Notice: I have written in other languages, many interesting articles that you
can read translated in English
in these links:
Part 1 and Part 2.


Richard Smoley is a scholar in mysticism and the publishing house Tarcher Perigee & Penguin asked him to write a dissertation about the Kybalion, which this publishing house put as a prologue in the centenary edition that it published in 2018, and the text can be read at this link.
The beginning of this dissertation Mr. Smoley had previously written for New Dawn magazine in 2011, which you can read at this link.
For copyright reasons I avoid transcribing these texts on the blog, but I inform you for those who are interested in reading them. The points that I consider most relevant from his dissertation I have put in other articles of the blog that deal with The Kybalion.


This book was first published in 1885 in London by G. Redway, and it was written by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland who translated several extracts into English of texts belonging to Neo-hermeticism.
It was also published by the Adyar Theosophical Society, Madras, India, 1885. And there is a facsimile reproduction with commentaries by the Brahmin T. Subba Row published by Wizards Bookshelfs, San Diego, USA, 1977.
To elaborate their book, Kingsford and Maitland based them on the book Hermes Trismegistus wrote by Dr. Louis Ménard, where the doctor translated these texts from Greek to French. In this regard Edward Maitland commented:
Dr. Ménard's book has been used but not fully followed and the notes in our book that are not initialed are Dr. Menard's.
And later the writer William Walker Atkinson plagiarized Kingsford and Maitland's book to elaborate his famous book The Kybalion.
The Blavatsky Foundation noted:
This book contains many anthropomorphic Christian interpolations.
And this is due to the distortions that the ancient Greek and Latin writers made about the genuine Hermetic teachings.
Below you can see the facsimiles of the first pages:

The table of contents is as follows:
Introductory Essays and Preface
·       Note
·       The Hermetic Books
·       The Hermetic System and the Significance of its Present Revival
The Virgin of the World
·       Part I
·       Part II
·       Part III
A Treatise on Initiations; or, Asclepios
·       Part I
·       Part II
·       Part III
·       Part IV
·       Part V
·       Part VI
·       Part VII
·       Part VIII
·       Part IX
·       Part X
·       Part XI
·       Part XII
·       Part XIII
·       Part XIV
·       Part XV
The Definitions of Asclepios
·       Part I
·       Part II
·       Part III
·       Part IV
Fragments of the Book of Hermes to his Son Tatios
·       Part I
·       Part II
·       Part III
·       Part IV
·       Part V
·       Part VI
·       Part VII
·       Part VIII
Fragments of the Writings of Hermes to Ammon
·       Part I
·       Part II
·       Part III
·       Part IV
·       Part V
·       Part VI
Various Hermetic Fragments
·       Part I
·       Part II
·       Part III
·       Part IV
·       Part V
·       Part VI
·       Part VII
·       Part VIII
If you click on the light blue links, that will take you to the translation by Kingsford and Maitland, and below I translate the introductory part of the book (I added titles in blue for easier reading and also added my comments in purple).
In presenting the "Virgin of the World" –which with my "Hargrave Jennings" Edition of the "Divine Pymander," now so much in repute and demand, are the text books of Hermetic thought– it is no act of supererogation to gratefully acknowledge my appreciation of the valued services of all associated with me in the privileged task of once again reviving those priceless writings of that "Master Initiate," "Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus;" (to be shortly supplemented by the Third Volume, or "Golden Treatise concerning the Physical Secret of the Philosopher's Stone, in seven sections," esteemed one of the best and oldest pieces of Alchemical Philosophy extant; comprising, in epitome, the whole Art, and secret method of its confection, with corroborative annotations from Fludd, Behmem, Vaughan, &c.
Bath; May, 1885.
(Mr. Bath was probably the editor of this book.)
Mrs. Child’s information (1)
The Sacred Books of Hermes, says Mrs. Child in her admirable compendium containing the laws, science, and theology of Egypt, were declared by the priests to have been composed during the reign of the Gods, preceding that of their first king, Menes. Allusions on very ancient monuments prove their great antiquity.
There were four of them, and the sub-divisions of the whole make forty-two volumes. These numbers correspond exactly to those of the Vedas, which the Puranas say were carried into Egypt by the Yadavas at the first emigration to that country from Hindostan. The subjects treated of in them were likewise similar; but how far the Books of Hermes were copied from the Vedas remains doubtful.
They were deposited in the inmost holy recesses of the temples, and none but the higher order of priests were allowed to read them.
