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Correspondence Excerpts

Written between 2001 and 2007

The Steps

Step One – Miscellaneous

Recognizing Emotional Resistance to Progress

17 December 2003

» As Bardon attests, the early morning is one of the best times, and especially the most convenient time to practice. Some people seem to have no problems waking up bright and early and being disturbingly cheerful, unfortunately, I don't seem to be one of these people. Without the aid of an alarm clock I slept until 9:30 this morning - hardly early. Getting up a couple of hours earlier is like torture, and the cold shower is almost unthinkable now its winter. I don't think it's a soul mirror issue, it seems physical. Am I the only one who has this problem? «

Actually, I'd say that this is a soul mirror issue having specifically to do with will power and the level of your commitment. Initiation is not a matter of taking the easiest way out simply because something important is hard at first. Initiation is about changing yourself and about standing up to the challenges that naturally arise in the pursuit of self-transformation. The complaint of "It's too hard" must be rejected as being insufficient justification, as well as insufficient explanation.

For truly, when you think about it, if you really wanted to do your exercises early in the morning, you'd find a way. You would adjust your habits to accommodate an earlier rising. It's as simple as that. It's not something you're physically incapable of doing -- it's something you're emotionally unwilling to do.

As for the cold shower, this is also not a matter of your being physically incapable of doing it. If you do it as Bardon suggested with the brushing and then the brisk toweling off afterward, you do not end up chilled. What prevents you from doing it is again, an emotional unwillingness.

One aspect of these early exercises which focus upon physical habits is that they bring the student into a confrontation with this very issue of emotional unwillingness and thereby develop the student's force of will and self-discipline. Ultimately, this issue of breaking through emotional resistance is the very least of the challenges the student will inevitably face along the path of initiation.

The Fatigue Response

06 March 2004

» Since I have started practicing Bardon's exercises I feel more tired during the day than before. Has anybody had the same experience? Do you know any "energizing" exercises that could help me cope with the fatigue? «

At the beginning, fatigue is usually due to either a physical or an emotional cause. The most common physical cause (related to beginning the IIH exercises) is lack of sleep! Instead of shuffling our life around and omitting something less important, many folks will take time away from their sleep time. For example, getting up an hour earlier than before but not going to bed an hour earlier to compensate. A proper amount of sleep is important in the physical body's regulation of energy.

If that's not the cause, then the most likely culprit is emotional blockage of some sort. Tiredness is primarily an emotional state. For example, you can feel tired but then something exciting happens and you're suddenly energized. And conversely, you can feel full of energy and then something depressing happens and you're suddenly exhausted.

Most emotional blockages and feelings of tiredness arise (in relation to beginning IIH) because of the Soul Mirror and character transformation work of Steps One through Three. During the period of constructing your Soul Mirror lists, you should take very good care of yourself, physically and emotionally. Introspection of this sort and of this depth is bound to stir up all sorts of stuff, much of which you won't even be aware of at first.

One "trick" to avoiding this emotional fatigue is to apply the "thought control" exercise technique of detachment and observation, instead of involvement in each of the items you uncover through introspection. Introspection is very much akin to that first mental exercise of Step One in which you are merely "taking stock" of what is. You're simultaneously detaching yourself from what you are observing. In other words, you're not interacting with what you're observing. When you apply this to introspection, you'll find it much less emotionally disruptive and therefore, much less physically tiring. It also makes it easier to penetrate much deeper into your psyche and "sweep out the dark corners" as Bardon put it.

Step One – Mental

Thought "Control"?

29 June 2002

Several months ago, a German visitor and I were comparing the German IIH with the English translations. Of special interest was what he had to say about the English phrase "thought control" as the title of the first mental exercise in Step One. According to him, this is only one of the possible translations of the German word and a poor one at that.

The problem with the word "control" is that we English speakers usually take it to mean "the exercise of restraint or direction over" our thoughts, but this is clearly not what Bardon is advising with this exercise. My visitor pointed out that the secondary meaning of the word is closer to the German original. That secondary meaning is "a standard of comparison", as in a "control subject" within a scientific experiment.

So, what Bardon was really intending, and which the standard English translation seems to obscure, is that with this first exercise, the student is merely taking stock of what normally transpires in the human mind. In other words, passively observing the machinations of the mind, without involvement, in order to understand the territory itself. This provides the 'control' or standard, which is an essential prerequisite to the work of altering how the mind functions.

Must We Remember Our Thoughts During the "Thought Control" Exercise?

09 January 2003

» I started the "thought control/witnessing/monitoring" exercise, and I have a new question: Talking about the thoughts, FB writes that:

- "observe your train of thought for five minutes, and make an attempt to remember these thoughts" (p. 66).

- "it will be difficult for him (= the student) to remember all of them" (p. 67).

Does this mean that I not only have to observe the thoughts going through my mind (and remember them immediately after they arose), but that I have to remember all of them at the end of the 6-7-8 minutes of the duration of the exercise ? «

No. Here again, the Ruggeberg edition gives a very different take on Bardon's words.

Where Merkur has "observe your train of thought for five minutes, and make an attempt to remember these thoughts", Ruggeberg has "observe the train of your thoughts for five minutes trying to retain it." The word "retain" refers to not losing the train of thoughts, as is seen in a follow-up statement: "The main point is not to forget yourself, not to lose the train of thoughts, but to pursue it attentively."

The second paragraph that you quote from is not an indication that the student is to memorize what thoughts transpired during the observation (that would not be a passive approach to one's thoughts!). Rather, this paragraph is pointing out that the mind will quiet itself when you passively observe it and withdraw your participation. This leads to fewer and fewer thoughts and at the end of observing a peaceful mind, the few thoughts that did arise will be memorable, without even trying to memorize them. So this paragraph is just pointing out the contrast between how busy the mind is at the outset and how quiet it becomes with practice.

There is a difference between being aware of your thoughts and memorizing your thoughts. When you attentively observe what transpires in your mind, you will, by the end of the exercise, have witnessed what sorts of thoughts arose and with what frequency and intensity they arose. And like observing anything, what you have observed remains as a memory, of its own accord and not because you have intentionally memorized it. At the end of the exercise, it's not what specific thoughts arose in what specific order that's important; it's the overall nature of the thoughts that's important and this requires no memorization.

More on Thought “Control”

06 February 2007

» As I exercise, this inner dialog always relates everything I do to the next memory with the same context. This inner dialog has the nature that I can perceive it but not be aware of thinking. «

Yes, this is the unintentional awareness in action. It's not exactly "thinking" in the normal sense of the word, since "thinking" is an action pursued by the intentional awareness, not the unintentional. With the unintentional awareness, this is a passive reaction instead of active thinking.

»Normally I can differentiate between intentional and unintentional but this seems to be a state where both become intertwined. But it is also more unintentional than that it is intentional; maybe the whole thing is unintentional? I am confused. «

This exercise divides the intentional awareness from the unintentional awareness. It is with your intentional awareness that you are passively observing the activity of your unintentional awareness. The moment you begin to participate with and actively partake in the reactionary action of your unintentional awareness then you have lost the quality of intentionality of awareness and have abandoned your awareness to the unintentional.

» Bardon suggests that the student just observe his thoughts during 10 minutes, without getting involved. If the student does not get involved with a certain thought (just observe it arising, and then going away), but does feel the emotions that this thought generates, than he is getting involved, right? The correct approach would be to detach completely, without getting involve with the thoughts, and with any emotion generated by them, right? «

"Feeling" emotions is how we observe emotions, just as mentally recognizing a thought is how we observe a thought's existence. This is different than involving yourself with a thought or emotion. Involvement with a thought entails pursuing the thought and letting the thought influence and excite our thinking. Likewise, involvement with an observed emotion entails delving deeply into the experience of the emotion and letting that experience influence and excite your emotional state. Detachment in both cases means recognizing each as it arises and then immediately letting it go as we retreat from involvement with it.

Validating Internal Answers

02 February 2004

» I would be thankful if somebody could give me a validation of at least some of the answers I got, because they are quite specific in nature and imply elements of theory (such as the meaning of Tiphareth) I don't have yet. «

Assuming that you're not looking for an interpretation or validation from me, I do have a few pointers for you to consider.

#1) Since this one-pointed meditation is occurring within your own mind, all the symbols and answers you get also come from within your own mind. This means that in order to understand their meaning, all you need to do is probe further within. It's not a matter of reading up on what Tiphareth means. Instead, it's a matter of further investigating what Tiphareth already means to you.

2) This form of meditation is an Art. The artistry involved is one of opening and closing, expanding and restricting, your focus. For example, with the question of Tiphareth (or when anything comes up that you feel you don't understand fully) you will need to open your focus a bit and see where "Tiphareth/sun" leads you. Let it take you on a ride for a while by opening your focus to whatever arises in your awareness. Then begin restricting your focus again to those things that seem most relevant and important.

#3) After you've spent some time wrestling with the question, spend some more time resting with the question. By this I mean just rest with the question in your mind without trying to find the answer. Let it just sit there as a question. Sleep on it and then after a day or so, wrestle with it again. During the period of resting with the question, your subconscious mind will be working away on the question without any conscious interference.

The Key to Mental Discipline

21 March 2005

The key is not to "quiet the mind"; but rather, to ignore the underlying mental chatter. Ignore it and distance yourself from it by focusing your attention upon something of your choosing. Let the mental chatter continue on its own in the background without any participation on your part.

Mental discipline is about focusing your attention where you want it to be focused. If you are focused solely upon the objective of quieting your mind then you are in fact focused upon the dis-quiet and are feeding its continuation. So focus instead upon something other than that ever-present dis-quiet.

