The Hermes Concepts


Western metaphysical thought is greatly influenced by a wayshower known as Hermes, who is thought to have lived in Egypt some 6,000 years ago. The concepts attributed to him represent the foundation for most of Western religion and philosophy. However, intervening cultures have transformed Hermes the truth giver into more of an ideal which represents the greatest good associated with the desire to gain self-realization.

This essay is concerned with some of the metaphysical concepts thought to have been introduced by Hermes as they might be understood from the perspective of the contemporary paranormalist community. New understanding of how our unconscious perceptual process produces conscious awareness is emerging in both mainstreams psychology and parapsychology. There is also a growing foundation of information indicating the nature of our immortality, our relationship with our physical body and the nature of the greater reality (etheric).

A basic assumption of this essay is that this new understanding provides a conceptual check on the ancient Hermetic teaching. This normalization of the ancient concepts with contemporary thought may help us better understand the original intent of teachings attributed to Hermes.1

As you read this essay, keep in mind that my comments are based on a cosmology which is implied by my take on current understanding I have found amongst researchers in the paranormalist community. Much of this cosmology has not been vetted, and so, it is important that you are mindful the explanations here are conditional, depending on acceptance of the cosmology.

There is a lot of it is not that way, it is this way, in this essay. The main reason for that is that emergent understanding is very different from what you might consider traditional metaphysics.

Who Was Hermes?

Image from: Biblioteca Pleyades Italia/Italy – EU

The Egyptians had a god named Thoth which was considered the mind of God as a teacher, source of writing, healing, art and music. 2 Many contemporary accounts describe Thoth and Hermes as the same person but it is more likely Thoth was an aspect of God, or ideal, while Hermes was probably an influential priest. As discussed below, based on the diagram typically associated with Thoth (right), the Thoth-Hermes character was a man who expressed the essence of Thoth.

There are numerous opinions about the reason an ibis is associated with Thoth. I like Edward Malkowski’s interpretation, mainly because of the overall pragmatic view he takes with the history.3

For the ancient Egyptians, Ba animated a living person, whereas Ka was the energy emanating from that person. Although not an exact analogy, the Ka and the Ba are what traditional Western thought might refer as spirit and soul. Another important aspect of Egyptian belief represented immortality, the ankh, depicted as the crested ibis.


… the meaning of a specific neter [Egyptian for god] was communicated in a visually symbolic manner. When a human was depicted with an animal head, this signified the principle as it occurs in man. If the whole animal was depicted it was a reference to a principle in general. Alternatively, a human head depicted on an animal represented that principle as it relates to the divine essence within mankind, not any person in particular, but the archetypal; as the immortal Ba is represented by a human-faced bird.

Amongst many titles, Thoth was considered the heart and tongue of the sun god Ra and the means by which Ra’s will was translated into speech. He also had the title of “Three times great, great.” The Greeks thought Thoth and Hermes were the same, and thus gave Hermes-Thoth the title of Trismegistus (Greek for Hermes the thrice-greatest). The Romans referred to him as the god Mercury (Mercurius ter Maximus in Latin).

The Upanishads are a set of Sanskrit text thought to have been written 3,000-to-4,000 years ago. They are based on oral tradition about truths given to seekers by the gods. Some historians speculate that the oral tradition that preceded the Upanishads may have originated in Egypt some 2,000 years earlier, during the time of Hermes. It is thought that the metaphysical concepts were spread by ancient traders across the Middle East and into the Indus valley in what is Pakistan today, where the Upanishads are thought to have been written.8

Some historians argue that Greek philosophers in the first millennium BC attributed their philosophical work to a famous person to increase the apparent importance of the work.  If this is true, then it is safe to say that nearly all of the text attributed to Hermes was actually written by more contemporary philosophers.

A second confusing factor is that scholars of subsequent cultures have translated work attributed to Hermes from the perspective of their current beliefs. It is this babble of Hermetic attribution that one finds on the Internet today.

Thoth was considered the patron of scribes and the god of magic, healing and wisdom. It seems reasonable to argue that a man named Hermes, as a high priest of very early Egypt, was exalted as the spokesman for Thoth. In a practical view, there were probably many such priests over the centuries around the time associated with Hermes. For this reason, it may be most sensible to think of the Hermetica as the product of an early system of thought based on metaphysical thought evolved from even earlier times.