They were carried reverently in all great religious processions. The chief priests carried ten volumes relating to the emanations of the Gods, the formation of the world, the divine annunciation of laws and rules for the priesthood. The prophets carried four, treating of astronomy and astrology. The leader of the sacred musicians carried two, containing hymns to the Gods, and maxims to guide the conduct of the king, which the chanter was required to know by heart. Servitors of the temple carried ten volumes more, containing forms of prayer and rules for offerings, festivals, and processions. The other volumes treated of philosophy and the sciences, including anatomy and medicine.
(I wonder where Mrs. Child got that information from?)
Such were the reputed antiquity and sanctity of these Egyptian hymns that Plato says they were ascribed to Isis, and believed to be ten thousand years old.
These books were very famous, and later were much sought after for alchemical purposes, especially for that of making gold. The Roman Emperor Severus collected all writings on the Mysteries and buried them in the tomb of Alexander the Great; and Diocletian destroyed all their books on alchemy lest Egypt should become too rich to remain tributary to Rome.
(Blavatsky explained that Diocletian not only destroyed the documents on alchemy but also all the texts related to Hermeticism.)
The once-renowned Books of Hermes have been lost these fifteen hundred years. Thus much concerning the Hermetic Books generally.
Dr. Menard’s analysis (2)
The Fragments comprised in this reprint have been the subject of much learned research. In the early centuries of Christianity –Dr. Louis Menard tells us– they enjoyed a high repute as of undoubted genuineness, the Fathers invoking their testimony on behalf of the Christian mysteries, while Lactantius (the "Christian Cicero") said of them, "Hermes, I know not how, has discovered well-nigh the whole truth."
He was regarded as an inspired revealer, and the writings which bore his name passed for genuine monuments of that ancient Egyptian theology in which Moses had been instructed. And this opinion was accepted by Massilius Ficinus, Patricius, and other learned men of the Renaissance, who regarded them as the source of the Orphic initiations and of the philosophy of Pythagoras and Plato.
Doubts, however, arose. They were ascribed, variously, on the strength of internal evidence, to a Jew, a Christian, and a Gnostic. And the conclusion come to by recent critics and accepted by Dr. Menard, is that their place is among the latest productions of Greek philosophy, but that amid the Alexandrian ideas, on which they are based, there are some traces of the religious doctrine of ancient Egypt.
It was, he says, from the conjunction of the religious doctrines of Egypt, with the philosophic doctrines of Greece, that the Egyptian philosophy sprang which has left no other memorial than the books of Hermes, in which are to be recognised, under an abstract form, the ideas and tendencies which had before been presented under a mythological form.
Another comparison is that which he institutes between some of the Hermetic writings and the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, especially the Book of Genesis and the fourth Gospel, and the works of Philo and the Shepherd of Hernias. (3)
"The advent of Christianity presents at first sight the appearance of a radical revolution in the manners and beliefs of the Western World. But history knows nothing of sudden changes and unanticipated transformations. To comprehend the passage from one religion to another, one should not contrast their two extreme terms –the Homeric mythology and the Nicene symbology. It is necessary to study their intermediate remains– the multiple products of an epoch of transition, when the primitive Hellenism, under philosophical discussion, changed more and more by admixture with the religions of the East, which were then confused by advancing upon Europe.
Christianity represents the latest terms of this incursion of Oriental conceptions into the West. It did not fall like a thunderbolt into the midst of an old world surprised and aghast. It had its period of incubation; and while it sought a definitive form for its doctrines, the problems, the solution of which it sought, equally preoccupied the minds of Greece, Asia, and Egypt. The ideas were already in the air, which became combined in every kind of proportion.
The multiplicity of the sects springing up in our days can give but a slight notion of that astonishing intellectual chemistry which had established its chief laboratory at Alexandria. Humanity had put up to competition vast moral and philosophical issues – the origin of evil, the destiny of souls, their fall and their redemption; the prize offered was the dictatorship of consciences. The Christian solution prevailed."
Our critic proceeds to distinguish in the books of Hermes Trismegistus between that which, in his view, belonged respectively to Egypt and to Judea; he remarks:
"When we meet in these books, Platonist or Pythagorean ideas, we must ask whether the author had recovered them from the ancient sources whence Pythagoras or Plato had drawn them before him; or whether they represent an element purely Greek. There is, then, room to discuss the influence, real or supposed, of the East on the Hellenic philosophy.
