Today I would like to welcome David Monaghan to the blog. David runs a beautiful website called The Art of Attunement which I highly recommend visiting after reading his interview. He has decades of experience to share with us from solo practice in a small hut in Australia to living in Buddhist Temples in Thailand.
PAA: Welcome David, firstly we would like to thank you for taking part in this interview. Could you provide us with a brief introduction of your journey so far?
David: Thank you James, I appreciate you having me on. My Hermetic journey began in 1999 when I started practicing Initiation Into Hermetics & Chi Kung with a friend of mine who I had grown up with. After roughly 6 months he had decided to travel to Thailand and introduced me to his teacher at the time, Sifu Mark Rasmus, to continue the training. Soon after this I realised, I had found my teacher and was ALL IN, so to speak, from that point forward. We trained constantly under Sifu’s guidance and had a small group of like-minded practitioners who were working together as a cohesive group. The training was a mix of hermetic meditation, chi kung & tai chi during these times.
Sifu & his father, Eric Rasmus, who had both studied under William Cook Edwards in the 80’s at The School of Inner Knowledge, had a piece of land high in the mountains of Southeast Queensland. I was invited to build a small cabin on the land, which I did, and spent a large portion of my twenties living fairly isolated and practicing what I had be taught up until that point. I have very fond memories of these times, even though living without running water, electricity or a toilet and shower was difficult at times.
During this period, I experienced many happenings that removed all doubt as to the capacity for one to awaken to the spiritual world while occupying a human body. These experiences grew over time, and I developed a yearning to push further into the practice. Hence, I decided to journey to Thailand with the intention of ordaining in the Thai Buddhist Forest Tradition at Wat Pah Nanachat in Northeast Thailand. Although difficult, this was a great experience and one that I highly recommend for any of your readers that are so inclined. Being immersed in practice, without any worldly distractions is a unique experience and allows for fast tracked progress if approached with a sincere intention. The spiritual energy within this temple was incredible and I had some great adventures during my stay, however due to some external circumstances I decided to return to Australia and took up residence in my forest cabin once more.
Over the following years I continued the training and learning everything I could from my teacher. I also went and lived in another Buddhist temple in the same forest tradition in Canberra, Australia for some time.
Basically, during my twenties, I was All In on the practice and lived it with every fibre of my being. I then met my wife in my early thirties and started a family soon thereafter, hence my thirties where focused around providing for the family and my ascetic lifestyle took a back seat. Now I am in my forties, my yearning for practice has switched on again with some force and I am enjoying practice and the path more than ever.
PAA: Having started with training with Sifu Mark Rasmus way back in the year 2000, can you tell us how that training influenced you and where you went from there in your practice?
David: Learning from Sifu is something that is difficult to put into words and I am eternally grateful for his time and efforts that he has dedicated to his students over the years. His depth of experience, knowledge, understanding and devotion to the Hermetic Sciences is on a completely different level to anyone else that I have ever encountered. I still consider myself to be a beginner on the path in comparison to his overall embodiment and level of understanding. I think one of the main reasons I have stayed under his direction for so long is that he always approaches his students from an equal footing and genuinely wants them to progress, rather than the usual hierarchal formats that quite often present themselves in some circles.
I have been in the presence of many other teachers and so-called magicians; however, I don’t believe there has been anyone even close to that level of understanding, insight and overall capacity to see the different levels of reality. This made things somewhat difficult in the early years as I could I always sense my thoughts and feelings where highly exposed and there was not much my personality could hide in or out of his presence.
I feel very grateful to have been able to train under Sifu’s guidance for so long and I consider myself to be very blessed to have had such a well-rounded, genuine and intuitive teacher. Unfortunately, due to my personal circumstances and responsibilities it has been some years since I have been able to be a student and have had to rely on my own personal accountability in respect to practice and development. This has given me the time & space to take ownership of the training rather than ride on the group energy which is a far easier pathway in some respects. Sifu does a fantastic job of holding the group energy, which allows for a faster development and much easier transmission of knowledge and understanding.
PAA: You spent time in the Buddhist temples in Thailand. Could you share your experience? I personally like the Thai tradition for the somewhat measurable results through the various Jhana, how did your experience influence your Hermetic work?
David: I have a deep respect and affinity for Buddhism, particularly the Thai Forest Tradition, although I also have a pull towards Tibetan & Shingon Buddhism. When you dive into the true teachings of Buddhism, it is a science in just the same way as Hermetics. In particular, the 37 Factors of Awakening from the Thai Tradition is something that has made a very large imprint on my consciousness and development. The 37 Factors overlaps the Hermetic framework perfectly and provides a very clear pathway to awakening.
A brief overview of the correlation of the 37 Factors of Awakening from a Hermetic perspective:
The Four Frames of Reference
- Mindfulness in reference to the Body – Physical awareness
- Mindfulness in reference to the Feelings – Astral awareness
- Mindfulness in reference to the Mind – Mental awareness
- Mindfulness in reference to the Mental Qualities – Akashic awareness
The Seven Stages of Awakening
Mindfulness, Analysis of Qualities, Persistence, Rapture, Serenity, Concentration, Equanimity.
