WHY THE KYBALION SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN TOO SERIOUSLY

The Kybalion is a “must have” occult text for beginners for many years and it was a big influence on me and other members of Builders of the Adytum thanks to a myth that Paul Foster Case was one of the anonymous writers.

This is the version I grew up with.
This is the version I grew up with.

More recently, one of its ideas “the Law of Attraction” was hijacked in the New Age Marketing phenomenon which was the “The Secret.”

As I have progressed along the path, the Kybalion ideas have become less important to me, mostly because they do not do what is claimed.

The Seven Principles or Laws

For those who came in late the Kybalion said that there are seven principles or laws by which the universe works. These are:

The Principle of Mentalism: All is Mind.

Principle of Correspondence: There is always a correspondence between the laws of phenomena of the various “planes” of being and life. There is a harmony, agreement and correspondence between these planes, “The Physical Plane,” “The Mental Plane” and the “Spiritual Plane.”

Principle of Vibration: Motion is manifest in everything in the Universe, that nothing rests, and everything moves, vibrates, and circles. 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” upon a more desirable state.

Principle of Polarity: Everything is dual, everything has two poles, and everything has its opposite. These extremes meet, and all paradoxes may be reconciled.

Principle of Rhythm: Everything there is manifested a measured motion backward and forward in a pendulum-like movement.

Principle of Cause and Effect: There is a cause for every effect, and an effect for every cause. There is no such thing as chance, that chance is merely a term indicating extant causes not recognized or perceived.

Principle of Gender: Gender is manifested in everything as the Masculine and Feminine principles, and manifests itself on all planes. 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.

There is a lot here  that makes sense, but the danger in the Kybalion is taking them at face value and assuming they are absolute laws that apply to magic.  They don’t.

William WalkerAtkinson (Wikipedia)
William WalkerAtkinson (Wikipedia)

William Walker Atkinson

Firstly the book itself was written by William Walker Atkinson by himself, the Kybalion which the book quotes never existed.  Now I am not going to sound off about the book being a fraud. It does not really matter who wrote it if the information was valid.

Atkinson was a proponent of the new Thought Movement, something which was a big influence on Paul Case. He was also a big fan of writing anonymous works normally under the name Theron Q. Dumont and Yogi Ramacharaka. New Thought had the idea that God, is everywhere, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and “right thinking” has a healing effect. It also says that all disease is mental in origin. So in otherwords if you sit and visualise what you want with enough emotional power you will get it. This was the basis behind Paul Case’s Seven Steps and he claimed that it was the keys to magic; he applied to psychology and claimed that visualisation altered the unconscious thinking and as a result transformed your existence.

This is all somewhat true. Nevertheless, it is part of the trap of with occult ideas. If a law or principle is true it can be tested. The Kybalion only shows positive proof of its ideas, it does not reveal the negatives or the numerous “get out clauses” which the universe uses apparently to by-pass these so called rules.

Therefore, you are left with the conclusion that these are ideas which sometimes work and therefore cannot be anything like laws of the universe.  Some of my objections might seem like nit-picking but you find small things that don’t work, then the law must fail.

BREAKING THE LAWS

Principle of Mentalism: While I can accept that the Universe is all mind, I can’t accept that is all there is. A mind, or consciousness, is definable. It has rules which can define it. Yet there must equally be an infinite part of god which can only be defined by what it is not – and it would NOT be mind. If Thoth is an expression of the Divine Mind, he emerged from the UNKNOWABLE darkness.

Principle of Correspondence: While it is true that anything that happens on one plan CAN manifest on another, that does not mean that it actually does. Because a person has an idea for new building does not mean that such a construction will necessarily see life on earth. A huge number of ideas never make it into manifestation, and equally a large number of rituals on the physical plane do not work.

Principle of Vibration: All things are in motion and vibrate. This is somewhat true again and that stability appears to be an illusion. But it depends on relativity. An atom is stable relative to itself, while the solar system might be moving it is held stable by gravity.  If you put a stone on a table in front of you it does not move. It is not arguable to say “it moves very slowly and you can’t detect it” in actual fact it stays still relative to everything else.

Principle of Polarity: Despite it being a separate law this has similarities to the law of gender. I have divided them out so that the law of Gender is specifically talking about sex and NOT positive and negative duality. Heaven forbid that the “Three Adepts” only saw a difference because seven is a perfect number and six would require them to make up something different.