On the First Part of the Second Step One Mental Exercise

02 April 2005

» I'm working on the first thought discipline exercise. It's a bit overwhelming to me. I can disengage pretty well from my thoughts when I sit down to meditate with the thought control, but then when I jump back into the fray in my daily life, it seems that I just get overrun. Any attempt to make my thoughts run only along certain lines backfires and makes me even more unfocused. Force and tension seem to be my habitual ways of getting myself in line, but those only go so far. I keep hearing that the mind should be coaxed, not forced, and that focusing should ultimately be done without tension; but I don't have a clear sense of how to get there. Any tips? «

Take the task incrementally. For example, begin with a commitment to focus yourself exclusively upon the task at hand for five minutes. Once you've mastered the ability for a five minute stretch, begin increasing the duration of your focus. Try this with a variety of activities throughout your daily routine. By approaching it in this way, you are not overwhelmed by the prospect because you are dealing with a manageable amount of time at the outset, instead of trying to immediately deal with the prospect of hours at a stretch. Eventually, you will find it an easy matter to focus your attention at will and for as long as you desire.

» I actually have the ability to concentrate intensely for long periods of time, but by using strong force or self-compulsion that I hardly feel until I bring my attention back to my body (and feel the tension and pain). I am guessing that this form of concentration isn't very healthy. «

This exercise is not about "intense" concentration. A good example of the goal state is when you're focused upon doing something you enjoy. Such concentration is a natural by-product of your interest in what you're doing and requires no force. The key for you might be found in this factor of interest vs. resistance. If you are resistant to what you're doing then focusing your whole awareness upon it takes force. Perhaps checking in on your resistance level and disarming it will help.

» I can be aware of myself having distracting thoughts while driving, but I'm not sure how to get those thoughts out of my mind except by force, which seems self-defeating. What am I missing? «

This exercise is not about fighting against the distracting thoughts -- it's about focusing upon the intended thoughts and actions. In other words, each time you do find yourself wandering from your focus, gently bring your focus back to its intended target. This is far different than fighting against intruding thoughts and trying to suppress them.

On the Emptiness of Mind Exercise

10 July 2002

» When practicing silent mind, I am a little confused as to what Bardon himself meant, and also, what is desirable regarding practicing his system, taking the long term view, today. To my understanding, a truly silent mind is one which has attained literally Samadhi, i.e., gone beyond duality of self and other, and thus, can sit, in true silence and stillness. From my Buddhist background, this seems to me to be 'true' silent mind. However, is this what Bardon meant?? «

What you are examining with the emptiness exercise is the Self. At first, you see only the small self of the personal mind, but as time goes by and your practice deepens, higher, more inclusive levels of Self reveal themselves within the context of your emptiness. Ultimately, this leads to the realization of the Unitary Self -- The One Self -- pure BEing. But all that Bardon demanded with Step One was that you take the very first step upon that long path and learn how to simply empty your mind of all thoughts. The rest of the journey toward Self, he leaves up to you to pursue.

Continuous pursuit of the emptiness of mind is essential to the entire work of IIH. Each future Step assumes that you've reached a certain stage in the deepening of your emptiness (and thus your cognizance of Self) that would be the natural result of your having continued in your work with the emptiness up to that point. Thus for example, the ability to transfer your consciousness in Step Four requires a certain understanding of Self to achieve, and this understanding is the direct result of having practiced the emptiness of mind throughout the previous three Steps. But if you've neglected the emptiness of mind, then the genuine transference of consciousness is very difficult to achieve. Likewise, if you haven't learned to empty your mind of all thoughts, then the Step Two sensory concentration exercises are very difficult to master.

Remembering What Transpires During the Emptiness of Mind State

06 January 2003

» I have a question for Step 1, emptiness of mind. While doing this, there are times when I will forget my conscious self. But I am awake because I am sitting straight up; using the physical exercise of Step 2, while doing this exercise. And things just go blank. Is this correct? «

Yes, so long as you are still aware. It's fairly common, at this stage, that you don't remember what transpires beyond thought (i.e., you forget), but you should remain aware during the emptiness. In time, you will find that the emptiness is really quite full -- the only thing it is "empty" of is thought.

As I explain (and demonstrate) in Lesson Three of the "Self-Healing Archaeous" audio series, the emptiness of mind state is the Fire region of the mental body. When you focus your awareness exclusively in this region through practice of the emptiness of mind, there is a direct perception of essential meaning which occurs beyond thought, idea, word, feeling, etc. It is pre-cognitive, so in order to become aware of what you perceive in that state, you must carefully return to a cognitive state. In the Archaeous, I recommend that you enter the emptiness from a one-pointedness state and then return to one-pointedness immediately after your emptiness. By entering from one-pointedness, you take your point of focus into the emptiness and it sets the stage, so to speak, for the direct perceptions within emptiness. Then, when you return to one-pointedness and examine your point of focus anew, the pre-cognitive direct perceptions from the emptiness take shape as thoughts, ideas and words. By doing this, you begin to build a bridge of continuous awareness between thinking cognition and the pre-cognitive direct perception of essential meaning found in the emptiness.

Deepening EOM: Encountering the Different Layers of Mind

05 May 2003

» I have been practicing "emptiness of mind" for about 6 weeks now. On a good day, my mind stays free of all but the most fleeting thoughts for minutes at a time. Lately however I have started to experience something new. As my mind empties of thoughts and (more or less stays that way) I have started to feel strong emotions (mostly joy). I can, with some effort, put that out of my mind too --- but should I? Is this emotion a distraction in the sense Bardon means it or is it OK to simply let this feeling flow through me while I practice EOM? «

Sorry, but you can't have a true emptiness of mind when you're experiencing strong emotions. These are indeed "distractions" in regard to the EOM exercise. However, that doesn't mean they are without value. I suggest that the next time this occurs; you shift gears, exit your EOM and enter into a one-pointedness with these emotions as your focus. Explore them through one-pointedness but not through EOM.

When pursued over time, the EOM exercise will reveal different layers of the mind. The first layer that's mastered is the level of thoughts in Step One, but there are other layers as well, such as that of pure emotions which you've just encountered. If you also treat this layer as a "distraction" and learn to ignore it in the same way you have learned to ignore thoughts, then your EOM practice will reach an even deeper state.

More on Emptiness/Vacancy of Mind

01 September 2007

» With my focus on VOM, the thoughts only occur when necessary, mainly from outside of myself, and although it may be unrelated, it seems to amplify synchronicity, i.e. lots of coincidences occur. «

As I explained in my Self-Healing Archaeous audio Lessons, VoM occurs when your awareness is focused exclusively within the Fire region of your temporal mental body; when your awareness is focused exclusively upon perception. By exclusively, I mean that you have excluded thinking (the Air region of the temporal mental body), feeling (the Water region of the temporal mental body), and physical sensing (the Earth region of the temporal mental body) from your conscious awareness and are focused only upon perception without these additional layers of interpretation.

When this occurs, your conscious awareness is in absolute sync with the objective universe, with the NOW. It is the temporal state of BEing without DOing.

» What is the difference between thought and no-thought, i.e. how are they related? «

Both are aspects of awareness, one perceptual and one interpretive. Thinking is the purview of the Air region of the temporal mental body and perceiving is the purview of the Fire region. Thinking is the first stage of interpreting, personalizing and processing the perceptions of the Fire region. Without thinking, these perceptions cannot be integrated into the personality or day-to-day awareness.

» Is there a method (or something like that) that helps to take the step from "faint thoughts arising that mostly don't seem to be my thoughts" to "no thoughts appearing at all"? «

The brain bound mind, or surface awareness, never actually stops thinking while the body is alive. The point of EOM is to introduce you to the rest of Mind which is not bound by the physical brain and consequently, is not limited to thinking. So EOM requires that you completely ignore the surface awareness and the thoughts that constantly pass through it. To do this, you must willfully turn your attention away from thoughts and thinking, and focus upon the silence itself. In other words, apply the technique of one-pointedness to the silence instead of thoughts.

» If I do the EoM-Exercise I will either concentrate on my breathing or force myself to be quiet. «

This exercise must use the intentional awareness with your intention aimed squarely at the goal of an empty mind. Focusing on the breath does not accomplish this (and was not anywhere suggested by Bardon). When focusing on your breathing, your intention is not focused upon achieving an empty mind. It does quiet the mind but, ultimately, does not accomplish the goal of an empty mind.

» But if I do this kind of concentrating [on my breathing] I will come to a feeling of being completely filled up with emptiness. I think nothing. There are no thoughts. For me it always seemed to be and felt like Emptiness/Vacancy of Mind. «

Focusing on the breath can be used as an entry into an emptiness of mind state but this is only due to the fact that it can have a quieting affect upon the surface awareness. It achieves this effect by diverting the intentional awareness in much the same way that focusing upon any "mindless" task can. Hermetic practice however (or at least Bardonian practice), is not rooted in diverting the mind. Instead, it is rooted in directly addressing the mind and intentionally using the mind's natural abilities as one wills. The ultimate goal in reference to emptiness of mind is to be able to enter into an empty state at will on a moment's notice, without any preliminaries such as focusing on the breathing.

If you do use a breathing focus to enter an empty mind state (or rather, to empty your surface mind of thoughts) then I suggest that once your mind quiets down, shift your focus away from your breathing and fix it immovably upon the silence of emptiness. A true empty mind state is much deeper than what is achieved when one's focus remains upon the breath (or any other activity/object/etc.).

