Home > Blog Posts > A Commentary Upon the Middle Pillar Exercise

A Commentary Upon the Middle Pillar Exercise

Anybody familiar with the more traditional side of Western occultism has probably encountered the Middle Pillar Exercise (MPE). The Golden Dawn’s official papers placed little emphasis upon this (see Regardie, The G0lden Dawn, 6th edition, Llewellyn Publications), one of their finest and simplest technical methods, but Dr. Israel Regardie (and others) gave it the attention it deserves and expanded upon its essentials until the MPE alone comprised a fairly complete magic-mystical methodology. (See Regardie, The Middle Pillar, as well as his The Art of True Healing.)

The core practice is, for those with kabbalistic knowledge of even a very basic level, simplicity itself: the magician formulates the middle pillar of the Tree of Life diagram within her spirit, astral body, and etheric double, and then circulates the energy thus set in motion through and around all layers of her individual being. The core techniques are visualization and vibratory vocalization, both of which facilitate the awakening of the microcosmic Tree of Life, the linkage of same with its macrocosmic analogy, and the conscious manipulation of vital energy. (For the actual technical methods in full, see Regardie’s The Middle Pillar.)

The purpose of the basic Middle Pillar Exercise and its contingent circulations is not merely to become a willing and conscious channel for vital energy; this task can be accomplished much more simply and quickly with other methods. The primary function of the exercise is the conscious communion and eventual integration of the various levels of spiritual and psychic functioning. When approached from this angle, the MPE performs its duty admirably and becomes a magnificent training tool.

It is as well to remark at this point that the MPE seeks to draw the Ketheric Light, or Divine Light, from the macrocosm to the aspirant’s highest center of consciousness, then on down through successively lower phases and finally into mundane awareness. This scheme self-consciously differs substantially from most methods involving the chakras, wherein consciousness is raised from mundane awareness to the highest heights and “left hanging”, as it were, beyond the pale of this world. As Regardie pointed out in his The Middle Pillar,

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 centre of working—the higher Genius which, by definition, is in contact eternally with whatever infinite deity there may be. (The Middle Pillar, second edition, by Israel Regardie, 1970 Llewellyn Publications, pg. 122)

In those systems based in Greek, Egyptian, Hebrew, Christian and even shamanic sources, everything must ultimately be brought back to Earth if it is to have any value.

There are numerous uses for even this most basic method aside from mystical attainment. Regardie himself used the Middle Pillar Exercise in therapy with his patients. He would use the vital energy so generated as an aid to massage, similar in spirit and technique to Reich’s orgone therapy, and would use the psycho-spiritual integrating power of the MPE while holding hands with this students and patients in order to influence their inner economies toward greater health and wholeness.

A number of outgrowths exist, as well, which expand upon and even complete the MPE. These include the addition of appropriate colors to the visualization, the formulation of the complete Tree of Life, the use of Archangelic names, and the Vibratory Formula of the Middle Pillar.

The basic form of the Middle Pillar Exercise uses only white light. Once the ritual has been mastered this way, the student is to visualize the Sephiroth in their appropriate colors. This practice enlivens the Sephiroth further, differentiating the Ketheric Light into its various phases of manifestation and bringing the spheres of Light into closer sympathy with their macrocosmic counterparts.

Once the basic exercise has been mastered with the specific colors, the student begins to work on enlivening the other two Pillars and their correspond Sephiroth. This can be done in several ways, but the one I recommend is as follows: on one day, add Chokmah in its gray color. The next day, add Binah in black, while maintaining Chokmah; add Gedulah the next day, then Geburah, and so on, in order, until the Tree is complete each time the exercise is performed.

To this scheme I would add that once Binah has been included, and ever after whenever more than just the Middle Pillar are employed during the MPE’s performance, the pseudo-Sephirah of Da’ath should be omitted. Da’ath is in actuality the lowest manifestation of Binah or, rather, Binah as “viewed from below.” When practicing the MPE using only the Middle Pillar itself, Da’ath serves as a vital link between Kether and Tiphareth, translating the Light of Kether across the Abyss (which itself only exists when viewed from lower phases of awareness) and into the realm of individual experience. Hence its name, Da’ath, which translates as “knowledge in English, indicating that it is the very human intellectual knowledge of Divine reality as opposed to the gnostic understanding of Binah proper. When Binah itself is recognized, Da’ath becomes redundant and even distracting.

