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

Initiation into Hermetics, Chapter 1, Physical Level

There are four exercises for the physical level.  They correspond roughly
to the four elements. The first helps wake you up in the morning and
relates to the invigorating and cleansing aspect of fire.  The second
dealing with breath relates to air.  The third involves food and is mostly
earth.  The fourth relates to the water element. 

1. The Material Body: Stretching and Skin Maintenance

The first exercise relates to stretching the body and rubbing the skin. 
That seems fairly straightforward and I will let the book speak for itself
on that point.  As with other exercises, each person has to find their own
pace and way of applying the exercise so it fulfills its purpose. 
2. Conscious Breathing/Mystery of Breathing

 The second exercise relates to breathing.  Basically, you breathe in
starting with seven breaths and gradually increasing the number.  You do
this twice a day.  Eventually you practice for about ten minutes a day.
    As you breathe in, you place a thought or wish within the air you are
inhaling.  The air serves as a medium for transmitting your desire through
the planes to the akashic plane within your body.  From this level, it
then seeks to manifest as reality.  The idea is to stick to desires which
relate to you directly and which serve to strengthen your health, harmony,
and spirit.
   To do this you need to be very relaxed.  You also need to imagine the
desire in a way so you feel the outcome is completely real for you.  In
other words, if you desire health, you visualize or feel yourself being
completely healthy. If you are after inner peace, happiness, contentment,
confidence, etc. you imagine this as being the reality right now.
   This is, in effect, a magical ritual utilizing the air element.  It is
taking something ordinary and, as with the following exercise involving
eating, turning it into a sacred act.  Normally, breathing exercises fall
under the study of pranayama.  There are a great many specific practices
involved with pranayama.  Sufis, Buddhists, Hindu's, Moslems, Taoists and
many other traditions work with breathing and approach the exercises
according to their own interests and purposes.  In one Hindu practice, you
must swear forever that you will not reveal the secret teaching about the
specific route the breath follows as it enters your body.
    Bardon mentions the four elements are present in air.  Sufis breathe
in through the nose and out through the mouth, vice versa, or in other
ways so as to focus on specific elements. Taoists breathe the chi in the
air into the body and circulate it through various meridians.  In Hatha
Yoga, you can breathe air into the muscles you are stretching. 
    I have written an essay called, Finding the Sylph within Yourself,
based on the sylph Cargoste's qualities.  In this approach, the idea is to
increase your awareness of the etheric energy in the air element which
surrounds your body.  As I inhale now, I tend to identify with the air
element since focusing completely on breathing leads me in this direction. 
In other words, I sense the etheric airy energy field around myself.  It
is incredibly relaxed, vibrant, uplifting, buoyant, and energizing.  Its
very nature is harmony and freedom. 
  As I inhale, I observe the process of breathing from the point of view
of this energy field of etheric air.  I feel part of that energy field
circulating through my lungs, blood, and body.  During this process, it
feels like my aura is expanding and joining with the air around me.
   Since the air element contains qualities I am interested in
internalizing within myself, it seems to me superfluous to place a thought
form into the air I am breathing.  In fact, I have a great deal of