One is generally too liable, on the strength of the belief of the Greeks themselves, to exaggerate this influence, and especially to set back the date of it. It is only after the foundation of Alexandria that a permanent and consistent connection was established between the thought of Greece and that of other peoples; and in these exchanges Greece had much more to give than to receive.
The Orientals –at least, such of them as came into contact with the Greeks– appeared never to have had a philosophy properly so called. Psychic analysis, research for the foundations of knowledge and of moral laws, and their application to social life, were things absolutely unknown to the East before the invasion of Alexander.
(I completely disagree with this aseveration because my research has shown me that in ancient times Easterners had much more advanced knowledge than Westerners in esoteric and mystical matters.)
The expression respecting his countrymen which Plato ascribes to the Egyptian priest, 'You Greeks are but children; and there are no old men among you,' might be referred to the East and to Egypt itself. The scientific spirit is as alien to those peoples as the political instinct. They can endure, through long ages, but they can never reach their manhood. They are elderly youths, always in leading strings, and as incapable of searching for truth as of accomplishing justice.
Initiated into philosophy by Greece, the East could but give in return that which it had,--the exaltation of religious sentiment; Greece accepted the exchange. Weary of the scepticism produced by the strife of her schools, she cast herself, by a reaction, into mystic fervours, precursors of a renewal of faith.
The books of Hermes Trismegistus are a bond of union between the dogmas of the past and those of a future, and it is by this bond that they attach themselves to questions actual and living. If they belong still to paganism, it is to paganism in its last hours, always full of disdain for the new faith, and declining to abdicate in her favour, because it guards the depository of the old civilisation which will become extinct with it, already tired of a hopeless struggle, resigned to its destiny, and returning to sleep for evermore in its first cradle, the old Egypt, the land of the dead."
Dr. Menard thus concludes:
"The Hermetic books are the last monuments of paganism. They belong at once to the Greek philosophy and the Egyptian religion, and in their mystic exaltation they impinge already upon the Middle Age. Between a world which is ending and a world which is commencing, they resemble those animals who by their undecided nature serve as a link between different orders of organisations. These mixed creations are always inferior to each of the groups which they connect together. Not to be compared either with the religion of Homer or Christianity, the Books of Hermes enable us to comprehend the method of the world's passage from one to the other. In them the beliefs which were being born, and, the beliefs which were dying, met and clasped hands."
(Blavatsky explained that with the exception of The Emerald Tablet, all the other "Books of Hermes" are a mixture of genuine ancient Hermeticism, but also with other ideas added by the Greeks, Romans, and later Christians.)
Mr. Plumptre's analysis
In contrast to, and also, as we hold, in correction of, the view thus expressed concerning the relative philosophies of Greece and the East, we adduce the following passages from Mr. Plumptre's "History of Pantheism" (4):
"From our earliest childhood we have generally been taught to regard the Hebrews as those to whom we owe all our knowledge of theology and religion; and in a great measure even our knowledge of God Himself.
We have been taught to regard the Greeks as those from whom we have gained all our acquaintance with the arts and sciences, philosophy, and, to a certain extent, all that is comprised within the word wisdom. And in like manner it is upon the Romans we have been told to look as upon those from whom we have gained all our notions of discipline and law.
As regards our relations to the Hebrews and Romans, the definition is fairly accurate. Not so with the Greeks. There is, indeed, a certain superficial accuracy about the statement. We do, of course, owe a good deal of our knowledge and learning to the Greeks. But where the definition is erroneous is in this: it leads us to imply from it that the Greeks were the first people who cultivated the love of learning for its own sake; that they gained their knowledge from no other nations, but were the authors of it themselves. It might almost lead us to imply that they were the first people who had ever attained any degree of civilisation.
The slightest acquaintance with Egyptian or Hindoo history is sufficient to make us detect such an obvious fallacy, and lead us readily to discredit the assertion. The civilisation of Egypt goes so far back in the world's history that it is almost impossible to say when it began. It is almost generally acknowledged now that Moses gained the greater portion of his knowledge from his connection with the Egyptians; and in that case even our first ideas of religion may be traced to an Egyptian source."
(I agree with Mr. Plumptre.)
Mr. Plumptre goes on to spew that while the Hindoos and Egyptians had long been in possession of religio-philosophical systems of the highest intellectual order, the Greeks were sunk in ignorance and superstition of the most irrational kind, until the occurrence of an event which revolutionised, or, rather, which gave the first impulse to Greek thought, so that in a short time after it Greece sprang from a state of childish ignorance into one in which she became, both commercially and philosophically, the leading power of the world.
