The term Hermetism is often misused today. It comes from the name of Hermes Trismegistros, keeper and revealer of the supreme knowledge. He is presented as an extraordinary amalgam of the Hermes of Greek mythology, the Lord of Science and the Word, and the God Thoth; he was also scribe, magician, and an exemplary figure upon whom Egyptian priests and initiates modelled themselves.
The Corpus Hermeticum, compiled at an earlier date, contains 17 short tracts in Greek, which present the revelation in the form of dialogues between the God and the initiate. The principal dialogues are Poimandres, where the initiator is none other than the Nous, or Supreme Intellect, and Kore Karmou (‘Virgin of the World’), in which the creation ofthe world is seen as an alchemical experiment. Asclepius, the Latin version of a Greek text called Perfect Speech, was later added to this collection. Hermetism is a curious blend of popular devotion and mystical philosophy; it resembles Gnosticism, but is distinct from it and has had a lasting effect on Western mysticism. The Corpus Hermeticum enjoyed great popularity in the Middle Ages, and was rediscovered by the Neoplatonic Humanists during the Renaissance.
In Hermetism as a doctrine of salvation through initiatory knowledge, man is illusory, mortal, and a source of evil, on the one hand, because his body belongs to matter, but on the other hand, he is a detached fragment ofthe Supreme Intellect and Creative Word because ofhis soul. Salvation is dependent upon a recognition of his true nature, which is a result of the soul’s elevation beyond the limits of the human into ecstasy. This is the preparation for the meeting with God, the original source of all beatitude to which the soul, purified through several existences, will eventually return. This view of human nature is founded on the central concept in Hermetism: ‘What is above is like what is below; what is below is like what is above.’ The existence of a secret correspondence between the visible and the invisible, which the ‘royal art’ or spiritual alchemy will reveal, is therefore confirmed.
The Seven Heremetic Principles
Hermeticism is a set of philosophical and spiritual beliefs dating back to the second and third centuries that focuses on the pursuit of Gnosis (knowledge of the transcendent arrived at through experiential and intuitive means). It is based primarily on the letters of Hermes Trismegistros, whose identity is understood in different ways: one, as a revered Eygptian sage and powerful alchemist believed to be a master of the physical, spiritual and mental planes; and two, as a humanised fusion of the Egyptian God Thoth and the Greek God Hermes, who were both deities of magic and writing in their cultures. Hermes is renowned for articulating seven universal principles which have been a catalyst for cultural revolutions throughout history. They are documented in the 1908 publication, The Kybalion as follows:
1. The Principle of Mentalism
The all is mind; the universe is mental.
2. The Principle of Correspondence
As Above, So Below; As Within, So Without; As the Universe, So the Soul…
3. The Principle of Vibration
Nothing rests; Everything moves; Everything vibrates.
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.
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.
6. The Principle of Cause and Effect
Every Cause has its Effect; every Effect has its Cause. Everything happens according to Law; Chance is but a name for Law not recognised; there are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the Law.
7. The Principle of Polarity
Gender is in everything; everything has its Masculine and Feminine Principles; Gender manifests on all planes.