“From one thing know ten thousand things.” – Miyamoto Musashi
The Seven Hermetic Principles outlined in the Kybalion represent a succinct set of hypothesis which we may call ‘spiritual’ in the sense that their truth is not a blunt, dead, one-sided thing, but rather a description of living essence, found to be true by those in the past and equally realizable by us today. Of course, rather than taking them as dogma we can discover whether they are true for us, and if so, how they may be useful to unwrap any parcel of ignorance which we face. These 7 principles are as follows:
- The Principle of Mentalism: All is mind, the universe is mental.
- The Principle of Correspondence: As above, so below and as below, so above.
- The Principle of Vibration: Nothing rests, everything moves, everything vibrates.
- The Principle of Polarity: Everything has 2 poles, everything is and isn’t, all truths are only half truths, opposites are identical in nature but different in degree, extremes meet.
- The Principle of Rhythm: Everything ebbs and flows, rhythm compensates.
- The Principle of Cause and Effect: Every effect has a cause, chance is but a name for a law not recognized, there are many planes of causation but nothing escapes the law.
- The Principle of Gender: Masculine & Feminine manifest on all planes, everything has its masculine and feminine characteristics.
There are two ways in which insight into these principles forms the development of wisdom. There is a receptive component (meditation) and an active component (contemplation). The receptive component involves seeing deeply into the living reality of these truths and practicing to become them rather than try to exist in spite of them. I am confident that even if we had never heard these principles stated they would naturally emerge as evident during the course of meditation practice. However, in order to further spiritual knowing beyond the limits of physical perception, we need to state and posit these truths, making them extensions of ourselves. In this way we can use them as tools to direct our concentration past its current limits, like somewhat broad Zen koans. One aim of this active contemplation may be to discover for ourselves to what extent and in what way we can become complicit co-facilitators of our experience. Paradoxically, it is only at the absolute limits of our ability to be receptive (to abide without attachment) that we make great strides in our ability to actively create.
If we only apply these principles to, say, some idea of ‘matter’ which is only ‘outside’ of us, but we do not apply these to our inner, subjective experience, then we are only applying them haphazardly and arbitrarily. This is the purpose of balancing active insight with receptive insight. We need to make an active effort to practice knowing correctly, it does not simply come naturally. Correctly practiced, these principles will abolish ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ and do away with our fixed self altogether.
Of the stewards of these truths, it is said in the Kybalion:
“These men have never sought popular approval nor numbers of followers. They are indifferent to these things, for they know how few in each generation are ready for the truth, or who would recognize it if it were presented to them. They reserve the ‘strong meat for men’ while others furnish the ‘milk for babes.’ They reserve their pearls of wisdom for those who would wear them in their crowns, instead of casting them before the materialistic vulgar swine, who would trample them in the mud and mix them with their disgusting mental food… The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding.”
It is only by developing a sort of radical honesty that we ensure we do not approach the truth as ‘vulgar swine,’ that is, we discern and respect the truth as it is without mixing it with our own ‘disgusting mental food.’ To find solid ground on which to build our spiritual structure we must become exacting at discerning truth from lies-mixed-with-the-truth. It is the lies that we harbor which become our mental food and change our very shape. If we are honest, we see that these ideas do not merely ‘fit’ into the knowledge we already have. Rather, all of the knowledge we’ve ever had fits as a tiny island of arbitrary subjectivity within these parameters.
“The Kingdom of God is Within You” – Leo Tolstoy
This is, perhaps, the most important point to keep in mind at every point during practice. We should practice as if our very bodies were a baby galaxy becoming aware of itself, destined to grow into a big galaxy one day. The only way to possibly harvest benefit from these laws is to apply them to yourself, anything else is ultimately delusional. It takes a certain amount of turning inside out to recognize this clearly but it is always within you that spiritual alchemy and all alchemy takes place. The sun, the moon, the stars and all of the universe is, recognized from one polarity, only inside of you.