This momentous event was the opening of the Egyptian ports by Psammetichus, B.C. 670. Previous to that time, the Egyptians had been shut out from all intercourse with Europe and the Mediterranean by an exclusion more rigorous than that which until lately was practised in China and Japan; and Egypt was to the Greeks but a land of mystery and fable, as witness the allusions to it in Homer and Hesiod.
But with the system of isolation overthrown which had prevailed for so many thousands of years, the influence of the event upon the progress of Europe was such as to be incapable of exaggeration. First Greece, then the rest of the world, owed their civilisation to it. It destroyed the belief in the old mythologies, and gave birth to Greek philosophy.
There is one respect in which this statement requires modification. The Greek mythologies may indeed have been but irrational fables as popularly received and without the key to their interpretation. But in reality they were symbols denoting, while concealing, profound occult truths. And while their presence in Greece at so early a period shews that colleges of the Sacred Mysteries flourished there long before the rise of Greek philosophy, the identity of the doctrines they symbolised with those of Egypt and the East shews that there had been religious intercourse between these countries long before there was any political, commercial, or philosophical intercourse.
Foreign missionary enterprise by no means originated with Christianity. The Sacred Mysteries were continually migrating and planting themselves in new ground in advance of secular civilisation. The migration of Abraham and the flights of Bacchus and of Moses were doubtless all of them events of this character.
Mr. Plumtre's conclusion that whatever there was of coincidence between Greek and Egyptian philosophic thought was due to the recognition and adoption of the latter by the Greeks, is one which it seems to us impossible to escape. And we regard M. Menard's inferences to the contrary as due to his failure to combine with his classical knowledge a knowledge of Hermetic and Kabbalistic methods and traditions.
Comprising as do these the world's spiritual history, it is impossible apart from them to form any sound judgment on the matters in question. Those who, enamoured of conventional methods, are unable to recognise any organon of knowledge except the superficial faculties, or any plane of knowledge transcending the range of those faculties, are necessarily intolerant of the idea that there has been in the world from the earliest times a system of esoteric and positive doctrine concerning the most hidden mysteries of Existence, of such a character, and so obtained as to fulfil all the conditions requisite to constitute a divine revelation.
Nevertheless, this is the conclusion to which we have found ourselves compelled by sheer force of evidence, at once exoteric and esoteric. It is in Hindostan and Egypt that we find its earliest traces; and if, as assuredly is the case, there are coincidences between the ancient doctrines of those lands, and those of Greece, Judæa, and Christendom, it is because the same truth has passed from people to people, everywhere finding recognition, and undergoing re-formulation according to the genius of the time and place of its sojourn. And this, we may add, is a process which must inevitably continue until man has become either so far degenerate as to lose all care for and perception of truth; or so far regenerate as to attain to the full perception of it, and fix it for evermore as his most precious possession.
But be this as it may, we have seen that even the most destructive criticism is forced to make these three important admissions
1)   That the doctrine contained in the Hermetic books is in part, at least, a survival from the times of ancient Egypt, and therein really Hermetic.
2)   That there is a coincidence between the doctrine which has thus survived and that of Christianity. And,
3)   That this coincidence has been recognised and welcomed by the Church, to the admission that Christianity, so far from being something wholly new and unprecedented at the time of its inception, represents a development from, or re-formulation of; doctrine long pre-existent.
Edward Maitland
1.    "The Progress of Religious Ideas."
2.    Hermès Trismegistus. Traduction complète; précédée d’une étude sur l’origine des livres Hermétiques. Par Dr. Louis Ménard, 2nd Ed., Paris, 1867. This translation has been used, but not entirely followed, in the present work, as also have some of the notes, those which are not initialled being Dr. Menard's.
3.    A title identical with that of the Pymander, or Shepherd, of Hermes.
4.    Vol. I, B. II.
To the philosophical student of humanity the most significant and important feature of the present remarkable epoch is, unquestionably, the revival of Occult Science and Mystical, or Esoteric, Philosophy. The significance is due no less to the character of the period of its occurrence, than to that of the subject itself. For the moment chosen has been one wherein the human mind, as represented by the recognised intellect of the age, had become, to all appearance, irrevocably set in the opposite direction – that of materialism.