difficulty doing magick on an ordinary level like this.  The "thought"
tends to rush through the air and my body and then center itself in my
mental body where it creates more tension than I feel comfortable having
inside myself.  It could be I just need to lighten up and concentrate in a
more gentle way.  I do not think this is a problem for others but it tends
to be something I personally have to be very careful with.
     The other thing I would suggest in performing breathing exercises is
to spend some time observing all you can about the breathing process
itself.  You might like to review the anatomy and physiology of breathing. 
You can also notice how first your upper chest, then your ribs, and
finally your belly expand outward as you inhale.  You can focus on the
sensation of air as it moves between your nostrils and your lungs.  You
can concentrate on your sinus cavities as you are breathing. 
     You may also be able to notice the particular vibration or vitality
in the air as it moves into your lungs and circulates through your body. 
You may feel your heart beat and how the heart muscles are more "hungry"
for oxygen than other muscles.  The heart muscles die without adequate
oxygen supply whereas other muscles can sustain their strength longer
without air.
   When it comes to breathing exercises, I like to combine breathing with
movement.  I enjoy Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung exercises.  For me, there is
a different feeling and use of vitality in the Tai Chi Chuan forms of
different Chinese masters.  This is even more noticeable in different Chi
Kung forms.  One set of Taoist Chi Kung forms leaves me feeling like I am
sitting amid a tranquil mountain pool.  Another walking form stimulates
the lung meridians which helps to open up the nose and sinuses.  Other
forms imitate flowers, animals, clouds, and to some extent produce the
etheric energy of these aspects of nature in the practitioner. 
     I would also point out that the two Chinese meridians relating to the
air element are the lung and large intestine meridians.  The lung meridian
tends to carry with it a feeling of harmonious movement into the future. 
This contrasts with the opposite feelings of having anxiety or worrying
about future events.  The large intestine meridian carries with it a
feeling of being relaxed, balanced, and at ease.  This contrasts with a
feeling of depression or of being pulled down. 
   Altogether, the air element has within it the qualities of clarity,
unhindered movement, freedom, balance, harmony, etc.  As you work with
breath, try to notice how your own emotional and mental states effect your
breathing.  Breathing is a celebration of the air element and of
participating in a vast ocean of life force which surrounds us. 
  On the other hand, it is easy to fall into emotional states such as
worry and insecurity which rob us of this connection.  Besides becoming an
addictive habit, some individuals use smoking as a means to evoke a state
of harmony and detachment.  As soon as the cigarette is lit and the smoke
enters their lungs, their anxiety and distress are banished.  It is as if
they have created a psychic bubble around themselves which the concerns of
the world can not penetrate.  In this case, the air element in the lungs
is neutralized.  The individual can then see and feel in a different way. 
The worries and the disharmonies are briefly relieved. 
     The breathing exercise serves a similar purpose.  As you focus
completely on breathing, time and space are suspended.  You are immersed
within a state of harmony and freedom. You feel united to a greater
presence.  But in this case, the feelings are not generated by suppressing
the air element.  The etheric or vital energy in air enters into and
supports your meditation.

