Pathwork Glossary of Terms

This is a listing of some of the most frequently used concepts and terms of the Pathwork®.

Daily Review

The daily review is a practice to develop self-knowledge. The lectures suggest that every day we jot down moments of negative, disharmonious feelings, such as fear, indignation, anger, overreaction, or feeling victimized. In unconsciousness, we believe that the events causing such feelings come to us unbidden. However, reviewing our notes after several weeks, we are surprised to find how repetitious they are. This clearly indicates our active participation in these events, even in provoking them. We then see that we are not victims in the sense we had thought. Perhaps we are victims of our own unconsciousness! Seeing the patterns will lead us to search and find the underlying emotional stance that is constantly creating the same situations. The daily review is therefore extremely important in indicating the elements of the images, our firmly held misconceptions, so that we can recognize and deactivate them.

It is also useful to write down, in another part of the notebook, messages from our higher self, or inspirational words that have touched us, to help us avoid the error of identifying ourselves with the distorted parts that create disharmony.


A helper is a Pathwork practitioner, someone deeply involved in the purification work according to the Pathwork teachings, trained to help others in their development. Helpers give one-to-one sessions, lead groups, teach the Pathwork. Helpers continue their own growth by continuing to have sessions with another Pathwork helper. Helpers are required to go through a period of supervised helpership.

The Higher Self, the Lower Self, and the Mask

In an effort to represent human nature in its completeness, we can conceive of it in the shape of three concentric spheres. The outer sphere we call the mask self. This we fashion according to how we want others to see us, and how we would like to believe we are. The mask self is also a protection against what we don’t want others to see and what we don’t want to see within ourselves. In the sense that we want to impress others with it, the mask self is an aspect of what we call the ego. It is a controlled and manipulated expression of ourselves, created for the purpose of attaining some of our hidden and partly unconscious goals.

In creating the mask self, we work — mostly unconsciously, of course — like a sculptor with a model. The model which we try to copy when we make our mask is the idealized self-image. It is a conception of what we want to be, not in the deeply satisfying spiritual sense, but in the sense of meeting the expectations of others and of trying to escape from our own fears. Thus, the idealized self-image contains many harmful misconceptions of which we are unaware. Nevertheless, it has a strongly negative power and controls our lives through the mask self.

Behind the mask self hides the second sphere, that hidden world of egocentricity which we call the lower self. This is actually what the mask self covers up, because we do not want to display or face the fear, the hate, the stinginess, the cruelty, the distorted perceptions, and the intellectual misconceptions of the lower self. It is in the lower self that images have their seat and give rise to negative reactions and patterns which create conflict and misery in our lives.

We all have a higher self, which is the innermost core of our nature. This higher self is part of the universal intelligence and universal love that pervades all life. It is our divine spark. This higher self is free, spontaneous, loving, giving, all-knowing, and capable of uninterrupted joy and bliss. It is the brief contacts with this higher self that give humans their true happiness, their creativity, and their real pleasure. We can get in touch with our higher self through being in truth, giving from our heart and not for personal gain or reward, through caring for and loving each other, and through meditation and prayer.


We are not born with a clear, undistorted perception of reality. Due to previous incarnations and childhood circumstances in this life, we see many situations in a distorted way. When these distortions develop into a firmly-held conclusion about life, we speak of an image. An image is made up of misconceptions, distorted feelings, and physical blocks. Of course, a conclusion drawn from distorted perception is a wrong conclusion;therefore images are actually wrong conclusions about the nature of reality which are so firmly embedded in a person’s psyche that they become behavior controlling signals in life situations. An image of this kind is not subjected to rational examination, but is often defended by elaborate rationalizations. An example of an image formed under childhood conditioning might be that the display of emotion, especially of warm feelings, is a sign of weakness and will lead to one’s being hurt. Although this is a personal image, it may be reinforced by the societal mass image that, especially for a man, the display and physical expression of warm feelings is unmanly and weak because it means losing control. An individual with this image will then, in any situation where he could emotionally open himself, obey the signal of the images instead of spontaneously responding to the actual situation or person, which would be the positive, life-affirming response. He also acts toward others in such a way that they will respond negatively to him and confirm his false belief. Thus he deprives himself of pleasure and restricts the flow of the life force, creating inner tensions and further feeding his image. The effect of such images on the individual is the creating of negative compulsive patterns and reactions that restrict the unfolding of his potential.

