On Elemental Equilibrium
>> I have no doubts in the abilities and experiences you write about, but I find it difficult to believe something such as a smoking habit would have made it past Step 1 practice of IIH (in particular the introspection part). (Or perhaps I am just being WAY too hard on myself and expecting perfect balance before going to step 2). <<
"Perfect balance" is not an achievable goal while incarnate. The proper goal is Equilibrium. This is a continuous, lifelong process that demands constant equilibration -- it is not a static result.
Equilibrium is a uniquely personal thing that is not based upon cultural pressures or the opinions of others. The details of the true magical equilibrium will look different for each magician. The point of initiation is to become your self, to the fullest, not to pattern yourself upon another's standards. Thus you will never find the answers to your own process of equilibration externally -- the only guide is your own conscience.
The goal of Step One in this regard, is the construction of your negative and positive soul mirrors, not equilibrium itself. This taking stock of what IS, is the first step in the process of equilibration. Step Two begins the work of conscious self-transformation, and the process of equilibration is continuous for the rest of your days. You do reach a stage titled "equilibrium" (which means that equilibration becomes automatic and instantaneous), but it is still a continuous process and not a static state of perfection.
When I began my work with IIH, I did quit smoking for a period of three years. My rationale for this was that smoking was an addiction and it was my addictiveness that was the issue, not smoking itself. Once I resolved my addiction issues, I returned to smoking because I also derive pleasure from it. Smoking is no longer an addiction in the psychological sense for me. I would miss the pleasure of it, but I have absolutely no doubt of my ability to abstain from smoking. This is an example of how one transforms a negative trait into a positive one by reaching down to the root issue (addictiveness), resolving that, and then transforming the situation into a positive (pleasure).
Certainly, smoking the majority of commercially available cigarettes is VERY damaging to one's health, but I smoke the expensive additive-free kind hoping to minimize the cost to my bodily health. But "health" is about more than just the state of one's physical body. I've known many physically fit vegan gym-goer yogis who were some of the most disturbed, imbalanced people imaginable. In my own seeking of my own personal and unique equilibrium, I find that pleasure is an important part of health (of life itself, for that matter).
As a magician, I am the only person who determines what my inner landscape shall be and how the spirit of my equilibrium shall manifest. If for me, smoking represented a negative trait that I must overcome, then I would do so, but only because I discerned that this was a negative trait, not because it was considered a negative trait by others.
>> The part where I have doubts more and more are Bardon's constant reminders that "one shalt not proceed with more advanced exercises until one has mastered the basic ones". <<
I recommend that you resolve this doubt as this is one place where doubt is inappropriate. Bardon designed his course of initiation in such a way that the exercises of the next Steps are impossible if you have not mastered the previous exercises. You might get some result from jumping ahead, but it will not be the full result possible and eventually, your progress will come to a screeching halt. All that jumping ahead accomplishes is to delay your progress because you will, without a doubt, be forced to backtrack and start over again.
>> If this were so, one would not be able to Astral Project for what I would think to be years of practice before reaching steps 8/9. Yet, I'm sure some of us have heard of people Astral Projecting whether induced or spontaneously without ever having engaged in exercises found in steps 1 - 7. <<
There are several issues here. The primary issue is that what most folks title "Astral Projection" has very little to do with what Bardon titles "Astral Wandering".
The second issue is that many folks are born with the inherent ability to separate their astra-mental body. Most often, this is an undisciplined ability and of little magical use. And, most often, it leads only to experiences that are delusional in nature. One reason why Bardon places mental and astral wandering so late in the Steps and stresses the need for the magical equilibrium, is because it takes long training to be able to separate the astra-mental body and NOT be fooled into believing that a projection from one's own psyche is objectively real.
The third issue is that the magical or Elemental equilibrium can be achieved in any number of ways other than by doing the work of IIH. IIH presents only the Hermetic approach.
>> So... The question is how seriously are we to take these constant warnings ?? <<
I recommend that you take them with the utmost gravity.
>> Is this Bardon's idea of implementing "Engineering Buffers" so we don't hurt ourselves? I.e. if the elevator states it can only handle 1000Kg, but if you test it it actually can handle 1300Kg of weight before it collapses. <<
No, these are merely statement of fact. They are not manipulative. In other words, he doesn't say them to hold you back or to coddle you. He says them to insure your continued forward progress.