3. Conscious Reception of Food. 

This exercise is similar to conscious breathing.  If we can place a
thought in the air which we inhale, we can do the same with food and
drink. Food, being more material, is used more for material desires or
those relating to our bodies.
    Before you eat, concentrate a thought or wish into your food as if
what you desire is real right now.  As you eat, stay focused on your
thought or meditation as you imagine your desire entering every cell of
your body.  Eat all the food. 
   Once again, we are taking something ordinary and turning it into a
magical act.  We are converting eating into a sacred ritual.  Bardon says
this is similar to the communion of Christians. 
   These days many individuals eat fast foods and they eat while watching
TV, talking, or doing other things.  To some extent, this may be
unavoidable for some individuals depending on their work situations and
other factors.  Once when I was talking to an Islamic Sheik at a
university, he exclaimed that he could not understand how the students
could eat in public much less while walking between classes.  In fact, in
his tradition it was inappropriate for a man to eat in the presence of a
woman--and this even though he had three wives!  For him, eating was a
carefully construed ritual activity. 
    As with the breathing exercises, if I place a thought into the food I
am eating, I can feel the vibration of that thought transferred
immediately to my mental body.  I do not think this is a real concern for
others.  Any form of ritual magick is fairly powerful for me and I have to
be careful with how I use it.  That is, I have to be sure to align myself
with natural processes as much as possible and avoid over use of mental
forms of concentration. 
    If we compare eating to taking communion, it relates to the
eucharistic mystery.  This is a vast topic which can be explored from many
sides.  For myself, I like to concentrate on food imagining the sources
from which it comes.  I see the grapefruit on the tree and the grape juice
as grapes on a vine.  I see the bread as wheat in the field, the carrots
in the ground, etc.
   I then place my mind within the food.  I try to feel the vibration of
the physical substance of the food I am about to eat.  I also try to sense
the life force within it.  I join my mind with both the physical substance
and the energy of the food.  This produces in me a feeling of being
grounded, of being connected to the earth, of being strong, vibrant, and
   This method is more alchemical than the procedure of concentrating a
thought into the food.  Those who study the cosmic language will notice
that the letter OE pertains to alchemy.  The OE uses both sensations of
weight belonging to the earth element and the penetrating sensation of
akasha.  OE carries with it a sense of perfectly accepting and joining
your conscious to what you are working on. 
   First you understand something exactly as it is.  But because you are
penetrating it with your awareness, you also sense the subtle, etheric
energy underlying it.  And finally, you come to see the perfection of this
material in its highest etheric vibration.  The OE deals with the
philosopher's stone or the quintessence of life force drawn from out of
what already exists within nature. 
    Since I am working with gnome magicians, the alchemical method is more
comfortable for me.  As I mention elsewhere, a gnome will place his
awareness within a precious stone to accomplish a specific effect.  He
might also work with an area of the earth such as a mountain or rock
outcropping.  When he is done, the physical location is invested with an
astral and etheric vibration such as well-being and peace. 
    Conscious eating can be done in a similar way.  By briefly joining
your spirit with the food before you eat it, you transform it raising and
refining its vibration.  In a sense, this activity can also express itself
by visualizing the food or concentrating into it the thought that the food
is a universal healing energy or an elixir of life.
   Also, Bardon says of the cosmic letter C that it relates to
quabbalistic alchemy--the "modification of matter by the word."  That is,
you impregnate a material form with a spiritual, mental, or astral
quality.  The eucharistic celebration pertains to the letter C as compared
to the letter OE. 
   The goal in letter C is not so much the perfection of the life force of
nature.  The letter C is useful for embodying high spiritual or divine
qualities within oneself.  Except for the Celtic Church in Ireland, the
early Christian monks in their monasteries were not usually concerned with
nature spirits or the life force in the trees, fruits, wheat, and harvest. 
   The early monks conceived of joining themselves to a love so pure and
radiant that a small part of God's presence could be felt and reflected
within them.  And so we have the words of Christ (as a variation on many
ancient rituals of joining with deity) saying, "Take and eat, for this is
my flesh...." 
   There is a tendency for monks in monasteries to obsess with the mental
and akashic planes when they approach divinity.  As opposed to this, I
think what Christ was offering in the Last Supper was a way of making a
direct connection to him on the astral plane.  In this case, the effect is
not to produce austerities and withdrawal from the world so typical of
monastic traditions.  The effect was intended to produce a powerful
empathy and a dynamic compassion which exerts a transforming effect when
one person interacts with another.
    What I am suggesting is that when you impregnate food with a desire be
sure to include an astral component.  Astral images are emotionally
moving, satisfying, and fulfilling. They enhance and add beauty to the
person you already are. 
   The final thing I would say about conscious eating is that we are
practicing not only alchemy and the eucharistic mystery.  We are blessing
food just as someone might pray and ask a blessing on the food before they
eat.  The power to bless also falls under the cosmic language--the cosmic
letter G.  This letter has a watery sensation and a green color which
relates to the sphere of Venus.
   On the various planes, the letter G produces divine grace, mercy,
blessing, peacefulness, satisfaction, happiness, and abundance.  The
letter G embodies the blessing which we often associate with the
benevolent presence of an angel.  If you practice conscious eating for
decades, you are acquiring some of these magical abilities--the OE with
its refinement of nature's life force;  the C with its embodiment of
divinity within us;  and the G with its angelic power to bless and to
    But the basic practice remains:  we turn eating into something sacred. 
By performing it consciously aware of not only the material but the other
planes as well, it becomes a magical action.  By giving of ourselves
completely to the moment, we enter briefly and commune with the spirit
within us, akasha, and the Eternal Now.

