self-assertion and the unbridled gratification of its every whim and caprice. It is this new factor of adjustment which comprises the principal impetus to what has been variously called in the east the Golden Flower, and in mediaeval Europe the growth of the Red Rose upon the Cross of Gold. (3) It is the Stone of the Philosophers, the medicine of metals. (4)
To the four central Sephiroth plus the shadowy Daath as the fifth, are attributed divine names - which, as in the former exercise, are to be vibrated powerfully in conjunction with the imaginative formulation of various images.
Let me expatiate upon these divine names by stating that they may be considered as the keynote or vibratory rates of various degrees or grades of consciousness. In their prolonged investiga tion into the hidden knowledge and the secret side of man's nature, the ancients who were as empirical scientists as our psychologists today, came to associate various sound-values or rates of vibration with various parts of the body, and also with particular types of magnetic force and strata of consciousness. No religious or meta physical theory need attach to the employment of these names. The system rests entirely upon its own merits. The simplest way of regarding them is, as explained above, as vibratory rates. Again, they may be considered as key notes by means of which access is obtained to the consciousness of the different parts of our being, the existence of which hitherto we have been kept in ignorance. (5)
With each of these five centers there is associated a divine name to be used as a vibratory formula. The attributions as we have received them, together with the traditional name of the Sephiroth, are given below with the names of the principles active in the human psyche. The numberings are those that appear on the Tree. (6)
Kether - Yechidah
"AHIH" (pronounced "Eh-he-yeh")
Daath - The Link
"YHVH ALHIM" ("Ye-hoh-voh E-loh-heem") (7)
Tiphareth - Ruach
"YHVH ALOAH ve-DAATH" ("Ye-hoh-voh El-oah ye Da-ath" ) (8)
Yesod - Nephesh
"SHADDAI AL CHAI" ("Shah-dai El Chai") (9)
Malkuth - Body
"ADNI HARTZ" ("Ah-doh-nai ha-Ah-retz")
The divine names and the names of the Sephiroth should naturally be committed to memory as also the following scheme of their position or relation to parts of the human frame (See Pic 1 - Above)
Kether, the first Sephirab, is a center of light, and in the Qabalistic Cross, it is attributed to a center posited slightly above the crown of the head. It refers to that higher genius or it which, not yet fully incarnated within, broods above, a silent watcher. It is for each of us the source of inspiration and freedom and enlightenment. It is life itself.
Daath, the shadowy Sephirah, which develops in the course of evolution as we learn the domination of our mental and emotional propensities, is situated at the nape of the neck. Its position is at a point on the spine just below the occiput, about one or two inches above the larynx, and its diameter may be imagined to be about four inches in extent. It is conceived to be a symbolic link, self-induced and self-devised, between the higher genius on the one hand, and on the other, the ego, the conscious self referred to that group of characteristics clustered around Tiphareth.
On the Middle Pillar, Daath connects the higher faculties to the ego, Kether to Tiphareth. This latter Sephirah is resident in the neigh borhood of the heart, and its sphere extends from the diaphragm or solar plexus more or less to the spine. Its center may be imagined to be the lowest point of the sternum or breast-bone to which the ribs are attached, its diameter being about six inches.
Below Tiphareth is Yesod, a center which is referred to the region occupied by the generative organs, and its size should be visual ized as of the same dimensions as Tiphareth. The final center is Malkuth, referred to the feet, and it will be found by experience that the ankles comprise the periphery of a visualized sphere about four inches or so in diameter, the center being the sole of the foot.
The method of working this practice called the Middle Pillar is to stand upright, hands to side, eyes closed, breath being inhaled and expired steadily. Above all the mind should be quiet, calm, and still. When familiarity with the exercise is obtained, it may be per formed sitting or lying down. These preliminary conditions being fulfilled, let the student begin by transferring his attention to that region immediately above the crown of his head, where he should endeavor to visualize a sphere of white brilliance. To accomplish this may take some little while. Several attempts may be required before any realization of this center occurs. But when it has been obtained, let it be regarded with a certain sense of devotion, and contemplated as being the spatial correlative or correspondence of the vital core of his being. This devotional attitude should enliven it considerably, and the sense of light and power, the first avenues of sense by which this higher phase of consciousness may be grasped, should increase wholly beyond anticipation. At this juncture let him vibrate three or four times, slowly the name Eheieh.(10) This is a Hebrew divine name meaning "I am" (or more accurately "I will be") a statement which in reality is all that one can truthfully say of the self. Every other characteristic and quality belongs not to its own intrinsic nature but to the vehicles and sheaths of con sciousness through which it functions.
