Copyright (C) 1998 by William Mistele. All rights reserved. 

Initiation into Hermetics by Franz Bardon--A Commentary

Preliminary Comments: It is important in Bardon's book to master each
exercise before going on to the next one.  Over time, you also increase
your mastery over the beginning exercises.  An exercise you do for five
minutes in chapter 1 you extend to fifteen minutes or a half hour by
chapter 8. 
     The exercises of each chapter--the mental, psychic, and physical
levels--must also be mastered together before going on to the next
chapter.  This enables a student to avoid running into severe karmic
difficulties due to a one-sided development.
     Keep a careful record of your practices and make them a habit.  Some
things are best learned through repeated practice.  The training will
require your greatest commitment and highest spiritual will. 
    Do not become discouraged.  Realize, however, that this line of
practice is possibly the most difficult thing on earth to master.  After
all, in book one you are preparing to internalize in yourself the essence
of all spiritual wisdom and power that exist on this planet.
   If you get stuck somewhere, do not despair.  The exercises are set up
to reinforce each other.  And there is always someone around who can
assist you.  Internet puts us into touch with practitioners from around
the world. 
   And just about every single exercise in Bardon's book has been made
into a life long practice by someone.  The practitioners of various
religious or spiritual training systems often take a variation of one or
more of these techniques and treat them like an onion. They carefully peel
layer after layer until they arrive at the wisdom in its core.  They then
honor this achievement as the final realization of their system.  The
depths to which they go to accomplish their objectives can be appreciated
by a magician without having to adopt the limited goals and cultural
values underlying their methods. 
    For example, various cognitive psychologists love studying mental
processes and how thoughts influence behavior (a chapter 1 mental
exercise).  In Chinese Chi Kung, they love practicing breathing and
circulating energy through the body (a chapter 1 physical exercise).
   One of the most difficult exercises in Bardon is attaining magical
equilibrium beginning with introspection.  But the practitioners of a
system developed from the writings of Carlos Castaneda try to recall in
detail their entire life.  Ira Progoff, who works with intensive journal,
carefully guides his students to become conscious of the psychic threads
which form the pattern and stream of energy shaping their outer lives. 
    As fascinating as many training systems are, they do not try to
understand all aspects of human nature quite like a magician.  The
magician seeks to reflect and harmonize within his own soul the larger
universe and all the powers within it.  But the great training systems of
the earth do offer insight and exploration of specific truths. A magician
will understand the universal aspect of these many procedures and identify
them as steppingstones he can utilize, at his own discretion, as he moves
towards the mastery of the akashic plane of our planet.
     I add here a few paragraphs from my essay on the four planes:  My
kids sometimes ask about magick.  I tell them that in regard to Bardon's
practices, the concept he has of basic mastery is a spiritual ideal in
itself:  Bardon expects you to have 1.  The mental clarity of an advanced
Zen master--that is, a mind empty like a mirror and sharp as a diamond.
When you concentrate on something you easily focus without any distraction
whatsoever so there is nothing else in your consciousness.  2. The
concentration and artistic imagination of Stephen Spielberg.  Spielberg
can visualize each scene in a movie including camera angles. He can hear
the intonations in the voices of the characters and see the emotions they
portray.  He can do all of this before he begins shooting. 
      3. The ability to understand personal problems from a universal
perspective as one or two Ph.D.s in transpersonal psychology might impart. 
4. The level of vitality and chi possessed by a sixth don aikido sensei or
a fourth generation tai chi master.  5.  The qualities of a successful
individual in any profession:  His life must be organized.  He must be
free of needless distractions.  He must have rugged endurance, patience,
self- motivation, and determination.  And, like those at the top of any
profession or career, he must love his work with all his mind, heart, and
soul.  And these abilities and attitudes Bardon expects you to somehow
acquire before you move on to working with higher spirits. 
   I mention these five points because they represent skills present in
professions which are already part of our society.  There is absolutely
nothing secret or esoteric about them. They are the powers of creative
imagination acquired and applied through hard work and commitment.  The
first step in magick is not withdrawal.  It is to internalize some of the
creativity which already surrounds us.

