Step Two Sensory Concentration Exercises - Part Four
>> I'll tell you where I am at with the visualization. I have had two successes and I don't know to what I can attribute them to. They were both "flashes." I have tried to get some again and have given up and maybe that's my problem. Lighting may have had something to do with it and they were reflective objects but- I am grabbing at straws. <<
I think the most common block to the sensory concentration exercises and the visualization in particular, is that folks expect that their visualization needs to be seen with the physical eyes, just as if it were a real object. But this is not the case. The Step Two sensory concentration exercises are meant to train the *mind's* eye, ear, nose, tongue, etc., not their physical counterparts.
With Step Two, you are to see the imagined object with your *mind's eye* clear as day, but you will not see it with your physical eyes. The condensation of an imagination so that it achieves a physically perceptible degree of density comes later in the training and is NOT a requirement of Step Two.
The reason these exercises begin with the eyes closed is because it's generally easier to ignore the input of the physical eyes when they are closed. This lays bare the mind's eye, which is the subject of these exercises. Once this separation between the mind's eye and the physical sight is achieved with the eyes closed, the eyes are opened and you train again to create this same separation *while the input from the physical eyes is present*. In other words, by working with the eyes opened, you are strengthening the separation between your mind's eye and your physical sight -- you are not trying to strengthen the physical visibility of your imagined object.
Please remember that these are exercises from the *mental* training section. Their purpose is to train your creative *mental* senses.
>> I had interpreted "plastically" to mean just that- not with the mind's eye. <<
I know. :) I think we all do at first. I sure did and I was stuck on that exercise for the longest time (so it seemed) until I took a closer look at the context. It made no sense in the context of a mental exercise from Step Two, that Bardon would intend a *physically* palpable imagination. Once I realized that, I scrutinized the book again and discovered that he hadn't meant "plastic" (or at least the original translator didn't mean it) in the sense of something hard and opaque like a piece of plastic. Instead, he meant it in the sense of "capable of being molded like clay" or "produced by molding". The mold-er in this case, is the *mind*. In THAT context of the meaning of "plastic", the Step Two sensory concentration exercises fit perfectly into the progression of the mental training revealed in the ten Steps. If "plastic" had been intended otherwise (in the 'piece of plastic' sense), its placement at *Step Two* would have produced a VERY imbalanced progression overall.
If you can look at your computer screen and, with your *mind's eye*, see a pencil floating in front of your screen, then you have succeeded in a plastic visualization with your eyes open. Now try to hold that visualization for ten minutes! ;-) Seriously, just keep it in front of your *mind's eye* for ten minutes. It really is that "easy" and sort of fun when you get the hang of it. "Oh boy! Let's play Who-Can-Hold-Their-Visualization-For-10-Minutes!" ;-)
Your *mental* visualization will not be seen with your physical eyes at this stage (Step Two). That is not the point of these sensory exercises. The point, is to separate out your *mental* senses and learn to develop and control them independent of your physical senses. You must develop your creativity with them to such an extent that your creations seem just like the "real" thing to your *mind*. If one of these creations isn't real to your *mind* first, it has no hope of becoming an astral or physical reality.
Therefore, Step Two *begins* the development of the creative, plastic imagination with the *mental* senses. Likewise, the Step Two astral and physical exercises begin the development of the astral and physical abilities that will compound with the mental abilities and eventually lead to your being able to create physically palpable imaginations.
>> So what is the difference between being at the point where "your visualizations *will* be visible to your physical eyes" and being at the point where the visualizations are strong enough to appear to be physically/plastically in front of you? (with closed or open eyes, which is what I thought was necessary for step 2)? <<
"Plastic" does NOT mean "physical". The term 'plastic' here, means "malleable" and the 'molder' is the mind / mental body. In other words, (at Step Two) this has nothing whatsoever to do with *physical* eyesight.
The sensory concentration exercises of Step Two are under the heading of "Mental Training". This means that they pertain to the training of the *mental body* itself and the *mental* senses. These exercises isolate your mental senses and separate them from the astra-physical senses. This purifies, refines and empowers the *mental* senses. Furthermore, these exercises make *creative use* of the mental senses as opposed to passive sensing with them.
That is the work of Step Two, not the condensation of the image to such a degree that it becomes physically visible. The condensation of the mental image comes as a natural result of further Steps and does not require that you spend the next two years using the Step Two Mental Training technique to accomplish it.