Happily, however, for humanity, such appearance has proved deceptive, as had already been foreseen would be the case by those "watchers for the day," who, recognising the unity of nature, and vitalised on the higher planes of the consciousness, are able to forecast the processes of the mental world by those of the physical.
That it is always when the sun is at its lowest point that the day and the year are reborn, is no less true in the world spiritual than in the world material. And while the prevalence of materialism meant the extinction of man's spiritual consciousness, the revival of occult and mystical science means the restoration of that consciousness.
(I do not agree with what Mr. Maitland says because what was mainly developed at the end of the 19th century was science, not esotericism.)
History, too, had its lessons of encouragement for them, by shewing that the passing away of old forms of faith is wont to be the prognostic and condition of new and higher manifestations. Hence they had confidence that the Spirit of Humanity, being, as they well knew, real and divine, would, in its own good time, make effectual protest against the extinction threatened; and are able to recognise in the present revival the form which that protest has taken.
The significance of this event is definitely enhanced by the facts, first, that it has brought the Hermetic philosophy into a prominence which it has not known for many centuries; and, secondly, that the revival of that philosophy has been at once the condition and the result of every great religious renaissance the world has seen.
(I do not see that Hermeticism played a major role in the 19th century, nor that it was important in the great religious revivals.)
For the system designated the Hermetic Gnosis –the earliest formulation of which, for the western world, belongs to the pre-historic times of ancient Egypt – has constituted the core of all the religio-philosophical systems of both east and west, Buddhism and Christianity, among others, being alike intended as vehicles for and expressions of it, though the fact has been recognised by only the initiated few.
(This is false.)
The great school of scholastic mysticism which was the glory of the church of the Middle Ages, had, although unavowedly, the same basis. This school represented a strenuous and sustained endeavour to rescue religion from the exclusive domain of the historical and the ceremonial, and the control of a sacerdotalism, grossly materialistic and idolatrous, by restoring its proper intuitional and spiritual character.
That the endeavour failed to secure a lasting success, and the church of the Middle Ages continued to sink deeper and deeper into superstition, with its usual accompaniment of religious persecution, was due to no fault of the system itself. This requires for its reception, that the spiritual consciousness of the many should have attained a development hitherto possessed only by the few. And the world was not then ripe for a doctrine which represents reason in its highest mode.
History thus shows that the revival we are witnessing now, is but one of a series of revivals, all having the same object; and it may be confidently anticipated, that, under the altered conditions of society, the success attained will far surpass any yet achieved. For, gloomy as is the present outlook in every department of human activity, social, philosophical, moral, and religious alike, there never was a time when the conditions were so favour-able for a radical and widespread improvement; because there never was a time when new ideas and knowledges found such facilities for propagation, or when, through the intensity of their suffering and discontent, mankind were in so high a state of receptivity.
Hence the system has now a chance of recognition surpassing any hitherto enjoyed by it. Having always in the past found exclusive favour with the most luminous minds and noblest natures, it can hardly fail, with due formulation and presentation, to find acceptance with the mankind of the incoming era.
Already are there indications not to be mistaken, that the still powerful aid of the church will not be wanting in this behalf, and this no less for its own preservation than for that of religious truth. The world has yet to discern the significance of the action of Pope Leo XIII., in the reinstatement of the writings of Aquinas as the basis of ecclesiastical education. But for the initiates of Hermes this is not doubtful, but affords sure ground for the loftiest hopes. And similarly with that extraordinary, if too often grotesque, phenomenon called modern spiritualism.
From these remarks on the circumstances under which the revival has occurred, of which this series of reprints is at once a product, a token, and an aid; we will proceed to give a slight general sketch of the nature of the doctrine which has played so important a part in the past, and bids fair to do as much, and even more, in the future.
It should be first stated, however, that the materials for our sketch are not restricted to the so-called Hermetic fragments themselves, which form the subject of these reprints. Not only are they, as fragments, incomplete; they are also interpolated and partially corrupt in text, though still replete with the purest and loftiest teaching.
Much, too, of that which is genuine is mystical and allegorical, referring to a plane, and needing an interpretation, other than are apparent. Hence, it is necessary for such a task, to utilise the labours of those various exponents of the system who have either derived it from sources not now extant, or who, by following the same method, have discerned it for themselves (1), giving it, in some instances, fresh applications, not the less Hermetic because representing a further development of the doctrine.
No learning or industry, however, can compensate for the absence of that sympathetic insight which alone can detect the characteristic ring of the true Hermetic metal; and which, if hearty appreciation be any guarantee, will assuredly not be wholly wanting on this occasion. At best, however, it is but a slight outline that can be given here.