Looking Back on My Own Experience of the Step One Mental Exercises

29 August 2003

» 1. What were your first experiences as a beginner about the mind? About controlling it? The difficulties? «

When I first sat down and attempted the first mental exercise of Step One, it seemed impossible. My mind was so active and entirely out of my control, or so it seemed. The first hurdle for me was to believe that I actually did have control over it! I remember being very frustrated at first. It wasn't until I stopped fighting my mind (fighting it took a lot of energy for zero result) and quit trying to arm-wrestle it down by sheer force of will, that my frustration passed and the excitement began.

» 2. What improvements did you notice, and how did they come about? «

The first improvement was that my struggle taught me not to struggle. Once I'd jumped that hurdle and was able to passively observe the activities of my mind I learned many things about the nature of my brain-bound consciousness. Number one was that it ended up being a pretty quiet place once I had disengaged and stopped participating in its activity. Number two was that the thoughts that did arise in that relative quiet were significant thoughts. They arose and dissipated on their own and from observing this, I realized that it was those seed thoughts that my surface consciousness turned into all that mess of randomness that typified my mind before. But those slow thoughts within the quiet were quite different than what my surface consciousness created out of them, so different that the surface chaos was unrecognizable as having any essential significance.

It was my success with the first exercise that enabled my success with the second. Specifically, it was learning the ability to detach my active awareness from participating in the surface consciousness.

» 3. How do you define concentration or "one-pointedness"? What thoughts are excluded? And how did you experience this? «

The second exercise is about learning how to focus your attention and how to keep it focused for a length of time. This can really only be done effectively within the context of a quiet mind.

This exercise was very easy for me once I had attained a relative quiet of mind. Instead of focusing upon one of the seed thoughts that arise in the quiet mind, I put one of my own invention into that environment and focused on it. At first this didn't work because once I focused on this new, foreign thought, my brain-bound surface awareness took over and began participating in the seed thoughts that were arising in the background and all hell would break loose! It was like trying to read while the TV's blaring. Part of your mind is still listening to the TV.

How I overcame that was by ignoring it. After a while, even that background noise turned to quietness and I was able to focus my whole attention on my created thought form.

There are no hard and fast rules about what to exclude and what to include. Those are intuitive, self-directed choices. At first I stuck only to those thoughts that had a clearly direct relevance to my chosen idea, and ignored (i.e., didn't participate in) those thoughts that had no clear relevance. Later, I experimented with opening those parameters. From that experience, I learned which layers of association are worth pursuing and which aren't.

Then I experimented with focusing my attention upon the seed thoughts that naturally arose in the quietness. These were very fertile ground for exploration!

As soon as I got the hang of the exercise, it was no problem to maintain my focus for as long as I desired or as was needed.

» 4. How did and how do you experience "emptiness of mind"? «

This exercise is an extension, in some respects, of the first exercise, but it takes the well honed ability to focus your mind and keep it focused, to achieve a true emptiness. The hurdle for me was in letting go of those seed thoughts that arise in the quiet mind when I wasn't focusing it on anything else. I could let go of them easily if I focused on a created idea, but with this exercise there is no created idea to focus that attention upon. Even though in the first exercise, I had learned how to detach from participating in them, I discovered that it was a different matter to not even perceive them arising. This took a different sort of focus and a good amount of will power for me to achieve complete silence of thought. I found that this state required that I focus just upon perception of what is, and willfully ignore all thought processes of any kind. It was also here that I learned the value of setting aside the input from all of the physical senses beforehand. This eventually led to my composing the "Center of Stillness Meditation".

It took me about a month of steady effort to finally achieve a true emptiness of mind. After that, time became less and less of an issue and within another month I could hold the emptiness for as long as I desired.

The emptiness itself is very difficult to describe with any succinctness. It is infinite. At first it was absolutely dark and I felt completely alone. But this changed with time and I now experience it as filled with brightness. This brightness contains an infinite amount of information that supersedes "thinking". Thinking comes after its perception within the emptiness and is part of how I integrate it into my mundane consciousness. Its perception however, requires the complete absence of thinking.

» 6. Having controlled the mind, how does it make you feel in daily life? What are the benefits? «

Self-determined, self-directed, self-conscious. It has turned my life into a conscious and intentional act, instead of being pushed about, willy-nilly by events, thoughts, and emotions. I am able to use my mind. I can focus it at any moment, regardless of what transpires around me. I can enter into an emptiness of mind at any moment I choose, again regardless of my surroundings. My mind is my friend and we get along well.

» 7. How does this make the sensory exercises of Step 2 easier? «

The mental exercises of Step One are what make the sensory concentration exercises possible. These Step Two exercises require that you be able to clear your mind of all else and be able to focus your attention upon just the exercise at hand. It also requires that you know, experientially, how your mind works and what to expect of it.

On Using Meditation Music

27 July 2002

» Yesterday, I came to a conclusion that while I'm listening to meditation music, my mind clears more easily and it is much easier to do the exercise. But if I stop the music, then all those thoughts come in, voices and I just cannot concentrate. Could this be a barrier in the future, if I for now keep listening to music, or should I just turn the music off and do it the harder way? «

The fact that listening to music makes concentration easier for you indicates that the part of your mind that otherwise distracts you is preoccupied with the music and thus doesn't distract you. The problem with continuing in this way is that there will always be a part of your mind over which you have no control due to the fact that you're avoiding a confrontation with it. But if you turn off the music and tough it out, you will eventually gain control over your whole mind instead of just part of it. I recommend that you turn the music off during your IIH exercises and confront your whole mind.

Step One – Astral

Soul Mirror Tips

22 May 2002

» I would appreciate anyone's feedback on which element lust would belong to? «

This would be impossible for anyone but you to say, if your question is in relation to your soul mirror. In that context, "lust" is too broad a category for someone else to say which Element within you it pertains to. These really are the sort of discernments we must make for ourselves, based upon our own personal manifestation of each character trait.

In general however, lust is associated with the Element Fire in that it usually manifests as a passionate force. But lust can be Watery, Airy and even Earthy too.

What Element does your instinct tell you to associate? With the soul mirror work, this is usually the best guide for assigning your character traits to the Elements.

With the second of the many soul mirrors that I've erected over the years, I decided to try an experiment. The process of assigning the traits to the Elements in my first mirror was arduous, so I decided to approach it differently. This time I just assigned them as my immediate gut instinct told me, without those hours of pondering and indecision. I wrote these assignments down (it took all of 5 minutes) and set them aside. A few days later, I picked up my list of unassigned traits again and began the process of puzzling each assignment out the hard way that I had during my first mirror. This list (which took a couple of days) was a bit different than my 5-minute instinctive list. I employed the labor intensive list for my work of character transformation and as usual I ended up changing some of my Elemental assignments. In the end, my labor intensive assignments ended up evolving into a closer match to my 5-minute list than to my original labor intensive list! In other words, my instinctual list was ultimately more accurate than the list I had sweated over. It wasn't perfect, but it was better!

Granted, I had, by that time, a greater understanding of the Elements than when I did my first mirror, but even so, this may be as good a place to start as any. Once you've developed your instinctual assignments to the Elements, go back and examine them rationally. And then of course, as you work with them and begin the process of self-change, you will understand their Elemental assignments much better. This, ultimately, is where your Elemental assignments receive their final refinement -- in the process of self-change.

More Soul Mirror Questions

22 January 2003

» I started the first step and already have problems to come to a hundred items in the soul mirror. I am stuck somewhere at 90. I checked almost my whole past but it’s always the same words coming up. I always write down the word (like greediness or whatever) and a little note about which context. But now I am running out of adjectives (words like greedy, hateful, and angry). Or am I supposed to write down situations? «

One hundred items is a number to aim for, it's not an actual minimum requirement. So if 90 are what you can come up with, then that's what you've got . . . for now. As time goes by, you can always add to your list as you realize more items.

Nonetheless, it's wise to break down inclusive labels like greedy, hateful, angry, and so on. Each one of these can manifest in a variety of ways and arise in response to quite a number of different stimuli. So I suggest that you examine these broad labels and try to break them apart a bit.

The great advantage to be had in doing that deconstructing becomes apparent when you begin the Step Two work of character transformation. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to transform something as broad as 'anger', for example. But if you break it down into more specific types of anger then you can grab hold of one type at a time and transform it. By transforming one type at a time, you can ultimately transform 'anger'.

The relationship between your character traits and the Elements cannot be perceived with the rational intellect alone. This is why Bardon suggests that the student meditate deeply upon each of the Elements and upon the character traits. Meditation taps into more than just the rational intellect and reveals an understanding of the Elements unattainable by just thinking. I suggest that you apply the Step One mental techniques of one-pointedness and emptiness of mind meditation to delve deeper into the Elements instead of focusing just upon lists of character trait and Element associations.

» I think the strong emotions full of energy belong to Fire because of the projective or electrical energy they contain. Anger is often depicted with lightning bolts, red rays, etc. Confidence is seen in cartoons with a puffed-up chest, or like determination, with a certain set to the jaw-line. All these examples depict some form of energy expenditure to me, and so belong to Fire. Feelings like shyness are felt inwardly - drawn there magnetically, and so belong to Water and emotions. At least that's how I see it. «

In general, you've got the right idea. The problem though, is that the items you've listed are the results of character traits. Anger, for example, is a Fiery symptom or effect, it is not a root trait. With the Soul Mirror work, you must find the root itself. The root of anger might be Fiery in nature but it can also be Airy or Watery or Earthy. This is why I say that these broad terms must be broken down situationally and examined until you've recognized their root cause.

The Elemental attribution of your own character traits is a very personal matter, so lists of correspondences only serve a limited usefulness in this regard. What exists as a Fiery trait for one person may well be Watery for you, so even if you do find your trait in a list, you must still examine it and decide for yourself which Element it truly belongs to for you.