4. The Magick of Water

Bardon points out that water can also be impregnated as can any substance
through the akasha principle which is part of it.  However, water also has
a magnetic aspect which is especially useful as an accumulator of energy. 
The magnetic aspect Bardon is interested in is strongest around 39 degrees
F and slowly loses its power as it becomes warmer until around 97 degrees
F where it no longer operates. 
   In the first part of this exercise, as you wash yourself with water,
imagine that whatever weakness, illness, or unhappiness that afflicts you
is removed from yourself and absorbed by the water.  You can do this while
you take a shower, with your hands under a tap, by placing your hands in a
bowl of water, or by taking a dip in a stream.  As you wash yourself, also
use soap.  Do not let another individual come in contact with the water
you use.
   You can also impregnate a bowl of water with a desire.  Place your
hands in the water and concentrate on absorbing the realization of your
desire into yourself.  You can also wash yourself of some weakness in one
bowl of water and then absorb into yourself your wish realization with a
second bowl. 
   Bardon also mentions two other possibilities.  A woman can magnetize
some water with the idea of becoming more attractive with a more youthful
face and skin.  In this case, she can add a bit of borax to the water. 
She can wash or, better, dip her face in the water seven times (seven
relating to the sphere of Venus) as she does this. 
   Bardon also mentions a similar aspect for strengthening the eyes or
developing clairvoyance by using an eye bath.  I will leave this last
exercise as it is stated in the book.  Some undines such as Istiphul use
water for seeing into the future. 
   There are quite a few practices involving water.  Some individuals I
know would mention adding various ingredients to bath water--herbs,
spices, fragrances, etc.  Different herbs are said to produce different
influences on the physical and astral bodies.  Hydrotherapy is also a
speciality of one of the earthzone spirits Bardon mentions in his second
     At one Taoist monastery, we heated pine cones, eucalyptus bark, and
fresh ginger in a pot and then dipped the water on to towels.  We then
gave massages through the hot towels.  Obviously, there are a number of
different spices or herbs which can be used for this kind of herbal
    When I use water to cleanse myself, something similar happens to me as
when I do the earlier breathing exercise.  With breath, I sense and
identify with the air element around me almost as if I am a sylph. 
Working with water, I spontaneously feel myself surrounded by water.  This
comes from concentrating on the water to the exclusion of all other
sensory impressions. 
   When I first wrote about the undine Isaphil about five years ago, I
presented an exercise for connecting to the water element.  You place your
hands in a sink or bowl filled with cold water.  You concentrate on that
cold sensation on your skin. 
    Then you extend your mind into the water around your hands.  You place
your consciousness within this water as if it is part of yourself.  Then
you imagine you are the water surrounding your hands.  You feel your hands
from the point of view of the cold water. 
  At this point, as you bring your hands out of the water, try to sustain
the sensation of cold water surrounding them.  You may also be able to
feel a magnetic field around your hands which you can also sustain with
your mind.  This magnetic field is the medium in which undines often
operate.  It is the etheric energy underlying the water element.  This
preliminary exercise seems to do a lot for me in terms of attuning my mind
to water. 
   Just now I did the first part of the exercise in which I was imagining
water absorbing the excess tension in my body.  I held my hands under the
bathtub tap for several minutes.  As I focused solely on the water flowing
over my hands, I again rather spontaneously visualized the source of this
water--clouds and rain over the nearby mountains.  Water dripping from the
leaves of trees and running into streams and flowing over falls and also
sinking down into the water table.  I could smell the air and imagine I
was there.  This imaginative extension of the exercise seems to increase
its effectiveness for me. 
   For the part of the exercise in which we work on a desire, I held my
hands over a sink filled with cold water.  I charged the water with the
feeling of serenity--of being very happy, peaceful, and clear.  I imagined
this energy/charge flowing from my hands into the water.  And I also
pictured this wish within the water. 
   Then I placed my hands in the water and absorbed the wish back into
myself along with the magnetic charge within the water. This time as I
placed my hands in the water I felt my whole body under the ocean
surrounded my miles of watery energy.  Absorbing the serenity into myself
seems to produce a very soothing feeling.  Some of the etheric energy in
water is transferred back into me. 

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