In the late ’70s and early ’80s Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips (Vivian and Leon Barcynski) wrote a number of “Practical Guides” for Llewellyn Publications. Targeting a much different audience than their seminal Magical Philosophy, these texts have largely been forgotten by modern occultists – perhaps with the exception of their exceedingly popular Guide to Astral Projection. These books are clearly a product of a time when magick, self-help, and the paranormal converged under the vague banner of “New Age,” and as such are mostly written in a style that is largely inaccessible or unappealing to modern occultists. Nonetheless, each Practical Guide contains a few kernels of wisdom and enough keen initiatic insight to justify the rest of the read. One such gem from their Practical Guide to the Development of Psychic Powers is the “Tabor Formulation.”
The Tabor Formulation is a very simple meditation technique with roots in the monastic practices of the Hesychasts. The name derives from Mount Tabor, the Biblical site of Christ’s Transfiguration. This thus also refers to the theology of St. Gregory of Palamas, who taught that the light seen by the apostles on Mount Tabor was the “Uncreated Light” of God, and that this was the same spiritual phenomenon produced by the practices of Hesychasm. Denning and Phillips, in the Jan/Feb 1979 issue of Gnostica touch on the significance of Hesychastic practice with regard to the development of the doctrines of the subtle bodies in Western Esotericism:
In the thirteenth century, some monks in a Greek monastery were using a method of rhythmic breathing, so devised that they could utter the name of Jesus with every breath. They had, in fact, a mantram, and a system of breathing. Then one of the senior monks, who perhaps knew a little more than he said, began advising novices to add to this procedure the practice of fixing their gaze on the middle of their body. The results were most interesting, for having followed this exercise for some time, the monks began to perceive a distinct luminosity proceeding, it seemed, out of their physical bodies. When they made this known, as they seem to have done after about half a century, another monk called Barlaam, who came from Calabria, at once began making fun of them, calling the omphalo-psychoi, that is, men whose souls were in their navels. That was not the end of the matter, because another monk, this time belonging to Mount Athos, took sides with the ridiculed mystics and declared that the light they could see was none other than the light of the spiritual body, the light described as having been witnessed in the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. This monk from Athos was a considerable scholar: his name was Gregory Palamas and he later became Archbishop of Thessalonica; his opinions were in due course confirmed by the Orthodox Church. But we need not be surprised that the Hesychasts, as they came to be called, saw such a radiance when we recall that the Navel Centre is associated with the solar plexus.
The Tabor Formulation, then, is a redacted interpretation of the practice of Hesychasts. Instead of the Jesus Prayer, the practitioner may choose their own mantrams as relevant to their current program of practice. Here is the full formula as given in Psychic Powers:
Stage One: Simple Breathing – Lower your gaze, fixing it upon your navel or a point in that region. Breathe in an even, gentle manner as deeply as you can without strain. If your mind wanders, as soon as you notice bring it back gently but firmly to your breathing.
Stage Two: Awareness of the Light – Entering into the second stage of the meditation, on an in-breath be aware of a nebulous radiation of golden light, which is also a radiation of love, from just below your sternum; it seems to form a luminous cloud about midway between your navel (at which you continue to gaze down) and your chin.
You don’t have to do anything about that light. Simply be aware of it, of being illuminated by it, of being loved by it. Accept that awareness; don’t think about it, don’t even try to aspire to it. Just keep on being conscious of it, and of your breathing.
Stage Three: Silent Utterance – Retaining awareness of your breathing and of the light, silently “utter” mantrams – phrases or single words – which you feel to be suited to your meditation: formulate each word distinctly in your mind, but with no vocalization or movement of the mouth. You will need two mantrams to use together, one for the in-breath and one for the out-breath. Their chief purpose is to express in brief compass something of your essential relationship with the Cosmos. It is to affirm your bond of oneness with the Cosmos: that bond in which you are sustained by the beneficence of the Whole, at the same time participating actively in the Whole. You are a living and purposing component of it, giving forth again with blessing that which you receive.
Denning and Phillips give examples of suitable mantrams:
On an in-breath: Light and Life fill me.
On an out-breath: I share my abundance with all.
On an in-breath: Energy.
On an out-breath: Ecstasy!
For those practitioners of the Ogdoadic system of magick, some other mantrams present themselves, such as:
On an in-breath: KNOUPHIS.
On an out-breath: AGATHODAIMON.