Tag Archives: israel regardie

The Middle Pillar

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Middle Pillar [Bookshop (2002), Amazon (2019), Amazon (2002), Amazon (1970)] by Israel Regardie.

Regardie The Middle Pillar 1970

I first read Israel Regardie’s The Middle Pillar in my teens, and it was then one of my more useful sources as an autodidact in ceremonial magick. I have since had occasion to recommend it over the years, but have only recently returned to it for a full re-read. My more recent impressions have been decidedly mixed. I am here reviewing the “second edition, revised and enlarged” of 1970 with immediate reference to the 1986 fourth printing.

To reflect first in favor of the book, it supplies more detail on the subjective elements of magical practice than most primers are willing to afford, and for students without the benefit of personal instruction these details are precious. It is grounded in highly conventional techniques of Hermetic magic stemming from the Order of the Golden Dawn, and it communicates these intelligibly. The book is short and not over-ambitious, supplying sufficient materials for preliminary training and emphasizing the need to walk before running, while offering a larger context for motivation.

A keynote of the text is its advocacy for analytical psychology as an adjunct to magick. On the theoretical level, Regardie uses psychoanalytic jargon in an effort to clarify hermetic-kabalistic spiritual anatomy. In my own experience, this gambit was only slightly effective. As a teenage reader, it was largely a matter of ignotum per ignotius, and I doubt whether most readers today are any more familiar with psychoanalytic theories than I was as a teenager. Moreover, Regardie is entirely too willing to credit secular psychology as a novel scientific undertaking, evidently heedless of its religious functions and Kabalistic genealogy. (Those interested in the latter topic should read David Bakan’s Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition.)

While I will not join in Regardie’s evangelistic enthusiasm for the institutions of modern psychotherapy–Freudian, Jungian, or Reichian–I think that the underlying sentiment is sound: Magick is not therapy. No one should take up these practices without some preliminary self-criticism and awareness of personal limitations. Profane defects should be remedied through profane means. “If thou thyself hast not a sure foundation, whereon wilt thou stand to direct the forces of Nature?” (Liber XXX)

There are a few terminological peculiarities in this book. When introducing the Four Worlds of the Kabbalah, Regardie gives their usual English names (Archetypal, Creative, Formative, Active), but he does not provide their Hebrew names and instead gives terms from “the Hindu system”: TURYA, SUSHUPTI, SWAPNA, JAGRATA (65-7). Perhaps his aim here was to demonstrate cross-cultural validity of the metaphysical ideas, but he is not explicit about that, and succeeds only in muddying the waters with irrelevant jargon.

As in Regardie’s other early published works on occultism, The Middle Pillar uses Sephardic transliterations from Hebrew rather than the Ashkenazic ones that are more common in modern Hermetic literature–a superficial issue that does not really impair the text. In fact Regardie dismisses the need for any working knowledge of Hebrew in these basic techniques (144-5). As a minor (?) technical point, he is inconsistent with respect to the pronunciation of Tetragrammaton as “Yod-heh-vav-heh” in the pentagram ritual (95) and “Ye-hoh-voh” in the Middle Pillar (115). No rationale for the difference is offered. (I cannot say I am a fan of either of those pronunciations.)

The sequence of practical instruction in The Middle Pillar is a little jumbled. After the preliminaries of the first two chapters, Chapter Three seems to be a fairly full accounting of the pentagram ritual. At the head of Chapter Four, readers are admonished to spend two or three months on twice-daily work with the pentagram ritual before advancing to the Middle Pillar technique. But it is only at the end of Chapter Four, after describing the Middle Pillar ritual, that Regardie addresses the issue of attention to breath and breathing (125-9). Surely, these directions could usefully have come at the top of Chapter Three. Even more strangely, Chapter Five is principally instruction in the technique of projective vibration to be used with god-names. In the vertebral curriculum of ceremonial magick as I have come to appreciate it (see Crowley’s Liber O, for example), this latter technique is absolutely integral to the proper performance of the pentagram ritual. One might hope that readers would finish the whole fairly short book before undertaking the actual practices, but there is still no clear direction to apply the later details to the ritual outlined earlier in the book. In fact, there is a recurring emphasis on proceeding in the sequence in which the text introduces the practices.

What I found most off-putting on this read was Regardie’s coyness regarding his sources. For example, he dedicates nearly an entire page to an extensive quote regarding the formulation of telesmatic images, which he attributes to “One very clever expositor” (102). As it turns out, the quoted text is from Dion Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah (Ch. IX, § 20), published in 1935, just one year before Regardie wrote The Middle Pillar (per the first edition’s foreword). Why not give credit where credit is due?

