The world is in crisis. Men of all ages look in despair on the chaos which is their inheritance from countless generations of forebears, and join in what has become a universal cry of disillusionment: “Stop the world—I want to get off.”
Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy to get off. Answers are not as simple as some might have supposed. And assuming they were, where would people go, once they got off the merry-go-round? Many centuries ago, certain sages approached the problem from another angle, and found what they considered a practical solution. If life is sorrow, then the only thing to do is to end this sorrowful existence by getting off the perpetually revolving wheel of existence. Life follows life, incarnation follows incarnation—and all of them spell anxiety and sorrow. For these sages, it was apparent that it might be millions of years before the masses of humanity would develop enough insight to be able to terminate the sorrowful cycle of existence. But for the illuminated individual who will apply himself to a specific psycho-spiritual discipline, escape might come aeons sooner than for the average member of mankind.
This release, they learned, comes only through the achievement of a higher consciousness by the individual. Call it cosmic consciousness, the mystical experience, communion with God—all spell the same message—release. None may know it for another. Each man must himself attain for himself awareness of his own oneness with infinite life—the consciousness that a state of separateness exists only within his own mind.
Not until man does recognize that he is himself a microcosm of the macrocosm, a reflection of the universe, a world within himself, ruled and governed by his own divinity, can he escape from the wheel. It is the achievement of this one realization which all schools of mysticism, magic, and various forms of occult teaching refer to as the Great Work.
The Great Work is not accomplished overnight, or even in one Lifetime. But the sooner the aspirant undertakes the task, the sooner will it be finished, and the quicker will he be released from the cycle of necessity, the wheel of evolution to which common humanity is bound. Millions of years may pass in the normal process of evolution before the mass of mankind will reach the state of freedom which those few individuals who apply themselves
to this work can accomplish in a fraction of the time. And the paradox then dawns upon them that life, instead of being sorrowful, may just as well be the opposite. “Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass and are done; but there is that which remains.” And as it has also been written: “I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.”
Herein lies the value of magic. Under ordinary conditions, months may be required for the flowering of a plant, but the use of a hot-house will produce identical results within a few weeks. An understanding and application of magic can telescope the time required for man to acquire the realization of his own divinity. Then, once he has become aware of the existence of his higher self, and works in cooperation rather than opposition to it, once he looks to it for guidance and direction, thenceforth regarding his ego as a tool, sharpened and polished to be employed now to fulfill the divine plan rather than in the indulgence of his own petty purposes—then will his way become easier. Long before obtaining his final release, then may he move forward on the upward path with joy and equanimity.
So it is that, at a time when the planet seems to be rocking beneath our feet, I derive great pleasure from writing an introduction to a new edition of The Middle Pillar. It is that pillar which stands dependable and relatively changeless as the sphinx, between the extremes of Mercy and Severity, the two outer pillars of the Qabalah’s Tree of Life. Equally important, it also provides basic principles of magic which can speed the student on his way to blessed release from the necessity of the accursed wheel. Once he has gained this new understanding, the student, it is to be hoped, will gradually but steadily progress until he has completed the Great Work. In so doing, not only will he help himself by stepping up his own evolutionary processes, but to that degree will he have raised the frequencies of his fellow man and even the planet itself, since all that is, is one.
Frances G. Wickes in The Inner World of Choice points out that we must “accept the experience that will bring to birth a latent potential,” and be willing to dare the leap into the unknown, diving deep into the unconscious “in search of the other unborn or lost potentials of the self.”
The Middle Pillar should prove a trustworthy guide on this search. It involves several distinct methods, each of which has been designed for a specific purpose, yet all work together to accomplish the ultimate goal, to erase the barrier between the conscious self and the unconscious, and to enable the student to find within the self, the Great Self who is in reality the only saviour he will ever have.
The use of the Qabalistic Cross, as described in an early chapter, serves as an ideal means of aiding the ego to undergo an enormous expansion, to open up consciousness on a voluntary ordered level to the dictates of the unconscious. The so-called Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is a vital technique designed to eliminate undesirable elements from the psychic sphere, and thus to permit the process of consciousness expansion to proceed without harm or hindrance. The use of the archaic exercise referred to as the Middle Pillar will increase the field of attention, aid in the achievement of balance and equilibrium, and unfold to the aspirant a completely new and remarkable sphere of power and spiritual perception.
