STEP FIVE THROUGH STEP TEN:
On a few occasions, I have had been asked to write some sort of student's guide to Franz Bardon's "Initiation Into Hermetics". Each time, I responded with something like "I can't think of anything to add." And for years I've held this opinion, but my experiences participating in an Internet e-board discussion group about Bardon's works has led me to reconsider that sentiment. So, when I was asked to rewrite the Franz Bardon FAQ that appears on a popular website, I consented to write a few things concerning the first four Steps of IIH. Little did I know at the outset that I'd find all kinds of things to say! Word junkie that I am, I ended up writing no less than 37 full pages of commentary and answers to commonly asked questions. Even at that, hundreds more pages could be written.
Making things understood, presenting concepts in such a way that it is easy for the reader to grasp them, is the responsibility of the writer. But the writer's responsibility stops there -- it is up to the reader to do the understanding. And it is the reader who doesn't quite grasp the author's meaning that is responsible for trying to figure it out. That is indeed the failing of a written thing -- there is no chance for dialogue and for putting all your questions to the author for clarification. So, many written things remain misunderstood by many, or at least only partially understood.
In the case of Franz Bardon's books, this is compounded by the fact that as he wrote them, he placed himself in the perspective of the student who is actually involved with the labor of the material he describes. For instance, when he describes the exercises of Step Five in IIH, he is saying things that only a student who has done the labor of the Step One, Two, Three and Four exercises, will understand. Thus, the student who is in the middle of Step Two, or the student who is reading IIH for the first time and hasn't even begun the work, will understand what Bardon wrote regarding Step Five, less completely than someone who has completed the Step Four work.
This was certainly the case for me and as I progressed through the Steps, I was repeatedly surprised to find that I had previously misunderstood things in the mere reading of the text that now made perfect sense because I had done the work leading up to that point in the path. It was within this thought that I found a reason for continuing my commentary on IIH beyond the Step Four limit I had once set.
I firmly believe that anyone who has progressed through IIH up to the start of Step Five, has no need for outside advice. The student of Step Five will have mastered the most rudimentary techniques upon which the remainder of the course is constructed. Plus, the student will have learned the ability to puzzle out their questions on their own and will have, by necessity, honed this skill to a razor sharpness. At this point, IIH becomes much easier for the student.
This stage, typified by the student's ability to ask their questions internally and seek out answers through their own experimentation, is a necessary part of the path of initiation. As you trod the path of initiation, the responsibility for your progress falls more and more into your own hands. Inquisitiveness and inventiveness are both important allies of the student of magic and there are certain passages where that is all you will have at your disposal to work with.
I have tried to find a balance between giving this fact its due respect and trying my best to steer away from giving encouragement to those who wish to leap farther than they are truly prepared to step. My compromise has been to do two things in regard to IIH: First, I have limited my detailed commentary and practical suggestions to the "Theory" section and the exercises of Steps One through Four.
Second, I have written a commentary on Steps Five through Ten which outlines some of the points where Bardon's way of writing from the student's immediate perspective interferes with the understanding of the unprepared reader. I will not offer my practical advice for these later Steps other than in personal correspondence or conversation with practicing students of those particular Steps. The same holds true for Bardon's second and third books, the "Practice of Magical Evocation" and "The Key to the True Quabbalah." I should add here, that I don't expect I'll ever be asked such questions anyway. Everyone that I know that has reached these stages in their initiation does not need to ask the advice of another person, consequently they don't ask.
All of my internal rationale aside, I do have concern that those who read IIH or who look ahead to the Steps to come, will get the wrong picture of what it all really means. At many places in IIH, Bardon has to resort to metaphors that can only be understood if you already know what all went into the metaphor in the first place. It is difficult for the reader to make the subtle connections between what is learned in one Step and what is then applied in a new way in the next.
My concern is especially sharp when it comes to Bardon's PME and KTQ. All too often I have encountered students who pick up PME and want to START with evocation while totally overlooking what Bardon says (repeatedly) about having to first reach the end of the Step Eight of IIH (or its equivalent by other means) before beginning the work of PME or KTQ. It is easy to think from the mere reading of these two books that it is really possible to ignore Bardon's stated prerequisite, but the reality is an entirely different matter and Bardon's admonition is completely accurate. This sort of misunderstanding of PME is, in my opinion, due to a lack of background in genuine magic and the consequent inability to truly understand the deeper significance of what is being said. This is inescapably natural and what I have said is meant only as a statement of fact that must be dealt with openly and not as a criticism.
