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Qabalistic Qigong

You are able to discover new and hidden depths to the whole Golden Dawn system by periodically re-reading the classic texts, written by Mathers et al., and by paying close attention to the parts you might have skipped over the first time around. Even I manage to surprise myself from time to time, such that if ever I start to feel jaded, I find myself re-invigorated by going back to the books and putting into practice what the creators of the system originally intended.

Recently, for example, I was revising the section of Z-3 “The Enterer of the Threshold,” viz. “The Symbolism of the Admission of the Candidate,” and I became convinced that Macgregor Mathers had done something far cleverer than I first appreciated: he had come up with a system of Qabalistic Qigong, long before the concept of Qigong (or “Chi Kung” to use the old spelling) had become widely known in the West (which arguably was only as recent as 1972). In particular I mean the three formulae of magical vibration derived from the opening of the Neophyte ceremony, namely: the Formula of Aspiration; the Vibratory Formula of the Middle Pillar; and the Formula of the Four-fold Revolution of the Breath.

The Microcosmic Tree of Life. © Alex Sumner 2017

The Microcosmic Tree of Life.
© Alex Sumner 2017

The Formula of Aspiration

In the Neophyte Adeptus Minor document “The Enterer of the Threshold,” in the part entitled “The Symbolism of the Opening of the 0=0 Grade of Neophyte,” Macgregor Mathers describes the magical currents at work at the very beginning of the ceremony, when the Hierophant addresses the Temple for the first time. He then goes on to comment:

The whole is a rehearsal of the properties of the reflection of the Element Air down through the Middle Pillar of the Sephiroth, representing the reflection of the Air from Kether, through Tiphareth to Yesod, and even to the Citrine part of Malkuth. For the subtle Aether is, in Kether, inspired from the Divine Light beyond; thence reflected into Tiphareth, wherein it is combined with the Reflexes from the Alchemical Principles in that great Receptacle of the Forces of the Tree. In Yesod, it affirms the foundation of a formula and from Malkuth it is breathed forth or reflected back.

And this formula the Adept can use. Standing in his Sphere of Sensation he can, by his knowledge of the Sacred Rites, raise himself unto the contemplation of Yechidah and from thence aspire (in the sense of Adspire, i.e. to attract towards you in breathing) downwards into himself the Lower Genius as though temporarily to inhabit himself as its Temple.

Regardie, I, 1989, The Golden Dawn, 6th edition, Llewellyn, St Pauls Minnesota, p345.

In practice, this is really what I would consider regular vibration, although the point that Mathers is making is that one should take a moment to contemplate that one is invoking the divine name in question as a manifestation of genius from the Yechidah (i.e. the microcosmic Kether).

The Vibratory Formula of the Middle Pillar

Straight after the preceding passage which I quoted above, Mathers goes on to say:

Another formula of Vibration is here hidden. Let the Adept, standing upright, his arms stretched out in the form of a Calvary Cross, vibrate a Divine Name, bringing with the formulation thereof a deep inspiration into his lungs. Let him retain the breath, mentally pronouncing the Name in his Heart, so as to combine it with the forces he desires to awake thereby; thence sending it downwards through his body past Yesod, but not resting there, but taking his physical life for a material basis, send it on into his feet. There he shall again momentarily formulate the Name – then, bringing it rushing upwards into the lungs, thence shall he breathe it forth strongly, while vibrating that Divine Name. He will send his breath steadily forward into the Universe so as to awake the corresponding forces of the Name in the Outer World. Standing with arms out in the form of a Cross, when the breath has been imaginatively sent to the feet and back, bring the arms forward in “The Sign of the Enterer” while vibrating the Name out into the Universe. On completing this, make the “Sign of Silence” and remain still, contemplating the Force you have invoked.

This is the secret traditional mode of pronouncing the Divine Names by vibration, but let the Adept beware that he applies it only to the Divine Names of the Gods. If he does this thing ignorantly in working with Elemental or Demonic Names, he may bring into himself terrible forces of Evil and Obsession. The Method described is called “The Vibratory Formula of the Middle Pillar.”

