Journey through Rosicrucianism, BOTA and Initiation into Hermetics: An Interview with Tibor Simic

We welcome today Tibor who has agreed to share a little of his path towards Franz Bardons teachings and his approach to practice. He had a lot of experience prior to meeting with Franz Bardons teachings which is interesting to hear how it all connects together. Thanks Tibor for sharing.

We welcome today Tibor who has agreed to share a little of his path towards Franz Bardons teachings and his approach to practice. He had a lot of experience prior to meeting with Franz Bardons teachings which is interesting to hear how it all connects together. Thanks Tibor for sharing.

PAA: You already shared a little of your history with me but for the benefit of the readers could you give us a brief introduction up to this point.

Tibor: Hi everyone! So, following our initial communication, James, I did some thinking about how a regular guy like me looks back one day and realizes he’s been studying and practicing magic, day to day, for some twenty years.

It’s like in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, when various characters come on screen and Benjamin says: “Some people were born to sit by a river. Some get struck by lightning. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers.” And looking back, a story – one of many possible stories – emerged of what it’s like to be born to be a magician.

My early exposure to magic was in my native Croatia, then a part of Yugoslavia. My grandmother knew some folk tradition – I was told she arranged my first taking of solid food as a magical act. The war in Croatia made me do a lot of soul-searching, a lot of searching for meaning in the face of mindless atrocities. And then, in 1997, I won a scholarship to take A-levels in England, which was both an early experience of manifesting a desire and a chance to make friends with kids who had access to esoteric literature in English.

When I returned to Croatia, in 1999, I was in an experimental mood, chasing any out-of-the-ordinary experience I could find. In 2004, I joined Lectorium Rosicrucianum, an initiatory order based partly on Rudolf Steiner’s interpretation of Rosicrucianism and partly on Gnostic ideas. I can speak more about this part of my life later. I left in 2018 and joined the Builders of the Adytum, also known as BOTA, and was baptized in the Liberal Catholic Church.

I was aware of Franz Bardon and dabbled in the early steps during my time in the Lectorium Rosicrucianum, but it was Virgil’s books, the Covert Side of Initiation and the Elemental Equilibrium that encouraged me to take up his system as a backbone, so to say, of my daily practice – as a way of structuring and evaluating my progress.

PAA: You mention in your bio that you spent 14 years as a member of Lectorium Rosicrucianum. Could you share your experiences? 14 years is a long time so I imagine it was a very productive period.

Tibor: It was a maturation period. Let me sketch briefly what Lectorium Rosicrucianum is and does. It started as a splinter group from Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Fellowship and later cooperated with and absorbed the ideas of the French mystic Antonin Gadal, who claimed to be the “last patriarch of the Cathars.” The group’s endgame is to restore the Higher Self, which the order interprets as the “fallen Adam”, back to Divinity.

The basic technique – although the group itself shuns the word “technique” – is the establishment of an electromagnetic field, believed to be provided by the Brotherhood of Light, which, according to the person’s degree, promotes this transformation. This is done especially at retreats – called “renewal conferences”, culminating at temple services. Such retreats take place mostly on the order’s property, at the so-called conference centers, and require much volunteer work to organize and run.

At first, I found this difficult to bear – sometimes I had to laugh the energy out of my system – but eventually I learned to handle it. It’s a deeply meditative state – possibly the theta state, which you learn to engage with practice. It can lead you to a place of deep stillness.

And then there’s the whole lifestyle, the volunteering and certain behaviors and restrictions, such as abstaining from alcohol, which teaches adaptability and willpower. You get to reinvent yourself daily – one moment you’re chopping carrots at the center’s kitchen, another you’re leading a temple service. There’s a Zen element to it.

My favorite memory of my time with the order is of a service at a Cathar cave in Southern France. I won’t share what I experienced there, but it was transformative, and it set me on a path of embracing greater responsibility and freedom – eventually leaving the order in 2018.

PAA: From 2018 you entered the BOTA with a focus on Tarot and Golden Dawn. How did this build on your previous training and were there any significant breakthroughs that occurred in this time?

Tibor: I wouldn’t say the BOTA is a Golden Dawn system. The founder, Paul Foster Case, was a member of the Golden Dawn, or rather, the Alpha et Omega, and many teachings overlap, but it’s an independent system.

My involvement with the BOTA is far less than with LRC, not the least because BOTA has no physical presence in Croatia. This is also the reason why I joined the Liberal Catholic Church – I was missing a temple. But I do the coursework regularly and I find it powerful.

