Spiritus Hermeticum: part eight
An investigation of the origins of Hermeticism and the true teachings of Hermes Trismegistus
In the first two parts of this 12-part investigation we discussed the origins of Hermeticism, the Greek and Egyptian conceptions of the God Thoth, and the origins and extent of the Corpus Hermeticum. This was followed by an examination of the actual teachings of Hermes as they have come down to us in the various Hermetic texts. In this and the next three parts we consider the Seven Universal Hermetic Laws which govern all life—material and spiritual. These Laws are never openly stated in the Corpus Hermeticum, any more than they are openly stated in the Tabula Smaragdina—the true 'Emerald Tablet' of Thoth. But hints and clues there are a-plenty in all these texts. The only book we know which does describe these Laws is the Kybalion, in which they are referred to as 'The Seven Hermetic Principles.' We reviewed and discussed this book in our article on the Hermetic philosophy of ancient Egypt.
In the twelve afterwords accompanying this investigation we are meticulously dissecting the so-called Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean written by the 20th century occultist—Dr Maurice Doreal. In this eighth afterword we turn our attention to tablets six and seven. If you have not read the previous parts now is the time to do so, for this investigation forms an ascending scale of revelation which cannot be understood by skimming through one or more individual articles in a haphazard and piecemeal manner.
The absence of any direct mention of the Seven Universal Hermetic Laws in the Corpus Hermeticum or Tabula Smaragdina is often cited as irrefutable proof they are the invention of the anonymous authors of the Kybalion. This notion is completely false, for, as we shall see later on there are many references to these Laws in both texts; so many in fact that to mention them all would turn this article into a catalogue. What this omission does prove is the ignorance and laziness of those who make this criticism. For even a cursory examination of the Poemander reveals that the foundation of Hermes' teaching is that all that exists—both material and spiritual—is derived from Mind. Or, as we may read in the Second Book of the Poemander: "For the Mind being God, Male and Female, Life and Light, brought forth by his Word another Mind or Workman; which being God of the Fire, and the Spirit, fashioned and formed seven other Governors, which in their circles contain the Sensible World, whose Government or disposition is called Fate or Destiny."
If this does not prove the existence of the first Hermetic Law—called Mentalism—we do not know what proofs will satisfy the sceptics and unbelievers. We are reminded of the 20th century British occultist, Dion Fortune who, in one of her books, stated that the greatest occult secrets can be shouted from the rooftops without anyone being any the wiser. The Kybalion proves her point perfectly, as we shall see when we come to examine parts of it as we develop our theme. We shall also refer to the Poemander and the Asclepios as well as the Tabula Smaragdina to provide our readers with as complete a view of the Seven Universal Hermetic Laws and their operation as it is possible to do in the limited space and time we have available.
Before we do so we would like to answer a question which has often been put to us by readers, namely the difference between a 'Law' and a 'Principle.' You will recall that the Kybalion refers to Hermes' teachings as 'The Seven Hermetic Principles.' So why do we call them Laws? The dictionary tells us that a Principle is "a fundamental truth or proposition..." whereas a Law is "the principles and regulations established in a community..." On the face of it this suggests the two words are interchangeable. Science, however, regards a Law as something which tells us how things work, such as the laws of electrical conductivity and resistance, and a Principle as a proposition arising from the activity of known laws. The principle of relativity and the so-called law of gravity are examples of this difference. However, it is only fair to point out that there is no more consistent usage of these words among scientists than there is among occultists. Since the Seven Universal Hermetic Laws tell us how the Universe and everything in it, works, we think that Law is a more correct word than Principle in this instance. Moreover, the Higher and lower selves discussed in several of our articles are Principles compelled to obey certain Laws, such as the laws of Evolution and Reincarnation. People talk of the Laws of Nature but the Principles of government. To recap, a Law is a fixed and unchanging proposition which applies to all things and beings without exception. A Principle is a thing or being which is subject to Law and therefore liable to change in the degree it either cooperates with or opposes it. Hence a mind may devolve as well as evolve. These distinctions are subtle but important ones which we hope will clear up any lingering misconceptions in the minds of our readers.