Thus, to summarise: if one were to vibrate, e.g. “Eheieh,” one would

  • Stand in the form of a cross;
  • Contemplate link to Kether (Yechidah);
  • (Mentally) vibrate “Eheieh.” In effect one has started off with the “Formula of Aspiration,” but one is now adding to it.
  • Draw the invoked force into one’s heart and mentally formulate there “Eheieh” whilst contemplating what it represents and what you are trying to invoke (i.e. in this instance, the spiritual properties of Kether);
  • Send the current down, via Yesod, to Malkuth (i.e. the feet). Formulate “Eheieh” in Malkuth, imagining that you are using your whole physical being to manifest those spiritual forces.
  • Now imagine the current springing back up, rising up to your head.
  • Forcefully project it out with the Sign of the Enterer, vibrating it loudly, so that it manifests in the Universe.
  • Finally, make the Sign of Silence, to seal off your aura.

Thus there are three distinct points at which one contemplates the force in question: the head (Kether), the heart (Tiphereth) and the feet (Malkuth), with Yesod here figuring as a stage in the downward and upward journey. It is here that we begin to see the similarity with Qigong, in that it is a combination of breathwork, visualisation and movement. Obviously it is not literally identical to any Chinese method, being based on the Qabalistic Tree of Life. I find it helpful here to pause a brief moment – though not too long – at each point, head, heart, and feet, to really feel the energies involved.

Crowley in Liber O describes vibrating the divine names in the LBRP with the Signs of the Enterer and of Silence. It seems clear to me that he probably had the Vibratory Formula of the Middle Pillar in mind, although in describing it cursorily he misses out on the full subtleties contained in Mathers’ original description.

The Four-fold revolution of the Breath

The third magical formula derived from the opening of Neophyte ceremony relates to the currents of energy which are formed during the Mystic Circumambulation. Mathers writes:

The Mystic Circumambulation is called symbolic of the Rise of Light and from it drawn another formula for the circulation of the breath. It is the formula of the Four Revolutions of the Breath (not, of course, of the actual air inspired, but of the subtle Aethers which may be drawn thence and of which it is the Vehicle – the aethers which awaken centres in the subtle body through the formula). This formula should be preceded by that of the Middle Pillar, described previously. By this method, having invoked the Power you wish to awaken in yourself, and contemplated it, begin its circumambulation thus: Fill the lungs and imagine the Name vibrating in the contained Air. Imagine this vibration going down the left leg to the sole of the left foot – thence passing over to the sole of the right foot – up the right leg to the lungs again, where it is out-breathed. Do this four times to the rhythm of the Four-fold breath.

By saying that “this formula should be preceded by that of the Middle Pillar” it is evident that the three formulae of vibration are cumulative – the Four Revolutions of the Breath incorporates both of the preceding methods.


Speaking personally, I find that invoking a divine name by all three methods together is very powerful – the least one can expect is to feel incredibly energised by doing so. I remember once doing the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram, using all three formulae to vibrate the appropriate Name in each quarter. Because I was necessarily observing more care over each one, the LBRP ended up taking around ten minutes longer than it had done previously, but by the end of it I was fairly floating in space! The three formulae, combined, are a powerful means for invoking Divine names generally – each time leaving one buzzing with energy, and hence filling one with confidence that one is psychically contacting the forces invoked, and working good ritual.

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The Middle Pillar

The Middle Pillar is the subject of a paper I recently delivered at a Golden Dawn themed open day.

This talk is aimed at everyone including complete beginner to the Qabalah. In a little while we will be doing the Middle Pillar Ritual itself.

But first, some background.

The Middle Pillar Ritual seems to have been an original creation of Israel Regardie, which he synthesised from Golden Dawn teachings. The Golden Dawn before Regardie did not really use it per se, although they did contemplate the Tree of Life as a whole in ones aura.

The Middle Pillar corresponds to the Sushumna of Yoga – the channel down the centre of the body where are located the Chakras. The Middle Pillar Ritual is thus a technique for rousing the energies of the chakras, but with two key differences:

  1. In the Qabalah we work with 4 or 5 (I’ll explain later) chakras, not the full 7;
  2. In the Golden Dawn we always invoke the highest first – always. Therefore we always start from the top (Crown) and go down.

