This is the first of a series post that will primarily be posted over on the new students of Franz Bardon blog. That blog will be focused on simple instructional posts whereas interviews will all be kept over on Perseus Arcane Academy.
The following comes from a book, that was never published. So I thought it was good to cherry pick a few parts that I feel are relevant to Magical training. The book was very much focused on Franz Bardons Initiation into Hermetics but the content posted here is equally applicable to any magical path.
See next in the series here on Mental Training.
The following are subjects that come up a lot in discussion groups as well as in private messages that I receive, some specific to Franz Bardon’s work and others very universal issues faced by many. This is very much my personal opinion on these matters and is by no means claiming to be the only or best way to approach them. Take what is useful and leave the rest. In regard to specific exercises I have addressed these in the Introduction to Physical, Astral and Mental chapters.
This is a sensitive subject as a good teacher can save you years and a bad one can cost you years. I have had experience of both and this only strengthened my view that the trusting of one self is vitally important. So in regard to teachers by all means gain information from experts in the field but maintain self-responsibility for your own life. So often in spiritual groups intelligent, talented people slowly defer decision making to the teachers as if supposed spiritual progress makes these teachers an expert in every other aspect of life.
So if you want to have a teacher go for it, this is Perseus Academy so we obviously agree with the idea of a teacher but be really clear and honest as to what you want from this teacher and then be honest in your appraisal as to whether this teacher is providing what you want in this partnership. This is a big reason why we only have teachers who we know personally or that have come from personal recommendation of our close friends. Quality over quantity. I know there is a big call to have faith and trust in the Guru but Gurus are people first, Gurus second so they should be treated the same as any other person in my opinion, I say this after many years spent in the very Guru focused Tibetan traditions.
We prefer the coaching model as opposed to the teacher-student model. As there is less pressure on the teacher to live up to unrealistic standards and less opportunity for subtle control of the student by the teacher. This is another reason Perseus works in the way it does with groups and constant availability of the teacher to answer questions. We want the relationship to be very normal and communicative rather like a professor at a university as opposed to the sitting at the feet of the master approach.
A common argument for the role of spiritual teachers is that like anything in life we have a teacher in order to learn a specific skill. So if I want to learn computer engineering I can have a teacher who can facilitate this. I agree that for most things a competent teacher can certainly help but in these worldly subjects we can see the results of the teacher. We can see their credentials; we do not have to base the entire relationship on trust. But with IIH we have no way of checking anything the teacher might say so any argument stating we need a teacher to progress in IIH, I believe is far less convincing. Coaching absolutely, this can literally save you decades (See our courses here for teachers who care about your progress). Tread carefully, believe nothing, validate by experience, not emotional highs or excitement.
This can be a big one, you might want a teacher, so you excitedly find one only then to discover that they are perfect except for ‘insert your strong belief here’. So it is important to not confuse the teachers ability to share a set of skills, in order to enable us to gain similar results as the teacher with their worldly personality, their political and/or worldly beliefs. We do not refuse treatment from our doctor if they hold a different world view from us, so it is the same here. Who cares what they believe about a hot topic, we should not in my opinion be going to a spiritual teacher for advice on worldly affairs, we are not kids. So be sure you focus in on what you want from that teacher and don’t get involved with their other beliefs.
This is something that can affect anyone. If a successful teacher starts getting a lot of students and these students are projecting their idea of how great the teacher is onto him/her then the teacher can be affected by this. Slowly believing they are special and somehow on some divine mission from God. Be wary if the teacher you are following starts talking like this, how you are all part of some important plan. I think it is a bit like super powers. If you had them, you would not talk about them (if you had any sense) and if you talked about them then you probably don’t have them.
Similar to Divine Missions but sometimes as people start to get success, they can think they are the only one doing it right. This then sometimes leads to an abrasive personality or superiority complex (possibly wrapped in charisma). Watch out for this in teachers (and their students), and especially watch out for this in ourselves, it serves no one. Though it is a good illustration of how even if someone is able to develop some skills they can still be an immature, narcissist who enjoys making people’s lives a misery. So kindness first, skills second.
Strictly Following IIH or Doing it Differently?
