Initiation into Hermetics
Study tools to accompany the book by Franz Bardon
Initiation into Hermetics is a book that allows for self-initiation. The books contains information and exercises meant to teach the reader how to do various magical workings.
On this page, you'll find quizzes and other tools to help you learn and understand the material presented in the book.
It probably goes without saying, but this book is a little older and will contain some outdated language. There's also quite a bit of "borrowing" from Eastern cultures without all the desired context. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Use your best judgement when reading and applying the information in this book.
If you would like more help understanding the text, another resource can be found here.
There are a few things I recommend reading up on before jumping into this, just because they could help give some foundation for the things Bardon talks about. They are:
Part One: Theory, section 17 (God)
Part One: Theory, section 18 (Acesticism)
Part Two: Practice, step One
Part Two: Practice, step Two
Part Two: Practice, step Three
Part Two: Practice, step Four
Part Two: Practice, step Five
Part Two: Practice, step Six
Part Two: Practice, step Seven
Part Two: Practice, step Eight
Part Two: Practice, step Nine
Part Two: Practice, step Ten
Part One: Theory, sections 1 through 5
This section of the book addresses the elements/principles. These words are used almost interchangeably, but I think it will help us to understand the author's original intention if we refer to only Fire and Water as "elements" and to all five of these concepts as "principles."
This won't be on the quiz, but it might be important to note: the colors Bardon attributes to each principle do not match what the majority seems to believe today. Here's a quick chart to show the difference:
Part One: Theory, sections 6 through 8
This section of the book addresses Light, Ether, and Karma. Bardon uses the term "Akasa" to refer to Ether, so just know that they are considered the same thing for the purposes of this book.
Light comes from Fire. Fire cannot exist without giving off Light. Light cannot exist without coming from Fire. The opposite of Light is Darkness and the opposite of Fire is Water. Water is to Darkness what Fire is to Light.
Ether is a difficult principle to explain. It's a sort of mysterious "force" that penetrates everything. If you are a Christian, you might think of it as the Holy Spirit. Ether is the origin of everything. Fire is considered the first element, but Ether came before even that. Ether has always been around. Ether is The All in all.
"Karma" is used here to mean what we think of in the Western world: what goes around comes around, basically. "Cause and effect" is another way to see this principle.
At this point, quite a few words have been used that we need to keep in mind. I have mentioned a few in this guide, but if you've been reading the book you've seen all of these so far. Let's review them together.
Tetragrammaton - The four Hebrew letters that represent the name of God. YHVH is how we tend to write it in English, but the Hebrew text would be יהוה (yod hei vav hei).
Electrical Fluids - A representation of "positively" charged energy.
Magnetical Fluids - A representation of "negatively" charged energy.
Tattwas - an Eastern name for the elements/principles.
Akasa - Ether, the origin of the other principles.
Tejas - Fire.
Waju - Air.
Apas - Water.
Prithivi - Earth.
Karma - "What goes around comes around," "what you reap is what you sow," etc. The idea that what you do comes back to you.
Part One: Theory, section 9 (Man, About the Body, Diet)
I hope I don't need to say this, but nothing in this book replaces medical advice. Talk to your doctor, use common sense, etc.
The principles make up everything, and that includes the human body. For a person to be spiritually healthy, their body needs to have the proper balance of all the principles. Too much of one thing can throw the whole system off. Too much "earth" makes us lazy, for example.
Air acts as a mediator between Fire and Water in the body. You will recall from earlier that Air contains both Fire and Water, so this makes sense. While Air keeps Fire and Water balanced, Earth holds everything together.
The head is considered to be Fire, the chest is considered to be Air, and the abdomen is considered to be Water. These designations also make sense: the head is where we "keep" our willpower, the chest is where we breathe and process air, and the abdomen is where we digest our food and separate waste. Earth, as stated before, holds the whole body together.
Ether is in the blood and sexual fluids (specifically semen is mentioned). Blood has often been seen as the life force throughout history, and sexual fluids create life. Since Ether is the origin of everything and represents God, the Soul, the Holy Spirit, The Force, whatever you want to call it... this seems to fit.