Once each *mental* sense has been purified and refined in this way, you move on to Step Three and the combining of the senses. It's at this stage that your *mental* imaginings begin to accrue astral density. This is also the point at which you begin accumulating the VE and inhaling the Elements themselves, which supports the mental development and gives it astral and physical substance.
The sensory concentration exercises are a form of one pointedness. But now, instead of being asked to perform the one pointedness as a means of investigation and the gaining of knowledge as you were in Step One, you are being asked to apply it in a creative manner as well. Instead of spending your will *on* stilling your mind and keeping it on point, you are now focusing your will *through* the one pointedness and releasing it to create a mental image, sound, etc., of your choosing.
Inherent to this process of isolating just one sense at a time *and using it creatively*, the student will naturally learn about the emotional component of each sensory perception and the impact that each mental sense has upon the astral and physical bodies. This further defines the pure mental body to the student and helps them discern between their three bodies (mental, astral and physical), thus building upon what was begun in Step One in terms of defining the mental body through mental discipline and introspection.
A pattern of development that is seen throughout the whole of Bardon's work, is that the student must develop their ability to create at the mental level *first*. This is then developed to an astral density and then eventually to a material density. If the ability to create upon the mental plane is not mastered, there is no possibility of consistently creating upon the material plane.
>> In reply to one of my previous questions (message 2066 in the archive) you said something that seems to indicate that the surroundings must indeed "disappear". I *think* there is a contradiction between this answer and your latest position (Not that contradictions are bad things !!) Help!!! <<
The appearance of contradiction is due to the difficulty I've had in explaining the subtlety of this Step Two exercise. In the year plus since post #2066, I've learned a great deal about how folks conceptualize these exercises and about how to better explain things, hence the apparent difference in replies. I apologize for the fact that my own learning process in explaining things has caused this degree of confusion for you.
Merkur -- "These objects should be suspended in the air and appear before your eyes so plastically that you can almost reach out and touch them."
Ruggeberg -- "Now the objects ought to make the impression of hanging in the air and be visible, before your eyes, in such a plastic shape as to, seemingly, be tangible."
Note that the phrase, in both cases, is "before your eyes", not *with* your eyes. Note also the words "appear", "almost", "impression of" and "seemingly" -- again, inferring something less than *physical* sight.
Merkur -- "You should be unaware of your surroundings and concentrate only on the imagined object."
Ruggeberg -- "Apart from the one object you imagined, nothing else of the surroundings must be noticed."
Note that nowhere is Bardon saying that your surroundings should disappear or that your visualization should obscure your surroundings. What he is saying is that your *mental focus* (i.e., your *mind's* eye) must be only upon your visualization. Thus, your surroundings do not disappear; instead, you are "unaware" of them or, do not "notice" them.
Your original question from #2066:
>> Does this mean that If I am doing this exercise in my room , the room's walls etc. must "disappear" from sight and I must be able to "actually" see the imagined object ? (as in a hallucination ?) . <<
My original reply:
"With the Step Two visualization exercises, the whole wall does not need to disappear. Only the space behind the object you're visualizing should disappear. In other words, only the thing you are visualizing needs to be plastic, and the rest of your vision should remain the same."
In the time that has passed between when I wrote that reply and today, I have learned volumes about the ways in which other folks conceptualize these exercises. I did not realize at that time that the word "disappear" was so crucial. To my mind, in this context "disappear" meant that one's focus was so concentrated upon the visualization that the background became inconsequential and therefore "disappears from notice", as opposed to "disappears from physical sight".
I think that the main reason confusion arises around the visualization exercise is because here we are instructed to perform it with the eyes closed first and then with the eyes open, implying that the first part is with the mind alone and the second part is with the physical eyes. However, this is NOT why it is done with the eyes opened. The reason the exercise begins with the eyes closed is because this gives more ready access to the mental sense itself since the physical sense is suppressed by having the eyes closed. Once the mental sense is strengthened to the degree that you can hold your visualization with the eyes closed (physical sense suppressed) for five minutes without interruption, then the eyes are opened and one is faced with holding the same *mental* visualization in the presence of simultaneous physical sensory input. This further strengthens the *mental* sense and further separates its functioning from dependence upon the physical sense of sight.