Anyway, I am not sure that this is literally true and if it were then it would counter the first law, which says the universe is one thing and Mind. Certainly, the Physicist David Bohm did see evidence that the world was dualistic. He thought that information (mind) is just as important as substance/intensity (matter/energy). And one cannot be reduced to the other. That means our world is not One Thing.

Like I said I do not believe in the duality of extremes, I don’t believe there is pure good or evil in our world, but abstractly about 40 shades of grey. I have a feeling that it simply appears dualistic but this is not actually the case.

Principle of Rhythm: This does not always happen at all. Light for example behaves as a wave (rhythm) and a particle. It is possible to create objects which do not operate in a rhythmic way. Evolution is not rhythmic.

Principle of Cause and Effect: Again this is sort of.  It was a standard scientific belief in the past which works but is getting a kicking by modern science. This is an area for research could mean that rather than this being an occult absolute it is actually just old science.

There are also philosophical problems with the Law of Cause and Effect. If A causes B then A always has to come first. Therefore, war causes death. However, since war does not always cause death and death is not always caused by war, it is more likely you can say that A is more likely to cause B. This kills off the part of the law. If you can only generate a probability of the same effect from the same cause then it means you must have some doubt about your cause or there is an inherent randomness about the universe which can nullify cause and effect.

The Principle of Gender: Now I know that this is supposed to be a figurative thing, but the laws are supposed to be applied to all of creation. There are there numerous situations within Nature where polarity does not exist, ranging from amoebas, to yeast, to snakes. The fact that parthenogenesis is possible means that polarity does not always apply to the physical world. This means that it probably does not always apply to the mental or spiritual worlds either.

START THINKING ABOUT IT

No doubt people will find fault with my logic, philosophy and science methods, but that will not really be the point.  The issue here is that there are doubts whether or not the Kybalion produces an absolute set of “laws” worthy for a magician. Given the absolute tone of the book, you have to question if its status in an occultist’s bookshelf is really worthy, or if it is just a collection of fake-science manifesting as occult truth.

 

 

 

17 thoughts on “WHY THE KYBALION SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN TOO SERIOUSLY”

  1. In an inquiry seeking the truth of something, saying that logic is beside the point is, itself, illogical. Where can one go under a cloud of circular reasoning? Jeesh.

    1. Premise: The Kyabilion claims to provide absolute laws of the universe.
      Argument: If there are cases where it does not work. It cannot be absolute.
      Case: Here are cases where I think it does not work.
      Rider: People might chose to pick holes in my scientific or philosophical descriptions but it will not change the argument.
      It is neither circular or illogical.

      1. Oh, I interpreted the original statement as: Even if you find fault with my logic, that will not impact the argument.

        Which, as you can see, is a ridiculous statement, inasmuch as it is illogical and circular.

  2. The Kybalion requires the Key to unlock the mystery. Without the Key this is just words. I found the Key, myself, and I totally understand what the message of the Kybalion is. And, yes, this is the truth of what one might call Magic. I practice on a regular basis. It is so much fun to watch things manifest in my life. Another factor to making this work once you have the understanding is Belief. The two go hand in hand.

    1. Did you look down the back of the sofa? That is where I always find my missing keys.

  3. I had this exact mental process while reading, mostly because of the obviously false presentation, when at the time I was assured it was a group of ancient masters and the Kybalion was the height of occult truth that was above question. My reaction was- ‘Why do I need to read this classist interpretation uncited? Give me the original work with footnote and citation please, I am not here for blind faith.’

  4. The K is an interesting book but what it is presented as is an abstraction and if you do have a frame work to apply that abstraction then what you have is a set of good fundamental principles. I would never rate the book as a holy book, but it does lay out some good rules. I heard, rightly or wrongly, that Atkinson was an AO inner order member. Frankly I like the book, but the real key to it, is how it is applied to the GD. As an exercise apply the K’s principles to the godforms in GD ritual and see what you come up with and you might be surprised.

  5. If you were going to describe why you don’t understand the Kybalion why didn’t you use that as title instead of doing a put down on an important work.

    All is mind. Some of you world is your mind, some of it is the higher mind. Many folks can’t climb over their own ego, enough to appreciate the higher mind. We had a similar problem a short while ago when some “adept” demanded that the higher members of their Order present themselves to him. He was sent a formally encrypted invite to a meeting, following the laws and customs of the higher Order. Several emissaries were signalled to contact him, and he even confirmed their contact…but did he show to the meeting….noooooo.
    Sometimes there are minds beyond the one you know, and to understand their dreaming, takes expanding your knowing.

    Correspondence. Basically this is law of Form and Function. One can have Form that does not follow function, but one cannot have function without form, therefore the relationship of function must dictate form. The active tangential to this which makes it happen is force. It’s a very basic primitive so hard to describe without being circular. One can have 3, but never without it being 2 + 1.

    Vibration. Basically, this is a restatement of dimensional science. Every thing that exists (that is not information) has energy. Where there exist energy there exists movement, often small movement. Since the movement is Time effected, and has start and end, then it has measurable length and period. Thus all things vibrate. A stone tablet placed on a desk in front of you is rotating on the Earth’s surface at a little over 1600kph (if at equator)…The Earth is travelling at 940million km per annum or just above 107,305kph. Sol is ripping around the galactic center at 220km/s (792,000kph).. and that’s just our galaxy.

    Polarity. Everything with a start has an end, even a circle. In the case of a circle, start pouring it in fast setting material (eg silver)…you’ll find an end quick enough. things with starts and ends, as they are different can have polarity. The message of ATU 2 in the Rider-Waite holds the answer to the secret of paradoxes. For something to have a polarity, then the poles must have a relationship, find the nature (mind) of the relationship, solve the paradox.

    Rythym is just vibration restated (polarity & energy).

    Cause and Effect. Is more polarity, this time with Correspondence (relationship). This is therefore a manifestation of Atu 2.

    Gender is Cause and Effect crossed with polarity (ie the start and end are dissimilar) connected with Energy(change). It is also tainted with correspondence, and dragged from the gutter of mind. eg we have “active” we label it, we assign it process, we mentally(mind) link patterns of similarity, the occurrence of “cause” we thus connect to a “Start” half of a polar relationship…therefore if we have a “Cause” our minds seek a corresponding “other half”, a “not cause” polarity. We call this other thing “passive”. yet what K. doesn’t explicitly state is the nature between the “cause” pole and the “effect” pole. For according to the K. rules not only must we energise “active””cause” we need to have a “passive””effect” – you can’t have half a vibration, or a singularity of rhythm. Therein lies the clue, what is the relationship, the higher correspondence, that describes (read:mindfully prescribes) the relationship connecting the “cause” and the “effect”. If it is male and female, we might call it gender. for cause and effect…what railroad does fate put us on to ensure the pairing…
    Because if we magically empower cause… we are trying to create effect. Yet, as those who are familar with K. know that it isn’t enough to force cause, we have to prepare effect, and that means knowing the true relationship (mind) at all levels (correspondences) which the process is occurring. For if we attempt cause, we are one mind again the universe, yet if we master the relationship between cause and effect, then we are the universe without resistance.

    1. My argument was that the the Kybalion was not a list of occult laws because all its laws did not work all the time. Your first objection to my point does not tackle the idea of Divine Mind at all. The 19th century secret chiefs fantasy offers no explanation of the principle.
      You have confirm that the laws of polarity and the laws of gender are the same thing under different headings (designed to make the numbers) . The law of cause and effect is out of date as Bertrand Russell said “All philosophers, of every school, imagine that causation is one of the fundamental axioms or postulates of science, yet, oddly enough, in advanced sciences such as gravitational astronomy, the word “cause” never occurs. … The law of causality, I believe, like much that passes muster among philosophers, is a relic of a bygone age, surviving, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm.”
      Common sense says that it does not… for example day follows night… the law of cause and effect says that day should cause night when it is caused by the turning earth.
      But anyway Cause and effect went out the window with quantum mechanics which is non-deterministic with events occurring randomly. It does not mean that it is total rubbish… but it means that since it does not happen all the time it cannot be a law (otherwise it would work all the time) .
      Making reference to Tarot Key 2 to confirm the law of polarity does not work either… (just because the high priestess sits between to pillars does not mean she represents polarity… in fact she polarizes with the Magician (another card) to create a third card (empress). This polarity is not indicated by the pillar symbolism or meaning of the of the card in fact in the original Golden Dawn deck the pillars are not even there. In mine and Harry’s deck they are there (in the colours of Chesed and Geborah) to up hold the veil which the High Priestess straddles…. what is on the other side of the veil is above duality but is the source of it (This is a complex tarot thing… the images change if your are going down the tree or up them)
      The law of vibration ignores the concept of an observer or relativity. At an atomic level everything is vibrating… but so what? Objects still at a level of observation appear to be at rest and act at rest. However the so what is not much the concept that things are vibrating but the implication that: “Hermetic students to control their own mental vibrations as well as those of others. The Masters also apply this Principle to the conquering of Natural phenomena, in various ways. “He who understands the Principle of Vibration, has grasped the sceptre of Power.” Because atoms vibrate it does not mean that you have control of those atoms nor that you can alter their vibration in any meaningful way. It is one thing to know about the law of gravity, it is another thing to master it to levitate.
      Vibrations etc are bound by REAL scientific laws which if they were able to be easily altered by human thought would cause physical chaos. Also there has been no one in history who has been able to demonstrate those physical powers.
      Don’t get me wrong the Kybalion is not a bad book to get beginners thinking about how the unverse works and gives ideas about how it sometimes does… but it does not provide laws and certainly nothing hermetic.

  6. If you do not fully understand these laws to the core of your being, that is, so you can experience them(key word:experience), you really do not have anything valid to say.

    Actually, you will probably not even understand what I mean.

  7. I’d say the Kybalion is a pretty good book. It explains old Hermetic concepts in a more clearer way for the modern readers without directing things like how other teachings does it, making the spiritual to material grabbing lessons like “The Secret”. And it does goes with modern science and the latest mysteries that Science is still trying to figure out today, quantum physics. And you can’t really say that it doesn’t work all the time ‘coz the book is very subtle, it requires to practice the mind for mastery and not just if it you can’t make it work then quit. Such a loser…

  8. Oh, and many of the laws in the book are not even proven to be false by science ‘coz science is still blank with the laws the book is presenting. In fact, science is still working hard to understand the Mind and how powerful can it really effect the environment around it. Though many experiments now is proving that mind is so powerful affecting everything around it that it can even make decisions on what infinite possible outcomes will occur. You should study more about Non-Mainstream Science. Don’t just believe what you are told.

    1. You just contradicted yourself…. You are saying that I am a loser because I questioned the accuracy of a new age book… yet you who have not researched hermetic materiel enough not to spot that there is hardly any “old hermetic material” in the Kybalion at all accepts it without question. I suggest you actually read my blog before you try and discount what it contains. I also suggest you study the corpus hermetica before you lecture me about hermetic knowledge. When you say “don’t believe what you are told” is exactly what I am saying.. you are demanding that I accept the status quo without question because you can’t be bothered to look a bit deeper.

  9. Okay, first, I am already right with the Science thingy, that the laws could be true (enough evidences for me so I accept it as true though scientists can still work on their stuffs to make it more believable) but not yet to be proven wrong or right. Second, the book is on to its new perspective with the old ones. What you are doing is trying to look for the same materials, same explanations and same everything making it just another copy of the old books that we all have read. I’ve already studied so many books from different sides and times and even the newly found ones and I find all materials that are not obviously supporting one another extremely connected in so many ways, you just have to look at everything and if you are smart and worthy enough, it will show itself to You. Oh, and don’t forget to work on the Mind, it’s the only bridge…

  10. @Adrian

    “Okay, first, I am already right with the Science thingy, that the laws could be true (enough evidences for me so I accept it as true though scientists can still work on their stuffs to make it more believable) but not yet to be proven wrong or right. ”

    I don’t know if you ever heard the Richard Dawkins argument about the giant teapot orbiting the planet Mars. It could be true, but it’s not very likely is it? As such science as well as magick (which is a science) deal with likelihoods. “Scientists working on their stuffs to make it more believable” is not what science is about. True science is an effort to discover what is most likely true and what isn’t, not an effort to make dodgy material more believable.

    From your grammar it seems clear that you’re not a native English speaker, so I don’t know which translation of the Kybalion you’ve read, and what went wrong with the translation, but for us who did study the original Hermetic literature it becomes very clear that the English version of the Kybalion has little to nothing to do with Hermeticism. Whoever has written it may have glanced over the material but that’s about it.

    I could suck a book like the Kybalion out of my thumb in no time, or otherwise just safe me the trouble of sucking my finger and hit the go button on the new age bullshit generator.

    “I find all materials that are not obviously supporting one another extremely connected in so many ways, you just have to look at everything and if you are smart and worthy enough, it will show itself to You.”

    Well yes, everything is connected… but just not that connected. Seeing connections where there obviously are none doesn’t make you smart or worthy. It makes you a religious fanatic and of those you probably can’t find many in this corner of the occult community. Maybe you should join Scientology. Good luck!

Comments are closed.