Introduction to Mental Plane Exercises

The goal of the mental plane exercises will be to master your own mind. 
This will involve observing your own thought processes and controlling
your thoughts.  Inherent in this process is the development of our
imagination. For example, Bardon emphasizes being able to concentrate to
the extent we can recreate mentally anything we can experience sensually
through our five senses.  This mental agility and resilience is the basis
for developing psychic abilities as well as being able to understand the
minds of animals, other human beings, and spirits as well.
      Another goal of the mental training is to be able to move freely
between our physical world and various realms on the inner planes and to
do so comfortably so that we avoid various dangers and temptations.  In
entering the sphere of elemental beings, the various degrees of the astral
plane, and the akashic level of the earthzone, our minds will enter
environments which offer no support for our five senses.  There are no
familiar sensory impressions similar to what we encounter in everyday
life.  To be fully conscious and to perceive on these planes, our minds
will need great clarity and penetrating intuition. Before this can happen
we have to strengthen our mental abilities and become conscious of
everything which influences our perception and imagination. 
    In fact, the mind of a magician is meant to comprehend with ease the
thoughts of a sinner or a saint, a fool or a wise man, an autistic
individual or a genius, a salamander who commands a volcano to erupt or an
undine who dwells in the depths of the seas, a spirit who guides the
destinies of the nations or one who can resolve any conflict on this
planet, heal any disease, or transform any karma.  Bardon's training
system is this demanding and this complete.
     The task of a student, then, will be to take these exercises, however
difficult and unfamiliar, and somehow to make them his own so they become
second nature. Therefore, consider making the first book a life long
friend.  Return to it again and again. The teachings of the elemental
beings and many spirits of the earthzone and other spheres often take
these basic exercises and expand on them. 
   These spirits increase your power and heighten your concentration. 
They introduce into human nature a planetary and cosmic perspective
building on your current understanding. As in any academic curriculum,
however, you have to complete the basics.  Otherwise, when you jump into
an advanced class you can neither understand nor can you keep up with the
   When, for example, you arrive at the sphere of Venus, these magnificent
creatures of beauty will entice you to return to those basic areas which
you have failed to master.  They make the most simple needs in life seem
fantastically interesting.  And that is part of their job--to prepare us
so we have enough experience that we are ready to make the next step into
the sphere of the sun.  In the solar sphere, we join ourselves to
divinity, to pure light, and become radiant servants of life.
Initiation into Hermetics, Chapter 1, Mental Level

There are four exercises for the mental level in chapter 1.  In all of
Bardon's exercises, it sometimes helps to imagine you have already
mastered the exercise.  This is an exercise in imagination.  It gives you
a chance to feel what it is like to do something you do not yet know how
to do.  And there is a sense that if you can imagine it then you can get
it.  The thought or image of already being able to do something creates
energy which generates momentum and success.

Exercise 1:  Observing your thoughts.  Taking the perspective of an alert
and silent observer, close your eyes and observe your thoughts.  Do this
for a minute and work up to five minutes.  Try to recall all that happens
within your mind. 
    Comments:  This exercise makes you more conscious of your mental body
and the processes and contents of your mind.  When I first tried this
exercise, I felt very odd not only noticing mental events but also trying
to remember what had occurred while meditating.  I notice, though, that
the exercise made my mind sharper and more observant. 
   I could recall, by the way, up to six separate mental events but six
things is about all I can remember.  I feels a little odd to be observing
mental events and then trying also to remember them as well but I take it
that this is also part of the exercise. 
    If you are alert enough to notice the smallest change in your mental
activity, you also become very observant about what is happening
immediately in front of you.  All five senses become more alert.  It seems
natural for me, however, to also become acquainted with other individuals
who practiced various kinds of mental control and meditation. 
     For example, I once sat in a beginning class at a Zen monastery.  The
teacher had us sitting almost elbow to elbow facing a wall a few feet in
front of us.  We were to think no thoughts.  I noticed right off that if
you practice this form of sensory deprivation afterwards a small sensory
stimulus feels colorful, enchanting, and full of life.