Every technique of magic is intended in various ways to widen the field of vision of the conscious ego to the deeper, more spiritual aspects of the divine nature—which, in reality, is his true or higher self. Of the numerous techniques available in the vast armamentarium of magic for this purpose, the most vital and essential ones are summed up in the simple exercises outlined in this book.
Ceremonial magic enables man to become an engine capable of harnessing and directing the enormous power that lies within. A multitude of basic principles are utilized to this end. Adoration, which is essential to attaining a sense of unity with godhead, concentration, development of will and the use of it to accomplish a given purpose, achievement of self-awareness, and the ability to breathe properly, these are but a few of the benefits to be derived from persistent application to the basic practices herein discussed.
Various symbolisms are employed in those phases which deal with adoration, but the choice of symbols is actually unimportant. Once it is realized that basically all religions are one and all prophets are true, it is quite logical to borrow any set of symbols from one religion for a certain purpose, and another set from a second religion for a different purpose. Nor will the practices be of passing value. On the contrary, the set of adorations the student will learn from this book are to be integrated for all time into the daily pattern of living. Next in importance is the achievement of a heightened sense of self-awareness. All other exercises and complex procedures actually begin from this heightening of self-awareness. To the degree that the horizon of one’s self becomes expanded, to that extent does the self become enlarged.
The development of proper breathing habits will serve many purposes, including eradication of considerable neuromuscular tension, with a consequent increase of energy and vitality. The air by which we are surrounded, and in which we live and move and have our being, is the essence of life itself. Consequently we live, literally surrounded by a circumambient sea of energy and vitality—a divine force which can be assimilated by the simple process of learning to breathe in a proper rhythm, altogether apart from more abstruse occult theories.
Once he has gained control over his mental processes, the student can then learn to stimulate and direct his emotions. This becomes will. So complete and interlocking are the details of this system, that the emotions can then be utilized as a tool to be used in directing and holding the mind steady on a given objective. For fervor and conviction are essential to activating the productive and creative agency with man.
In the process, over a period of time, life becomes consecrated so that all one’s energies become automatically concentrated in a continuous devotion to God or the one life that courses through all of us. In short, the student achieves a perfect and harmonious identification with divine power, life, and love. And then he will know that “existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass and are done….”
The Middle Pillar was originally dedicated to S. L. MacGregor Mathers and Dr. William Wynn Westcott who were chiefs of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, to which I owe so very much. The book is merely the simplest possible representation of some of the elementary practices of that order. In actuality, it is an attempt to simplify and combine the practices both of the Golden Dawn with the insights and later developments of Aleister Crowley.
The real virtue of the book lies in its correlation of the practice of magic to modern psychotherapy. For magic places the achievement of self-awareness second in importance only to the achievement of unity with God. And Jung’s definition of psychotherapy was that which enabled one to become conscious of what hitherto was unconscious.
For untold thousands of years, man has lived in subjugation to the unconscious forces of nature—powerful instincts and drives which led him to act without deliberation or conscious volition, and in complete ignorance in fact of the forces at work which really motivated him. The Great Work recognizes that in these deep unconscious levels lies a great storehouse of power, awareness, and vitality which must not only be awakened but recognized and equilibrated for the human being to function at maximum capacity and efficiency. This in short is the major purpose and function of the teachings of this book.
I had first begun to read about psychoanalysis in the writings of Freud and Jung as early as 1926. I cannot say they meant very much to me, save as intellectual stimuli of a fascinating kind. When I first wrote The Middle Pillar, I had just entered psychoanalytical therapy, thanks to the influence of a very dear friend. The tremendous value and importance of psychotherapy as a prelude to any serious magical training was just beginning to dawn upon me.
My work with Dr. E. A. Clegg of Harley Street, and with Dr. J. L. Bendit, a Jungian of Wimpole Street in London, led me to realize the importance of psychotherapy to the beginner in mysticism and magic. In fact, thirty-five years later, in 1968, I am more strongly of the opinion than I was then. So fervently do I feel about this that since that time I have acquired some of the qualifications necessary to practice various forms of psychotherapy, particularly that of Wilhelm Reich, whose work I regard as a bridge between conventional psychotherapy and occultism. I doubt if Reich would be pleased to learn of this association of mine—but a fact it is nevertheless.
Today I will not so much as consider even discussion of the Great Work with a student until he has experienced some form of psychotherapy, I care not which. There is lacking, until then, a common frame of reference, and common medium of communication. In The Middle Pillar will be discovered the first glimmerings of insight I had in that particular direction. It still holds good today.