Emerald Tablet

Because of what it includes, of all of the Hermetica, the Emerald Table is the one document I think may have actually been authored by Hermes. It comes to us as it has been translated via a line of different cultures with different cultural references. Mindful of this, I have studied the text from the perspective of contemporary metaphysics. My thought is that, if I can make sense of the Emerald Tablet from a contemporary point of view, perhaps the ancient text will inherit a degree of new credibility.

There are a number of different translations of the Emerald Tablet. I prefer the version translated from the Latin of Ficinus by Kircher, and into English by Dr. John Everard. It was first published in 1650. Even the translations attributed to Everard have slight differences. The one I use here is the first I encountered in my research of around 1990.

The Emerald Tablet

by Hermes Mercurius Trismegiatus

This is a lesson taught by a master to his initiates. It is concerned with the process of gaining progression (spiritual maturity). The title was probably something like The Truly Great Work.

  1. It is true and no lie, certain and to be depended upon, that which is above is as that which is below; and that which is below is as that which is above, for the performance of the one truly great work.

This principle signifies that everything existing in the physical aspect of reality has its correspondence in the greater reality. Perhaps a clearer explanation of this principle is that everything in the physical (below) has been expressed from the etheric (above). In turn, that which has been expressed has an influence on the expresser (and other personalities).

A number of important lessons can come from this. There is direct correlation between effect (below or physical) and expression of intention (above or etheric). Be mindful of your intention (below to above) as it is can produce effects (above to below) which may or may not be what you envisioned.

A second lesson from this is what many people refer to as the Principle of Continuity. Reality exists as an unbroken thread of perception and expression from the intelligent core of Source to our conscious self and personal reality. As such, it is reasonable to extrapolate the nature of the greater reality from our local sense of reality (personal reality).

For quantum principles enthusiasts, the continuity of reality from our immortal self to Source is thought to be by way of a hierarchy of personalities. I refer to that as a nested hierarchy because there is a many-to-one relationship between a personality and aspects it has created in an effort to gain its intended understanding. This is also a quantum-like arrangement because it is stepwise, rather than one continuous flow of creation.

  1. And as all things are from only One Thing, by will of the one God, so all things have their origin in this one power, by adaptation to their individual purposes.

Reality is the expression of Source (God) and is governed by organizing principles which emanate from the intention of Source. The combination of the expression of reality (the etheric) and the reason for that expression as organizing principles represents “The One Thing.”

We are being told that Source has created all things from Itself. The “One Power” is the Creative Process by which reality is adapted [by individual aspects of Source] to satisfy imagined purpose. The Creative Process12 is attention on an imagined outcome to produce an intended order. This process is limited by the ordering principles emanating from Source.

As such, the “One Thing” is reality and organizing principles as the expression of Source, and the “One Power” is the Creative Process by which the One Thing is adapted.

  1. That only One Thing has the sun for its father, the moon for its mother.

Sun is creative influence.  Moon is receptive Self (immortal personality). The three aspects of creation are within each of us as attention (the Sun) on a visualized outcome (the Moon) with the intention (wind—Line 4) to make it so.

  1. The wind carries it in its wings.

The third part of the Creative Process (adaptation) is intention. It seems reasonable that the wind is the intention to make it so.

  1. But its nurse is a spiritual Earth.

Here, I think Earth is a reference to self (personality entangled with a human body in an avatar relationship; aka a person).  We are the ones who are performing the Great Work, as we live in the physical (earth).

Thus far, Hermes has told us that we are empowered to gain progression by the very structure of reality, and through the Organizing Principles given to us by Source.  The etheric is differentiated into new form through a person’s influence based on the Creative Process.

  1. That only One Thing is the true father of all things in the universe. Its power is integrating or perfecting after it has been united to a spiritualized Earth.

Again, the only One Thing is Source’s expression of organizing principles governing the behavior of the etheric, which undifferentiated, is Source’s life field; the reality field. Reality can be modeled as life fields and the expression of life fields. Thus, the organizing principles are the Father of all things. This emanation from Source is perfected or changed as it is differentiated by Self. We, as Self in the physical represents the Earth in this lesson. It is through increasing understanding that we perfect reality.

