Pathworking is not an Enigma

Not too long ago I was talking to a young man about training for the priesthood.  He told me about how he’d gone through the training for priesthood in several other traditions and he was always left feeling like the training had no substance.  This left him jumping from tradition to tradition, looking for “the one” that gave him the challenge, depth and structure he so desperately sought.

I wasn’t surprised. I see it all the time; students looking down their nose at a curriculum that appears far too simple to be training for an office, role or title.

Now admittedly I can understand this frustration. A lot of traditions simply expect you to perform rituals X, Y, and Z, where you memorize lines and regurgitate them when asked to. It ends up looking and sounding like a bad High School production of Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. They may even make you wait a year in between each of these scripted rituals, too, just to make the title at the end of the “training” a little more difficult to get.

Of course we get out of an education what we put into it. So perhaps the fault isn’t in the traditions or their training or their rituals. Perhaps the fault is in the student and their expectations of training for a “higher office”.

That’s the point in the conversation when I pointed out to this young man that all rituals and courses of study, especially the important ones leading you to a specific office or title, were all about the path-working.

Sure, you could do any ritual in an hour (or less) and walk away, calling it done. But when you really work a ritual by giving more than a mere two hours of your time, and really commit to working it by pondering and repeating it for months, working it backward and forward, you are path-working.

When you study a book and experiment with the material six ways to Sunday, that’s path-working.

That’s the difference between just reading a book or doing a ritual, and doing actual path-work.

The old traditions are full of path-work rituals and courses for study cleverly disguised as simple rituals meant to be worked in under and hour and lists of books to be read. But sadly the modern phenomena of the absence of teachers  combined with the instant gratification culture we live in doesn’t do a lot to facilitate path-work. Students don’t understand it because they don’t have a teacher to knowingly shake their head at them, give them a forlorn sigh, and say, “You’ve missed the point. Go back and do it over and this time, slow down and pay attention.”

Path-work actually requires you actually work it. You have to think about the rituals or the material you’re studying.  You have to follow where your questions, curiosity, and answers lead. This also means you have to question the very core of your beliefs and understand every aspect of every ritual and understand the intent behind every incantation uttered.

Path-work is not this enigma we are lead to believe it is and if you are the spiritual or magickal student you think you are, you’ll relish in the path-work and find depth for yourself by understanding that training for an office like the priesthood isn’t about just completing a ritual or reading (I’ve learned the bulk of students merely skim) through a bunch of books.

Instead, it’s about actually finding that one thing you missed and focusing on it for awhile. Then realizing the next thing and focusing on that until you feel you have mastered the lesson.

Several years ago I embarked on my Path of Ptah. When I initially started the ritual I was viewing it as a “becoming as the creator” or a creative force. It took me a year of doing the ritual over and over again, experimenting with it in different ways, thinking about it, studying it, and living the lessons it was teaching me before I discovered that I had missed the most important lesson of all. I was so busy focusing on the end result that I’d missed the lesson in process. So I took another year and focused on the process.

For those of you who don’t know, Ptah isn’t a long ritual. It takes about one hour each time it’s performed. So sure — I could have done my Path of Ptah in an hour and moved on to my next initiatory rite. But I didn’t. Having had the benefit of a teacher who taught me never to do anything in magick half-assed, I worked the ritual until I understood every crack and crevice and element of its design, not to mention all that it could potentially manifest. That little one hour initiatory rite took me two years to complete because I didn’t just do a ritual. I did path-work. I’ve just now moved on to my next “ritual” which I have no doubt I’ll path-work that one, too. That is how I do my magickal and self-work because that’s how I was taught to do it. Not to mention I feel a deeper connection to my magick through path-work.

So next time you find yourself rolling your eyes at some seemingly simple ritual  or course of study, take a step forward and look a little deeper. Chances are you need to slow down and pay attention because you’ve probably missed the point.