The philosophy of Elements is, obviously, a human construct. It is one way in which we humans have attempted to describe the workings of the universe. But even though it is a human construct this does not negate the fact that it describes a real thing. To my mind, it is a description that works well. It gives me a tool by which I can work with the actual forces that it tries to describe. Granted, it is imperfect and does not exactly match the reality of things, but then again, an exact match would be impossible.
The forces that underlie the Elements do exist regardless of whether or not we try to describe them and regardless of whether or not humans are around to perceive them.
There are two very important things to keep in mind when working with the Elements. First is that the Elements are not the same as the physical phenomena whose names they share. For example, the Element Fire is not the same as the physical phenomena of fire. The names of the Elements are derived through the "law" of analogy. This means that the Element Fire possesses many of the characteristics of physical fire, such as expansiveness, heat, brightness, and the ability to transform what it touches.
All to often the student falls into the trap of drawing too close a relationship between the Elements and their analogous physical phenomena. This tends to obscure the deeper significance of the Elements and should, therefore, be avoided.
Second in importance regarding the Elements is the fact that in our physical realm, the Elements never act alone. All physical things are a combination of the Elements. For example, the physical phenomena of fire is not composed solely of the Fire Element. Instead, physical fire is composed of all four Elements working together (plus the fifth -- Akasha). A physical thing may show a predominance of one Element over the others, but it still contains all four.
The Elements exist in their pristine, separate sense only in the most rarefied reaches of the astral and mental planes.
The Electric and the Magnetic Fluids
Bardon does not write extensively about the Electric and Magnetic Fluids in the Theory section of IIH. He does, however, speak of it in the ten Steps and in his other books, especially KTQ and Q&A. But in no one spot does he clearly and exhaustively define these terms.
Probably the first question that arises is what does he mean by "Fluid"? By Fluid, Bardon indicates an energy or essence that manifests motion and handles in a manner similar to water. Both Fluids are dynamic things. IIH teaches the student how to manipulate or wield these Fluids, form them into whatever shape is desired and impregnate them with any corresponding wish.
These two Fluids are the primal polarity and are effective in every plane of existence. The Electric Fluid is the positive, expansive pole and the Magnetic Fluid is the opposite negative, contractive pole. As with a physical magnet, these poles cannot be separated -- they are manifest through the continuum that unites them in their eternal embrace. Both forces are equal and interdependent, and have been described in every culture in one way or another. At the highest level, these poles are expressed through the two faces of The One.
The Fluids are the root of the Elements Fire and Water. This is why, in the course of IIH, the student looks within the Fire Element for the Electric Fluid and within the Water Element for the Magnetic Fluid. It is in fact, difficult for the student to at first differentiate between the primary Elements and the Fluids. But there is a difference -- it's just difficult to explain.
Within the Fire Element, the Electric Fluid is found in the Fire's expansiveness, heat and light. The Magnetic Fluid is found within the Water's contractiveness, cold and darkness. The Magnetic Fluid gives form to the Electric force and everywhere in our world, they act in unison. The Fluids are the two primal forces and the Elements are their extensions or modifications.
Each of the Elements can be said to have a specific ElectroMagnetic charge. The Fire Element is predominantly Electric and the Water, Magnetic. The Air represents a balance of the two Fluids (the continuum which connects these two poles) -- the perfect hermaphrodite, capable of accepting the influence of either Fluid. The fourth pole of the quadrapolar magnet, Elemental Earth, represents the combined action of these three ElectroMagnetic charges.
This is often difficult for the novice to understand. It requires careful consideration to see how, at a philosophical level, the combination of parts can sometimes equal more than the sum of its parts. In this case, the amplification of effect occurs because the parts which combine are each dynamic things. Their dynamism makes them interactive and together, they make something new which does not exist at the level of their independent parts. Thus the Elemental Earth contains not only the Electric and Magnetic balance of Air, but also the raw polarities of Fire and Water. Together, they work in a dynamic, rhythmic and cyclic manner. It is the combination and interaction of these three dynamic parts that causes things to manifest solidity in each of the three mediums or substances (Mental, Astral and Physical).
