Meditation & the Sephirothic Virtues
How to Evolve from Pathviewing to Pathworking
by Simon Jester
A lot of friends have written asking questions about Pathworking. Many of them have already become generally familiar with this term, and a number of them are currently performing meditative exercises based on symbolism associated with the Tree of Life. But everyone seems curious about ways of enhancing the efficacy of these exercises. Consequently, I decided to devote a blog entry to the subject of Qabalistic meditation and the different phases through which it passes.
Pathworking is a specialized meditative technique used by students of the Qabalah to transform themselves into channels for spiritual Forces. However, if you consult the vast literature that has accumulated on this subject (both in books and online) you'll discover that the term is often used very loosely to cover diverse practices that run the gamut from informal private meditations all the way to highly formalized group rituals, many of which have little or nothing to do with the actual channeling of divine energies. Some writers describe Pathworking simply as a kind of relaxation exercise, similar to the deep breathing and visualization exercises that therapists use in stress management groups and differing from them only in the fact that Qabalistic imagery has been added into the mix. Other people outline elaborate and lengthy rituals that must be performed before, during, and after a Pathworking. Sometimes, such complicated procedures are timed to coincide with astrological events and require a long preparatory period of fasting and ritual purity. But, regardless of how simple or complex the individual chooses to make them, actual Pathworkings share one common feature that distinguishes them from other forms of meditative visualization (such as Jungian active imagination, with which Pathworking is often compared and sometimes confused.) They are specifically designed to enhance one's inner dialogue with the Forces symbolized by the Sephiroth and Paths on the Tree of Life and to facilitate the flow of Divine Energy into the practical arena of one's daily activities. The inner dialogue attained during a Pathworking carries a current of energy, and the person doing the Pathworking becomes a conducting medium through which that current is made available here in this world. This is a highly transformative and active process.
Qabalah studies are quite trendy today, and many people claim to be doing exercises that they describe as Pathworking. The exercises most people actually do, however, are best described as "Qabalistic meditations" in which they visualize preselected sets of Qabalistic symbols and acquire the skill of forming and retaining clear images of them in their imaginations. There is nothing wrong with this—in fact, doing such meditative visualizations is the traditional and recommended method of learning about the Qabalah and gaining the skills necessary to eventually do effective Pathworking. However, this procedure should not be confused with actual Path-working. A better name for this type of meditation would be Path-viewing. Such Pathviewing normally precedes Pathworking for the same reason that attending classes in medical school normally precedes performing surgical operations on patients. Pathworking involves actually using the energies that one learns about via Pathviewing. It is a very active, goal directed process and should not be confused with simply observing whatever happens to be passing through one's imagination while meditating on the Qabalah.
Of course, closely observing the stream of one's consciousness during any meditative exercise is extremely important, and I don't wish to denigrate this very necessary component of Qabalistic meditation. But such introspective observation is merely a means to the greater end that true Pathworking actually attains. It is just one of the necessary ingredients of the Elixir of Life, and other ingredients must be added in order to distill something that is truly nourishing. The point I'm making is that Pathworking is more than just a head-trip. It is more than spending a relaxing hour or two watching "movies in one's mind." Real Pathworking involves gaining insights and then bringing them to bear upon the practical world in which we find ourselves. It is the closing of a metaphysical circuit that allows transformative energies from the Higher Worlds to enter this world through us. When used the way it was intended, the technique of Pathworking changes lives. It is real magic.
By now, everyone reading this is probably asking how they can move from doing Pathviewing to actual Pathworking. How does one make this quantum leap in practice? The answer in many cases is that the student often grows to this level of development through a kind of inner evolution engendered by the Pathviewing process itself. Pathviewing contains the seeds of its own transcendence. If a student persists in Pathviewing exercises long enough, he or she will inevitably reach a point where a sense of discouragement and futility sets in. This is a period of great inner restlessness during which the Angels wait to see if the life stirring within the seed will sprout and rise toward the sunlight or perish in barren soil. Many people who reach this point begin to believe that their Qabalistic studies have led them to an empty desert and that they have been wasting their time and effort. Some people give up, stop performing their meditations and rituals, and return to their former habits and interests. Others—those who have worked with great discipline at the Pathviewing process—maintain their practices in spite of great personal doubt. They plod through their rituals and find their minds wandering during meditations. But if they keep pulling their minds back into focus and keep diligently plodding through this challenging phase of spiritual development, a great Light will eventually dawn.
Luckily, helpers wait in the spiritual Wasteland who point the way toward the Light. The Book of 1'st Kings relates the story of how God sent the ravens to feed the prophet Elijah in the desert, and here is a bit of nourishment that the ravens bring. In all the enormous literature about magical correspondences, there is one set of correspondences that is by far the most important. Yet it is the one most overlooked! I'm referring to the correspondences between the Sephiroth and the Virtues. This extremely important set of correspondences contains the keys that will enable you to make the transition from Pathviewing to actual Pathworking. It will enable you to use all that you have learned from your Qabalistic meditations in a practical fashion to bring about great changes in your life and in the lives of those you encounter.
