For many years, magick was considered a strange and mystical force that could not be understood. Today, magick is considered by many to be an art and not a science. Perhaps the word "science" scares people and makes them think that the "mystery" of magick will be taken away if scientific principle is applied. And yet, everything in the physical plane operates in accordance with some "law" or method. For instance, if we throw a ball up in the air it will come down because of the force of gravity. Magick also follows a series of rules in how it operates. These rules are referred to by some as Hermetic Philosophy and are part of the Hermetic Teachings.
Hermetic Philosophy is discussed in detail in "The Kybalion: Hermetic Philosophy" by Three Initiates. This book was written in 1912 and published initially by the Yogi Publication Society, Masonic Temple, Chicago IL. The book is still available, but usually must be ordered. A word of warning: the book was written in the flowery style common at the turn of the century. It can sometimes be easy to get lost in the language, or to fall prey to the idea that "most of you are not worthy or ready for this information." Just keep your attention focused on the real message—the sharing of knowledge.
The roots of Hermetic Philosophy lie within ancient Egypt. The ideas were passed to mankind through the "Master of Masters," who dwelt in Egypt from the earliest days. His name was Hermes Trismegistus, the father of Occult Wisdom, the founder of Astrology, and the discoverer of Alchemy. The title "Trismegistus" means "thrice great." Some believe that the Egyptians deified Hermes and made him one of their gods, Thoth. Many years later, he was adopted by the Greeks and known as Hermes, Messenger (or Scribe) of the Gods.
The teachings of Hermes Trismegistus were reserved for a select few who had proven themselves worthy to seek the knowledge. Those who did learn the knowledge were sworn to secrecy. In those days, most people were believed to be incapable of learning. "Do not cast pearls before swine. Give milk to the babes, but give meat to the strong men." Throughout history, this belief has been held by many organizations. I personally believe that at the time of Hermes it was true. Humans as a species are still in an early stage of evolution. At any one time there are always a few humans who are more advanced than others, but for the most part the majority of the populace is just beginning the journey to find knowledge. However, in the past 8,000 years, mankind as a whole has grown, and there are more people who are beginning to become ready for this information.
The teachings of Hermetic Philosophy are really part of Hermetic Alchemy. Alchemy is the mastery of mental forces rather than material elements. It deals with the transmutation of mental vibrations into others, as opposed to the classic idea of changing lead into gold. The common belief is really allegory, shadowing the truth in symbols to hide the knowledge from those who are not yet ready, and to preserve it from those who would destroy it.
The Principles of Hermetic Philosophy
This system not only describes how the universe operates, but it also describes the fundamental principles that govern the operation of magick—it is the "physics" of magick. There are seven principles that form the core of the system:
The Principle of Mentalism begins with the belief that everything is mental. "We are but a thought in the mind of the ALL." The ALL is everything that was, is and will be, and at the same time it is nothing. At the highest level, there is the underlying creative force of the universe. This force cannot be described in human terms and cannot be truly understood by humans. The ALL is everything and everything is part of the ALL. In magick, nothing can occur without first occurring as a thought; once the thought occurs, the rest follows.
The Principle of Correspondence says that there is always a correspondence between the laws of the various planes of existence. The phrase, "As above so below; as below so above" is an application of this principle. Since everything is mental, and everything is part of the ALL, then everything is interconnected. Therefore, the higher planes of existence have correspondences to the lower planes of existence. We are microcosms of the universe, and the universe is a macrocosm within which we are contained. This idea is one of the most influential of all the principles. This principle allows us to influence the higher planes and shows how the higher planes influence us.