This is such a personal thing and very much based upon your personality. For years I followed the book to the letter (or so I thought). Then back in 2012 I spent some time with Sifu Mark Rasmus and began to see the exercises in a totally different way. What he advised gave immediate results so gave a huge push to my progress. I now knew what was expected and could gain some momentum. So, for me looking outside of the strict approach worked well as I then returned to IIH with new eyes and got to work. For others looking outside might lead to distraction so you have to be careful, but for me I am so glad I did it differently. Previous to that I was very worried about going forward or doing it wrong as I did not want to be a fake, perhaps being on a specific step but knowing deep inside I was unable to do what I should be able to do for that particular step. So, for me doing it differently showed me many more ways up the mountain and that a book was the best Bardon could give us at the time and as such can only ever be a general guide. So though there are strong opinions in the community who believe only their way is the proper way I suggest ignoring everyone (myself included) and do what you need to do to achieve the requirements of the step.
This is often posted about with many not sure what they should or should not discuss openly. Like most things in life, it is a personal decision how much you share about your life and very much based upon common sense. Of course, there are ‘spiritual’ reasons for silence, but I do not think we need to look at it from that perspective. Really silence should be fairly easy to comprehend if your mirrors are balanced, if you feel some overwhelming urge to share what you do with the world or to save everyone you meet then you may need to ask yourself why? Now mentioning it to family or friends in the spirit of sharing of course is a different matter, but how much you share is again a matter of common sense and personal boundaries. Some are happy with everyone knowing their personal business or sharing intimate details of their life and others are not. I see no problem either way as long as you are happy to deal with repercussions of your sharing. Therefore, in my opinion there is no need to over spiritualize this despite there being very real ‘spiritual’ reasons to maintain your silence, the practical implications should be far more obvious and easier to understand.
It is possible for people to escape into the magical world and build all these achievements, again very subjective, and then go onto claim a title etc. All achievement being made in an area that cannot be externally judged. Now I know there are some schools that have quality control, I am obviously not talking about them. I am talking about people who claim that this is their life, it basically defines them but behave in a way that would have you fired immediately in the corporate world. From not meeting basic standards of ability to complete emotional outbursts over nothing. So I think that our worldly existence can really be an area where we can test our internal qualities. It is bit like the physical aspect of this book (not published yet, maybe never) and overcoming the wish of the body to just give up, it takes discipline and will power to continue on through exhaustion. I am thankful for my time spent in professional environments as it set a standard which was not malleable just because my feelings might get hurt. So this all comes down to fooling ourselves, is the practice we are engaging in truly changing us at a deep level or is it all window dressing. Only we can really know for sure but our authenticity or lack of will surely be picked up by others. I think if what we are doing is not challenging at least at the beginning then perhaps we need to ask if any change is indeed occurring. It has to stretch us to change us.
Get it Done
If there is one thing I want to express about IIH training and please forgive me for endlessly repeating this, but it is the importance of just doing it. So much wasted time on spirits, angels, coincidences, feelings etc. Put it all to one side and just do the work, set small achievable goals, think weekly, monthly and quarterly. It sounds terribly nonspiritual, but I would say approach the training with logic, almost like a business! For example, if you are putting in your time you want to see some results so be consistent and record results with firm targets. If targets are not being met ask yourself why? You might also want to look at other areas of life? Have you followed through with goals in the past? Have you stayed with goals until the goal is achieved?
The fruit of these exercises all have very specific causes, so identify those causes. Work on them and include them in your auto suggestion. Achieve the result then anchor it via ritual, then move onto the next. Within IIH we have two paths one of going into deeper and deeper stillness and one of achieving specific skill sets. With the VOM it is a gradual path into stillness, you can get yourself more detailed maps by for example looking at the Jhanna system of Buddhism but for the skills they really are a result of doing them, touching them, again and again constantly. So done is far better than perfect.
Living in the Real World
The path of practice is quite amazing and brings us into contact with things I am sure most of us thought would be forever consigned to movies and fantasy books. So it is very alluring and very tempting to spend every minute of the day on these activities. It is understandable, but I believe not helpful if elemental balance is truly what we are seeking. We learn a lot when we are out in the world, building a practical life with practical skills. It does not all need to be about the next life or the next realm. We have a great opportunity here and now to do great things, and we need skills and abilities relevant to this realm to achieve these things. So do not neglect practical self-development. I actually include this in the 100-day program to ensure that such skills are being developed.
