I first stumbled on the term inner temple through Chris Penczak’s book, The Inner Temple of Witchcraft. This isn’t a post about his book, though, which deals with magick, creative visualization, meditation, and developing psychic abilities. Instead, I wanted to write about what the inner temple means to me, why I think it’s important, and what we can do to prepare it. A temple is sacred space, and any spiritual practice, including Neo-Paganism, requires that there be sacred space within us.
What is the Inner Temple?
To me, the inner temple is our state of mind when we connect with Spirit. We need to attune our feelings, thoughts, and actions to our spiritual activities. We can’t give all that we have if half our mind is on our everyday troubles. Just as we set up an altar and create a ritual circle as sacred space, the “space within the mind” needs to be prepared to give and receive the sacred energy that makes any spiritual activity come alive.
If we don’t pay much attention to our inner temple, anything we do to connect to the Goddess and God is a drag (I imagine for Them as well as for us!). We’re unfocused. Our energy level and enthusiasm are low. If we’re trying to perform a spell, the energy we send out could be weak or all over the place, which could bring annoying, if not serious, consequences. If we’re trying to receive information through psychic activity, divination, or meditation, all kinds of distracting messages get in the way.
Connecting with deity should be a joyful experience. Preparing the inner temple in some formal way to “get into the groove” of whatever spiritual work we’re doing opens us up to fully enjoy what we’re doing. We’re also much more likely to feel the presence of the Goddess and God, ensure our spell works, and receive any other gifts we’re able to receive from deity by carefully preparing the inner temple. I also see any communication with Spirit as a two-way promise. Every time we reach out spiritually, we make a promise to be completely present at that moment, and preparing our inner temple allows us to keep our promise.
Why We Might Not Prepare the Inner Temple
Sometimes, we might skimp on preparing the inner temple because of time issues. We feel rushed for some reason and forgo the inner temple prep time, figuring we can get into it as we progress with whatever we’re doing. It’s not that this is impossible to do, but the experience is much less enjoyable than if we take a few moments to prepare ourselves before starting.
If we’re doing spiritual work at the end of the day or early in the morning, we might be tired and find ourselves swept into sleep every time we try preparing the inner temple. And, to be honest, sometimes we’re just plain lazy. Preparing the inner temple is a routine thing that’s not usually as exciting as a ritual, spell, or psychic session. We want to get going on the interesting stuff, so we push aside inner temple preparation and trust our enthusiasm will carry us through.
Psychologically, a nagging anxiety from the day may be persistently lurking beneath the surface of the mind, no matter how hard we try to push it away. I’ve often found that subconscious worries work this way. Some minor incident triggers a larger worry, and it’s struggling to push through to awareness. Since the inner temple must be quiet in order to connect to deity, it’s also an excellent time for the worry to surface. Like a cat that keeps poking its head out of a duffel bag on the bus, the worry just won’t be pushed aside.
“Inner Temple” by Rainbow Gryphon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Preparing the Inner Temple
Just like in exercise, setting a routine for inner temple preparation can help us avoid dragging through whatever it is we’re doing. In my experience, this is a two-step process involving cleansing and then concentration.
Just as we need to cleanse the space we perform a ritual in, we need to cleanse the sacred space within our mind before we do anything spiritual. If circumstances make it difficult for us to prepare the inner temple then we need to think twice about doing whatever it is we want to do in the first place. Performing spiritual work when we feel rushed or tired dishonors deity and wastes our time. We should take all the time we need to do what we need to do right or find another time to do it.
Distracting thoughts or worries from the day can be set aside, but that’s not the same as pushing them aside. They’re nagging us for a reason. Even taking just a few minutes to acknowledge what distracts us or worries us can make a difference. It’s the distress that’s begging for attention. By acknowledging it, letting it rise to the surface, and then promising ourselves that we’ll deal with it fully later, we’ll be able to set it aside so that we can do our spiritual work.
I often find it helpful to do a quick run-through of the day before I do any spiritual work so that I can identify both what satisfied me and what dissatisfied me. Gaining some balance can help us set aside the distress because we see it in a wider context. In other words, alongside what didn’t go right, we can see what did go right. Once we’ve covered everything major, we can turn our attention to the higher level of consciousness that we need to enter into in order to connect with Spirit.
Once we’ve emptied the mind of worries and distractions, it’s time to make the inner temple an ideal setting for focused concentration. There are a gazillion ways to do this. Basically, we’re talking about some form of meditation. This helps us rise above the rational, logical mind that creates a natural barrier to connecting with deity. We simply can’t feel the Goddess and God, focus energy for a spell, or get information through psychic work with that part of us that wins arguments and multiplies numbers!
Deep, rhythmic breathing is usually involved. Closing our eyes helps because it shuts out any distracting stimuli in our environment. Some like to go through the chakras, from the root up to the crown, feeling them as they move up their body. This creates a feeling of balance and peace that draws us to the energy within, an ideal way to prepare the inner temple for spiritual work.
Really any kind of meditation will prepare the inner temple after we’ve cleansed it of everyday distractions and worries. Creative visualization is good if you’re the type who visualizes well. Dr. Dennis Gersten runs a site called Imagerynet where he shares creative visualization ideas for many different circumstances. One of his suggestions for a spiritual creative visualization is to imagine deity sitting on top of a maypole, or alternatively, that spiritual energy is coming through the top of the maypole. Pick up one of the ribbons and feel that spiritual energy flowing through you.
Another creative visualization technique that works for me is to imagine that I’ve come to a clearing in a forest, a seashore, or a mountain top to perform my ritual. I re-create the scene as much as I can through as many of my senses as I can (feeling the breeze, smelling the salt water, etc.). I reach out with my mind and heart to the presence of the Goddess and God. Getting as absorbed as I can in this imaginary environment helps shift my focus from what I know isn’t important to a state of mind where deity may enter.
In order to prepare the inner temple, we have to empty it of preoccupations from our everyday lives and then change the atmosphere in it so that we can work with it on a higher level. It’s no different from preparing the sacred space in which we’ll be doing our physical work. Some would even argue that it’s more important to prepare the inner temple because we don’t have to prepare our physical environment in any special way to do spiritual work. The more we can cleanse and focus the inner temple, the closer we can get to Spirit.
Cleansing and meditation resources commonly focus on techniques that are more suitable for daily practice, but here are some that can be modified and shortened so that they prepare the inner temple for ritual, spellwork, or psychic work:
- Here’s a powerful YouTube video from massage therapist and Reiki master Rachael Hertogs on chakra meditation.
- These two Neo-Pagan sites offer rather complex meditation techniques, but you can pick just a small part for inner temple preparation. Lady Springwolf runs a site called The Pagan’s Path and has a meditation guide that involves crossing a bridge from the rational, thinking mind to spiritual consciousness. The White Goddess is a UK-based Pagan portal with an article on a meditation technique using a pentagram.
- The Meditation Society of America runs Meditation Station, which has over 40 meditation techniques. Three in particular struck me as suitable for preparing the inner temple: Visualization of a Deity Meditation, Filling the Mind to Empty the Mind Meditation, and 3rd Eye Meditation.