The real Hermetic Principles
The real Hermetic Principles

The real Hermetic Principles

While people mistakenly believe the new-age pseudoscientific mishmash which is the Kybalion is hermetic, few have looked at Corpus Hermetica to work out what the real Hermetic Principles are. There are far more than seven but here are 11 which I produced, without too much effort (there are many more).

1.      God is One Thing which is unknowable and having built creation within itself. If anything is a division, then it is only an illusion. It contains within itself everything. If in doubt remember that everything is One Thing.  This has a huge impact on those looking for dualities such as Good and Evil for if such dualities are real, they are illusions within God.  So if we can’t know God really, then what is the point? Well remember the if in doubt line about – you are part of the One Thing too.  The idea is to know yourself.

2.      The universe is created and influenced through words, symbols and numbers. The Hermetica is strongly influenced by Thoth-Hermes and therefore words.  This concept becomes important when we look at the uses of magical words and why Hermetic magicians have been obsessed with word and number-based systems such as Cabbalah and Geomatria. These symbols and numbers link and connect the universe.

3.      There is a power in regularly performing rituals which symbolically mirror the universe (Connected to point two).

4.      The universe uses triads of positive and negative systems to create a third or a harmony which unites these apparent opposites. To resolve the issue of having a One Thing and without falling in the problems of duality, Hermetic resorts to the idea of triads where one thing has three aspects – two apparent forces and one that unites them. Notice that these forces do not have to be opposites.

5.      The Macrocosm and Microcosm influence each other (as above so below).  The planetary spheres are a Microcosm of the Divine Sphere and Nature is a microcosm for the planetary macrocosm.

6.      Creation is formed by emanation from simple or chaotic (closer to divine) to complex ordered. The divine intelligence becomes more influenced by natural cycles and rhythms and becomes lost within them.

7.      Rebirth Thus a human who wishes to understand God (or themselves) must start to remember their divine nature. They must move above the natural cycles which keep them lost in matter and focus on their divine nature. They will discover that both their negative sides are what keeps them tied to matter while their positive sides liberate them and create a create a third which unites the two.

8.      Gods and Daemons: The Universe is administered at different levels by different divine intelligences Angels, Gods and Daemons.  Daemons do the heavy lifting within creation. Because they are intelligent, it is possible for a human who resonates on the same level to work with them.

9.      There is a secret knowledge which is known to spirits which is revealed through working with these divine beings.  This secret knowledge is less about splitting the atom and more about embodying reality.

10.   Imagination is a divine tool which humans possess which enables them to travel through all realms to the throne of the One Thing.

11.   The way of the Hermetica is not everyone’s destiny.  The One Thing needs to express itself through matter and will establish personalities for which the path of return is their job.  They are not better than those who stay in matter, just have a different job.  There is no need to convert anyone.


  1. Bob Smith

    Item number one is a key issue that many practitioners actively ignore or dance around. Without a tacit acknowledgement of God creation of faith is almost impossible.

    As faith underlies Akasha, this results in a kind of active disempowerment on the part of the individual.

    Nice list.

  2. I\’m not sure about #5; it\’s stated at a number of points in the Hermetic texts that the lower relies on and is influenced by the higher, but not so the other way around. For instance, in the Stobaean Fragment #11:
    Item 38: \”What is immortal does not share what is mortal, but the mortal shares the immortal.\”
    Item 40: \”The energies are not borne upwards, but downwards.\”
    Item 41: \”Nothing on Earth benefits what is in Heaven; everything in Heaven benefits things on Earth.\”

    Also the Stobaean Fragment #4, section 19: \”nothing is added to or removed from eternal bodies\”, in reference to sensations of things being added to/removed from mortal bodies which exist down here instead of up there. Book X, section 14 and 15 of the Corpus Hermeticum also suggests that the microcosm and macrocosm are not so mutually dependent or reflective of each other, but that there is a hierarchy at play between God, the cosmos (son of God), and mankind (son of the cosmos). Book XVI, section 17, also describes a hierarchy at play as one of dependence, and with dependence comes a notion that what one depends on (is influenced by) is not depended on (is not influenced by) in return. Stobaean Fragment #6, section 6, also notes that the decans (higher than the planets) are \”unaffected by what other planets undergo\”, and are \”free, above all things, serving as exacting guardians and overseers of the universe\”.