Steadfast in the contemplation of this source of power and enlightenment, he should endeavor to feel that an all-penetrant beam of brilliance is emitted downwards towards the nape of the neck. Here it widens, expanding to form a brilliant center similar to, though smaller in diameter than, that above the head. Applying the same vibratory technique here, while realizing that this is not his divinity but its conscious link or point of contact with his ego, the student should again feel the radiation of power and vitality. So marked and powerful should this become at this juncture that even in the palms of his hand will the vibration of energy be felt as almost of a physical nature, and quite possibly a prickling sensa tion will be noticed in the head and neck. A quite indescribable sense of poise and mental quiescence should also be experienced - no inconsiderable attainment, no small acquisition in these days of hurried business life and social fluttering.
After several vibrations of the appropriate name, again the beam of light should descend to the heart or region of the solar plexus, and from there a warmth and a quite different sense of power will gently radiate as though from an interior sun. Here too, a name should be slowly vibrated in such a way, which can only come through practice, as to detonate precisely in the physical area being contemplated and not in another. It must be felt to vibrate in the region between the diaphragm and the point opposite to it on the spinal column.
Pass in contemplation from the heart to the center of the genera tive organs. Visualize the sphere of light and vibrate the name, employing the same technique as before and noting carefully the reaction in consciousness. Some minutes having been spent arousing this center and vitalizing in with power, pass downwards to the feet where the magical center will be found to awaken quite easily in point of fact, it will be discovered that the mere contemplation of Kether, the center above the head, will by reflex action bring into operation the Malkuth center, these being the two poles, height and depth, of the Middle Pillar.
This very briefly is the technique. Little can be said which the zealous student will not be able to discover through application to it. If the student spends about five minutes in the contemplation of each Sephirah on the middle column, the exercise will take approx imately twenty-five minutes to half an hour. And surely there is no one so busy today who cannot devote at least one half hour a day to the task of self-mastery, to the cultivation of spiritual insight, and in the quest of his own divine nature.
My own plan of personal instruction, was to perform this exercise sitting beside that stu dent I had decided to teach. The principle involved was that of induction. I assumed that by bringing into operation the centers within my own sphere of sensation while sometimes, though not invariably, holding the hand of the student, the unawakened centers of the latter would react and revolve out of sympathy, or by reflex. It amounted, in a word, to a sort of initiation, and powerful it may become too. And I discovered that whereas the average stu dent took some while before stumbling upon the best means of producing the desired results by the Middle Pillar, those few stu dents whom I had initiated in this way were capable of performing the exercise immediately after in a highly successful way, even when away from my presence and atmosphere.
When seeking for the ideal technique of initiation, to perfect a rite of initiation from a purely individualistic point of view, one of the methods I hit upon was the combination of the Middle Pillar formula with an actual ceremony. That is to say, by ceremonially invoking a spiritual force by means of the appropriate pentagram or hexagram ritual, vibrating congruous divine names, and per forming the Middle Pillar in a room or temple thus powerfully charged by the manifestation of this spiritual force, the result was all the more effectual and definitely realized in consciousness. (11)
A simple ceremony which invokes the divine and archangelic currents of elemental force, using invocations composed of ecstatic passages from various sacred scriptures, is almost ideal for the pur- pose. Not only does this method succeed in providing a neophyte with an introduction to the light of his own higher genius and to the realm of magic, but it is a supreme technique of self-initiation.(12) Various changes may be rung on a simple theme. And according to the student's own ingenium and spiritual aspiration, so will he devise several methods of employing the techniques I have described above.
There will be some who will propound belabored theories as to suggestion - that because I consciously or otherwise suggested to these students that there were magical centers existent within their own system, their unconscious accepted the suggestion and produced the looked-for result. Others, yet again, will murmur the magical word "telepathy" - arguing that I projected, though not necessarily deliberately, certain ideas or sensations from my mind into that of the receptive student who thus was influenced against his own better judgment or skepticism. With none of these am I wholly in accord, though in each of them may be some germ of truth. None of them answer the facts of experience. And I can only suggest that these people would do far better to apply themselves zealously to a little experimental work rather than waste time in vain explanations and baseless theories.