More significant is his failure to acknowledge the Law of Thelema despite his patent debts to it. He expresses a sort of removed approval for “one system nowadays” which “conceives of the Great Work as the partaking of the recognition of the Crowned and Conquering Child Horus” (25). He places in hard quotation marks a phrase taken from Liber Legis II:6–“the flame which burns in the core of every man”–but cites no source for it (93). (The slight inaccuracy here suggests that he is quoting from memory.) Nor does he explain the source for his quotation of Liber Legis II:70 (150-1). Perhaps he thought the still-living Aleister Crowley was just too scary for his readers in 1936. He had relaxed by 1970 though, admitting in his introduction to the second edition that The Middle Pillar “is an attempt to simplify and combine the practices both of the Golden Dawn with the insights and later developments of Aleister Crowley” (vii). Later still, Regardie would come to write of the Middle Pillar technique itself,

“It seems to be, as far as I can discover, a specific development of the Stella Matutina, in which case Dr. R. Felkin was its originator. This might explain why there is no trace whatsoever of its usage in the technical writings of Aleister Crowley, who has certainly made good use of most of the Order techniques, and who would surely have used this had it been available.” (The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, Vol. III, p. 51).

This admission of the relative novelty of the practice casts something of a shade over Regardie’s earlier attributions of “negligence” and “failure” to magicians who had neither used it nor supplied it as an instruction to aspirants (110-1). As far as Crowley is concerned, I believe he did design a comparable technique into the Elevenfold Seal of Liber V.

Having acquainted myself with this book’s weaknesses, I would no longer recommend it as a stand-alone primer on the basic material it describes, but I don’t think it is quite obsolete. (Even in the foreword to the 1938 first edition, Regardie was already mildly deprecating it as “an expression of myself at that time” when he had written it two years earlier.) It marks a distinct phase in the popularization of magick, and it still supplies interesting discussion of its concepts and suitable encouragement to aspirants, all in a digestible package.

The Golden Dawn

Maxomenos reviews The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order by Israel Regardie in the Bkwyrm archive.

Regardie The Golden Dawn

Every time I read this book I’m amazed by how much stuff is actually in here. Essentially it’s everything you need to know go get started on the path towards Adeptus Minor. (In layman’s terms, being an Adeptus Minor means you know everything you need to know if you want to get onto alt.magick and not get flamed to hell and back by Joshua Geller.) The first part contains several chapters called The Knowledge Lectures. These lectures contain a lot of bare bones basic material that a beginning magician needs to know. In particular, it includes the Lesser Rituals of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar Ritual. These rituals, in my experience, are incredibly useful for all occasions, including ridding your mind of obsessive thoughts and dealing with unpleasant people. If you’re just getting started, you should practise these rituals daily. In addition, beginner would do well to practise the rituals in Volume III, Book Four, and should master all of the rituals in Volume III before attempting the Solomonic magick. In Volume IV, there is a comprehensive introduction to various Magickal tools, including talismans, scrying procedures and a comprehensive introduction to Enochian magick. The sheer wealth of information in this volume is incomprehensible. This comes as no surprise, considering that the Golden Dawn believed in synthesizing a very large number of magickal traditions into one huge mass. The Golden Dawn was heavily Christianized and this may make some pagan readers uncomfortable; nonetheless, at $30US, this book gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

You can find this book at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

Undoing Yourself

Undoing Yourself With Energized Meditation & Other Devices by Christopher S Hyatt, introduction by Israel Regardie, preface by Robert Anton Wilson, cover painting by Sallie Ann Glassman, cover design by James Wasserman’s Studio 31, the 1989 fourth revised edition from Falcon Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Christopher S Hyatt Undoing Yourself from Falcon Press

“Sufism is only the largest of several Near Eastern and European ‘mystic’ movements which recognize the robotry of ordinary humanity but, unlike the Orient, attempt to Un-do and de-robotize those who have a dawning apprehension of their mechanical state and sincerely want to become less mechanical, as far as that is possible. I am not writing a recruiting manual for Sufism (which is doing quite well without my advertisements): I am merely using the Sufi school as one example of the tradition to which this marvelous book, Undoing Yourself, belongs.