For this reason above all others, I will attempt, through my own commentary, to help the reader at least become aware of the places where this is an important addition to their understanding of the author's deeper meaning. Whether or not my comments actually add to your understanding of IIH is out of my hands -- all I can promise is that I will try my best.
I would ask that as you read my comments, you do so with this thought in mind: The only true teacher is experience. Even though a thousand sages will spend a billion words trying to explain the Mysteries, you will not truly understand their full implications until you yourself have penetrated what lies beyond the veil. But never let this dissuade you from doing your damnedest to penetrate this veil -- it is only gossamer, as they say. The further you penetrate, the deeper your understanding will grow; and the deeper your understanding, the deeper into the Mysteries will you penetrate. Hold your conclusions with loose hands so that you may always be able to re-form them. Always remain willing to deepen your understanding -- the main barrier to this is holding on too tightly to our conclusions. Adopt your own conclusions not those of another. This is especially true considering that all I can offer you here are my own conclusions and yours might be far different than mine. The best I hope for is that reading about a few of my conclusions will inspire you to question and expand your own conclusions.
STEP FIVE --
Mental (Magical Schooling of the Spirit): The "Depth Point" and Space Magic --
Bardon begins his discussion of the depth point with a quote from Archimedes: "Show me a point in the universe [upon which to stand] and I shall lift the world out of its hinges!" Unfortunately, Bardon's explanation of what Archimedes was trying to say is not sufficient for the modern reader.
For the convenience of the uninitiated reader, Bardon speaks of the three standard physical dimensions and posits a fourth, non-physical dimension, but for the student of Hermetics (and for the modern physicist) this does not suffice. The Hermetic is conscious of the fact that there are more than just three dimensions to be contended with in the physical realm. Aside from length, width and height, there is another dimension that impacts physical matter directly, namely "duration". Each physical thing exists for a specific amount of time and this is important since at the level of the physical present moment, physical matter is not infinite. At any given moment within the space-time continuum, only a small part of the universe's physical infinity is expressed. In other words, the physical infinity of the universe exists in its entirety only outside of the realm of time, in the eternal realm. So, in the physical realm where the dimensions of length, width and height hold sway, the duration of a thing's physical form directly effects a thing's existence with the same magnitude as the standard three dimensions.
Bardon describes time as this fourth dimension but he does not state it as a physical dimension and therein lies the confusion, for the "point" that Archimedes refers to is not a physical dimension. Archimedes' point and Bardon's point are actually a fifth dimension, namely "meaning".
The dimension of meaning directly impacts the physical realm in that it is a thing's meaning (at the physical level, we see this in a thing's purpose) which determines the particular details of its appearance. But this is not a strictly physical dimension like the previous four. Meaning spans all of the dimensions of existence and impacts each in a similar manner.
In the physical realm, duration is the part of time that holds sway. In the astral realm, time becomes more than the limited duration of the physical realm as the whole duration of time opens to the astral eyes. And in the mental realm, time becomes eternity and the mental eyes perceive the entire infinite duration of time as a unified whole. The differences sound subtle as I describe them but they are anything but. The significance of these three ways of viewing time are difficult to understand from within a time-space perspective.
The conception of the universe in Archimedes' time was that it is an infinite thing -- not only infinite in spatial terms, but also in terms of thoughts, ideas, emotions, meaning, and time. Similarly, Hermetic philosophy defines the three realms (mental, astral and physical) as each being of an infinite nature. The problem is that in order to perceive the infinity of the physical realm in particular, you must be able to change your perspective to that of a higher realm. In other words, you must shift your focus of attention from that of being centered in your physical body, to that of viewing the universe from within the heart of your astra-mental body. This removes you from the spatial restrictions of the present moment's duration and allows you to separate yourself from your intimate involvement in the physical present moment's life circumstances. This is the depth point perspective and from here, you can directly perceive a thing's meaning at an astra-mental level.
