The 7 Hermetic principles in the (now-not-so) mysterious text, The Kybalion, were believed to have ancient Egyptian origins and were attributed to the legendary sage Hermes Trismegistus.
The 7 Hermetic principles are:
- Mentalism: The principle that “The All is Mind,” the universe is mental in nature.
- Correspondence: The concept “As above, so below; as below, so above,” highlighting the interconnectedness of different planes of existence.
- Vibration: The idea that everything moves and vibrates, nothing is at rest.
- Polarity: The principle that everything has its opposite, and opposites are essentially the same, differing only in degree.
- Rhythm: The recognition of the cycles and patterns of motion and change.
- Cause and Effect: The law that every cause has its effect; every effect has its cause.
- Gender: The principle that gender is in everything, with masculine and feminine principles present and working together in all manifested things.
Each principle offers a lens through which one can view the interconnectedness of mind and matter. The Kybalion delves into these principles to reveal a world where spiritual wisdom and an understanding of natural laws harmonise, offering seekers a path to greater knowledge and enlightenment.
Historical evidence for the ancient origins of the teachings contained in The Kybalion is scarce. The book was published in 1908 and claims to have been handed down to us from antiquity by the “Three Initiates.” However, the principal (and probably the only) author of The Kybalion was William Walker Atkinson. He was an attorney, a merchant and a known figure in the New Thought movement.
The 7 Hermetic Principles and the Tarot
In my opinion, the less than ancient origins of The Kybalion does in no way invalidate the teachings. However, it may be useful to question whether the teachings belong more in the New Thought Movement than in ancient Hermeticism. Either way, the arguments in the Kybalion are pretty watertight, as one might expect from a document crafted by an attorney.
The fact that the 7 Hermetic Principles were crafted hundreds of years after the first known Tarot deck makes me curious. Both can unlock the mysteries of existence. So is there a correlation? Can we associate these 7 Principles with some of the cards in the Major Arcana? If we find some good matches, at least nobody will be able to accuse us of heresy.
Mentalism and The Fool
The principle of Mentalism imparts the esoteric understanding that “The All is Mind.” This is the notion that reality is fundamentally mental, with the physical universe emerging from thought. The Fool (0) whose planetary correspondence is Uranus (Higher Mind) mirrors this principle. The Fool embodies the concept of untapped potential, aligning with the idea that the mind—and its infinite possibilities—creates our existence and all that we experience.
Correspondence and The Magician
The principle of Correspondence, encapsulated by the maxim “As above, so below; as below, so above,” represents the mystical symmetry between the various levels of being—mental, physical, and spiritual. The Magician (I) embodies this maxim. His upward and downward gestures symbolise the manifestation of the as above, so below. The Tools on his altar allow him to alter reality.
Vibration and The Star
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
— Nikola Tesla
The principle of Vibration resonates with The Star (XVII) Everything is energy, frequency and vibration. On the threshold to the age of Aquarius, The Star serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration. It suggests a return to Oneness thanks to an understanding that our (collective) vibration creates our reality. By tuning into the message of hope for humanity contained in The Star, humanity can enter a golden Age of Aquarius. An understanding and application of this principle could lead to an era where the collective consciousness rises. This, in turn, allows for advancements in spirituality, technology, and society that align with the greater good.
Polarity and The High Priestess
The High Priestess (II), seated at the threshold of light and shadow, serves as the guardian of this balance, representing the coexistence and interplay of dualistic forces. Her poise and the ambience surrounding her highlights the idea that contrasts may coexist harmoniously. The mysteries she guards may reveal the fluid boundaries between these opposites.
Rhythm and The Wheel of Fortune
The Wheel of Fortune (X) symbolises the principle of Rhythm. This principle acknowledges the cyclical nature and inevitable patterns that characterise existence. The rotating wheel epitomises the ceaseless flow of the cycles of time. There is a regularity in the cycles creation and this regularity creates a rhythm. This card encourages a composed acceptance of life’s highs and lows. It represents the wisdom in centring ourselves in peace. Because the principle or Rhythm teaches us that what is up most come down and vice versa.
Cause and Effect and Justice
The Tarot card Justice (XI) embodies with the principle of Cause and Effect. This principle reflects the law that every action has a corresponding reaction. The symbolic scales Justice holds depict this balance. Justice evaluates all intentions and actions and measures out whatever we need to restore balance. Nothing is random, no crime goes unpunished and justice always finds a way to balance the scales.
Gender and The Lovers
On a metaphysical level, The Lovers (VI) perfectly encapsulates the principle of Gender. This principle is not about physical gender but about the masculine and feminine energies in everything. This card invites contemplation of the dynamic dance between these energies. It states that all creation is born from their union and interplay. Both energies are essential, each bringing unique traits to the whole, and the harmony between them is crucial for creativity and wholeness. This makes perfect sense when we contemplate that we often read The Lovers as ‘choice.’ When make a choice, we inevitably balance or upset the interplay between male and female energy. Once we learn to tune into this interplay, it becomes much easier to use discernment and make wise choices.
By examining the Major Arcana through the lens of the 7 Hermetic principles, we uncover a richer understanding of the cards and their inherent wisdom. While The Kybalion’s direct connection to ancient Hermeticism may be contested, its teachings about mentalism, correspondence, vibration, polarity, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender remain potent allegories for interpreting the human experience in the Tarot. Whether seen as a psychological tool or a spiritual guide, the intersection of Tarot and Hermetic principles invites a profound exploration of both self and the cosmos.
7 Hermetic Principles Tarot Journaling Prompts
- Mentalism: Reflect on a situation where your thoughts may have influenced the outcome more than you realised. How did your internal ‘universe’ shape the external event?
- Correspondence: Consider a pattern in your personal life that reflects a larger pattern in the world. How do you feel about the saying “as above, so below” in this context?
- Vibration: What changes can you make to your daily routine that might alter your personal frequency and bring you more in harmony with the vibration of your desired reality?
- Polarity: Think of a time when two opposing forces in your life turned out to be two sides of the same coin. How did that realisation help you find balance?
- Rhythm: Reflect on the ebb and flow of your life. Can you identify a pattern or cycle that is currently influencing your path?
- Cause and Effect: Recall a decision that had a profound impact on your life. How did this demonstrate the principle of cause and effect for you?
- Gender: Meditate on the balance of masculine and feminine energies within you. How do these energies manifest in your relationships and pursuits, and how can you better harmonise them?