Hermeticism, one of humankind’s oldest mystical traditions, has demonstrated a remarkable resiliency over thousands of years of continuous practice. Sometimes relegated to but a few monks in the desert, Hermeticism has also occasionally been swept into broader social acceptance. Residents in Harran, Turkey, the oldest known human city (13,500 B.C.), practiced Hermeticism and honored Hermes Trismegistus, the legendary founder of Hermeticism. The Bible tells us that Abraham had contact with Harran and in Genesis, he alludes to several Hermetic precepts.
Hermeticism has survived religious belligerence that saw the libraries of its manuscripts burned, wiping out thousands of years of mystical writing and thinking. Hermeticism has survived the rejection of rational thinkers like Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and numerous Catholic theologians. And yet, it has remained sufficiently vital to have been the essential driving force behind both the Renaissance and the Reformation. I have prepared a brief history of Hermeticism (See link ). It is an interesting story particularly because it so closely parallels our own spiritual development.
Hermeticism claims its descent from a “prisca theologica,” an original untainted, pure set of secretive doctrines that reach back to the mystical traditions of ancient Egypt. Legend holds that the undiluted purity of these doctrines guaranteed their veracity and efficacy.
The rejection of both Hermeticism and Gnosticism by the early Church and its ultimate embrace of rational, Aristotlean logic, as expressed through the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, set the ultimate direction of Western culture, leading to the industrial revolution and the domination of the culture by both science and capitalism. Our world would be very different today had the early Church taken the other road and accepted Hermeticism as its founding philosophy. However there is hope! Hermeticism is making a resurgence.
Spiritual seekers, as they search for answers, inevitably turn to Hermeticism’s universal concepts, whether they are aware of it or not. Contemporary science, through theories like quantum mechanics and string theory, are turning back to long abandoned mystical concepts. As much as they hate to admit it, their theories today read more like treatises of Hermetic thought than expositions of classical physics. Adding impetus to the resurgence of Hermeticism is the abject failure of intellectualism, capitalism and science to resolve our myriad social and environmental difficulties. It is possible that Hermetic teachings may finally come to occupy a central place in the Western Pantheon. But, in order for that to happen, we will all need to accept a different world view from the one we have been taught.
THE TEACHINGS OF HERMETICISM
Hermeticism holds that all things possess spirit. Its foundation is based in the concept of creating union with the Divine. Hermeticism’s principles express the unity of the cosmos and the “sympathy” or interconnection, of all things. There are incredible parallels between the teachings of Hermeticism and one of humankind’s other great mystical works, the Tao Te Ching, authored by the great Chinese sage, Lao Tsu. Either these gentlemen studied together or each tapped deeply into the same mystical wellspring. It is also believed that the mystical Jewish Kabala owes its existence to Hermeticism. Sir Isaac Newton, the father of classical physics, was an ardent student of Hermeticism. As many of the 16th through 18th century scientists did, Newton spent much of his life exploring the principles of Hermeticism contained in the Corpus Hermeticism, a text produced in the 2nd century with a claim to being the original work of Hermes Trismegistus. As you read the Principles of Hermeticism outlined below, you will find a strong correlation between Newton’s earthshaking laws of physics published in 1687.
Thousands of years ago, a compilation of basic Hermetic teachings knowns as The Kybalion was codified. These teachings have been passed from teacher to student for centuries. The Kybalion sets out the Seven Prime Principles of Hermeticism:
I. THE PRINCIPLE OF MENTALISM
“THE ALL IS MIND. The Universe is mental.”
This Principle holds that “All is Mind.” It explains that THE ALL, the substantial reality underlying all outward manifestations and appearances, which we know as the material universe; is spirit, which in itself, is unknowable and undefinable. Hermeticism maintains that the universe exists in the Mind of THE ALL, a universal, infinite, living mind, in which we “live and move and have our being,” subject to the Laws of Created Things.
II. THE PRINCIPLE OF CORRESPONDENCE
“As above, so below; as below, so above.”
This Principle holds that there is always a correspondence between the laws and phenomena of the various planes of being and life. Grasping this Principle gives one the means of solving many paradoxes and secrets of nature. There are planes beyond our knowing, but when we apply the Principle of Correspondence to them we are able to understand things that otherwise remain unknowable.
III. THE PRINCIPLE OF VIBRATION
“Nothing rests, everything moves, everything vibrates.”
This Principle maintains that “everything is in motion,” that “nothing is at rest,” concepts which science agrees with. This Principle explains that the differences between the manifestations of matter, energy, mind and spirit, result largely from varying rates of Vibration. From THE ALL, which is Pure Spirit, down to the grossest form of matter, all is in vibration.
The vibration of spirit is at such a high rate that it seems to be at rest, as a rapidly spinning wheel appears motionless. And at the other end of the scale, there are gross forms of matter whose vibrations are so low as to also seem at rest. From electrons, to people, to mountains and galaxies, everything is in vibratory motion. This is also true on the planes of energy and force (which are but varying degrees of vibration) and also on the mental planes (whose states depend upon vibration) even onto the spiritual planes.
IV. THE PRINCIPLE OF POLARITY
“Everything is dual, everything has poles, everything has 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 can be reconciled.”
This Principle embodies the doctrine that “everything is dual.” It explains that everything has opposite aspects, and that “opposites” are really only extremes of the same thing. More than this, and considered of more importance by Hermetics is to find that which transcends opposites. In doing this, it is then possible to transform the vibration of hate into the vibration of love.
V. 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.”
In all things there is a manifested, measured motion, a flow and inflow, a swing backward and forward, a pendulum-like movement. There is always action and reaction, advance and a retreat, a rising and a sinking. This is in the affairs of the universe, people, animals, mind, energy and matter. This law is manifest in the creation and destruction of worlds, in the rise and fall of nations, in the life of all things, and finally in the mental states of people. It is with the latter that the Hermetic finds the understanding of the Principle most important.
VI. THE PRINCIPLE OF CAUSE AND EFFECT
“Every cause has its Law. Chance and randomness are but names for Law not recognized. There are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the Law.”
There is a cause for every effect and an effect from every cause. Nothing ever “merely happens,” and there is no such thing as chance. While there are various planes of Cause and Effect, the higher dominating the lower, nothing escapes the Law.
VII. THE PRINCIPLE OF GENDER
“Gender is in everything. Everything has its masculine and feminine aspects. Gender manifests on all planes.”
The Masculine and Feminine Principles are ever at work. This is true not only of the physical plane, but on the mental and spiritual planes as well. On the physical plane, the Principle manifests as sexuality, on the higher planes it takes other forms, but the Principle remains the same. No creation, physical, mental or spiritual is possible without this Principle. Every male thing has a female element, every female thing contains the male principle.
If as you read these words you find yourself connected to a deeper understanding, you are connecting with mysticism’s eternal roots. There is a great deal of material about mysticism and particularly Hermeticism available on the web. Some is very good, some verges on the really weird. I had read a few mystical texts years ago, but today I realize that I was not prepared to digest the greater truths they offered. Understanding mysticism, I have come to realize, really does require a prepared mind.
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