The Mala and the Middle Pillar: The Role of Receiving in Magic

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

One of the most powerful benefits of magic is that it gives us the tools to take charge of our life, to step out of the runaway vehicle of chance and onto a more sedate track of conscious intention. As we practice creating our own life, the feelings of power and control that we develop refresh us, restore us, and realign us with our inner strength, our creative force. We begin to manifest what we want and be who we are.

Perhaps Dion Fortune’s definition is the most quoted: magic is changing consciousness in conformity with will. Will is intention, choice, conscious determination; it is goal-setting and task lists; it is knowing the desired destination. When we know where we want to go, we can confidently step onto the express rather than suffering through the stuttering stops and starts of the local. Magic simplifies and streamlines our life. Magic lets us take control.

The ritual work in the ceremonial magic tradition is structured around the idea of taking the active role in the creation of our reality. Every specified movement, precise gesture and clearly enunciated word reminds us of the value of purpose. But daily repetition of these highly willful acts can get too yang for me, and then I yearn for the solace of surrender. I stop creating myself and offer myself up to be created. I long to receive the Divine.

The root of the word kabbalah means to receive. Many ceremonial rituals are designed around kabbalistic symbolism. Like the Hierophant in the tarot deck, all of our dogmatically designed and perfectly performed rituals are only shells – empty structures waiting to be filled with the inspiration of the creative spark. But how do we open the door to the Divine?

When our will is to receive, our rituals take on new meaning. We no longer visualize the occult symbols drawn in air, we bask in their ethereal light. We no longer walk the specified path, we enter the flowing current. We no longer vibrate the names of power, the words form us. When our will is to receive, we unite the yang of heaven and the yin of earth, and in that creative conjunction we are reborn as divine beings. Like the Hierophant teaches us, repetition is the key to receiving the influx of the sacred into our profane, earth-bound rituals.

When I first began exploring ritual magic on my own about four years ago, I started doing the Middle Pillar, a ritual based on the five spheres that comprise the central column of the kabbalistic Tree of Life. I remember heaving a sigh and thinking, I don’t want to have to vibrate each god name four times. It takes so much energy. It’s exhausting. Can’t I do each one just once? And at times I’d do it once, at times I’d dutifully count to four, and once in a while I’d lose count, then stumble on to the next name wondering if I’d done it right.

The ritual worked its magic on me despite my ineptitude, and I felt the energy centers in my body begin to glow. I began to experience the astonishing joy of Divine Love through the activation of the heart center at Tiphareth. And since it had done its job, the ritual slowly fell by the wayside, and I stopped feeling the duty of having to forcefully vibrate those god names.

In March of this year, I was initiated into the degree associated with the element air – symbolic of thoughts, breath, and words – and the planet the Moon – reflective and receptive. Within two weeks, I became friends with someone who specialized in Sanskrit mantra meditation and we meditated together several times. During that time, a Reiki group of which I had been a member for a couple years started offering sessions in which we would chant each of the four Reiki mantras for ten or fifteen minutes apiece. These experiences re-ignited my passion for the repetition of the god names of the Middle Pillar, and I renewed my practice of this ritual, but with a much different focus. My goal now was to lose myself in the emptiness of repetition. Using a timer, I would spend ten minutes on each of the five god names. A far cry from dragging my heels at having to say the names four times! I had discovered how to receive the energy of the words of power.

One day recently during meditation I received the message, “you are a child of God.” “Really,” I said, a little put off, “Is that really what you mean?” “No,” came the answer, “you are the Logos.” “That’s cool,” I said, “but I don’t think that’s right either.” “You are a word of God.” came the response. Yes, I thought. That’s exactly right.

The first mala I made, in August 2010.

Yesterday, with the Sun in Virgo – rhythm, repetition, the handmaid of the Lord – and the receptive, reflective Moon in Pisces – meditation, intuition, the fish in the flow of the current – I suddenly was inspired to create a mala, a Buddhist meditation tool similar to a Christian rosary. The mala consists of 108 beads – the number of divine names in Hinduism – and is used to count repetitions of mantras. Malas can be made in ¼ size (27 beads), ½ size (54 beads) or full size, and a meditation session consists of one or more rounds of repeating the mantra while your fingers count off the beads. Yesterday I did four rounds of 108 repetitions of Om Namah Shivaya. Four rounds seemed like the right amount of time for this beginner to shift to the receptive state – to bliss out on the Om and slowly remember the remaining syllables; to have no other experience but simple awareness of the mantra; to become one with the words.

Today I’m going to do the Middle Pillar with the mala. I wonder if 108 repetitions of each name will be enough to lose control?

Joy Vernon is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader in Denver, Colorado. Her specialty is the Empyrean Key Intuitive Coaching, which combines tarot, astrology and Reiki to help her clients align themselves with their higher purpose. To schedule an appointment, please visit

© 2010 by Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit

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