Today we welcome Chris from the excellent podcast ‘Knowledge and Conversation’. If you would like to check out the podcast then click here.
Hello and welcome to Students of Franz Bardon (SOFB)
Thanks for asking me to do this! (CHRIS)
SOFB: Firstly could I ask you to introduce yourself to the readers, please tell us a little about yourself and how you first discovered Franz Bardon's books and what motivated you to get involved in magic, specifically the Bardon system.
CHRIS: I'm Chris and I consciously started walking down the magical path about 13 or 14 years ago, but looking back, it seems like I was always meant to go this way. As far back as I remember, I had an inner sense that there was a greater depth and reality to the spiritual than I was given in my mostly superficial Catholic upbringing. I was fascinated by the mystery behind the myths. I started showing creative inclinations very early in life, so to me imagination and curiosity have always been a huge part of who I am. I think it's the combination of those things that lead me to pursue a spiritual life that is based in direct experience rather than through dogma and legality.
To make a long story short, I experienced some trauma in my childhood & teens. That grew into some serious depression, which is a thing that I still deal with today. By my late teens/early twenties, that had blossomed into a hyper materialistic atheism, so when magical things began to happen in overtly shocking ways, I had to investigate it and I had to do it seriously.
What I didn't expect to happen was that the current would carry me to Justin, one of my first teachers, best friends, and K&C co-host, along with a whole group of friends that would become my teachers and magical family so to speak. I was introduced to Bardon soon after.
From there I think it was just the right place, right time & right support system that helped me get there.
SOFB: Please tell us about the Podcast ‘Knowledge and Conversation’. How did this come about? Did you have any mixed feelings in being so open about your practice?
CHRIS: Justin pitched the idea of doing a podcast to me a few years ago, but it took awhile for us to figure out what form that would take, learning some of the ins and outs of actually doing one, and getting enough time and equipment to make it.
Really though, for me, the seed of the idea came to me when I looked at my occult podcast feed and realized that while there were plenty of podcasts that talked with and about authors and different people teaching, there really wasn't much in the way of magicians sharing the kinds of extraordinary experiences that we all have. The experiences that make magic real to us and worth pursuing. I knew that magicians of all stripes were all around us, I wanted to hear their stories and it seemed the best way to do that is start with our own.
So to tell those stories honestly requires a level of vulnerability that is to me, impossible to fake. I just didn't want to do this at all if I am not being as genuine as I can. That of course meant coming out of the quiet, private life that I had been practicing in for the past few years. It was a hard choice, but so far I'm glad I made it. I've already met some great people that I wouldn't have if I were still keeping my light under a bushel so to speak.
SOFB: In every interview I like to ask some standard questions regarding common sticking points found in IIH:
VOM: Franz Bardon said he expected step 1 to be completed inside of 2 weeks. Do you think this was realistic or the first of many tests of the students 'Will'.
CHRIS: It can be done, sure, but I wonder how much it matters. If it took you 3 weeks or even 3 months would that matter in a year? Ten years? Thirty years? Would we even remember how long it took? Because that's the scale we're talking about here. VoM is not a thing we do once and quit. It's a profound change that one is attempting to make in their mental habits. It isn’t easy, but it’s very doable. It’s not a race, so why don’t we do ourselves a favor; keep working at it and let it come when it comes.
A helpful tip is to get a good workout before, or to practice immediately upon waking, whenever the mind is not already in its usual pattern of behaviour, and the body is not going to be complaining from tension or tiredness.
It's also important to remember that this exercise is the third in a series. Some of the folks who get stuck at VOM tend to be skipping ahead a bit, because when we really get it, it’s an extension of the other two parts. First we learned to observe the thoughts, which introduced us to an aspect of our minds that could be passive, not partaking of the thoughts, and which is always there. It's the awareness. This should also show us the various ways that thoughts form and appear.
Then we're to focus on one, or to follow one train of thought to the exclusion of anything else. This shows us to a greater extent how thoughts form, and how to diffuse them in order to maintain focus on our chosen thought. If we were really paying attention, we'd notice that eventually we didn't shift as much, but still little thought buds and sense impressions might show up. Memories of childhood, recent events, bits of books and movies. Sensory data from things we're hearing, tensions in the body, emotions and so on. These can be indulged by the awareness to become thoughts or be allowed to arise and pass, never to become a full thought. Eventually, even these go away.