Another concept to consider in regard to the depth point is the unique nature of infinity. This is an important concept to the Hermetic which should be studied by every serious student.
One of the mysteries of an infinity is that any and every finite point that can be defined, exists at the exact center of the infinity. For example, where ever you stand within a truly infinite space, space will still stretch infinitely in every direction. In other words, infinity has no edges, per se -- it has only "center". Furthermore, this center point can be of any size and it will still be a finite center within the infinity.
Consciousness, being the root or Primordial principle, pervades the entire universe, at every level. At our level as human beings, we manifest this root consciousness most clearly as our individual awareness. Our individual consciousness is what ties us directly to the infinite consciousness of Being. We have, by virtue of this connection, the ability to place the finite center point of our awareness anywhere within the infinite universe and expand or contract it as we wish.
By pursuing the depth point, we free our center of awareness from the ties of the physical present moment and are then able to expand it and move it around.
The depth point is not a spatial coordinate. In other words, it is not a physical place or thing. It is not, as some have erroneously assumed, the center of gravity of a physical form. These are meant only as analogies to enhance one's visualization and ideation during the process of reaching the depth point.
There are many was of describing this depth point and the process of becoming aware of it. In one tradition that I am familiar with, the depth point is equated with Tiphareth (the kabbalistic sphere associated with Sol, the sun). In this system, the initiate is instructed to travel mentally to a temple of Tiphareth and once there, look down into a pool or a crystal sphere, and view their own life circumstances as if from above. This causes a certain disassociation from direct involvement in one's life circumstances and provides the initiate with a renewed, broadened perspective. The root feeling here is that one has made contact with one's own inner meaning and is viewing the physical expression of that meaning from one's own core. Pursued further, this perspective opens the initiate to viewing the entire passage of their existence (past lifetimes) up to that point in time.
From the depth point, the initiate can influence the physical manifestation of any thing from the inside out. Thus it is related to the previous Step's work of the transference of consciousness. Step Five expands upon the transference of consciousness and takes it to a new level. The work begins with the transferal of your consciousness into the depth point of other things and ends with the reaching of your own depth point.
But, if you work only from the perspective of placing your consciousness into the spatial center of a thing, you will not discover the true depth point. You must instead, reach for something deeper than a spatial coordinate.
Another mystery of an infinity is that a finite point within the infinity cannot encompass the infinity through expansion by finite increments. The only way to encompass an infinity is to become the infinity itself. This requires, at some finite point along the way, a quantum leap of expansion where the center becomes the whole all at once.
The depth point exercises are only one finite step along the way to encompassing the whole infinity. All they will do is make you a swimmer in the infinite stream of time. The final step is to become the stream itself, not a mere fish navigating its flow. But the depth point is the eye of the needle so to speak, through which you must travel in order to reach the ultimate expansion.
There are many levels or degrees of infinity. The infinity of space-time is just the first which the Hermetic magician must needs conquer. When the human consciousness expands till its center encompasses the whole infinity of space-time, then this infinity becomes a "closed infinity" and the new perspective allows one to view other infinities directly. From this perspective, the entire infinity of time-space is perceived as a unified whole and the consciousness is free to focus on any part of that continuum at its own discretion.
The leverage that Archimedes spoke of is found within the depth point of every thing. This equates with the fourth, most complete type or stage of transference of consciousness I spoke of in the Step Four material.
In order to reach the depth point, the student must have mastered the emptiness of mind (from Step One) to a high degree. The student must be able to completely disentangle themselves from involvement with their physical senses as this is the key to reaching the depth point.
Astral (Magical Schooling of the Soul): Projection of the Elements --
The Step Five Schooling of the Soul exercises are similar to those found in previous Steps only now they concern the projection of the Elements. The techniques are exactly the same as those employed in learning to master the vital energy, so these particular exercises should present no problem to the student.
It may truly be impossible for the passive reader to understand what it feels like to accumulate, condense and project an Element. In the hands of the magician these Elements become very real, concrete things that can be condensed to such a degree that they become physically active. When Bardon speaks of condensing the Fire Element to such a degree that anyone can sense its heat, he's not exaggerating.
