This, of course, is the final Step of IIH. Reading it may give the impression that it is just like any other Step, but this is far from the case. The completion of this Step, above all the other Steps, is in the hands of Divine Providence. It may take lifetimes for an initiate to complete this Step or it may take only the blink of an eye, or anywhere in between. There is no way to predict what course the initiate might face in this part of their journey, as this depends entirely upon the particular maturity and accumulated karma of the individual.
But just because the realization of a thing may be beyond our ultimate control, doesn't mean that we cannot succeed if we try. In fact, the only way to succeed in this case IS to try. The initiate who patiently persists will, without a doubt, eventually reach their goal. There must be a fearless caution and a willingness to see it through to its ultimate end, regardless of what may come along to test the initiate. Knock and you shall be answered, to paraphrase an ancient bit of wisdom.
At this stage in the magician's advancement, the responsibility for seeing to it that their process of initiation continues forward, is in the hands of the magician alone. No corporeal being will be able to assist the magician through this stage. Even the initiate's own Holy Guardian Angel is limited in what it can do to aid the magician in this regard. By knocking, the magician may get an answer, but it is up to the initiate to open the door and enter.
In western kabbalistic terms, the work of Step Ten corresponds to the final approach to the Abyss -- which lies between Chesed and Binah (the Jupiter and Saturn planes) -- culminating in a successful crossing of the Abyss (i.e., the reaching of Binah/Saturn which confers Unity). The Abyss marks the barrier between the kabbalistic "worlds" of Yetzirah and Briah, of the sequentialized realm and the non-sequential realm (also known as "chaos"). In spite of the symbolism used in my description, this Abyss is not a spatial thing -- it is composed entirely of MEANING. The crossing of this Abyss completely, and forever, transforms the consciousness of the initiate, for from the "other side" of the Abyss, the initiate perceives eternity.
The work of this section of Step Ten concerns the exploration of the various spheres and planes of existence through mental wandering. The student begins with an exploration of the realms inhabited by the beings of the Elements.
The passive reader may easily think at this point that Bardon is completely out of his mind and has wandered off into fantasy land, but this is not the case at all. Granted, what he describes sounds exactly like a fairytale, but there is a reason for this. The realms of the Elements visited by these means are perceived in a highly symbolized manner. Symbols are the matter which composes this particular plane. Thus the experiences of this plane are described in a symbolic manner that approaches the fairytale. However, the actual experience itself far exceeds the description and with the "visual" perception of each symbol, the magician will also perceive many other levels of information. Finite words can only capture a small portion of the experience, so when we describe our experiences in these realms we must resort to metaphor and story telling.
In my discussion of a past Step, I mentioned that it is difficult for some astral beings to perceive the mental body of the magician. That is not the case with the Elemental realms for a couple of reasons. The first is that though these realms are astral, per se, they are a very fine vibration of the astral materia. Remember in my discussion of the astral realm in the "Theory" section of IIH where I said that the three realms actually merge into one another? Well, the part of what we define as the astral realm that we are concerned with here can be said to lie in its upper reaches. Thus, the beings which inhabit this realm have little difficulty in perceiving the mental body of a magician.
The second reason that the beings of the Elements are capable of perceiving the mental body of the magician in this case is that the student is instructed to carefully craft an image of their mental body that is recognizable by the being at hand. For instance, when exploring the Earth realm, the student takes on the appearance of a gnome. This adds a layer of symbolism to the student's mental body. Furthermore, the student builds the density of this body by filling themselves with the Element and merging with the Element itself. Together, this creates a density of the mental body that is easily perceived by the beings of this plane.
Once this special body is prepared, the student projects into the appropriate realm. The passive reader should at this point consider the amount of training required to accomplish these things for real and will, hopefully, realize the necessity of the work of previous Steps.
Bardon lays down a few very specific rules for the exploration of the Elemental realms. The first, of course, is the aforementioned building of an appropriate body. The second rule is that of not speaking first. This is very important and perhaps an analogy or two will help you to better understand the rationale behind the rule.
One good analogy comes from the myths concerning a spirit's need to be invited into a person's home before gaining entry. If permission is given, then the entity will have free reign, but if the rule of permission is violated, then the entity risks capture. In the case of the magician wishing to converse with the beings of the Elements, it is the magician who is seeking entry into a new realm and must receive permission before gaining full rein. The magician who violates this rule and forces him or her self upon the beings of a foreign realm, risks capture as Bardon points out.
