By David Mollica
The very first step into initiation in any magical system worth noting is meditation. I know, it’s not very glamorous, and who has the time or space to sit quietly by yourself? However, you must build the foundation before the house, and that’s precisely what meditation is all about.
There are many perfectly legitimate meditation techniques, but the ones I have always found to be the most effective are those laid out in Franz Bardon’s Initiation Into Hermetics. I’m not going to copy his descriptions word for word, but I will briefly lay out my own understanding of the practices and some applications that help in the process of alchemy of the spirit. I find these techniques to be especially useful in developing authentic thoughts, attention, and mental control.
A basic meditation practice is the observation of thought. This is essentially detaching yourself from your thoughts enough to watch them unfold in your mind. You don’t try to control their direction, you simply let them unfold while attempting to remember them. At first, your thoughts will flow about wildly from subject to subject, but generally they should start to slow down through the enactment of this exercise.
Functionally, the slightly detached observation of thought allows you to see what goes on in your mind without the feeling of being in the driver’s seat that you normally possess. This perception is helpful, because really, most people are not in control of their own thoughts at all. All sorts of programming cloud our minds, distorting our view of the world. This practice opens the door to a clearer perception of reality.
The next technique is thought focus. This is essentially a concentration technique in which you hold a single train of thought for the entire duration of the mediation. I find this exercise to be particularly difficult, because no one holds a single thought for that long, especially in an age known for consistently decreasing attention spans. However, it not as daunting as it sounds, because this practice doesn’t mean that you must dwell upon a single sentence or concept. Instead, a train of thought is an interconnected flow from one idea to the next. There can be different cars in the train, but they all must be pulled by the same engine.
The practical implication of this exercise is awareness of the moment in which you currently happen to be and the ability to give it your full attention. When you are at work, you think about work. When you come home you discard further thought of work and focus on your home life. You’ll notice a steady increase in your efficiency if you practice this technique, as things that regularly distract you are pushed to the back of your mind until a task is complete. Of course, this level of focus is essential for magical procedures too.
The last technique is what I refer to as void mediation. This is the classic “nothingness” exercise in which you do not think about anything. Any thoughts, images, or concepts that pop up are suppressed. Now, it is nearly impossible to sit for 10 minutes without a single thought intruding upon your mediation. The point is to push the thought away and keep another from popping up for as long as possible. Overtime, thoughts will arise unbidden less and less with this practice. The goal is to achieve a brief period of mental silence.
The practical application of this technique is thought stopping, a skill that is especially useful in fighting mental illness. The root of anxiety and depression is the hyper focus on a singular, often circular thought. Negative thoughts loop in your mind over and over, slowly driving you mad with worst case scenarios and defeatism. This sort of mindset of course leads to incorrect actions, or even worse, a total lack of action. The ability to suppress your thoughts that this exercise develops can help break the chain of negative thoughts that drive these issues.
Developing these three practices together into a coherent system of problem-solving will help in nearly all aspects of your existence. It will help you live in the world, unencumbered by the stresses of everyday life. If you can stop a thought long enough to keep it from driving your emotions into mania, then focus on it objectively, and analyze it calmly you can clearly assess the contents of your mind and begin making corrections as needed. Why does this thought persist, despite my full knowledge that it is irrational? Does thinking this way help me accomplish anything of value? Is this thought my own, or was it implanted by a marketing campaign?
Time is precious, especially if one must make their living and keep a family. These meditation techniques work synergistically to build a clearer, more focused mind that can weather adversity and manage time effectively. Magically speaking, it’s tempting to dive right into ritual and talismans, but a strong foundation always makes for a better house.