   After the meditation, the instructor debriefed each of us.  He wanted
to know in detail what had occurred within our minds. There it is
again--that expectation that you are to recall what occurred when you were
supposed to not be thinking.  To be honest, I felt like telling him, "It
is none of your business."  I did not want to be subject to another
individual's influence by letting him know my strengths and weaknesses.  I
just wanted the discipline and sharing that comes with joining in a group
committed to mastering the self. Later on, I did meet a Zen master who
never once asked me what I was thinking or tried to teach me anything.  He
was great for me.  I could see directly in his mind what I wanted to
   There are advantages and disadvantages to training with others.  There
is a powerful social pressure when you meditate with individuals on each
side of you who can hear the slightest difference in your breathing or
notice the smallest change in your posture.  When working with a group,
you have access to the strengths of the group but also are influenced by
its weaknesses and its lack of commitment to universal truths. 
    Another Buddhist group I was in would sit for an hour, sometimes for
all day, and even for thirty day periods practicing ten hours a day.  They
would focus their minds for many hours on just one thing like the air
moving through the nose, the rising and falling of the chest, or the
belly.  I found this very enjoyable since I was interested in these
things. But I noticed also a real problem with the group. 
  Because I was training as a magician, I could sense their individual
brain waves and the general pattern of thoughts in the minds of those in
the room.  Again, they were practicing a form of sensory deprivation
without also training their imagination.  Their psychological attitude was
of someone going into and sitting in a dark closet.  Their minds were
bottled up, rigid, and confined rather than open and clear like the sky at
    Their doctrines told them to limit themselves to observing only those
layers of mental vibration which arise out of their body and personality
experiences.  They did this to prove to themselves that there is no need
to be attached to anything.  Every thought, feeling, and perception is in
flux and subject to change.  I did not have a problem with that doctrine.
It seemed obvious.  I felt they should not stop and limit their
concentration practices.  I found it natural to concentrate in the same
way on the mental vibration within a rock, a tree, the sea, the colors of
light, and other minds as well.  You master the mind by both understanding
and being free of every mental vibration which can occur within it.
   Some people suggest viewing passing thoughts as clouds passing through
a clear sky. Each time a thought arises you imagine you are seeing it from
a distance.  You note it but allow it to do whatever it wants without
reacting to it.  In this way, you acquire a neutrality and detachment. 
   Many meditation systems assume that it takes years to arrive at a level
where thoughts no longer arise.  Most monastic settings are fairly
tranquil.  Some monasteries teach Budo and the martial arts on very high
levels and so those develop another part of the brain.  In our lower
brains is the ancient hunter. 
    The hunter can track his prey for hours noticing every sign and trace
of the trail he is following and this he does without any distractions
occurring in his awareness.  This aggressive form of concentration is an
aspect of power or fire whereas the tranquility approach belongs to the
element of water.  It is nice to learn both.  Bardon's system happens to
emphasize power and will.  It is up to the student to find his or her own
best approach.

Exercise 2:  Mindfulness. This exercise involves being fully attentive to
whatever task you are performing without being distracted or letting other
thoughts intrude.  I imagine there are a number of ways to approach this
exercise.  Bardon emphasizes you should be able to be fully conscious and
alert whether you are at work or engage in something simple and seemingly
trivial.  You should work at this exercise until it becomes a life long
habit.  This kind of exercise is common in the Orient and is often
referred to as practicing mindfulness. 
    In Zen, they say words to the effect, "When you tie your shoes, you
tie your shoes. When you drink tea, you drink tea."  Of course if you are
living in a completely artificial environment like a monastery dedicated
to practicing austerities you have an atmosphere conducive for cultivating
mental discipline.  The building, the students, the master, and the daily
schedule are like a magical ritual designed to enhance and reinforce very
specific kinds of awareness. 
   Still, it is important to internalize the Zen monastery within oneself. 
This means being able to focus your entire mental body on whatever your
are doing as if this moment is of significance and important--not the
activity but whatever you happen to be doing in this moment of time.  This
practice strengthens the ties between your mind, soul, and body. The
mental, astral, and physical are united in your awareness.  This opens
consciousness to akasha--to a timeless and spaceless state of awareness. 
It makes anything you do a spiritual activity.
