Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Middle Pillar Ritual

"Now is the Pillar established in the Void; now is Asi fulfilled of Asar; now is Hoor let down into the Animal Soul of Things like a fiery star that falleth upon the darkness of the earth." -- Liber LXV

The Middle Pillar ritual is a basic magical exercise in which a magician affirms the “middle pillar” of the Qabalistic Tree of Life within his or her aura and then draws down and circulates its light. It can be seen as an extension of the Qabalistic Cross ritual.

Like all rituals, it is an enacted meditation that can be performed bodily or, once proficiency is gained, entirely in the mind.

This article describes how to perform this ritual and provides commentary.

Read on for more.

There are many versions of the Middle Pillar ritual extant. I will give below a Thelemic variant that I practice.

1)  Perform the LBRP or the Star Ruby. Alternatively, perform a mini-banishing by visualizing your working space bathed in golden light that annihilates any negative thoughts. As part of this mini-banishing, you may wish to briefly invoke the HGA or intone a spell of banishing from The Book of the Law: “For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”

The goal here is to get yourself outside your normal sphere of thought. At the very least, you should perform the “expansion” that precedes the Qabalistic Cross. You might wish to perform the entire Qabalistic Cross as well.

2) Visualize the vast emptiness of space above you, extending nearly infinitely. See it populated by an almost infinite number of small dots of light, each a galaxy containing millions of stars. Try to get a sense of the scale, to the point that you are overwhelmed by the immensity of what you are imagining.

You are visualizing nothingness, with twinkles (see Crowley’s new comment to AL I:59).

Vibrates NUIT five times. Do this very slowly, each vibration taking a full breath. Lose yourself in the starry sky and feel the entire universe vibrating.

3) Visualize a bright white sphere form just above your head, with a bit of it touching the crown of your head. This sphere should be so bright that it would hurt to look at directly. This is Kether, the principle of creation. Out of that nothingness with twinkles, you are  focusing on one of those twinkles. This sphere represents the idea of creation out of Nothing, an idea that underlies all things. By concentrating on this particular sphere, you focus on both the general idea of creation and on the application of that creation process to the emergence of what you call your Self (which will appear further down on the middle pillar).

Your Self has its origin in this creation event, as all things do.

You may wish to meditate on these words: “I also am a Star in Space, unique and self-existent, an individual essence incorruptible; I also am one Soul; I am identical with All and None. I am in All and all in me; I am, apart from all and lord of all, and one with all.”

Vibrate HADIT five times. The sphere grows brighter with every vibration until it is practically blinding.

4) Inhale deeply. As you exhale watch the Nothingness condense into the sphere above your head and watch the sphere grow brighter as it receives influence from the Nothingness. Then push the rest of the air out of your lungs, and as you do so, visualize a shaft of white light shoot out from the sphere, down through your head and stop in your throat, where it forms into a bright purple sphere. Feel the presence of this light as strongly as you are able.

Consider this purple sphere to be Daath, the imaginary eleventh sephirah situated in the abyss between the supernal triad and the actual triad. The downward motion of this energy represents the idea of creation (Kether) moving towards the actual (Tipareth). But before an actual thing can emerge, the idea of creation must be broken by Knowledge. Kether is unity, and it therefore can never be known, for knowledge implies duality (a knower, and a thing known). Yet without this duality, no experience would be possible.

Vibrate AIWASS five times. The sphere grows brighter with every vibration, though it is not as brilliant as the Kether sphere.

5) Repeat the above steps (feeling the energy descend from Nothingness to Kether to Daath and then pushing down further) to formulate a golden sphere in the center of your chest. This is your True Self, a unique star that has emerged out of the universe (and is the product of the unique creation event that you focused on in Kether).

Vibrate HERU-RA-HA five times.

6) Repeat the above steps to formulate a silver sphere centered in your genitals. This is the self-image (the primary product of the Khu), your mental idea of your Self by which you generate a concept of who you are.

It is attributed to the moon, and like the moon, your self-image can reflect either a portion of your True Self or (ideally) reflect as much of your True Self as it is able (symbolized by the full moon).