Let us preface our investigation of the Sublime Laws Hermes revealed with his own words as we find them set down in John Everard's edition of The Divine Pymander. You may recall we ended our previous afterword about Dr Doreal's tablets with the first sentence of this passage. We now quote the whole of it. "Whither are you carried, O Men, drunken with drinking the strong Wine of Ignorance? Which seeing you cannot bear, why do you vomit it up again? Stand, and be sober, and look up again with the Eyes of your heart, and if you cannot all do so, yet do so many as you can. For the malice of Ignorance surroundeth all the Earth, and corrupteth the Soul, shut up in the Body, not suffering it to arrive at the Havens of Salvation. Suffer not yourselves to be carried with the Great Stream, but stem the tide you that can lay hold of the Haven of Safety, and make your full course towards it. Seek one that may lead you by the hand, and conduct you to the door of Truth and Knowledge, where the clear Light is that is pure from Darkness, where there is not one drunken, but all are sober, and in their heart look up to Him, whose pleasure it is to be seen. For He cannot be heard with ears, nor seen with eyes, nor expressed in words; but only in mind and heart can He be known."
The Seven Universal Hermetic Laws
The simple truth that the universe arose out of Mind—and not the other way around as science believes—is the foundation of all Seven Universal Hermetic Laws. These Laws describe and explain all material and spiritual phenomena, such as material science can never do, for it continues to deny the existence of any such thing as 'spirit' or a Divine Source. If you know nothing about these Laws, have never read the Kybalion, or are unsure about the differences between the true laws taught by Occult Science and the speculations and theories of material science, we suggest you first read 'Why study Occult Science?' as well as our article on the Hermetic philosophy of ancient Egypt before proceeding further. The Seven Universal Hermetic Laws may be briefly summarised as follows.
- Mentalism. The Law that all that exists is derived from Mind finds confirmation in the third verse of the Tabula Smaragdina which runs: "And as all things were produced by the meditation of one Being, so all things were produced from this one thing by adaptation." As there can be no meditation without a mind the 'one thing' Hermes refers to can only be mental energy or Mind.
- Correspondence. This Law is found in the second verse of the Tabula Smaragdina and in the Hermetic maxim "As above—so below." Correspondence is not the same thing as comparison, though the two words are often confused. An atom corresponds to a solar-system but heat compares to cold, for they are simply polarities of the same principle. We shall explore this Law further later on.
- Vibration. Hermes taught that everything without exception—even so-called 'inanimate' things such as stones—is in constant motion, both internally and externally. Any change in one's mental state alters the vibration of every living particle within us. In this lies the key to health and disease, success and failure, strength and weakness.
- Polarity. This Law is found in the seventh and eighth verses of the Tabula Smaragdina and states that everything in the Universe is dual; positive and negative, light and dark, hot and cold, male and female. In addition, a higher state is positive in relation to a lower one and vice versa. It is responsible for sympathy and antipathy, attraction and repulsion.
- Rhythm. This Law is found in the eighth verse of the Tabula Smaragdina and tells us that everything is subject to rhythm. Up and down, left and right, backwards and forwards, fast and slow, activity and inertia. In this lies the key to understanding and controlling all activity, whether mental or physical, both within ourselves and in our environment.
- Cause and Effect. There is a cause for every effect within the Universe and an effect for every cause. This Law is summed up in the Hermetic axiom: "that which comes up has always been sown; not all that has been sown comes up." Hence, there is no such thing as chance which is merely a word that describes any activity or event for which the cause remains unknown.
- Gender or Sex. This Universal Law is found in the fourth verse of the Tabula Smaragdina. Not an atom nor an angel is devoid of Gender. The Masculine and Feminine principles manifest on all planes and apply to all states of consciousness. The Sun or Father Principle is the active and positive force, whilst the Moon or Mother Principle is the passive and negative condition.
We will now examine these Laws in greater depth, beginning with the first and most important—Mentalism—upon which all the rest depend for, as we may read in the third verse of the Tabula Smaragdina, ". . .all things were produced from this one thing [Mind] by adaptation."