  1. Thou shalt separate the Earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, by means of a gentle heat, and with great ingenuity.

In most esoteric schools of thought today, “fire” is the intuitive aspect and earth is the empirical objective aspect. To be consistent, “subtle” would be unconscious perception of reality as it is differentiated through the Creative Process. “Gross” would be reality as it is perceived as the product of the perceptual processes. “Heat” would be focused or directed intention and “ingenuity” is an excellent description of the kind of work required to learn how to think beyond cultural influences to follow the mindful way.

If this understanding is correct, Hermes is explaining the need to become aware of the difference between what is consciously perceived and the existence of a conceptual reality which underlies experience. This can be described as the difference between the etheric personality (immortal personality as I am this) and the person (conscious self as I think I am this).

  1. It ascends from Earth to heaven, and descends again to Earth. Thereby it receives the power of the superiors and the inferiors.

“It” is based on the One Thing as reality and the one power as the Creative Process. But here, “it” is the product of the Creative Process which is correct understanding of reality. That is the ultimate objective of the Great Work.

Some people believe that this is a direct reference to the Kundalini and the seven Chakras.  (The sixth and seventh Chakras are sometimes referred to as the Superior Chakras.)  However, that is clearly a local system of thought.

The concept of earth as the physical person is consistently used in the Emerald Tablet.  Also, the issue at hand is the Great Work.  The Great Work is a way turned toward understanding (progression or spiritual maturity).  To follow this path, we are told to change our awareness from body-centric to an etheric personality-centric perspective.

Understanding is relative so that something understood tends to shine new light on that something, thus offering potential new understanding. Since a lifetime is a transient  experience, acquisition of understanding appears to be for the benefit of the greater community or collective of personalities. Thus we have access to understanding from the collective even as we contribute new understanding to the collective.

  1. By this process thou wilt partake of life, love, and light, and the honors of the whole world; therefore, let all obscurity flee before thee.

Hermes has identified our purpose in life and has described the process with which we can pursue that purpose.  Now he is telling us that by living the life while consciously seeking understanding, we will align ourselves with the true nature of reality (Organizing Principles or Natural Law).

Near the end of this lesson (Line 13), Hermes identifies himself as an example of what living in accordance with the true nature of reality means. That is, teacher, expression of the principles in daily living and the potential effect of living in that way manifest as a successful person. In effect then, he is telling us that we too can be happy and respected citizens.

  1. This is the strongest of all forces, overcoming every subtle and penetrating every solid thing.

Hermes continues to refer to the etheric and principles from Source that permeates all of reality from the finest (undifferentiated etheric) to every aspect of the physical.

  1. With this thou wilt be able to master all things and transmute all that is fine and all that is coarse.

The Great Work described in the Cabala is the process of changing the young, immature Self into a Master of the principles governing the operation of reality.  In the terminology of the Cabala, achieving God-Realization is described as a transmutation.  While the process of transmuting the base metal of lead into a higher quality gold is a subject of earnest research in alchemy, it is often used as an analogy for the process of transmuting the ignorant seeker into a spiritually mature master.  The process is achieved through adaptation of the organizing principles into all of the objects of reality.

  1. So the world was created. Hence were all the wonderful adaptations of the One Thing manifested; but the arrangements that follow this great mystic path are hidden.

Again, the One Thing is differentiation of reality by way of the Creative Process. The Creative Process is a person’s intention acting on an imagined outcome to make it so. Differentiation is bound by organizing principles.  Hermes is explaining that all of reality was formed by way of the same principles he has explained in the previous lines. An important concept here is “For those who have eyes to see.” The way described in this lesson is hidden to those who have not followed this path.

  1. For this reason, I am called Hermes Trismegiatus–one in essence but three in total aspect. In this Trinity are concealed the three parts of the wisdom of the whole world.

See: The Three Aspects of a Teacher, below.

  1. What I have to tell is now completed concerning the operation of the Sun.

And so Hermes has told his students the secret of creation, their purpose in this lifetime, and by doing so, has pointed them toward a mindful way of life.