Recall that the energy is moving downward. “The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.”

Vibrate BABALON five times.

7) Finally, formulate a bright green sphere at your feet. This is the physical world – or, more specifically, your experience of the world. The entire purpose of manifestation, in the Thelemic scheme, is to enable experience to happen. Hence, in this Thelemic framework, Malkuth is not a debased sephirah: it is the throne of spirit, and Kether is in Malkuth, much as Malkuth is in Kether.

Vibrate THERION five times.


8)Now that you’ve formulated the entire middle pillar, revisit each sphere. Feel the energy flowing down, and meditate briefly on what each sphere represents. You may want to vibrate the names a few more times. Really lose yourself in the performance until the middle pillar feels like the only thing that’s real.

Take a deep breath and exhale. As you exhale, visualize a spark leaving Kether and traveling down the left side of your body to Malkuth. See the spark leave an arc of bright white light in its wake. As you inhale, see the spark leap up from Malkuth to Kether on the right side of your body, leaving another arc of bright white light behind it. Repeat this several times.

Now repeat the process, but this time you should visualize the spark traveling down in front of your body and then coming up your back. Keep this up until you are surrounded by a cocoon of light.

Now send one spark down the left side and back up the right side rapidly. See it going faster and faster. Add another spark traveling down the front and up the back. Both move faster and faster and faster until you see yourself as the nucleus of an atom around which these electron-sparks-of-light are spinning.

You *are* an atom. Just as your body is made of atoms, the universe is made of stars like you. As above, so below. The actual universe itself is but an atom in the body of Nuit, who is the infinity of potential.

Try to feel the scale of all of this. It should make you almost dizzy with wonder.

The final phase of this exercise is to cross your arms in the pose of Osiris and to inhale deeply, visualizing a stream of energy leaving Malkuth and rising while wrapping around your body (as if a snake is coiling around you). When the energy reaches Kether, exhale and watch it shoot from Kether as if from a fountain, raining down in ribbons of light to Malkuth at your feet.

You should strive to feel the sensations that go along with these visualizations. They should be extremely pleasurable and even sensuous. Enjoy these feelings for as long as you like while you circulate the light. After some practice, you might even wish to engage in auto-erotic sex magick at this point. You could also work with a partner, with each of you building up a middle pillar (with simultaneous vibrations of the words of power) and then circulating the light during a sex magick operation. You might anoint each other’s “sephiroth” with lotions and/or kisses. Use your imagination.

When you are finished enjoying the ritual, visualize the aura of light surrounding you merging into your being and nourishing you. Absorb it and incorporate it.

To close the ritual, repeat whatever banishing with which you began and then visualize yourself shrinking back down to your normal size. It is customary after these rituals to “ground” any excess energy (place your hands on the ground and imagine the excess energy slipping out of your body and sinking down into the center of the earth).

End with the sign of silence.



The Middle Pillar ritual serves a number of functions, both recreational and practical. Obviously, as explained above, the ritual is pleasurable and can be used simply for enjoyment. Also as noted above, it can enhance sex, and sex magick operations can be done either for their own sake (dedicated to Nuit) or while meditating on a particular goal (including something as simple and direct as “accomplishing the Great Work”).

After you’ve gained some proficiency, you can do the ritual entirely in your mind and enjoy these sensations while your body is, say, sitting on a train. In the case of a public performance like that, it is strongly recommended that you do not add an outward sexual component.

It should be noted that there are definite physiological effects of this ritual that become pronounced with practice. As an example, the few times that I have practiced the Middle Pillar late at night, I found that it caused significant difficulties sleeping afterwards. Proper performance should leave you feeling energized -- as well as refreshed and balanced, and these are valuable practical results on their own.

In terms of being an aid in attainment, the Middle Pillar ritual shares many of its goals with the Qabalistic Cross: impressing the idea of expansion on the magician’s mind, encouraging him to “break out” of his usual ways of looking at the universe and to think more broadly, on grander and grander scales. The nature of the meditations given above prompt the magician to consider his own being as part of the fabric of the universe.
Note: Consult Erwin Hessle’s article on the Qabalistic Cross for an excellent discussion of expanding the sphere of the magician’s consciousness.

