The Hermetic Tradition stems from the great Mystery Traditions and Initiatory Schools from ancient Egypt and Greece. However, the Principles behind them are rumored to be from far antiquity into pre-diluvian (pre-great flood/catastrophe event). The progenitor of this body of arcahic knowledge was said to be a man/god known as Hermes Trismegistus. This being has been correlated with Thoth, Hermes and Woden.
This philosophy correlates with much of the wisdom that comes from the East as well. In the seminal work known as “The Kybalion”, the authors, who refer to themselves only as “The Three Initiates” lay out the Seven Principles underlying Hermetic philosophy. These have also been referred to as “Natural Law Principles”, and understanding them is a key to understanding the nature of reality. They are as follows:
I. The Principle of Mentalism: “THE ALL is MIND; The Universe is Mental.”
This Principle states that the entire fabric of the Universe is essentially akin to a giant Mind. We exist as creations within the Mind of God. All things come from Mind and Consciousness is the force that manifests all things. It is our own individual minds that create our own individual sphere of reality, just as the greater collective mind of humanity creates the greater human reality and the Mind of God creates the Ultimate Reality.
II. The Principle of Correspondence: “As above, so below; as below so above.”
This Principle embodies the idea that there is always a correspondence between the laws of phenomena of the various “planes” of being and life. This principle states that there is a harmony, agreement and correspondence between these planes, which are “divided” into the Great Physical Plane, the Great Mental Plane, and the Great Spiritual Plane. What this means is that what is happening on the Physical Planes is also occurring in some form on the Mental and Spiritual Planes and vice versa. This also means that what happens with us individually is in some form reflected in the world around us and vice versa.
III. The Principle of Vibration: “Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.”
This Principle embodies the idea that motion is manifest in everything in the Universe, that nothing rests, and everything moves, vibrates, and circles. This principle explains that the differences between different manifestations of Matter, Energy, Mind, and even Spirit, are the result of only different “vibrations”. The higher a person is on the scale, the higher the rate of vibration will be. Here, The All is said to be at an infinite level of vibration, almost to the point of being at rest. There are said to be millions upon millions of varying degrees between the highest level, The All, and the objects of the lowest vibration.
Mental Transmutation is described as the practical application of this principle. To change one’s mental state is to change vibration. One may do this by an effort of Will, by means of deliberately “fixing the attention” that is higher on the scale of vibration, i.e. “opposite” of that state of mind. A good example is focusing on gratitude if you have issues with resentment.
IV. 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.”
This Principle embodies the idea that everything is dual, everything has two poles, and everything has its opposite. All manifested things have two sides, two aspects, or two poles. Everything “is” and “isn’t” at the same time, all truths are but half-truths and every truth is half false, there are two sides to everything, opposites are identical in nature, yet different in degree, extremes meet, and all paradoxes may be reconciled. An example would be how light and dark are really just the opposite ends of one basic element which is light. The variance is the degree of light there is in a place. The same notion can be applied to good and evil. There is only good in reality, but we just have places where there is “more” or “less” of that basic principle of goodness occurring.
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.”
This Principle embodies the idea that in everything there is manifested a measured motion, a to and fro, a flow and inflow, a swing backward and forward, a pendulum-like movement. This principle explains that there is rhythm between every pair of opposites, or poles, and is closely related to the Principle of Polarity. It can be seen that this Principle enables transition from one pole to the other, and not necessarily poles of extreme opposites. This can be seen in the cycles of the seasons, the cycles of history and the cycles of time among many other things.
VI. 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.”
This Principle explains that there is a cause for every effect, and an effect for every cause. It also states that there is no such thing as chance, that chance is merely a term indicating extant causes not recognized or perceived. This encompasses the Eastern concept of “Karma” and the scientific principle that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Nothing happens in a vacuum.
VII. The Principle of Gender: “Gender is in everything; everything has its Masculine and Feminine Principles Gender; manifests on all planes.”
This Principle embodies the idea that gender is manifested in everything. This does not relate explicitly to the commonly understood notion of sex, but rather “… to beget; to procreate, to generate, to create, or to produce…” in general. Gender is manifested as the Masculine and Feminine principles, and manifests itself on all planes. This can be correlated with the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang.
Mental Gender is described as a Hermetic concept which relates to the masculine and feminine principles. It does not refer to someone’s physical sex, nor does it suggest that someone of a certain physical sex necessarily has a matching mental gender. Ideally, one wants to have a balanced mental gender.
This concept states that gender exists on all planes of existence (Physical, Mental, and Spiritual), and represents different aspects on different planes. It is also stated that everything and everyone contains these two elements or principles. The Masculine principle is always in the direction of giving out or expressing, and contents itself with the “Will” in its varied phases. The Feminine principle is always in the direction of receiving impressions, and has a much more varied field of operation than the Masculine. The Masculine conducts the work of generating new thoughts, concepts, and ideas, including the work of the imagination.
It is said that there must be a balance in these two forces. Without the Feminine, the Masculine is apt to act without restraint, order, or reason, resulting in chaos. The Feminine alone, on the other hand, is apt to constantly reflect and fail to actually do anything, resulting in stagnation. With both the Masculine and Feminine working in conjunction, there is thoughtful action that breeds success, which points out that both the Feminine and the Masculine fulfill each other.
These Principles are observable and able to be worked with if one takes the time to understand them. They are the Principles that govern reality and are applicable across all levels of human activity, the natural world and the Cosmos. They are the Natural Law that is constantly at work in our lives regardless of whether or not we choose to believe in them.