It's inevitable that at Step One you will make some errors in your attributions because, at this stage, your comprehension of the Elements is fairly under-developed. But that changes as you progress and deepen your work with the Elements. Your understanding improves and so you later re-assign your character traits as needed. Your Step One Soul Mirror should be as good as you are capable of doing, but it is also an evolving work that you add items to as you discover them and cross items off as you transform them, etc. It does not need to be perfect.

My counsel is that you do your absolute best at this point, based upon your current understanding of the Elements. Accept its imperfection and promise yourself that you will make corrections to it as your understanding deepens. Striving for absolute perfection in these attributions, at this stage, often leads to folks spending months and months on this phase of the work alone and getting themselves so frustrated that they quit mid-stream.

» Having (without too much difficulty) finished my negative soul mirror a little while ago, I decided today to move on to the positive soul mirror. When I sat down to write some positive traits I quickly came to a realization about myself and my self-image. I easily came up with just short of 200 traits for my negative soul mirror, yet I am struggling to get 80 for the positive mirror. This is something which is quite revealing for me and has meant that working on my positive soul mirror has actually been somewhat more upsetting than working on my negative one. «

What you've recounted is a common experience. I think this stems from our modern culture in which it's more acceptable to be self-critical than it is to be self-praising, so we hardly ever take the opportunity to analyze our positive qualities. When we're suddenly faced with having to do so, we draw a blank and struggle to see the good amidst all the bad. Part of this is because we're so ingrained to shun self-praise; but the thing is, the positive soul analysis is not about self-praise, boasting or egotism -- it's about taking honest stock of the good parts of our own self. This requires just as radical a degree of self-honesty as does the analysis of our negative traits! The soul mirror is not an exercise in self-deprecation, false humility or self-debasing. It's an exercise in honest self-examination and analysis.

Often, when it comes to the positive traits, a person who has done a very thorough job of the breaking down the negative traits in almost microscopic detail, will suddenly be listing very broad terms like "kindness" or "joy", and forget completely about the need to be specific. The result is a very lop-sided view of themselves as an overly negative creature; whereas, in reality, this is seldom the case with someone who is capable of having so deeply penetrated their negative side.

Some will think that the negative mirror is the most important, but this is only partially true. Granted, the focus of the character transformation work is upon the transformation of the negative traits, but the positive traits are essential to that process. They are our allies, so to speak, in that they point the way to success. So, ferreting out as many as you can, proves most beneficial during the work of character transformation.

Why Assign the Soul Mirror Traits to the Elements?

04 August 2004

» I've never quite understood why we do this. «

There are two primary reasons for this. Number one is that it places you into a different relationship with the items you've listed. It gives you a bit more separation from how personal these items are by intellectualizing them as you analyze which Element, their degree of occurrence, etc. This grants you a bit more power over them and helps enable your transformation of them.

Secondly, the practice invites you to consider the way in which the Elements manifest within you. This is an important precursor to understanding how the Elements manifest externally. When you can personally identify how an Element feels inside of yourself, then you can more readily recognize it externally. And when you can manipulate the Elements internally in this way (of character transformation), then you can more readily manipulate them externally.

Step One – Physical

Eucharistic Magic Miscellany

25 July 2002

It's very common when you begin to work with the Eucharistic magic, to push the idea into the substance in an almost physical way. Many will hold their breath and grunt or strain their muscles in some way, furrow their brow, etc., all in an effort to physically and energetically force the idea into the substance. This is a waste of energy.

This Step One and Two work of impregnation with an idea is done entirely with the mind. What you're doing is placing your idea into the Akasha resident within the substance and the only thing that has power in the Akasha is the mind or mental body.

So, it's far more productive to expend that energy mentally instead of physically. Physical movements might support your mental process and help you focus your mind, but the power of the Eucharistic magic resides solely with the mind. Ultimately, the Eucharist requires only a brief, very focused thought.

The Step One magic of breath, food and water -- the Eucharistic magics -- are probably the most misunderstood exercises of Step One. Bardon did a fairly poor job of clearly expressing himself in that section so it takes reading it with a fine toothed comb to get at the true essence of the Eucharistic magic (EM).

The EM is solely about the Akasha-mind connection. It is not an exercise in the accumulation or projection of astra-physical energy.

The Akasha is resident within every physical thing and it is this resident Akasha within the substance that one impresses their thoughts upon. The Akasha within the air we breath (not the Air Element) is the root cause of that air. When we impregnate this Akasha with our ideation, we are effectively adding our ideation to the root causation. When we then inhale the air thus impregnated, we are also inhaling its resident Akasha that carries the impression of our ideation. This quantum of air-Akasha then merges with the Akasha resident in our own cells as the blood circulates and transfers the ideation into our own cells via the Akasha. As the root causation of matter, the ideation we have impressed upon the Akasha, weaves itself into the mental, astral and eventually, the physical matrix which surrounds the Akasha.

The EM is a completely mental exercise. The only thing you use is your mind. First you mentally formulate your ideation and then you transfer your ideation into the substance with your mind alone. This takes no exertion of energy. All it takes is mental will and the attitude of complete self-assurance. You must know, without a doubt, that your idea has been transferred to the Akasha resident in the substance.

When you ingest the impregnated substance you must again have no doubt that it is invading every aspect of your being. It will, by simple course of nature, do this in any event, whether you participate consciously or not.

I find that it is frequently very difficult to convince folks of the simplicity of the EM, but it really is a very simple exercise. Mostly, it's a matter of stepping out of your own way and stop making it so difficult. Just let your mind do the work.

The EM is closely related to auto-suggestion.

» EYE BATHING: I can't figure out how this one is working anymore. I thought that Water Magic was mostly based on using the magnetic properties of Water, but if I'm not using magnetism isn't that a bit outside the spirit in which this section has been written (Water Magic)? I don't feel like this one has been intended to be charged through Akasha, am I wrong? «

It is a confusing matter, so don't feel alone! In this section, Bardon talks about the magnetic properties of cold water and uses the term "magnetizing" but he does not explain how to “magnetize” the cold water. All he talks about doing in Step One is impregnating substances with an ideation via the resident Akasha. As a consequence of the fact that cold water is naturally magnetic, your ideation will also inhabit the physical molecules of the cold water very strongly, ever so slightly changing their physical structure. This makes for a stronger, more directly effective, charge of your mental ideation than if you were to use warm water or another substance. However, this "magnetization" is accomplished by the water itself, not by you. You are not instructed to employ any sort of energy other than your ideation which is attached to the resident Akasha of the water.

To truly magnetize a thing requires the accumulation and projection of the Magnetic Fluid and this is not what Bardon was suggesting here.

Why Bardon phrased these things in this confusing manner here and why he mentions the magnetic eye bath for the development of clairvoyance (which doesn't come until much later in IIH) are both mysteries to me. IMO, this is a very poorly written section since it seems to confuse the heck out of most everybody.

The only way I made my own way through this part way back when was to take that section apart, word by word. When broken down in this way and analyzed intensively, it became apparent that Bardon did not intend for the student to be manipulating the Magnetic Fluid (i.e., "magnetizing") at this stage.

The "Mystery of Breathing"

27 February 2003

» Bardon, in IIH the Mystery of Breathing heading (2001 edition p. 73) says "When you transfer a thought, idea, or concept, whether abstract or concrete into the air you are about to inhale, the Akasha principle of that particular air will accept that thought or idea and pass it on to the air substance though the electric and magnetic fluids." «

In other words, the Akasha resident within all material substances is susceptible to mental impress. It will take on an idea that is projected into it and then express that ideation via the Electric and Magnetic Fluids and their Elements. As the Fluids pass the ideation to the Elements, the ideation is integrated into the material realm ("air substance"). This was Bardon's point in his assignation of oxygen to Fire, nitrogen to Water, etc., in that these are the avenues by which the ideation passes into materiality via the Elements.

» Further, he says (p. 74) "The electromagnetic fluid charged with the idea or concept will lead the electromagnetic air tinged with the idea out of the bloodstream, through the astral matrix to the astral body and reflect it from there through the mental matrix to the immortal spirit." «

And here, he is saying that there is also an "upward" effect of this sort of magic which is carried out by the "electro-magnetic air". This is the primary effect of the magic of breath -- its effectiveness upon the astral and mental levels of the individual (as opposed to the magic of food whose effectiveness is primarily oriented to the physical)

His phrase "electro-magnetic air" is a reference to the Air Element and its Fluidic charge not the "air substance" or material air. In other words, he's saying that the Akasha has passed the ideation on to the Fluids and Elements and now the Air Element is passing this ideation on to the astral and mental bodies via the Fluid it contains.

» Interestingly though, he describes the idea ascending to the immortal sprint, whereas I thought it should be descending into material world...? He says that idea is reflected from astral THROUGH mental and immortal - implying that astral level employs (controls) the other levels in action. «

Let's take a closer look at what he said: "The electromagnetic fluid charged with the idea or concept will lead the electromagnetic air tinged with the idea out of the bloodstream, through the astral matrix to the astral body and reflect it from there through the mental matrix to the immortal spirit."

Let me translate: The electro-magnetic Fluid (which Bardon ascribes to the Air Element) holds the ideation passed to it by the Akasha. The electro-magnetic Fluid leads the Air Element along with the ideation, out of the physical bloodstream and carries the Element+ideation through the astral matrix (which connects the physical and astral bodies), communicating your ideation to your astral body. After penetrating your astral body, the electro-magnetic Fluid carries your ideation still further, through the mental matrix (which connects your astral and mental bodies) and communicates your ideation to your mental body ("immortal spirit").

The astral is intermediate between physical and mental. It is influenced by both and influences both, but it does not "control" either.

