Hermetic Principles: 7 Keys to Self-Mastery

Hermetic principles image

7 Hermetic principles, named for the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, are based on the natural laws that govern the universe. When one grasps the hermetic principles, one can utilize them to manifest more purpose, meaning, and control over their life.

These principles are universal, meaning that our Universe runs on them. Therefore, they are also called Universal Laws. We can see their influence on almost all cultures, spiritual traditions, religions, and ancient scriptures.

This article is designed to serve as a starting point for learning about hermetic philosophy and 7 hermetic principles. It will arouse curiosity and inspire you to explore the hermetic tradition and its principles in greater detail.

The Doctrine Of The Universal Laws

The concept of Hermetic philosophy, which is the doctrine of the greater universal laws, has its roots in Ancient Egypt, and mainly in Chaldean astronomy, Greek philosophy, Persian magic, and alchemy.

This set of beliefs is attributed to the Master of Masters, the father of Occult wisdom, and the originator of Astrology, Alchemy, and the Tarot system, the God of wisdom Thoth, also known as Hermes Trismegistus. Some also believe that he was a native of the lost continent of Atlantis.

Hermes Trismegistus was attributed with authoring 42 works that encompassed all of the Universe’s wisdom. Unfortunately, most of them were destroyed in the library of Alexandria, with the exception of two: “Asclepius” and “The Emerald Tablet“.

Hermetic Texts

The Corpus Hermeticum Image

There exist three core texts that encompass the entirety of hermetic philosophy:

  1. The Corpus Hermeticum is one of the most widely-known Hermetic texts, featuring conversations between Hermes Trismegistus and a variety of other characters. In the first chapter, Hermes speaks with Poimandres (thought to be God), who reveals the secrets of the universe.
  2. The Emerald Tablet refers to the three parts of the total knowledge of the Universe. It was discovered in Hebron by Alexander the Great, possibly in the tomb of Hermes.
  3. The Perfect Sermon dates back to the 2nd or 3rd century AD and is comparable in content to the Corpus Hermeticum.

Other noteworthy Hermetic works are:

  • the Discourses of Isis to Horus;
  • the Definitions of Hermes to Asclepius;
  • the Kybalion: Hermetic Philosophy (the book that describes essential Hermetic principles);
  • a Suggestive Inquiry into Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy.


Hermetism Image

The hermetic tradition represents a non-Christian lineage of Gnosticism, which is the name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.

Hermeticism is a school of systems and ideas that focuses on the pursuit of Gnosis – the pursuit of empirical knowledge pertaining to spiritual mysteries.

Hermeticism is based on the belief in a Single transcendent Mind. Everything that exists in the Universe is a part of that Transcendent mind.

Hermetic teachings propose that everything acts according to the law of analogy because everything is one Higher Consciousness. However, life is composed of two dualities, which interact to bring forth an infinite number of combinations and possibilities in the Creation. Through this, the soul is given the power of choice, which leads to a singularly unique pathway. This path, though individual, ultimately points back to the origin of Creation – the Divine Source.

For centuries, Hermeticism was disregarded until the mid-15th century when Leonardo, an agent of Cosimo de ‘ Medici, procured hermetic treatises in Greek from Constantinople. These works were subsequently translated into Latin by Marsilio Ficino in 1461, which sparked a newfound interest in Hermeticism during the Renaissance and gave rise to the Corpus Hermeticum.

Isaac de Casaubon, a Swiss philologist, conducted an analysis of hermetic texts in 1614, examining their content, their ties to other texts, and their language. Concluding that these works attributed to Hermes Trismegistus were not composed by an ancient Egyptian priest, but rather written in the Christian era.

In 1945, ancient writings written in Coptic were discovered near Nag Hammadi. These writings were laid out in a form of a conversation between two characters, Hermes and Asclepius, from the Corpus Hermeticum and a text which detailed the Hermetic philosophy.

Although there were some Hermetists who took interest in religion, others only studied the philosophical aspects of Hermeticism.

In Hermetic religion, the ultimate God is often referred to as the One, the All, or God. Hermeticists often regard other religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and the mainline of paganism, as having a common core, a shared set of mystical verities, and a comprehension of the 7 Hermetic Principles.