Compare the advice of the Emerald Table with the Creative Process Discourse in Section I of the book, Your Immortal Self. 4 An early version of that essay is at

Paraphrasing the Emerald Table

Think of Hermes as talking to his students in conversational terms.

Lesson Name is The Truly Great Work

  1. I can tell you as your teacher that your thoughts and your deeds are directly related so that your thoughts affect your expression, and your perception of that expression affects your thoughts. (Line 1)
  2. Reality is both singular as Source and the expression of Source according to Its intention. This expression of intention represents ordering principles which govern the adaptation of reality to individual purpose. The world you live in is an aspect of the greater reality as it is expressed by way of the Creative Process. (Line 2)
  3. The Creative Process requires the visualization of the imagined purpose with the intention to make it so. (Line 3 and 4)
  4. You, the person as an etheric personality entangled with a physical body, are the creator in this lesson. (Line 5)
  5. Thus, the creative influence produces all things in reality. The Creative Process finds expression through the informed intention of the person. (Line 6)
  6. It is necessary to learn to distinguish between that which is part of actual reality and that which is perceived as real, but which is actually illusion. (Line 7)
  7. Increased understanding of the actual nature of reality is contributed by the student to the collective of personalities in the greater reality, and thus merged, becomes available to the student as more profound understanding. (Line 8)
  8. As such, you will find that understanding leads to clear sensing which enables a person to experience reality as it is, rather than as you have been taught. (Line 10 and 11)
  9. Your increased understanding achieved through the Great Work may lead you to better living and increased stature in your community. (Line 9)
  10. Thus, I have told you how the world has been created. But be mindful that these truths are not evident to those who have not stepped onto this way of learning. (Line 12)
  11. As the teacher of this hidden way, I represent the three parts of a teacher. That is, I represent the understanding of the One Thing and The Great Work, I am an example of how you may integrate this understanding into daily life, and in me, you can see the possibilities of living this path. I am three times accomplished: as a teacher, role model and citizen. (Line 13)
  12. And now you understand the Truly Great Work. (Line 14)

The Foundation Concepts Associated with Hermes

Your Immortal Self 4 includes a model of reality in which a number of organizing principles are used to define the fundamental nature of reality. In some systems of thought, these principles would be described as Natural Law; however, the ones listed in the book are rather different from what you may have learned. (An older version of the Ordering Principles can be found at )

The ability to say that, based on contemporary research certain concepts have become reasonably well established, is an important evolution in how we can study the early introduction of metaphysical concepts. This is not to say that we are now 100% correct, only that we have entered into an age in which the concepts can be objectively and repeatedly examined.

With this consideration, it is not too much of a stretch to argue that an ancient society might believe in one god but describe that one god in terms of how people relate to its characteristics. This is done today with Natural Law as people attempt to describe reality by way of its characteristics.

It is also noteworthy that articles about prehistorical Egypt are derived from Greek translations. I am not a language expert, but I know it can be shown that much of the metaphysical importance of the Aramaic language used by Jesus was lost by way of the Greek translations.5 It is probable that similar loss in metaphysical meaning has occurred in the translation from Egyptian to Greek.

A useful technique for understanding other people’s point of view is to normalize their concepts in more fundamental terms, and then to compare those with more familiar models. Doing that with what I can discover about the time of Hermes, and before the gods of ancient Egypt, it seems clear the Egyptians accepted the idea of one god with many aspects.

Support for the idea that the Egyptians had one god with many aspects is the early Egyptian name for god. The writers of the Internet Sacred Text Archive tells us:

To the great and supreme power which made the earth, the heavens, the sea, the sky, men and women, animals, birds, and creeping things, all that is and all that shall be, the Egyptians gave the name neter.6

According to Edward Malkowski:3

From a modern Western perspective, their [the Egyptian’s] religion has been billed as primitive and polytheistic, and appears as a mythological menagerie of gods. Nothing could be further from the truth. The source of this misunderstanding stems from the Egyptian word neter being translated into Greek as ‘god,’ which later took on the Westernised meaning of deity. The true meaning of neter was to describe an aspect of deity, not a deity to be worshipped. In essence, neters referred to principles of nature in a practical scientific way.