Energetics and Usefulness of the Cold Shower/Rinse

11 January 2003

» Obviously with the cold shower, the energy movement within the body is what's important. Will this be discussed in later Steps or can - or rather will you explain why now, in Hermetic terms? «

Bardon doesn't discuss this energy movement that results from the warm-cold-warm sequence. In fact, he says very little about its benefits other than that it's refreshing.

Its effect is similar to the body brushing in that it's detoxifying and simultaneously stimulates the movement of energy throughout the nerves. While the body brushing detoxifies the skin itself (and stimulates the lymphatic system), the warm-cold-warm detoxifies one's core physical energy by bringing it to the surface of the skin. As the core energy passes from core to extremity, it carries energetic impurities with it and releases them through the skin where they are removed by the magnetic properties of the cold water. The follow-up warming (with towel or water) has the effect of halting the exteriorization and allows the core energy to return to core.

This effect is, of course, amplified when you make it a conscious act. In other words, you consciously participate in the natural movement of energy outwards from core and consciously use this movement to rid yourself of any negativity or other energetic toxins. It can be very helpful in the self-transformation of one's character as you can attach negative character traits very easily to this core energy.

How Is “Mastering” An Exercise Defined?

24 July 2007

» Bardon explains the exercises in detail, but he doesn’t say what he means by "mastering" an exercise fully. «

While this is a common complaint, it holds no water. Below are Bardon's exact words (taken from the Ruggeberg edition) which clearly define the standards of "mastery" for each exercise in the first two Steps. I copied this far and no further only because I got tired of transcribing, but the same clarity is seen throughout the Steps. All one has to do is carefully read what he wrote.

Step One


a) Thought Control -- This exercise of controlling thoughts has to be undertaken in the morning and at night. It is to be extended each day by one minute to allow the own train of thoughts to be pursued and controlled without the slightest digression for a time of 10 minutes at least after a week’s training.

b) Discipline of Thoughts (mindfulness) -- This exercise should be kept for a lifetime, because it is sharpening the mind and strengthening the consciousness and the memory. Having obtained a certain skill in this exercise, you may turn to the following one.

c) Discipline of Thoughts (one-pointedness) -- You must manage to concentrate on one single thought and follow it for 10 minutes at least.

d) Vacancy of Mind -- The purpose of this exercise will be attained if you succeed in remaining in this state for a full 10 minutes without losing your self-control or even falling asleep.


a) Introspection (negative traits) -- If you do not succeed, within a week, in discovering all your faults, spend another week on these inquiries until you have definitely established your list of offenses.

b) Assignment of Faults to Elements -- (one week maximum)

c) Dividing Faults into Three Groups -- In the following week you will meditate on each single rubric dividing it into three groups.

d) Introspection (positive traits) -- (one to two weeks)

e) Assignment of Positive Traits to Elements -- (one week maximum)

f) Dividing Positive Traits into Three Groups -- (one week).


a) Morning regimen of body brushing, bathing and exercise -- This procedure ought to become a daily routine and be kept for life-time.

b) Mystery of Breathing -- In any case, you should not proceed to the imagination of another desire different before the chosen one has not been completely accomplished. In a pupil endowed with talents of a high order, success will manifest itself, at the earliest, after seven days, all depending on the degree of imagination and aptitude. Some one, for the realization of his desires will need weeks, even months, because the kind of desires will also play an important role.

c) Conscious Reception of Food -- It is most advantageous to foster the same desire in breathing as well as in eating to avoid any opposite vibrations or emanations in your body.

d) The Magic of Water -- see note above.

The time limit for the completion of these exercises is fixed from a fortnight (two weeks) up to one month and is meant for people of average aptitudes. Those who have already practiced concentrating and meditating should get along with this space of time. Such as are not yet experienced at all, will, of course, have to extend their training period, success depending chiefly on the individuality of the pupil. For the practice, it would be useless for him to pass from one step to the next, without having completed the foregoing one, in such a way, that he is well up to it.

Step Two


a) Visual Concentration (eyes closed) -- The purpose of the exercise is accomplished, if you can hold on to one object, without any interruption, for five minutes.

b) Visual Concentration (eyes open) -- five minutes without the least incident.

c) Auditory Concentration -- five minutes.

d) Sensory Concentration -- hold on to this feeling for, at least, five minutes, without the slightest visual or auditory imagination. If you have acquired the faculty of concentration in such a degree as to be able to produce any sensation you like, and hold it fast, you may pass on to the next exercise.

e) Olfactory Concentration -- Exercise this kind of concentration until you will be able to, imaginarily, bring about any scent [without allowing any pictorial image to emerge], at will, and keep it for five minutes, at least.

f) Taste concentration -- If he has succeeded in producing any sensation of the taste chosen and holding on to it for, at least, five minutes, the purpose of this exercise is fulfilled.


Character Transformation -- The purpose of this step is the balancing of the elements in the soul. The scholar ought, therefore, to endeavour quickly and surely to get rid of those passions which most hinder him from being successful in the magic art. Under no circumstances should he start with exercises belonging to the steps ahead, before being absolutely possessed with the exercises of the second step and having booked a sweeping success especially in balancing the elements, too. The refinement of character should be aspired after, during the entire course, but as early as on this level, faults rapidly gaining ground and bad qualities handicapping development in a higher order, ought to be eradicated.


a) Conscious Pore-Breathing -- If you have succeeded in exhaling and inhaling, through your lungs and your whole body, this exercise is completed.

b) Conscious Position of the Body -- If you have managed to sit, at least, for half an hour quietly, comfortably and without any trouble, this exercise will be finished.

c) Body Control in Every-Day Life -- daily practice.

» In my opinion we must try to delimitate with absolute precision what do we mean by "mastering" an exercise of IIH. I put here three possible options, but I really don’t know what is the correct:

1) That you have the inner certainty that you can do the exercise successfully because sometimes you have got it.

2) That most of the days you try it, you get it.

3) That ALWAYS you try it, you get it (with the logical exclusion of those particular days of very depressed mood (i.e. the loss of a friend, the break up of an affective relationship, etc). Then, options 1 and 2 could be interpreted as "mastering" an exercise or not? «

No. Only your "third option" qualifies. If one is serious about Hermetic initiation then it must be pursued with rigor and the conviction to not just achieve the "bare minimum". This is why Bardon most often used the phrase "at least" when stating his time minimums. "At least five minutes" means "I'll aim for at least 10 minutes" to the truly serious student! Even at the young age of 16, Dr. Kumar embodied this spirit when, after only minor instruction, he achieved 30 minutes of empty mind within 30 days of practice. He didn't make excuses about how hard it was or complain about how unclear his instructions were. Instead, he set himself to achieve a goal and let nothing get in his way. He thought for himself and figured it out. That is the "Hermetic spirit" which assures success!

Step Two – Miscellaneous

Continuation of Previous Step’s Exercises?

30 April 2007

» Do you mean I can quit doing the previous exercises as long as I deepen VoM and keep doing the new ones? I can see, for example, how the step 3 superimposes on step 2 (both concentration and energy manipulation are just taken one step further) but after that, will "transference of consciousness" (to say one) keep all the sensory concentration skills in shape? «

Yes, each Step builds upon the exercises of the previous Steps and expands the basic techniques you've already learned (assuming you have indeed "mastered" each by fulfilling the requirements Bardon stated). For example, the multi-sensorial exercises of Step Three sharpen and strengthen the techniques you learned (mastered) during the Step Two sensory concentration exercises. Thus there is no need to continue with the Step Two single-sense exercises once you've begun work with Step Three. Furthermore, the sensory work is a form of the Step One one-pointedness mental exercise, so it is not necessary to continue that as an exercise. In other words, what is an exercise in one Step will become an applied technique that you use in subsequent Steps.

The one exception is the VoM "exercise". This should be continued for the rest of your life, so to speak. However, it should become a "practice", not just an "exercise". In other words, let your experience of VoM expand instead of keeping it as a rigid "10 minutes uninterrupted" exercise.

I also encourage you to read the entire text of IIH straight through (at least once). This will give you a better understanding of how each Step depends upon what is "mastered" in the previous Steps and how each Step furthers what you have learned in the previous Steps.

Step Two – Mental

Dancing Visualizations!

03 January 2003

» When performing the Step 2 eyes-closed visualisations, my chosen object refuses - in flagrant disrespect of my threats, curses and implorings - to remain still! My object spins, jumps, dances, mutates...... and does everything but sit still! (Curiously, this doesn't happen when the same exercise is performed with eyes open.) For the 18 months or so that I've been working through IIH, this has been a continual challenge. «

I get the impression from your descriptions that you are not in control of these visualizations and this concerns me somewhat. The idea here is that you create these visualizations by an act of will. These are not something that should "come to you", they are things that you create. As such, you are the one to determine whether or not they move or stand still. At no point should you be in the position of having to fight to control them. It's important that the images a magician creates remain within their control at all times.

My suggestions are as follows:

#1) If your visualization takes on a will of its own, dismiss it immediately and start over with re-creating a willed image.

#2) Since this doesn't occur when you work with your eyes open (an indication that you are more focused and willful when your eyes are open), try starting with your eyes open and then take that stable image into your closed eyes.

Step Two Sensory Concentration Exercises - Part Four

13 October thru 04 November 2002

» 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 this page and, with your mind's eye, see a pencil floating in front of the page, 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.

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.

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.

» Now in the case of plastic visualization, how do I know when I have perfected the exercise? I am tempted to put in 2 years and get it right. Two years per 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.

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 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.

» Is it a matter of “enfolding” the mental creations with the physical perceptions instead of “superimposing” one upon the other? «

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" 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.

» 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.