Many schools of Yoga do the opposite – they open the chakras from the bottom upwards. However: Sri Aurobindo, the founder of Integral Yoga, said that the correct Yogic method should be to open the chakras from the top down – like we do in the Golden Dawn. The reason – he says – is that by opening the chakras from the top down one prevents a sudden uncontrolled explosion of Kundalini, because the superior chakras will have already been stabilised and dedicated to God before the Kundalini (which resides in the base chakra) is awakened.

NB: Kundalini rising in a controlled manner is good; exploding uncontrollably is bad, because despite feeling good it leads to bad side-effects.

The “chakras” (actually “Sephiroth”) with which we work are: Kether, the Crown chakra; Daath, the throat; Tiphereth, the heart; Yesod, the sacral or genital region; and Malkuth, the base chakra.

NB: The Sephiroth do not correspond exactly to those of Yoga, so it is best not tot try and keep looking for correspondences where none exist. The Middle Pillar Ritual does not necessarily fulfil the same function as raising Kundalini – it is an invocation of the Divine from above, as opposed to raising energy from below. References to chakras etc are but a convenient peg on which to hang my metaphor, for those not familiar with the Golden Dawn.

Kether – the crown – does correspond fairly well to the Sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus. Both represent ones connection to the Universe. In the Golden Dawn the Kether point of one Qabalistic world is the connection to the Malkuth of a superior world: so we may imagine that energy spirals down into our crown chakra from a higher plane of existence.

Daath – the throat – is slightly problematic. It is not actually a Sephirah – technically, it is a place where a Sephirah should be but tellingly, is not. Daath should be considered as a marriage of Chokmah and Binah. Daath does not have any attributions of itself: however, in the Hexagram ritual which we use in the second order, the point corresponding to Daath is associated with the supernals generally and Saturn specifically. For that reason, when we perform the Middle Pillar Ritual we use the divine name of the sphere of Saturn, i.e. Binah.

In any event, Daath does not correspond perfectly with the throat chakra of Yoga. The “Vishuddi” chakra is associated with the element of Akasha, which in the Golden Dawn is more associated with Tiphereth.

The next Sephirah is Tiphereth itself. As it happens both Tiphereth and its corresponding Chakra, Anahata, are associated with the element of Air, in spite of the Tiphereth’s other associations with Akasha or Spirit. Tiphereth itself is associated with the Sun.

Below that is Yesod. This is in the same place as the Svadisthana chakra, however: Yesod is associated with Air, and Svadisthana is associated with Water. All of the Sephiroth of the Middle Pillar are associated with Air, in fact, apart from Malkuth, which is associated with Earth. Yesod itself is also associated with the Moon.

Finally we have Malkuth, which like the Muladhara chakra the lowest chakra, represents the Earth – ones connection with the Earth. There is a fairly major difference, however: because the Yogi does his meditation sitting down, his connection with the Earth is the base of his spine – the perineum. However, because we do our Middle Pillar Ritual standing up, our connection i.e. our Malkuth centre is in our feet. Both the Muladhara chakra and Malkuth are (as said previously) associated with Earth.

Incidentally, Dion Fortune worked out a method of working with all the chakras, albeit using Qabalistic associations with all of them. What she did was to work with the four (or five) Sephiroth which I have already mentioned: however in addition, she imagined the brow chakra (Ajna) as jointly-representing Chokmah and Binah; whilst the solar plexus chakra (Manipuraka) as jointly representing both Hod and Netzach. Daath becomes the Luna plexus, whilst the Vishuddi chakra is imagined as jointly representing Chesed and Geburah. She also formulated an exercise in which after these eight were opened one imagined them being ruled over by Egyptian God-forms. She also specified a method for partner-working – i.e. one partner invokes the chakras for the other and then vice versa.

That digression aside, I will now speak about the Middle Pillar Ritual itself, and what it is used for. It is primarily a method for invoking spiritual blessings for ourselves. Israel Regardie however said that it could also be used for healing, and even as a simple method of practical magic. Regardie’s theory was this. One performs the Middle Pillar ritual – after which one is imagining and feeling oneself filled with light and energy. Then, to perform healing, whilst still contemplating that light and energy, one concentrates on the part which needs to be healed, imagining that light is flowing into that part. It is in effect a Qabalistic form of Reiki. This can be done on oneself, or with a patient who is present, or it can be used as a form of distant healing.