The serious work with the Fluids doesn't begin until the eighth Step of IIH, so there is little point in listing too many correspondences for the Fluids here. Between now and Step Eight, you'll have plenty of time to become familiar with the Fluids on your own. In the mean time, here are a few notes from Bardon's own comments as relayed by his direct students in the book "Questions and Answers" --
MENTAL (page 24, question #19): "The Electric Fluid fills abstract thoughts with pure Electric Fluid, warmth, expansion and dynamics. The Magnetic Fluid fills them with pure Magnetic Fluid and the opposite attributes. For example, the Electric Fluid expresses itself through its attributes in willpower, while the Magnetic Fluid expresses itself in the antipole of the will, that is, in manifested belief, an aspect of the productive universal power."
ASTRAL (page 47, question #12): "Clairvoyance is an Electric ability of the astral body; clairsentience and psychometry are Magnetic abilities."
PHYSICAL (page 65, question #5): "If we are under the influence of the Electric Fluid, then the Fire Element is more effective in us. In this case we feel hot, or we are active to higher degrees, we work more diligently, and therefore we are internally satiated with the Fire Element. Through the increased influence of the Magnetic Fluid we perceive coldness; should the Magnetic Fluid become satiated within us, elimination increases."
(page 66, question #6): "On the surface of the human body, the ElectroMagnetic Fluid is effective as radiating life-magnetism. The right side of the body is (in the case of a right-handed person) the active or Electrical side, whereas the left side of the body is passive or Magnetic. The opposite is the case with a left-handed person.
"The Electric Fluid, through its expansion, causes radiating electrons on the inside of every body [i.e., physical thing], which on the other hand are attracted by the Magnetic Fluid of the earth. [This explains "gravity".] The Electric Fluid is located in the Inner of everything created, therefore also in the center of the earth, while the Magnetic Fluid is effective on the surface of the earth an on everything created. . . The Electric Fluid produces the acids in all organic or inorganic bodies or substances from a chemical or alchemical point of view, whereas the Magnetic Fluid is effective in an alkaline manner."
Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), the Electric and Magnetic Fluids are not the same thing as the physical phenomena of electricity and magnetism. While they are analogously related, they are not the same. The physical phenomena of electricity and magnetism are each primarily caused by their corresponding Fluid but they are not purely one or the other Fluid -- they are each composed of the four Elements with a corresponding polarized predominance of either Fire or Water.
It is impossible for me to describe what it feels like to accumulate and project the Fluids. The only way to gain this insight is through direct experience, the key to which is to take careful note, in your daily life, of the qualities I described above and look for them, especially as you work with the Elements.
Bardon mentions "Od" in passing but doesn't really explain what he means by this term. I've heard several definitions of Od but from what I've gleaned of Bardon's definition, he is referring to the character of the individual or, in other words, the individual's expression of their particular Elemental composition.
The Od is primarily Electric in nature. Simply put, it is the energy that we each express through our accumulated thoughts and emotions. At the mental level, it is our attitude and the quality/quantity of our ideas, seen by how they influence others -- in other words, their emanation. In astral terms, the Od is our astral character or emotional composition, again in its emanative phase of influencing our surroundings. As to our physical body, the Od is the vitality we bring to life and express through our actions. Thus, one with a strong Od is generally outwardly gregarious and active, and one with a weak Od is passive and shy.
These three aspects of the Od work in unison to produce the overall Od.
One place where Bardon speaks of the Od is in the little book "Questions and Answers", under the Astral heading (page 50, question #21). This question concerns astral healing methods and gives an important clue as to what Bardon means by Od:
"We draw this accumulated vital energy directly from the universe and direct it into the astral body of the ailing person without passing it through our own body. Through this we prevent the weakening of our own vitality and at the same time prevent the mixing of our Od (character) with the Od of the ailing person; otherwise we can infect ourselves with the negative attributes of the patient."
While Bardon speaks here only of the Od in relation to astral healing, the same can be said of the mental Od in mental healing and the physical Od during physical healing.