Visualization #5

21 April 2008

Recent work with real-time imaging of the brain has established "scientifically" something that has been known to Hermetics for ages. When we look at a thing, our visual cortex responds and specific synapses fire within the brain which initiates a chain reaction of chemical messengers throughout the body. When we remember the thing we just looked at, the visual cortex responds in the exact same way, followed by the same initiation of chemical messengers throughout the body, etc. There is no difference to the brain between perceiving the thing and remembering the thing.

The Step Two exercises with the senses are rooted in this fact. We begin by remembering the object/sound/taste/etc. we have just perceived, but then we depart from the "normal" by focusing our awareness exclusively and extendedly upon this image/sound/flavor/etc. that we have brought forth in our memory. This prolongs and amplifies the firing of the brain's synapses, causing the memory to become something more than just a fleeting image/sound/taste/etc.

Once we are able to prolong the remembered image/sound/flavor/etc., we can then manipulate its appearance as if it were made of clay or some other easily changed substance (i.e., use our "plastic" imagination). In other words, we take intentional, conscious control of the image/sound/flavor/etc. and therefore determine its nature independent of our memory.

You see, this is really very simple! It is merely an intentionally focused prolonging of something we do all the time. And as with many things in Hermetics, its pure simplicity and familiarity are what makes it so difficult to conceptualize accurately -- we always seem to want it to be more complex than it is. An important question to ask oneself in this regard is "Why do I want things to be complex?"

Step Two: Olfactory Exercises

20 February 2003

» While visual concentration is easy to understand, since its medium is constant input, I have problems figuring out how I am going to perform the olfactory exercises. Since smell is dependent upon inhalation through the nose, wouldn't it be very difficult to simulate a constant concentration on smell? «

The trick for me at least, was to focus my attention in the sensory organ itself. For example with the visualization exercises, your focus is primarily within your visual faculty, so with the other exercises your focus will primarily be in your auditory faculty during the hearing exercises, your olfactory faculty during your smell exercises, etc.

Choose an odor to begin with. Spend a few moments smelling it intensively, paying very close attention to the effect that it has upon your sinuses and your olfactory apparatus. Note where in your sinuses it affects you and how this effect is felt, etc. Then try to replicate this effect with your imagination alone. At first you will be tempted to inhale through your nose as you replicate the sensations with your imagination. This however, becomes unnecessary with a bit more practice and as you focus more completely upon the sensation within your olfactory itself. Eventually you will be able to continuously maintain the imagined odor independent of your breath.

Elemental Correspondences Between the Step Two Sensory Concentration Exercises and the Soul Mirror

16 August 2003

» I was wondering what the elemental correspondences are to the senses? «

For the Step Two sensory concentration exercises, the Elemental correspondences are:

Sight = Fire

Hearing = Water

Feeling = Akasha

Smell = Air

Taste = Earth

As always, sight is associated with Fire because: 1) Sight depends upon light. 2) Difficulties with this exercise point to imbalances in the Fire region of the astral body.

Hearing is associated with Water because: 1) The physical perception of sound depends upon waves striking your ear drum. This requires rhythm and frequency. 2) Sound directly affects the emotional body. 3) Difficulties with this exercise point to imbalances in the Water region of the astral body.

Feeling is associated with Akasha because: 1) The perception and interpretation of feeling is the most complex of all the senses and can excite memory-responses from each of the other senses. As one works with isolating each sense, there is almost always a feeling associated with whatever it is you are trying to create with that sense. 2) The perception of a feeling directly affects all three bodies. 3) Difficulties with this exercise indicate a global imbalance and as one transforms the most important negative traits (no matter which Element they pertain to), this exercise becomes easier.

Smell is associated with Air Element because: 1) Smelling requires inhalation of a quantum of atmosphere containing the molecules which the olfactory system then interprets. It relies only on the medium of air; whereas hearing can occur through water or even solid objects. 2) Perception of an aroma directly affects the mental body (that's one reason for using incense in ritual). 3) Difficulties with this exercise point to imbalances in the Air region of the astral body.

And finally, taste is associated with the Earth Element because: 1) Tasting something requires the introduction of liquid or solid matter into the mouth and its absorption by the tongue. 2) Perception of taste directly affects the physical body and, like the sense of feeling/Akasha, isolating the sense of taste will excite memory-responses from all of the other senses (especially that of smell/Air). 3) Difficulties with this exercise point to imbalances in the Earth region of the astral body.

Step Two – Astral

On Elemental Equilibrium

20 December 2001

The Elemental Equilibrium is a dynamic state of active and constant awareness of self. Nothing within the self transpires without full conscious awareness. Each thought is evaluated as it occurs. Each emotion is evaluated as it occurs. And the only change that occurs in reaction to thoughts, emotions or events, occurs with one's full conscious awareness. In other words, the balanced individual is not thrown about willy-nilly by events or intruding thoughts.

This is why it is called "equilibrium". It is the solid foundation; the ground of self upon which the initiate stands and meets life. Just like in Tai Chi, if you stand in balance, then you can shift with external pressures without being toppled over or moved against your will.

The Elemental Equilibrium is not so much a discipline as it is a choice. I choose to remain grounded in myself. In order to remain grounded I have to continuously express my truest nature as clearly as possible. In order to know my own true nature, I must remain continuously aware of self. And this does not limit me since Self is limitless.

By focusing inward, we find the Infinite.

And by focusing inward we find the guide that replaces cultural dictates or even thinking -- our conscience. This is what should guide us to, and guide us during the maintenance of, our Elemental Equilibrium, not what we are brought up to think is right or what someone else tells us is right.

Our conscience is the voice of our "Holy Guardian Angel", speaking to us in every moment of our existence. It never misleads. It is the clarity of Self, flowing into us, seeking expression. All we need do is trust it and obey it.

» If we resist or give too much thought to the 'evil' or undesired quality, then what we end up doing is feeding it (energy) and getting into a 'tug of war' with it which only strengthens it. «

Yes. This is especially important in the work with the soul mirrors. Nothing must be resisted other than our inclination toward the habit of subconsciously formed responses that no longer serve us. These do take some resistance, but the type of resistance they take is one of ignoring them and turning the mind towards the positive, affirming, conscious alternative. Again, it's like in Tai Chi: From center we meet the external force and we direct its motion instead of letting it direct ours.

"Center" occurs at the exact spatial middle of any whole form. If we leave parts of our selves out of the form, then we cannot achieve "center" because we have not encompassed a whole thing.

Each negative serves a positive root. Within the personality, what makes a character trait "negative" is the fact that the form was developed without our conscious participation. Most often, the most bothersome negative traits stem from childhood, when our understanding of our selves and of the universe was poor and thus our responses tended to take negative (inappropriate, inharmonious) forms.

When we push away or resist the negative manifestation, we then have no basis upon which to know its positive root. The only way to unlock the positive core is to accept the negative form and consciously change it so that it more clearly and accurately expresses the positive root. And the only substance in our universe that acts as a solvent to negativity is love.

You might rightly ask, "But how can I love this awful part of myself?" Well, you don't necessarily have to always like a thing that you love. Certainly this is one of the bigger lessons of intimate relationships! When you don't like something about someone you love, you help them to change and become more likable. And since you already love them, you speak to them lovingly and tell them your thoughts in a way that nourishes them instead of demeaning them. So why not apply the same tactic with one's own self? I'll tell you, it works like a charm!

» I think you have clarified "equilibrium" but you have barely touched on "elemental". How do the various elements come into "imbalance" in the first place? «

Of concern here are the astra-mental Elements. As such, their balance is influenced by our emotions and our thoughts. At birth we possess an essential Equilibrium based upon our specific maturity of spirit. In other words, the astral Elements reflect precisely the mental influx of our own Individual Self. This is represented in Astrology by the natal chart of the exact moment we emerge from the womb. This is the balance we begin with and modify throughout our incarnation.

As we grow and our emotional being takes concrete form, our natal Elemental balance evolves. The pressures of culture upon the nascent psyche bend it toward imbalance by their very nature. These influences develop un-conscious habits of reaction within the nascent psyche, which eventually result in an imbalanced personality. This is merely a matter of taking the path of least resistance as we learn to adapt to our environment.

Initiation seeks to redress this un-consciously formed imbalance through a process whereby all those un-consciously formed habits of reaction are transformed into conscious choices. [At first, this seems to increase the imbalance, but this is only an illusion generated by our becoming aware, for the first time, of the difference between a conscious choice and an un-consciously formed habit. It puts the un-conscious habit into sharp relief and makes it appear greater than it did before.]

Step Two – Physical

Pore Breathing and Rawn's "Inhalation of Beauty" Exercise

05 October 2002

» I had an interesting pore breathing experience. One time when I was doing concentration exercises I could actually feel my body breathing just like Bardon says in IIH. There was no visualizing involved. It felt like energy was being sucked into my body via the pores and going out when I was exhaling breath. «

That experience is the goal of the Step Two pore breathing. In other words, that's how it's supposed to feel all the time.

How this feels -- not how it looks or how you think it should look -- is the most important key to mastering the pore breathing and the Vital Energy. If you focus just on the visualization aspect of pore breathing and of working with the VE, then the experience will remain predominantly mental. However, when your main point of focus is the feel / sensation of pore breathing and of the VE, then it becomes an astral and physical experience, supported by your mental visualization. Once you get the feel of it, it becomes very easy and very effective.

» This leads me to believe that our bodies act this way regardless of whether we are conscious of it or not. Doing concentration exercises just brings it to the forefront of your mind. «

That's correct; however the unconscious pore breathing that the body does of its own primitive volition, is no where near as powerful as conscious / intentional pore breathing. Hermetic magic is essentially the conscious use of nature's own methods. It's that factor of conscious use that makes them "magical" and empowers them in ways that nature, when left to her own devices, does not generally achieve.