>> Would I be correct in saying that the introspection part of Step 1 is something that may take a lifetime to achieve and perhaps should be practiced in parallel to the other steps, rather than focused solely upon before moving on to the next level? <<
Introspection is the constant companion of the magician. Not a moment passes without it. Not a Step is taken that is not dependant upon it.
In Step One, you focus your introspection specifically upon the present personality you manifest. The goal with Step One is to, within a short time, document the current state of your character. Once this is achieved and self-change is begun, introspection takes on a new meaning -- introspection is THE essential ingredient in the process of equilibration.
Life is filled with constant, unrelenting change and the only way to keep apace with the internal changes is through constant, unrelenting introspection.
Introspection is such an essential tool for the magician that Bardon chose to put it (along with mental discipline) at the very beginning of the work. Both introspection and mental discipline are lifelong practices that evolve and mature throughout your entire life. What you conceive of as "introspection" today, is not what you will experience it to be in a year, or a decade, etc.
Introspection and mental discipline are like learning to ride a bicycle. At first it is something new and difficult and it takes your full concentration. But eventually it becomes second nature. Then you find a new challenge, like racing your bike or travelling across country with it, etc.
My best to you,
:) Rawn Clark
07 Dec 2001
>> The only way for me now to comprehend living in an equilibrium is to have a counter-balance thought in the back of your mind. It would be along the same lines as when David said, "I have put the Lord always before me." The idea being that a mental filter is created, based on the juxta-position of what the right thing to do would be; and then compare it to what is our own natural inclination to do. <<
Ah, but why do you assume that one's true "natural inclination" is any different than the "right thing to do"?
Initiation is nothing other than becoming fully conscious. Magic is nothing other than the fully conscious use of Natural Laws. A Magician is nothing other than a fully conscious person who makes fully conscious use of what Nature has provided us.
Awareness of self is at the root of Elemental Equilibrium. With time and practice, awareness of self becomes a habit and eventually not a moment passes without your being precisely aware of yourself.
Introspection is the first step in that process, but with time, introspection (which starts out as a special thing) becomes constant awareness of self. It takes no thought. It's automatic. An integral part of being.
This is what David, of blessed memory, meant. That his awareness of self ("Lord") was so constant a presence in his way of being that it was ALWAYS in front of his eyes. This symbol "always before me", deserves careful thought. This means that every perception (in-coming) and every expression (out-going) passes through this filter of self awareness.
The Elemental Equilibrium is a dynamic state of active and constant awareness of self. Nothing within the self transpires without full conscious awareness. Each thought is evaluated as it occurs. Each emotion is evaluated as it occurs. And the only change that occurs in reaction to thoughts, emotions or events, occurs with one's full conscious awareness. In other words, the balanced individual is not thrown about willy-nilly by events or intruding thoughts.
This is why it is called "equilibrium". It is the solid foundation. The ground of self upon which the initiate stands and meets life. Just like in Tai Chi, if you stand in balance, then you can shift with external pressures without being toppled over or moved against your will.
The Elemental Equilibrium is not so much a discipline as it is a choice. I choose to remain grounded in myself. In order to remain grounded I have to continuously express my truest nature as clearly as possible. In order to know my own true nature, I must remain continuously aware of self. And this does not limit me since Self is limitless.
By focusing inward, we find the Infinite.
And by focusing inward we find the guide that replaces cultural dictates or even thinking -- our conscience. This is what should guide us to, and guide us during the maintenance of, our Elemental Equilibrium, not what we are brought up to think is right or what someone else tells us is right.
Our conscience is the voice of our "Holy Guardian Angel", speaking to us in every moment of our existence. It never misleads. It is the clarity of Self, flowing into us, seeking expression. All we need do is trust it and obey it.
>> P.S. Here's a good one. I meditated and contrasted and compared the Bardon approach of change and a correlation with the verse, "Resist not the evil." What I noticed Bardon and the verse have in common is: If we resist or give too much thought to the 'evil' or undesired quality, then what we end up doing is, feeding it (energy) and getting into a 'tug of war' with it. Which only strengthens it. <<
Yes. This is especially important in the work with the soul mirrors. Nothing must be resisted other than our inclination toward the habit of subconsciously formed responses that no longer serve us. These do take some resistance, but the type of resistance they take is one of ignoring them and turning the mind towards the positive, affirming, conscious alternative. Again, it's like in Tai Chi: From center we meet the external force and we direct its motion instead of letting it direct ours.
