For Yuri and Maschenny
In the writings of several spiritual teachers, you periodically find some version of the phrase “the battlefield of life.” I’ve always liked that. In many ways, life is indeed like a battlefield, and magical training is one battle we fight on this battlefield. It is a battle in which we fight for adepthood. This is a vast battle, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that it only takes place on a small part of the battlefield of life. No, the battle that is magical training takes place on the entire battlefield. Keep in mind that the second mental exercise of Step 1 is mindfulness, which is something to be practiced every waking moment, regardless of whether you are driving, sitting in on a meeting at work, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, or whatever. Also, keep in mind that part of magical training involves dealing with various karmic problems, and these karmic problems can pertain to any area of your life. The more you practice mindfulness, and the more you wrestle with your personal karma and any form of group karma that affects you, the more you will see just how intertwined your magical training is with all aspects of your life. Some battles on the battlefield of life may take place on only a small part of the battlefield, but the battle that is magical training is not one of them.
The thing is, whenever you’re fighting, there’s a chance that you’ll fall. Sometimes, an opponent may sweep your leg or strike you hard enough to knock you down. Whenever this happens, it’s important to get up right away and continue fighting. Otherwise, your opponents are going to trample all over you and you’ll be less likely to win the battle. Falling down isn’t necessarily an issue. It’s staying down after falling that causes people to lose the fight for adepthood.
An Important Idea
To master the art of getting up after falling, there is an idea that you should strive to have deeply ingrained in your mind. This is the idea that every moment is a new beginning. I sometimes see people say things like “Every day is a new beginning.” That’s good, but it’s not good enough. If you believe that every day is a new beginning, then when you fall, you’ll say to yourself “Well, tomorrow is a new beginning, so I’ll get up tomorrow and start fighting again.” Don’t wait until tomorrow. This very moment is a new beginning. Get up now and start fighting again now. If the idea that every moment is a new beginning is deeply ingrained in your mind, if you live and breathe the idea that every moment is a new beginning, then you’re well on your way to mastering the art of getting up after falling.
Examples of Falling
So, what does it mean to fall? Imagine, for example, that you eat junk food for lunch and feel really gross. That is falling. If around dinnertime you say to yourself “I already feel gross, so I guess I might as well have junk food again for dinner,” then that is staying down after falling down. But if you say to yourself “Every moment is a new beginning, so I am going to begin eating healthy right now” and then eat something healthy for dinner, then that is getting up.
Or, imagine that you waste five hours of your afternoon watching anime. That is falling. If you say to yourself “I’ve already wasted pretty much my whole afternoon watching anime, so I might as well waste the rest of the day watching anime as well,” then that is staying down. But if you say “I’ve wasted pretty much my whole afternoon watching anime, but this moment is a new beginning, so starting right now I’m going to use my time wisely,” then that is getting up after falling down. Even if you’ve been watching anime from the moment you woke up in the morning and it is now evening and there are only a few minutes left in the day, even still, you can say “Nunc coepi” and at least spend those last few minutes in prayer or practicing thought-observation before going to bed.
Basically, falling means making an unwise choices. Staying down means continuing to make unwise choices. Getting up means beginning to make wise choices again. Every second you have to make a choice regarding what you’re going to do with that second. So choices are something you make on a second by second, or really a moment by moment, basis. You can choose to get up at any moment, even if you fell really hard just moments before, and even if you’ve been down for a while.
Getting Up Requires Strength
You can probably recall many experiences from your own life when you’ve fallen. Therefore, you probably know that getting up after falling can be difficult. It isn’t always difficult, but it can be. The stronger you are, the easier it is to get back up again. Actually, the stronger you are, the harder it is to get knocked down in the first place. But whenever you do happen to get knocked down, the stronger you are, the easier it is to get up.
So, what does it mean to be strong? If you’ve read any of my recent writings, then you already know the answer, as this is something I bring up a lot; I consider it a crucial teaching for those who want to successfully win the fight for adepthood. But for those who may be new to my writings, I will summarize what I have to say on this topic. Feel free to skip the next paragraph if you correspond with me a lot or if you were subscribed to my Christian Hermetics email list, since these ideas have already been beaten into you over and over again.
