Introductory Material(c) 2001
FRANZ BARDON (1909 to 1958): His Life, Works, and Legacy
You might ask, "who was Franz Bardon?" For those who are not familiar with his work, sufficeit to say that Bardon is considered to be one of the most important adepts of our age. Accordingto Bardon himself, he was directed by Divine Providence to reveal to humanity the meaningbehind the first four major arcana of the Tarot. While he fulfilled his mission, only his revelationof three of the Tarot cards were published and the fourth has been lost due to the twists of fate.The first card, the Magician, was revealed in "Initiation Into Hermetics" (IIH); the second card,the High Priestess, was revealed in "The Practice of Magical Evocation" (PME); and, the thirdcard, the Empress, was revealed in "The Key to the True Quabbalah" (KTQ). Only a small frag-ment of his revelation of the fourth card, the Emperor, remains and is found as an appendix to thebook "Frabato", titled "The Golden Book of Wisdom".
With some occult writers, we are left with nearly every detail of their personal lives, while withothers, we know no more than their pen names. The situation with Bardon lies somewherebetween these two extremes. While we have, through the grace of Divine Providence, access toall of his published works, we can find only a small few details left over from his personal life.
What we do know is that he was born in Czechoslovakia in 1909 and that he died in 1958. Hewas the first of 13 children and an only son. According to legend, his spirit inhabited the body ofyoung Franz at the age of 16, in answer to the prayers of his father, Victor, for the guidance of apersonal teacher.
During his young adult years, Franz worked as a stage performer under the name "Frabato". Hisperformances were reportedly of an unique nature in that he displayed and explained the occultpractices so common in that day. According to all reports, he was one of the few such perform-ers who was not a charlatan.
In his early thirties, because of his interest in the occult, he was imprisoned in a concentrationcamp by the Nazis. He survived three and a half years in the concentration camp but little is knowpublicly about his time there other than its obvious horror. At some point after that, he becamewell known as a teacher of Hermetics and worked successfully at a healing practice based uponthose same principles.
It was during this period of his life that he wrote the three books we now know him by.
According to legend, it was his healing practice, combined with the books he was directed byDivine Providence to write, that incurred the wrath of the communist government ofCzechoslovakia which followed the war, and in the late 1950's he was again imprisoned. It wasin prison that he apparently died.
He left behind a wife (Marie), a daughter (also named Marie), a son (Lumir), and a group of directdisciples. And, he left us three very important books in the annals of occult literature: IIH, PME,and KTQ.
It is impossible to truly know the inner life of an adept such as Franz Bardon, but we can discerncertain things from his life, from the testimony of those who knew him, and from his writings.What stands out clearly for me is that Bardon's commitment to Hermetics was not about howgreat and powerful a guy he was. This sets him apart from many of his contemporaries and nowhere will you find braggartly statements about him other than from his disciples.
As evinced from what he wrote and what is known of his life, he was a humble, sincere and hon-orable man of great accomplishment. He was able to write down for all the rest of the world tosee, a plainly spoken outline of the path of Hermetic Magic. Never before, and not since, has socomprehensive and so clear a guide been presented to the general public. Yet he managed to dothis without touting himself as "The Magus of the Age", etc.
At the same time, Bardon was a very HUMAN being. He smoked heavily and experienced manydifficulties with his health and life circumstances. I think it was perhaps these very experiencesthat enabled him to devise a path that was so accessible to the common man or woman. Whilehis path demands that the student work to ennoble their character, he never resorts to judging thestudent's character himself -- that task he leaves up the student.
Nothing concrete is known about who Bardon's corporeal teachers were or from where he learnedHermetic Magic and Kabbala. A good amount of speculation has passed under that bridge but thefact of the matter is that this question is relatively irrelevant. Certainly parallels exist betweenBardon's system and other important systems of practice throughout the world, but whereBardon's ideas originated has no real bearing upon the fact that his system has been proven towork.