The Three Aspects of a Teacher

The Emerald Tablet gives us a good test of this perspective. One of the keys to who Hermes was is the assigned name, Hermes Trismegistus (Greek for Hermes the thrice-greatest). This title is found in the Emerald Tablet in which Hermes tells his students:

  1. For this reason, I am called Hermes Trismegiatus–one in essence but three in total aspect. In this Trinity are concealed the three parts of the wisdom of the whole world.

It is likely that there are multiple meanings in this line. The trinity is important throughout the Hermetic Wisdom, such as positive – negative – neutral, and body – mind – spirit. However, there is a more deeply hidden aspect of the trinity concept. Understanding of, and ability to properly manage the trinity of imagination, intention and attention is the foundation of “the wisdom of the whole world.”

The Greeks translated three-time great as Trismegiatus. When considered with Line 12, the phrase, “For this reason,” makes it clear that the “three parts of the wisdom of the world” is a direct reference to the three aspects of all teachers. That is, a teacher represents the lesson to be taught (imagination), appears to the student as an example of what it is to understand the lesson (intention) and demonstrates the value of the lesson through application of the lesson in life (attention).

  1. So the world was created. Hence were all the wonderful adaptations of the One Thing manifested; but the arrangements that follow this great mystic path are hidden.

These three aspects are also demonstrated by the way Jesus presented himself in the Bible: John 14.6: Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. In this line, Jesus is showing himself to his followers as the three aspects of the teacher: follow me that I am the path; follow me as the Spirit of Truth; and, follow me as I have lived. See Metaphysical View of John 14.7

The Hermetica as Revealed Information?

It is a fair bet that scholars specializing in ancient civilizations are not likely to be students of metaphysics, and even less likely to be familiar with the concepts as they are informed by understanding gained via transcommunication.

An Internet search for information about Hermes, pre-history religions and migration of religious thought will produce a wide variety of scholarly and special interest commentary but little agreement. A good example of this disagreement is the origin of why Hermes is called Hermes Trismegistus. The first hint is that all of the English translations of the Emerald Tablet I have read uses Trismegistus, which is a name given him by the Greeks much after his lifetime. I would expect the original text was more like “… I am called Hermes Trice Great–one in essence but three in total aspect.” Did the Greeks understand the cultural significance of whatever Egyptian term represented Hermes in his time? According to Edward Malkowski (above), they probably did not in the same way they missed the meaning of neter.

Important Metaphysical Concepts Attributed to Hermes

Hermes is associated with astrology, alchemy and magic by way of the Hermetic philosophy which has come to be attributed to him. As noted above, part of the problem is that there is so much cultural contamination that attribution of any specific concept is intellectually risky. It is more probable that astrology, alchemy and magic are much later inventions based on then-current understanding of concepts attributed to Hermes.

The major concepts thought to have been introduced by Hermes include:

  • One God: There is one God, which is comparable to Source or Infinite Intelligence.
  • Avatar Relationship: The concept of man as a chariot with spirit as its driver comes to us from the Upanishads.8 It is consistent with Line 7 and 8 of the Emerald Tablet in which a person, understanding and purpose are treated in terms of the two aspects of the gross and the subtle.
  • Progression: The purpose of gaining understanding about the self and reality. This is described in the Emerald Tablet as the Great Work.
  • Creative Process: The Emerald Tablet is all about the major elements of the Creative Process.12
  • Three Aspects of a Teacher: This is actually a commandment of sorts. I have always maintained that “Our lot is to learn, and having learned, our lot is to teach.” This would appear to be a consequence of progression as described in the status of Hermes as being thrice-great. As noted below, it is also mirrored in the TAROT.
  • Organizing Principles: Hermes opens the Emerald Table with “…that which is above is as that which is below; and that which is below is as that which is above…,” which has become known as the Hermetic Law of Correspondence. The One Thing of Line 2 is the expression of Source. It is described in Line 6 as “That only One Thing is the true father of all things in the universe.” Although not specifically stated, organizing principles are implicit in the concept of “…by adaptation to their individual purposes” as stated in the last part of Line 2.

It is important to note here that Natural Law, as it is taught today, is a much more contemporary invention. Cabala (often spelled Kabbalah, which is Hebrew meaning to receive or to accept) emerged out of Jewish mysticism around the 12th-century. It is a technical form of metaphysics that involves many interrelated, often secret concepts.