See when we're going about our normal lives, our awareness is hidden from us, it just goes around letting attractive thought buds blossom into full blown thoughts that we inhabit with our awareness, as if it were the sun, and clipping down the ones we don't want to give life to. Our perceptual investment in the thoughts is so profound, we lose the distinction between the impression or bud, the thought itself and us. All the time. It's exhausting when we think about it.
VOM simply extends our newfound still awareness and marries it to the function of eliminating thoughts from occurring.
So first we sit in our observer, open, without a thought to concentrate on. We're just there. Ultimately it feels like sitting in a pool and just floating, keeping ourselves and the water still and serene.
At first, the thoughts will come. We let them pass. Then the buds show up. We clip them off. They come back. We clip again. It's exhausting and counter productive.
In reality, we don't need to clip them at all. If we let the thought buds dissipate by simply not attaching our awareness to it, it not only goes away… but it's like it never happened. We're just still.
At first, they're going to just keep popping up, but eventually the appearance will only briefly disturb our pool of awareness… so brief we aren't even aware of what it was… then we're starting VOM. When we're still aware, but not automatically attaching to the buds to the degree that we don't even see them.
VISUALIZATION: People tend to spend years here expecting IMAX like results, what is your advice for those on these Step 2 exercises. Did you follow the method from IIH or come up with your own approach?
CHRIS: I followed the IIH method, but for me visualization wasn’t much of a problem. The challenge was discipline, and control over time. Separating out the specific senses was the hard part for me.
That said, I think it’s a case of probably trying to overshoot the results. Bardon is trying to get us to have control of our imaginary faculties even when we are doing other things, so that later, when we attempt something like scrying or evocation, we can do it all with ease and still see where we’re going! So, we want crystal clear imagination at our command while doing anything else.
VITAL FORCE: Some people can not feel the accumulation, what can they do to feel it more intensively?
CHRIS: What a great question! Vital force is the root feeling of life itself, so go out and get your blood pumping! Go for a run, or do some yoga. The Wim Hof breathing method is particularly effective too. After finishing these activities, there should be a number of sensations. The flow of blood in the body produces pulsing, rushing feelings throughout the extremities, from the heart outward. That tingle we’re feeling right there, behind or inside that is a feeling of LIFE. It’s in the srtech of the muscles, the beat of the heart itself.
Yes, We know that’s just high oxygenation, but the idea is to amp up the sensations to get a touch stone on it, something to draw on to get us started. (And it is in fact in the air and the blood too!)
Then we can do this with just a few deep breaths, assisted greatly by the pore breathing and skin brushing techniques. If we do this, we should be able to feel the tingling, light feeling. Now if we sit in meditation and bring our whole attention to the sensation to it, it’ll grow and intensify in a kind of feedback loop.
We should then let all our senses paint the picture for us then… what does it look like? sound like? Does it get bigger, smaller? What is its relationship to the elements? Don't force it, just let whatever arises do its thing. To me, it looks like golden-white light that buzzes and tingles in little motes that congeal into a fluid of light.
Now, with a bit of luck, we can imagine the sensations and images being drawn in and kind of kindling between our outstretched hands. It builds up a tension, a skin like a bubble of light, and the more we condense it, the brighter and solid it feels. Whether or not you think it works however, make sure to disperse it before you call it quits.
Eventually, the dam breaks and we can feel it everywhere, in everything, because it’s there.
ELEMENTS: Getting in contact with what Rawn Clark called the principle of the element can be difficult as at that point the student has no real idea of what this and when it is make believe and when this goal is finally achieved. What are your thoughts here?
CHRIS: I can't speak for Rawn here, because I'm not familiar with his work, ha ha.
But if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the principle of fire is that which is at the burning core of the stars, erupts in every volcano and splits the air in the lightning. It is the Fiery passion and will that blazes within.
The principle of water is the frozen core of the glacier, the dark pressure of the ocean bottom, the power of the typhoon, as well as the fluidity that allows for ice, water and vapor. It is every year you have ever shed.
In Air it is the gust of a hurricane, thing that carries every sound ever heard, and every word ever spoken. It is the breath in your lungs.
In Earth it is the weight of a mountain, the pressure deep with the dark of the Earth that crushes carbon into diamonds. And in you it is the solidity of your own bones that says this is my body.