(I feel that Mr. Maitland didn't say anything relevant above and he exaggeratedly praises Neo-Hermeticism.)
Starting from the axiom that from nothing, nothing comes, and recognising Consciousness as the indispensable condition of existence, the Gnosis, with resistless logic, derives all things from pure and absolute Being, itself unmanifest and unconditioned, but in the infinity of its plenitude and energy, possessing and exercising the potentiality of manifestation and conditionment, and being, rather than having, life, substance, and mind, comprised in one Divine Selfhood, of which the universe is the manifestation.
Regarding all things as modes of consciousness, the Gnosis necessarily regards consciousness as subsisting under many modes, and as being definable as the property whereby whatever is, affects, or is affected in, itself; or affects, or is affected by, another; which is really to say, as constituting the things them-selves.
There is, thus, a mechanical consciousness, a chemical consciousness, a magnetic, a mental, a psychic, consciousness, and so on up to the divine, or absolute, consciousness. And whereas all proceed from this last, so all return to this last, in that every entity possesses the potentiality of it. Herein lies the secret of evolution, which is no other than the expression of the tendency of things to revert, by ascension, to their original condition--a tendency, and therefore an expression, which could have no being were the lowest, or material mode of consciousness to be the original and normal mode.
By thus making matter itself a mode of consciousness, and therein of spirit –spirit being absolute consciousness– the Gnosis escapes at once the difficulties which stand in the way of the conception of an original Dualism, consisting of principles inherently antagonistic; and also those which arise out of the kindred conception of non-consciousness as having a positive existence.
The law of unity
All being modes of the One, no inherent antagonism, or essential difference, is possible; but that which is regarded as unconsciousness is but a lower mode of consciousness – consciousness reduced, so to speak, to a minimum, but still consciousness so long as it is. Total unconsciousness is thus not-being; and bears to consciousness the relation of darkness to light, the latter alone of the two being, however reduced, positive entity, and darkness being non-entity.
However various the manifestations of the universal consciousness, or being, whether as regards its different planes, or its different modes on the same plane, they all are according to one and the same law, which, by its uniformity, demonstrates the unity of the informing spirit, or mind, which subsists eternally and independently of any manifestation. For, as said in the "Divine Pymander" (B.V.):
"He needeth not to be manifested; for He subsisteth eternally. But in that He is One, He is not made nor generated; but is unapparent and unmanifest. But by making all things appear, He appeareth in all and by all; but especially is He manifested to or in those wherein He willeth."
And again:
"The Essence of all is One."
The law of correspondence
From the oneness of original Being comes, as a corollary, the law of correspondence between all planes, or spheres, of existence, in virtue of which the macrocosm is as the microcosm, the universal as the individual, the world as man, and man as God.
"An earthly man," says "The Key," "is a mortal God, and the heavenly God is immortal man."
The same book, however, is careful to explain that by man is meant only those men who are possessed of the higher intelligence, or spiritual consciousness, and that to lack this is to be not yet man, but only the potentiality of man. It avoids also the error of anthropomorphism by defining Divinity to be, itself, neither life, nor mind, nor substance; but the cause of these.
Ignorance of God is pronounced to be the greatest evil, but God is not to be discerned in phenomena, or with the outer eye. The quest must be made within oneself. In order to know, man must first be. This is to say, he must have developed in himself the consciousness of all the planes, or spheres, of his fourfold nature, and become thereby wholly man.
It is to his inmost and divine part, the spirit, that the mystery of existence appertains, since that is Pure Being, of which existence is the manifestation. And, as man can recognise without him, that only which he has within him, it is essential to his perception of spiritual things that he be himself spiritual.
"The natural man," says the apostle Paul, following at once the Hermetists and the Kabbalists, who are at one in both doctrine and method, and differ only in form, "receiveth not the things of the Spirit, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned," that is, by the spiritual part in man.
In such degree as man developer this consciousness he becomes an organon of knowledge, capable of obtaining certitude of truth, even the highest; and from being "agnostic" and incapable of knowledge, he becomes "Gnostic," or has the Gnosis, which consists in the knowledge of himself and of God, and of the substantial identity of the two.
From this it is obvious that what is demonstrated by the agnosticism of the present age, is simply the immaturity of its professors. This is to say, the philosophy of the day represents the conclusions of men, who, how developed soever intellectually, are still rudimentary in respect of the spiritual consciousness, and fall short, therefore, of their spiritual and true manhood – the manhood which belongs to the highest plane.