The Life Force

The Life Force is the free-flowing energy current manifest in the universe in all beings, things, and ideas. Nothing exists without it. The life force has three essential aspects: movement, consciousness, and experience.

When we do not resist the life force which is always flowing through us, we can experience bliss. This becomes possible when our entire organism is in harmony with reality on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. This means giving up misconceptions and defenses which prevent integration of the personality with the life force. To make this possible we must be in movement, allow ourselves to grow, attain a consciousness beyond duality, and experience all feelings deeply without resistance.

Even in our present state of being we can contact the life force when we clarify the confusion of distorted feelings,thoughts, and moods. When we accept the truth of the present state and are willing to be in the now, we will immediately become imbued with the wisdom and joy of the life force. As our development continues, the life force is experienced not only in rare moments, but becomes a part of our life.

Negative Intentionality and Positive Intentionality

Negative intentionality is that part of the self which is locked into negation. It is not the same as negativity. Negativity comprises a wide range of feelings such as envy, hate, fear, or pride. Negative intentionality is deliberate choice to hold on to a state of negating life and the self. It is also a means of punishing life.Courage and humility are required to recognize that there is such a spot of ill will inside us. There is a twisted, immature reasoning behind this attitude and behind the resistance to give it up. If these are recognized, the road is open to the transition to positive intentionality, and thus to liberation.

To move into the attitude of positive intentionality you need to cultivate a deep inner certainty that the abundance and creative power of the universe transcends every limitation. You can create a positive attitude toward life according to a lawful, integrative process of transformation that makes you totally self-responsible. To make it work you need to adopt a trusting attitude toward yourself and life. Anchored in your good will, knowing that the power is yours, you can expose your negative intentionality. Otherwise it is impossible to transform it. As you become free of your negative intentionality, you are no longer devastated by that of others. You will become open to love, in the awareness that the universe is a rich and joyous place in which you are at home.

Real Self

The Real Self is our higher self seen as our true identity. Spiritual truths can often be expressed only in paradoxes: So defined, the real self is both our actuality and our potentiality. We are already our real selves underneath the layers of confusion, fear, and error. Yet the real self is also the potentially perfect self, the state we attain when these layers have been transformed and eliminated. Our real self lives in unity, having never left that divine state. We call it real in contrast to our disconnected aspects that are in illusion.

Unity and Duality

Human beings live in duality. Thus they perceive everything through pairs of opposites: good or evil, light or dark, right or wrong, living or dead. This is so because our consciousness is split. This dualistic way of perceiving conceals from us the deeper reality of the universe, which is fundamental unity. Every soul longs for the unified state of consciousness —a state of absolute reality, bliss, freedom, and fulfillment. It is possible to attain—or at least catch glimpses of this state—for our real self lives in this unified state even when we are unaware of it. We experience it when we identify with our higher selves; then duality is transcended. Once a soul has consciously experienced this state of being even for a second, there is always the possibility to challenge the split dualistic state by remembering one’s true nature and the oneness of all life.

Vicious Circle

Psychologically speaking, a vicious circle is a self-perpetuating, repetitive pattern of negative, destructive, illusory attitudes which intensify one another. It originates in an image or misconception which separates us from the reality of a situation; as the vicious circle progresses, we get further and further away from correcting the original mistake. Take, for instance, somebody who has the misconception that the only way to defend himself against being hurt by others is to make them afraid of him. Even if he initially did not elicit hostile feelings, in his endeavor to frighten others he will certainly evoke them. This hostility will make him more threatening and tyrannical and he will use all new evidence to reconfirm his original misconception. Finally he is bound to have some unpleasant experience, which he will interpret as the result of his not having been “strong enough.” Thus he remains a prisoner of his vicious -circle and goes through the same experience again and again.