Highways of the mind

Wiccan Rede * Spring 1983 by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki

After many years of being considered mere flights of fancy, the occult form of training known as Path Workings are beginning to be seen for what they are: a valid form of teaching. Their new found popularity is a good thing provided it is seen in its proper context and not made an excuse for yet more glamour in an area already cluttered with more than its fair share.

One of the main purposes of a Path Working is to contact the Archetypal powers behind a certain contact or Tradition. Another is to bring about a re-action in ones conscious life that will enable you to “grow” through its effects. As in meditation there are both Passive and Active Path Workings. Both have their place in a students training programme. It is essential however that each type is used in its right place and for the right purpose. An active Path Working uses a known route from point A to point B. The same route is travelled each time these two Terminals are used. In this way the traveller builds up a contact with the “place” and the beings who have their existence there. By virtue of his many visits, he becomes an accepted part of that place. It becomes more and more real to him with each visit and eventually a deep contact is made with the indigenous forces of that plane.

A Passive Path Working instead of following a known path or set of instructions is allowed to present to the traveller whatever his subconscious mind, or in the case of a more advanced student, his higher mind, wishes to show him. Sometimes it is instructive, sometimes a cry for help, at others a warning. Both kinds of Path Working use a Doorway of some kind. A Tarot card, an I Ching Hexagram, one of the Tattwas symbols, even a picture of a landscape into which the traveller may walk, or simply an old fashioned door.

Of the two, the passive is best for an advanced student well used to this form of training, mainly because he is likely to come up against symbols, beings or circumstances that can cause apprehension in a less advanced student, who is best on a path with specified sign posts that he can be sure of. It is also to be remembered that in passive Path Working the gates of the lower self as well as the higher can be opened and ones greatest fears can be let loose. Giving oneself a waking nightmare is no part of occult training if it can be avoided. Although, when a student has progressed to a point where such an experience could form part of a test along the way, and, if thought necessary a teacher can present to help if needed, then the facing of old fears and traumas via a passive Path Working can be a cleansing thing and a battle worth fighting and winning.

I have said that one of the purposes of a Path Working is to bring about in ones everyday life an effect corresponding to the idea behind the Path Working itself.

Thus if working on a Qabalistic line, the 32nd path is attempted you must expect some old fears and past events to come up and be prepared to deal with them on the physical level. This done you will have faced a small part of the Watcher on the Threshold and that is worth a great deal in your training. Most Path Working will leave you a little euphoric at first, then a re-action sometimes sets in and leaves you feeling a little let down, this stage will not last very long. If it does, it means that you have not closed down tightly enough when returning to full consciousness. Like all new things you must go slowly and learn as you go along, then you will gain the full benefit of this method of training. It must NOT be seen as an excuse to go gallivanting off into a beautiful daydream world. There ARE times when an astral holiday is very beneficial, but the temptation to do it all the time can be very great and you must keep a tight rein on this.

You can expect a physical plane re-action within 36 hours usually and you should note down anything that could be even remotely connected with it. Some of these connections can have far reaching results, bigger than you think possible. This is why I strongly advise following a ready made Path Working rather than building your own for at least six months or so. Get an idea of what and how to build them before trying a do-it-yourself job.

I have drawn on lesser known types of Path Workings, from different Traditions. As there is nothing like throwing you into the deep end right away, we will start with a Path Working designed to show you the inside of the Elemental world. Remember this rule in PW: to get the full effect from it, don’t watch yourself as if on a screen in your mind. You MUST always aim to be actually doing the PW as a person. Try to keep in the shape of character you are using at all times. Of course, at first you will find that it’s difficult and tend to “slip out”, but if you persevere you will find that it gets easier each time. As always in any form of magical training periods, make sure you will not be disturbed. This is very important with PW. Coming out of them at speed is similar to someone yelling FIRE in your ear when you are fast asleep. You come to with a rapid pulse and feeling sick and dizzy. Choose an easy but not too comfortable chair and sit with the spine well supported, close your eyes and relax.

