on December 12, 1999
I love the original version of the Middle Pillar. It made "magick" a real form of "yoga" for me. Doing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is great, and the Middle Pillar itself really charges up your "aura" with energy. The feeling of energy is sort of like the feeling of qi energy from doing tai qi or qi gung, but at a different "level."The last edition of this work (that was by Regardie alone) had a nice cover with the spheres superimposed over the body, which really helped the visualization.
The problem I have with this new edition is that Regardie tends to run a little long-winded, and his style is a little dated (originally written in the '30s!). However the original book was mercifully short. The Ciceros have added their own even more long-winded material. To top it off, they are somewhat scholarly to the point of distraction (but at least they edited Regardie's material to conform the spellings of the Sephiroth to traditional Western occult usage). The point of the Middle Pillar is, DO IT. Not study it. (I also have a personal irk. They are strongly Golden Dawn in outlook, and Judaeo-Christian on top of that, while some of the best works out there today are in the Thelemic line of practice. It's as though they are afraid to mention the "Crowley" word, although Regardie's main if not only magickal influence was Crowley.)
On the other hand, as a reference work, the Ciceros footnotes to the original Regardie material are sometimes excellent. Also, some of their additional material is truly helpful, although probably overwhelming for a beginner.
My advice for a beginner (and I have a friend in this predicament) is to just read chapters 3, 4 and 5 at first, since these lay out the actual practice. Save the rest for later, don't confuse yourself.
If you want a really well-rounded curriculum for self study, I highly recommend the two books by Ophiel - Art and Practice of Astral Projection and Art and Practice of Creative Visualization (this second book looks like a "seven laws of success" book on the surface but is much deeper than it appears at first - it is really about how we create our whole world and how we can take an active hand in increasing positive results). The Astral Projection book essentially gives you something fun to work on after mastering the Middle Pillar, which is all about "building a body of light." (The Astral Projection book also has the best explanation of the different forms of astral bodies - etheric, low astral, high astral, mental, causal.) And these two Ophiel books are SHORT!
on January 27, 2001
While some may criticize this book for being outdated and unnecessary for the beginning adept, what they miss is the different perspective that Regardie brings to this work, that Donald Michael Kraig tends to gloss over. That is the connection of psychology and the workings of the mind to magic.
While "Modern Magick" from Donald Michael Kraig is one of the very best ways for a student of esoterics to start out, by the time they hit the second or third chapter, and have practiced the Cross and Pentagram exercises a few weeks to at least to get the feel of it, they should then have this book in hand and ready to read, to fill in the blanks and provide a different perspective. To do so not only deepens the understanding of the work, and provides valuable insight, but Kraig even recommends doing so in "Modern Magick".
While the differences in the two perspectives may be small and subtle, I think they're of tremendous inner value. For example, in the Cross, Kraig instructs to visualize a gleaming ball of light descending from heaven said to represent "Divine" energy, implying energy and representation of an outside source, while Regardie instructs that it should be viewed as a representation of your higher self, your higher genius, implying a more internal source. Are these two perspectives actually SAYING anything different, in reality, No. But from the standpoint of understanding the many aspects of the energies, and from the visualization standpoint, they could make all the difference in the world to the student starting out on his own. Use Kraig for a simple, easy to follow instruction, and Regardie for a deeper understanding and fine-tuning of the work.
What the Cicero team brings to this work is almost two fold. Their notes and comments through Regardie's original text add tremendous value. Most certainly *read the endnotes with the content* to do otherwise will mean that you miss some things, especially when he gives his rendition of the Cross (right shoulder vs. left, etc). However "Part Two", the section written by the Ciceros, with the exception of one or two chapters, is pretty much fluff. Not necessarily bad fluff, but much that can be skipped, unless you're a life long wiccan or pagan looking to bring this work into your practice, and really can't expand your mind enough to work with the Hebrew and Archangel names in the rituals.. then by all means their Egyptian, Gaelic, Greek, and Shamanistic rituals versions should be tried.
Overall, it's a valuable work, providing insight to information you may find elsewhere, but with a rather unique perspective.
on January 30, 2000
This book proved itself to be far more informative and incisive than I expected it to be, thanks (largely) to the annotations and extra chapters provided by Chic and Sandra Cicero.
Regardie's style is often dated and ponderous. The Cicero's have managed to give it a sense of life and immediacy that it would otherwise have lacked. They deserve full marks for this, and also for the additional detail they have added to Regardie's ritual descriptions. As far as I can tell, and from the reading and practice I have done, they now stand equal to any currently in print.