"Center" occurs at the exact spatial middle of any whole form. If we leave parts of our selves out of the form, then we cannot achieve "center" because we have not encompassed a "whole" thing.
Each negative serves a positive root. Within the personality, what makes a character trait "negative" is the fact that the form was developed without our conscious participation. Most often, the most bothersome negative traits stem from childhood, so our understanding of our selves and of the universe was poor and thus our responses tended to take negative (inappropriate, inharmonious) forms.
When we push away or resist the negative manifestation, we then have no basis upon which to know its positive root. The only way to unlock the positive core is to accept the negative form and consciously change it so that it more clearly and accurately expresses the positive root. And the only substance in our universe that acts as a solvent to negativity is love.
You might rightly ask, "but how can I love this awful part of myself?" Well, you don't necessarily have to always like a thing that you love. Certainly this is one of the bigger lessons of intimate relationships! ;-) When you don't like something about someone you love, you help them to change and become more likable. And since you already love them, you speak to them lovingly and tell them your thoughts in a way that nourishes them instead of demeaning them. So why not apply the same tactic with one's own self? I'll tell you, it works like a charm!
>> I must admit, I grew up very zealous and introspective. But I feel like the Bardon approach doesn't want us to over do introspection and self analysis, or take it to an extreme. Yes we need it, and it's a tool, but it can become a road block at the same time. We have to find a balance there too. <<
Yes, certainly, balance is the key. But what I don't think you've realized yet is that introspection transforms into something more. Something that is not a labor, but something that is a joy. But even so, initiation is about more than just contemplating your navel. ;-) It's also about action.
My best to you,
:) Rawn Clark
15 Dec 2001
>> An important part of the soul mirror exercise has little to do with you and a lot to do with your learning about the categorization of the different traits so that you can recognize them and the group that they belong to. <<
This is an interesting point that I don't altogether agree with. The interjection of the Elemental analysis into the mirror work is really not essential to success with the work of self-transformation itself. So long as you do identify the various aspects of your own self, it doesn't matter what name you give them or what structure you impose upon them.
Where this does matter is when it comes to Hermetic initiation and the learning of magic. Here, the Elements are a bridge between understanding 'self' and 'other', the inner universe and the external one.
We begin with the internal universe of the personality and learn to understand the Elements there, in that arena, by relating them directly to what we perceive of our inner world. In doing that, we impose a specific Hermetic structure upon our personality and mold it to fit (not the other way around). This structured, re-generated personality is the Foundation which is so essential to advancement in Hermetics.
Then we turn this understanding outward and learn to understand the external Elements. This process of internal-turning-outward is what personalizes the external Elements for us and makes them comprehensible, real things instead of just intellectual concepts.
My best to you,
:) Rawn Clark
16 Dec 2001
>> I think you have clarified "equilibrium" but you have barely touched on "elemental". How do the various elements come into "imbalance" in the first place?<<
Of concern here are the astra-mental Elements. As such, their balance is influenced by our emotions and our thoughts. At birth we possess an essential Equilibrium based upon our specific maturity of spirit. In other words, the astral Elements reflect precisely the mental influx of our own Individual Self. This is represented in Astrology by the natal chart of the exact moment we emerge from the womb. This is the balance we begin with and modify throughout our incarnation.
As we grow and our emotional being takes concrete form, our natal Elemental balance evolves. The pressures of culture upon the nascent psyche bend it toward imbalance by their very nature. These influences develop un-conscious habits of reaction within the nascent psyche, which eventually result in an imbalanced personality. This is merely a matter of taking the path of least resistance as we learn to adapt to our environment.
Initiation seeks to redress this un-consciously formed imbalance through a process whereby all those un-consciously formed habits of reaction are transformed into conscious choices. [At first, this seems to increase the imbalance, but this is only an illusion generated by our becoming aware, for the first time, of the difference between a conscious choice and an un-consciously formed habit. It puts the un-conscious habit into sharp relief and makes it appear greater than it did before.]
>> What exactly is the difference between an "equilibrated" person and a moral person ? <<
A person who has not achieved the Elemental Equilibrium bases their morals upon external input -- from their parents, loved ones, church, society in general, etc. But the Equilibrated individual bases their morality upon inner directives alone.
My best to you,
:) Rawn Clark
20 Dec 2001