   This may not seem very important but it is extremely valuable.  It
provides support for you consciousness after engaging in the incredible
set of explorations of the psyche which Bardon's system encourages.  You
need to know that when you are done with a psychic or mystical practice
you can return to your ordinary consciousness without any part of your
awareness being elsewhere.  There is nothing allowed to intrude upon or
disturb your focus.  Most people do not need this skill but a magician
    Having made my point, I will discuss here and elsewhere why this may
cause problems for some individuals.  The Bardon system is extremely
dangerous, from my perspective, if you overdevelop your mind to the
exclusion of your feelings and ability to express adequately your
emotions.  Often unexpected thoughts, feelings, and sensations may
interject themselves into your awareness during the day or night. These
may signal deep feelings or intuitions stirring within you which you need
to attend to. 
   Some individuals worry too much or constantly.  One way of working with
that problem is to set aside a regular time when all you do is worry.  In
this way, you take charge of whatever is bothering you.  You give it the
attention it demands. 
   Similarly, if something is bothering or upsetting you, then it is not a
good idea to "exclude" it from your thoughts.  This is repression.  You
can get away with it for days, months, or even years.  Eventually,
however, either you solve the problem or it will grow strong enough to
demand your total attention by undermining your motivation or making your
ill showing up in other ways. 
   Elsewhere I mention that the mind Bardon wants to develop in the
student is open like the sky, flowing like water, serene like moonlight,
intense like lightning about to strike, radiant like the sun, empty like a
void, and so forth.  When you develop a high caliber level of
concentration, you also have to apply it so it harmonizes your personal
   For example, I can listen to my wife with a magical level of
concentration.  My mental body is then like a mirror in which she can see
herself more clearly.  And she enjoys this attention. 
    But what she likes a whole lot better is when I change my brain waves
to match her own.  Then the interactions between the left and right sides
of my brain are more rapid.  Then thoughts, emotions, and body language
are more blended and expressive.  In other words, as magicians we are
after a mental concentration but one which is flexible and not rigid.
Bardon says that the student should be able to change his personality
completely upon entering different situations such as being at home versus
being at work. 
Exercise 3:  Attending to one thought or a thought train.  In this
exercise, focus on one thought or a train of thoughts without any other
non-related thoughts intruding.  I am about to do my income tax so I could
just sort through everything I will need to do to get my taxes done.  That
would be a thought train.  I could pick a simple thought such as my dog or
the tree in the backyard.  I could focus on an affirmation such as, "I
feel a deep sense of inner peace."  Bardon does not elaborate on the level
or way we are to approach this exercise but it seems fairly
straightforward.  We already practiced focusing on one activity in
exercise two so now we simply focus on one mental activity instead of
something physical. 
   Everyone, of course, already knows how to do this exercise to some
extent. Just consider thinking about something you love doing or are
emotionally involved with.  Your interest alone should be able to keep you
focused without distraction.  I have sat down at 8 PM playing a computer
game and was surprised when I saw sunlight outside the window because time
had flown and now it was dawn.  The only thoughts in my mind during this
time related to the game I was playing.  That kind of recreational
activity is more a way of being absorbed than it is being alert and
conscious but it reminds me of what I am capable of doing.  The idea,
however, is to train your mind so you have a habit of focusing without
Exercise 4:  Controlling thoughts.  In this exercise, practice meditating
without any thoughts entering your mind until you can do so for ten
    There is a real advantage to being able to do this.  Having an open
and empty mind which is fully alert and attentive greatly enhances
understanding.  It means you can regard something without having to search
immediately for a label or concept to explain it.  This is a mental
ability which you rarely run into.  Most people have a mental anxiety
which means they have to identify everything as something familiar or else
they do not care enough to notice what is in front of them.
   Having a mind capable of being empty of thoughts means you can put a
lot of things in this mind without causing a reaction.  You can then
consider a problem from all sides.  You hold the entire problem within
your mind while remaining completely relaxed and clear.  Again, this
ability is absolutely essential for a magician. 
   A magician often deals with unknown experiences and new perceptions. 
If he tries to label them or make them fit what he believes or already
thinks he distorts their content.  A clear and empty mind is also a
psychic tool.  It can receive extremely faint impressions and then amplify
them which is like looking at something under a magnifying glass.  This is
because there is nothing else in your consciousness than what you are
focusing upon.