Being to such extent not human but subhuman, and ignorant of the meaning and potentialities of man, they confound form with substance, and mistake the exterior and phenomenal part of man for man himself, and imagine accordingly that to gratify this part is necessarily to benefit the man, no matter how subversive of the real humanity the practices to which they have recourse.
Out of this condition of spiritual darkness the Gnosis lifts man, and, giving him the supreme desiderátum –which it is the object of all divine revelation to supply– a definition of himself, demonstrates to him, with scientific certainty, the supremacy of the moral law, and the impossibility either of getting good by doing evil, or of escaping the penalty of the latter.
The law of cause and effect
The attempt to get good by evil doing only puts him back, making his fate worse. The doctrine of Karma is no less Hermetic than Hindû, the equivalent term in the former being Adrasté, a goddess to whom is committed the administration of justice. In the Greek pantheon she appears as Nemesis and Hecate. They all represent that inexorable law of cause and effect in things moral, in virtue of which man's nature and conditions in the future are the result of the tendencies voluntarily encouraged by him in the past and present.
The Hermetic method to the attainment of perfection, on whatever plane –physical, intellectual, moral, or spiritual– is purity. Not merely having, but being, consciousness, man is man, and is percipient, according to the measure in which he is pure; perfect purity implying full perception, even to the seeing of God, as the gospels have it. In the same proportion he has also power.
The fully initiated Hermetist is a magian, or man of power, and can work what to the world seem miracles, and those on all planes –physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual– by force of his own will. But his only secret of over is purity, as his only motive is love. For the power with which he operates is spirit, and spirit is keen and mighty in proportion as it is pure. Absolutely pure spirit is God. Hence the miracles of the magian, as distinguished from the magician, are really worked by God--the God in and of the man.
The conscious and unconscious mind
A word on the organon of Hermetic knowledge. This is emphatically the mode of the mind termed the intuition. Following this in its centripetal course, man comes into such relations with his own essential and permanent self –the soul– as to be able to receive from her the knowledges she has acquired of divine things in the long ages of her past. But this implies no disparagement to the mind's other and centrifugal mode, the intellect. This also must be developed and trained to the utmost, as the complement, supplement, and indispensable mate of the intuition--the man to its woman. Perfecting and combining these two, and only thus, man knows all things and perpetuates himself. For he knows God, and to know God is to have, and to be, God, and "the gift of God is eternal life."
The law of gravitation
The law of gravitation, moreover, pervades all planes, the spiritual as well as the physical; and it is according to his spiritual density that the plane of the individual is determined, and his condition depends. The tendency which brings a soul once into the body must be exhausted before the soul is able to dispense with the body. The death of the body is no indication that the tendency has been overcome, so that the soul will not be again attracted to earth. But it is only the soul that thus returns; not the magnetic or "astral" body which constitutes the external personality.
The law of reincarnation
A foremost Hermetic doctrine is that of the soul's multiple re-births into a physical body. Only when the process of regeneration –an Hermetic term– is sufficiently advanced to enable the spiritual entity, which constitutes the true individual, to dispense with further association with the body, is lie finally freed from the necessity of a return into materiality.
The doctrine of correspondence here finds one of its most striking illustrations, but one which nevertheless was wholly missed by the chief modern restorer and exponent of that doctrine, Emmanuel Swedenborg. This is the correspondence in virtue of which, just as the body uses up and sheds many times its external covering of integument, plumage, shell, or hair, to say nothing of its artificial clothing, so the soul wears out and sheds many bodies.
Such is the rationale of the orthodox doctrine of transmigration, according alike to the Hermetic, the Kabbalistic, and the Hindu systems. It permeates, occultly, the whole of the Bible, and is implied in the teaching of Jesus to Nicodemus, the whole of which, as is also the entire Christian presentation, is, in its interior sense, Hermetic.
Not that the new birth insisted on by Jesus is other than purely spiritual; but it involves a multiplicity of physical re-births as necessary to afford the requisite space and experiences for the accomplishment of the spiritual process declared to be essential to salvation.
Seeing that regeneration must –as admitted by Swedenborg– have its commencement while in the body, and must also be carried on to a certain advanced stage before the individual can dispense with the body, and also that it denotes a degree of spiritual maturity far beyond the possibility of attainment in a single, or an early, incarnation; it is obvious that without a multiplicity of re-births to render regeneration possible, the gospel message would be one, not of salvation, but of perdition, to the race at large.