On its own, your body inhales many things through its pores; everything from the chemical constituents of the air to the thoughts and emotions of others. All of which eventually affect the whole of you: physical, astral and mental. Some things it inhales because it needs them for its sustenance, but there are other things it inhales that are toxic. This is one way in which we are intimately connected to our environment.

Conscious magical pore breathing on the other hand, is very specific and disciplined. A specific idea or energy is inhaled in a disciplined manner. Conversely, specific mental and astral toxins are exhaled in a disciplined manner. All of this is done consciously and with great focus, taking advantage of the body's own unconscious expertise in the matter. This is like taking sunlight and turning it into a laser beam -- it exponentially increases its power.

With magical pore breathing, any number of good things can be inhaled, things that nurture you at every level of your being, from physical to Unitary. One of the most nourishing things a human can inhale through magical pore breathing is Beauty, in any of Her forms.

Here's an experiment that might work very well for you.


Find a picture of what, to your tastes, is the most beautiful painting. Or go to your local museum. At any rate have this physical image in front of your physical eyes (no visualization required). Quiet yourself and think back briefly on the experience of pore breathing that you described above. Remember how it felt to inhale with your whole body.

Now focus your attention upon the image of Beauty before your physical eyes. Feel its Beauty. Focus your attention upon what it is that makes this image beautiful in your eyes and feel those things. When you feel the Beauty of the image, inhale the feeling, through your pores to the very core of your being. Fill yourself up with this feeling of Beauty. Try to replicate the feeling of true pore breathing that you described. Let feeling rule the whole experiment -- let go of all attempts at visualization or rationalization of any kind and just feel.

When you've had your fill, ground yourself by feeling a connection between yourself and the earth beneath your feet, running down your spine deep into the soil like a tap root. Let any excess energy flow downward into the earth (Beauty is always a blessing to the earth). Then resume your normal waking consciousness.

After you reach this state of BEing what you eat, so to speak, it is then possible to exhale Beauty and in this way affect your surroundings. You can, in fact, continuously inhale and exhale the Beautified universe and create a resonant relationship between yourself and your surroundings. It is also possible, using this technique, to affect the temporal bubble that surrounds your consciousness. In essence, this Beautifies the immediate future and disperses any "resistance" in your path. It can also be easily turned into a sensory organ, so to speak, by which you can scan the temporal bubble.

On the Bardon "Asana" of Step Two

21 December 2002

» I have noticed that the Merkur translation makes a point of saying that the knees must be touching, while the older translation(s) seem to only say they should be even. I have nothing but strain in my muscles when I keep my knees together. Does anybody have insight into Mr. Bardon's true intentions, knees together or apart? «

The knees do not need to be touching. However, they do need to remain fairly close together (2-3") in order for your spine to remain erect. When your spine is straight and your knees are bent at 90 degrees, your knees will naturally be at the proper distance from each other for your body. This position must be relaxed, not one where you're straining to keep your knees touching. Bardon's statement about binding your feet is only if your knees keep spreading far apart. This usually occurs because your spine is no longer erect, so binding the ankles will help teach your body to keep an erect spine automatically by forcing the knees closer together. It may also help, in the beginning, to sit on a chair that's deep enough to support you to at least mid-thigh and has a very straight back. The thigh support will help keep your knees together, if they tend to spread, and the straight back can be used to train yourself to the sensation of an erect spine. When you can relax, fully supported by the chair bottom and back, then move forward a few inches and master the position without back and thigh support.

Step Three – Mental

Concentration: Remembering vs. Creating

12 May 2003

» Any tips on maintaining a "step into it" type multi-sense visualization for the full 5 minutes? I can maintain an unfamiliar scene much easier than a familiar one. «

The multi-sense scene is a composite of single-sense creations. Sort of like in printing a color image composed of four color components (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). The "trick" is to layer each single-sense creation, one at a time, until your scene is complete. For example, begin by creating the visual component, then add the auditory component, then the smell component, then the tactile component, and so on, until your multi-sense scene is fully formed. Once the scene is complete, it becomes a simple matter of maintaining a one-pointedness of mind.

The fact that you can maintain an unfamiliar scene longer than a familiar scene is, I imagine, a fairly common experience. It was certainly my own experience at first until I analyzed the situation and realized that, with the familiar scene, I was relying upon my memory instead of using my creative imagination to construct the scene. When I shifted from reliance upon memory to actually creating the scene from the ground up, so to speak, it was no different from my work with unfamiliar scenes.

Step Five – Astral

The Importance of Distinguishing Between What Bardon Expects and What He Says Is Possible

27 August 2004

» Both editions make it clear that the Step V trainee needs to master the condensation of the elements to the degree of physical tangibility - i.e. able to be observed by a non-initiate. «

Well, that's not exactly true. Let me throw a few quotes from the Ruggeberg edition (which, in my opinion, is the best, least biased English translation) into the mix here.

"It is not absolutely necessary, in this step [i.e., Step 5], to bring about such an amount of physical warmth that it can be measured with a thermometer. But supposing a magician takes a keen interest in working in this more spectacular way, he can specialise himself in this problem with the help of these instructions. The genuine magician however, will not be satisfied with such insignificant phenomenon, and rather prefer to further his own development, because he is firmly convinced that he an obtain much more, as time goes by." (p. 110)

In other words, pursuing the accumulation and projection of an Element to such a degree, through the Step Five exercise, is contrary to the magician's further development. In fact, such a desire at this stage may well point to a character imbalance.

"All the time he ought to feel the specific property of the element he is working with quite distinctly; he should be able to induce even a layman or ignorant people to see and feel the element in question." (p.114)

Notice how he says "should be able to" and not "must do". In other words, the ability and the magician's confidence are what matters here, not the factual demonstration. Nonetheless, if one has mastered the exercises up to that point, the ability to condense any Element to such a degree that another person can be induced to sense it, will be a natural result.

» Bardon did on occasion discuss various abilities that a one-sided, unbalanced regimen of exercises would develop. However, his manner of writing is different in this section. Rather than describing possibilities, he's giving instructions as to how a student can test their level of mastery. «

This section about lighting a wick is important but not as a test of one's magical abilities. Rather, it is a test of one's character development because it asks again the question of why one is pursuing initiation. By exposing what can be accomplished -- at a point in the training when to accomplish such a "spectacular" phenomenon would mean a diversion from the furtherance of their true development -- the student is faced with a choice: do I spend my time pursuing "insignificant phenomenon" or do I further my development? If the character of the student needs the sort of gratification derived from lighting a wick magically with the Fire Element, then at this point they will surely be diverted from forward progress while they spend the next several years perfecting their accumulation of the Fire Element. If, on the other hand, they do not have that need within their character, they will move forward and master future exercises which make such a feat look truly silly.

As Bardon wrote immediately after explaining the tricks with the lighting of wicks and cotton balls -- "The genuine magician will not waste his time with such dallying."

» I remember Bill Mistele mentioning somewhere that he failed to master the basic condensation exercises to the degree that Bardon expected of his students. As a consequence, Bill has for many years continued to return to the basic exercises to try to master them to the extent that Bardon intended, but with greater obstacles in place than if he'd tried to master them fully the first time round. «

Throughout IIH, the student will encounter points where accurately understanding what Bardon truly expected, is critical to their forward progress. What Bardon expected is frequently different than what Bardon mentioned as possible. I think the first instance where this occurs is in Step Two with the sensory concentration exercises. Many folks get caught up in trying to condense their visualization to such a degree that they appear before the physical eyes as ordinary objects would. Unfortunately, this is not what Bardon expected of the Step Two student. Likewise, Bardon did not expect that the Step Five student would be able to light a flame with the Fire Element, freeze water with the Water Element, levitate objects with the Air Element, etc.

When one misunderstands the difference between what is expected and what is possible, and therefore pursues the possible instead of mastering the expected, they are creating an imbalance. For example, in order to condense the Fire Element to such a degree as to succeed in the cotton ball experiment, one would have to focus exclusively upon the exercises of condensing the Fire Element for a long time. Such an extended time of working with that one exercise with the Fire Element will invariably induce a state of physical, astral and mental dis-equilibrium. On the other hand, if one were to master what is expected in Step Five and progress through the Steps, they will, in less time than it would take pursuing the Step Five technique, gain the ability to cause a condensation of the Fire Element sufficient to ignite an alcohol soaked cotton swab (if they desire to).

» It seems one's character is tested a) because the very desire to do the 'miracle' indicates a problem - perhaps impatience, «

No, it's not a matter of impatience in such as case. Rather, it has to do with an egotistical need to show off and impress others which, of course, speaks of a deeper lack of self-worth. This need is one of the most detrimental to magical advancement. Remember the "Pillar of Silence" . . .

» Doesn't one continuously outstrip one's previous abilities and thus render what was very difficult previously extremely easy? «

Yes, but some things must be mastered first in order to be able to master the next "higher" technique. For example, one must master the Elements before the Akasha and Fluids; otherwise, working with the Akasha and Fluids would be fruitless.

» What I think now is that when detailed instructions are given, it is a sign that one must certainly do the work - even though later it might seem insignificant. But when Bardon mentions little effects such as these as an aside, and gives no specific further instructions, it is better to ignore the aside except as a curiosity, not to be pursued. Is this right? «

Not exactly. For example, he gave very clear instructions concerning the lighting of the cotton swab. However, it was not presented in the form of an exercise and this can often serve as a clue. In most every case, he does say something like "but the true magician will not waste their time". Aside from considering these "clues", what I recommend above all else is that you meditate, very deeply about these issues when they arise. From almost the first page, Bardon repeatedly advises the student to meditate, meditate, meditate, and much of the book was written assuming that the student will actually meditate about every question that arises for them.