Nevertheless, the question often arises as to what Bardon's "Hermetics" have to do with classicalhermeticism. While his hermetics do derive from the body of writings known as the "CorpusHermetica" (i.e., those ancient writings attributed to "Hermes The Thrice Greatest"), it takes adeep understanding of this work to see the similarities. The similarities are easier to detect withthe later hermetic writings found in sources such as the "Kybalion" by Three Initiates, the"Emerald Tablet of Hermes", the "Seven Hermetic Letters" by Georg Lomer, and the occult her-metics of his day. To Bardon, hermeticism is the science of occultism, based upon the teachingsof the legendary figure known simply as Hermes.
With his book PME, the parallels between what he writes and the standard works on Solomonicmagic, are very obvious. Yet even here, Bardon offers the student more than most authors. Thesame is true of his book KTQ. Many modern students of Kabbala don't even recognize KTQ asKabbala, but in truth, Bardon's approach reaches back to a more original form of Kabbalistic prac-tice. In this case, the "even more" that he gives the aspiring student is a universal Kabbala that isamenable to ANY language and therefore does not require the learning of biblical Hebrew.
Perhaps the greatest gift of Bardon's writing style is that he explains things in a very practicalmanner and does so without all the flowery language so prevalent in occultism. It is obvious fromthe outset, that the reader has found an author who speaks from long and deep experience insteadof off the top of his head. The depth of his experience is often difficult for the reader to grasp,for he speaks, from beginning to end, from the perspective of someone who has done every stitchof the work for himself, and in this way he naturally conveys the concept that all he describes isobtainable, even easy.
Bardon wrote for both the common reader (one not really interested in hermetics other than as anintellectual oddity) and for the serious student of hermetic magic. Even someone who has had noprevious experience with occultism can begin the work of IIH, since this work begins with therudiments of initiation and gradually develops the student's magical abilities. Most who begin thework of IIH however, have had some occult training, but this is a two-edged sword, as it were,for often, the experienced occultist will find that they must unlearn some of what they havelearned from other sources.
Of the many direct students that Bardon left behind, two are of special note. The first was hissecretary, Otti Votavova, who was responsible for the book "Frabato" and for seeing to it that hiswritings remained accessible. While I have some problems with "Frabato" it is well worth read-ing if approached as a "Zanoni"-like occult novel. I find it hard to believe that Bardon would havesaid some of the things about himself that were said in "Frabato". To me, it seems that Ms.Votavova's own love for her teacher amplified parts of Bardon's life out of proportion to theirnitty-gritty reality. As I said, it is impossible to truly understand the inner life of so great an adept.According to the record, Bardon submitted to Ms. Votavova an outline of that period of his lifecovered in "Frabato" and left it up to her to flesh it out into a book. I'm certain that Ms. Votavovadid her best (others assure us that Ms. V. loved the truth) but I'm equally certain that some partsof "Frabato" describe events with too symbolic a language. While I admire her work, I do notrecommend trusting it as an accurate biography of Franz Bardon. At best, it does a good job ofgiving the reader the flavor of the man and an idea of the depth of his commitment.
Another direct student of note is the late Dr. M. Kumar. He relayed several tales of Bardon andwas ever helpful to students of Hermetic Magic.
There are many other personages of note, but the one remaining that I wish to mention is DieterRuggeberg. Mr. Ruggeberg has spent several decades of sincere effort and expense to see to itthat Bardon's books have remained available to the modern reader. He has also helped guide sin-cere students and has helped to keep the evolution of the public response to Bardon's work on theright track.
Today, we are blessed with the opportunity to purchase Bardon's works in print and to encounterothers with the same interest through the Internet. We owe this fact to the efforts of not onlyBardon, Votavova, Ruggeberg, and now the folks at Merkur Publishing, but also to countlessother modern-day magicians. Folks like Daren, Paul Allen, Ralf Mulberg, Tim Scott, and WilliamMistele, to name just a few, are helping to increase this legacy.
There are six books related to Franz Bardon. The first three are the books that he wrote: IIH,PME, and KTQ.
The next three books were written about him by others. The first and most famous of these is thepseudo-biography titled "Frabato The Magician". The se