Obviously, when it comes to the metaphorical battle that is magical training, being strong doesn’t mean having large muscles. Many people believe that being strong means having a strong will; but for me, that’s not what being strong means either. For me, being strong means having a strong yetzer hatov. According to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, one’s yetzer hatov becomes stronger when it is nourished with wisdom. Therefore, the way to become strong is to pray regularly, and preferably ceaselessly, for wisdom (see James 1:5). If the strength of your yetzer hatov is comparable to the strength of, say, Yuri or Maschenny, then you’ll win the battle for adepthood quite quickly and find yourself quite unscathed at the end. You know there are Bardonists who do successfully work through IIH, who do win the fight for adepthood, but who have many scars as a result of blows they received and falls they suffered while fighting. That won’t happen to you if you’re as strong as Yuri or Maschenny is, which is to say your yetzer hatov is as strong as Yuri or Maschenny is.
Two Useful Phrases
If you do research on the subject of falling and getting up again, you may periodically come across two phrases. The first is “Nunc coepi.” The second is “Nana korobi ya oki.” These two phrases provide valuable guidance for those who would learn to get up after falling, so I will discuss both of them.
The phrase “Nunc coepi” means “Now I begin.” It is something you can think, or even say out loud, whenever you find that you have fallen. When you say to yourself “Now I begin,” what are you beginning? You are beginning to fight again. You can say “Nunc coepi” at any time, so you can get up and begin fighting again at any time. You don’t have to wait for the next day. You can get up and begin fighting again right this moment.
Nana Korobi Ya Oki
This phrase translates to “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” The idea here is that no matter how many times we fall, we never become frustrated and give up. We always stand up again and continue to fight. I mean, if you really want to become an adept, then when you fall what else is there to do but stand up and continue fighting for adepthood? You might think “This is hopeless. I’ve fallen and stood up a thousand times already. Why even bother?” But again, if you really want to become an adept, then even if you’ve fallen a thousand times already, you still stand up and continue fighting for adepthood. And you don’t wait for tomorrow. You stand up right this moment. You stand up and fight because that’s the only thing it makes sense to do. Staying down isn’t going to bring you any closer to winning the fight for adepthood.
Additional Comments on Strength
One of my favorite songs is Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb.”(1) I think its lyrics have a lot to teach Bardonists. Bardonists working through IIH are trying to climb the Mons Philosophorum. This climb involves fighting battles along the way. For example, if you look at the well-known image of this mountain, you will see the lion of pride depicted therein. That is just one of many opponents the Bardonist will have to defeat as he climbs up this mountain by working through IIH. Consider the following verse from Miley’s song though.
The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down, but
No, I’m not breaking
As you fight your way to the top of this mountain (or the tower, to use my preferred metaphor), you may get knocked down every now and then (or all the time, if you’re really weak and bad at fighting). In this verse, Miley says that she’s not breaking. That’s an inspiration thought. But the thing is, in real life, people do sometimes break when they fall while trying to ascend up the Mons Philosophorum. This may even happen to Bardonists who try to follow Bardon’s path, the path laid out in IIH, up that mountain. So be strong, because the stronger you are, the less likely you are to fall down and the less likely you are to be hurt if you do fall. Be strong like Yuri and Maschenny, like Garam, Enne, and Adori.
Battles are Messy
Generally speaking, no one plans to fall. When a boxer goes into the ring, he definitely has a plan for how he’s going to win, but he probably doesn’t plan on being punched so hard he gets knocked down. When you fall, that might screw up your plans. For example, let’s say you plan to spend the whole afternoon praying and meditating, but then your lustfulness knocks you down and you spend much of the afternoon masturbating while watching porn. Ok, so that fall definitely screwed up your plan. But hey, that’s just how battles work. You get knocked down sometimes. You have to be able to adapt when that happens. You have to be able to revise your plan. If you spend the whole afternoon masturbating, don’t spend the whole evening masturbating as well. Say to yourself “Nunc coepi” and then get up and begin being productive. Take a shower to clean yourself physically, then pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or whatever your tradition’s equivalent is to clean yourself spiritually, and then go practice thought-observation, or visualization, or pore breathing, or whatever.