There are many organizing principles (Natural Law to some) described in the Divine Pymander which is traditionally attributed to the writing of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus.9 Considering this, it is interesting that virtually all of the Internet websites discussing Hermes and the principles only address the seven proposed in the Kybalion.

The Seven Organizing Principles of the Kybalion

Seven principles said to define the nature of reality have become the standard version of Natural Law. They probably became popular from the 1908 booklet titled The Kybalion by Three Initiates.10 It should be noted that these are described from a physical or body-centric perspective. There are certainly more, but it is only these seven I have found directly attributed to Hermetic teaching.

In keeping with my effort to normalize the Hermetica with more contemporary thought, I have added a suggested, more current understanding for each.

  1. The Principle of Mentalism.

The all is mind; The universe is mental.

This can be taken literally. The expression of reality from Source (God) is a thought. Emergent understanding from mainstream science indicates that we create our world as a thought exercise. This is supported in parapsychology. Reality is mental. We assign physical meaning to aspects of it, such as our body. From  The Kybalion:

Be careful not to be distracted by the cultural references for the thought concept. From the physical perspective, we as our body are solid and real while our thoughts are intangible and not real. But your physical perspective is only for this lifetime and restricted to your local culture. In fact, you are immortal and your real perspective is that of your immortal self. From that more correct perspective, your body is a thought.

  1. The Principle of Correspondence.

As above, so below; as below, so above.

This principle signifies that everything existing in the physical aspect of reality has its correspondence in the greater reality. Perhaps a clearer explanation of this principle is that everything in the physical (below) has been expressed from the etheric (above). In turn, that which has been expressed has an influence on the expresser (and other personalities).

It is reasonable to think of reality as a collective thought, of which, your immortal aspect is one of the thinkers.

A number of important lessons can come from this. There is direct correlation between effect (below or physical) and expression of intention (above or etheric). Be mindful of your intention (below to above) as it is can produce effects (above to below) which may or may not be what you envisioned.

A second lesson from this is what many people refer to as the principle of continuity. Reality exists as an unbroken thread of perception and expression from the intelligent core of Source to our conscious self and personal reality. As such, it is reasonable to extrapolate the nature of the greater reality from our local sense of reality (personal reality).

It is also reasonable to think this unbroken thread of perception and expression represents successive changes in understanding. In terms of understanding as the foundation of perception, reality is quantized. The continuity of reality is step-wise as one moves from relatively little perception of the actual nature of reality to more correct perception. But understanding is seen as relative, so that perception produces the potential for new understanding.

  1. The Principle of Vibration.

Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.

This principle holds that the closer one gets to God, the finer the vibration one must experience. However, our contemporary understanding is that vibration is a physical concept that has no evident, direct equivalent in the etheric. In fact, in the Emerald Table, Hermes uses “subtle from the gross” to indicate a difference between etheric and physical.

A more useful measure is relative understanding. In the Implicit Cosmology,1 progression (toward Source) is achieved by gaining understanding. Understanding goes toward aligning worldview with the actual nature of reality. It is worldview that determines perception. As such, perceptual agreement becomes a determining factor for what a person can experience in reality. Stated as the Perceptual Agreement Organizing Principle: “Personality must be in perceptual agreement with the aspect of reality with which it will associate.”

  1. 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.

The Principle of Polarity is good advice and appears to be true in a practical sense as a physical principle true, but it tends to lose meaning in the etheric. A life field is a singularity and its expression are not polar. Balance does exist as a beneficial behavior, but polar extremes and balance do not appear to be factors in the perception and expression functional areas of mind.

  1. 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.

As with Principle 4, this is good advice for operating in the physical when rhythm is understood as regular, periodic cycles. The annual cycle of seasons, for instance, is a regular periodic cycle.

There is no apparent support for the concept in terms of the etheric; however, the principle does appear to have meaning in the sense of a process. An example is the process of birth, youth, maturity, and death as we see in the cycle of the seasons.

The distinction is important. We see the process of gaining understanding typically experienced as a cycle, but not a regular periodic cycle. The initiation experience in ancient wisdom schools, for instance. The rhythm in question is a cycle of gaining information, living with that information as it becomes personal knowledge, and then a change in state of that knowledge to understanding. It is sometimes referred to as the Dark Night of Soul11 when the cycle includes a period of mental anguish as the seeker integrates new understanding into worldview.

