Brief Note on Versions of the Middle Pillar Exercise A while back someone asked, more or less, about the Middle Pillar exercise developed by Regardie and described in various ways in various places. Various computational disasters later, I toss my bits of shell into the pot. The "classical" Middle Pillar exercise described in (for example) _The Middle Pillar_ and _The Art of True Healing_ was worked up by Regardie from a Portal grade teaching paper used in the Stella Matutina (one of the transformation bodies, so to speak, of the Golden Dawn), drawing on various remarks scattered throughout the GD material, with some inspiration from the English version of Wilhelm's translation of _The Secret of the Golden Flower_. The original Portal paper directs the student to first build up the Middle Pillar of the Tree of Life in the aura, and then add the sephiroth of the Pillars of Mercy and Severity (as though one were standing between the pillars in the temple, facing West). Regardie, however, uses a somewhat different scheme, derived from the Tarot documents that describe the projection of the Tree of Life into a sphere. This scheme gives four side pillars rather than two, with Mercy and Severity alternating. The Middle Pillar then runs through the center of the Earth, with Kether associated with the North and Malkuth with the South Poles. The side- pillars are essentially at the cross-quarters; the four elemental Enochian Tablets are at their appropriate quarters, filling the spaces between the pillars (as is discussed in the "Book of the Concourse of the Forces," I believe). This means that, as I remember, if one is facing East (toward Leo), a pillar of Severity will be to the left in front and to the right in back, and a pillar of Mercy will be to the right in front and to the left in back. Now, Regardie based the circulation patterns of his Middle Pillar Exercise on two sources. (1) the description of the Neophyte grade Opening, as interpreted in various places in the Z documents, and (2) the spherical Tree of Life. The Z documents specifically state that the four pillars of the spherical Tree are formulated in the candidate's aura during the Neophyte initiation, and Regardie takes these pillars to be at the left and right, and to the front and back. Thus, one circulation activates the pillars to the side; another circulation activates the pillars in front and in back; a third circulation (the "Fountain") activates the Middle Pillar, and a fourth (the spiral) enacts the "rising of the Light" of the triple clockwise circumambulation during the Neophyte opening. Regardie specifically states (in _The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic_) that he does not recommend the work of building the side pillars in the aura (as the Stella Matutina instructions had recommended) because (a) there should be four rather than two side pillars, and (b) the peripheral circulations achieve the same effect. Our correspondent asks about the location of the pillars of Mercy and Severity, which is in fact another question: which way should one be facing? The scheme presented in the Tarot and Enochian documents is clear enough: the Pillars and Tablets (and Paths, and the whole panoply of the Tarot) occupy precise spaces in the sphere around the Earth, as in the Sphere of Sensation of the practitioner. But how should one orient oneself? The answer, unfortunately, leads to another problem. Another Portal document, "The Microcosm - Man" is very precise, though not very helpful. It states in no uncertain terms that (a) each one of us is oriented within our Sphere of Sensation *facing the sign that was rising at the time of our birth*, and that (b) the Sphere does not rotate: we keep this individual orientation throughout our lives. This means that though the pillars are 90 degrees apart for everyone, they --and the Tablets as well -- are located in different directions in each person's Sphere. This gives a practitioner a chance to make some decisions. One might simply do the Middle Pillar Exercise and let the circulations be seen as activating whatever is in their paths. One might, on the other hand, take the direction of Cor Leonis as one's "East", and visualize everything in its canonical place. This means, however, that the peripheral circulations go through the Tablets rather than the Pillars. One might, on yet another hand, decide to interpret the Elemental Tablets as Pillars, so that the peripheral circulations would activate the Passives with one flow and the Actives with the other (then one would have to consider whether Actives were Severity and Passives Mercy, or vice versa). On a fourth hand, one might simply remove the later overlay and go back to the earlier strata of the Golden Dawn material. There are many other hands that one might grasp at in one's desperation, and I do not have the stamina to try to enumerate them all. I only wanted to sketch out the situation, and point out that there is in fact a problem there, one which must be addressed by anyone who wants to keep to the Golden Dawn tradition. LeGrand Cinq-Mars rjb@u.washington.edu