    My original notes show I was able to do this exercise after about a
month and a half of regular daily practice.  I believe, however, it is
very easy to lose this emptiness of mind practice once you learn it.  You
have to keep yourself in shape.  It is as easy as breathing for me to stop
all thinking for three or four minutes.  To do so for ten minutes takes
more effort.  After working with a few spirits like Jah-Hel of the Mercury
sphere, I acquired a taste for meditating for three or four hours at a
time.  I take a lot of breaks during this time. For example, I write up
what is occurring but everything I write about arises from within an empty
   I notice, however, that if I force myself to be free of thoughts there
is a strain on my nervous system.  Bardon mentions practicing while being
relaxed and this took me a long time to learn.  It is also easy for me to
cheat on this exercise by placing my mind in an akashic trance--a timeless
and spaceless state of awareness.  In akasha, there is no vibration
relating to thinking unless you place it there.  But using trance or
self-hypnosis to perform this exercise is off track.  The idea is to be
free of thoughts in a way which is natural, comfortable, and even
     As I practice now I notice that my thoughts and mental activities are
very distant.  They do not even appear as a thought or an idea because I
am sensitive to the vibration thinking possesses.  I can shun it before it
enters the linguistic or mental part of my brain where an action occurs
which I label thinking.  If you sense the mental vibration you can send it
off quickly without deciphering it in terms of a sensory perception or
interpreting it in terms of ideas and language, symbols, images, etc.  I
can also feel each thought as an energy or sensation somewhere in my body
usually, e.g., as a faint flash of sensation in my throat or head, etc. 
    What I am saying here is that not thinking has a certain vibration,
energy field, or set of brain waves associated with it.  If you can sense
that energy field and remain within it you also in effect stop thinking. 
But this ability came much later in my practice.  If I were giving advice
to myself when I was first beginning this exercise I would suggest working
on my sense of peace, stillness, and feeling a part of the planet earth. 
Then when I meditate I would be in an emotional and mental state where
thoughts do not vibrate.
    There are other advantages to getting this exercise.  I notice that
every time a thought appears it briefly breaks the connection with
whatever I am concentrating on or attempting to attune myself with.  The
mind is like a television set which blinks off or a telephone conversation
when static intervenes and obscures the words being spoken.
    My mother often says to me when we talk long distance that it sounds
like I next door. The connection is excellent through the satellite
relays. That is what you want for telepathy, clairvoyance, clairsentience,
and magical practices--a crystal clear receptivity and sending capacity. 
If you make a connection to an elemental being or spirit, you want to be
confident that the connection is complete and that there are no
interruptions.  You want to be able to say, "I am here. Speak to me.  What
is the answer to my question?" 
   To receive that answer often takes some time in the beginning because
you may be trying to receive into your mind a mental vibration which is
different from anything you have experienced before.  In order to listen,
you have to switch off the metal activity in your own mind so you can
receive what is being sent to you. 
    Of course, many individuals are used to concentrating on a hobby or
activity for thirty minutes or longer without a single extraneous thought
entering their minds.  They are completely involved with what they are
doing so that their interest stops all distractions. The empty mind is
just the same mental vibration but without a specific content. 
   For example, I raced sailboats for years and was accustomed to
concentrate on the wind interacting with the sail for many hours at a time
with an absolute minimum of conversation.  When I imagine myself sailing
again, I can notice how my concentration intensifies so that I feel
nothing else in the world exists but what I am doing.  When I close my
eyes and keep the concentration without any imagery, this form of
concentration is like acid--it dissolves thoughts before they enter my
mind.  You might try this for yourself by gearing your mind up to a mental
level of concentration which you have already developed through some other
activity.  Then switch back and forth between the activity which engages
you and an empty mind. 