The Kybalion tells us that "the lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding." What greater wisdom has the world ever known, and forgotten, than that of Hermes the Divine, the Thoth of the ancient and prehistoric Egyptians? As we said in our investigation of The Magic of Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs was the hallowed birthplace of the Ancient Wisdom. So it is fitting we should begin our analysis of the Law of Mentalism with a quotation from the Poemander. The words are taken from Volume II of Mead's Thrice Greatest Hermes, Chapter I, slightly amended by us.
"I, Mind, Myself am present with holy men and good, the pure, the merciful men who live piously. For to such my Presence doth become an aid, and they shall gain to Gnosis of all things, thus knowing them, and win the love of the Father by their pure vision, and thank Him, night and morn, invoking His Blessings, which He shall grant, as they meditate upon His Glory with ardent Love and Devotion."
This is the first and most essential step for those who sincerely desire entry into the Kingdom of divine Thought and Knowledge. By Mind Hermes means the Higher Self which is truly 'present', meaning awake and active, in the pure, the merciful and the pious. By 'pure' is not meant physical cleanliness, though that is important too, but mental and emotional purity, thinking positive, healthful thoughts and refraining from anger, jealousy, hatred, and similar vices of the lower self. Pious does not mean wearing a solemn face, dressing in sackcloth and ashes and behaving in a generally puritanical and judgemental manner. This is sanctimonious hypocrisy not piety. No, piety is something completely different. Nor do most people know what it is. To be pious is to love God with all one's mind, with all one's heart, and with all one's soul. It is the desire to serve God in whatever ways present themselves to us without expectation of any reward other than the conviction that we are sending forth His Holy Light. This is piety.
The lower mind, being concerned solely with self and its desires, can have no conception of piety, purity or mercy, though it is well acquainted with hypocrisy, envy and sham religion. The Higher Mind alone is capable of purity, mercy and piety, which virtues it draws from its positive part that dwells in Heaven which we denominate the Divine Soul. All is Mind, and the whole of the Universe is the result of that Higher, creative Mind which rules all things and sees with unsleeping Eyes that which is Eternal Truth. Mind, then, is both the unsubstantial Reality and the Spiritual Actuality underlying all manifestations, both outwardly and inwardly or Matter and Spirit in this sequence. Mind is the Principle which enables us to know the material universe, to experience the phenomena of life. It is the spiritual awareness which hovers over all manifestation. Mind is that spirit we know as energy and power, but it cannot be explained or elucidated in mere words, for Mind, Spirit, Awareness are all unknowable and indefinable in terms invented in any language whatsoever. But Mind makes known to us—if it is truly awakened—all things spiritual and material. When it has reached that state it is godlike in its supreme qualities and therefore beyond the understanding of the ordinary man whose Mind is asleep and who dreams the illusions presented to them by the senses of the body, which senses are incapable of beholding Truth and insensible to it.
The awakened Higher Mind knows that all the phenomenal worlds which make up the Universe are the result of mental creations of things and beings, and, in the highest sense, it is the MIND in which we live and move and have our being. Once this truth is grasped we know and can explain all the varied mental, psychic and material phenomena of which our own mind becomes aware under various conditions. None of the methods of purely material science can attain to this awareness as you can read in our article 'Why study Occult Science?' in which we showed why no material phenomena can be measured by the yardstick of science or resolved in the crucible of chemical experiment or investigation. Mental powers and the Great Mentality of the Universe under God are mysteries material science can never solve. Once the great Hermetic Law of Mentalism has been fully understood it enables the individual to know and understand the Mental Universe and to apply this knowledge to all things and beings and learn how they are constituted or came into existence.
But do not ask for 'proof' of all this, for that is a lower mind question, or the sign of an undeveloped Higher Mind. The Truths Hermes laboured to reveal are apprehended in a blinding flash of Light or a supreme moment of inspiration, not 'proven'. Let us praise and give thanks to the Creator of Creators; glorified be his Glory, exalted His Power, at the contemplation of whose Greatness the eye of understanding and the vision of the Mind are dazzled, even in deepest meditation. To us who dwell at the foot of the hill of His Perfection the farthest limit of thought is overcome with profound veneration. Therefore we say again—let gratitude and ceaseless adoration for the graciousness of Him who has granted unto us the boon of understanding ever be in our hearts and minds as we contemplate the wonders of Creation. Let us sing praises to Hermes the Thrice Great whose teachings have led us straight to the Great Portals on High, to the lamp of our intellect and the flambeau of our intuition in which are reflected the gleams of some particles of His Holy Wisdom.