DEPTH POINT: This is perhaps a big development in the IIH where a big shift has to occur in order to understand the point Franz Bardon was trying to make. Can you comment on the significance of this exercise?
CHRIS: This is actually a pretty big one. It's deceptive because it occurs only midway through the book, but if done enough times, this can reveal the true nature of reality as pure, empty awareness. It can also unlock a method of gaining access between the magician's mind or spirit and the Akasa or Ein Sof, and the spirit of everything else in existence, and ultimately reveal those things to all be one "thing"
It's in hindsight of course that all of this comes together consciously, as a felt reality, but if one masters this, it makes a lot of the following exercises much more potent, on the spirit/akashic levels especially, and really helps bridge the gap on the higher steps.
Also can you comment on the difference between the spatial center of a thing and the depth point of a thing.
CHRIS: The spatial center of a thing is where we can access the objects consciousness, like a pit in a peach. If we drill in deeper, smaller and smaller until atoms swirl around us like distant galaxies, into the akasa, we are in its depth point, where nothingness and beingness hang together as the fundamental paradox of existence.
GESTURE: Not much is ever heard about the application of Gesture training to create our own finger rituals. Has this been a useful part of your training and if so how have you applied these rituals in your training and daily life.
CHRIS: I use these like crazy. Beyond just using hand gestures for energetic purposes, like assigning them to elements, I use them for whole rituals, cosmic letters, even spirits that I have that kind of rapport with, though I generally don't bother them if I don't need to.
SOFB: If you had to guide someone through IIH is there anything you would change in the way you presented the training?
CHRIS: I think there's some points that the general tone is too stern or sparse. Most of the problems that I have seen center around the First step's spirit training. That's probably what I would expand on, detailing how the three exercises work together, and stressing the idea that they aren't a thing to be done and that's it, but that it's really the most foundational aspect of initiation.
SOFB: Though of course working through IIH has to have had an enormous impact
upon who you are, did this have any overt impact upon your working and public life and how others saw you?
CHRIS: Absolutely. I am not unrecognizable from the person that I always was, but I am a much more principled, generally happy, empathetic and brave person than I was when I started. My early life was very difficult in many ways, and it would have been far easier to hide from those traumas than deal with them. Bit by bit, layer by layer I am getting better. I am a better father, husband, brother, and friend by every dimension that I can judge.
Bardon was instrumental in that growth.
SOFB: We asked earlier about sticking points that some have trouble with but in your rise through IIH did you also come across steps that caused you real trouble? If so how did you get past this and move on?
CHRIS: Of course I did! I remember having the biggest trouble getting around the second step's spirit training where we separate the imaginary senses. I had always had a pretty active imagination, but never that much control over it. Things would just pop up all bundled together.
Ultimately I got around this by allowing it to happen, and then just concentrating on the aspect I wanted, and once I became aware of what it was like, I would try for that experience again. Of course that only carried me so far, but with time and determination, I eventually got the hang of it.
SOFB: How has your magical training aided you in your work within Freemasonry? You mention on your podcast that Freemasonry provided some elements that you were missing from Franz Bardon's system.
CHRIS: There's a lot to be said here!
Bardon's system is really all one needs for personal development in many respects, but it was written in a way that divorces it from lots of other threads of western mystery traditions. He does it for good reasons, but it presents us with a problem to solve. If we want to understand anyone other than Bardon, particularly defunct groups like the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, without actually joining reconstructionist versions of those groups, we have to translate it.
Masonry helped me parse the different strands of influence that exist in the GD specifically, but also showed me how rituals devised by such groups operate, beyond what Bardon explains. It would be all too easy to give importance to something that is not relevant except in a masonic context. And this happens a lot. Too many people in the wider occult community are "experts" in massively complex systems that were and in some cases are way more experimental and flexible than we would think. This is how stuff like Chaos magic come about, reinvents the wheel and thinks it owns concepts like innovation, when it was there all along, it's just hard to see from the outside. The benefit of a tradition in understanding how these ideas flowed through time orients us in a way that going it alone just cannot do.
If you know that the base template they are using is Freemasonry, it's easy to see how they made use of that to shine a light on Hermetic, Chalean or kabbalistic concepts in order to bring them into harmony. A good example is just in how we see things like degrees. From the outside, a lot is made about receiving a degree and the spiritual experience of it. In reality, taking a degree is like drinking from a firehose in a magical sense. It's a thing that one studies and comes back to again and again. When all of that understanding matures, it's in the giving of the degree where the magic really happens. In sharing the light of wisdom that one has acquired.