From a Hermetic perspective I consider this to corelate to the black & white mirror and balancing the four elements within the three bodies to generate magical equilibrium.
The Four Right Exertions
- Preventing negative qualities from arising
- Releasing negative qualities that have arisen
- Inviting positive qualities to arise
- Nurturing positive qualities that have arisen
From a Hermetic perspective I believe this corelates well to the different ways a Hermeticist can battle negative character traits, thus being;
- Alchemical Transmutation
The Four Bases of Power
- Concentration on Discernment
- Concentration on Desire
- Concentration on Intent
- Concentration on Persistence
From a Hermetic perspective we can easily see this in the four-fold key i.e;
- Discernment correlates to the Air principle and the ability for one to “Listen”
- Desire correlates to the Water principle and the ability for one to “Join”
- Intent correlates to the Fire principle and the ability for one to “Intend or Will”
- Persistence correlates to the Earth principle and the ability for one to “Persist or hold One Pointed attention”
The Five Faculties & The Five Strengths
- The faculty & strength of conviction
- The faculty & strength of persistence
- The faculty & strength of mindfulness
- The faculty & strength of concentration
- The faculty & strength of discernment
From a Hermetic perspective these qualities are fairly self-evident and I consider them to relate to the qualitive and quantitative aspects of each of the above qualities.
The Noble Eight-Fold Path
- Right view
- Right resolve
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
Again, from a Hermetic perspective I consider the above points are fairly self-evident and can be correlated into the black & white mirror work as well as the mental training exercises in Initiation Into Hermetics.
This is obviously only a brief overview, and the 37 Factors of Awakening teachings and warrants further investigation and meditation, however I believe they will suffice for your readers and anyone that has interest will be able to dive deeper in their own studies.
In respect to the different Jhanas or stages of concentration, as you indicated, this is also very beautifully described and laid out in Buddhism i.e
The Four Form Jhanas
- Appreciative Joy
- Loving Kindness
The Four Formless Jhanas
- Awareness of Infinite Space
- Awareness of Infinite Consciousness
- Awareness of Nothingness
- Neither Perception Nor Non-Perception
The Four Divine Abodes is also worthy of attention, thus being;
- Appreciative Joy
- Loving Kindness
The four divine abodes relate to states of awareness one should endeavour to maintain in everyday life. Whenever one is out of alignment with or not acting from one of these four states it is said that one is out of alignment with their true self and operating from the lower aspects of individualised personality.
During daily activities one can reflect on these qualities and transform negative states into one of these four positive qualities through the willpower, autosuggestion or alchemical transmutation. This applies to not only actions but thoughts and feelings also.
PAA: You run the Art of Attunement. Can you tell us a little about the name? From my training with Mark I am sure there is a story there to be told.
David: Attunement is a term I was exposed to a lot over the years training under Sifu and I believe his teacher also used the term at The School of Inner Knowledge. I consider the term to encapsulate the overall goal of practice and the ability to connect with different vibratory levels. One of the most important teachings I received from Sifu was to always practice from our highest level of Attunement i.e prior to beginning any exercise we would raise our awareness up through the crown to our highest level of Attunement achieved in any past incarnation and practice from that state of awareness rather from the lower aspects of the personality. From my perspective The Art of Attunement is the process of bringing our material brain back under control through mastering thoughts and emotions and then learning to meditate into the silence to awaken to our true spiritual essence. Once this essence has been realised, we begin to open the doorway to Universal Consciousness, through building a vibrational scale of perception that allows the awareness to raise lower energies to higher, leading to the embodiment of our highest level of Attunement within the physical world.
PAA: From the site you offer a variety of meditation programs, but I see you also teach about the Hermetic theory of awakening and working with energy. Can you tell us about your approach to teaching? Does it follow a more Franz Bardon Hermetic approach or is it more similar to the Buddhist approach?
David: In my opinion and from what I can tell up until this point, the quickest way for someone to awaken the higher spirit senses is to learn how to tangibly feel energy. Once energetic sensitivity has been awakened, one then uses this energetic sensing as their meditation object and learns how to hold the awareness and the mind external of the physical body. With consistent and correct practice this ability becomes stronger, and the spirit senses naturally begin to awaken as they are not restricted by the physiology of the material body. Humanity still accepts the ability for one to “feel” subtle energies within the group consciousness, whereas if you tell the average person on the street that you can see or worse yet hear spirits, generally you are one step away from the funny farm or mental asylum.
I have found through my own teaching as well as being in a student environment, that most practitioners that attempt to go only through the mental gate struggle to make progress as the mind is so subtle in its nature. Even Bardons Step 1 mental training is quite a feat to achieve for the majority of people and to be honest I don’t believe many can actually achieve success in this exercise without having a strong spiritual maturity already present with in the consciousness. To hold a completely vacant mind for 10 mins or more is a profound achievement in and of itself and displays a level of genuine mastery of the material mind. Don’t get me wrong I still believe these exercises are extremely valuable and worthy of practice and attention, I just think learning to feel energy first develops a stronger foundation to work from, especially for a beginner.
