Training timelines for Bardon’s three books are an interesting conversation for most people involved in the Hermetic arts. Some speak of the first book taking ten years, other talk about the Kabbalah taking a lifetime, but little that is of practical value gets handed out. The truth is that the majority of practitioners are armchair quarterbacks who really can’t do much. With a few supremely scary folks who never say anything thrown in for good measure.
For those of us in-betweeners a basic guideline to what you can expect is described below.
Initiation Into Hermetics
The first book consists of roughly 55-60 basic skills and/or techniques that need to be mastered to fully exploit the work of the latter books. The numbers vary a little as not everyone needs to know everything in the book. The pendulum exercises can safely be left out for example.
While the training in the first book closely resembles what you could expect in a very well developed temple environment during your first eighteen to twenty-four months, I haven’t seen it pan out that way for many people.
If starting from zero, six hours a day for a year or twelve hours per day for six months would be sufficient to get through the first book. But again, I’ve rarely seen it approached this way.
One significant stumbling block presented in the book is that the author, notice I didn’t say Bardon, directs the practitioner to not continue on to the next exercises if the ones from the previous chapter have not been mastered.
The follow-on exercises in the later chapters reinforce the exercises in the preceding ones and vice-versa.
You do need to eventually complete the whole book, or at least through lesson eight, but on your own this shouldn’t take more than a couple of years if moving slowly.
Keep in mind that in terms of “enlightenment” the skills in the first book are all you need. The other books are about power. While they inform, and can potentially deepen, what most people would describe as an enlightened state of being, they really don’t have anything to do with this directly.
They are about power, your role in the universe and getting shit done. My suspicion is that hermit types who engage in significant work from the later books end up suffering a lot as this violates the primary intention of the practice. I also think this is why most monastic orders stress avoidance of the development of psychic powers and the like as they are devoted to a retreat from and not an engagement with society and the world at large.
As such, they perform a valuable role as a karma trap for the unaware by generating large amounts of karma for the unscrupulous. Caveat emptor!
The Practice of Magical Evocation
Historically, you would go straight into this material after the first book. I did not do this and unless you need to physically manifest the power of the letters outside of your body it is not necessary to perform this work at all.
It is filled with many traps in terms of engagement with the beings of the planetary realms and in an odd way marks your astral/mental bodies. Spiritual scar tissue would not be an inappropriate term for this.
I am still not entirely certain that working with the planetary/spheric energies is something human beings are capable of doing, but are not designed to do.
What I can say for certain, is that the Hermetic systems for working with the planetary energies are the most complete of all of the different systems available, and probably the primary unique contribution to meditative/yogic practice to come out of the West.
Keep in mind that the planetary energies are incredibly harsh in experience in a way that the energies of the first book and the Kabbalah are not.
Generally speaking, you need to engage the planets in order from the moon on up to either Jupiter or Saturn. No real need for most people to engage in Saturn exists, unless your role in life is to judge others. For people in this category, I suspect going all the way is mandatory on some level.
At a basic level a practitioner can develop a form of immunity to a given planet’s energy after ten hours of exposure through mental wandering and then breathing the energy through the astral body simultaneously, Saturn is the exception to this. Do not breathe Saturn’s energy through your astral body while mental wondering there. It can be fatal.
Mastery of a given sphere occurs at roughly the one-hundred hours of exposure mark. By this point you should have evoked a few of the spirits and be on your way. See my previous post on evocation and both the benefits and dangers associated with it.
After 700 hours, including Saturn, you will have completed your training with the planets and performed a few hundred physical evocations. All of this will have greatly strengthened your work with the Kabbalistic letters as well.
At this point, the only need to revisit the planetary energies is if you need information from a given spirit figure or if you are trying to build the golden body associated with complete mastery of the sun sphere. But that is a discussion for a separate post.
The Keys to the True Kabbalah
The instructions in Bardon’s third book are fairly complete with a couple of exceptions.
Follow his instructions for building your base with the letters explicitly. This should take a couple of months. Look at my previous posts on the letters to get a fuller picture of what this looks like.
Power-building with the letters needs to take place standing in posture for the most part. This represents the quantitative part.
Depth of experience, and knowledge, come from sitting practice. This represents the qualitative part.
My teacher recommended spending 2 hours per day with a given letter for a year (one standing and one sitting) to truly master your immersion into it.
Personally, I found two hours per day for three to four months works fairly well. Granted this does not result in the development from doing this for an entire year, but it seemed to work well for me.
Your initial work with the single letter key should take approximately eight years if you work through a single letter every three to four months. Work in order from A to Zed, with one exception. Perform the letter U last.
Letter combinations only worked for me once I had completed the power building stage with a given letter for three to four months. Better practitioners may have better results.