Bardon’s second and third volumes do not pick up where Initiation Into Hermetics (IIH) leaves off, but instead present two additional options for exploring the work of Hermetic initiation. Thus, it is not strictly necessary for the practitioner of Bardon’s system to make practical use of either The Practice of Magical Evocation (PME) or The Key to the True Quabbalah (KTQ). Not every magician will utilize evocation; likewise, not every Hermetist will need to activate the various major and minor channels within the subtle body. These are the primary tasks of these two books, as we shall see.
Corpus Hermeticum, the most complete and important of ancient Hermetic scriptures to have come down to us, presents a path of ascent from Earth to Heaven. Other books make it know that this path passes through the planetary spheres, in each of which the Hermetist leaves behind an enveloping sheath identified with a negative moral quality or sin. It is implicit that, for each sin shed, a corresponding virtue will unfold as a natural consequence. The idea, basically, is that a sin is only a warped version of a virtue, and that said virtues are inherent to the divine Intellect (Nους) within a person. Take, as an illustration, a blinder being removed from a lantern; the light is already shining brightly inside, but cannot be seen through the slat of metal covering it over.
Bardon’s PME more or less follows on from this scheme. Once, in the practice of IIH, the magician is capable of safe and consistent mental and astral travel (steps 8 and 9 of IIH), he or she is prepared to conduct this “rising on the planes” (to use a common phrase in modern-day Western occultism). It is not as simple, however, as just traveling from one sphere to the next in sequence. Contact must be made with intelligences of any given sphere, at which point those intelligences are individually evoked. That is, one has not “mastered” a given sphere until one has drawn one or more of the planar intelligences to manifestation on Earth.
A few points need to be made clear. Those familiar with other, popular forms of “evocation” only may think that evocation is usually done of demonic forces, and that these forces are constrained or bound to the magician’s service. Bardon would be the first to say that this is nothing but rank sorcery. A Hermetic magician is less concerned with binding demons to find hidden treasures, and the like, than he is with making friends with intelligences of higher order. Some of the beings he will meet in the spheres will be individual souls at various points within their own development, while others will be angelic in nature. Either way, they are to be tested (to see whether benevolent or malevolent), and then either befriended or rejected. Once befriended, a planar being may then be asked for permission to evoke. The practitioner of Hermetic evocation need never evoke a being against its will! To do so is not only criminal, it is also counterproductive.
In Hindu Tantra, it is known that each chakra is “ruled” by a specific Devatā. As one raises one’s awareness from chakra to chakra (viewed as microcosmic anchors of the corresponding planes), the relevant deva is invoked and then made the subject-object of identification. Thus, one sees oneself as the deva and the deva as oneself, never denying that the deva is independent of the individual psyche (jīvā) but exists within the Immanent-Transcendent Self (Ātmā). The same concept obtains for the evoked beings of Hermetic evocation. In order to befriend an entity, the magician must first empathize with it; he must then be able to fully identify with that entity and with the forces of its home-sphere in order to be able to make a temporary home for it on the physical plane and then gently welcome it to that home. Thus, Bardon’s evocation is first a process of invocation (drawing-inward and identification) followed by evocation (projecting outward). Even the better-known demonic evocation of popular occultism (such as that taught in Crowley’s Thelema, etc.) uses the method of first invoking and then evoking the being in question, though the sorcerer usually does not realize it. Just as the Hermetic or Tantric evocation of a devonic intelligence begins to awaken the seven upper chakras (or the planetary sephiroth, depending upon model) the sorcerer’s evocation of a demonic or asuric intelligence draws consciousness down into the cthonic and infernal lower chakras (qlippoth); that which is evoked is always invoked first, whether we realize it or not, and so activated within the soul of the individual.
One of Franz Bardon’s fondest hopes was to present to the seekers of the world a system of initiation and practice which could be begun and applied safely on one’s own. As a guru or master is generally necessary for guidance, this was quite a difficult task he set for himself. To safeguard the budding Hermetist from going too far astray, he included numerous warnings in his writing, but went one better: he built safeguards into his books to ensure that those working from his teachings would not fall off the ledge. Among these safeguards includes the fact that each and ever spheric intelligence included in The Practice of Magical Evocation was personally vetted by Bardon himself, and each one gave its word to him that any student of Bardon’s work who contacted it would come to no harm by its actions. In other words, the student of Bardon already has a few friends in each sphere along the way. Though personal exploration is encouraged, even necessary, there is always a place to start, a contact to make which has already been established beforehand. This is a point of practical importance for the magician-to-be!
The scheme which Bardon presents is impeccably complete, starting from the start and working on only once each level has been fully integrated. Rather than jumping straight into the planetary spheres, the student of Bardon begins with the four elemental regions. As elemental equilibrium has already been established in the first five steps of IIH, the magician is in good stead to explore the elements intimately. Next, the sublunary sphere — composed of the lunar-zodiacal mansions — is integrated. Only then does the Hermetist move on to the lunar sphere, then the sphere of Mercury, Venus, Sol, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, in turn. If one makes it this far, the spheres beyond Saturn may be explored, but by this point, evocation has become outmoded, because, as the spheres become more and more rarified, the experience of “traveling to” each one becomes more and more a unitive experience.
Though of relatively minor import, so-called “magical powers” (siddhis) are developed throughout this process. It is generally not necessary to evoke a being to perform a specific task; once the virtues of a given sphere are integrated, the magician need only draw from the bottomless well of that sphere’s power (or śakti, with which he has become identified) to manifest his will. Once again, Bardon is clear that such abilities are only to be used to aid the ailing, and never to fulfill petty desires (which should have been well and truly stripped-out, by this point). The importance of the magical powers is primarily in the unification with the Śakti, or divine power, Herself, as she manifests in and through any particular universal force.
Just as Tantra provides a Hindu with a specific set of tools leading toward the Unitive Realization, so too does evocation for the Hermetist. The Yogi need never practice Tantra, though the Tantrika is, by definition, a Yogi; likewise, the Hermetist need never practice spheric magic, though the spheric magician is inherently a Hermetist. Tantra and spheric evocation are not by any means “lesser” methods, but instead kits for those who are called to use them for their spiritual growth and the liberation of others. Ultimately, in Realization, all magical powers become instantly available when they are needed.