    I would also mention the situation where an Oriental teacher will
bring his method of training to Westerners.  A Vipassana teacher, e.g.,
teaches concentrating on breath, the body, the mind and so forth for
extended period of time.  I know one individual who loves this sort of
thing.  She feels she has come home by participating in one of these
    But other Americans have some serious difficulties.  Though the
Vipassana teacher's methods are very clear, he does not in fact teach what
many Americans do not have.  From his culture in India, he has acquired a
wonderful sense of well-being and peace.  This is part of his etheric
body.  He had a love of spiritual things from childhood and the culture
supported this kind of endeavor and exploration.  But Western culture in
many instances has been extremely hostile to inner exploration of the
psyche and spirit.  To empty your mind is to also allow not only thoughts
but powerful emotions to arise.  It is as if you are opening a door to a
realm whose existence has been denied for thousands of years. 
    I do not mean to overplay this example but I think you have to feel
there is some sort of greater harmony or purpose to which you are
connected. Otherwise, an individual may find himself having to deal not
with the point of the exercise--controlling thoughts--but with another
question: What happens to your identity or to your self when there are no
thoughts within the mind?  This question is not answered intellectually
nor does it belong to the mental body. It belongs to the astral body which
will demand of you at some point that you feel loved and supported without
having a mental reference point for your identity. 
   The reason for this is that only in love can individuals let go of
identity and undergo transformation without needing to know who they are
or know in advance what they are becoming.  The great voids and empty
spaces within the heart, soul, mind, and spirit are not crossed by those
with great will.  They are crossed by those who love because love can
contain everything within its heart.  Bardon, of course, requires an equal
development of the physical, astral, and mental bodies. 
   I would also mention that the earthzone spirit Alosom, 25 degrees
Sagittarius, specializes in the magick of silence.  I have a write up on
my experiences with Alosom on my web page.  Silence is not just an empty
mind.  It has astral and physical qualities.  One of the nicest images I
got from working with Alosom was of sitting in silence in a room filled
with masters from all ages.  All of them have an appreciation for silence
and the mystery of the earth.
     You can also explore the imagery and feeling of a rock, a tree, or a
mountain.  We do this later on in mental projection in which we identify
our consciousness with things in nature.  The energies within nature
provide a natural support to becoming free of thoughts. I often get the
impression from the Bardon gnomes that they could walk through a mountain
or a forest for months without thinking a single thought. They are
conscious, alert, and perceiving but without any thinking occurring. 
Gnomes embody the energies of the earth.
   A not uncommon problem with heavy mental training is that for some
individuals empty mind and sense concentration exercises place too much
pressure on their third eyes.  The third eye chakra behind the eye brows
becomes over energized.  They then get headaches, feel tension in their
skulls, or find themselves locked into the mental plane.
    The remedy, again, is to only concentrate when you are completely
relaxed.  Try to perfect the state of relaxation so that it is always able
to match your magical development.  Stay in touch with nature's energies. 
Study forests and water and air.  Keep your astral body charged up with
organic energy.  Do not allow yourself to be separate from others like a
hermit because your concentration is so intense.
     Learn to use and appreciate your five senses to the same extent you
develop your mental detachment.  If necessary, stop practicing magical
exercises until you get you reestablish your natural vitality.  There were
times when I would get headaches from practicing too much.  One way I got
rid of those headaches was to go for a walk for thirty minutes in the
woods.  This allowed the energy in my feet and first chakra to balance and
relax the energy in my third eye. 
    In Kundalini yoga, they often suggest drinking such things as a sweet,
milk rich tea.  The caffeine, sugar, and milk serve to dissolve the
tension in the brain and head.  As with any physical side effects you may
experience from meditating, the idea is to take it a little slower.  Do
not obsessed on concentration exercises.  Each individual has a natural
rhythm and balance which you do not want to lose by burning out or over
doing it.  Learn to become sensitive to the onset of problems so you can
eventually monitor your own health and vitality in a conscious manner.
   In various Hindu yogas such as Hatha yoga, the idea is to first stretch
and relax the body while doing slow and steady breathing.  This builds up
an organic surcharge of vitality in the body.  The mind is then able to
rest within this relaxed and radiant vitality.  In so doing, many of the
normal concerns which give rise to thoughts disappear.  In this way, the
mental body is supported by the energy of the physical body and the
tranquility of the astral body.  Again, students will have to experiment
for themselves to discover what procedure works best for them individually
and in what ways they may need to compensate or utilize other resources to
perform Bardon's exercises successfully.

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