Another thing it taught me was how these things actually function. I went in expecting something very different from what I got. I expected more studious, enlightened folks talking philosophy and esoteric concepts, and it's there but that's only a small part of it, and not even the most important part really. I eventually came to appreciate the role that each little thing, each person played in keeping the organization going.
There's also the ideal of accepting people from differing spiritual backgrounds as equals that I really love. That said, Masonry is an old organization and so it has social problems that need to be addressed, but I think it's still capable of changing and getting better.
SOFB: Do you use any other methods in your work or have familiarity with other systems Eastern Or Western?
CHRIS: When I started, our group had people doing all sorts of things, and Justin and I both learned a lot from a friend of ours who was a Yogi with a seemingly bottomless knowledge base about everything else too.
I really got into buddhism for a while as well, and even had the opportunity to spend a year or so with some buddhist monks who taught me some pretty incredible things. I didn't stick with buddhism, but I'd be lying if I said that there isn't an influence there.
Over the years, I've also studied a lot of kabbalah. I started with the Hermetic stuff and have been moving more and more into the traditional Hebrew form of it. The funny thing about that is that I can find a lot more agreement in all of Bardon's system with the Hebrew view than the Hermetic, he just incorporates more Eastern and Alchemical vocabulary rather than Hebrew. But in truth, the reason I love kabbalah is that, when approached a certain way, it seems to contain an analogue to virtually every other system that I have been exposed to. Even Bardon's unconventional hermetic ideas have a Hebrew term for them somewhere in a kabbalah text!
Alchemy and Yoga should get some mentions here too. I do a regular yoga routine and combined with Bardon meditation/elemental work it's my typical magic hygiene. Yoga, even as a purely physical exercise makes meditation and astral work much easier.
SOFB: Mental Travel and Franz Bardon's specific approach to Astral travel. How significant were these skills in your development. What I mean here is was your worldview impacted at all after completing these steps in what you experienced upon being successful in the training?
CHRIS: Over time I learned that the planes aren't discreet islands unto themselves, but rather that they exist on a continuum of experience that can be broken down in various ways; some useful and others less so. Bardon's system is structured very similarly to the Kabbalistic model of the parts of the soul and the four worlds, and that's what the third book is based on, but here what I learned is that the in the thread connecting us from spirit to soul to body is an infinitude of states that is the gateway to our true being, the Ein Sof or pure divinity.
SOFB: How important is it to do the Astral Travel training of Step 9 in the way Franz Bardon explains rather than creating some sort of Astral double or illusory body without the Mental/Astal separation before integration? As much of what is read about all seems to point to practitioners taking the later approach and not the former challenging approach of Bardon.
CHRIS: I think Bardon and I would both say to learn multiple methods of doing anything, provided they are effective, which time would reveal to the practitioner if it's viable or not.
Personally I used Bardon's more than any other, but over the years it's gotten very streamlined. I can effectively do it by imagination and will alone now, but most of it's like that these days, just as Bardon promises.
SOFB: PME and KTQ.
What have these books brought to your practice? We know these are very private but would appreciate anything you can share about these works and the experiences they bring.
CHRIS: Evocation isn't something that I do a whole lot of, but Bardon's theoretical framework applies to basically any grimoire that I can think of. It's formed the basis for how I interact with spirits of any stripe.
KTQ is another example of using the text to build a personal practice for me, but it's more about how Bardon fits into the wealth of kabbalistic material out there. Go read Sefer Yetzirah if you haven't.
There are so many stories I could tell… and that's what the next episode of the podcast is all about!
SOFB: Did the way you saw IIH change after moving onto these books? In that it was preparing you for something?
CHRIS: Yes absolutely! The Key to the True Kabbalah is the book that kicked off a decade of kabbalistic study that doesn't seem to be ending any time soon.
SOFB: Lastly is there anything else you would like to add that you feel is important for students of IIH.
CHRIS: Try not to rush through it, especially since it isn't a race. It's going to be a thing you'll do for years to come if you're meant to. Also, don't be afraid to let intuition help you out when you get stuck. It's very possible to "dry out" many of the exercises by not allowing your mind to show you the way toward accomplishing a task.
And trust in the divine providence to help you out when you need it. Tat Tvam Asi!