Here’s another example many Bardonists can probably relate to. Let’s say you plan to spend the afternoon practicing the exercises of IIH, but instead you end up spending the afternoon on Bardon forums discussing the exercises of IIH instead of actually practicing them. Is that a fall? I’d say it is. But it’s ok to fall (unless of course you fall so hard you break, which does occasionally happen). What’s not ok is staying down. So don’t spend your evening on Bardon forums as well. Say to yourself “Nunc coepi,” get up, and begin practicing.
Those of you who are familiar with the TOG may remember Data Maschenny’s fight with Data Jahad. Honestly, that fight has been a source of inspiration to me from the day I first read those panels. Data Maschenny was knocked down really hard by Data Jahad. After Data Jahad knocked Data Maschenny down, he thought he’d won, so he was about to walk away. But Data Maschenny smiled, said “I’m not done yet,” got up (despite being badly injured), and continued fighting. We should be that way. If you spend your whole afternoon masturbating, then your lustfulness will probably think it’s won for the day. You have to say to it “Not so fast. I’m not done yet,” and then get up and continue fighting. Your lustfulness may have knocked you down, but you can still land a few strikes on it after getting up. You can clean yourself up and then grab your komboskini and repeat a prayer like “Lord Jesus Christ, please heal me of my lustfulness. Amen.” or “Lord God Almighty, please purify my heart so that I may be free of lustfulness. Amen.” Each time you repeat a prayer like one of these, you land a blow on your lustfulness. How powerful these blows are depends, of course, on how focused you remain while praying, as well as how much faith and humility you pray with. That said, even many weak blows will eventually wear down an opponent. If your komboskini has 100 knots, then you will land 100 blows on your lustfulness each time you go around the rope. When you strike your lustfulness in this way, you are not just striking it with soft fists. You are striking it with fire and lightning, with your sword and spear. Some of my readers will know what I mean by this; others may learn in time.
The Importance of Wisdom
There is a book called Where There is Light that is a collection of quotes from Paramahansa Yogananda (2). Many of the quotes collected in this book contain valuable insights for those walking any spiritual path, including Bardon’s magical path. Out of all the great and useful quotes I came across while reading that book, my favorite is the following one.
‘ It is not a sin to be tempted. Even though you are boiling with temptation, you are not evil; but if you yield to that temptation, you are caught temporarily by the power of evil. You must erect about yourself protecting parapets of wisdom. There is no stronger force that you can employ against temptation than wisdom. Complete understanding will bring you to the point where nothing can tempt you to actions that promise pleasure but in the end will only hurt you. ‘
Earlier, I said that wisdom will strengthen you so that the forces which try to knock you down as you fight for adepthood can’t knock you down. Here Yogananda is saying that wisdom will form parapets around you that protect you from the forces that try to knock you down. These are slightly different ways of saying the same thing. Don’t focus too much on the specific metaphor used to convey the message. Focus instead on the message that is being conveyed, which is that wisdom is the crucial thing for those who would not be knocked down.
Going to the Gym
A friend of mine is a boxer. One day, he was attacked by a carjacker while trying to fill his car with gas. He was able to fight off the carjacker quite easily. Later, when my friend told me what had happened, I asked him what he thought about the incident. He said to me something along the lines of “I’m glad to have put in all of those hours at the boxing gym. The more time you spend at the gym, the easier of a time you’ll have if you get into a real fight.”
That’s such an important lesson. Strength training is a big part of all martial arts and combat sports. Boxers do strength training, as is obvious if you just google “strength training for boxers” or some similar phrase. Kung fu practitioners do strength training, as is obvious if you’ve ever seen videos of Bruce Lee doing one-finger pushups or Shaolin monks running up hills while carrying giant jugs of water. Karatekas do strength training, as is obvious if you’ve ever seen videos of Mas Oyama lifting weights. To be a good fighter, you have to be strong. So if we want to win the fight against the lustfulness that tries to compel us to masturbate instead of practice VOM, or the fight against the laziness that tries to compel us to watch anime instead of practice conscious breathing, then we need to do strength training. And that means praying for wisdom. When you pray for wisdom, you’re hitting the gym. You’re getting stronger. If you spend enough time in the gym, you’ll become as strong as Yuri, Maschenny, Garam, Enne, or Adori. Then you’ll never be knocked down in a fight with lustfulness, laziness, your addiction to smoking, or any other vice or shortcoming.