The governing influence for the behavior of processes in the etheric appears to be the Perceptual Agreement Organizing Principle.

Some people relate the Principle of Rhythm to the Principle of Cycles, and that to the Principle of Reciprocity. My comments apply to all three perspectives, but also see my comments below for the Principle of Cause and Effect.

  1. 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 recognized; there are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the Law.

This is a complex principle. It is a well-established physical principle, but its etheric counterpart is a little less definitive. As noted above, the concept of reciprocity is better related to cause and effect than to cycles or rhythm. The associated concept of reciprocity is mutual influence. While we think of force in the physical, we think in terms of influence in the etheric.

There does not appear to be a direct one-to-one exchange of influence, but rather the expression of influence which changes perception. That is, my thinking of you causes my perception of you to change in some way. There is a cause and effect, but it is not equal and opposite as we think of it in the physical.

  1. The Principle of Gender.

Gender is in everything; everything has its masculine and feminine principles; Gender manifests on all planes.

Current versions of the Hermetica is full of reference to male and female aspects. But it does not fit well with my current understanding unless I rephrase the concept. So, instead of male and female, think in terms of two aspects of the Creative Process.12 This might be better understood as the process of formation in which potential (female) is expressed (male). This is consistent with Line 3 of the Emerald Tablet.

My Introduction to the Hermetic Concepts

thoughts-have-wingsOf course, I intended to be the first man on the moon, but it was in my teens that science clubs began to give way to curiosity about the nature of reality. Many of the science fiction books I had been reading had a strong metaphysical, magical sense that was complemented by such movies as The Wizard of Oz and my speculation about what it was really like over the rainbow.

The Rosicrucian’s “Thoughts have Wings”13 advertisements in the science magazines I read in my teens was sufficiently enticing for me to join and begin receiving their weekly discourses.


The Builders of the Adytum (BOTA)14 gave me much needed diversion from college study with a two-year course in the TAROT. They use the TAROT as a tool for teaching courses on the Ageless Wisdom of Sacred Tarot and Cabala.15 Their deck is a version of the 1910 Rider-Waite deck modified by Paul Foster Case.

Cabala, derived from the Hebrew root to receive, to accept, represents a system of thought based on the earliest teaching attributed to Hermes. As previously noted, the teachings have been considerably altered in later cultures up to its more or less formal establishment in the Middle Ages, beginning probably with the seventh century.

The Tarot

One final point of reference to help you understand the importance of Hermes’ contribution to (my) contemporary thought is the TAROT. While it is based on the Hermetica, it is so by way of centuries of reinterpretation and must be considered with discernment. Its value though, is that it embraces the spirit of the Great Work and much more that has been learned about human nature since the time of Hermes.

The Tarot is thought to be based on playing cards which have been adapted for use as a means of fortune telling. Occult versions of the cards began to show up in the 1300s. I use a version of the 1910 Rider-Waite deck modified by Paul Foster Case and used by Builders of the Adytum.14 It consists of 78 cards with 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana cards. Arcana from the Latin arcānum, means secret, or as it is used in the Tarot, specialized knowledge which is unknown to or misunderstood by the average person.

Tarot Tableau

While the Tarot is most commonly used for divination, in their occult use, the 22 Major Arcana, sometimes referred to as 22 Keys (keys to secret wisdom), represent the path to self-realization. Each card represents a step along the path beginning with Key 0, The Fool, which represents the person both at the beginning of the cycle of education as, … well, as a fool, and at the end of the cycle following key 21 as the now enlightened, … well, still a fool because the cycle is never ending.

Important to my point about the evolution of the Hermetic concept is that the keys can be arranged in three rows of seven with Key 0 set above. The first row represents powers or potencies, those in the middle row represent laws or agencies and those in the bottom row represent conditions or effects. For instance, Key 1, The Magician, (self-conscious phase of mental activity, intention) represents the power which works through the agency symbolized by Key 8, Strength, (authority over primal nature) to modify the conditions or effects typified by Key 15, The Devil, (erroneous belief in limitations).18

Each row represents a progression from relatively little self-awareness toward greater understanding. Every element has been designed to have significance in that progression, even down to the colors. The male and female figures typically represent an aspect of a person (perception and expression, not sex) and water always represents the essence of mind.