Another good analogy is that of the human immune system. The magician is a foreign substance entering the realm ruled by the respective beings and if any threat is perceived, the beings of that realm will respond in a protective, defensive manner. If, on the other hand, the magician shows that they are no threat by being respectfully patient, they are then integrated into the Elemental realm.
A third rule regarding exploration of the Elemental realms is that the magician must display their "superiority" to the Elemental beings they encounter in order for these beings to become willing to converse with the magician. I fear that for the passive reader, "superiority" will be misunderstood in this context. This is not the sort of common superiority that comes from the end of a bigger stick! The magician does not enter the realm at hand and start bragging about their achievements or enact displays of their prowess, pushing the beings there around at their whim. Rather, the sort of superiority meant here is not the kind you have to prove to another. The only way the magician communicates their superiority is by openly being exactly who they are. This is the sort of superiority that these beings comprehend. It is not forceful -- it is honorable and respectful. The mental body that the magician has crafted for their explorations will communicate who they are, in no uncertain terms, directly to the Elemental beings. The initial reticence of these beings is only natural for they have learned not to trust humans and so they wait awhile to see if the magician is consistent in who they are. Again, I hope you will see the importance of the training of the previous Steps.
The magician will encounter many different types of beings in these realms. In spite of the male oriented description that Bardon provides, the same sort of attractions can occur for a female adept and for those of an other-than-hetero sexuality.
A magician must be able to understand the symbolic nature of the experience of the Elemental realms. In these realms it is not the form that is the core issue here, it is the meaning symbolized by that form that should concern the magician. The adept must be able to remain steadfast within their own central self in order to avoid the pitfall of getting stuck in these realms. These experiences can be very enticing and it can truly take forever to thoroughly explore their every nook and cranny and learn everything there is to learn. All of Bardon's warnings about getting too emotionally involved with the beings of these realms is very truthful. The magician must always remember that this is only a stop along the way and that there are higher, less transitory goals to attain.
The magician must make choices and decide when they have explored enough to continue further. I should add for the passive reader, that the experience of exploring these realms is not exactly linear. In other words, one can experience a large portion of each realm within seconds of elapsed clock-time. Thus, exploring "enough" does not necessarily entail years and years of effort to achieve.
The next task of Step Ten, once the Elemental realms have been explored sufficiently, is to seek out direct, face-to-face, contact with one's own Holy Guardian Angel (HGA). In Step Five, Bardon gave instruction on how to achieve a passive form of communication with the HGA, and this Step represents a quantum difference in the depth of this communication.
To fully explain the nature of this HGA would require an extensive treatise on the subject of the overall occult anatomy of consciousness and I'm unwilling to present such a diversion here. So, it will have to suffice when I say that the HGA has its root in the sphere of Saturn or, in kabbalistic terms, Binah. Also in kabbalistic terms, Yesod, or the Lunar sphere, is the "throne" of Binah. Thus it is before the student engages in rising to the Lunar plane that one encounters the FORM of one's HGA. Please note that I've said "the form of". The HGA itself, is formless, but for this sort of direct communication, the perception of a form is essential. At this level of communication the student does not merge with their HGA and there is no knowing of the HGA from the inside-out, as it were -- this comes later. At best, the experience is like when two very dear friends, who can read each other's minds, meet and converse.
Bardon's description of how this meeting transpires is actually very accurate. The density of symbolism at this level, with this particular entity, is very minor and communication is direct and generally not intensely pictorial.
This guide will not fail the magician so long as the magician has achieved true Equilibrium. Otherwise, this can be a very disturbing experience and the imbalanced person can easily be led astray by their own ego. Many have returned from this encounter with the impression that they have been endowed with some sort of grand mission to save the world, etc., and have then gone about embarrassing themselves to no end by announcing just how important they are to the overall scheme of things. The reason for this is that they have not seen through the delusions of their own psyche and reached deeper into the genuine contact with their HGA. In reality, the HGA is ruthlessly honest and never deceptively builds nor diminishes the ego of the magician. To do so would run contrary to its essential purpose as the most intimate guide.