Step Five – Physical

Step Five: Real Vs. Imagined Communication

11 March 2004

» It is only during Step IX and above that the practitioner can evoke true external intelligences and not just the contents of his psyche - bearing this in mind, how come the passive communications of Step V with one's HGA and the deceased is real and not just brought out of the psyche? «

Number one, the Step Five technique is passive communication; whereas, Evocation is an active form of communication. The Step Five work is not evocation. Instead, it is passively making the medium of communication available for the use of the entity you wish to communicate with.

Secondly, with the Step Five work, the subjectivity vs. objectivity depends upon several factors, not the least of which is how truly one has mastered the exercises up to that point. The Step Five exercises will test the student's powers of discernment and this trains the student's abilities of objective perception, the honing of which are an absolute prerequisite to the Practice of Magical Evocation. In other words, the passive communication begins a learning curve which leads to the faculties necessary for PME.

The technique itself does not guarantee that your initial experiences with passive communication will be anything other than completely subjective expressions of your own psyche. However, consistent practice of the technique will lead you to the ability to discern between subjective self-projection and actual contact with an objectively separate, discrete entity that is not yourself.

Step Eight – Physical

On Fluid Condensers

11 January 2003

» Now, since a fluid condenser is essentially anything that attracts and contains the magnetic and/or electrical fluid, is it not safe to say that this extends to substances that are astral and mental in nature as well? Is a visualization a fluid condenser? A thought? A strongly felt emotion? If so, what would be the consequences of this? How would you work with an astral or mental fluid condenser? Wouldn't a thoughtform/elemental be a mental or astral fluid condenser? «

Fluid condensers do not themselves automatically attract a charge of the Fluids. They have to be loaded with an accumulation by the magician. The one exception to this rule is the Philosopher's Stone. What distinguishes a Fluid condenser from any other thing which naturally is composed of the Fluids and Elements is the fact that a condenser is capable of holding an accumulation. Non-condensers will immediately radiate an accumulation and are not capable of holding on to the accumulation once charged.

You are correct in your idea of astral and mental condensers. A physical Fluid condenser immediately effects all three realms simultaneously and must be created within the physical realm, out of physical materia; an astral condenser, effects the astral and mental realms simultaneously and must be created within the astral realm, out of astral materia; and a mental condenser, effects only the mental realm immediately and, likewise, must be created within the mental realm, out of mental materia. The process of creating astral and mental condensers requires a facility with each of these realms and the direct manipulation of their respective materia. For example, in order to create an astral condenser you would need to directly shape the astral materia itself, be able to finalize its form (i.e., give it stable duration), and then load it with an appropriate accumulation of Fluids/Elements. All of these tasks would need to be carried out within the astral realm.

» What is the difference between a fluid condenser and a substance that is naturally composed of the fluids and elements? Also, isn't pretty much everything composed of the fluids and elements? «

Every thing is composed of the Fluids and their Elements. So, in this sense, form itself is a sort of Fluid combiner. This is different from a Fluid condenser in that the condenser can hold onto an additional accumulation of the Fluids, separate from the Fluids which compose its form. Another thing that distinguishes a condenser from other forms is that holding onto a really, really intense accumulation will not harm the condenser itself.

» So then the human body would itself be a fluid condenser in and of itself, correct? After all, through the numerous exercises in IIH, Bardon has the student drawing in and accumulating the elements, fluids and lights within the self. «

The human being can be transformed into a Fluid condenser, but without this work of self-transformation, the human body is not, strictly speaking, a natural condenser. For example, when you load another person with an accumulation of a Fluid/Element, it will, with time, dissipate. The body does not automatically hold the accumulation. Plus, the body can be easily damaged by too intense an accumulation being present for too long a time.

By following the Bardon training you are transforming yourself in the ways necessary for you to become a Fluid/Element condenser which will automatically hold an accumulated charge for as long as desired, without harm. In certain circumstances this is a useful ability since it frees the consciousness from the labor of recharging an accumulation during an overly-long ritual. But then again, it's a minor advantage since the same effect can be accomplished in other ways (such as loading a separate condenser).

» However, at the same time, I do believe Bardon writes that you should gradually increase the accumulated charge within the body so not to overload the body like a capacitor or a circuit breaker. In which case the intrinsic ability for the body to retain an accumulated charge can be changed with practice. «

Yes. This is part of the transformation process that enables your bodies to actually hold an accumulation without damage and without the need for constant replenishment. It's very much akin to what an Alchemist does to the materia at certain stages, wherein a process is repeated over and over until the materia reaches a certain fluidity. The structure of the materia is factually altered and this leads to new characteristics and capacities, etc.

» I might be totally off base here, but isn't that the procedure within the first few steps of The Key to True Quabbalah? This might account for the changes that happen when one works with those exercises. «

The preparatory Steps of KTQ are a continuation of the aforementioned process of transformation of the materia, but at a higher pitch, so to speak. In order for the KTQ transformations to have the correct effect upon the individual, the prerequisite transformations (Steps One through Eight of IIH) must already have taken firm hold. In other words, the preparatory Steps of KTQ only work (properly) upon a sufficiently prepared materia. Only after the materia has been transform again by the KTQ preparatory work, is one able to then speak Kabbalistically.

Kabbalistic speech itself however, is more than a condenser. It's more akin to a Philosopher's Stone in that it automatically accumulates, combines and sets into motion, the Fluids, without the need for loading by the magician. Kabbalistic speech is a creative act that instantly gives form to the raw, undifferentiated Fluids/Elements.

Fluid Condensers and the "Influence Through the Elements" Technique

29 May 2003

» Bardon showed a way to use the elements with fluid condenser. A fluid condenser of the Air (impregnated with a wish) could activate the element Air. It's the same for the elements Earth and Water. «

In these specific operations [see pages 191-194 of the Ruggeberg edition and pages 240-243 of the Merkur edition], the Fluid Condenser is secondary to the methodology employed (i.e., combustion, evaporation, mixture and decomposition). In other words, these natural processes are the agents of the Elements and the Fluid Condensers themselves merely support or add to the result.

In fact, Bardon even stated that accumulating the Elements was optional and yet this is something one would normally do to empower (i.e., fill) a Condenser.

» My problem comes with the Fire element. Here, Bardon said any kind of condenser can be used to activate the Fire element. «

Here, it is because the natural process of combustion will override any Elemental influences carried by an uncharged Condenser. Combustion is the physical corollary of the Fire Element at its most powerful -- absolutely nothing can stand in its way.

» If a condenser is full of the Water Element, does it make any sense to use it with the Fire element? According to what Bardon wrote, I would say yes, but it seems kind of strange to me. «

No, it would not make any sense. However, in the practices Bardon described in the section you reference, the Fluid Condensers have not already been charged (i.e., filled with an accumulation of the Elements or Fluids). In other words, he didn't suggest using a charged Fluid condenser for the Fire work. Therefore, there wouldn't be any conflict of opposites such as would result when trying to impress an accumulation of Fire upon an already charged Water Condenser.

» I guess it's not necessary to load these condensers with Elements for the single reason they are already full of elemental energy. All plants "contain" an element. For example, garlic contains the Fire element intensively (the Fire of mars). Water itself is a kind of condenser. So, when you make a fluid condenser using water and garlic, you have already water impregnated with the Fire element. So then why should I load it with more Fire? I guess it's already saturated with Fire. No need to increase it. «

The point of a condenser is that it is capable of holding a condensed accumulation of an Element/Fluid. To quote Bardon (Ruggeberg English edition, p.194):

“Any object can be influenced by any fluid, regardless of being loaded electrically, magnetically, with elements or akasha through the aid of the imagination and the will. But according to the laws of analogy, and by experience, it has been found out that not each object and not each kind of liquid is suitable to retain an accumulated power for a long time or to accumulate it at all. Similar to the fact, that electricity, magnetism and heat do have good and bad conductors, the higher powers offer the same bipolar aspect. Good conductors own an enormous accumulative capacity, because the powers concentrated in them are stored up and can be held back at will. In the hermetic science such accumulators are called 'fluid condensers'."

In other words, while the materials suitable for use as Fluid Condensers do indeed express an affinity for their corresponding Element or Fluid, they do not already possess an accumulation of said Element/Fluid. This means that an uncharged condenser possesses only the Elements and Fluids that make up its physical components. This amount of Elements/Fluids is not strong enough for magical work.

A condenser is only a vessel into which the magician must accumulate an Element or Fluid. It is the accumulation within the condenser that makes it a "magical" substance as opposed to a normal physical substance.

Take for example your hypothetical garlic water. The garlic does indeed express a relative predominance of the Fire Element; however, its primary constituent is the Earth Element (as is true of all physical things). So too with the water: it does express a relative predominance of the Water Element but its primary constituent is Earth. When you mix these two together you end up with an Earth that is strong in both Fire and Water. This is not strong enough or potent enough for magical work with the Elements and Fluids. It's not until you load this condenser with the Elements and Fluids that it becomes strong enough for magical work. It's only when loaded with an accumulation that it becomes noticeably stronger than common physical matter.

One reason why Bardon put these exercises/techniques at Step Eight was because Step Eight is also the Step in which the student learns to "master the Fluids". Until that point, the student hasn't learned how to accumulate and condense the Fluids. So really, the work with accumulating the Fluids into Fluid Condensers belongs to Step Eight. However, the student who has mastered the Step Five work with the Elements is certainly capable of making good use of the Fluid Condensers by way of accumulating the Elements into them. But unless the student is capable of accumulating at least the Elements into a Condenser, Fluid Condensers are of little use.