In respect to my teaching style, it will vary from student to student, my goal is to become as empty as possible, step out of the way and let the energy flow through that will best help whoever I am working with. Having said that, obviously the majority of my work comes from Sifu Mark Rasmus, Franz Bardon’s works and of late I have developed a great affinity and connection with William Cook Edwards work from The School of Inner Knowledge. I also enjoy the teachings of Alice A Bailey as well as many others and have found it very advantageous to incorporate a considerable amount of Buddhist and Taoist principles and teachings.
PAA: What sort of schedule would you expect beginning students to keep in order to actually make some progress? Additionally, how do you define and measure progress in meditative arts?
David: It depends on the goal of the student, with each person being at unique level of spiritual maturity, I think it is somewhat pointless to place everyone in the same box. Not everyone is seeking full awakening, even if they think they are, hence it is up to the student to decide how far and how much they willing to push themselves. I see my role as just being a guide to the best of my ability to facilitate as much progress as possible and pass on the teachings and knowledge that I have so graciously been given.
In respect to defining and measuring progress, in my opinion I believe it comes down to the perfection of one’s character. I have met many so called “magicians” who apparently have all these magical skills yet when it comes to their everyday character it is far from perfected. I think the ultimate gauge and a good question to ask yourself is if every being in the universe could see your every thought, feeling and action how comfortable would you be? This may depend on the level of arrogance within the character, hence, to take it one step further you could deepen this by reflecting on how much equanimity could you hold if your awareness was to suddenly transfer into a heavenly realm where your thoughts and feelings are no longer your own and you are an open book so to speak. Again this could be viewed with a certain level of arrogance or self-importance, however, if one is genuinely able to move the awareness into one of these higher levels, arrogance would quickly dissolve and the presence of such a quality would not allow the doorway to open to begin with.
PAA: The common question we are often asked is how to proceed through the early steps of IIH. Vacancy of Mind, Visualization, and sensitivity to feeling Vital force. Can you offer those struggling in these areas any suggestions for their practice in order to move forward?
David: There are many mental tricks one can adopt to allow for a faster progression, one that has helped me over the years is to develop an affinity for your meditation object. When you have an affinity or affection for something it is much easier for the mind to stay one pointed in focus. Thus, with the Vacancy of Mind exercise it is a good idea to develop a certain level of affection for that state of awareness, instead of always fighting thoughts from arising, you run to that state with a sense of bliss at being able to forget your everyday world for the time you are there.
In respect to Visualisation one of the things that has helped me is to realise that if everything is made up of light and if white light has every colour of the spectrum within it then all colours exist within that light. Hence instead of imagining a colour or object you Will the colour or object out of the light that already exists.
For sensitivity to Vital force the whole-body pore breathing exercise is the best place to start. If investigated and meditated on diligently one recognises that this is a natural phenomenon and one that is happening constantly with or without our knowledge. Softening the breath until it is almost imperceptible is one of the more important aspects of being able to listen to vital force. Once sensitivity to Vital Force has been awakened, building energy between the hands is the next step which allows you to tangibly feel the energy and erode any doubts as to its existence lurking in the back of one’s consciousness. The four bases of power as discussed above is a major key to this work and allows one to generate an energetic lock on the Vital Force as well as any other energetic frequency.
PAA: Are you able to tell us about your experience with PME and KTQ? Are these a big part of your training or have you focused your efforts elsewhere?
David: Training with Sifu for so many years, Evocation and Kabbalah where obviously a very large part of the training, however this is something I don’t generally discuss openly as I believe it is irrelevant to do so, especially in an open forum. In my opinion, perfection of the character is a far more relevant topic and unfortunately one that is quite often overlooked. Hence why Bardon made such a point of it with the Black & White Mirror.
Having said that there is a large portion of Kabbalah practice within the Tiger Chi Kung system that I teach and was taught by Sifu, mainly building the four elements kabbalisticaly within the four regions of the physical, astral, mental and akashic bodies.
PAA: Here we invite you to talk about any subjects that you feel are important.
David: I think one of the more important aspects to the training, particularly for beginners and something that was strongly programmed into me by my teacher was to remember to focus on the process rather than the results. The results will come in and of themselves as a side effect of the correct processes being undertaken. The competitive nature of humanity often leads to performance anxiety and disrupts the mind from attaining one pointed concentration on a meditation object.
Also, I believe the most important teaching I was ever given by my teacher was to develop and build the frequencies of Humility, Devotion, Reverence and Sacredness through all levels one’s being i.e body or actions, soul or personality and spirit or mind. This to me is the most important key that I have been given as it assists in opening the door to the higher frequencies and levels of existence.
PAA: Thank you David for taking part.
If you would like to contact David or learn more about his approach please contact David over on his site The Art of Attunement