Most readers, if they have encountered such ideas at all, probably identify them with Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, two of the most talented expositors of a school of neo-Sufism which they peddled under the brand name ‘Esoteric Christianity.’ The present book also owes a great deal to Aleister Crowley, who belonged to this tradition but sold his own brand of it under the label of Gnostic Magick. There is also a strong influence here of the bio-psychology of Wilhelm Reich; but all this tracing of ‘sources’ is ultimately trivial. The importance of Christopher Hyatt’s work is what you can get out of it and that depends entirely on what you put into it.

It works, if you work.”

“Aside from such ‘symbolic magick’ (as distinguished from magick ritual, which is a kind of Brain Change experiment), the main reason people prefer to read neurological exercises rather than doing the exercises is the dread and sheer horror which the word ‘work’ invokes in most people. Some great teachers, especially Gurdjieff and Crowley, have literally frightened away thousands of would-be students by insisting on the necessity of HARD WORK (as I also frightened a lot of readers by using those words several times in this essay.)”

“Hey! Catch this! A Secret of the Illuminati Revealed!

Here I want to let you in on a real Secret of the Illuminati, one that has never been published before.

The so-called ‘work’ involved in Brain Change is not like ordinary ‘work’ at all. It is more like the creative ecstasy of the artist and scientist, once you really get involved in doing it. Most people are afraid of it only because they think ‘work’ must be a curse and can’t imagine that ‘work’ can be fun.” — from the introduction by Robert Anton Wilson

The Tree

The Tree: A Jungian Journey: Tales in Psycho-Mythology by J Marvin Spiegelman, a 1982 paperback from Falcon Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

J Marvin Spiegelman The Tree from Falcon Press

“Henry Miller, the author of Tropic of Cancer and numerous other works of major stature, states:

‘For me it was like sailing down a stream whose shores and everything bordering them was as familiar to me as if I had dreamt it a thousand times. I say familiar, but not stale. Rather like encountering in your sleep old dreams which you knew by heart but had not dreamt for many and many a year. Therefore extremely vivid and exciting. Or I could put it another way and say it was like presenting the quintessence of all one’s spiritual experiences.’

Israel Regardie, the Western World’s foremost authority on occultism and magic, states:

‘Here is the whole Jungian corpus in a nutshell, spelled out brilliantly in the form of original stories, fables, myths and parables. Each is beautifully written, intriguing, commanding one’s full attention. Spiegelman is highly imaginative, a truly creative psychologist.

He deals symbolically with the process of individuation, the growth to be oneself, the movement Godward. As such, it is the story of the Great Work, the noblest story and Work of them all, told with simplicity and deep sincerity.'” — back cover


Fifth International Conference of the ASE on Jun 19-22nd, 2014 at Colgate University

The Fifth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism on June 19th–22nd, 2014 at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. The conference schedule has recently been posted and you will find quite a few presenters and presentations of interest including a couple by Hermetic library fellows:

· Mark Stavish, Israel Regardie and the Theory and Practice of the Middle Pillar Exercise
· Joscelyn Godwin, Esotericism in a Murky Mirror: Strange Practices in Central New York.

Do check out the whole schedule, but a selection of the other presentations, that catch my eye, includes:

· John L Crow (Thelema Coast to Coast), The Theosophical Shift to the Visual: Graphical Representations of the Human Body in the Literature of Second and Third Generation Leadership in the Theosophical Society
· Simon Magus, The fin de siècle magical aesthetic of Austin Osman Spare: Siderealism, Atavism, Automatism, Occultism
· David Pecotic, Building Subtle Bodies — Gurdjieff’s esoteric practice of conditional immortality in the light of Poortman’s concept of hylic pluralism in the history of religions
· Richard Kaczynski, Inventing Tradition: The Construction of History, Lineage and Authority in Secret Societies
· Wouter Hanegraaff, The Transformation of Desire in Machen’s & Waite’s House of the Hidden Light
· Sarah Veale, Disenchantment of the Vampire: Balkan Folklore’s Deadly Encounter with Modernity
· Gordan Djurdjevic, “In Poison there is Physic”: On Poisons and Cures in Some Strands of Esoteric Theory and Practice.

Weiser Antiquarian new arrivals, including a Book of the Law from 1938

Weiser Antiquarian Books has posted a number of new arrivals, including a Book of the Law privately issued by O.T.O. in London from 1938, as well as other items of interest such as A E Koetting’s The Book of Azazel, Alexander Winfield Dray’s Nox Infernus and Liber Obsidian Obscura, Sabbatica compiled by Edgar Kerval, Liber Nigri Solis edited by Victor Voronov, Michael Cecchetelli’s Crossed Keys, Nigel Pennick’s The Toadman, and a number of Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, Jack Parsons, Kenneth Grant, Austin Osman Spare, and Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn related works as well as others of probable interest.