The Quadrapolar Magnet
Bardon speaks of the Quadrapolar Magnet throughout his books but still, many readers have difficulty with the basic concept, especially those who are not familiar with a Hermetic diagram known as the "Cross of Equated Forces" (CEF). The CEF diagram is a simplified picture of the Quadrapolar Magnet and helps immensely in the understanding of it. Please take a moment to draw one for your own study (or at least visualize along with my description).
Begin by drawing a circle with about a three inch (7.5 cm) diameter. Draw a vertical line, from edge to edge, through the center point of the circle. Then draw a corresponding horizontal line through the center point. This should net a quadrated circle, i.e., an equal-armed cross within a circle.
Now label the poles of the cross. Writing just outside of the circle, put 'Fire' to the right, 'Water' to the left, 'Air' on top, and 'Earth' at the bottom. Just inside the circle write the following: Above the Fire line, put 'Hot', and below, put 'Dry'. Above the Water line, put 'Wet', and below, put 'Cold'. To the left of the Air line, put 'Wet', and to the right, put 'Hot'. To the left of the Earth line, put 'Cold', and to the right, put 'Dry'. At the center of the circle where your two lines intersect, place a heavy dot and label it "Depth Point" or "Aethyr".
If you want to colorize your CEF, you will need to again divide your circle, this time, into eight parts. Reproduce your work of creating the equal-armed cross but this time, place it askew so that it divides each of the four sections exactly in half. As you will see, this establishes quadrants for each of the Elements instead of just poles for the Elements -- the four poles of the Elements meet the edge of the circle at the center of each Elemental quadrant. Color the right-hand quadrant a bright red for the Fire. Color the left quadrant a cyan blue for Water. The top quadrant should be bright yellow for Air, and the bottom quadrant should be either a deep earthy brown or a deep olive green. [Alternately, you can use the color associations Bardon lists: Red-Fire; blue green-Water; pale, bright blue-Air; and, dark brown, gray, or black for Earth.]
And now, for a final touch , you can divide into halves (along the vertical Air-Earth line), the whole of the paper you are drawing on -- the Electric Fluid on the right and the Magnetic Fluid on the left. With the right-hand side of your page, you should paint the area -- outside of the circle -- a bright red (slightly more blue than the color you used for Fire). Similarly, paint the left side of your page (again, outside of the circle) with a rich blue color (not as bright or as greenish as you used for Water).
You can, through time, add any correspondences you desire to this diagram. What it accomplishes most admirably is to illuminate the ways in which the Elements interact.
The main reason that Bardon used the analogy of a magnet specifically, was to emphasize the interaction not only of the Elements, but more importantly, of the Fluids. Like with a physical magnet, these two opposite poles coexist. They both attract through their similarities and repulse each other through their differences. This is the same situation with the quadrapolar magnet but on a different scale.
The quadrapolar magnet is composed of four poles instead of two.. Three of these poles (the predominantly Electric Fire Element, the predominantly Magnetic Water Element, and the equally balanced ElectroMagnetism of the Air Element) combine and their interaction causes the Earth Element.
Some say that the Earth Element is not a proper Element per se, but is the interaction of the three "true" Elements of Fire, Air and Water. This is only partially true. It IS the interaction of three Elements, but the fact that these Elements are dynamic and therefore interact when in combination, results in the creation of an entirely new factor -- the combination ends up equaling more than the sum of its parts. It is this unique product of the interaction of Fire, Air and Water that we call Earth. Thus the Earth manifests as one of the poles of the quadrapolar magnet.
By the same twists of philosophic thinking, the quadrapolar magnet, just like the common bi-polar magnet, is more than its poles. It is also the cumulative interaction of its poles.
At the center of the quadrapolar magnet lies the "Depth Point" that Bardon speaks of in IIH (Step Five) and KTQ. This is nothing other than the Akasha or Aethyr, from which all else sprouts. The Hermetic's universe is infinite and one of the mysteries conveyed by the quadrapolar magnet is that this center point occurs every 'where', 'when', 'why', 'what' and 'who', within that infinity.
