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‘The Kybalion’ or the Seven Hermetic Laws.

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Centuries of oral tradition and all wisdom traditions tell of the existence of universal laws.

Little can be said with certainty about the background of the Kybalion. The authors have chosen to remain anonymous and call themselves the ‘three initiates’.

They do indicate that the contents of ‘the Kybalion’ are the original truths that Hermes Trismegistus taught thousands of years ago. This knowledge was probably passed down orally for centuries until it was put in writing. That happened at a time when the previously secret knowledge (only accessible to insiders) could be made public.

Seven Hermetic principles are described in the Kybalion. These seven principles contain a Universal Truth about the essence of the nature, meaning and functioning of the Universe as a whole. They are Universal laws and Universal laws that are aimed at the becoming one of All-That-Is, on Harmony! Insight into these seven principles can also serve as a key to gain insight into the underlying similarities between all (ancient) wisdom traditions.

‘Hermetism’ is a Hellenistic religion from late antiquity ((ca. 323 – 146 BC and a period in Greek history) around the mythical teacher Hermes Trismegistus. Hermetism developed simultaneously with Gnosticism, Neoplatonism and early Christianity, they are important pillars of European esotericism , especially since its revival in the Renaissance.

The word “hermetic” has been used since at least the 17th century and is derived from the medieval Latin ‘hermeticum’ which in turn is derived from the name of the Greek god Hermes. The ancient Greek word ‘herma’ means ‘stone, or column’ and refers to the square or rectangular stone columns that the Greeks used to communicate with the gods. Usually on top of these columns stood the bearded head of Hermes.

Hermes bears many similarities to the Egyptian moon god Thoth. In Hellenistic Egypt, Thoth and Hermes were worshiped as one god. This duo was named Hermes Trismegistus and had a strong human appearance.

He would be the author of the Hermetic philosophy, the Hermetic Laws – the Kybalion . Hermes Trismegistus marks the beginning of an esoteric tradition now called Hermeticism, Hermeticism, or the Gnostic-Hermetistic tradition.

The Seven Hermetic Principles , on which all Hermetic philosophy is based, are:

  1. The Principle of the Spiritual (thought powers)
  2. The Principle of Conformity
  3. The Principle of Vibration
  4. The Principle of Polarity
  5. The Principle of Rhythm
  6. The Principle of Cause and Effect
  7. The Principle of Gender

 

The ideas of the Hermetic tradition

In the ancient wisdom scriptures you come across the expression in the sphere of:

I am you, you are me, we are in each other’.

We have lost that great degree of connectedness, because we think from the point of view of matter and separateness.

In mysticism and in Western esotericism, with parallels in the East, it is assumed that there is more than just matter. We were brought up in a time in which we live with a mechanistic world view and a materialistic view of science (based on that which can be explained from matter). The matter is examined down to the smallest molecule. In this way it is hoped that what is not visible can be scientifically explained.

In the wisdom traditions’ view, the universe is “multidimensional” and there are many layers or levels of reality, with physical reality actually being only one of these layers or levels. The universe is much larger and more surprising than what we suspect from our well-known five senses and our ordinary day-to-day consciousness.

We humans are a part of this universe ourselves. The universal truth is therefore a science about ourselves. Hermeticism is a science of the divine, the universe, man and the relationship between these three.

Most of the writings have a philosophical character, but are religious in nature. The Hermetists saw reality as one organic, living whole, in which everything is connected with everything. It emanates from the One and its breath, which condenses into matter. Matter is seen as an outgrowth of that which once started as Spirit, as Light. God is present in every molecule. Everything carries the divine within itself.

There is nothing dead, it only changes; nothing will ever disappear, even the dead stone carries within itself the divine core. If everything originated from the One, that also means that the One is present in everything. What follows immediately is that everything has a connection with each other.
Hermes

God is in Hermetics the Hidden One and the Source of the All. and is called the One or the One, the Good or the Good. God is neither male nor female, neither personal nor impersonal. Man can ascend to ‘him’, but ‘he’ does not interfere directly in earthly affairs. Sin and forgiveness are unknown concepts in Hermetics.

The universe , like God, is a living being and was created by God. You get to know God and the universe when you understand reality. The Greek word ‘cosmos’ means something like ‘order’ and ‘decoration’ and ‘universe’.

Man is material, mortal, and prone to evil. Inwardly he is spiritual, immortal and inclined to good. In the material body is the true spiritual man. It possesses mind (logos) and spirit (nous). The common view is that the mind makes man understand and that the mind gives him the intuitive insight into the unity of things.

Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus, floor mosaic in the Cathedral of Siena.

The aim of Hermetics is to initiate man into the hidden reality that is located in and behind the visible reality. Through knowledge about yourself and the universe you can come to an intuitive knowledge of God and perhaps to a personal and direct experience of God.

The combination of this knowledge and experience of God is called the Hermetic Gnosis. The Hermetic Laws and other handed down scriptures aim to guide man to the Gnosisto lead.

The goal is: in order to experience the divine, man must come to his true self and thus wake up from the numbing intoxication in which he can be. The Hermetists were convinced that this is a difficult road full of obstacles and that many never find the way…or get lost again and again. The ultimate goal is the experience of divine reality. This cannot be learned, only experienced personally. This they called liberation or enlightenment.

A definition of Gnosticism is:

The gnosis has been experienced at all times as an enlightenment, an intuitive knowledge and certainty, not a product of logical or rational thought, but a spiritual insight through which I and the reality around me become transparent. (RvdBrook)

Even today’s gnosis or esotericism can only be mastered by working on yourself. New insights are still being found, just think of the Nag Hammadi writings that were only found in 1945 and in the great interest in, for example, the ThomasGospel.

Centuries-long (oral) tradition and all wisdom traditions tell about the existence of universal laws. You can read other descriptions of these laws, for example with the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse with the Tao Te Ching, and also the Kabbalah, the Veda, etc. describe these universal Laws.

Background on the story of Hermes;

Hermes’ roots lie in ancient Egypt.

Hermes
Hermes, the god

In Egypt Hermes was a great and very special power, much as we feel with Buddha, Jesus or Pythagoras. He is said to be the underlying force of the Hermetic philosophy of which the Kybalion is a scripture.

The ancient Egyptians were so impressed by his profundity that they deified him and named him Thoth. Hermes Trismegistus thus became an embodiment of the wisdom god Thoth. Thoth was the inventor of writing. Thoth’s sacred animal is the  Ibis  and his attributes are the writing table and stylus.

The Greek civilization did the same, but then called him Hermes, god of wisdom. Trismegistus means “thrice great” (fountain of wisdom) This could be a reference to the unknown writers of the Kybalion: ‘the three magisters or the three initiates. Hermes Trismegistus was seen as the great power of wisdom, grandfather of alchemy, grand master of magic, astrology, surgery, botany and physics.

Hermes, the Greek messenger of the gods

Hermes was the son of the supreme god Zeus and the mountain nymph Maia. Zeus appointed Hermes as the messenger of the Olympian gods, he became the guide of the souls of the dead to the underworld and is considered the patron of travelers and thieves. (Related to Hermes winged footwear are Little Thumb’s seven-mile boots)

He is also the god of commerce, communication, and eloquence. Hermes is also credited with the inventor of writing, mathematics and astronomy. All kinds of useful and pleasant things were attributed to Hermes, such as the lyre, flute, weights and measures, as well as sport. Hermes was also regarded as the god of sleep and dreams:

by touching his herald’s staff or with his golden wand, donated by Apollo, he opened and closed his eyes. The Romans knew Mercury as the god of trade and profit. Mercury is of Greek origin and has much in common with Hermes. Jung bv also used the Latin name Mercury for Hermes. Mercury is a key figure in the alchemical process. Mercury is the second planet after the moon and the middle of the seven sacred metals:

the quicksilver. Jung mentions Mercury as the key to the victory of the apparent duality. Fullness and emptiness, masculine and feminine, left and right, below and above, brothers and sisters, yin and yang… they are all poles of the same energy. You can read the Mercury process in the description of the Hermetic Laws; the Kybalion.

When everything is from the One, there is no separation. It has a different nature, it has a different character.

O men of the earth, born and composed of the elements,

Endowed with the divine spirit within you, awaken from your ignorance.

Be simple and thoughtful, realize that “home” is not on Earth but in the Light.

Why have you surrendered yourself to death, when the power of immortality has been bestowed upon you?

Become aware, step out of the dark and we abdicate corruption forever.

Prepare to grow through the Seven Initiations

To thus merge your soul with the Eternal Light.

When the footsteps of the Masters sound, may the ears —

or anyone who is ready – open it.

Once the ears of the disciple are open, the voice that will fill them with wisdom also sounds.”

Quote from the writings of Hermes

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