What is Pathworking?
Often pathworking is thought of as an exploratory tool, similar in concept to meditation, only instead of a clear mind, the mind focuses on a particular journey in substitute.
In many current circles pathworking is described as the ceremonial magickians tool for traversing the Tree of Life in the Kabbalistic tradition.
Pathworking is almost an imagery-filled meditation where immense research into the correspondences of each Sephiroth would enable a person to build up a small world in which to travel and uncover hidden mysteries about themselves and the world around them. Often this type of pathworking is associated with inner growth as, one-by-one, a person attempts to travel throughout the Tree of Life, making their way to Kether and mutating into a higher being.
The Tarot itself is seen as a mapped out journey through the Paths of the Tree of Life. In fact, in most magickal circles, each card is usually attributed to one of these 22 Paths.
John Michael Greer in Paths of Wisdom states that Pathworking is: "the ascent of the Tree of Life by way of the powers of the imagination. In Pathworking, the [Kabbalist] moves from Sphere to Sphere through intensely visualized journeys along the symbolic landscapes of the Paths. In turn, these journeys open up the Paths on other levels, linking and energizing the structure of the Tree within the consciousness of the magician."
Greer continues: "[...] 'Pathworking' actually has come to mean two very different kinds of magical practice, and the meaning most common in current occult circles is not the one [intended here]. In this common meaning 'Pathworking' is a guided visualization, read aloud from a prepared text, which may or may not use [Kabbalistic] symbolism at all."
Greer surmises that this type of "guided tour" has its place in visualization training, but since pathworking is a tool for personal exploration and development, it leaves much to be desired. "Any actual progress along the Paths has to be made by individual understanding of unique personal experiences."
For the most part, this "guided tour" is an acceptable means and method of pathworking, however, many adept ceremonial magickians (including Greer and Donald Michael Kraig), see this as "guided imagery" and nothing more. It is sometimes seen as merely an exercise in mental development and visualization skills, but is hardly placed amongst the sphere of important magickal development.
Exit the Body
The importance of pathworking comes from "true pathworking", where it is no longer a guided tour of the Sephiroth, but instead an actual journey. This is accomplished by combining the "new age" interpretation of pathworking with astral projection, or out-of-body experiences.
Projecting out of the body, the magickian would then use their knowledge of the Tree of Life, and the Paths on the Tree, to find a "portal" through Malkuth. They would then proceed with their journey.
With the introduction of astral projection, pathworking becomes much more than a inner journey, it becomes magick on a much higher level.
Pathworking isn't limited to the Tree of Life. One could argue that Shamanism as practiced in the Western mystery tradition is a form of pathworking, as well as Runic pathworking. Chaos magic could also make a case for pathworking on the Dow Jones.