The Principle of Vibration states that "everything is in constant motion." Everything is constantly changing, growing, moving, in a state of flux. Let us examine our physical existence for a moment. All matter is composed of smaller particles, atoms. At one time we thought that the atom was the smallest unit of matter. Atoms are always in motion. As such, we are constantly in motion on some level, even when we appear to be at rest. In this century, we have discovered that the atom is comprised of smaller building blocks called protons, neutrons, and electrons. We have recently proven that there are even smaller particles such as quarks, leptons, muons, and many others. Until the turn of the century (1900s), the general thought was that objects were solid and did not move. Note that the Principle of Vibration, which has been around for thousands of years, states otherwise. Science is just now catching up with what magick has known for a very long time. If we look at matter, we see that it is composed of energy. Energy is simply a force moving at a certain rate of vibration. Take, for instance, light: light that we can see—the visible spectrum—appears in the colors we know as red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo, and violet. All the colors are actually comprised of the same discrete units of energy (photons), but they vibrate at different rates. The different rates of vibration cause us to see the different colors. The Principle of Vibration allows us to see how to transform or transmute energy states.
The Principle of Polarity contains the idea that "everything is dualistic in nature." Another way to say this is that everything has its opposite. An easy illustration of this is heat and cold. Heat and cold are both descriptions of temperature (a measure of amount of energy contained by an object), but where does one draw the line between hot and cold? The human body cannot tell the difference between extremes of heat and cold. For example, if you have a wart removed with liquid nitrogen, the spot will first feel cool and then will feel as if someone is burning you with a match or flame. Heat and cold are merely degrees, differing only in the rate of vibration. We see polarity all around us and refer to it every day: light and dark, hard and soft, large and small, loud and quiet, black and white, positive and negative. These are all common manifestations of polarity. All these pairs are related and differ only by degree. This principle is very important to the concept of mental transmutation. If we wish to change something from negative to positive, then we must recognize that negative and positive are the same thing, but vibrating at different rates. Once this is realized, then all that must be done is to raise the vibrational rate of the negative. Mental transmutation will be discussed in more detail later in this lesson.
The Principle of Rhythm states that everything moves in cycles. "Everything flows out and in; everything has 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."—The Kybalion. We cannot cause a principle or law not to work, but it can be neutralized. The Mental Law of Neutralization allows one to see the swing or rhythm, to locate a point in the swing at which they wish to be, and then to move themselves to it, thus nullifying the effect of the swing.
The Principle of Cause and Effect states that "there is a cause for every effect." If a ball rolls down a hill (effect), then there must have been some cause (something moved it) to precipitate the rolling down the hill. In science, this is known as the Newton's First Law of Motion: "an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force, and an object in motion tends to remain in motion unless acted upon by an external force." The law of cause and effect applies to both physical and non-physical manifestations. This principle, in part, incorporates the idea that YOU are responsible for your actions. YOU have the power to change the course of your life—it is YOUR ultimate decision to take any action. The power of this principle can be seen in everyday life, especially in interpersonal relationships. If someone yells at you, what is your honest and immediate reaction? For most people, it is to respond in kind. Now, it is up to you to decide if you wish to take that action (yelling back). If a person smiles at you what is your initial reaction? Usually it is to smile back. These are simple examples of this principle at work. For everything that happens, something had to cause that event to occur.
The Principle of Gender states that there is gender in everything. On the physical plane, gender manifests as sex. On the higher planes, gender refers to the duality, the polarity of active and passive forces, the Yin and the Yang, the Male and the Female. Every individual contains both aspects of male and female, Yin and Yang. Sexually, all humans start out as females; it is not until the third week of gestation that the fetus begins to take on either male or female aspects. This illustrates that both aspects of Being are present within everyone. The principle of Gender works in the direction of generation, regeneration, and creation. Without this principle there can be no creation.
Hopefully, by this point you are already beginning to see application of these principles on many levels. The highest application of these ideas is in Mental Transmutation. Transmutation is the process of changing one thing into another. Mental Transmutation is the art of changing and transforming mental states, forms, and conditions into others. The key to mental transmutation is that everything is mental. Since everything is mental, we can effect change by applying mental force—if our force (Will and energy) is strong enough, we can effect the change we want to make. Mental transmutation takes place on the mental plane, thereby causing change to occur on the physical plane (remember the Principle of Correspondence). Only the most advanced masters can manifest large-scale change, in the grossest sense, on the physical plane. Even then, there are limits to what can be accomplished in physical incarnations.