The 7 Hermetic principles are:

  1. The Principle Of Mentalism
  2. The Principle Of Correspondence
  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

Who is Hermes Trismegistus?

Hermes Trismegistus Image

“Master of all arts and sciences, perfect in all crafts, Ruler of the Three Worlds, Scribe of the Gods, and Keeper of the Books of Life, Thoth Hermes Trismegistus — the Three Times Greatest, the “First Intelligencer” — was regarded by the ancient Egyptians as the embodiment of the Universal Mind. While in all probability there actually existed a great sage and educator by the name of Hermes, it is impossible to extricate the historical man from the mass of legendary accounts which attempt to identify him with the Cosmic Principle of Thought.”

Manly P. Hall — The Secret Teachings of All Ages

The syncretic figure of Hermes Trismegistus is a combination of the traits of the Egyptian deity Thoth, the God of wisdom and writing, and the Greek God Hermes, who both had roles in writing and magic. It is believed Hermes Trismegistus wrote the Emerald Tablet and the Corpus Hermeticum.

Tens of thousands of highly esteemed works were attributed to Hermes, both from Egypt and Greece. During the Italian Renaissance, Hermes was seen as an Egyptian Priest; however, it is possible that the Corpus Hermetica was actually composed by several unknown authors with Platonistic and Greek Stoic views.

The question of whether Hermes truly existed and if he was linked to the Egyptian God Thoth and the connection between the two ancient cultures remains unanswered. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: the Hermetic principles were highly appreciated by these civilizations, regardless of who wrote them.

The Kybalion

Kybalion Image

As I mentioned above, the Kybalion is a collection of the main hermetic principles which are transmitted from the Teacher to his student.

This ancient text, composed of seven principles, is a source of wisdom and knowledge. It is a hermetic philosophy that explains the fundamental laws of the universe and the interaction between the mental and physical worlds. Its teachings are applicable to all aspects of life and provide an understanding of how to use the power of our minds to consciously manifest our life.

In order to remain anonymous, the authors of the Kybalion, known as the “Three Initiates”, have been the subject of much speculation.

William Walker Atkinson is typically believed to be the sole author of the Kybalion. He was known to use several false names when publishing his works. Furthermore, he was the proprietor of the Yogi Publication Society that released the Kybalion.

According to one theory, Atkinson co-wrote with Paul Foster Case and Michael Whitty.

Although Harriet Case (Paul Foster Case’s wife), Ann Davies, Mabel Collins (theosophist), and Claude Bragdon (theosophist) have been suggested as possible co-authors of the Kybalion, it is highly improbable that Atkinson needed any collaboration in light of his extraordinary writing skills.

Mental Transmutation

A mental transmutation is an act of changing one’s mindset to bring about a desired result. It is a process of transforming one’s thoughts in order to manifest a specific desired result. By focusing on what one wants to achieve and visualizing it, one can effectively transmute their mental state to bring about the desired result.

The Kybalion speaks of mental transmutation, which is often referred to as spiritual alchemy, as the science of spiritual chemistry, and the practice of polarization.

The transmutation of the spirit through Hermetic Alchemy is the conversion of spiritual vibrations of one type into another. This practice applies to all objects in the Universe and is based on seven hermetic principles. Let’s delve deeper into these seven hermetic principles!

7 Hermetic Principles

The set of Hermetic Principles is a collection of teachings that have been passed down through centuries and are believed to have originated from Ancient Egypt. These principles are said to be the basis of all wisdom and knowledge. They are a set of fundamental truths that provide insight into the meaning of life and our connection to the universe. The 7 Hermetic principles are a great source of guidance for personal growth and transformation.

Principle #1: The Principle of Mentalism

“The Universe is Mental – held in the Mind of THE ALL.”

The Kybalion
hermetic principles mentalism image

The law of mentalism states that everything is mental in nature.

All existence is intelligent, even though we may not comprehend it. It isn’t rational in and of itself but is rather a portion and result of the living energy of the One Mind, some eternal and everlasting being, the Absolute, or simply the spirit. The universe is a mental representation of this Absolute and is present in every part of it. Despite this, the Absolute does not equate itself with the Universe. This is a manifestation of the immanence of the spirit.