BOTA is in many ways the opposite of LRC. LRC had a big list of don’ts; the BOTA’s lessons begin with the question: what do you want to be and do? It’s very empowering and practical. A major component of the system is the tarot, which, famously, the student has to color themselves. The tarot becomes integrated in you, becomes your teacher. You can meditate on it, draw correspondences with it, do magic with it. It’s very empowering and liberating.

PAA: This might be a good time to mention the Liberal Church. You mentioned it previously could explain how it differs from what most of us know as Church?

Tibor: It’s a church founded by theosophists J. I. Wedgwood and C. W. Leadbeater. It’s a church with apostolic succession, that is, bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater were consecrated by Old Catholic bishops who could trace their consecration back to the apostles.

The church understands the sacraments and the liturgy as magical acts, as described in C. W. Leadbeater’s The Science of Sacraments, and offers them freely as a service to humanity, without doctrinal requirements. The “Liberal” in its name comes from freedom of thought, not from any sort of political affiliation. I like to compare it with “free” in “Freemasons.”

The ability to take part in sacraments without doctrinal requirements is attractive to magicians, and sure enough, the Church at its heyday had a few reputable magicians among its clergy. Robert King, Dion Fortune’s collaborator, was a Liberal Catholic bishop, and Paul Foster Case, the founder of BOTA, a priest.

PAA: You mentioned in your bio that it was around the time of being at the church that you discovered Virgils books that redirected you towards Franz Bardons Initiation into Hermetics. What was it that appealed in both Virgils books and in IIH that caused you to make this your focus?

Tibor: The first of Virgil’s books I read was The Covert Side of Initiation, followed by the Elemental Equilibrium and the Gift of Being Simple. I loved how earnest, simple, even vulnerable, he was. He came across as someone who wrestled with this material, who earned his scars, and who came back to report it.

I especially loved that he wrote about responsibility, maturity and humility, which aren’t fashionable subjects in esoteric literature these days. So digging deeper, I discovered William Mistele, Rawn Clark, Bob Smith, and loved how all these characters seemed completely different, yet completely authentic. So I wanted that for myself. As BOTA encourages the exploration of other systems – what harm was there in trying? And Franz Bardon, being Slavic, resonated with me on a cultural level.

The way I see IIH is not as a teaching, but as an exam. The instructions are often dense and terse and you have to figure a lot of it yourself. In Where Do Demons Live, Frater UD writes that Bardon’s system is dogmatic and you have to grow into it; I disagree. I’d say it’s a standard you have to meet any way you can.

I love how subtle it is. A lot of it blends seamlessly with daily life. Whenever you pour a glass of water, you can practice. Whenever you can move your fingers, you can practice. Whenever you have some string and a safety pin, you can practice. It’s a very modern system in this way.

And, it ties together nicely all my other experiences.

PAA: I see you are also involved in programming/software/AI. What are your thoughts on AI becoming somewhat conscious and the implication of this for Magic? I remember one of my favorite stories from Bob talking about an AI in the Mars Sphere which brings up all sorts of questions about consciousness and the vessels it takes on.

Tibor: AI, as we do it today, won’t become conscious. The name “artificial intelligence” is a bit misleading. We know we can describe the world with formulas, such as E=mc2. The question is, how could we find a formula that solves whether a photo shows a dog or a cat? Well, we can take a random formula and fine-tune it to a set of expected results.

Such formulas are constructed as non-linear sequences of matrix multiplications, which is analogous to neural layers in the brain, so we call them “neural networks.” And the process of fine-tuning a formula is called “learning.” But anthropomorphic metaphors aside, it’s software like any other. Just as you can’t build an iPhone by throwing more vacuum tubes at it, you can’t build consciousness by throwing more matrices at it.

However, as with all human endeavor, it’s human hopes and fears that become conscious. No doubt, the excitement of technologies such as AI leads to an unconscious creation of elementaries.

Of course, one day we might have the technology to create cyborgs, such as Bob Smith describes. For now, we have to contact them astrally.

PAA: What have been the most challenging aspects of IIH for you coming from these other systems?

Tibor: Organizing your own schedule and deciding when to move on. Working in three areas – physical, mental and astral – simultaneously. It puts all the responsibility on you. It’s also what makes it so exciting.

PAA: Many thanks for your time and generous sharing.

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