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The man who writes books on a Thelema that no beast shall divine. Founding member of Ordo Astri, Thelemic Magical Collegium. Member of Ordo Typhonis since 2000 e.v. More articles and essays are posted at https://ordoastri.org/ and https://tantrika.co.uk/

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Magical Pathworking the Tree of Life

There is a plethora of books dealing with pathworkings of the Tree of Life, though much of it is quite dismal stuff. The guided visualisation technique has been over-used since it gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s.

Magical Pathworking: Hermetic Tree of Life
Even some of the better-known works spoon-feed the novice with a hotchpotch of mythologies and clich├ęd explanations. The guided visualisations inevitably direct us according to the philosophical basis of those who created them, which is, as often as not, the ‘self-improvement’ snare of pop psychology.

The original form of the pathworking method is based on ancient Egyptian magick, broadly defined as ‘Assumption of the Godform’. The hieroglyphs are not merely symbols as ‘signposts’ but are that which they represent. The method is called ‘pathworking’ because the ritual involves clairvoyant exploration of the 22 paths (or modes of consciousness) of the Hermetic Tree of Life. There is no need for scripts, narratives or mythological storytelling scenarios.

The beauty of the authentic magical pathworking method is in its simplicity. The symbolism to be employed is exactly as the Tree of Life model looks on the printed page of a book. Let us take the 32nd path from Malkuth the Kingdom to Yesod the Temple of the Moon as an example.

Malkuth is defined by a circle, and the lines of the path run from there to Yesod, also defined by a circle.

Magical Pathworking: Lower Sephiroth and Paths of the Tree of Life
The image of the 32nd path is the Tarot trump, The Universe XXI.

Magical Pathworking: Thoth Tarot trump The Universe XXI

From the beginning, when we are ascending the path, the ‘entrance’ is the Hebrew letter, Tav.

agical Pathworking: Hebrew letter Tav

Towards the end of the path is the astroglyph of Saturn.

Magical Pathworking: Astroglyph for Saturn

The primary symbols are then translated into workable praxis. It is no use approaching this as though we were attending the theatre or sitting down to watch a movie. This is not passive entertainment. If anything, it is the exact reverse of gazing at virtual images and icons, clicking them with a mouse or tapping them with a finger to prompt some kind of activity. Magick is an intensely active business. One must engage all the powers of the alert concentration available. The consciousness of the magician must be exalted. Burning the appropriate incense and gathering the various colours and other magical correspondences of the 32nd path will assist us.[1] Hermetic Tantra-yoga will greatly boost our energetic capacity and control.

Once the right conditions have been established pathworking becomes a relatively simple matter of imaginative projection. When consciousness is transferred to the desire body or astrosome we can send that shining body of light to the Temple of Malkuth. As with the diagrams of the Tree of Life, the Temple has three portals or doorways in the North. These correspond to the paths of Tav, Shin and Qoph. Between the two pillars is the doorway to the 32nd path of Tav. This illustration of the Temple of Malkuth will suit the purpose very well.

Magical Pathworking: Temple of Malkuth (Neophyte)

There are various ways in which this can be done, but it is simple and effective to see a luminous veil covering the door, which has the image of the Tarot trump on it. Astrally tracing the flaming letter Tav acts as a key to pass the threshold. Once on the other side of the door, the inner senses must fully replace their physical counterparts. Not only do we desire to see into the path but we also want to hear it, touch it, feel it and smell it with our subtle or non-physical senses.

As with the kind of meditation practice where the mind is trained to orbit a symbol, key word or phrase, any thoughts or impressions that cannot strictly be related to the subject are sent back to the void from whence they have arisen. This must not become an exercise in whimsical daydreaming, where the mind is allowed to go where it will. The experience of the path should correspond with the recognised symbolism, the keys of the path. This can be checked later when reviewing the diary record.

Towards the end of the path, a distant symbol or image corresponding to Yesod, the Temple of the Moon is seen. This is always the point of return. The sephiroth are paths in themselves; one path at a time is enough.


1.  Some intelligent adaptation is required for the tables of Crowley’s 777. Traditionally, the 32nd path corresponds, via its astroglyph, Saturn, to noxious odours. It would be pointless to poison oneself with sulphur or choke on the smoke of asafoetida! Any austere or dark smelling fragrance will do. Myrrh is bittersweet incense that will help evoke the higher aspects of Saturn without causing asphyxiation. The 32nd path has ‘earthy’ associations, so the incense or oil of patchouli could also be used, for example. When in doubt, use grains of pure frankincense, the universal fragrance for ritual magick.

© Oliver St. John 2015, 2019

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