Beyond this point, the adept needs no other guide, but for the passive reader Bardon instructs that the student must then proceed to explore the other planes of existence. He lists them in the established planetary order, beginning with Luna and ending with Saturn. There are realms beyond Saturn (this refers to the philosophical realm, not the physical planet) but this subject is beyond the scope of the present discussion.
As a final note, I will add that Saturn represents three things: 1) The appearance of what lies beyond the Abyss as it is seen from THIS side of the Abyss. 2) The Abyss itself -- the veil that separates the sequential realm from the non-sequential realm. 3) The non-sequential realm that lies beyond the Abyss.
Consequently, the exploration of the realm of Saturn has three phases. The first phase involves the image presented of the Saturn realm as it is approached from below. This is as much of this realm as can be perceived through the medium of sequentialized symbol. In other words, it is a representation and is not the realm itself. This aspect of Saturn can be explored in a manner similar to the lower planetary realms and this brings the initiate face-to-face with the veil of the Abyss itself..
The second phase involves the penetration of this veil. Only Divine Providence, through the agency of the magician's HGA, can offer guidance in this regard. The experience is different for each individual.
The third phase occurs simultaneously with the penetration of the veil. Here the initiate enters the realm of eternity and once this realm is entered, complete oneness with The Unity is made available to the initiate. It may take the initiate many years to fully integrate this experience of Unity into their daily lives, but the experience itself is eternal.
This is the ultimate goal of the path of Hermetic Magic. It correlates exactly with the merging with one's own personal god ('merging', not just 'communion with') elucidated in the next section of Step Ten.
The astral exercises of Step Nine culminated in the impregnation of the astral body with the four divine attributes. With Step Ten, this process is taken further and a direct link between the magician and deity is established.
While Bardon describes the basic Hermetic approach to this subject well, he really gives the passive reader no idea of its ultimate implications. His explanation may suffice for the serious student, but for the passive reader, it is perhaps too simplistic.
To begin with, I should clarify some of the terms I will be using. I do not like the term "God" with a capital 'G'. To me it seems too involved in religious conceptions and when it is used it generally brings a very specific religious image of deity to the reader. In order to avoid this, I will be using the term "Unity" to designate the ultimate, All encompassing deity, instead of 'God'.
I will use the term "god" or "gods" (with a small 'g') to designate the familiar religious concept(s) of deity. For example, when referring to the pantheon of lesser, more limited deities, such as the Greco-Roman or Kabbalistic deities, I will say "the gods". I feel it is important to differentiate between these two levels or forms of deity as each presents a different sort of work for the magician.
It is also, in this context, important to differentiate between the "communion" with deity and the "merging" with deity. With communion, there remains a separation between the consciousness of the magician and the deity itself. This is a form of face-to-face communication. With merging however, there exists an at-one-ness between the magician's consciousness and that of the deity. Here, the magician experiences no separateness from the chosen deity and in fact, the magician functions as the deity; or rather, the magician and the deity become one and function as one.
Bardon is not very clear in his description as to what level of deity he is speaking of where. The magician can commune or merge with the lesser gods from below (i.e., THIS side of) the veil of the Abyss. These forms of deity are sequentialized and are thus somewhat limited in their scope when compared to the Unity. These are the deities that Bardon refers to when he speaks about communicating with the various gods or deities.
While the Unity can be communicated with, on a face-to-face basis, below the veil of the Abyss, it is only when one has crossed the Abyss and entered the non-sequential realm that the Unity can be merged with. Once this merging with the Unity has occurred, the initiate is also instantly merged with all of the lesser gods.
Where confusion arises in what Bardon presents is that the four divine attributes apply more correctly to the Unity than they do to the lesser gods. But this confusion dissipates when the reader considers the previous mental exercises of this Step. Therein, the student was directed to rise along the planes. During that rise up to the edge of the Abyss, the magician will be able to work with the lesser gods at both a communicative and a merging level, and with the Unity, only on a basis of communion. Once the initiate reaches through the veil to the essential Saturn, then there is a merging with the Unity.
The communion with deity is similar to prayer, except that here there is a direct and immediate, real time (so to speak) reply. While prayer occurs in an upward, from-below-to-above direction, the actual communion with deity occurs at a more equal level, because the magician is impregnating their own form with the same attributes as the chosen deity.