Similarly, a person creating a mental image creates his own Universe, filling it completely with his presence but not identifying himself with it. Man is both a Creator and the one who lives directly in his thoughts, just like the Absolute. Though it may seem contradictory, only from a limited human perspective.

One moment is all it takes for the Absolute to create and destroy the Universe, just like how our thoughts can come and go in a flash.

In other words, everything in the universe is created by thought or mind. Nothing that is in the physical realm is exempt from this rule.

No matter what is made in the physical realm, its origin is mental; the basis of all things is thought. We are constantly carrying out actions based on what we think, even if it is on an unconscious level.

The renowned Edgar Cayce stated that “thoughts are things.” He believed that if we focus on having positive thoughts, positive actions will follow.

“He who grasps the truth of the Mental Nature of the Universe is well advanced on The Path to Mastery.”

– The Kybalion

Considering that all is composed of thought, it is advantageous to engage with this reality through the same means. When you pause to reflect, this opens up a world of possibilities.

The entire cosmos was brought into existence by the thought of God. Similarly, we shape our own reality both metaphysically and physically by the power of our thoughts. Yes, it is our thoughts that create our reality!

Principle #2: The Principle of Correspondence

“As above, so below; as below, so above.”

The Kybalion
Hermetic Principles Correspondence Image

This Hermetic principle is a universal law that helps us comprehend what is unknown and inaccessible, as well as uncover the hidden laws that govern the Universe.

According to this principle, the macrocosm is a reflection of the microcosm and vice versa. 

When dealing with intricate paradoxes, we contemplate both the big picture (macro level) and the small details (micro-level). The same principles that govern the planets are also applicable to atoms. And what works for the solar system and atomic system also works for the human system.

The Hermetic Philosophy posits that the Universe is composed of Three Great Planes:

  1. The Great Physical Plane;
  2. The Great Mental Plane;
  3. The Great Spiritual Plane.

The classification of the planes of the Universe is conditional and based on the different frequencies of its vibrations. It is also important to understand that all planes are interdependent and do not have absolute separation. All of these planes work in correspondence with one another.

By understanding this concept, it is possible to deduce the hidden solutions to problems by looking at what exists a layer above and below the problem to infer the pattern and shadow nature of what is in between.

Through utilizing the Principle of Correspondence, we can gain knowledge of the entirety of the Universe by exploring the higher and lower nature of things. Moreover, we can learn more about ourselves by encountering and analyzing the world of which we are an integral element.

Principle #3: The Principle of Vibration

“Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.”

The Kybalion
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The law of vibration states that everything in the Universe is constantly in motion; nothing is at rest. Everything vibrates, moves, and circles. All of life is vibrations at different frequencies.

Vibrations can occur at various frequencies, from slow to very high. Those at a higher rate are not visible to the human eye, while those at a lower rate can be seen as visible light.

We either vibrate at the frequency of harmony or at the frequency of chaos. Fortunately, this is within our control!

Our thoughts have their own rate of vibration, and we can control them like tuning an instrument. As our understanding of vibration, frequency, harmony, and resonance increase, so too shall our power over ourselves and our reality!

Every atom is a micro-universe within every molecule of our physical bodies. Our ideas, attitudes, and emotions create our health, energy, and the experiences we draw into our lives. Energy follows thought! Thus, our own thoughts shape our reality!

Therefore our ultimate goal should be a creation of such a vibration that is determined by our Higher Selves rather than by manipulations of our egos. 

Principle #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
Principle Of Polarity Image

The law of polarity states that all of life is composed of two forces that are opposite yet interconnected and interdependent. These two forces work together in balance to create the conditions of life.

All things have two opposites, which are really two extremes of the same thing. Examples of this are heat and cold, light and dark, heavy and light, gift and curse, love and hate, good and evil, happiness and suffering, etc. This line of polarity explains why there is such a wide range of states of existence, as there are countless gradations between these poles.

Hermeticists generally practice shifting between different states of being, which is referred to as mental transmutation. This is done through fluidly transitioning between opposing qualities.

The mental state can be shifted and altered, just like elements and metals. One pole can be turned into another, as well as one mental vibration can be turned into another.

