The Golden Mean and the resolution of opposites
In the first phase of the soul section, we concentrated on cataloguing the positive and negative aspects according to the Elements, acquiring an image of our psychic and emotional substratum. The two mirrors of the soul have thus been obtained, which we can briefly define respectively as a list of qualities and defects. The further tripartition of the Elements has given us a ranking of the greater or lesser importance of individual aspects in our soul constitution.
If we have worked diligently, we can move on to the next stage, balancing the elemental influences at every juncture of our existence. As with many IIH practices, this exercise does not exhaust its thrust within a Step. An attitude attentive to weaknesses and strengths is expected; the environment and circumstances continually test us, modifying our inner dynamics and always revealing new emotional knots that require our attention.
To understand what is meant by elemental or soul balance, which is a state of advanced self-awareness, let’s take, for example, the practice of martial arts. Martial arts practitioners achieve effectiveness in techniques when they have reached the fundamental point of balance within the body on which to base their movements to yield and counterattack without losing balance in the presence of external pressure or blows. Similarly, if we keep vigilant attention on our true nature, that is, if we place ourselves at the ‘centre’ of our psychophysical being, we act as a fulcrum. Negative emotional currents no longer move us, but, on the contrary, we control them without jolts and states of imbalance. In other words, we must place the subconscious and instinctive elements under the conscious dominion so that our true self speaks and not the negative manifestations enacted by habits or others.
The birth horoscope offers a relatively accurate picture, or rather a symbolic image, of our potential in its pure and original form. With the growth and consequent flourishing of personal resources, the encounter with the family, relational, social and cultural sphere leads to a compromise that tends to favour some aspects to the detriment of others. Therefore, energies not properly expressed remain latent or unconscious, generating inappropriate and disharmonious responses. The work on the Elements – or the individual horoscope – serves precisely to unlock these structures in the first place by recognising them and, subsequently, transforming and integrating them into ourselves; in this way, we will also reflect inner harmony in our relationships with the world.
And now some clarification on the use of positive traits. In this phase of the exercises, it is not necessary to focus attention on our qualities, except as an aid in resolving the negative aspects. For example, suppose we are lazy and listless in carrying out daily tasks but enthusiastic about making plans. In this case, once we understand the mechanism that makes us hate repetitive activities, let’s examine what happens when we are full of energy to arouse that feeling where it is most lacking. Let us now turn to practice.
To obtain the elementary equilibrium, Bardon suggests a series of methods, which must be applied from time to time to each defect:
- Self-suggestion. This topic has already been extensively discussed in this section. The critical thing to remember is that we need to use self-suggestion in conjunction with other methods for it to be truly effective; it is appropriate to combine it with the practices of conscious eating and water magic, focusing all these modalities on overcoming a specific defect.
- Meditation. Once you have established the object to begin with, the work of meditation initiates. Let’s try to answer these questions: What is the defect’s root? How can I transmute it in a positive sense? It is impossible to eradicate a negative trait, but it is desirable to harmonise it with the personality. If, for example, our emotional relationships are destructive, we must probably abandon the image of an ego permanently on the defensive, taking advantage of the opportunity that the Other offers us. Eventually, we could access a creative relationship free from the constraints of selfishness; it is the sacrifice of a negative element that turns into a resource. It can be unpleasant at first, but it is highly productive. Meditating on the Elements of the individual constitution or the symbolism of the birth chart – if you have some competence on the subject – facilitates this type of work.
- Willpower. It is the most direct method, but it requires an overwhelming will or a firm decision to control one’s passions. It’s easy to show off drastic intentions about one’s vices, only to discover that our unconscious subtly plots for unconditional surrender to habits the next day. To strengthen the will, in addition to meditating on the root of the problem, one can firmly focus on the beneficial aspects that derive from the evaluation of the positive alternative; in the case of a bulimic, for example, giving up compulsive eating would bring undoubted benefits to general health.
Here are some final practice recommendations:
- We should use all three practices in concert; in this way, we can reduce development times. The best method is to use them by orienting them towards a single desire.
- Bardon alternatively recommends two methods for dealing with one’s flaws: first, starting with the most challenging and then moving on to the lesser ones. Secondly, if you feel that you are not strong enough, start practising with minor weaknesses. The advantage previously given to the more significant aspects of one’s nature is that these often include derivative psychic knots. Therefore, starting from the largest, one can reintegrate the minor elements simultaneously.
- This practice aims to be a path of soul formation destined to last over time and adapt to the experiences we encounter in the meantime; therefore, it would not make sense to limit it to a more or less short period. The important thing is to work to resolve the most salient psychic knots because a primary balance of the Elements is fundamental to continue in the hermetic development.
This section ends the Step II soul formation.