The middle pillar itself is a column of light that Crowley calls “O Phalle” in his version of the Qabalistic Cross. It is a phallus in the highest sense, a representation of the creative principle of life that motivates the universe and is shared by all sexes and genders. Its sephiroth are all linked to each other, and it is useful to consider that each sephiroth is a different way of viewing the universe.

[Note: what follows is one particular way to attribute things to the Tree of Life. There are many other equally valid attributions]

Malkuth is bare experience, and we might attribute it to the way that the average “uninitiated” person experiences reality.

Yesod is thought about experience, and we might attribute it to the first milestone on the path to initiation: learning how to differentiate thought from experience. Thus, we could say that Yesod is the same experience represented by Malkuth, but it is the same experience seen as overlaid with mental content. Yesod, therefore, can represent the individual having taken a step back from his usual, unreflective way of looking at the world and gaining some insight into the way his mind overlays content on top of experience.

Tipareth is the True Self, and we might attribute it to paying attention to the experience instead of paying attention to thoughts about the experience. This act of paying attention, when accomplished fully, is the equivalent of discovering the True Will and achieving Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, and if you think those metaphors are overblown, then clearly you don’t grasp how difficult an attainment this is (made all the more difficult by how *easy* it actually is, as will be seen by someone who has achieved it a few times).

Daath is Knowledge, and we might attribute it to the realization that (absolute) knowledge about the experience is impossible. In other words, our thoughts about the experience are not just separate from it – our thoughts about the experience are incomplete and misleading. Any of our conclusions are always tentative, and we never can arrive at absolute knowledge about the experience. Every experience has no more significance than what it is. We might even say, to speak poetically and figuratively, that it is proper to interpret each experience as having no more ultimate significance than as a dealing of God with one’s own soul.

[Note: we might also attribute to this sephira the realization that thought itself is an experience. A 5=6 has differentiated thought from experience and embraced the experience uncontaminated by thought, but he or she but has yet to pierce the nature of thought. Upon seeing that thought, too, is an experience, the individual begins to understand that the experience of thought is separate from other thoughts about it (which are themselves experiences, and which include the thought that we call perception of thought).

Following lines of thought (!) like these can give us a glimpse of the way that thought breaks down in the Abyss, where Daath is located]

Kether is the idea of creation, but we might also attribute it to bare experience stripped of any idea of thought, self, or knowledge. Thus, Kether is in Malkuth because Kether and Malkuth refer to the same thing, just seen in different ways.

Traveling down the middle pillar dramatizes the clothing of the universe in the illusion of separateness (self-ness), so as to permit experience to happen. Traveling up the middle pillar dramatizes the stripping of the universe of those qualities so as to permit one last rapturous experience: the orgasm-like destruction of the illusion of self in order to see things as they are.

29. For I am divided for love's sake, for the chance of union.
30. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.

Traveling down and reaching the bottom instantly impels a quest to reach the top, and reaching the top immediately issues forth into a new act of creation. Cf. Crowley on the Tetragrammaton in its circular formulation:

The Hebrew system is straightforward and irreversible; it postulates Father and Mother from whose union issue Son and Daughter. There an end. It is only later philosophical speculation to derive the Father-Mother Dyad from a Unity manifest, and later still to seek the source of that Unity in Nothing. This is a concrete and limited scheme, crude, with its causeless Beginning and its sterile End.

The Pagan system is circular, self-generated, self-nourished, self-renewed. It is a wheel on whose rim are Father-Mother-Son-Daughter; they move about the motionless axis of Zero; they unite at will; they transform one into another; there is neither Beginning nor End to the Orbit; none is higher or lower than another. The Equation "Naught=Many =Two= One= All= Naught" is implicit in every mode of the being of the System.

Note: There is an important clue for readers of Finnegans Wake here.

Repeated practice of this ritual will impress these ideas on the magician, assisting him in “shaking off” his usual way of looking at the universe (represented by Malkuth).

