Term Definition: Great Work. Here, that term means: understanding who you really are, and learning to act like it. The work involves refining one’s mind, character, and life in order to act like it. The work also involves eventually finding that understanding.
Term Definition: Enlightenment. Here, that term means: completing the Great Work as defined above. It therefore involves unity with Ultimate Deity.
“Now it is my life I must shape, as a carpenter shapes wood…”
(Book of Shadows)
Pathworking is an ancient technique of character building and progressive initiation.
Basically, an advanced teacher leads one or more students through a series of guided daydreams called pathworkings that have a profound effect on the student’s life, state of mind, and character.
More specifically, the students join the teacher in a deliberate out-of-the-body experience in a carefully planned series of journeys through astral realms. Within these realms, previous initiates have for thousands of years placed sign-posts, guide marks, and worn a carefully chosen path through experiences that are interactions with archetypal patterns and entities. (These pathways and guide marks are renewed every six months, and have been for much more than 7,000 years, though with changes to keep the experiences up with the times.) These archetypal patterns and entities have correspondences in both the macro cosmos of the Universe around us, and the micro cosmos of the mind, character and life experiences of the student.
For each pathworking, there are specific positive and negative effects on the life and character of the student. There is a specific list of negative effects to be overcome, and positive effects to be attained in overcoming, known to both the teacher and the students. This knowledge serves as a hint to the student as to what to expect, what behavior to avoid, and what work is to be performed after each pathworking. This makes the work much more of an exact science than some dreamy new-age feel-good daydream.
The teacher watches closely the life and behavior of the student, who experiences the negative effects at first, and then more positive effects as the student grows in strength and character, learning to handle the forces unleashed in his or her mind, character, and life experience. When the student reaches the positive effects, the teacher determines when the student is ready for the next pathworking.
With each pathworking, as the student conquers and controls the negative impulses associated, the student attains a different facet of ultimate Wisdom, and specific magical powers. Ultimately, upon finishing all of the pathworkings, the student reaches a state of enlightenment and union with the ultimate deity.
“Art thou willing to suffer, in order to Learn?”
(Book of Shadows)
Through the negative effects, each pathworking progressively presents the student with challenges of a different aspect of character growth. The entire set of pathworkings is designed to present the student with all possible challenges of character growth and enlightenment. This means that each student must face and overcome all ignorance, negative habits, demons and attachments in their character. Not all students are able to do this, and falter at some point along the way, manifesting only the negative aspects of one or other pathwork to which they have reached. This faltering has a very bad effect on the life and mind of the student, and in turn, those of the teacher. (Any interplay with the forces of the Mind, without guidance and the ability to over-come the negative aspects of such, results in ruin for the mind, character, and life of the would-be practitioner. This is the actual reason for the Occult Arts reputation of being “evil”. It is a warning upheld by wise teachers of the Occult Arts.)
So, each pathworking changes the consciousness, state of mind, and life experiences of the student, literally over-night. Clearly this is dangerous work, but with high rewards. Successfully leading students through the paths obviously requires a great deal of skill, experience, patience, and wisdom in the teacher.
The teacher strives to be sure that the student can handle the next level of pathworking before it is undertaken. Because human nature is always surprising, even a teacher who has used this technique for thousands of years can be disappointed. The teacher is therefore armed with techniques of antidote to apply in case a student cannot overcome the negative effects of a pathworking.
Antidote? One of the meanings of divinity and one of the powers that comes with being able to act like it, is to be able to relieve others of suffering by taking their suffering onto oneself instead. This is how the teacher suffers when the student falters and this is the antidote: by taking the suffering of the student upon him/herself instead. Thus, if a teacher has many students, the teacher may be within an inch of his/her life all the time, may suffer chronic poverty, loneliness and disfigurement. (An enlightened teacher may have students numbering – in order of closeness to the teacher – 3, 8, 12, 18, 25, or 64, yet have thousands of others who may not be physically present at a given time.)
But applying such antidotes too early can ruin the opportunity for the student to conquer the negative aspects of their character. It is therefore the difficult job of the teacher to keep a balance between two ever-present possibilities:
- The overwhelming desire to apply antidotes and soften the effect in order to ease the pain of the student, to relieve the hardships and ruination caused in their mind and life
- The wisdom to allow these challenges to play out, because they are very carefully orchestrated, very real opportunities for the student to grow and transmute their character into finally acting like the divinity they really are
Applying antidotes too soon can ruin the opportunity for growth. Applying them too late can overwhelm the student with suffering to the point where they give up, and abandon The Path and the teacher possibly for lifetimes, if not thousands of years. The skillful and wise teacher tries not to reduce the negative effects too much, so that the student still has Work to do, yet reduce it enough that the student does not give up completely. This is how the teacher may end up waiting (and suffering) for many lifetimes for a student to be ready for the next pathworking.
Eventually it becomes physically impossible for the teacher to endure further suffering on behalf of the students, without also crippling his/her ability to watch over and care for them. When this happens, the students are left with having to deal with the negative aspects of their own minds and characters by themselves. Their only hope is to diligently practice as they have been taught.
When the teacher knows that the student couldn’t possibly handle the full brunt of the archetypes encountered in the next path, yet the Great Work must continue, the teacher might skip some of the ancient landmarks, or reduce their severity, to soften the effects and reduce the danger to the students mind and life. For this reason, the full set of ancient landmarks are kept secret among a society of fully enlightened teachers, yet a series of landmarks with drastically reduced effect and danger has been published. (If the reader is interested, these published pathworkings can be easily obtained. See “The Shining Paths“, “The Initiate’s Book of Pathworkings“, “Inner Landscapes” and “Highways of the Mind” by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki .)
Side-note: The symbols and artistic theme for this website have been taken from experiences in the first of the pathworkings of the initiate.
Side-note: An enlightened, experienced, and wise teacher can lead the student through their next “pathworking” without the students knowledge, through interactions as simple as a pointed conversation, or sharing a dinner, or more complex yet veiled activities such as an initiation to a particular deity. Everything that has been said of “pathworking” applies in all of these situations. Such deliberate sensational work as the guided daydream are not at all necessary to lead the student on to their next step in the Great Work.