The merging with deity, however, is a different matter. Here, the magician's consciousness must be skillfully brought into a state which exactly matches that of the chosen deity. Below the Abyss, the deity will, as Bardon states, meet the initiate half-way. This is part of the normal function of the lesser gods -- they mediate between the Unity and the human level of consciousness.
The merging with the Unity however, cannot occur below the Abyss. It is not so much that the Unity will not meet the initiate half-way (the Unity permeates All things, after all); rather, it's that the magician's consciousness is not capable of encompassing the Unity until she/he has passed into the non-sequential realm. Only the mental body or spirit of the initiate is capable of this journey.
Even though the ultimate realization of the Unity occurs at a purely mental level, Bardon places these exercises under the astral or soul heading. The reason for this is because his technique begins at that level. The building of an image of deity and the impregnation of that image with the four divine attributes is an astral work. This practice eventually leads the student to manipulating the four attributes or qualities, independent of form or image. At that point, it becomes a purely mental operation and it is this transition to the mental realm that enables the initiate to conceptualize the Unity in its otherwise formless state.
I must caution you at this point that due to the finite nature of words, it is impossible for me to accurately describe either the Unity or the experience of merging with the Unity. Non-sequential experiences simply don't fit into such sequentialized things as words! Consequently, each thing I say in this regard will be only partially true and will convey things in a sequential manner that belies the essential non-sequentialized reality of the Unity.
But even in saying this I have implied things that are inaccurate. Case in point is when I say that the Unity is non-sequential. The deeper mystery is that the Unity encompasses both the sequential and the non-sequential realms, simultaneously. When I say it is non-sequential, I am referring more to how the Unity appears to our sequentialized human consciousness and not to its essential nature. Often, how we attempt to describe the indescribable involves pointing more to the differences between these things and "normal" things, than it does to their similarities. The greatest problem with this is that pointing out only differences seems to limit our understanding of the essential Unity of Being. In the hopes of avoiding that obfuscation, I will try to point out as many similarities as I can in what follows.
The first thing I should say in terms of describing the merging with the Unity, pertains to the sense of self that the magician experiences. The self-awareness of the Unity is often described as an "I am" state, but what is often overlooked is the fact that this deific sense of self-identity is of the same quality as that experienced by a normal human being. The only difference is in quantity as the Unity encompasses every thing that has existence and the individual human encompasses only a minute portion of that infinite expanse. It is, in fact, this continuum of alikeness that the magician follows in the ascent or expansion of the quantity of consciousness. In simplistic terms, the magician stands firmly rooted in the quality of self-awareness and expands the quantity of that awareness until it encompasses the Unity of All Being.
The implications of this in practice are that the magician, once merged with the Unity, experiences the entire universe as if it were in fact a part of their own self. There is no part of the infinite universe of which the Unity is not aware.
This brings us to the four attributes of deity, which I think will serve as a good foundation for further describing the ramifications of merging with the Unity. Please note that the four attributes listed in Step Ten vary slightly from those listed in Step Nine. It is the Step Ten list that I will concern myself with here, though it pays to compare the two on your own.
The four attributes are --
1) Omnipotence (All powerfulness): This is associated with the Element Fire. The sort of omnipotence experienced by the Unity, and by one merged with the Unity, is not akin to the popular conceptualization of a god "up there" who points down at us mere mortals and, poof!, things change according to "his" will. The Unity's omnipotence works from the inside-out of EVERY thing, all at once. There is no splitting of consciousness at the level of the Unity proper -- the splitting of consciousness is only a manifestation of the Unity.
Within the Unity, there is also no willing akin to human willing. Instead, the Unity exists all at once, as a unified whole, and what we think of as divine will is merely the Unity being what it naturally is. When initiates speak about merging with the divine will and say things like "let Thy will be my will", an incorrect impression is given that the individual will is somehow transplanted by a higher will. This is not the case. The individual will is transformed by the experience of merging, not replaced. Again, an initiate follows the continuum of similarity as they rise to the divine. The thread of similarity here has to do with the fact that the human will is an aspect or manifestation of the divine will. And once again, the difference is a matter of quantity not of quality.
The omnipotence of the lesser gods is more limited that of the Unity. Because they exist below the Abyss, they are finite, sequentialized creatures. Thus they are of limited, specific use to the magician. For example, in modern ceremonial magic, one must carefully choose the appropriate "god form" for the task at hand. But if one can merge with the Unity, then nothing is impossible.