Magical Powers and Fighting
Clearly linked to the previous paragraph. I get messages about these kinds of things thinking magic is going to be some kind of short cut. Bottom line is whether there are people in the world who can physically manifest these forces strongly enough to do immediate damage once applied, and that they can apply it fast enough is the million dollar question. I have not seen any, in the internal arts there are many strange things, strange abilities, weird forces etc but nothing that I would say is outright magic. Before you shout out empty force, I was actually a student of a famous teacher who used to do empty force on everyone, they would dance around but he never would do it on me. I asked him one day and he said my energy system was not ready for it! Despite doing all his energy practices for years. Trust me do not waste your time with empty force unless you know clearly why you are doing it (a good resource here is Sixty Skills Rebounding and Fajin Course), as a training method it can be done to a degree, but it is suggestion more than magic for most – many have no idea of what is happening. The Aiki skills of Takeda and Ueshiba perhaps are the closest to magic or the skills of Ziranmen’s Dwarf DuXinWu. But still for anyone that has trained it is clear a lot of this was down to the fascial training they engaged in, spending hours every day. So short answer is the short cut is to just go to a Boxing club for six months and then do a year or so of BJJ. You will be light years ahead of most traditional schools in pure fighting ability. It is sad but true. I love the traditional arts but very few have people that are any better than a 6-month boxer.
So if fighting ability and magical powers are what you are after you might want to ask yourself, why? Why are you looking for this short cut and are you willing to admit to yourself that even if these things are possible, the odds you will be the one to develop this skill is fairly unrealistic. So it must be remembered that Franz Bardons system is about self development first and foremost. If you still want to pursue these goals later after step 8 then you will know how, but I suspect it will not now have the same hold on you.
Common sense then and clarity, if you enjoy posts like this then pop over to www.studentsoffranzbardon.com (still a work in progress) and follow the posts there.
Why No Progress?
I know this might not make me too popular and maybe it is just a personal taste but I see so much time spent on spiritualizing every aspect of life. Ultimately of course everything is ‘spiritual’ but the illusion of the real world is persistent and these illusionary repercussions are pretty realistic. So personally I think it does not matter one bit who you were in a previous life, or if these things even exist, even if you have a memory of them it is no proof of anything, it is entirely subjective. So far better to practice and gain clarity in the here and now, this is the recurring answer, get distracted then return to practice, become unbalanced? Then return to practice nothing else is quite as effective as returning to practice with no judgment on ourselves and letting the exercises do their work. If we do the exercises we will then experience the change from this honest effort. A mindset here is the higher you go the more grounded you become.
Here the problem is that practice gets thought about and pondered over and this is mistaken for actually doing the work. It is like every fact must be known about Bardon before someone can start or to spend enormous amounts of time trying to find out about who Bardon’s teachers were, what your past lives were etc. Instead of just doing the work, as the quickest way towards most of these things we want to know or experience is actually to just do it. My advice here is take nothing for granted in the practice, assume nothing, do it with the spirit of a scientist applying exercises and journaling the results. If any of this is real and true then if we actually do the work we should see the results.
Leading on from the previous subject is consistency. As it is no good to practice once or twice per week and expect any kind of progress. Small mini sessions with consistency is much better than one or two longer sessions. Now I know most of us know that already but the difference in progress and ability is the actual doing of it rather than the knowing of it. Knowing does not equal doing. So start with only 5-10 mins and get it consistent twice a day.
Simple as it sounds, I cover this above in the over thinking section also. But this is where someone spends all their time knowing everything theoretically, even following one path theoretically and then finding another path that in theory could/perhaps/maybe be said to be superior. So this person may continue to follow and unfollow new exciting paths without ever diving into a regular practice or in fact any practice at all. So that old saying an ounce of practice is so very true. We are all great at fooling ourselves, practice is the one thing that can actually help remove the dross, see things more clearly and reach states we only ever read about. Regular practice is also the quickest way of getting there, wherever ‘there’ is. So commit to a twice daily practice, no matter how short, just commit to maintaining these practice sessions. Once you have this established for over a month it usually becomes something you look forward to rather than something you have to do.