    Yes, the Emerald Tablet does give that famous line of \”as above, so below\”, but we should bear in mind that that text came in significantly later than the rest of the Hermetic texts we typically reference, and shifts the focus around a bit in more alchemical and less philosophical terms. To simply say that the higher influences the lower at the same time as the lower influencing the higher is a little off the mark as far as Hermetic philosophy is concerned; resemblance does not necessarily mean influence. One type of above-below relationship is hinted at in Books XVI and XVIII of the Corpus Hermeticum (XVI.4—7, XVIII.11), where the things below depend on that which is above while the things above partake in the bounty of that which is produced below. As Book XIV.5 states, \”no maker can exist without something that comes to be\”: there is an interdependence between creation and creator, at least at the highest level, but that shouldn\’t be taken to mean that the creation influences the creator.

    1. Interesting… I tend to stick the HT as a later development which works in accord with the Hermetica (but still managing to be one of the more hermetic sayings ever). I think it is one of those things is more implied. For example the concept of correspondences which did exist in ancient magic and particularly theurgy implies as above so below and talisman creation.

  3. Minervaphilos

    Dear Mr. Farrell,
    Kybalion is not a “new-age pseudoscientific mishmash”. The seven principles that are given in the Kybalion can also be found in Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland’s introduction to their translation of “The Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus” (1885). Please check this link:

    Additionally, the following work by scholar Wim Van Den Dungen shows that the “seven principles” can also be traced back to ancient Hermetic texts and even older Egyptian works: (Please check the first seven parts in that link.)

    1. I saw Mary K. Greer’s post about the Kybalion and Kingsford’s/Maitland’s introduction to the Korē Kosmou, but after reading that introduction thoroughly, I honestly can’t say where Greer got that notion from. Not only does the Korē Kosmou not talk about any such topics as the Kybalion does (and talks about many more that it doesn’t), but the introduction itself doesn’t bring up “seven principles” or anything really related to them so much.

      As for the van den Dungen page, there are so many twists of logic and stretches of meaning that he gives Cirque du Soleil a run for their money. So much of this is just trying to read the Kybalion into bits of older Egyptian works (many of which were only barely translated at the time when the Kybalion was published) where it doesn’t exist. Even the Hermetic works that van den Dungen cites don’t fully support his conclusions, or were taken out of context.

  4. Forest Hermit

    Some remarks on the Kybalion:
    1 – The authenticity of an occult text is more about its usefulness in practice than whether it has any ancient roots in history. Kybalion may not represent the ancient Hermetic principles, but it is still useful in practice. If you haven’t read The Arcane Teaching series by the same author (William Walker Atkinson), you should read it, compare it with Kybalion, and give its practical components a try. After reading the first book of this series, you can see that these principles come from ancient Greek traditions like Pythagoreanism, Stoicism and Neoplatonism – which are not too far from Hermetism.
    2 – If the ancient Hermetic texts were to be used as a criterion to evaluate something as “Hermetic”, then the historical Golden Dawn teachings would fail this test, too. Because, the GD teachings were heavily based on Qabalah and Theosophy, and they had nothing to do with the ancient texts like Corpus Hermeticum and the like.
    3 – Unlike dogmatic religions, Hermeticism is a living tradition. Its paradigm can always change with respect to time. If you compare Alexandrian Hermetism, Renaissance Hermeticism, and the Hermeticism of 19th and 20th centuries, what I mean will be more clear. Kybalion fits well into paradigm of the latter one. That’s why it is recommended as an introductory book by many offshoot orders of the GD tradition.

    1. Hi Forrest
      One of the problems here is that people tend to say that the Kybalion is like Pythagoreanism, Stoicism and Neoplatonism is because they have not really looked at those traditions (or if they have they are more pastiches or coverings for modern ideas. In fact most of them contain ideas which are anti Atkinson’s seven principles. Stoicism for example would not say “you get what you visualise” more “shit happens and you have to live with it.” My issue with the Kybalion is not that it is a modern take on hermetism is that it has very little to do with Hermetism. I don’t really care that it is a literary fraud either, but what I object to is that is that it is touted as supreme source for real magic when it is New Age

      2 The GD teachings fit nicely within the concept of Hermetics however the spin placed on those teachings by modern groups would not. In fact I think the Kybalion approach to hermetic by modern groups has caused a disconnection with the Hermetic concepts that the original order had. Qabalah is is a form of Hermetics and does not clash at all with the Corpus. The Theosophical influence on the GD is interesting as I never saw it, despite most of its members being members at one point. The only one I saw influenced it to incorporate its teachings into their scheme to any extent was Dion Fortune.

      3 – There is a point where something becomes so unlike the original that it stops being it and nothing of the original remains. This is why I wanted to list some of the ideas which were involved in real Hermetics to show how far removed they were from the Kybalion. I don’t recommend the Kybalion for beginners because I found it a blind ally which requires the unpicking of mind later. Like the new age movement, it creates the impression that you are what you imagine and you get what you desire (even if that is bad for you) which is not hermetic and incorrect. It also leads people to believe that they are ARE god rather than a part of it.

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