Once this degree of control over the *mental-sight-while-simultaneously-receiving-input-from-the-physical-sight* is attained, without interruption for five minutes, we then move on to the *mental* hearing. Here, as with the remaining three senses, we cannot close our ears like we could with our eyes, and we must, FROM THE OUTSET, perform these *mental* concentrations in the presence of input from our physical senses.
In this context of all five sensory concentration exercises, the dual nature of the visual exercise takes on a different significance. It is broken down into these two stages in order the strengthen one's control over the purely *mental* sense, one step at a time. Then, when it comes time to work with the remaining senses, which don't offer this option of a two-stage development, we are prepared to achieve them because we have already learned how to truly separate our mental sense from our physical sense.
If you can hold a sensory imagination for five minutes to the exclusion of all else in your meditation exercise, then you will also have the ability to imagine any image, sound, sensation, smell or taste you wish, at any time and under any circumstances. You will be able to hold that imagination of the red cube "before your eyes", with your *mind*, and still see, with your physical eyes, the computer screen as you type. In a crowed room filled with noise you will be able to hear the babbling of a brook, distinct from the noises surrounding you. When you eat a foul tasting soup, you will be able to focus upon a more pleasant taste while you politely finish the bowl before you. As you drive by the dead skunk on the side of the road, you will be able to divert your mind with the more pleasant aroma of a rose. When you're freezing your butt off on a cold winter's morning, you will not tense up from the cold because you can instead imagine the sensation of warmth.
Ultimately, this will give you the ability to over-ride any of your senses and thus over-ride their power to sway your mind or your mood. In other words, this ability to control your mental senses simultaneously increases your control over your reactions to your surroundings and empowers your ability to *respond consciously* instead of *react instinctually*. As Bardon wrote: "Concentration exercises that are carried out with all five senses strengthen the spirit or mind and the will-power."
Another aspect of these sensory exercises is their application to ritual, such as evocation. In an evocation ritual, one responsibility of the magician is the creation of an atmosphere suitable to the spirit s/he is evoking. Some will think that it is sufficient to create a *physical* atmosphere through the use of incense, colored lamps, etc., but these things have no usefulness to a *non-physical* entity! To a non-physical entity, the physical atmosphere is irrelevant compared to the mental and astral atmosphere that the magician must create. The magician must *first and foremost* create the mental atmosphere by mentally creating the proper light, aroma, sound, sensation, and so on. This is done using this same technique learned in Step Two. Then, if necessary, this *mental* creation is brought to an astral density by using other techniques learned in Steps after Two. And, if necessary, it's brought to physical density (if a physical materialization of the evoked entity is desired).
All the while, a magician might have colored lamps and incense burning, but these are *only to support his or her mental projection*. In other words, it is ultimately easier (in the beginning) to maintain your *mental* projection throughout the course of an evocation ritual if you have a physical sensory reminder. If everything you see with your physical eyes is bathed in a green light, it is then easier (i.e., takes a bit less specific focus) to maintain your simultaneous *mental* projection of a green light while also maintaining your *mental* projection of the appropriate aroma and sensation, and so on. In other words, the physical lamps and incense are only *tools* used by the magician to support their *mental* projections. In the absence of their mental root, these tools have little intrinsic meaning.
>> Now in the case of plastic visualization , how do i know when I have perfected the exercise ? I am tempted to put in the 2 years and get it right. 2 years / sense is only 10 years and this would give me a rock solid foundation for future work! <<
I am curious as to what value you perceive in being able to see your mental imaginings with your physical eyes? What advantage would this provide equal to spending two years on this one exercise from Step Two? Over-riding your physical vision in this way (though mental discipline) has no bearing upon making a mental creation into a physically solid thing. Tricking your brain into thinking that a mental creation is in fact a physical thing is not what gives it physical density. Nor does it sharpen any of your senses, mental, astral or physical. It has no practical application.
Do you understand that in order to make a mental creation visible to your own eyes in this way, all you are doing is tricking your brain? This is akin to the child's game of covering the eyes and thinking that you're therefore invisible to everyone else. Or to the tale of Crowley walking naked into a restaurant, thinking that he's invisible to everyone else because *he* thinks he's invisible. To his own eyes he may have been invisible, but only to his own eyes. This is not magic.
