Franz Bardon’s Hermetic Yoga — Part 1: Initiation Into Hermetics

My first serious foray into spiritual practice was Initiation Into Hermetics (IIH) by Franz Bardon. I had studied and practiced magic and meditation before then, but the fire of devotion was first kindled by the German-Czech magus of Troppau-Opava. For those unfamiliar with his written works, Bardon’s system of training requires rigor, discipline, and constant self-appraisal; in short, it is very hard work, almost a full-time job unto itself. And, yet, it is also very accessible, structured in a step-by-step self study pattern which means that anybody with the necessary dedication can make it through.

When I discuss Bardon, people often ask me — given that I am now a Saivite Hindu and practitioner of Yoga, and no longer identify as a Hermetist — “How far did you get? Did you get to step 10?” My answer: I got to step 10, and am still there. I have met a few who have claimed to have “completed” the tenth and final step, but was never convinced. The tenth step is focused on realizing final Unitive Realization, and that is not the work of a few years, not does it leave one’s personality as egocentric and obsessed with “magical powers” as when one began. If anything, Bardon’s Initiation Into Hermetics — when practiced with patience, diligence, and sincerity — will prepare you for and lead you toward wherever your true spiritual home may be.

Along with IIH, Bardon has two other (completed) books, as well as some supplementary material (which I will briefly describe later). Altogether, Bardon presents the closest thing we moderns have to a full and well-graduated Hermetic Yoga. No so-called Hermetic magical lodge system I have encountered comes close, and all would do well to incorporate at least the first three or four steps of IIH to their own programs.

The three primary techniques at the core of IIH are concentration, detailed self-analysis, and “pore-breathing”; and its three principle stages of advancement are (in ascending order) “elementary equilibrium”, magical powers (siddhis), and final Union (nirvikalpa samadhi). To any student of Yoga, all of this should sound quite familiar!

Bardon’s pore breathing technique is really a simple pranayama in which natural, diaphragmatic breathing is paired with active imagination (visualization of colors, kinesthetic sense-control) for straightforward energy work. This, intense concentration, and radical self-knowledge form the basis of elemental equilibrium. This equilibrium is akin to the ethical foundations of Yoga (yamas and niyamas) in that it is not expected to produce a perfected personality on its own, but rather to act as a solid foundation for deeper exploration and improvement. The goal of elemental equilibrium is not to erase all negative tendencies, but rather to balance one’s inner resources such that no one of the four gross elements (and the behavioral tendencies which they produce) are able to get out of control. When properly established, equilibrium allows for real self-discipline, clear thinking, healthy emotions, and the beginning of authentic intuition.

From here, training begins in earnest toward deep process control within one’s own psychic system and, by extension, one’s environment. This is the beginning of magic. Just as in Yoga, though, Bardon makes explicit that magical powers are not to be abused for personal gain, but used as milestones for measuring progress and then let go; if deliberately retained at all, they are only to be deployed for “aid to ailing humanity”.

At step 8, once elemental equilibrium is firm and several siddhis have been unfolded and transcended, one may begin to practice Bardon’s other two books — The Practice of Magical Evocation (PME) and The Key to the True Quabbalah (KTQ). It is also here that the focus of effort shifts entirely from magic to theurgy and mysticism, and the attainment of Union. The technique in question, at this point, combines intense concentration with visualization into contemplative prayer. One has moved far beyond the lower yogas of occultism and into the true Yoga of internalized worship where God alone Is.

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An Open Letter to People

Dear Everybody,

For a lot of people I know, today’s shootings in a Connecticut elementary school are, cumulatively, one more reason not to trust humanity or see the good in people. Believe me, I understand. Just last night, a friend and I were watching a documentary on Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, and it was not easy to stay calm about an event nearly twenty years past. And if one follows the news, there are numerous stories which can make us sad, angry, and confused. How do people do these things? How does society — that is to say, us — allow them to happen?

I will not, however, allow my faith to be shaken. We cannot forget the countless acts of good and compassionate people, large and small of scale, going on all the time. We cannot allow our hearts to harden at the sight of blood, but instead let our hearts be softened by the hurt of others.

Of course, for the moment, maybe it is enough to remember those who have lost from this event, and remember those in our lives whom we love. But when you go back out into the world tomorrow, or after your weekend of holding your loved ones tightly, do so with all of the caring you can. Violence is not fought by violence, but increased by it; violence is only defeated by peace and trust in what is good in us. So, I’ll see you out there. Say hello. We’re all in this together.

Aum Peace Peace Peace