Weiser Antiquarian Books Catalogue #116 Israel Regardie and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Used and Rare Books

You may be interested in Weiser Antiquarian Books Catalogue #116 Israel Regardie and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Used and Rare Books.

“The majority of the books are from the library of a well-known English book-collector who is downsizing due to chronic lack of shelf (and floor) space. The collection includes most of the standard studies of the Golden Dawn, historical, theoretical and practical, by a variety of well known authors including R. A. Gilbert, Ellic Howe, R. A. Torrens, Chic & Tabatha Cicero, Darcy Kuntz, Pat Zalewski, and others, as well as various works by members of the original Order. Aside from mostly being in pristine condition, the books are distinguished by the fact that many are signed or inscribed by their authors or editors.

The catalogues also include a good selection of works by Israel Regardie, whose experience with the Stella Matutina led to the publication of his landmark compilation, The Golden Dawn, An Account of the Teachings, Rites, and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, (4 Volumes — 1937–1940), since republished in a variety of different forms and formats. The current catalogue includes a number of books that are signed or inscribed by Israel Regardie including an extraordinary association set of the First Edition of The Golden Dawn, with each volume personally inscribed by Regardie to author and psychical researcher Hereward Carrington and including an additional handwritten note by Regardie. Other Regardie rarities include a copy of his The Enochian Dictionary (Circa 1971?) — which is without doubt one of the earliest of the modern Enochian research publications — and the seldom-seen first edition of The Art of True Healing. A Treatise on the Mechanism Prayer, and the Operation of the Law of Attraction in Nature (1937). As is well known Regardie for some time practised as a chiropractor and psychologist (P. R. Stephensen once unkindly termed him a “quack psychiatrist”) and two of the rarer items are pamphlets relating to this aspect of his career: Cry Havoc (1952), a study of the pitfalls of psychology, psychotherapy, and chiropractic; and the (by modern standards) rather chilling Analysis of a Homosexual (1949), a work in which Regardie recounts the case history of a patient whom he claims to have successfully “cured” of homosexuality.

The catalogue opens with a work called Springtime Two (1958). This anthology of poetry and prose by important avant-garde authors of the time is listed here as it includes the first publication of extracts from Ithell Colquhoun’s then-unpublished occult novel Goose of Hermogenes, her original poems: “Elegy on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn”, “Epithalamium”, and “Little Poems from Cyprus”, as well as some translations from French. We were able to secure a few copies of the book that had been in storage for a number of years, but these will almost certainly not last long. As always there are also a number of rarities scattered throughout the catalogue which include: an Edition de Luxe of L. A. Bosman’s, The Mysteries Of The Qabalah (1913?), inscribed by Alvin Langdon Coburn, a first printing of the W. Wynn Westcott edition of Eliphas Levi’s The Magical Ritual of the Sanctum Regnum interpreted by the Tarot Trumps (1896), and a number of issues of A. Greville-Gascoigne’s The Golden Dawn Magazine (1939-1941), which included contributions by Israel Regardie and others.” [via]

What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn

What You Should Know About The Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie, with a foreword by Christopher S Hyatt, the fifth and enlarged 1988 printing of the paperback from Falcon Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Israel Regardie What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn from Falcon Press

Apparently, there’s also a 2011 ebook edition of this as well, which may be of interest, which includes at least some new material, from the 2010 New Falcon revised print edition, by Chic and Tabatha Cicero and Regardie’s 1934 Stella Matutina Enochian Examination from his personal archives.

“This fascinating book has been out of print and highly sought after for many years since its first publication as My Rosicrucian Adventure in 1936.

In this work Israel Regardie relates his own personal experience with those secret societies which have exerted such a great influence on the development of modern Occultism.

Regardie lifts the cloak of mystery which has shrouded The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, The Rosicrucian Fraternity, and The Masonic Lodge.

From his close personal association Regardie reveals the true nature and actions of such leading Occult authorities as Aleister Crowley, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Dr W.W. Westcott, Dion Fortune.

‘Israel Regardie is the last representative of the great occult tradition of the late 19th century, whose major names include Madame Blavatsky, W.B. Yeats, MacGregor Mathers, A.E. Waite, Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune. Even in such distinguished company, Regardie stands out as a figure of central importance.’ — Colin Wilson”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.