The Middle Pillar is thus a potent ritual of ceremonial magick. It is the companion of the Qabalistic Cross, and frequent use should be made of both.


  1. Another way of conceiving the Middle Pillar:

    Kether is the universe as it is, a state of flux barely distinguishable from Nothing.

    Daath represents the arising of thought (understood broadly enough to include all mental processes that divide “this” from “that”). Under this definition, even the perception of sense stimulus is a “thought.”

    Tipareth represents the preference for one thought/sensation over another. These preferences are themselves thoughts, and they comprise an individual.

    Yesod represents conscious preferences, which are often inspired by the real preferences in Tipareth but are usually distorted in various ways by the lenses of the mind. This is where “conscious thought” appears in the sense that we are used to the term.

    Malkuth represents the coloring of perception by the things represented by the previous three spheres (this coloring changes the perception, so the individual is not experiencing reality as it is [Kether] – or, rather, the individual is not experiencing a clear reflection of that reality. Instead, the individual experiences reality refracted through all of the lenses represented by those previous sephiroth).

    Daath, Tipareth, Yesod, and Malkuth all represent what we might call the “mind,” but Yesod and Malkuth signify the “conscious mind” (the thing I usually refer to as “mind,” unqualified, or “thought” in its more restricted sense of mental phenomena like thoughts, emotions, opinions, moral judgments, etc.) while Daath and Tipareth refer to automatic mental processes that are the foundation of thought and experience.

    It’s not all that difficult – with consistent applied effort – to peel back the distorting influences of the conscious mind (Yesod and Malkuth). This is why the goal of most systems of initiation is to get to Tipareth (5=6). To peel back Tipareth and Daath (in other words, to “cross the abyss”) is more difficult because it involves processes that are even more “beneath” our everyday consciousness. At the same time, we might say that nothing is easier since what’s “happening” at those higher levels is nothing more than what is.

    The trick of initiation is finding a way to get the self to quiet down and pay attention sufficiently. For many individuals, getting the self to quiet down may involve first shaking it up: their minds can be “shocked” out of their mundane lethargy and into paying attention. We call such shocks “enflaming thyself with prayer,” and the entire apparatus of ceremonial magick exists to excite the individual enough to cause a crack in those veils that create and maintain the illusion of separateness.

  2. Interesting take on the ritual, especially the addition of Nothing (Ain?) before Kether. You say to "invoke the HGA"; in light of your previous post on the HGA, I wonder: do you consider it as an external 'thing' for the purposes of the ritual, or are you just using conventional language?

    1. Part 1 of 2:

      You say to "invoke the HGA"; in light of your previous post on the HGA, I wonder: do you consider it as an external 'thing' for the purposes of the ritual, or are you just using conventional language?

      I’m considering “invocation” here in the sense of what Crowley says in Magick in Theory and Practice: “The mind is the great enemy; so, by invoking enthusiastically a person whom we know not to exist, we are rebuking that mind.”

      This occurs in the text, by the way, immediately after Crowley explains why he selected the phrase “Holy Guardian Angel”: “because the theory implied in these words is so patently absurd that only simpletons would waste much time in analysing it. It would be accepted as a convention, and no one would incur the grave danger of building a philosophical system upon it.”

      The HGA is most emphatically not some kind of external being. It is a symbol for the True Self of the individual, the dynamic part of which is the True Will. If you haven’t already, you should read Erwin Hessle’s essay on the Holy Guardian Angel, which traces every substantial reference to the HGA in Crowley’s published prose and demonstrates that it precisely is such a symbol.

      So the HGA is a symbol for the True Self, but a magician is certainly free to come up with an image to represent his True Self and names to give his True Self. Visualizing the image of the HGA appearing and flooding the working space with golden light might work far better for some individuals than the “standard” banishings. Or inserting a personalized name for one’s HGA into the Qabalistic Cross (instead of “Aiwass” or “IAO” at the heart) might be very effective for some.