Some will note that this exercise corresponds in some ways to the yoga chakra system. There is, assuredly, correspondence. But there are several very important differences and variations. The first, a minor difference, is the number and position of the centers involved. But this does not require discussion. What is fundamental, however, is the entirely different approach. The yoga technique commences its meditations from the lowest chakra and works upwards to the Sahasrara above the head. On the other hand, in the western system, the Middle Pillar starts from the highest and works downwards. In a word, the Western ideal is not to escape from the body but to become involved more and more in life, in order to experience it more adequately, and in order to obtain a mastery over it. The ideal is to bring down godhead so that one's manhood being enriched may thereby be assumed into godhead. Always does this system begin from the real center of working - the higher genius which, by definition, is in contact eternally with whatever infinite deity there may be. That is to say, through the Yechidah we have immediate access to all the dynamic inspiration and spiritual power of the collective unconscious.
By the magical hypothesis, the higher genius corresponds within man to the possible relationship of God to the universe. That is to say, man being the microcosm of the macrocosm, a reflec tion of the cosmos, is a universe within himself, a universe ruled and governed by his own divinity. So whatever magical work is undertaken must always be in accordance with the dictates and under the surveillance of that higher genius. And since, at first, there is no immediate method of realizing whether any particular magical effort has the approval, to state it simply and naively, of the higher self, the sole course of action must be for the student to place himself in alignment with that genius. This is done by invok ing it at the outset of any magical operation, and trusting to be made a vehicle of wisdom and understanding. (13) The first move ment of the Middle Pillar - as also the Qabalistic Cross, which is a quick method of obtaining the same result - achieves precisely that. For since the source of life and love has always been con ceived of as light, the preliminary step is to perceive that brooding brilliance above which is the emanation of, or the direct center through which manifests, that higher genius, or with which the latter is in especial sympathy. And the remaining steps are deliberately to open one's manhood as it were to the descent of divinity - to bring down the light into the personality. Here it must be emphasized lies the vital distinction between the yoga chakra system of the Hindus and the magical exercise of the Middle Pillar. At first such a descent is characterized by an increased sense of power and vitality. Gradually this widens to emotional quiescence and control with a mental poise, followed by a gradual broadening and enhancement of the entire mental horizon.
There is yet another highly useful application of this formula. It is to the art of healing that I refer. Formerly when I employed mas sage and magnetic healing in my professional work I found the Middle Pillar and the spiritual energy that it generates and makes available of inestimable value.(14) Cases of nervous exhaustion, catarrh, constipation, incipient consumption, pleurisy, and many another will respond in an incomparable manner to this combination of massage and the willed communication of power. That is to say, using effleurage and friction, especially on the spine, as the principal massage technique one should place oneself in rapport with the higher self by the contemplation of the center of light above the head. By silently vibrating the divine name appropriate, one is enabled to tap a tremendous source of healing power which is infinitely greater than that which ordinarily one has at one's disposal as an average human being. This magnetic or spiritual power flows through one steadily and powerfully. Directed by a calm will, and assisted by a clear visualized idea of the result desired, it may be com municated like an electric current through the arm and hands to the finger tips. Thence it enters the patient's body as the palms of the masseur's hands glide over the surface being treated. It requires some little practice to retain awareness of this divine Light while engaging in so strenuous a physical effort as deep massage, but it is not an impossible one. It is a great help if the visualization of the sphere above the head is attempted whilst walking, for example. When this can be done, then its employment for the purposes of healing is quite simple. I can commend it unequivocally, both to physicians and psy chologists. It is my hope that analysts will take over the technique for use in their own consulting rooms. Let them adopt it in its entirety as the one ideal method of inducing the right state of mind appropriate to free association and the cathartic confession. Should its present form be considered unsuitable, I reiterate that it has possibilities which render it worthy of being remodeled in the light of present-day psychological knowledge to suit modem contingencies.
There are several little physical helps which greatly enhance the degree and amount of power which can be made available. Correct breathing, especially, is one of them. There could hardly be a better adjunct than breathing in a rhythmical manner. The latter in itself, quite apart from the Middle Pillar, is supremely efficacious in producing quiet and calm. The entire system is stilled and strengthened as the lungs slowly take up a rhythm, and keep to it indefinitely.