As an example of the secret meanings encoded into the keys, the Fool’s bag contains the same tools representing self-conscious phases of mental activity the Magician is working with on the table of Key 1. As the beginning of the cycle, the Fool is unaware of the tools, but then must have them out to see and feel in Key 1. However, after Key 21, the Fool represents the completed cycle and no longer needs to have the tools out to be able to work with them. He is master of them no matter where they are.

Note also the comparison between the three rows in the tableau and the three aspects of a teacher discussed earlier in this essay. The first row, powers or potencies, can be compared to fundamental organizing principles as the first aspect of the teacher. The second row, laws or agencies, can be compared to the application of the principles taught by the teacher as the second aspect. The third row, conditions or effects of the principles as they are applied, can be compared to the result of living in accordance with the principles of nature as the third aspect of the teacher.

Know me as I express the principle,
as I live the principles
and as I benefited from living the principles.

Resetting the Old Concepts

My first attempt to develop a metaphysical cosmology was the Handbook of Metaphysics.17 It provides a good overview which can be useful to the reader as context for understanding new metaphysical ideas. I tried very hard to normalize the many different perspectives as a single view, but found much disagreement amongst the various schools of thought. Even more problematic was the fact that so many systems of thought seemed to have originated from just a few original sources, themselves seemingly flawed.

As I have discussed above, the problem of cultural contamination makes it necessary for us to find a new, contemporary anchor on which to reset the old teachings. I have a great deal of respect for the Hermetica and the Tarot, but it is now time to refresh our perspective. The new book, Your Immortal Self,4 is what I believe to be a useful reset of the old concepts. It is also a leap forward from what we thought was true when I wrote the Handbook.

The take away I hope you will gain from this essay is that the ideas of our immortality and the need for our pursuit of understanding are fundamental lessons that have been given to us by our friends on the other side since the earliest days of civilization. These lessons have been refreshed many times by important wayshowers of all of the world’s religions. There is a reason for this which we will all do will to head


  1. Butler, Tom. “The Implicit Cosmology.” Etheric Studies. 2014.
  2. Crystal, Ellie. “Thoth.” Crystal Links.
  3. Malkowski, Edward. “Before The Pharaohs: The Evidence for Advanced Civilisation in Egypt’s Mysterious Prehistory.” New Dawn. 2013.
  4. Butler, Tom, Your Immortal Self, Exploring the Mindful Way, AA-EVP Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9727493-8-1, 2016,
  5. Grimes, Roberta. “How Gospel Analysis Can Be Combined with Afterlife Evidence and Traditional Science to Help Us Better Understand Consciousness.” The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies, Inc. 2013 Proceedings.
  6. “The Egyptians’ Ideas of God.” Book 4 of The Book of the Dead translated by E. A. Wallis Budge in 1895.
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  8. Butler, Tom. “The Razor’s Edge.” Etheric Studies. 2016.
  9. Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus. The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus. Translated by Everard. Printed by Robert White in 1650.  Internet Sacred Text Archive.
  10. Three Initiates. “The Kybalion.” Marja de
  11. Butler, Tom. Winter Solstice as a Parable for Progression, Etheric Studies, 2015,
  12. Butler, Tom. “The Creative Process.” Etheric Studies. 2014.
  13. The Rosicrucian Order. AMORC.
  14. Builders of the Adytum (BOTA) (Adytum is the Greek word for Inner Shrine or Holy of Holies).
  15. Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck. Internet Sacred Text Archive.
  16. Pick, Bernhard. “Chapter I. Name and Origin of The Cabala.” The Cabala: Its Influence on Judaism and Christianity. 1913. Internet Sacred Texts Archive.
  17. Butler, Tom. Handbook of Metaphysics. Christopher Publishing House, Hanover, Mass. 1994. ISBN: 0-8158-0485-7.
  18. Case, Paul Foster. “The Tarot: A key to the Wisdom of the Ages. Macoy Publishing Company. Richmond, Virginia. 1947. See: