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.
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 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.