However, care must be taken in reading this section of IIH since in many places Bardon informs the student of what is possible and then later says that what is possible is not necessarily advisable. The student of Hermetics strives for balance, especially in regard to their magical rise. Many of the possibilities that Bardon mentions can be achieved only after years of focused, one-sided practice and this often runs contrary to a balanced development.
So, if at the end of reading this section you are left with the impression that the student must master the Fire Element's condensation to such a degree that he/she can actually measure an increase in temperature with a thermometer, then read it again. In point of fact, Bardon explicitly states that this and similar trickery are not a requirement of Step Five. The reason for this is that as the magician's abilities increase, higher forms of magic will enable the student to accomplish these sorts of things very quickly and without the years of effort it would take to master this ability otherwise.
In this and the following Steps, Bardon says that the projections (whether they be of an Element, Fluid, etc.) must be clearly perceived by the magician. They must be so condensed that the magician can actually feel them. Herein lies a problem for the passive reader in that the impression is given that anyone should be able to perceive the magician's projection (such as the heat of a room filled with the Fire Element). But the truth of the matter is that whether or not another person can, for example, feel the heat in a room that the magician has condensed the Fire Element into, is secondary. What is of most importance is whether or not the magician can feel these physical sensations themselves.
The degree of condensation of a projection is a function of the magician's own plastic imagination. By Step Five, the magician's creative imagination has been honed to such a high degree that the sensations accompanying their visualizations become real things, but the student should not concern themselves with whether or not their projections are felt by another at a physical level. The student has nothing to prove (magic is not a game of competition) and if this is held as a goal, it will interfere with the student's progress.
For the reader, it is important that you keep in mind what I have just said. In the chapters ahead, be sure to ask yourself whether Bardon means that it is the magician who must be able to sense a thing or whether another person must also be able to sense it. Most often, the magician's projection does not have to be so condensed that it is a physically sensible thing to an ordinary onlooker.
If we define "high magic" as being that which comes after the merging with a godform, then what is presented in Step Five would be considered somewhere between "low magic" and mid-range. At this stage, the condensation of a projection to such a degree that it becomes sensible to any person regardless of their magical ability, is a very difficult task. It is not impossible through these means, but it would require so many years of devoted practice that it would constitute a diversion from the main goal of a steady advancement.
Physical (Magical Schooling of the Physical Body): Passive Communication --
The first three of the preparatory exercises listed here are interesting and their significance may not at first be apparent. The first exercise, which involves loading the hand with the vital energy and then causing it to move by will alone, is the most mysterious.
To explain its rationale and its importance will take some backtracking, so please bear with me. In the normal course of events, to move a specific muscle requires two things: energy and volition. For example, if you raise your arm, this requires the will to do so and the muscular energy to contract the necessary muscles. If either is not present, the arm will not rise. Within this context, we can define two types of muscular movement or contraction: voluntary and involuntary. An example of a voluntary contraction is when you consciously contract your biceps -- this requires a focus of your will upon a single muscle. An involuntary contraction occurs when for instance, you raise your arm and as a consequence your biceps contracts. Here, the contraction of your biceps is not directly willed but is a normal part of the primary will to raise your arm. More energy and will power are expended in the voluntary contraction of a muscle than in its involuntary contraction. The will to move a muscle comes from within your mind, but the energy required, comes from your body's own storehouse of physical energy.
In the first preparatory exercise, the body's own energy is substituted by the accumulated vital energy. Furthermore, the will power is not directed into the muscle itself but into the vital energy instead. The main function of this specific exercise is to teach the student the difference between the normal movement of a muscle (in this case the hand) and a movement accomplished by an external force. It also shows the student how to sever the connection between their own mind and their muscles, and still accomplish a movement.
The second exercise involves the accumulation of the Air Element and the effecting of movement by virtue of its weightlessness. This, of course, is a type of simple levitation caused by the Air Element. Again, the mind causes no actual movement of the muscles -- the movement is caused exclusively by the Air Element's weightlessness and the sensation is one of floating. This carries what was learned in the first preparatory exercise a step further and teaches the student how to sever even their will power from movement. In the first exercise, it was the will power, focused through the vital energy which caused movement via the muscles, but in this exercise, it is the character of the Air Element itself (its weightlessness) which causes the movement. The only will power required in this exercise is that involved in accumulating the Air Element. Any contraction of the muscles is incidental and involuntary.