But having said that, I should note that the magician capable of merging with the Unity will not be willing petty things nor things that violate the universal lawfulness. You must keep in mind that this transformation touches the individual adept at EVERY level of his or her being.
2) Omniscience (All knowing): This is associated with the Element Air. The root essence of the Unity -- the stuff of which it is composed -- is consciousness. Every thing that exists (mentally, astrally and physically) is a manifestation of this consciousness. The consciousness of the Unity is self-aware within all of its parts or manifestations, simultaneously and fully. In other words, the Unity knows EVERY thing, from the inside-out. This is not just the knowing of an external observer; rather, it is the knowing of a participant.
I wish for you to carefully consider the implications of this for the magician who merges with the Unity. Truly, any thing the magician wishes to know or explore is made instantly available. But this knowing will be from the inside-out in a most intimate manner. It is similar in quality to the sort of knowing we experience in our daily lives as we pass through a specific event. The difference is, as usual, in the quantity of the knowing. For example, we all know how to tie our shoes because we have experienced it numerous time, but in relation to the Unity we are like a small child who has never tied a shoe and our understanding of this mysterious art comes from the descriptions of our parents. In other words, the Unity knows EVERY thing from the inside-out and the normal human knows only a relatively few things from this perspective.
I must say that the conceptualization of this sort of all knowing is quite different from the actual experience. The magician who merges with the Unity is not only ABLE to know everything, she/he DOES know everything *while in the merged state*. Few magicians, however, choose to bring this knowledge back into their normal consciousness used for daily life. Knowing too much tends to take all the fun out of life -- there is no longer any surprise.
3) All-Love or Mercifulness (Divine benevolence): This is associated with the Element Water. Please note that in Step Nine, Bardon associates Immortality with Water.
The divine Mercy is similar in quality to human love, except that in the human manifestation of love we tend to direct it at specific persons, ideas and things. Thus our human love is more limited than the divine love and it is a projection from ourselves to something external (self-love aside). The deific love of the Unity comes from a broader perspective that includes EVERY thing and it works from within each thing. It is without bias and is shared equally with All that exists.
It is common for us to wonder how the unpleasant aspects and events of life can exist in a universe permeated by a Benevolent deity. The answer to this lies within the quantity aspect of the divine benevolence or Mercy. The Unity permeates the whole of the infinite universe all at once and completely, thus it has an eternal perspective from which every event is seen as conforming to the universal lawfulness of things. In other words, from the eternal perspective of the Unity, benevolence is an undercurrent in All events, even the most unpleasant ones.
Suffering exists for a reason. It teaches us lessons that we have not been able to otherwise learn through more pleasant means. So at the core of each unpleasant situation lies the divine benevolence that knows this is the way in which we must learn -- it is the root lesson that holds the benevolence, the manifestation of events is itself secondary. The only way sometimes, to perceive the divine benevolence behind unsavory events is to broaden one's perspective to include lifetimes instead of single moments.
An adept who has merged with this divine Mercifulness may at times seem very stern, but this should not be mistaken for a lack of caring. At its root is the awareness of a much broader perspective on things than the ordinary human consciousness is able to achieve.
Such an adept will feel a deep love and concern for all creatures and will manifest their loving kindness willfully and in the most appropriate manner befitting the occasion.
4) Immortality (The same as Omnipresence in this case): This is associated with the Element Earth. In Step Nine, Bardon lists Omnipresence here, but if you think about it, this is essentially the same as Immortality in that the Unity is an immanent thing and thus it exists throughout the whole of space-time. The divine Immortality is not the same thing as what we consider when we think about the immortality of a human form. Theoretically, human immortality (if such a thing were to exist) is strictly a moment-to-moment matter of prolonged duration. In other words, the immortal human would pass through time moment-by-moment. While the quality of this is similar to divine Immortality, the quantity is quite different. The Immortality of the Unity occurs at an eternal level -- the moment-by-moment duration is only a manifestation of the eternal Immortality.
But, and here's a big but, nothing that is either astral or physical in its nature is eternal or immortal. True Immortality exists only at the level of the eternal, non-sequential realm.