May the voice of the Divine Herald, whose grandeur is heard in the portico of our inner ear, call us to the Feast of Liberation when the time for that bliss draws nigh. May the great Tower of Inspiration be like unto a lighthouse of divine Light which will shine for ever upon the waves of that ocean of knowledge which compasses all things known by the Soul who imparts guidance unto our Higher Selves. Those often sorrowing Higher Selves who dwell within the flesh for a while on earth, poor prisoners, who long for understanding of the mysteries the outer eye does not behold, the ear cannot hear but which are unveiled by that Other Self in Heaven who awaits our coming—our very own Soul. The pure, pious Self, filled with mercy for all that lives and breathes, whose Mind mounts the ladder which leads to Heaven by means of many steps of prayer, shall be bathed in the Gnostic Light of Hermes, the Divine. Such a one never tires in songs of praise and thankfulness, pouring blessings on all men in imitation of his Father in Heaven. For the good alone can know the good, even as Hermes said: "Thee I invoke! Come to me, O Good, Thou altogether Good, come to the Good!"
As All is derived from Mind it follows that we can change material conditions by the right or wrong use we make of our mental abilities. Health and disease, success and failure, happiness and misery all depend on the operation of the Hermetic Law of Mentalism. But let us not fall into the trap of those muddle-headed New Age mystics who believe that a few not-so-well chosen 'affirmations' are all that it takes to obtain whatever we desire. This erroneous notion was popularized by the TV documentary The Secret, which first brought the so-called 'law of attraction' to the attention of a mass audience. If Mentalism worked in the simplistic manner the documentary claims then if you ardently desire money, you will get it. If your heart is set on a new job, it will drop into your lap like a ripe plum. If you affirm that you are slim the pounds will magically drop off you. Conversely, if you constantly worry about money, you will stay poor.
But, if in addition to concentrating on what you want, you clearly visualise it and have unwavering faith that you will get it, you also work hard to create the material conditions which foster success, the chances are you will succeed. Do you want to be rich? Well, then visualise wealth and focus on it by all means. But put yourself in a position where you stand some chance of obtaining your desire, such as investing in something or someone, obtaining a better job, improving your skills or education through study and training. In other words unless we combine thinking on the mental plane with action on the physical plane no amount of 'affirmations' or wishful thinking is going to get us very far, if anywhere at all. This is where the critics who disparage the Kybalion all go wrong. They pounce on a sentence in the book such as, "If All be Mental, then the art which enables one to transmute mental conditions must render the Master the controller of material conditions." Having perhaps tried—in a desultory and half-hearted manner—to 'transmute' a dime into a dollar, and failing miserably, these inept and ignorant poltroons condemn the Kybalion rather than blaming themselves for their inability to grasp the subtlety and simplicity of the Hermetic Laws described and explained in it.
This is, of course, a rather silly example but nonetheless serves to show what happens—or rather doesn't happen—when we use our mental powers in the wrong way. But if we use them in the right way—as Hermes teaches us, so thought will leap to join with thought, and our thoughts will bloom like full-blown roses, flushing with the bliss of revelation and inspiration. And as we ever continue to develop our powers of thought, they will descend upon us faster than spring showers, hedged by holiness, no longer flimsy webs of speculation, no sooner woven than blown down by the spiteful winds of ridicule, should we presume to show such frail constructions unto worldly eyes, but strong and filled with wisdom which flourishes upon our inner minds like the peach-down flush of a lovely flower which spreads its beauty to the eye of the sun who greets it with the ardent kiss of a lover. And when we meet our equal or superior in mental brilliance and affection, then our thoughts are interchanges in which no coinage is used but that of gold and silver.
