Using your Nous
Using your Nous

Using your Nous

One of the closest things that the Kybalion comes to a real hermetic thought is the statement that “everything is mind.” In its Principle of Mentalism, the Kybalion claims that “Everything that happens has to be a result of a mental state which precedes it. For anything to exist, thoughts had to form first, which then form physical reality or manifestation.

While this ends up with new-age bollocks such as “Your thoughts are seeds, plant positive seeds in your mind garden” the idea appears to be based around the corruption of the sound Platonic/ Hermetic concept that God is something called Nous.

The word Nous can be literally translated as Mind.  Those who inspired, and wrote the Kybalion, thought it logical to say “since everything is created within the One Thing,  which  is Mind (Nous)  then ultimately everything is mind.” From that, they created the concept that the Universe is a big brain and that because we share part of it, our thoughts are important too.

But this is not what Nous is about. The word Nous is more about understanding or awareness – it is God saying “I AM.”   It is not saying “I am a giant brain” but more “I am conscious or aware.”  You can be “real smart,” but without self-awareness, you are like a computer interpreting information. Nous then is life and what makes humans important is that they share this ability for self-awareness.


When projecting this idea on to humans, Aristotle considered our internal Nous as the basic Understanding or awareness that allows human beings to reason.  So humans do not express their Nous when they visualise what they want but by reasoning—reducing the word to mean” intellect” clashes with what the word means to modern minds.  Intellect is associated with knowledge gathered through senses and processed by the brain. But ancients, such as Heraclitus were quick to point out that “learning does not teach Nous.

Someone was asking me the other day when they knew that they had got the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram working correctly. I said “when it is real,” but I could equally have said “when it is an expression of Nous” in other words when it has stopped being learnt, intellectual or visualised but is self-aware and alive.

So what of the Kybalion claim that everything that is around us comes from a pre-existing mental state?  That would only be true if you think that Nous is thought and intellect. If Nous is awareness, understanding you get a different picture. If you change the sentence to reflect the better meaning of Nous, you get it to say “all that is around us is the realisation of divine awareness, self-understanding, and Truth.”  It is an excellent hermetic saying, but can’t lead you to “plant positive seeds in anyone’s garden.”


  1. Thiago

    I liked this very much, like others of your texts. I am doing a Master’s in Philosophy and one of the possibilities for research that I tend to would be to study the concept of Nous at Corpus Hermeticum, precisely to show how Kaybalion is a very fragile basis for any philosophy. Would you have any indication of academic reading on the subject?

    1. I am not dismissing it out of hand…. I wasted 20 years on the damn thing… Then one day I started to challenge it with the new information I got about magic… and it came up short. So then I applied different philosophic and historic tests and it also fell short. Then I started looking into the writer and suddenly I realised I had centred my magic on a bunch of New Thought rubbish. To be fair it had suckered my teachers too and a few people I respected. But I will have a look at the video.

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