Of course boxers, kung fu practitioners, and karatekas don’t just do strength training. They also learn various techniques like punches, kicks, and throws. And so in the Buddhist and Christian traditions, we have various techniques for dealing with opponents like irascibility, lustfulness, arrogance, and greed. For example, many techniques for dealing with the opponent that is anger/irascibility can be found here. If you are a martial artist, it is important to learn how to throw a cross and a jab, and to launch a side kick or roundhouse kick. But imagine that you are fighting someone really strong like Kallavan. Even if you punch or kick him, he will not be hurt unless your strength matches his. I remember back when I practiced martial arts, someone taught me a technique for breaking out of a full nelson. But one time, an opponent got me in a full nelson and, even though I knew a technique for breaking out a full nelson, I wasn’t able to escape. Why? Because my opponent was ten time stronger than me. If your opponent is just that much stronger than you, then it doesn’t matter what techniques you know. You’re going to get overwhelmed and defeated. So strength is the main thing, the foundational thing. That book by Thubten Chodron I linked earlier contains eight techniques for dealing with anger. Even if you learn all eight of these techniques for dealing with anger, your anger will overwhelm you if it is just too strong, and you won’t be able to use any of the techniques you’ve learned. Same with lustfulness. The Buddhist, Yogic, and Christian traditions all teach various techniques for dealing with lustfulness. You can learn various techniques for dealing with lust, but if your lust is too strong, you’re just going to go masturbate instead of meditate anyway instead of trying to use these techniques. If you’re strong though, you won’t be overwhelmed by lust, and you can use the various techniques you’ve learned to deal with lustful thoughts and feelings. I hope it is obvious that this isn’t just useless philosophy or useless theory. The teachings I am trying to convey here are of great practical importance for many Bardonists, because many Bardonists are up against enemies that are as strong as Kallavan. They are up against strong smoking addictions that will cause them to die of lung cancer long before they get close to completing the work of IIH. They are up against strong lustfulness that compels them to spend all of their time masturbating instead of practicing the exercises of IIH. They are up against strong sloth and laziness that compels them to spend all of their time on social media or watching Netflix instead of practicing the exercises of IIH. Become someone who is actually able to defeat an opponent as strong as Kallavan or you’ll lose the fight for adepthood. Or, even better, become someone like Adori or Enne who could instantly wipe the floor with Kallavan. These are the Bardonists who work through IIH in a few short years at most. No opponent, even those as strong as Kallavan, stands a chance against them.
There is Method to Getting Up
You might think you know how to get up if physically knocked down, and you probably do. But the way you get up is probably not the best way. In BJJ, there is a technique called the “technical stand-up.” It is a good way to stand up again while in the midst of a fight, but it takes practice. The point is, just as in martial arts there are techniques for getting up, there are also techniques for getting up when you are knocked down on the battlefield of life. If you google something along the lines of “how to get yourself to do difficult tasks” or “how to get yourself to do unpleasant tasks,” you’ll find many articles containing practical suggestions and tips. Some good suggestions and tips can be found in this article, this article, and this article. Since getting up can be unpleasant and difficult, learning to get up consists largely of learning how to get yourself to do unpleasant and difficult things.
Never Stop Fighting
Each of the negative traits on one’s black soul mirror is an opponent whom we might overcome as we fight for adepthood. Imagine that a Bardonist is addicted to smoking and develops lung cancer. It seems that his addiction to smoking has dealt him a fatal blow and he will die of lung cancer before completing the work of IIH. He has already lost the battle. Imagine also that this Bardonists gives up fighting and says to himself “I’ve already developed lung cancer, so there’s no point in trying to overcome my addiction to smoking. I might as well just continue to smoke frequently for the rest of my life.” This Bardonist has been knocked down by a fatal blow, and he has decided that since he is already fatally wounded, there is no point in getting up and continuing the battle, since he has already lost the fight for adepthood.
I think a Bardonist like this is making a grave error. In some sense, we never lose any battle, because each battle we die before winning is a battle we will resume in our next life. In yogic terms, addictions are produced by vasanas within our minds. Vasanas are things you carry with you from lifetime to lifetime. If you do not overcome these vasanas during your current life, then you will have to continue to fight them in your next life. Even if your addiction to smoking deals you a fatal blow, perhaps you can deal it a fatal blow before dying. So there is still reason to get up and continue fighting. If you kill this opponent, you will save yourself from the trouble of having to do so during your next life.