The only problem I have with this book stems from the question 'why re-release it?' I think it would be fair to say that all the information in The Middle Pillar is available in other sources and generally in a more detailed form. For instance, if you want to make a start in ceremonial work then pick up Modern Magick by Donald Michael Kraig, and if you require an introduction to Cabala then buy Paths of Wisdom by John Michael Greer. Both of those books will take you further than just about anything by Regardie (discounting his full order documents and complete GD system) so there is little point in any beginning practitioner starting here.
Still, the book is an enjoyable exercise in 'reading back' over the history of magick in the last century. Although it no longer counts as required reading, it does carry the authentic flavour of a period when magick (excitingly) found itself rising to public attention and was being taken seriously by studious chaps in luxurious, Victorian drawing rooms. It also serves as an antidote to some of the spurious, amnesiac nonsense touted by many modern Wiccans (who would have you believe that magick as practised today was actually developed from the shadowy books of tree loving, Olde English wise women, rather than the Judaic, Egyptian, Gnostic, Hermetic, Masonic and Rosicrucian origins which have given both form and content to it).
All in all, I would recommend this book to anybody that already has a grounding in non-kosher Cabala and western magick. To anybody else I would sound a note of caution and suggest that they make a purchase or two elsewhere before finding their way back here.
on December 13, 2003
Great to study 'The Mystical Qabalah' by Dion Fortune after learning the Mid Pillar technique.
Also useful, 'Foundations of Practical Magic,' five essays by Regardie.
From there, I disagree with muddying up the picture with books by Ophiel and sych. Regardie didnt. See his book list he recommends in ' Ceremonial Magic,' Israel Regardie.
For the beginner, we must offer at the outset, that one of Israel Regardie's other books, 'The Art of True Healing,' is the best basic book on the Middle Pillar ritual and its practical uses. Anyone who wishes to make use of the multi-faceted advantages of the Middle Pillar ritual, ought to procure a copy of 'the art of true healing'(check reviews.)
This volume entitled 'The Middle Pillar,' is an expansion on the ritual itself, yet does not offer the overall, integrated assistance as to the utilization of it in body- and life-healing that the 'Art of True Healing' essay offers. It is Regardie's volume entitled 'the art of true healing' that can be used for 'physical body, ...character, financial, marriage, social, and other problems - in fact, any problem type of which one can think...' (Israel Regardie.)
Anyone who knows Regardie's work, probably knows that he still considered this early book "useful." Much of it's purpose was taken up by 'The Art of True Healing,' but he still liked it as a tool for students of the Golden Dawn material, and there were plans by New Falcon press to release Regardie's revision ( entitled 'Sceptre of Power,' I believe) somewhere in the past twenty years. Did they ever do so ? I don't know.
The only thing that bothers me about the Cicero editions of Regardie is, I am still not sure Regardie would approve. They make his books more expensive to get, and I am not so sure Regardie had any such intention. Better to focus your resources on acquiring the large 'Complete Golden Dawn System' book from New Falcon Press that Regardie had issued before he died, or the Llewellyn edition. Falcons editiion is Regardie's revised edition of the Golden Dawn rituals, and is to be preferred over the Llewellyn edition, which since Regardie's death has been 'worked over, 'annotated,' and modified to some extent, by newer 'contributors.' I truly wish people would just leave the original material alone... this goes for Regardie's 'Middle Pillar' book as well.
What the reader hopes, however, is that whatever the editor/annotator's vagaries, they at least knew Regardie. Thereby, they may have something to offer up with their 'additions' and 'innovations' which mirrors some of the 'crumbs from the masters table' Regardie may have been able to transfer to such as the Cicero's. The careful reader, hopefully, may thereby be rewarded.
Actually, and its worth mentioning: the high praise RA Gilbert offers up on the back cover of this new edition of 'M Pillar.' This is encouraging, as it is my understanding that Regardie largely approved of RA Gilbert, at least as far as his efforts as Golden Dawn historian are concerned. Not all Cicero editions of Regardie's work enjoy such endorsements, apparently: the Francis King endorsement appearing on the new, larger Cicero edition of 'The Tree of Life,' is really an endorsement of the original edition, unadorned by the Ciceros. It therefore cannot be construed as an endoresement of the Cicero's editorial and annotationial efforts on Regardie's original.
At this juncture, I must register another protest. All this modifying of Regardie's original text, seems to me a bit dangerous. The assumption that Regardie was too difficult, or wrote in an outdated 1930s style, or something like that, is short sighted. The material must be gone over and over again, to make real useful sense of it. Attempts to abridge or shorten the process of real work, as Regardie originally perceived it, is a denial of this.
I won't blame Llewellyn too much, as they have a right to make a living generating books for the not-too-serious occultist. However, why Regardie must endure insipid popularization, seems questionable to me.
However, if this edition includes new Regardie material, I am interested. (Apparently, they at least left his introductory material intact.)I probably will get a copy eventually anyway, as I got rid of my Llewellyn edition copy I got in the late 80s, and have missed it ever since (it was smaller, more convenient, and largely a reprint of the 30s edition with additional Regardie material from the early 70s.)