The significance of this idea is paramount as it suggests we have the ability to switch the emotional state of a situation by recognizing it and deciding which emotion is most beneficial for us.

Usually, these transitions from positive to negative emotions happen unconsciously in an ordinary person’s mind. However, by applying the principle of polarity, we can consciously choose to experience these transitions by using our willpower for the betterment of our own lives and the lives of others.

To bring this into practice, we must realize that the difference is not a hurdle to be surmounted but two expressions of the same thing, differing only in degree, that can be consciously chosen. This process is the essence of the practice of Mental Alchemy.

In the Middle Ages, alchemists were preoccupied with the pursuit of turning base metals into gold. However, this type of transformation may have had a deeper meaning, as it symbolized the process of changing base thoughts and emotions into “spiritual gold” or higher energies. All we need to do is polarize our consciousness and life vibration differently since they are all varying degrees of the same thing.

For a deeper understanding of this principle, read our article “SOLANCHA: The Law of Harmony and BaLANce“.

Principle #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
Hermetic Principle of Rhythm Image

The Hermetic principle of Rhythm states that what flows in must flow out, what swings forward will swing back again, and what goes up must come down.

Science expresses this principle by the formula F = – F.

The principle of rhythm is exemplified in the cycle of the seasons, the alternating of day and night, the flux of emotions, the cycle of life and death, reincarnations, eras (Yugas in Vedas), and the rise and fall of civilizations. In addition, Karma itself follows this hermetic principle.

Hermeticism believes that the movement of the Pendulum is unavoidable and cannot be halted, but it is possible to counterbalance its effects. This is done by focusing on a certain desirable resting point and then compensating for the movement of the Pendulum in both directions.

Some people do this unconsciously when, for example, they are trying to overcome stress or calm their minds. Once cognizant of this principle, you can use it to find harmony in yourself, in others, and in the events in life. It is possible to achieve balance even on a worldwide level with a whole nation.

Finding a balance is essential! If you want to experience the highest of highs, you have to accept the possibility of encountering the lowest of lows. It is possible to reduce the impact of this by correctly understanding and applying the Hermetic Principles. This way, you will benefit from the positives and be able to lessen the effects of the negatives. In other words, you will still be able to enjoy “the rise” while neutralizing “the fall”.

“Nothing stands still – everything is being born, growing, dying – the very instant a thing reaches its height, it begins to decline – the law of rhythm is in constant operations.”

The Kybalion

Hermeticists educate themselves on the law of neutralization and how to utilize it, instead of having it be employed against them. This is done by employing the use of their will and detaching themselves from their emotions to create a state of consciousness where they are not influenced by the ebb and flow of their emotions like a pendulum.

Most people experience a fluctuating mental and emotional state. Their lives look like an emotional roller coaster. This leads to a lack of equilibrium, causing life to appear as a sequence of highs and lows.

The aspiration of the hermeticist is to reach a state of consciousness of inner peace, divine indifference, even-mindedness, and bliss.

The idea is to stay even-minded whether you experience joy or sorrow, whether you receive compliments or criticism, whether you feel pleasure or pain, whether you are sick or healthy, whether you succeed or fail, etc.

A state of divine detachment can be achieved when one stands in a state of neutrality, not being swayed by the extremes of a situation. Rather than viewing a circumstance as either positive or negative, allow a conscious point of view to come from a place of detachment. This is how duality is transcended.

Remember that all the suffering that humanity experiences come from their attachments or misplaced points of view.

Principle #6: The Principle of Cause and Effect (Causation)

“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
The Principle of Cause and Effect Image

Simply put, nothing happens for no reason, and there is no such thing as ‘chance.’ Every event has a reason behind it.

The principles of cause and effect are fundamental to almost all areas of science, especially classical physics. This concept has also been widely studied in philosophy, which completely excludes any probability of chance.

Hermetists, however, believe that it is possible to master this principle if you can gain control over the causes therefore their effects. This becomes possible if you subordinate the causality of higher planes in order to influence the effects on your own plane.