      But at the same time, as much as you need to “lose yourself” in the performance of ceremonial magick, it’s equally important to keep in mind what it is that you’re doing and what your goals are. If you use images associated with your “HGA” to help you shift out of your normal mode of consciousness, then great. If you’re constructing the rough equivalent of an imaginary friend and getting advice from said friend and then telling yourself that it’s just as “valid” as any other experience, then you’ve gone off the deep end.

      A big part of getting good at magick is figuring out the kinds of images and ideas that “enflame” your individual mind. This is necessarily going to be very, very different for each person. Not everybody is going to respond to “angels” or to “ceremonial magick” or even necessarily to images. If you’re a musician, maybe it’s some holy sound that signifies your True Self to you. If you’re an athlete, maybe it’s some kind of stretch or exercise or sport.

    2. Part 2 of 2:

      The “invocation of the HGA” consists of saturating your consciousness with those things that excite and exalt you. The goal is actually to achieve something of a “spasm” or “burst” in the veils that maintain the illusion of separateness (physical orgasm makes a useful analogy). Once this happens, you have to discard any images or names you’ve come up with because all of those images and names are on the level of thought, and your HGA is “beneath” thought.

      What you’re trying to do with “magical” practice is to ease your way in to working yourself up to the point where these sorts of “spasms” start occurring naturally and, from there, can be repeated. You’ll know when it happens. Some people define “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” as the first occurrence of this “trance.” Others define it as the ability to bring on this trance more or less at will, and I think that’s a more useful definition. One who has achieved KCHGA is aware of this “other” perspective on things that he’s discovered, and it’s just a matter of switching focus, which gets easier and easier to do with time and familiarity.

      By the way, that might sound kind of like religious crackpottery, and it would be, except: 1) nobody’s claiming anything metaphysical about the experience, 2) the experience itself isn’t important – just what it enables you to do (i.e. follow your True Will uninhibited, as if you had opened flood gates and let the light pour through), and 3) the experience doesn’t negate or devalue the world we normally interact with – it just puts it in a new context. This last point requires a bit of explanation. If you talk to some mystics – if you really must -- they claim that their spiritual fantasies are the “real reality” and that the physical world is some kind of “lesser” realm that’s only a “fraction” of the “real reality.” All of that is complete bullshit. The KCHGA experience I’m talking about just wakes you up to the fact that, for example, the vast majority of the things that preoccupy your time and attention are mental clutter, not reality. So you might, for example, catch yourself worrying about what your coworkers think about you or about how many bills you have to pay – and then you remember that those are just thoughts and that there’s this “other” way of looking at the universe, outside of that narrow little collection of stories between your ears. If you’re advanced enough in the practice of magick, you might even be able to “shift over” into that other way of looking at things right then and there – without any of the paraphernalia that you required in the beginning to get into that psychological space. That is to say, you might “invoke the HGA” in the blink of an eye, with nothing more than your willpower.

      And, in fact, I’d say that you’re not *really* at KCHGA unless you’re able to consistently make the leap from “normal” mode to KCHGA mode at will, in ways that have practical benefits on the way you live your day to day life (note: “consistently” does not mean “always instantly”). In the above example, stopping your preoccupation with mental chatter and listening to your Will in the moment is an enormous practical benefit.

    3. And this is the conclusion (slightly too long to be included in Part 2):

      But going off into a fantasy world where you polish your self image as a “wise enlightened one” and pretend like your daydreams are the “real reality” is a way of getting lost further in your mind.

      As ever, the advice is “invoke often.” The more often you identify with your True Self, the more easily you see through the nonsense with which your mind wraps that Self. And then it becomes second nature to just operate like that.

      But anyway, all of what I’ve been saying has been said before, by other spiritual traditions. Once you’ve had the experience – or even way before, if you have a little bit of imagination and have done some wide reading – you can look back and see that all these spiritual traditions are different ways of talking a specific, concrete experience, and all the different dogmas and such are different explanations that people attached to the experience. Maybe you don’t respond to talk like “magick” or “angels” or “invoking.” Maybe you prefer the Buddhist or Hindu terms or symbols. It doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t lose sight of the fact that they’re all symbols, not fairytales for you to get lost in.

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