Before going further, I wish to switch tracks for a moment and discuss a little of what is and is not possible. Many people like to spout the idea that "everything is possible." Well, everything is possible, depending on your level of ability and spiritual maturity. When we develop to the point where we rejoin the ALL or the TAO or the "universe," then all things will be possible. However, we are not yet there. We operate on the physical plane, the lower astral planes, and the lower mental planes. Everything is energy. To transform energy, we must be able to "grasp" and shape the energy. The physical body, much like a piece of copper wire, can handle only a limited amount of energy. If you have ever looked inside a light bulb while it is off, you will see two posts with a small piece of coiled wire inside. When electricity is applied, the small coil of metal begins to glow, because it is resisting the flow of energy. If too much energy is applied, then the coil will become too hot and explode or melt.
To some degree, the same process occurs within people, because the physical body is subject to physical laws. One of these is that there is a limit to what can be contained or channeled. Another way to see this is to look at the human body as the small end of the funnel. What happens when you attempt to pour a gallon of water into a funnel? Well, if you pour too much, it overflows—the small end cannot handle the physical volume of water.
The use of energy is also governed by mental and spiritual maturity. Remember the first two hermetic principles: Mentalism and Correspondence. How many of us can truly control our thoughts? If the body could manipulate unlimited power, then we could manifest anything that our minds could create. For those of you who watch science fiction, cast your mind back to the movie "Forbidden Planet," or remember the "Alice in Wonderland" episode of original "Star Trek," or the episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" where The Traveler appeared. In each of these shows, mankind was given the ability to create anything that he/she could imagine. At our stage of development, mankind could easily destroy the fabric of creation if we were able to wield limitless energy. Still don't believe me? As an experiment, picture an apple in as much detail as you can. See the round shape, the stem, a few leaves on the stem; see the shading on the apple, its texture, the shading on the stem, and the textures of the stem; see the veins in the leaves. Now, see the entire apple in all its detail. Hold the image in your mind. Think of nothing but the apple. Hold the image in your mind for five seconds. Try it for 10 seconds. Hold it for a minute. Ten minutes. Hold the image for an hour, five hours, a whole day. Continue to hold the image until you can no longer hold it. Be honest: could you see the apple? How long did you manage to hold the image before it changed or before other thoughts intruded on what you were seeing? If you cannot maintain perfect control of your mind for even a limited time period, then what would happen if you could create anything in your mind? Imagine your worst nightmare being made manifest. Now, image the worst nightmares of an entire planet being made manifest on the physical.
Just because we do not have access or control over limitless energy does not mean that we cannot effect change on a smaller, more personal scale. Our ability to effect change is limited to the amount of energy we can manipulate and the strength of our wills. There is an upper limit to what the human body can handle, but very few people operate anywhere near that level. The ability to manipulate energy is tied to the energy channels and system of the body (the chakras are part of this system and will be discussed in a later lesson). These channels are like muscles and must be "exercised" in order to increase the amount of energy they can handle. The more an individual works with energy, the more energy he/she will be able to manipulate it, and the longer he/she will be able to manipulate it without tiring. With enough dedication and exercise, you can reach your physical limitation, but it does not happen overnight, just as lifting weights for a week will not allow you to lift a car over your head. Magick takes practice and work. In short, you have to train for it.
The Planes of Existence (Matter and Energy)
So far, we have spoken only with regard to the physical planes. To some extent, the limitations are lessened on the astral and mental planes, but there are still limitations. This is due partly to the spiritual maturity level and partly to the chakra systems. (The chakras exist on more than one plane.) In short, if you are reading this, then you are not at the level needed to manifest excessive change on a global scale. (And, no, neither am I. However, one "day" I will be able to this; eventually everyone will be able to do it.)