The book goes on to detail more specific body parts and whether they are "magnetical fluids" or "electrical fluids." These seem to correspond with what are traditionally considered "masculine" and "feminine" energies, respectively, with electrical being the assertive type and magnetical being the receptive type. So, for ease of learning, whenever you see "electrical" just assume "masculine" and whenever you see "magnetical" just assume "feminine." I'll continue to use his terminology here, though.
Another thing Bardon mentions is the "tetra-polar magnet," which seems to build on the idea of the typical "north" and "south" pole on everyday magnets we have in the real world. The opposite poles attract each other and stick together, giving us magnetic force. The "tetra-polar magnet" works in much the same way, but having four poles instead of only two. Fire and Water are opposites as are Earth and Air. Ether permeates everything and so it is in the "center" of the magnet.
Here is a simple illustration to hopefully help make this easier to understand. You may want to refer back to this image as we talk about more of the terms on it.
Let's have a little quiz to make sure we're keeping up with all of this information.
Part One: Theory, section 10 (The Material Plane)
This section is about the physical world and how the elements and principles work within it. Electrical fluid is said to fill the inside of the planet while magnetical fluid is all over the outside. Bardon seems to attribute gravity to this magnetical fluid, as it "pulls" things to it and causes the phenomena of weight.
Personally, that's about all I could get from this section. Please read it in case you find something else noteworthy. If you find something that you feel I should add into this guide, please email me.
Part One: Theory, section 11 (The Soul or the Astral Body)
The soul is made up of finer vibrations than the physical body, though the same principles are present. The electromagnetic fluid, also called the "astral matrix," is what binds the body and soul together. (The soul/astral body is different from the aura.)
From the text: The astral matrix or the electromagnetic fluid is the connecting link between the body and soul. The fiery principle causes in the soul what is constructive, the principle of water causes the animating, the principle of air is balancing, and the earth principle causes what is thriving, compound and preserving in the soul.
The five senses (touch, sound, taste, smell, sight) are related to the five principles, though Bardon does not go into detail about this.
Sanguine - Air
Choleric - Fire
Melancholic - Water
Phlegmatic - Earth
Please check out the link to learn what each of these humors do. The combination of your specific balance of humors is what creates the aura. I think most of us are familiar with the concept of an aura. It's like a color floating around your body. The color and texture of an aura can help us to understand how a person is feeling, what their base character is like, etc.
Next, Bardon talks about the Chakras, which I will be referring to as "energy centers," as I feel this more accurately fits our Western understanding of the idea. Each principle corresponds to an energy center. Here is a quick doodle to illustrate this idea a bit more easily.
Part One: Theory, section 12 (The Astral Plane)
The Astral Plane is often referred to as the "fourth dimension." It doesn't appear to have any Earth, Air, Fire or Water, but it is instead made up entirely of Ether. Every physical thing that exists, has existed, or will ever exist in the Material Plane already exists on the Astral Plane. If an item exists in the Material Plane, it must first exist in both the Astral and the Mental Plane. The Astral Plane is timeless and spaceless, having no beginning and no end.
When the connection between the Material body and the Astral body (the Astral Matrix) is broken, physical "death" occurs. Bardon states that "death" doesn't really exist. Your astral body (soul) is simply leaving the physical body behind. When occultists visit the Astral Plane, we must "slacken" the astral matrix connecting our Body to our Soul to give the Soul room to roam. This is what modern magicians refer to as "astral projection" or what witches refer to as "flying."
There are many beings that exist in the Astral Plane. Among other things, they include:
- Souls of deceased humans
- Elementaries (not Elementals)
- Larvae (Thoughtforms)
- Salamanders (fire creatures)
- Sylphs (air creatures)
- Undines or mermaids (water creatures)
- Gnomes or goblins (earth creatures)
Part One: Theory, section 13 (The Spirit)
The spirit can be considered as the "Mental" part of the self, according to A Bardon Companion. This is the immortal part, which came from the Ether. The Soul moves on. The Spirit stays.