The Beings of the Elements
In the on-line discussion board, the question recently arose as to whether the beings of the Elements are metaphorical and contained in the Psyche, or whether they are independent entities. This is a common question considering how much like a fairytale the writings about these beings sound.
The truth of the matter is that the beings of the Elements are, in and of themselves, entities independent from the human psyche. Their FORMS, however, are not independent from the human psyche. Sound confusing?
The beings of the Elements exist within the astral realm and as such they are seen to have a certain form. Their form is symbolic as is true of any astral form. Thus the form in which they are perceived varies from culture to culture. The European cultures generally view them as Salamanders, Sylphs, Undines and Gnomes, but, for example, an aboriginal African culture might perceive them dressed in an entirely different form.
We humans perceive astral beings differently since we each process our perceptions through different minds. But this does not negate their reality as beings which have an existence separate from our individual minds. It is only their astral FORMS which pertain to the human psyche, not their existence.
Karma / Cause and Effect
It is prudent for the student to contemplate hard and long upon the topic of cause and effect. This law is a friend of the magician as it is the workings of this law that magicians use to craft their ascent. For example, as you work at improving your character, you will follow certain practices which will cause your negative traits to be replaced by more positive ones. Cause and effect is why practice makes "perfect".
Yet the magician will face instances where cause and effect cannot be used to advantage. A good example is in the work of healing either one's own self or another person. There are some illnesses which have a deep karmic root and the magician may find that there is nothing that he/she can do to improve a patient's condition. Likewise, there are certain inevitable events (hardships) that the magician cannot divert due to the fact that they are deeply rooted in a person's own karma. Seldom is the magician allowed to interfere with another's karmic debt.
It takes a certain amount of wisdom for the magician to accurately discern when she/he should leave a situation alone. This is only gained through experience.
Physical, Astral and Mental Planes
This, like the philosophy of the Elements, is a human construct that seeks to describe universal phenomena. Its biggest failing, in my opinion, is that it implies separate, clearly defined realms. The truth of the matter however, is that the universe is a unified whole. There is no exact point where the physical plane ceases and the astral plane begins. Likewise, there is no exact point where the astral realm ends and the mental realm begins. One graduates into the next and all three interpenetrate each other.
We divide the universe into these three parts simply because it is an easier, more convenient way to grasp its wholeness. Like all such constructs, it is only a tool -- it gives us the practical ability to manipulate universal forces.
A simple rule-of-thumb to remember is that for a physical thing to exist, it must also have existence at the astral and at the mental level.
The astral realm exists due to the descent of the mental realm into (or towards) the physical realm. It is, for the most part, an intermediary phase. The astral substance translates rapidly into physical manifestation and is easily manipulated by mind.
In terms of our human being, our mental body corresponds to our conscious awareness and it penetrates both our astral and physical forms. When we perceive our mental body, its shape and color reflects our state of mind. It takes on a shape similar to our physical dimensions only when we spread our awareness evenly throughout our physical body.
Our mental body does not feel our surroundings in a manner similar to the perceptions of our physical senses. The senses of the mental body are merely analogous to the physical senses. For example, there is a mental sense that shares some of the characteristics of physical sight, but the mental sight reveals a far different universe than that of physical sight.
Our astral body corresponds to our emotional being or personality and it penetrates our physical being. When we perceive our astral body, its shape is very similar to our physical body and its color reflects the state of our personality and emotions.
The senses of our astral body are very similar to those of our physical body, yet also similar to those of our mental body. The astral senses mediate between those of the mental and physical bodies.
A good way to tell the difference between an astral journey and a mental journey is to gauge the degree to which our perceptions of our surroundings match those of normal physical perception. During an astral journey one will be able to feel texture, heat and cold, etc., and will be able to hear sounds, smell odors, and taste flavors. During a mental journey however, there will be no physical-like sensations.
Our physical body is temporary. It lives for a certain amount of time and then dissolves back into the universe and its constituents disperse. Our astral body is also temporary yet of longer duration than our physical body. Eventually, it also dissolves. Only our mental body or spirit is eternal. It descends into a long succession of temporary astral and physical forms but does not itself dissolve.