Let us look at how Hermetic Philosophy perceives the "planes of existence." This term is a bit misleading, since all planes simultaneously exist and overlap. To some extent, it is like a building with three major sections. Each section occupies multiple floors. Again, this is a separation that exists only in the human mind for the sake of clarity. The planes are really groupings of degree (or vibration) within the manifestation of "like." Each of the major planes is divided into seven minor planes. Each of the minor planes is divided into seven sub-planes.
The major planes of existence are:
The physical plane is divided into seven minor planes:
The Mental Plane comprises the forms of living things, or life as we understand it, and is divided into seven minor planes:
The Spiritual Plane is composed of those entities that exist in spiritual form (non-corporeal). This is the plane of the ascended beings and of deity. This is the realm of angels and guides, archangels, demigods, and other such entities. This plane is so far removed from ours that it is difficult to say much about the seven sub-planes. Until we reach a further stage of development, it is useless even to attempt to speculate about a plane populated by beings who are at a level of existence as far advanced over ours as we are over that of the common amoeba.
The last paragraph is paraphrased from The Kybalion. We must remember that this information was imparted a very long time ago and has been handed down for centuries. The book itself was put together at the beginning of the 20th century. Since that time, I believe that there have been great strides made in understanding a little more of "that which is not knowable." I would, therefore, suggest the following division of the Plane of Spirit:
Let me stress that these are best guesses on my part. Further, I am using several terms familiar to humans to provide some point of reference. Since many people do have some background in Christianity or Catholicism, I chose to use the terms Cherubim and Seraphim as a level reference only. Whether there are actually entities classified as this is better left to other discussions. Further, I am not positive about the fifth and sixth levels, for they very well could be reversed. However, I do believe that, in time, as we are more ready to understand, these levels will be revealed in more detail.
At this point, we move into a discussion of the area of Mental Transmutation. The idea of transmutation is to change one form of energy into another (after all, "everything is energy"). The theory of mental transmutation is simple: use a higher principle to overcome the effects of a lower principle. While the idea is simple, it could not (and cannot) be fully explored until the seven principles are understood.
"To change your mood or mental state, change your vibration."—The Kybalion
Everything is mental. Everything is energy. Everything vibrates. YOU are the master of your own mood and mental state. Another person may do something that angers you, but they do NOT force you to lose your temper—YOU lose control of your temper because of YOUR reaction to something they said or did. The baser negative emotions (hate, envy, jealousy) are all states of low-vibrating energy. To change your mood, raise your mental vibrational level.
"To destroy an undesirable rate of mental vibration, put into operation the Principle of Polarity and concentrate upon the opposite pole to that which you desire to suppress. Kill out the undesirable by changing its polarity."—The Kybalion
Polarity is in everything; everything has its opposite. Love and hate are the same thing vibrating at different ends of the spectrum. Happiness and sorrow are the same, but vibrating at different rates. To counter something, use its opposite. From chemistry, we know that if we mix bases and acids in equal strengths, they will cancel each other out to form a neutral substance. To see this in everyday life, try being very positive and cheerful around someone who is in a bad mood. The bad mood cannot survive for long when confronted by a positive mood. It is also possible use a bad mood to cancel a positive mood. Watch the people around you. Someone will come into the office in a bad mood and snap at someone; later on, that person will be short with another, etc. The chain goes on and on. Polarity and vibration are key elements to mental transmutation.
"Rhythm may be neutralized by the application of the Art of Polarization."—The Kybalion
Everything is in constant motion, and there is a rhythm to the motion. The swing of the pendulum to the left is equal to the swing of the pendulum to the right. To avoid being caught in an undesirable swing, we use polarity or vibration to move ourselves above or below the oncoming swing, thereby moving ourselves outside of the effect. The higher Hermetic Master will polarize or move him/herself to the very positive side of the "I AM" pole and vibrate to a rate at which the backwards swing of the pendulum will not affect him/her. This is done to some extent by all who understand this principle. They simply refuse to be swayed by the reverse swing.