This is a bit tricky for me, and maybe it is for you, too, because "spirit" and "soul" are used almost interchangeably in common language. I think it will be helpful to think of the "soul" as the "personality." The personality (Soul) is who you are as a person, and that only exists in this life and will eventually fade, like a ghost. The Spirit is what will remain forever after this life.
The Spirit is made up of the four "grosser" principles.
Fire - willpower, strength, power, passion
Air - intellect, memory, judgement, discernment
Water - emotions, conscience, intuition
Earth - the union of the previous three, ego, self-preservation, reproduction
Part One: Theory, section 14 (The Mental Plane)
Our body has the Material Plane and our soul has the Astral Plane. So what does the Spirit/Mind have? The Mental Plane! This is essentially your conscious awareness, thoughts, and imagination. A difference between the Astral Plane and the Mental Plane is that you'll feel something very similar to physical sensations on the Astral Plane but not on the Mental Plane.
Bardon contradicts himself a bit here by stating that the Astral world is timeless but bound to space. In the section on the Astral Plane, he said it was timeless and spaceless. I went back to make sure I wasn't misremembering. Here, he says it's the Mental Plane that is both timeless and spaceless. (The Material Plane, of course, is bound by both time and space.)
Like the Astral Plane, The Mental Plane has inhabitants. They include:
- Deceased humans (the Spirit part of them)
- Elementals (not Elementaries)
From the text:
The difference between an ideal form and an elemental lies in the fact that the ideal form is based on one or several ideas. On the other hand, the elemental is equipped with a certain quantity of consciousness and therefore with the instinct of preservation, but otherwise it does not much distinguish from other mental living beings, and it can even take the same shape as the ideal form.
Part One: Theory, section 15 (Truth)
The truth is... difficult. Especially in the current political climate.
On the one hand, there are things that we know to be true. Science and math have given us the tools to learn about the world around us and to figure out things that our ancestors could only dream of knowing. Germ theory, gravity, evolution, and many, many other concepts have formed as a result of our human need to understand the truth. The reason I say it's difficult is because, well... a lot of people don't believe/understand the science. Especially people with magical interests. It's important to be skeptical, yes, but it's also important to listen to experts about things like vaccines and statistics.
HOWEVER, this is not exactly what Bardon wants to talk about in regard to Truth. I just wanted to address the elephant in the room before moving on. Listen to your doctors, don't eat rocks, etc.
Instead, Bardon seems to be concerned with personal truths. What is true to you? What is true to me? Is it worth telling each other about these truths? Usually not. Bardon brings up the old piece of wisdom, "“Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet." Sharing what is deeply and important true to us as individuals is, more often than not, impossible to do in any meaningful way.
He writes about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is easier. Knowledge is facts and figures and technique. Wisdom is often much harder to come by. We learn knowledge by words, but we learn wisdom by experience. That's not to suggest that one is more important than the other. We need both in order to grow as individuals.
Bardon doesn't say it here, but I think it belongs. "The lips of wisdom are sealed, except to the ears of understanding."
Part One: Theory, section 16 (Religion)
Religion can be a touchy subject. Bardon states that every religion has good and bad points, and suggests that we should try to take the good and leave the bad. While I generally agree with this sentiment, it's worth pointing out that cultural appropriation can happen when this isn't done skillfully.
Each person will have their own beliefs about what is true in regard to religion. We need to respect these differences and not preach to others about our own beliefs. We can feel that other people are incorrect, but these feelings don't need to be stated out loud. Bardon claims that if everyone adopted this approach to religion, the world could be much more peaceful.
I feel like this is a good time to point out that Bardon was asked to help Hitler's cause and he refused. Bardon was imprisoned in a concentration camp and tortured. So when he says to respect religious differences, we can be pretty confident that he means it.
While we should not preach our religious opinions to unwilling ears, Bardon tells us to explain the best we can when people ask us. If someone is trying to learn, it is our duty to help them understand while still not lecturing them. It's best to go slow and steady with this approach. Don't jump straight into telling people about elemental beings, maybe. Start with... I dunno, meditation being important to you. Something not too wild, in case the person is less open-minded than what might be required.