The three bodies of the human being serve as a handy analogy for understanding the interaction of the three corresponding realms. One of the advantages of Bardon's system is that it directly relates the three realms to the student's three bodies. In this way, the student learns to experience each realm by first experiencing its impact upon their personal experience. The path leads from the intimately personal to the universal.
The question of religion is often troubling for the beginning student. One is faced with deciding how to combine one's religious viewpoint (if the student even has a religion to which he/she adheres) with that of magic. Each student must, of course, puzzle this out for themselves.
The only advice that I can offer is that you keep an open mind. Truly, magic can coincide with any religion. It has indeed taken every form throughout the ages and can be found within every religion know to humanity if one looks with eyes educated in the rudiments of magic.
To the magician, the most important part of religion is the feeling of devotion that it instills in the practitioner. Devotion, especially as it manifests through the act of worship, is a very powerful force that the magician can employ in their process of spiritual ascent.
Asceticism and Sexuality
Bardon is very clear about what he means by asceticism. Basically, he is speaking of self-discipline and self-control. He always recommends a balanced approach that does not stray into extremism of any kind. Nonetheless, the question frequently arises as to whether or not the student should abstain from all forms of sex.
While many different systems advise abstinence from sex as a way of attaining purity or of increasing the will power, etc., this is not the case with Bardon's system. For the magician, it is clear that a complete abstinence from something so inherent and natural to human physiology as sex, is a form of extremism that produces little more than imbalance. There may be occasions in the magician's life when a temporary abstinence from sexual release is productive, but this is rare and only for very specific tasks.
In general, a healthy sexuality is a vital part of leading a healthy, well balanced life. Not only is it an essential bodily function, it is also an essential part of one's emotional well being.
Many male magicians practice what is called "retention of the seed" and report that this is beneficial on many levels. This is a simple technique of putting pressure on the tubes which carry the semen and thereby preventing ejaculation. This does not usually adversely effect the male orgasm and in fact, often heightens the energetic effect that orgasm has upon the male body.
Several years ago, a fellow said to me that homosexuality is due to an imbalance of the Water Element and that it was something that the magician should overcome. After a little discussion it became clear that his feelings about homosexuality had nothing to do with magic, per se. His bias was due to his upbringing and his personal morals and was truly not founded upon the philosophy of the Elements.
In point of fact, this aspect of sexuality has nothing to do with one's Elemental balance. Homo-, bi- and hetero-sexuality are all natural and none is more nor less healthy than another. I should hope that no student will fear that their specific sexuality prevents them from following a magical path.
The only important parts of sexuality that effect one's spiritual growth and advancement in magic, are how one feels about one's own sexual orientation and how one treats others with whom one is having a sexual relationship. In other words, it is the emotional and moral aspects of sexuality -- those parts that the magician can change and improve upon -- that are of concern to spiritual ascent.
Getting back to the main topic; other forms of asceticism, such as starvation, self-flagellation, self-deprivation, and so on, are not advisable. These practices only produce imbalance. Equilibrium is achieved through moderation and disciplined control, and this is the path recommended by Franz Bardon.
Time is not a subject that Bardon discussed in the "Theory" section of IIH. Nonetheless, I think it is of such importance to the student of magic that I have chosen to say a few words about it here.
It is difficult to separate the objective reality of time from our subjective, human perception of it. Both are of concern to the magician.
As physical human beings we experience time as a thing which stretches behind and in front of us. To us, time either seems to move forward, or we seem to move forward through time. Either way, we perceive time as having forward movement.
To keep track of this forwardness, we have constructed elaborate methods of measuring time's passage. We divide time into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc.
At the moment that I'm writing this, it is 1:10 pm, Pacific Standard Time, on March 3rd, 2001. This fact has relevance to my mundane existence in that it helps me place myself into context with my scheduled routine, but as a magician, it has little relevance to me.
In magic, there is only one aspect of time that has true relevance, and that is the present moment or now. The exceptions to this are when the magician needs to set a duration to a certain magical act (such as when keeping a magical healing effective till a patient is well) or when aligning a certain ritual with favorable astrological events, etc.
