“Understanding The Seven Hermetic Principles”– J.Adam Snyder
Among all the esoteric teachings of the world, Hermeticism is universally accepted and praised. It is as much of a science as it is a religion, as spiritual as it is philosophical, as much of an art as it is a law. Hermeticism transcends all history and encompasses all faiths, leading many to the conclusion that it is the world’s original spiritual practice that all other faiths arouse from. While the exact genesis of Hermeticism may be difficult to trace, numerous historical sources indicate that it was being taught and practiced among the earliest civilizations of mankind. In particular, ancient Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia, with small traces of Hermeticism even being found in ancient China.
For the uninitiated, Hermeticism is a mystical philosophy and religion that has been contributed to the teachings of an ancient sage named Hermes Trismegistus. Whether or not Hermes actually existed is still open for debate. Some scholars hold the opinion of Hermes being purely a symbolic allegory of enlightened man, contrived by the earliest leaders of the ancient faiths as an example of what humans should aspire to. Others hold that Hermes did exist but had his life exaggerated overtime by his followers. One possible historical clue lies in the name of Hermes Trismegistus himself, which appears to be a synchronized congruence of the Greek deity Hermes, and the Egyptian deity Thoth as evidenced by Thoth being referred to by his worshipers as the “Thrice Great,” which would have been adapted into ancient Greek as the name “Trismegistus.”
Regardless of the actual origin of Hermes, the important understanding lies within his teachings, which according to legend, were divinely inscribed upon ancient slabs called the Emerald Tablets. While the Emerald Tablets themselves have never been found (if they even literally existed in the first place), it is known that other ancient cultures had non-emerald tablets with virtually the same teachings. Most notably, the Smaragdine Table and the Kitab sirr al-haliqi (Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature) found in early Arabia. Nevertheless, the exact origin of the Emerald Tablets of Hermes, much like The Ten Commandments of Moses, remain unknown. However, much like The Ten Commandments, the physical existence of the Emerald Tablets (or lack thereof) does not undermine their spiritual teachings.
Below are the Seven Principles of Hermeticism as laid out by the Emerald Tablets, with additional quoted texts from the anonymously authored and published Rosicrucian book, The Kybalion. My detailed explanations of the esoteric teachings follow after.
The Seven Hermetic Principles
“The Principles of Truth are Seven; he who knows these, understandingly, possesses the Magic Key before whose touch all the Doors of the Temple fly open.”-The Kybalion
1. The Principle of Mentalism
“THE ALL is MIND; The Universe is Mental.” – The Kybalion
The first and foremost Hermetic teaching details the nature of God and the Universe (as well as other planes of existence). Essentially, God is within all, and of all. In other words, God is literally “The All” and is both fully unknowable in logic yet is also fully knowable in spirit. The All is infinite and alive, immortal without beginning or ending. It is an eternal ocean of divine consciousness that created all light, matter, and life. While The All is purely benevolent, it remains impossible to truly describe in language, leading to a unification of both theistic and pantheistic theology. Ultimately, Hermeticism teaches that God cannot be explained, only experienced.
2. The Principle of Correspondence
“As above, so below; as below so above.” – The Kybalion
The phrase “As Above, So Below” is a pillar teaching among all occult communities. In vague terms, it describes virtually everything about the workings of the Universe and beyond. In more specific terms, it teaches that everything which originates from within ourselves, including our very thoughts and consciousness, is a form of subatomic energy and matter. This is of The Below, and it carries outward into the physical world of The Above. Everything that occurs in The Above has an effect on The Below, and vice versa. Furthermore, Hermeticism teaches about three primary planes of existence that all seem to be separated, but are all in fact existing together and deeply connected at the same time. These three primary planes of existence are The Physical, The Mental, and The Spiritual.
3. The Principle of Vibration
“Nothing is at rest; everything moves; everything vibrates.”- The Kybalion
The Principle of Vibration is in many ways similar to what contemporary physicists have come to call The String Theory (impressive considering how far Hermeticism predates modern science). Everything in the Universe from the largest planets to the smallest amounts of energy and matter, are vibrating at some level of frequency across the three primary planes of existence (The Physical, The Mental, and The Spiritual). Hermeticism teaches its adherents that as one raises their vibrations, the more they grow in divinity and consciousness, eventually transcending and becoming The All.
4. The Principle of Polarity
“Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.”- The Kybalion
This Hermetic Principle teaches that everything is connected, even things that appear to be opposites. Hot and cold may seem entirely different, yet they are both in fact the same with the only fundamental separation between them is the temperature. Tranquility and anger are both different, yet are at the same time both emotions and mental states. Birth and death appear to have no connection, yet they both belong to life. It is similar to the Yin-Yang philosophy found in ancient China and other eastern cultures. For the Hermeticist, the spiritual lesson is to understand that one cannot fully overcome evil until they come to recognize that evil exists on the same scale as good. Teaching that one can only truly overcome evil in the world by overcoming the evil that also exists within themselves, which is not possible until one recognizes its existence. This also applies with The Principle of Correspondence, as everything has a “High” or a “Low” action and vibration.
5. The Principle of Rhythm
“Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.”- The Kybalion
In essence, everything is in motion to some measurable degree, and the stronger a motion the equally stronger the counter-motion. In many ways, it can also be described as the Hindu teaching of Karma; as in what goes around comes around. Energy that is released will eventually find its way back to its source. Seasons change from Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, but they always return again in a cycle. The teaching is to be aware of one’s thoughts and actions, that nothing in life is static. What you send out will produce an endless ripple effect beyond one’s intended consequences. A lesson for the practicing occultist when it comes to applying their Will.
6. The Principle of Cause and Effect
“Every cause has its effect; every effect has its cause; everything happens according to Law. Chance is but a name for Law not recognized. There are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the Law.”- The Kybalion
All actions have a reaction, every occurrence is a result of a cause. What may seem like a random coincidence is in fact not a random coincidence at all, but was set in motion by a series of seemingly unrelated but connected events. Every occultist will come to the understanding that their thoughts are power, and while they cannot control every thought that enters their mind, they can choose what thoughts to accept, reject, or focus on. All actions originate as thoughts, The Mental plane, which then become manifested in the form of actions, The Physical plane, and finally carried on into The Spiritual plane. To master one’s thoughts is to master the law of cause-and-effect.
7. The Principle of Gender
“Gender is in everything; everything has its masculine and feminine principles; gender manifests on all planes.”- The Kybalion
According to Hermetic theology, God is as much a female as a male. As much a mother as a father. As much the soil as the rain. Therefore, everything in the Universe has, or is, a representation of both male and female attributes. Gender on The Physical plane relates to the left and right hemispheres in The Mental plane, and symbolized as the sun and the moon on The Spiritual plane. One cannot truly become whole in consciousnesses until they are willing to recognize and learn from both their masculine (sun) and feminine (moon) aspects.
If one is interested in studying Hermeticism, I would recommend reading The Kybalion itself as a starting point. It goes into further in-depth explanations and offers a wealth of spiritual knowledge. In addition, there have been various renditions of the Emerald Tablets that are worth researching such as Isaac Newton and John Dee’s accounts on the subject.
© – J.Adam Snyder