And should we dwell in solitude, then thoughts are our companions, and our thoughts shall then be as valuable in proportion as they are generative. For by Mind alone the Universe was made, and there was not, nor is, nor will be any other means to true creation. But we should learn to distinguish between the Higher Self and the lower. The lightful thoughts of the Higher Self are inspired in their sublimity and originality, whereas the lower self can only grope in the dark of mere instinct and intellect. It is sweet to drink the sparkling waters of learning, but it is a nobler privilege to think. And let us spare a thought for those whose Higher Selves are plunged in the sleep of forgetfulness while their lower selves amuse themselves with the transient joys of earthly things. For, as Hermes says:
"To the Mind-less ones, the wicked and depraved, the envious and covetous, and those who do murder and love impiety, I am far off, yielding my place to the Avenging Daimon, who sharpening the fire, tormenteth him and addeth fire to fire upon him, and rusheth on him through his senses, thus rendering him the readier for transgressions of the law, so that he meets with greater torment; nor doth he ever cease to have desire for appetites inordinate, insatiately striving in the dark."
The 'Avenging Daimon' is, of course none other than the lower self, the only 'devil' who ever tempted man to sin and impiety as we discussed with you in our article on the Elixir of Life, as well as in several others. And what greater Elixir can there be than the right understanding and wise application of the First Law of Hermes—the Universal Hermetic Law of Mentalism, which principles we have considered to a small extent in these reflections. Why not try and develop them further for your own benefit and that of others not able to understand or apply the Universal Hermetic Law of Mentalism?
Ethelwynne M. Quail — Landscape god — watercolour painted under the supervision of Geoffrey Hodson for his book The Kingdom of the Gods
The Second Law of Hermes is that of Correspondence. It is enshrined in the Hermetic axiom: "What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of one thing." This is the second verse in the Tabula Smaragdina—the true 'Emerald Tablet'—which we shall analyse at the end of our afterwords. This—and our previous references to the Smaragdine Tablet—demolishes the claim that the Hermetic Laws are the invention of the authors of the Kybalion. For no other interpretation than that of correspondence can possibly be placed on this axiom. Unless one is a complete bigot of course, with the mental acuity of a brick. We mention this now in case one or more such unfortunates have stumbled on this article, and being afflicted with insatiable but misguided curiosity, have reached this far. For even the mind of the bigot may eventually open to admit a ray of Light, or at least we hope so!
In this Law we find embodied the truth that there is always a correspondence between the laws and principles and their phenomena on every plane of being. Those who understand this to the full have the means of solving many a perplexing paradox and unveiling the inner secrets of Nature. The Higher the Realm we reach through deep study, meditation or contemplation the clearer and more sublime will be our solutions of the enigmas of life. To the unlearned and unawakened man there are worlds upon worlds beyond his apprehension or conception. But those who can apply the Hermetic Law of Correspondence are able to understand much of that which would otherwise be regarded as unknowable. This Law is of universal application and manifestation on the various planes of the material, mental and spiritual universe, not just the physical world we dwell in, for, like Mentalism, it is a Universal Law to which there are no exceptions.
By the right application of the Law of Correspondence we may behold the divine countenances of the Gods and behold their vast Estates of the Spirit, and those who reside therein. The occultist and musician—J Michaud PhD—whose sublime books have inspired so much of our content, employed this Law to supreme effect in The Golden Star which, as many of our regular readers know, contains some of the most wonderful (and true) descriptions of the Realms of Light ever written in any book by any author at any time. For those who haven't read the book—shame on you!—here is a very brief taste of what we mean.
"They were surrounded by the glory of that beautiful region of the Astral Fire; so pure and clean and full of delight; a living beauty underneath the ethereal and golden canopy of Heaven, as if the whole of those Realms were placed within the heart of a spiritualized Sun which cleansed without burning, and was Life itself. A Paradise indeed; with many paths that wound their way through palmy fern and waving branch in every tint of fresh young green, or drowned in apple-bloom; exalted by the piety of Heaven's Hosts and Love Eternal. A boundless landscape full of Radiance; and treasures rich in colour everywhere. And as in silent awe they gazed about, a greater radiance began to fill the sky. A brighter effluence of that bright golden Essence spreading luminosity till all began to shine in keen, electric, bluish-white; luciferous, pellucid, splendidly scintillant, so strong that both Ma-uti and Ma-u cried out and had to shade their eyes and cover them with both their hands. But still the glowing, blazing, argent flame increased in power and seared the brain with dazzling beams of fulgid silvery splendour."
