Sight and creative imagination
The Step II exercises for mental training aim to increase the student’s concentration ability. That occurs by isolating the five senses and applying to each of them a technique that allows us to separate the usual sensory perception from that carried out with the imagination.
Direct perception occurs through the transduction of sensory stimuli into nerve signals that reach the central nervous system. We can hold these stimuli for a split second. After that, three things can happen: the information is mentally repeated because we consider it precious and remains in the short-term memory; information is discarded and lost; data is transferred to long-term memory because it is associated with an emotion, a motivation, etc.
Now, the system underlying the concentration exercises comes into play. Suppose we overcome the brief impact left by the perceptual mechanism and consolidate the sensation or perception beyond the fleeting moment. In that case, it remains in the short-term memory and from there, it becomes a remembrance in the long-term memory with practice. At this point, it becomes possible to recall the experience through images without resorting to the impression given by the senses. After that, we can manipulate the mnemonic acquisition, which becomes like an autonomous entity freed from objective perception. We arrive at the threshold of the creative imagination, which is of fundamental importance for hermetic development.
In this section, Bardon does not refer to the connection between Elements and sense organs; however, it is essential to know it to overcome any difficulties you will encounter during the practice. The weakness of an Element in the individual constitution – made evident with mirrors’ method inhibits concentration with the corresponding sense organ; in this case, it is necessary to deepen the work on the mirrors trying to fortify the corresponding Element; practising self-suggestion will also help.
|Water||Taste||Mouth; taste buds|
A further consideration concerns the separation of the senses. In the practice of sensory concentration, one works with one sense at a time. For example, if you focus on a sound, you don’t have to mix it with the image of the object that generated it; attention must remain aligned with a single impression for the creative development of the individual senses. Only in Step III, once the senses have been strengthened separately, will one begin to experience multisensory imagination.
Let us now turn to practice. We put in front of us any object, not too rich in detail, such as a knife, a fork, a pen, etc. Let’s carefully examine its shape, colour, size. We close our eyes and imagine it as it is in reality. We repeat the sequence for about ten minutes, trying each time to keep the impression of the object a little longer. At first, the image will only remain clear for a few moments, but it will become more intense and lasting as we persevere. We can continue the exercise if we have time, even by switching to a different object. The practice aims to hold the image for five minutes without interruption.
Once the goal has been achieved, we move on to the next phase of the exercise, which consists of maintaining the object’s visualisation with open eyes. This concentration is difficult for many, mainly due to the interference action generated by the external background. To make the closed-to-open eyes transition more accessible, we can start by practising visualisation in a dimly lit room, gradually increasing the lighting to work in a fully lit environment. Or we practice visualisation on a white or black surface, so limiting distractions. Another method is to keep the view out of focus while imagining the object; finally, we can start the visualisation with closed eyes and then open our eyes and let the imagined object float in front of us. Again, we can finish the exercise if we can keep the visualisation without disturbances for five minutes.
One aspect that has perplexed some of Bardon’s students is the interpretation of a passage in the paragraph relating to visual concentration. Bardon writes that “… the object should give the impression of being suspended in the air and be visible before your eyes in such a plastic shape as to seemingly tangible“. That seems to motivate the belief that the imagined object must acquire a semblance of reality to the extent that it is visible to the physical eyes, but this is not the purpose of the exercise. If we practice on the mental level, the image must be vivid on the mental level. Just as, after a period of refinement, we can vividly imagine an object with our eyes closed, we can do the same with our eyes open. The problem is that the visual distractions with open eyes push us to reinforce the visualisation trying to make it tangible. Let us remember that this exercise aims to create, through volitional concentration, a mental image at choice.