Earth, water, fire and air

As you sit there quietly, start to imagine a pull and push effect on your body, as if it was a boat moored in a tidal harbour. Flow with the feeling, gradually open your inner eyes on an underwater scene. All is green and silver, all shades of green from the very palest to the darkest. The quietness is total, let yourself drift slowly up towards the surface. As you rise, feel that in the soft green darkness there are many of you, all the same, rising together. You can feel their bodies as well as your own, as if you were all part of an immense whole, which you are, a host of water sprites rising faster and faster until suddenly you shoot out into the air, up and up, then twisting and falling back into the ocean. You and your fellows are playing at the base of some sheer cliffs that tower above you. The element that is both your home and your substance flings you against these rocks again and again in the shape of foam. It throws you high into the air, mingling with the sylphs that ride the wind over the waters. Each time you leap higher until, tiring of the game, you all plunge once more into the depths and sink into the quietness below. Now you can explore the undersea caves and play with the creatures that inhabit them. You can take time to learn to love and understand, make companions of these creatures who are your younger brethren. Ride the dolphins and the great whales. Play with the tentacles of the octopus, nothing in this element can harm you, for you are made from the element itself. If a fish breathes you in you will find yourself emerging from its gills in a stream of bubbles. You can flow into the smallest cracks and crevices, you are part of the whole and it is part of you. Up to the surface again to watch the big liners go by, or follow the boats of the fishermen far out to sea. The warm coral seas and the cold arctic oceans where the icebergs drift are all yours to explore.

Lie on the surface and look up at the sky, above you are the white clouds and the warm sun. Deep inside you there begins a pull upwards. Yield to this pull, let the power of the sun draw you up to the clouds to be made part of them. There the winds dry you and make you part of the kingdom of the AIR. Beside you are a throng of fellow sylphs, together you race across the ocean you have just left towards a range of high mountains capped with snow. Up, up and over them you go revelling in the snow flurries that constantly blow from their summits. Rush down into the far valleys, sweeping through the forests making the branches sing in high thin voices. Across neat red roofed houses, blowing lines of white washing left and right until they too dance like a row of ballerinas. Up into the bell tower of the church, the big bell is too heavy but the smallest ones can be moved enough to give a sharp tinkle. Away again over the cities pulling at kites in the park and balloons until, freed from clinging hands, they fly up with you. Toss them back and forth, this way and that until tiring, you let them flutter downwards again. Time to ride on the backs of birds, nestled in among the wing feathers, looking down on the earth below.

Now another mountain looms ahead, different this time, a thin plume of smoke drifts from its summit. You hover high above it, looking down into the heart of a fiery volcano. Mingle with the smoke and make ready for the next change. As a shower of sparks fly into the air, join with them falling back into the crater and plunging down into the heart of its red eye, a warmth spreads through your being as you become part of the molten earth and rock, glowing with a myriad colours. Let the fire wash through you, leap up with it and fall down again into the white hot heart of the Earth where all is in a state of change. This is nature’s laboratory, let your molten shape flow into the small crevices and tunnels and lie there cooling in the soft darkness waiting for the next and last change.

Take the shape of that which surrounds you, the earth itself. Feel the strength and the endurance of it. Like the tendrils of a plant reach out and explore. Flow from rock to earth, discover caves deep down where man has never been, some that he will one day discover with strange painted shapes on the walls. Become part of the mountains and feel how deep they have roots into the earth. Feel the gentle trickle of streams as they flow through your deepest parts. Begin to move upwards, tracing dim thoughts of men that once lived in these dark caves and left their mark on walls that are part of you. Feel the oneness of the whole planet and the feeling of love and sorrow that pervades it. Feel the bite of the drill that scores deep into your substance and the pain of explosions that rip you apart. Feel the soft hands that plant wheat and corn in you and the soft movement that tells you they are growing.

There is a light ahead, dim and hazy, let yourself flow towards it. As it comes nearer be aware of a new sensation, of something beneath you, of arms and legs that are part of you. Move your head from side to side slowly. Open your eyes and take in the things around you; let them become real to you, do it all slowly without rush. Look at all the things around you and let them to be real. When you are fully aware, then stand up and stamp your feet on the ground, repeat your name, saying ‘I AM ,,,’. Now when you are quite within yourself, settle down and have something to eat and drink. Then write down in your notebook what you have been aware of during your travels.

This Path Working will help you to become more deeply aware of the Elemental Kingdoms and to understand them better. It will also help you to overcome any fear you may have of any one element. By combining the four kingdoms in this way, you will not unbalance your own inner kingdoms by placing more emphasis on one than the others.

It also helps to bring about greater rapport between you and the other kingdoms.