What is theologically termed the "forgiveness of sins" is dependent upon the accomplishment in the individual of the process of regeneration, of which man, as Hermetically expressed, has the seed, or potentiality, in himself, and in the development of which he must co-operate. Doing this, he becomes "a new creature," in that he is re-born, not of corruptible matter, but of "water and the spirit," namely, his own soul and spirit purified and become divine. Thus re-constituted on the interior and higher plane of the spirit, he is said to be born of the "Virgin Mary" and the Holy Ghost."
While purely mystical and spiritual, as opposed to historical and ceremonial, the Hermetic system is distinguished from other schools of mysticism by its freedom from their gloomy and churlish manner of regarding nature, and their contempt and loathing for the body and its functions as inherently impure and vile (2); and so far from repudiating the relations of the sexes, it exalts them as symbolising the loftiest divine mysteries, and enjoins their exercise as a duty, the fulfilment of which, in some at least of his incarnations, is essential to the full perfectionment and initiation of the individual.
It is thus pervaded by an appreciation of beauty and joyousness of tone which at once assimilates it to the Greek, and distinguishes it from the Oriental, conception of existence, and so redeems mysticism from the reproach –too often deserved– of pessimism.
The Hermetist, like the prophet who found God in the sea's depths and the while's belly, recognises divinity in every region and department of nature. And seeing in "ignorance of God the greatest of all evils," (3) he seeks to perfect himself, not simply in order the sooner to escape from existence as a thing inherently evil, but to make himself an instrument of perception capable of "seeing God" in every region of existence in which he may turn his gaze. The pessimism ascribed to some Hermetic utterances, especially in the "Divine Pymander," is but apparent, not real, and implies only the comparative imperfection of existence as contrasted with pure and divine being.
It is to this end that the renunciation of flesh as food is insisted on, as in the "Asclepios." Belonging neither by his physical nor his moral constitution to the order of the carnivora, man can be the best that he has it in him to be only when his system is cleansed and built up anew of the pure materials derived from the vegetable kingdom, and indicated by his structure as his natural diet. The organon of the beatific vision is the intuition. And not only is the system, when flesh-fed, repressive of this faculty, but the very failure of the individual to recoil from violence and slaughter as a means of sustenance or gratification, is an indication of his lack of this faculty.
In no respect does the Hermetic system shew its unapproachable superiority to the pseudo-mystical systems than in its equal recognition of the sexes. True it is that the story of the Fall is of Hermetic origin; but it is no less true that this is an allegory, having a significance wholly removed from the literal, and in no way implying blame or inferiority, either to an individual or to a sex. Representing an eternal verity of divine import, this allegory has been made the justification for doctrines and practices in regard to women, which are altogether false, unjust, cruel, and monstrous, and such as could have proceeded only from elementary and sub-human sources.
In conclusion
All history shews that it is to the restoration of the Hermetic system in both doctrine and practice that the world must look for the final solution of the various problems concerning the nature and conduct of existence, which now –more than at any previous time– exercise the human mind.
For it represents that to which all enquiry –if only it be free enquiry, unlimited by incapacity, and undistorted by prejudice– must ultimately lead; inasmuch as it represents the sure, because experimental, knowledges, concerning the nature of things which, in whatever age, the soul of man discloses whenever he has attained full intuition.
Representing the triumph of free-thought--a thought, that is, which has dared to probe the consciousness in all directions, outwards and downwards to matter and phenomena, and inwards and upwards to spirit and reality; it represents also the triumph of religious faith, in that it sees in God the All and in All of Being; in Nature, the vehicle for the manifestation of God; and in the Soul –educated and perfected through the processes of Nature– the individualisation of God.
Edward Maitland
(I agree in general with what Mr. Maitland said in this second part of his text, but I consider that he said it in a very confused way, and he mixes concepts of hermeticism with theosophical with scientists and with christianims, which invalidates that his explanation is purely hermeticist as he affirms it.)
1.    For, as we have subsequently ascertained, "The Perfect Way" is not a singular instance of the recovery of the Hermetic system, by unwittingly following the same method to which it was originally due, namely, intuitional perception and recollection, and altogether independently of extraneous sources of information.
2.    The term "corrupt," which in the translation of the "Divine Pymander" is applied to things earthly, means simply perishable.
3.    The title of one of the books in the "Divine Pymander."