"Nothing escapes the Principle of Cause and Effect, but there are many planes of Causation and one may use the laws of a higher to overcome the laws of a lower."—The Kybalion
For every cause there is an effect, and for every effect there is a cause. For every event there must be some initial action, and there is some reaction for every event. For an idea to manifest on the physical plane, it must first exist as thought; then it must take form on the mental plane and eventually be made manifest back on the physical plane. There are many planes on which we operate. The principle of causation exists on all planes. Just as one plane may influence another, causation on one plane may influence other planes.
"True Hermetic Transmutation is a Mental Art."—The Kybalion
Everything is mental; we are but a thought in the mind of the ALL. Influencing the physical and mental planes are brought about by control of your mental power and abilities in conformity of the laws of existence.
"The ALL is MIND. The Universe is Mental."—The Kybalion
Before delving further into the principles and ideas of magick, it is critical to begin our exploration of the subject of magickal ethics. The foundation of this discussion will be that YOU are responsible for YOUR actions. Everything that you do has influence or effect on something else.
Magickal ethics follow the same principles as physical and mental ethics. Ethics can be broken into three broad categories:
Magickal Ethics is based on standard ethics. Magick is an ability that everyone possesses; everyone has the potential to use it, but few rarely learn to use it. You must consider magick to be another skill, like martial arts or cooking, that can be developed by any individual.
Many ethical situations will resolve themselves to the question of, "Would I want someone to take this action without my permission?" and "What actions would I consider appropriate for someone to take on my behalf?" We must be cautious of attempting to rationalize our actions by claiming that we would really want someone to do something for us if we were in a situation.
Let’s look at a few examples of magickal ethics and "regular" ethics.
Can I cast a spell to make John Smith want to sleep with me?
Can I cast a spell to make John Smith fall in love with me?
These questions are often rationalized by the following types of ideas:
But I just "know" that we are soul-mates.
But I just "know" that if he realized his true feelings he would want this.
But I just "know" that I could make him the happiest person in the world if he would let me.
And the list goes on!
Can I physically force John Smith to have sex with me?
Can I coerce John Smith to have sex with me?
Could I put something in John Smith’s drink so that I could have sex with him?
These situations are clear-cut examples of an action that will cause harm to another individual.
Can I ask someone to attack me magickally?
This could be a useful learning tool if the people know what they are doing.
Can I ask a friend to spar with me in some contact sport?
Notice that this situation involves mutual consent between two individuals. Mutual consent changes the ethical picture. While it is possible that bad things can happen as a result of the actions, both participants understand the risk before the actions are begun.
There appears to be a conflict with the basic Wiccan belief of, "An it harm none, do as you will." The actions could result in harm being doing to one or more people by the action; the important thing to remember here is that it is a risk that is mutually agreed upon. In this type of situation, I believe that the concept of mutual consent should be applied. I also believe that this idea should be applied in situations involving pain as part of the sexual act—if the action is mutually agreed upon by both parties, then the basic belief is not violated.
Many forms of magick work on influencing other people.
Can I put up a ward or shield around my property to deter thieves?
Can I put up signs that say, "Thieves keep out!"
Depending on the construction of the ward or shield, a certain idea can be projected to those crossing the boundary. This idea does influence another individual. This becomes a two-fold question: "Would you want someone to try to influence you?" and "Since the individual has made a conscious choice to interfere with my free will, then am I allowed to try to keep him from taking an action?"
Can I put up a ward or shield around my property to cause a thief’s heart to stop when he crosses intending to steal my property?
Can I shoot someone who is stealing my property?
Most people will agree that they should have the right to defend themselves and their property. However, the taking of a life in any situation will have Karmic repercussions that must be faced—even in the instance of self-preservation. Is a piece of property really worth the taking of a life? A similar issue is whether you could incorporate a "death action" into a ward to be triggered on the occurrence of an event such as someone’s breaking into your house to kill you. How far will you go, and where will you draw the lines?
Can I work a spell to raise the awareness of a person or group of people regarding a specific subject?
Can I force someone to accept an idea with which they do not agree, even if the idea is considered "wrong" by society?
Every individual must develop at his/her own rate. The spiritual development cannot be rushed or pushed forward. While the idea of raising someone’s awareness may be appealing, would you want someone to force awareness on you? Notice that the issue is really one of consent.