At this point, the names of the Archangels may be added to the practice. They are simply vibrated after each Divine Name, otherwise carrying on just as before. It is important to note that when using only the Middle Pillar with the Archangelic names, the Archangel of Binah is to be employed for Da’ath, just as Da’ath shares Binah’s Name of God.

In theory, the student could eventually add the Angelic Choir and the Mundane Sphere of each Sephirah, and each magician is welcome so to experiment. In experience, though, this practice does not seem to add to the effectiveness of the MPE. Still, much can be gained through meditation on the associations of the Angelic Choirs and Mundane Spheres with the Sephiroth.

With time, it becomes possible to simply activate the sphere of Light itself in order to bring into effect the Divine Name, Archangelic power, Angelic Choir, and other associated powers. Even a rudimentary attainment herein can be a powerful experience. This complete microcosmic Tree of Life is known as the Body of Light (or Luminous Body), though this title is somewhat of a misnomer. It is not a body, but rather a psycho-spiritual garment of purity and protection identical to that which lies behind and empowers the magician’s ritual robe. In fact, the establishment of this Body of Light completely obviates the need for a robe in evocation and spheric magic.

The final phase of practice with the Middle Pillar Exercise is a mystical method of consciousness-raising that, when practiced in a methodical manner, amounts to a technique of self-initiation. Known as the Vibratory Formula of the Middle Pillar, this method is so simple yet so powerful. The initiate first performs the MPE itself. It is only necessary to work with the Middle Pillar. The side Pillars may be omitted, as this technique deals only with grades of consciousness; where the side Pillars are concerned with the magic powers, the Middle Pillar concerns only the levels of consciousness as such.

Once the MPE has been performed, and the circulations completed, the student intensely visualizes the Name of God pertaining to the Sephirah to be contacted, composed of appropriately colored flames or electricity, floating directly ahead of her. This Name is then breathed in using the technique of pore breathing (see Initiation Into Hermetics by Franz Bardon, 2001, Merkur), and condensed in the area of the solar plexus. It is then vibrated aloud and simultaneously projected outward to the ends of the universe, then imagined to speed back toward the initiate. At the moment of impact, she is to enter a state of mental vacancy and allow the energy of the Name, now empowered by the Supreme God beyond the Void, to integrate with her and affect her as It will.

A few points deserve attention. First of all, it is a good idea to work this method in a relatively open area with carpet, grass, or padding about. The Vibratory Formula can be very disconcerting and may well cause the student to stumble or fall, especially during the first few performances. No benefit is to be gained from smacking your head off of a wall or table!

It is also well to work up the Tree, from Malkuth to Kether inclusive, and in order, first, perhaps over the course of ten days, then to work back down from Kether to Malkuth over a similar period of time. This ensures that the initiate experiences the Tree in a balanced manner from the outset. Once the Vibratory Formula has been used to “ascend” and “descend” in this way, the initiate may return to the Names of God in any order she desires. Even so, it is to be suggested that she not work with any Sephirah or Sephiroth to the exclusion of the rest, and that work with any Sephirah on the side Pillars be followed up within a week by its opposite to maintain healthy equilibrium.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that traditionally the projection of the Name is accomplished with the Sign of Projection, while the mental quiescence as the Name “strikes home” is accomplished with the Sign of Silence (the two Neophyte grade signs of the Golden Dawn’s initiatory system). While these signs are effective for the Golden Dawn magician, there is no reason why others may not use similar signs and motions or simple visualization and energy work techniques from other systems.

All told, the Middle Pillar Exercise is among the finest of magico-mystical tools available to the beginning student of Hermetics and Kabbalah. It eventually becomes obsolete for intermediate to advanced practitioners, but can hold a central place in daily work for months to years, and serves to speed the student toward those heights in the meantime. I hope that these comments and applications provide some small help upon the path.