Achieving the ability to trick your brain in this way will not give you "a rock solid foundation for future work". However, training your mental senses to the degree I've indicated will. This is the degree *required* in Step Two in order to pass on to future Steps which will hone this ability into other, more advanced abilities. Step Two itself doesn't demand those more advanced abilities of you now. They are to be developed by different exercises than the Step Two *mental* sensory concentrations.
Bardon designed the three sections of each Step so that they take about the same amount of time for the student to achieve. Clearly, the mental section of Step Two is not intended to take years and years to accomplish when the astral and physical sections take only months. If that had been the case then Bardon would have been violating his essential premise of a balanced development.
Of course, you must follow your own inner direction in these matters. All I can do is speak from my own experience and tell you what my own inner direction led me to do and the results I have achieved by following its dictates.
>> Thanks Rawn, you hit the nail on the head! I was trying to think of a way to help formulate that knack of superimposing mental images on the physical without having to "trick" the mind into a "physical" perception. And superimposing was the wrong word, it is more like "enfolding." <<
Yes! Two separate yet interwoven, simultaneous perceptions -- one perceived by the mind's eye and one by the physical eyes -- with the primary focus upon the mental image. This becomes even more apparent when it comes to working with the other senses. For example, you "enfold" [I like that word! :)] the sound of a bell ringing with the ambient sounds of your surroundings. You hear the bell with your mind's ear and the ambient noise with your physical ears, simultaneously, but your focus is upon the imagined bell.
>> The curious thing about this, when you pull enough strands of mental focus onto the object it seems to have much the same effect! <<
Yes, this tricks the brain and causes *it* to translate your mental image into a physical perception. But this degree of control over your *brain* is not relevant to the Step Two mental exercises. Nor is it a useful *magical* technique. It's entertaining for sure, but not useful.
>> Early on in your imagestreaming, you'll note that some images have much more plasticity than others. Some will be surprisingly vivid. <<
In an earlier post on this topic, I wrote: "Inherent to this process of isolating just one sense at a time *and using it creatively*, the student will naturally learn about the emotional component of each sensory perception and the impact that each mental sense has upon the astral and physical bodies." It's this emotional content that makes for the variation in intensity between imaginations. In addition to using the fact of an image's vividity as an exemplar, like you suggest, I recommend that it be examined for its emotional content. This will teach you quite valuable information in regard to achieving the same degree of vividity with other imaginations. It will also help you isolate the sense itself from emotional associations that encompass more than just this one sense. For example, understanding the emotional content of a clock's ticking will help you separate the *sound* from the *image* of the clock.
>> During the process, if you take one of these exemplars and "freeze frame" it you'll have a very good object for the exercise and you'll start from a successful instance, which tends to reinforce your efforts. <<
Excellent suggestion! This is of the same vein as my "Art of Empowered Remembering".
>> The ability for hermetic magicians to control their mental states by controlling the content of their attention also harks back to the single thought exercises of step 1 and planned thought sequences. <snip> Thoughts are causes and conditions are effects. The efforts required to think as a magician have disproportionately positive returns. <<
Mental discipline is the foundation of Equilibrium. All magic is seated in, and directed by, the mental body of the magician. If the magician is not capable of formulating an act in their mind with perfect clarity and steadfastness, then all the fancy words and bodily motions in the world will not help to make their act magical.
>> In the same way that Franz recommends *looking* at a chosen object before visualising it in the mind's eye, is it appropriate to do the same with the other sensory objects? For example, to physically feel 'heat' for a few moments before beginning the sentience exercise, and then to re-experience physical heat once it's faded from memory? <<
Yes! :) Have a rose at hand or a bowl of salt or a small bell, and so on. And also, as you go about your day, you can "harvest" sensory experiences for your exercises. For example, look carefully at some object that attracts you in passing and try to absorb (hence, "harvest") all of its details. Then use what you've harvested later in your visualization exercise. Doing similar harvestings with each of your senses will sharpen their perceptive faculty physically, astrally and mentally, all at the same time. This is because you are using them *consciously*, willfully and fully. Mixing this intensely *perceptive* exercise of harvesting the sensory impressions, with the intensely *creative* use of the senses in the IIH exercise, is VERY advantageous.
My best to you,
:) Rawn Clark
13 Oct thru 04 Nov 2002