>> Please define Hermeticism for a beginner. <<
;-) Do you always ask such monumental questions?! ;-) It may sound a simple question, but to answer it is not since the term "Hermetics" means so many things to so many different people. The best I can do for you is try to express what Hermetics, specifically Bardon's Hermetics, means to me.
According to the established historical mythology (i.e., there's no physical proof remaining), Hermetics originated in ancient, pre-historic Egypt with the person of Hermes, Thrice Great. At that time, humanity had for the most part lost its understanding of what it is possible for a human being to be and was in need of some system by which it could reclaim its true human heritage. This is essentially what Hermetics is -- a system by which to reclaim the full realization of our true heritage as human beings.
There are several features of the Hermetic philosophy that are defining. Here are a few:
1) The philosophy of the Four Elements, plus the Akasha; and of the two Fluids (Electric and Magnetic).
2) The philosophy of the Four Realms: Akashic, Mental, Astral and Physical.
3) The philosophy of the three bodies: Mental, Astral and Physical.
4) The philosophy concerning the causal relationship between consciousness and time-space.
5) The philosophy concerning the structure of Self which declares that ALL things exist as part of the divine Unity of Self.
6) The philosophy that ALL things are alive and, in their own way, conscious.
7) The philosophy that not only are human's *capable* of communing with the divine, but that this is our birthright -- our true "normal" state of being.
8) The philosophy that declares "know thy self" as being the *first* step toward knowledge of The One Self.
There are also features of the Hermetic practice that are defining and here are a few of those that are specific to Bardon's Hermetics:
1) Introspection and examination of the immediate, personal self. This is done within the context of the Four Elements and the three bodies. In Step One of IIH, this is seen in the work of the two halves of the soul mirror AND in the mental exercises. Through all of these, you come to know yourself -- what you manifest currently and the mechanics of how you manifest it. This is also seen in Alchemy (one of the traditional "Hermetic Arts") -- the *first* operation is the examination of the base "first matter" through laboratory work that divides it into its various constituents.
2) Self-transformation. This is also accomplished using the context of the Four Elements and three bodies. This is the longest, most arduous task since there are so many layers of Self to be transformed. The first stage is the transformation of the personality as witnessed by Steps Two through Four of IIH. This entails the complete transformation of the astral body, hence all those exercises that develop the magical abilities. The second and far longer stage is the transformation of the Individual Self (i.e., the temporal mental body), as seen in Steps Five through Eight of IIH. The third and final stage of Self-transformation is perhaps the most challenging; namely, the *conscious* integration of the Greater Self (i.e., the eternal mental body) into the Individual and personal levels of Self.
3) Transformation of the external world. Even though this is thought of as being concurrent with the task of Self-transformation, it is secondary to it and is actually part of the process of Self-transformation. When the Self-transformation reaches the completion of its third stage and the eternal mental body is consciously manifest at the level of personality, there is suddenly no "external" world -- at that point, the formerly "external" world is experienced as a *part of* Self. At that point "transformation of the external world" IS Self-transformation.
4) Personal experimentation and direct personal experience are important tools used in the accomplishment of the above tasks. The practical work of Hermetics materializes the intellectual comprehension. It also provides the fertile ground from which the intellect may grow still higher.
5) A sharp intellect is the another important tool. Hermetics hones the mind to a razor sharpness.
6) The guide of Equilibrium is another important tool. Every bit of the work of Hermetics is done to augment and create balance within the levels of Self. The first goal is the attainment of an astral Equilibrium of the Elements within the personal self. Once achieved, the goal then becomes a mental Equilibrium of the Elements within the Individual Self. All of this leads one to the Abyss between the temporal and eternal realms, the crossing of which requires an absolute and steadfast Equilibrium.
7) Self-direction, or conscious control of the self, is yet another important tool. The Hermetic training teaches the student how to make *conscious* use of nature's own forces. This pertains to the natural forces that operate within ourselves and those that operate external to us. For example, Step One of IIH teaches the student the nature of their mind and trains them in the art of how to control it. It also teaches the student the nature of their own personality (soul mirror work) which is THE crucial ingredient to the art of successful self-transformation. Furthermore, it teaches a rudimentary way in which the student can make conscious use of the laws of nature to effect external change (the Eucharistic magic of air, food and water). In order to grow in the ability to effect external changes, the student MUST learn the ability to control their own self. Self-control (i.e., the ability to define one's own responses to external and internal stimuli, instead of those stimuli being the determining factor) is an essential ingredient to attaining an Elemental Equilibrium.
8) A respectful and worshipful attitude is also an important tool. At the heart of the Hermetic philosophy and practice there lies a devotion to the divine Unity of Self, "The All". This manifests as a sort of moral code that emphasizes loving kindness toward others and service to humanity. This is the beating mystical heart that powers Hermetic magic. Even so, this spirit of respectful worship manifests itself in a multitude of forms, but it is the nature of Hermetics that its practice breeds unique Individuals.
Well, I could write on and on and, given enough time, could list many more items for you. I hope these few provide you some insight at least. :) You might also want to purchase the book "Kybalion", by Three Initiates. This is a statement of some aspects of the Hermetic philosophy that might help you understand more clearly than my words have. ;-) It is however, a bit outdated in its presentation.
My best to you,
:) Rawn Clark
22 Sep 2002