The essence of time is sequential change. The number of changes that occur within each moment are truly infinite. There is no stasis -- no moment when change ceases and everything remains the same. This is the crux of what differentiates our subjective perception of time from the objective reality of time.
As physical human beings, we are not capable of perceiving the infinite number of changes occurring at each moment. All we can do is grasp hold of a small few of the changes at a one time. The mechanics of human perception are such that we take the equivalent of a photograph of the present moment -- altering it into a static, unchanging picture of events -- and then we decode its significance to us. This happens very rapidly and we develop a chain of these stop-action images and from this process we get the impression of forward movement similar to that derived from watching a motion picture made up of 24 static images per second.
This has the effect of putting us ever so slightly out of temporal and emotional sync with real-time or objective time. In objective time, there is only one part -- the present moment or now. Objectively, the Now is eternal and in a ceaseless state of change. It has no movement -- it simply IS.
The present moment has three components: 1) Infinite Change. 2) Infinite Continuity: This is what makes one moment so similar to what precedes and follows it. 3) Nowness: This is the sensation of immediacy inherent to our experience of the present moment.
Processed by the human brain, the infinite present moment is perceived as a sequence of finite moments. Thus we feel that there are past moments, present moments and future moments. But the magician should clearly understand that at the physical level of our existence, past is only a function of memory and future is only a function of our creative imagination. Neither past nor future can truly be said to exist presently.
In seeming contradiction to this, we speak of an eternity which encompasses the whole of time's passage and we quibble over whether or not we have free will. I say to you that there is no contradiction, or rather, the contradictions coexist quite comfortably. While the present moment is all that truly exists within the physical realm where time involves itself so intimately with space, in the most ephemeral parts of the non-physical realm where eternity holds sway, all of time (past, present and future, as it were) exists simultaneously and wholly.
Time is multidimensionally infinite. When one experiences eternity, the whole multidimensional infinity of time is perceived as a unified Now. From this perspective, the issue of free will is irrelevant due to the fact that infinity implies that there are enough options to accommodate the infinite number of available courses one can choose to take. In other words, it takes free will to create and to follow the infinite number of choices which fill eternity. From the magical standpoint, this is the root truth behind many of the modern physicist's theories regarding the idea that there are an infinite number of universes following an infinite number of time lines. Eternity is not filled with infinite possibility; instead, it is filled with infinite actuality. In other words, all possibilities are actualized -- if they were not, then eternity would not be truly infinite.
What prevents us from constantly perceiving eternity with our normal awareness is the fact that as physical human beings we are intimately bound up in sequence. In every regard, one thing follows another. One idea leads to another, one action is followed by an effect, etc. To perceive eternity (or any infinity in its whole, for that matter) requires that one must remove one's self to a non-sequential perspective. This perspective is so foreign to our day-to-day existence that seldom do we even consider its implications, let alone its possibility.
The physical realm is ruled by both space and time. I must say though, it is hard to separate space from time for without the factor of time, space would not exist.
The astral realm mediates between the densely sequentialized physical realm and the non-sequential aspect of the mental realm. Thus the astral realm is not completely bound to substance and for this reason it is said that space does not hold sway in the astral. This is only partially true. For the magician this is especially true when it comes to astral journeying and astral communication with other beings. In other words, the well trained magician may travel to any physical place through the astral realm and communicate with another being regardless of where in space they may reside. Time (i.e., sequence) however, holds a firm grip upon the astral realm and to truly travel throughout time, the magician must work within the mental realm.
The mental realm spans both the realm of sequence (time) and the non-sequential realm (eternity). Within the highest reaches of the mental realm, there is no sequence and one steps out of time, as it were, and views things from an eternal perspective. In the lower reaches of the mental realm (that of sequential thought and physical matter) time is a factor. Only at the level at which the mental realm intersects the physical realm does space become a factor, but this is a small part of the overall mental realm and thus we say that neither time nor space restricts the mental substance.
The student of magic will receive a great benefit by analyzing the nature of human perception and of time itself. Repeated meditations upon this subject, experimentation and reading the available literature will all forward the student's understanding.
And don't worry, there's plenty of time . . .