In the same way as a knowledge of Astronomy and similar sciences enables us to measure distant suns and their movements, so a true knowledge of the Law of Correspondence enables us to reason intelligently from the Known to the Unknown. But correspondence is not the same thing as comparison, though the two words are often confused. For if we compare one man with another, we find that the superiority of some is merely local. They are great, because their associates are little. Hence, correspondence plays no part in such a case, only mundane comparison, which is not a law in the sense Hermes teaches us, but a difference in kind only. In the light of the sun the candle is dim, for the greater glory outshines the lesser. Again, this is a difference in kind, a comparison between two lights, not a correspondence. Some readers may object that a kitten is like a cat or a puppy is like a dog, thus thinking that in this there is some form of correspondence.
But that would show they have not understood this Law. A cat or dog are only grown up kittens or puppies. Once again, what we have here is not a correspondence but mere comparison. We must remember at all times that anything we behold on earth has its corresponding form in a higher or lower plane or realm of being. Hence, there is a correspondence between a man and an angel; if by angel we mean someone who dwells on a higher plane of being, in a Higher Realm. Similarly, there is a correspondence between a man and a devil that flits about in a dark realm like the demon that tormented the Jihadi in our story of the Jihadi and the Jinn. In each case, we may call the man the prototype of the angel or demon, or the angel or demon the prototype of man. So here we have a genuine correspondence in either case, not a comparison. For an Angel is not a grown-up man, like the dog and the puppy, or the cat and the kitten, but a being who corresponds to the grown-up man on earth, or the man who corresponds to the angel on high, or the demon below. And the two correspondences complete one another in this manner. We may say further than a man corresponds to a god, for a god is an Immortal mortal and a man a Mortal immortal. Likewise, an Atom corresponds to a Solar System but heat compares to cold and light to darkness, for they are simply polarities of the same principle.
Therefore, we repeat, do not compare a man with an angel or a demon. If you do you have not understood the subtle difference between correspondence and comparison. Nor does one man or woman correspond to any other man or woman; we can only compare man with man, or woman with woman, or child with child. If this is not quite clear to you yet, then pray for better understanding, for if you are worthy, willing and ready, it will come to you through inspiration and heavenly guidance. Remember too that there is no permanently wise man or woman, but that men and women are capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favourable circumstances or conditions, become wise for a short time, provided they are inspired by God and His Angels. The same applies to ignorance of course, which is possessed by the demons in abundance, and who are only too happy to pass it on!
Complete purity of thought is acquired by those who remain perfectly poised in a constant state of equilibrium in thought—Inner Peace in other words. Being perfectly balanced, they possess that mysterious, yet fully understood 'something' that reconciles all opposites, and knows their simultaneous source and future. To such the Divine Presence becomes an unfailing aid in all problems, for Light shines upon them, and they behold it in all its splendour. Such men and women dwell at all times in the Fields of Peace you can read about in our religious quotes and occult maxims page. But at the same time they also reside in the self-cultivated soil of their spiritual nature, good and merciful, so that the Divine Presence can sow the heavenly Gnosis, perfect Wisdom and Understanding in their hearts. These are the True Sages, weak as a mere man or woman, but strong and pure as the Sagacity which their Lord bestows upon them, that they may use it as a Light to guide their followers. This, then, is what may be achieved by the wise application of the Universal Hermetic Law of Correspondence.
In part nine of this investigation we consider the Hermetic Laws of Vibration and Polarity. Those who make the sincere and determined effort to apply the first of these Seven Laws—Mentalism and Correspondence—will find that every aspect of their life and thinking will take on new and deeper meaning, and they will see the world around them with eyes that behold the spiritual actualities behind seeming appearances.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. First published 8 November 2020. Updated 24 December 2022.