One thing that should be said here is sometimes the reason some of us do not move on in the IIH exercises is that we do not take full ownership, perhaps saying ‘ I cannot be consistent or I cannot sit for that long’ etc. Like it is some unknown external force stopping us. But the hard truth is that if we want the results this is the cost, there is no quick YouTube hack or secret method to progress. If we want it we must put effort into the exercises and make it central to our lives. This is why the development of Will Power is central to these fundamentals. As it will help you be consistent long enough to build positive habits.
Now Will Power also gets some criticism with people saying you cannot force yourself through everything and it is not the most healthy approach. To this I absolutely agree but the plan is not to use Will Power as a replacement. We are only using it long enough to create some new habits. When we get to the stage of our practice being a habit, where these things have become natural for you then the need for Will Power alone is drastically reduced.
Another reason progress may not be occurring is because of clarity. This is also a symptom of the step 1 exercises not being completed and the habit of mindfulness not being integrated into our daily life. When the negative cycles and emotional roller coasters etc stop occurring as a result of these step 1 exercises then the roots also of our negative mirrors should start to be cut as we are controlling (in theory) the causes by not dwelling on negative cycles, by focusing on positive results to create positive cycles. So bad habits of our mirror should naturally lose power, a good approach to this is to spend some time ‘noting’ a tool to observe the very fabric of the moment, the moment you will to do something and the moment you do the action and the emotional/mental result of said action. Every small detail is noted mentally (not literally) and after some time huge insights occur whereby you can transcend patterns that have been with you for years.
Following the Instructions
Lacking the ability to follow instructions, this again relates to clarity. That despite instructions being very clear to just sit or breath the practitioner somehow adds in their own practices to this and ends up doing the exercise from the book in a completely different way than what is required, dressing it up into some chakra, kundalini energy, rising angel, invoking exercise!
Step 2 visualization is a good example of not following the instructions, it is in the mental section, and we are asked to use our minds eye as it is a mental exercise. Yet people wait and expect some IMAX Movie like quality apparition to appear in front of their physical eyes and remain for years on the same step as the long awaited apparition never appears. Despite the simple instructions, they were misread/misunderstood/self sabotaged and years are wasted. (This part here doesn’t mean do not come up with your own exercises or approaches; it means we need to understand exactly what Bardon requires first.) So this often results in over complication of a simple exercise, a basic skill set.
This is a key part of the journey. Think of it as pattern recognition, it is a place to see your patterns. If you have bad moods, angry at certain people, desiring certain things or people write it all down. Are you seeing that you are always angry on one day and full of desire on another. Does this repeat over weeks and months or specific days, times and places? This is the place to record all of this. So anything significant, record your negative thoughts feelings and actions as well as the positive thoughts, feelings and actions. If you are not doing this then it could be the reason you are not progressing. If you are unaware of something then you cannot utilize the tools you have to change it.
The big thing here is writing it all down of course does serve a purpose and we notice things as we write but we must also reread our journal, weekly and monthly so we can see the larger patterns. A good habit before or after practice sessions.
How to Ask for Help
If you still feel like you are not progressing then you need to reach out to experienced practitioners and groups. But just saying help me is not very useful. You can ask theoretical, vague questions, but you’re going to get theoretical, vague answers in return that probably won’t be helpful to you and cause frustration on both sides as you and the person helping you are unable to pinpoint the real issue. Instead, you should provide as much context as is necessary in regard to what you do on a daily basis, what your practice consists of, zero in on the specific problem, this will then provide the most relevant answers and quickly assist you. Treat it like you would a technical problem, so you need specific data to solve the issue.
So the unpopular conclusion as to why we are not progressing is that it is probably us! This is why balance is so key. Generally if our life is a train wreck both professionally and personally then the chances are fairly high that we are going to get a similar degree of success with the practice of Hermetics. I do not really like that saying ‘ how we do one thing is how we do everything’, but, it holds some truth here. So brutal honesty, careful reading, consistent doing will get us moving, establishing a series of successes in your practice. This can be the catalyst for change in every part of our life, but it all begins with seeing ourselves, our habits, our short comings as well as our many positive traits honestly. Only then can we create lasting change. Apply the same rigorous approach to every aspect of life. Succeed in everything we do because we planned it that way and used tools to assist us like auto suggestion and the Eucharist exercises. Of course challenges and things not working out will still occur but this way we can learn from them, see them, and understand why. It is not easy but we can do it with a consistent effort.