As to practical magic, Regardie said that the Middle Pillar ritual could be used in a way that is similar to what people who work with the aura know as colour breathing. So for example, to attract a specific influence into your life, one would perform the Middle Pillar ritual, and then still contemplating the light circulating in your aura, visualise that your aura is being filled with the colour representing that influence – whilst vibrating the diving names associated therewith.

Regardie also said this could be extended to consecrating talismans. Having created a talisman for a particular purpose, one performs the Middle Pillar ritual, one contemplates the particular influence and its colour, and then one imagines that that light is flowing into the Talisman.

In short, I recommend reading “The Art of True Healing” (which is included in “Foundations of Practical Magic”), “How to Make and Use Talismans” and “The Middle Pillar” itself – all by Israel Regardie. In actual fact the material added to the current edition of “The Middle Pillar” by Chic and Tabatha Cicero almost makes it worth reading by itself.

After the introductory talk, I then led those present in the Middle Pillar Ritual, rather as it is outlined in Regardie’s book, though with a certain amount of adaptation:

By way of setting the scene, I asked all present to imagine themselves in their astral body, which had grown so large that they were the size of the Earth itself. Around them were the stars, whilst directly above their heads a mighty Dragon – the constellation Draco – was flying around and around in a circle, creating a Tourbillon of power (i.e. a vortex or whirlpool) drawing down energy from above.

NB: this is essentially a simplified version of the visualisation that an Adept does when contemplating the Tree of Life projected in a sphere.

A point of light appears in the centre of the circle traced by the path of the Dragon. The vortex draws this light down from above, so that it touches the crown of the participant. As is touches the crown it lights up the Kether centre – visualised as a sphere of white light directly above and touching the top of the head. The light is swirling around inside this sphere, following the perturbations of the vortex.

At this point I asked everyone to vibrate the divine name of Kether – EHEIEH – six times, imagining that the vibrations were occurring in the sphere of Kether itself.

Then I asked everyone to imagine that light from Kether was spiralling down the Middle Pillar like a corkscrew to the throat, lighting up Daath. Again the light was imagined as swirling around inside Daath. The name YOD HEH VAV HEH ELOHIM was vibrated six times, again imagining the vibrations were taking place in that sephirah.

In a similar manner, Tiphereth was invoked with YOD HEH VAV HEH ELOAH VE-DAATH.

Likewise: Yesod with SHADDAI EL CHAI.

Likewise: Malkuth with ADONAI HA-ARETZ. The light was imagined as cork-screwing down even into the Earth.

Then I got the participants to imagine light going down their left-side and up their right-side, enclosing them in a Vesica Piscis, the symbol of transmutation to a higher spiritual level.

Then I got them to visualise the light going down the front of their body and up the back.

Then I got them to imagine light coming up the Middle Pillar from Malkuth to Kether, where it fountained-out and poured down on all sides.

Then I asked them to imagine that light was spiralling back up their bodies, literally wrapping them up.

Given that I had previously been talking about using the Middle Pillar Ritual for healing, I told them that if anyone felt in need of it, they should spend a moment contemplating the person or part being filled with white light. Thereafter – as the flooding in Pakistan was current in the news at the time – I encouraged those present to send healing energy to that country and its people – and also the middle East generally.

Finally, we closed by bringing our attention back to our heart-centres, and vibrating once the mystical names of Jesus – YEHESHUAH, YEHOVASHAH. I personally felt that the ritual was very powerful performed this way, especially with all the chanting.


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Aliens & Magick

The Vatican apparently is now interested in astrobiology, i.e. life among the stars. This has set many tongues wagging, with commentators pointing out that if life does exist on other planets, this would go against a literal interpretation of the Bible. I do not think this will be too much of a problem, as the Catholic Church has not let its magisterium be constrained by something so inconvenient as actually reading the source text up to now.

However – never mind about what happens with regards to Christianity when life on other planets is confirmed: more importantly, how will this affect the Qabalah?

A Tree of Life Crop Circle which has been photoshopped by some teenager *cough* I mean created by an alien who knows about Athanasius Kircher.