I compare the Immortality of the Unity with its Immanence and say that they are the same thing because the Unity's Immortality is eternal. It has no beginning and no ending and there is no 'who', 'what', 'why', 'where' or 'when' that does not partake of the Unity. The connection between these two may be easiest to perceive when you consider the space-time continuum. From the eternal perspective, the whole infinite span of space-time is perceived as one single present moment or as a grand, infinite "Now". But, since the Unity is Immortal and eternal, this perspective is not just a from-afar sort of experience; instead, it is experienced simultaneously from the inside-out -- from the perspective of each thing involved with the minute details of the physical manifestation of space-time, to the most ephemeral and comprehensive experience of space-time.
While the feeling or quality of Immanence is similar to what the student experienced in Step Six with the practice of being aware of their mental body within their astral and physical bodies, there is a difference in terms of quantity. For the Unity, there is no separateness -- there is no immediate sense of being WITHIN a body. Instead, the Unity completely fills the embodiments of its Immanence. The entire infinity of the manifest universe IS the Unity -- it is not the mere shell which houses the Unity. There is no separation between the "body" of the Unity and the Unity itself. When we look at a rock or a leaf or through an electron microscope at a single molecule, we are looking directly at the Unity. When we look at each other or within our own selves, we are looking at the Unity.
I will now close my comments upon the merging with the Unity with one final note. This pertains to the process the adept must undergo in order to integrate the experience of merging into their daily lives. Many fail to successfully re-cross the Abyss and return to their normal functioning consciousness. I presume you are aware of the many tales of mystics who have returned from an especially deep experience only to become raving lunatics. Here is where preparation and a proper training come into play for the Hermetic magician.
In many ways, the integration into the normal day-to-day consciousness of an experience of the non-sequential eternal realm is an even more difficult task than the achieving of such an experience. The experience of Unity is so foreign to our normal level of self-awareness that it, in effect, doesn't fit, in its entirety, within the confines of normal human consciousness. Thus it is of vital importance that the adept have a thorough working knowledge of their mechanisms of perception. Essentially, the adept must translate and interpret the non-sequential experience into terms understandable to the normal, sequentialized consciousness. Only in this way can such an experience be integrated at a normal functional level.
Upon the return to normal waking consciousness, the adept will be inexorably transformed. So deep and pervasive a transformation requires a reassessment and a readjustment of the adept's personality and individuality akin the Step One and Two work with the soul mirrors, but on a much broader level.
The adept will not be able to retain full consciousness of the infinite details encountered in the merging experience once he/she has returned to a normal state of awareness. These details (the fullness of the experience) must be compressed in the memory and be made available so the adept can draw upon them at any moment desired. But to experience the fullness of a merging experience, the adept must be within the non-sequential realm and be functioning with their higher mind. This dichotomy of being so close, yet so far, from Unity, can at first be very disorienting even for the most advanced adept. Once again, the training of the previous nine Steps is essential for success in this matter.
Furthermore, the adept must balance the transformational experience of Unity with their mundane lives in such a way that their internal changes are not laid bare for all to see. This may sound odd and you might ask "why?". The reasons for this are not esoteric; rather, they are extremely practical and are due to the circumstances of our present location along the continuum of space-time. In other words, considering the present state of affairs, it behooves the adept to not reveal their achievements because if they were to do so, they would be inundated by people demanding their wisdom or presenting themselves for the satisfaction of other needs. There have been, and there will again be, times when the adept can safely reveal themselves openly, but now is not one of those times. As a consequence, there are many adepts who have achieved Unity but keep this a well hidden secret.
As I mentioned earlier, Bardon has the student work with the four attributes from the outset of these Step Ten astral exercises -- even though they apply more strictly to the Unity than to the lesser god forms and even though it is the lesser gods that the student encounters first. The reason for this is that these four attributes will eventually lead the student to awareness of the Unity. While working with the lesser gods, the student must employ the four attributes in an uneven ratio appropriate to the nature of the chosen god form. Working with these varieties or flavors of godhood expands the adept's consciousness and prepares it for union with the Unity.
I hope that by this point you have become well aware of the importance of each Step of IIH. If any single Step has been overlooked, the ultimate goal of this Great Work will remain unattainable. I also hope that you see how the whole course comes together at the end and creates a complete circuit.
In this final section of Step Ten, Bardon describes a few possibilities for the magician to consider in regard to their magical practice. I see no point in adding my thoughts to this section as Bardon is perfectly clear.