Introducing the effects of the fiery principle
In the previous Steps, we learned about the manifestation of the Elements on an inner level, first with the Mirror work of Step I and then with the soul balancing of Step II. Now is the time to move on to the objective experience of the Elements, to consider their reality not only as an expression of the individual constitution but starting to evaluate their essence.
However, what we are dealing with here is not the pure elemental essence (for more information, see the post on the philosophy of the Elements) but rather the quantitative aspect of the Element itself, i.e. its physical manifestation. Compared to the previous approaches, the difference consists in identifying the Element as an external factor with which to interact through practice.
The principle of the Fire Element manifests itself as heat and expansion, a radiant shape that extends in all directions, similar to a sphere. On a physical level, it appears as a form of kinetic energy where the disordered interactions between the constituent particles (electrons, atoms, molecules) generate heat, with effects on the matter such as melting or vaporisation of ice, dissolution of rigid structures, etc. These descriptions are helpful to get an idea of the qualities of the Fire Element to interact with in the following practice:
- Sit in your usual position with your eyes closed and imagine that you are in the centre of a sphere of fire that surrounds you from all sides; the whole universe becomes fire.
- Use the pore breathing technique to inhale the Element through the nose and the whole body. Feel the fire as heat and expansive force entering the physical and soul body during inhalation; when you exhale, think of nothing and keep the feeling of warmth inside you.
- Continue with subsequent inhalations, raising the sensation of fiery pressure until the heat becomes more and more intense with increasing inhalations; you must feel feverish or as if you are turning into a blazing fire. In the beginning, the sensations are perceived only at the soul level, but with practice, we can translate them into real physical sensations. Start with seven breaths, gradually increasing the number to twenty or thirty breaths, depending on your ability. It may be helpful to use the pearl or knots necklace to avoid distractions.
- After the last sequence, stay in the Fire state for some time and then continue the exercise in reverse order. During the inhalation, think of nothing, and exhaling (with the same technique as before), imagine gradually returning the Fire Element to the universe; the exhalations equal the number of inspirations. The work is finished when the sensation of heat produced has disappeared.
- In subsequent sessions, alternate the same practice with your eyes closed and open.
Bardon mentions, in regards to the exercise, the Tibetan practice of gTum-mo , which allows you to master the Fire Element until you can dry wet clothes wrapped around your body, walk undressed in winter, etc. However, an apprenticeship is required to achieve such mastery, which is difficult for a Westerner. Furthermore, the exclusive application to an Element or a practice would depart from the purpose of the hermetic approach, which is to work with all the Elements.
As for the exercises of the previous Steps, here, too, we work with the imagination; in fact, Bardon states: ” The whole process of inhaling the fire element through the body is, of course, a purely imaginative circumstance that should be exercised with the greatest realism of the element .” It has already been said on previous occasions that the purpose of some exercises of the first Steps is to reproduce the sensory impression using the mind and the imaginative faculties to unify the being on the mental, astral and physical planes; this is also true in this case.
Bardon warns against performing these exercises without achieving an elementary balance on the character aspects through the Mirror work. In the preface to the third Step of soul formation, his words are: “Before starting with this Step, the astral balance of the elements in the soul must be established by introspection and self-control unless you want to harm yourself. If you are unsure that none of the elements is prevalent, you must continue to work on perfecting the character during development. However, you can continue working on the astral body’s elements.” The alarmism is not aimed so much at the dangers of a practice carried out before the actual level of preparation as at the uselessness of proceeding if the foundations of success have not been laid. You have to strike a balance, at least as far as the main character traits are concerned, but nothing prevents you from continuing if, at the same time, you take a moment to perfect the remaining aspects.
 gTum-mo, or the yoga of psycho-physical heat, is part of the so-called “completion phase” (or strengthening) of the practices followed by the Tibetan school bKa’-brgyud-pa (school of oral tradition).