The Most Important Fighting Skills
Many Bardonists, and occultists in general, have an interest in martial arts. I was one of them too at one point. There is obviously nothing at all wrong with studying martial arts, and this can even be helpful, because it can help you remain healthy and having good physical health really is an advantage when it comes to magical training. However, keep in mind that the fight we engage in during our magical training is not a fight against other people, but a fight against our own vices and other shortcomings. Therefore, learning to fight effectively against our own vices and other shortcomings should take higher priority than learning to punch, kick, and throw other people. Over the course of the years, I have met a fair number of occultists, including a few Bardonists, who had studied martial arts and could easily break out of a rear naked choke or triangle choke, but who could not break free from the grip of their own narcissism or vyāpāda. If you can’t do that, if you can’t defeat the enemies preventing you from attaining adepthood, then it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve thrown other people or knocked them down. You won’t complete the work of IIH, and that’s that.
Am I Contradicting Rawn Clark?
In his book A Bardon Companion, Rawn Clark writes “It does no good to treat any part of self as an enemy. Self-transformation is not an adversarial process!” Yet, here I am talking about how magical training is a battle for adepthood taking place on the battlefield of life, and stating that you need to fight the vices and shortcomings that are trying to overcome you. Am I contradicting Rawn?
No, I am not. What Rawn is saying is that we should not treat our vices and other shortcomings as literal enemies. What I am doing is portraying one’s vices and shortcomings, not as literal enemies, but as metaphorical enemies. To treat one’s vices and shortcomings as literal enemies is to harbor vyāpāda toward them and to attempt to eradicate these negative qualities while motivated by vyāpāda toward them. But when I say to “fight” against these negative qualities, all I am saying is to make a serious effort to eradicate them. When you practice conscious eating to cultivate patience, for example, you are “fighting” against your impatience. You obviously don’t need to harbor vyāpāda toward your impatience in order to cultivate patience through conscious eating. In fact, concentration is a major component of conscious eating, and vyāpāda and the other hindrances will hinder you from concentrating well. Therefore, the more vyāpāda you harbor toward your impatience, the worse of a fighter you will be. Similarly, you are fighting against your lustfulness whenever you take up your komboskini and repeat a prayer like “Lord Jesus Christ, please heal me of my lustfulness. Amen.” In texts on prayer, you see a lot of discussion of how faith and humility are the foundations of effective prayer, but have you ever seen anyone claim that vyāpāda is a foundation of effective prayer? I haven’t. So when I say to “fight” against your vices and shortcomings, I’m not saying to harbor vyāpāda toward them or to act against them in ways motivated by vyāpāda. The metaphor of a battle is just that – a metaphor. Don’t take it too literally.
Spiritual Combat is an Extremely Vast Subject
This article is specifically intended to be about the subject of getting up again after falling down on the battlefield of life; it is not meant to cover the entire subject of spiritual combat. When it comes to learning how to fight for adepthood, there is much more to learn than just how to get up again after falling. A BJJ practitioner who has learned the technical stand-up but doesn’t know any throws or chokes isn’t going to win against any opponents. As you go into the battlefield of life to fight for adepthood, what weapons will you use? Perhaps you will use a sword, or perhaps you will use some other weapon. Also, have you heard the story of how Saint Columba called the archangel Michael down to fight by his side during the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne? As you fight for adepthood, you too can call the archangel Michael down to fight by your side if you are familiar with certain devotional techniques. But these are all topics for another time. To learn to fight takes time and effort, but if you do not succeed in learning how to fight, how can you win the fight for adepthood? For now, learn to get up again after getting knocked down. This isn’t enough, but it’s a good start. Later, learn to fight with fire and lightning, to wield your sword and spear. These things will all be revealed in time.
1 – John Shanks and Jessi Alexander, “Miley Cyrus – the Climb,” Miley Cyrus – The Climb (Genius Lyrics), accessed August 12, 2022, https://genius.com/Miley-cyrus-the-climb-lyrics.
2 – Yogananda, Where There Is Light: Insight and Inspiration for Meeting Life’s Challenges (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2016), Chapter 9, Section 2, quote 6.