It may be presumptuous of me to consider the Cicero's as superfluous. They may be entirely approved of by Regardie, wherever he is now! (RIP.) Regardie may have intended for some like the Cicero's to carry the banner.
Still, basically, all you need is the Golden Dawn volume, several of Regardie's books, and the ten or twenty other books, (many of them non-occult), like Reich's 'Function of the Orgasm,' Jung's 'Two Essays in Analytical Psychology,' Rama Prasad's 'Nature's Finer Forces, ' Frater Albertus's 'Alchemists Handbook,' Dion Fortune's 'Mystical Qabalah,' several psychology books recommended in the New Falcon 'Complete Golden Dawn System' book, or the shorter list provided in his 1968 introduction included in the current Llewellyn edition, the several basic books on magic by W. E. Butler (hopefully soon to be reprinted) and some others. However, as Regardie suggests in an out of print title ('Ceremonial Magic,' Aquarian Books, hopefully soon to be reprinted ), the purpose of all this work is not to overburden the student with tons of 'expensive books.'
These are the reasons I find the bulking out of Regardie's books so objectionable. He has a lot of other recommendations for 'the foundations of a sound occult library' as it is already.
Still, the presence of these larger editions, may at least, in a colorful and somewhat superficial way, serve to draw attention to Regardie's work overall. When that process has completed itself for the present population, perhaps we may see re-releases of Regardie's original editions, hopefully in the original typefaces, for us authenticity-seeking purists ! (It's a little tedious for people to be circulating home made photocopies of the older material.)
Admittedly, some of the new writers, like the Cicero's, may be making a worthwhile contribution. I would be a purist, however. I do not wish, at least initially, to stray too far from Regardie's original efforts, as he was very bright. By the mid 80s, he had also lavished the better part of his 70-plus years lifetime on these techniques. I would not want to stray too far, at least at first, from his initial recommendations.
(Actually, my role as 'purist' comes not from fanaticism, but from over twenty years of studying Regardie, burning my fingers until I realized the intelligent unity of his overall work. I would transfer the understanding of that unity to anyone sincerely interested in Regardie.)
If you really want to know the basics, there are two essential volumes. Regardie would have you own the Golden Dawn, either in the new Falcon or an older, unmodified Llewellyn ( I can't believe Regardie would approve of messing with the original Golden Dawn material the way Llewellyn has let some do) and a copy of his 'Gems from the Equinox,' a book of Crowley's magic material, arranged so the student 'can make his way through the maze more easily.' You can read about Regardie's view on the place of these two volumes in the student's library, in his introductions both to 'The Tree of Life,' and in his 'One-Year Manual,' no doubt also soon to be reprinted, as people rediscover Regardie.
(Those who wonder why Regardie would have ought to do with Crowley, haven't spent enough time with the material to figure out why yet. Earn the privilege of understanding! Pay your dues! I think you may find it well worth it, to understand Regardie's practical view, on just about everything, really.)
Still, I will probably get this new edition of 'The Middle Pillar,' as it is still worthwhile, and as the page quantity is tempting ( seems to be twice as long as the earlier edition) and because no other editions seem to be available at this time.
Dion Fortune famously called kabbala and magic the yoga of the west, and Israel Regardie's The Middle Pillar is an excellent introduction to the system for anyone interested in the topic.
Regardie's original book was a very clearly written walk through of the Middle Pillar ritual, as well as some additional relaxation and meditational techniques. Regardie's writing is somewhat long-winded - the important concepts of the rituals have been covered by other writers, including Kraig and the Ciceros, in just a few pages - but he is very clear, enthusiastic, and thorough on explanations. The reader has a very clear understanding of words and definitions, sounds and pronunciation, movements, and the overall feelings of the experience. The overall internal peace and sense of strength and calm achieved after practicing the meditation consistently is deeply rewarding.
Further, this book is NOT a manual on magick or the Golden Dawn. While Regardie drew his early education and inspiration from Crowley, and only later literally wrote the book on the Golden Dawn, the Middle Pillar Ritual, while used in both systems, will also be quite familiar to practitioners of yogic techniques, particularly Kundalini. It is a way of drawing in, channeling, and releasing energy, nothing more and nothing less.
The Ciceros' contribution to this edition of the book more than doubles its length. Besides the excellent footnotes they add to Regardie's text, they go into alternate religious and mythical traditions, comparing and contrasting them to Regardie's system, and also add a great deal of psychological information. While useful for the hardcore student of this material, the added material is not necessary to the gaining of the benefit of the exercises presented by Regardie, and makes what started as a relatively short manual directly addressing the point into a much longer study.