Can I work a spell to raise the awareness of a person or group of people regarding a specific subject, provided that they are willing?
Can I talk to someone on the street who agrees to the discussion, or to someone who asks me about a specific topic?
Notice that the situation has changed such that the other individual now has the choice to be made aware of a situation.
Many situations in magick involve consent and free will.
In most situations, magick should not be worked on or for a person without his/her express permission. Also remember that permission for one action does not imply permission for another. Permission usually must come from the individual. There are, however, exceptions. Before the age of consent, children usually may not give permission for magickal actions, since they may not understand the ramifications of what they desire. In the instance of working on or for children, permission from the parent or guardian is usually required. The same holds true for those who are mentally incompetent or those who cannot communicate for themselves.
In a perfect world, we would have the time to obtain permission before doing any work for others. However, this is not always the case. There are instances where time is of the essence, and there is not time to obtain formal permission.
Can I use my healing abilities to keep someone who has been struck by a car alive until emergency medical teams arrive?
Can I use my knowledge of how to stop bleeding to keep someone who has been struck by a car alive until emergency medical teams arrive?
In these cases, it may be impossible to obtain permission. Some would advocate doing nothing, since, if you take no action, then there would not be any repercussions. Are there repercussions for not taking action to prevent something when you could? That is a good question, and one that is not easily answered. There is no physical law that says that you must help someone in need. Is there a spiritual imperative saying that you must help people in need? That is another good question. If you follow the belief that before you can transcend fully, you must have compassion for all creatures in existence, then the answer is "yes."
Before we rush out and start trying to save people, there are other concerns to address.
What if the individual in question was supposed to die at that time?
What if death by that particular occurrence was supposed to occur to teach that soul a lesson?
Most people would like to believe that "untimely" death couldn’t happen for a specific reason. This is incorrect. Before a soul incarnates, the major life tasks are decided upon and set in motion. This does not say that everything is predestined, but there are some events that can be prearranged. One of these is "untimely" death. Death itself is a critical experience in the soul’s development.
The question remains, then, do you take action to save the individual? In these situations, we do not have the luxury of consulting the Akashic records to see if this event was supposed to happen. If an event was predetermined, there is no way to change the event. If the person was meant to die in the accident, then they will die. Just as "untimely" death is a possibility, living through a near-death experience is also a possibility.
Before taking any action, especially magickal, you should consider the ramifications of those actions. Also, you must be prepared to accept responsibility for your actions, or your lack of actions. Many situations where the ethics of an action is questioned come about because one or more of the individuals involved does not want to take responsibility for their actions.
The following ideas can help resolve ethical problems:
There is no quick and easy solution to the problem of magickal or physical ethics. We do not possess a little computer where we can type in a situation and an action to get a reading on whether the action is ethical. The individual must decide the question of whether an action is ethical. The extent to which an individual will go to observe ethics varies with each individual.
This is the second card of the Major Arcana and is numbered I. It represents the higher male divine essence, the Godforce. The Magician is the spiritual father of the young soul.
A young man stands before an altar. On the altar are a Wand, a Cup, a Sword, and a Pentacle. These items represent the four Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water), as well as the Minor Arcana. His right hand holds a wand and is pointed to the heavens; his left hand points to the Earth. This is a card of manifestation, of drawing the essence of the universe and manifesting it on the physical plane. Above the man’s head is the figure 8 turned on its side, (the cosmic lemniscate—symbol of eternal life and dominion. This figure represents the interaction between the conscious and subconscious, between idea and feeling, between desire and emotion.
The man is clothed in magickal robes of white and red. Around his waist is the symbol for eternity—a snake devouring its tail. Featured prominently on the card are vines and roses. The roses above him represent desire. The roses below him represent abstract thought. The white robes represent purity; the red represent desire and action. This card represents creation and action on a higher plane. It can also represent aid from higher sources such as spirit guides or divine beings. This aid often is linked to career or issues of authority.