Mahatma Gandhi once wrote: "You must become the change you want to see in the world." In more magical terms, the Magician must himself or herself become the Wand through which the Holy Fire manifests, the Chalice that fills with life-giving waters, the Sword that banishes evil, and the Pentacle that grounds the Divine Energies by bringing them into manifestation here on earth. This is accomplished by embodying the Sephirothic Virtues in one's own life. An actual Pathworking is always preceded by a period of activity during which the Magician performs acts that embody the Virtues of the Sephiroth at either end of the Path being worked. This, more than by using any other correspondence, establishes a fundamental contact with these Forces. All other magical correspondences used during a Pathworking are but a fine-tuning of the invoking vibrations produced by these all-important acts. Once established by actions and enhanced by rituals employing the other correspondences, the meditative part of the Pathworking will become magically enhanced. The visions will be more spontaneous and clear, the insights more valuable and applicable in a practical fashion. New direction will be given by the Beings one encounters. The Pathworking can then be concluded by a further period of activities in which the Virtues of the Sephiroth are again put into actual play, only this time in a fashion directed by the insights gained during the meditative phase.
Here is a slightly expanded listing of the Virtues associated with the Ten Sephiroth based on information given by Tau Malachi in his Gnosis of the Cosmic Christ (Llewellyn Publications, 2005):
Kether—Striving for self-perfection, enlightenment, and liberation. Cultivating respect and toleration toward all spiritual perspectives.
Chokmah—Striving for perfect devotion to God (Devekut.) Reminding others of their great value and potential.
Binah—Self-discipline, accepting responsibility, silence (the ability to listen.) Providing an environment in which things can grow and develop their potential.
Chesed—Charity, generosity, hospitality, friendship, loving-kindness, being just toward others, obedience and devotion to spiritual authority.
Geburah--Self-empowerment, courage, passion, resolving conflicts, maintaining personal integrity and strength of character, making decisions and taking conscious action. Admitting and confronting personal problems. Standing up for one's own rights and those of others. Protecting oneself and others from harm.
Tiphereth--Being one's True Self, making one's own decisions, strengthening will-power, acting courageously, maintaining personal dignity in all situations, remaining devoted to the Great Work. Helping others to cultivate their spirituality and individuality.
Netzach—Maintaining harmony with others, acting unselfishly, being willing to cooperate, considering other people's values, being affectionate, becoming more responsive to the beauty of other people, places and things. Helping others to become more aware of their own personal beauty.
Hod—Honesty and truthfulness, training the mind to think rationally, cultivating a willingness to learn, teaching others how to improve their lives, respecting knowledge and wisdom.
Yesod—Becoming emotionally, intellectually, and socially independent. Helping others to gain and maintain their independence. Maintaining control over one's own emotions. Being willing to accept changes. Being sensitive and receptive. Being willing to reciprocate others.
Malkuth—Actually doing things rather than merely thinking about doing them. Exercising good judgment and learning how to wisely weigh the merits of alternatives. Taking care of your immediate environment and your own body. Helping people with physical handicaps or illnesses. Being thankful.
As stated above, these Virtues are typically rushed over by the aspiring student, who is first drawn to work with the more esoteric correspondences and their panoply of exotic incenses, perfumes, colors, strange symbols, and mythological Beings. This initial fascination with unusual apparatus can be found in almost every discipline. Beginning chemistry students are often mesmerized by the array of sparkling glass test-tubes, beakers, and bubbling flasks that fill the laboratory and tend to momentarily forget the painstaking scientific method that gives such outré devices their true value. Learning to actually practice the Sephirothic Virtues is as important to effective Pathworking as mastering experimental design is to the scientist. Embodying the Virtues gives a Pathworking its power and helps distinguish the Neophyte from the Magus.
Before doing your next Qabalistic meditation, examine the Virtues of the Spheres on which you're focusing. Take a few days to actually embody some of these Virtues. If you're going to work with Binah, take some time to sit down and patiently listen to a friend or a family member. Incorporate Binah's receptive understanding into your interactions with others. If you want to invoke Chesed, then spend some time doing generous, sharing things. Perform similar acts before any Sephirothic or Path meditation. These acts, regardless of how small they might be, will begin to make real changes in your life, changes that are in harmony with the Forces you're trying to invoke. When you then move on to actually perform your meditation, you will begin to notice that the meditation itself will be more meaningful, more productive of insights, more directive. That is because you are now beginning to live in tune with the Forces on which you are meditating, and they can therefore communicate more clearly and directly with you. Your meditations are evolving from Pathviewings into actual Pathworkings, and you are learning how to complete the spiritual circuit that channels the powers of the Tree of Life into the world.