If you want to experience the empowering force of this concept, make an effort to take control and become the Cause of your own destiny instead of just being an Effect of others or the situations you find yourself in. In other words, make a deliberate decision regarding the thoughts you choose to fill your mind with instead of simply responding to what life throws your way. Aim for a higher level of awareness and take the role of a leader instead of a victim, focusing on the cause and not the effect.

It seems like this might be an essential step for everyone who wants to be happy – to become a master and drop the victim mask. The difference between a master and a victim is that a master takes responsibility for all good and bad events in his life whereas a victim denies it.

The average person in this world is an effect, not a cause. They are victims of their own thoughts, emotions, feelings, moods, opinions, biorhythms, other people, past lives, subconscious programming, the weather, illusion, astrological influences, disincarnate spirits, fantasies, the environment, etc. In fact, the average person can always find something or someone to blame for. This victim mentality leads to constant suffering and the lifestyle of a prisoner of destiny, fate, circumstances, etc.

On the contrary, the Master is above all the “circumstances” and has a tremendous amount of control over them.

The basic cause of our life is the thoughts and images we hold in our conscious and subconscious minds. By training ourselves to be highly attentive and only embracing the ideas that are beneficial for us, we can generate the reality we want (internally and externally).

Indeed, our thoughts are the root cause of our reality. We should not let our egos dominate our thinking but instead be obedient to our spirit.

The law of polarity dictates that one is either a master or a victim in any given situation.

Gaining control of our mental processes is necessary in order to have power over our emotions and desires.

Principle #7: The Principle of Gender

“Gender is in everything; Everything has its Masculine and Feminine Principles; Gender manifests on all planes.”

The Kybalion
hermetic principle of gender image

This hermetic principle embodies the fact that both the masculine (active) and feminine (passive) exist in all things. Not just in sex, but in the creative nature of all things, on all planes. The masculine and feminine exist not only in the physical plane but also in the mental and the spiritual. 

The masculine is the penetrative, progressive, assertive, and explorative energy that drives progress. The feminine is the receptive, treasured, sacred, protective energy that maintains tradition and nourishing that which is most essential to life.

There are two contrasting counterparts that are connected – man and woman, logic and intuition, Sun and Moon, and microcosm and macrocosm.

Too much masculine energy brings imbalance and leads to a growth of power to the extreme of reckless abandon. As a result, we lose perspective of what is most important and disconnect from our intuitive side. 

Too much feminine energy also creates disharmony and leads to a life deeply grounded in the present. As a result, our lives are missing the perspective and become determined by cycles and external circumstances out of our favor.

On the physical plane, each of us has a male or female physical body. However psychologically each of us is androgynous with male and female qualities. Each of us has a left brain and a right brain.

The electronic theory of matter has affirmed this concept in the realm of science – recall the atomic makeup of matter. This same principle is applicable to any plane.

This hermetic principle is aimed not only at structuring everything that exists but also at the process of creativity and recreation. For example, regarding the structure of human consciousness, this principle is manifested in the duality of levels of mind – consciousness (active) and subconsciousness (passive).

The path of balancing the masculine and feminine aspects within the self and also balancing the heavenly and earthly aspects within the self is the path that Buddha called “the Middle way”. True progress is possible through the balancing of the two energies of Gender in oneself, relationships, life events, and the environment.

Choosing the “Middle way” between the present-oriented feminine and future-driven masculine and seeking balance in all things is the key to using all 7 hermetic principles to full effect. This is how lasting self-mastery is achieved.

The Bottom Line

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The concept of Hermeticism, which amalgamates religion, philosophy, and science, may one day become the foundation for even more all-encompassing teaching. This merging of faith and knowledge, religion and philosophy, an ancient worldview and Christian mysticism, or, symbolically speaking, the cross with the Rose, was the original intention behind the Rosicrucian Order that came into existence during the Middle Ages. This Order was the spiritual descendant of both ancient hermetic and Eastern wisdom on one side and Gnostic Christianity of the early centuries on the other.

No matter what religious or spiritual belief system is, the 7 hermetic principles can be applied to any spiritual path and can help to open up the consciousness to a greater Universal truth that is the foundation of many spiritual teachings and religions. Take the time to study and contemplate them, as well as incorporate them into your life. You will quickly start seeing the world you live in from another angle and discover the creative divine potential within yourself!