First of all the student should train himself in the method of breathing correctly - that is to say, in the method of filling his lungs with air from the very bottom. He should combine abdominal with both diaphragmatic and costal breathing. The act of inspiration, if carefully observed, consists of these three phases. First the abdominal part of the lungs are filled, then that underlying the diaphragm, and finally as the shoulders are slightly lifted the thorax itself becomes filled. They are so continuous as to appear an undivided act. In this way, every cell of the entire lung surface comes into con tact with the oxygen inhaled, which is thus passed into the blood stream. Most of us usually breathe very insufficiently, only a fraction of the cellular surface of the lung coming into contact with the inhaled air. Thus there is always a large quantity of residual air in the lower reaches of the lungs. There is always a large surface of the lung area which is not employed; and a quantity of carbon dioxide and cells in an impoverished state of health are ever present.
This method of breathing introduces a far greater content of oxygen into the lung, destroying therefore, by combustion, toxins and undesirable elements, and also producing a better state of health. There are many individuals who, because of conflict and neurosis, have attempted to flee from life. They have attempted to evade a full contact with the stream of vital experience, and this psychological attitude of evasion has reacted upon the bodily functions. One of these particularly affected is that of breathing, the lungs falling into the habit of functioning at about half their proper capacity. The circle is a vicious one. For inadequate breathing by itself induces an enfeebled state of health, perpetual exhaustion, catarrh, and many another ill. Likewise, this constant state of ill-health reacts upon the mental outlook, confirming and strengthening the escapist attitude towards life because the individual is now only half alive, incapable of reacting to the pleasures and joys of life. For mind and body, as so often reiterated in these pages, are not two distinct units. The functions of the one interlap with and interpenetrate the functions of the other. More accurately they should be regarded as the two functions of one entity, two methods whereby it may acquire experience. Too much therefore cannot be said of the necessity for cultivating the lungs to operate at full capacity. This cultivation cannot be too often stressed, for life is power, and power is life and consciousness, indispensable in the path of magic which leads to the knowledge of the higher self.
The proper method of deep breathing having been acquired, the cultivation of a rhythmic breath should be the next step. The most suitable and simple method is the four-beat rhythm. If the student will inhale very slowly, mentally counting one, two, three, four and then exhale to the same beat, he will discover that this undoubtedly is the best rhythm for inducing that state of calmness and peace which is so necessary for meditation and reflection. And, in passing, let me add that the state of quiescence sought after is one not of pas sivity and negativity. It is one of alertness and eagerness. What one should cultivate is a quiescence in which every mental faculty is alert, waiting to be used. A tranquillity characterized by a sense of enormous power and capacity is the state to be aimed at, one in which there is the maximum of awareness and inner poise.
Success in the technique of the rhythmic breath is an unmistak able symptom which cannot fail to be recognized when it arises. There is first the sense of peace, satisfaction and quiet joy, without the least cessation of one’s mental capacity. Next follows a sense of vibration felt all over the body, as though every cell and molecule were acting in unison and moving, as it were, in a single direction. The result of this vibration is to transform the lungs and the entire body into a single storage battery, generating and storing electric ity and power, transmuting them into will and faculty. Hard upon this, if the rhythm be persisted in, comes a quiet ripple over the diaphragm or solar plexus—a difficult symptom to describe, because it produces no perceptible physical or recognizable change, though the sense of the rhythm is none the less distinctly felt. When this occurs, and when one becomes aware of a single vibration through the body, and a gentle vibration or sense of lumi nosity and lightness in the brain, the student may be assured that he has achieved success in this particular practice.
This state gained, the Middle Pillar should be proceeded with, and the names could be silently vibrated in tune with the rhythmic inhalation and exhalation of the breath. The sense of the brilliance above which I prefer to think of as the "lamp above the head," or as others have called it "the candle of vision," becomes much more per ceptible and marked. Very often it develops into an awareness of a whirling sphere of fiery light radiating peace and illumination into the mind and body. Little more need be said, for I have no desire to provide material which may act upon suggestible minds. There are people so constituted as to be able to produce symptoms of any described kind with the least application, and with practically no spiritual effect upon themselves or their mental or moral nature, and certainly no progress in that path which leads to the knowledge of the higher self. Silence with reference to symptoms and results is therefore most desirable.
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