The Tree of Life
I have heard some people argue that the Qabalah is in fact a universal principle, given that there have been instances on earth of Crop Circles in the form of the Tree of Life. (Strange how our alien brethren approve of the Kircher version of the Tree of Life, as opposed to, say, the Lurianic version!) Now the Sepher Yetzirah makes great mention of the fact that the Qabalah is based on the number ten, not nine, ten, not eleven. But… what kind of Qabalah would an alien with a different number of fingers to us humans have come up with?

Now some people, still pointing to the crop circles as proof, have tried to argue that the number ten is a universal principle which has nothing to do with the number of fingers that we have. However: the evidence is in Sepher Yetzirah that the magic number ten is indeed associated with our fingers, as Qabalistic attributions are given thereto: moreover, it attaches importance to being able to form letters of the Hebrew alphabet with ones fingers. This incidentally is how Leonard Nimoy devised the Vulcan Salute. It is actually the sign a Cohen makes as he is giving the valedictory blessing in a synagogue (it actually represents the letter Shin).

Most authorities are of the opinion that we use a decimal system as opposed to any other simply because we have ten fingers – because they are our first counting tools. I therefore say this. If aliens have a version of the Qabalah and the Tree of Life, it will be based not on Ten sephiroth, but on whatever number-base they happen to use – i.e. which is most likely to be the number of fingers they have, if indeed they have fingers.

The most popular forms of Astrology present on Earth are by their very nature Geocentric. The constellations are the way that the stars appear from Earth, and the belt of the Zodiac is defined by the route which the Sun – our Sun – takes through the heavens.

However, if Aliens had their own version of Astrology, firstly it would not be Geocentric; secondly it would be based on a completely different Sun and set of planets; and thirdly there would be no correlation to our constellations whatsoever, as their own would appear to be completely different. The only feature of our astrology which might feature in their version would be the fact that our Sun might be visible from their own solar system. This is significant because the development of Astrology on our own planet has been governed by attaching importance to that which is most visible (the Sun, the Moon), and then defining the rest of the system in relation to that. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Alien Astrologers would only attach importance to the objects which are most noticeable from their own home planet(s), which could mean that if our Sun is in what is to them a relatively obscure part of their sky, it may not enter into their consideration at all.

This is somewhat by the by, though, as I predict that Earth Astrology is soon going to be refuted according to its own logic. This has nothing to do with astronomy purporting to have refuted it already. I shall explain: Earth Astrology relies on a given birth / event / etc having a time, date and place somewhere on the planet’s surface, because the key to the Horoscope is the Ascendant, the sign which is on the horizon at the time for which the chart is drawn.

However, the higher one is above the ground, the more fluid the concept of the horizon becomes, until when one has left the Earth altogether, it ceases to have any meaning. Thus – at some point in the future, there is going to be a human being born in outer space, and when that happens, it will be impossible to draw up a horoscope for that person. Therefore I say that at that point conventional astrology will have to be abolished, because there will be at least one person alive to whom it cannot apply.

There is such a thing as Heliocentric astrology, although because of the peculiarities of the heliocentric system it is not suitable for dealing with the kind of issues for which geocentric astrology is currently used. However, even Heliocentric astrology is going to be refuted when the first human being is born outside our solar system. Which brings me back to Alien Astrology – if aliens do exist in other solar systems, then we cannot apply our astrology to them.

The Age of Aquarius
Finally, I shall just like to briefly mention this: the whole idea of cosmic ages is another geocentric notion which is going to go the same way as geocentric astrology. Now, as noted above, I predict that astrology is going to be refuted when at least one human being is born in outer space. Reason suggests that this is going to be sometime in the next hundred or two hundred years. The Age of Aquarius is due to begin in the next hundred or two hundred years – at approximately the same time that the whole concept of the Age of Aquarius will be refuted according to the logic of Astrology. Irony of ironies! Were I a superstitious man I would be inclined to say that the birth of the first human in space will be the actual event that signifies the Age of Aquarius. In any case the challenge of the next great aeon will be to move away from a human-centric, ego-centric, notion of mysticism and to evolve a more cosmological outlook.


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