The third preparatory exercise involves the "exteriorization" of the hand. [Note: Bardon refers to the right hand, but if you are left-handed, then you should work with your left hand.] The term "exteriorization" means the conscious separation of your combined astral and mental (astra-mental) hand from its physical shell. This is the first step towards learning the technique of astra-mental wandering and here, it is applied to the passive communication with non-corporeal beings.
The exteriorization is not as simple a matter as it may sound to the passive reader. For the exteriorization to be complete, the astra-mental hand must feel exactly like the physical hand. For example, if you exteriorize your astra-mental hand and then lay it in your lap, you must be able to clearly feel the fabric of your clothing, the warmth of your own body, and the pressure of your hand resting on your lap. In other words, your astra-mental hand must be capable of all the same sensations as your physical hand was.
It is fairly easy to exteriorize only your mental hand, but to truly exteriorize your astra-mental hand is more difficult. So, to be sure that you have accomplished this astral exteriorization, you should use the aforementioned sensory standard.
When mastered fully, this astra-mental exteriorization completely severs your will from your physical hand. This is because it is your astra-mental hand that conveys your will to the muscles of your physical hand. The result is that your physical hand is now empty and is thus made available to the influence of an outside force.
Bardon states that a physical hand thus emptied of its astra-mental counterpart, is transferred to the Akasha. This is difficult for the passive reader to understand unless this is connected up with the Step Five mental/spirit exercises concerning the depth point. Perhaps a better way of stating it is to say that a physical hand, emptied of its astra-mental counterpart, is noticeable in the Akasha as a properly prepared environment through which a being can communicate with the physical realm directly, through the Akasha. [This is an example of why it is so important in the process of astra-mental wandering for the practitioner to establish some sort of protection or shielding for the vacated physical body.]
The depth point plays a big role in the passive communication practice. The practice consists of three phases. First is the preparation of the material devices such as the pendulum, planchette, or pen and paper; and, the preparation of the hand through exteriorization.
The second phase is the reaching of the student's own depth point. This places the student's mental body in the Akasha.
The third phase is the calling forth, from the Akasha, of the being you wish to communicate with. This calling forth occurs completely in the Akasha and you utter nothing with your physical voice. The being is then invited to use your physical hand for their communication.
Once the being has made its contact with your physical hand, you must open your eyes (while retaining your trance state) and proceed with your communication, asking questions of your chosen being and noting their answers. When the session is complete, you must, of course, re-integrate your astra-mental hand and remove yourself from your trance state.
Bardon counsels the student to focus mainly upon establishing communication with their own guardian genius or angel. Much has been said in the occult literature about the nature of this being, so I will not repeat it here. There are also many other methods of establishing communication with one's Guardian Angel. What Bardon presents here is a passive or indirect method which relies upon an intermediary such as a pendulum, planchette, etc. As Bardon relates, the point of this passive communication is to lead the student into a more direct form of communication.
A good supplement to learning the passive communication technique is to practice a simple direct communication. Let me explain: We each have access to the guidance of our Guardian Angel in each moment of our lives, through the little interior voice of our conscience. By practicing the attentive listening to your conscience, this communication becomes stronger -- especially if you adhere to the counsel of your conscience and follow its every dictate. Eventually, the inner conversation with your Guardian Angel can become two-way, where you ask questions and receive answers directly. Both this method and Bardon's method lead to the same place but Bardon's method teaches the student several important things that the method of listening to your conscience cannot. Listening to your conscience does not require exteriorization and mastery of this technique is a prerequisite for the work of future Steps. Furthermore, listening to your conscience is not a technique that is effective in the communication with beings other than your own Guardian Angel.
Bardon speaks of the different ways in which the communications from a non-corporeal being may be perceived by the practitioner. Some will sense foreign thoughts in their own mind, some will see pictures or hear words, etc. Some may even establish a direct communication with their Guardian Angel on the first attempt at the passive communication, so it is vital that the student not limit their experience by holding too tightly onto their expectations.