  1. Lord Sluk
    May 29, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    ever study neo-plotinism? Its basically esoteric mysicism of the first century. Its like Gnosticism and zen combined =)

    • May 30, 2009 at 12:45 pm

      Yeah, it’s pretty foundational to Western occultism and Hermetics. Neoplatonism, Neoplotinism, Pythagoreanism, Christianity and Judaism are probably the biggest factors behind Hermetics.

  2. June 4, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    coolness. Very well thought out and explained.

    • June 13, 2009 at 3:23 am

      Thank you. I welcome any comments, additions, questions, or suggested areas of approach or experimentation which you might have.

  3. June 13, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Have you had a chance to check out my site? I provide some sound bites of pronunciation, some theory, and apply it to my life in my blog.

    • July 31, 2009 at 6:28 pm

      I have indeed; it’s a very nice site. I plan on exploring quite a bit more in the near future. Unfortunately, my access to the Internet is sporadic these days, so I don’t know exactly when that will be.

  4. December 9, 2009 at 10:08 am

    My “problem” with the middle pillar, is the insistance on chanting Hebrew….

    We are then stuck in the 19th century idea that Hebrew is the only sacred language….

    Does reagrdie’s book change it so that one can use english! at all??? That for me would be far better….

    although there is a Aramaic “version” I have used, that is similar…

    there is also of course a version that goes upwards as well….

    • December 9, 2009 at 1:12 pm

      If you want to use English, just use the English translations of the Hebrew Names. Although, I warn you, this is not the best way to go about it. Hebrew is used for more than one reason. Yes it is a sacred language to Jews and Christians, but there is necessarily more to it. I suggest that you study those reasons and contemplate them deeply before making any modifications to rituals which use languages like Hebrew, Greek or Latin.

      The reasons, in short, are as follows:
      1. The rituals which use Hebrew, such as the Middle Pillar, are based in Jewish Kabbalah. I’m sure you already know this, but reconsider it. It is unwise to modify elements of a tradition until you understand it completely.

      2. The Names of God used in any ritual, regardless of their language, are important for their sound and shape (how we move our mouths to speak them) just as much as their literal meaning.

      3. In the case of Hebrew, Greek and Arabic in the Middle East and the West, the numeric values of the Names are also important.

      There is an old axiom that applies here: “Learn how to make a pizza before you mess with the toppings.” In other words, study the ritual thoroughly, learn the entirety of its foundation (which means at least several years of practical kabbalistic study), and practice it extensively in its original form before trying to “personalize it”. That, at least, is my advice.

  5. December 9, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Using Hebrew aligns you with the many past Practitioners who have performed it with intent over the years and built up a wave of power on the Astral, but it’s not necessary. Try to keep the concepts, breathing and vibrations similar, and experiment to find what works best for you. IMHO FURNACE

    • December 9, 2009 at 1:16 pm

      Chuck also brings up a good point: the Hebrew has been in use for so long that it has volts built up around it, and in addition to lending more free energy to the ritual, it will also align you with the Hermetic Tradition as a conscious continuity. I respectfully disagree, however, with the “experiment and find what works best for you” approach until you have a great deal of practical and theoretical background.

  6. January 20, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Keen insights noted here and I like your take on things. One thing I’ve witnessed is what we think about is 100% what we get. We create our own reality.

    • January 20, 2010 at 1:27 am

      At the very least, our expectations color our experiences. Most of magic, psychic development and mental growth is subjective. A lot of magicians and psychics are threatened by that idea, as if it were the same as saying “It isn’t real”, but it’s never quite so clear cut.

      Thanks for the comment! I hope that you find my blog in some way useful or at least entertaining.

  7. January 20, 2010 at 4:04 am

    Intriguing analysis. I like it. 🙂

    • February 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm

      Thanks. 🙂 This is basically just a collection of notes from my own experiences and experiments. I just hope that it’s actually useful to somebody.

  8. Danny Savage
    December 5, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Wow, that was an excellent essay! Very insightful.

  9. torus
    January 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I use Jonathon Goldman’s CD, ‘Ascension Harmonics’ while performing the L.B.R.P. followed by the M.P.E. The drone of the music provides an excellent background for sounding the names and words.

  10. April 6, 2011 at 6:52 am

    fantastic. very insightful. thank you xxN

  1. May 30, 2009 at 10:46 pm
  2. September 11, 2009 at 5:51 pm

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