Book Review: The Kybalion, by the Three Initiates

Updated: Oct 20

By: A. W. Finnegan #BookReview #Kybalion

The Kybalion Cover

The Kybalion is a great work of literature on the principles of Hermetic Philosophy, of which there are seven officially recognized principles or laws. If one is unfamiliar with Hermetic Philosophy, fear not, the following article will easily familiarize the reader. The book is not very long, easy to read understand. This book review will, like some of my last reviews, lay out the content, a brief summary of the content within each chapter, and afterwards, will come time to add my thoughts on the book and its content. That seems to be the most effective method for reviewing books for others.

So, with that said, let's lay out the chapters and give a brief summary of the content within them. The book is laid out in 15 chapters, first with an introduction to discuss the history of Hermetic philosophy and the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, which the Hermetic philosophy is named after. It then explains some of the philosophy itself, prerequisite concepts discussed within the Hermetic principles, and moves on to the Hermetic Laws themselves. The content is as follows:


The introduction to the book, it states that the three initiates bring through the Kybalion a Master Key in which many of the doors to the Mysteries may be opened. The Mystery Traditions hold essential qualities or inherent Truths, which are found within the book. The life work of Hermes Trismegistus, from whom the name Hermeticism was coined after, was said to have made his life work in the planting of the seed of Truth in the minds of others. It is also said that in each age there those few Initiates who keep the teachings of Hermes alive and its torch burning, to be passed to those who seek and undertake the study of the Mysteries. The quote of a poet is recalled about those few who keep this Torch of Truth burning, highlighting how few of the masses in any age have any significant degree of Care for Genuine Truth:

"O, let not the flame die out! Cherished age after age in its dark cavern-- in its holy temples cherished. Fed by pure ministers of love-- let not the flame die out!"

Chapter 01: Hermetic Philosophy.

The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding"

This chapter highlights the epicenter of knowledge in ancient Egypt, from which many other cultures and systems built from. It mentions that much of the storehouse of Wisdom within this period can be attributed to that of Hermes Trismegistus, the Father of Occult Wisdom, founder of Astrology, discoverer of Alchemy. His last name Trismegistus translates to the "thrice-Great" or the "Greatest of Great," and eventually he was deified into Hermes, the God of Wisdom. The idea of a hermetic philosophy, similar to hermetically sealed, implied that it was closely guarded for the true seekers of wisdom, who would be imparted the knowledge accordingly, rather than given to the masses who had no respect for genuine Truth.

With few reliable texts in existence on the Hermetic Principles, this chapter explains that the original teachings have been put back into the present work with essential qualities, to be readily accessible for the present-day seekers of Truth and Wisdom, from the original teachings of Hermes.

Chapter 02: Seven Hermetic Principles.

This chapter lays out the seven stated Hermetic Principles, or Universal Laws that make up the pillars of Hermetic Wisdom. Which are the following, which will certainly familiarize the reader with the Hermetic Philosophy:

I. The Principle of Mentalism

II. The Principle of Correspondence

III. The Principle of Vibration

IV. The Principle of Polarity

V. The Principle of Rhythm

VI. The Principle of Cause & Effect

VIII. The Principle of Gender

Chapter 03: Mental Transmutation.

"Mind (as well as metals and elements) may be transmuted, from state to state,; degree to degree; condition to condition; pole to pole; vibration to vibration. True Hermetic Transmutation is a Mental Art."

Mental transmutation states that we have the power to change our lower energies into higher and vice versa. Through applied self-awareness and tools of psychology, we are able to transmute our base desires into something productive, learn to have discipline and domain over them, rather than our emotions and base desires controlling us. The Kybalion describes in great detail how this works if studied and contemplated.

Chapter 04: The All.

"Under, and back of, the Universe of Time, Space and Change, is ever to be found The Substantial Reality --the Fundamental Truth."

The All is related as the essential substance underlying all things, which some call God, Goddess, the all-pervasive energy underlying all things. We are never separate from it. It underlies all and pervades the universe, and this chapter familiarizes the reader with the essential qualities of the All.

Chapter 05: The Mental Universe.

"The Universe is Mental--held in the Mind of THE ALL."

This chapter of the Kybalion reiterates the Truth that all things must originate in thought first, even before matter, it is thought, and thought causes manifestation. The Universal Creation is the result of thought within the All, that is, the essential underlying reality that makes its presence manifest into what we see as the physical Universe.

Chapter 06: The Divine Paradox.

This chapter can be concluded with the following quote:

"The half-wise, recognizing the comparative unreality of the Universe, imagine that they may defy its Laws-- such are vein and presumptuous fools, and they are broken against the rocks and torn asunder by the elements by reason of their folly. The truly wise, knowing the nature of the Universe, use Law against laws: the higher against the lower; and by the Art of Alchemy transmute that which is undesirable into that which is worthy, and thus triumph. Mastery consists not in abnormal dreams visions and fantastic imaginings or living, but in using the higher forces against the lower--escaping the pains of the lower planes by vibrating on the higher. Transmutation, not presumptuous denial, is the weapon of the Master."

Chapter 07: "The All" in All.

"While All is in THE ALL, it is equally true that THE ALL is in ALL. To him who truly understands this truth hath great knowledge."

This is discussion on the nature of the All, that the same essential qualities are pervasive in everything, both physically and in mind. The underlying essence is in all. When one suffers, all suffer.

Chapter 08: Planes of Correspondence.

"As above, so below, as below, so above"

The makeup of the smaller is but a protege of the larger, for example, a plant branch snipped and put into soil and watered will root, and become a smaller version of the larger whole, yet, it is not just in physical terms that this applies, but in other, metaphorical senses, this can also ring true. The human mind is but a mini version of the All, like a seed growing in the same likeness as its parent. Just as Each planet is comparable to a miniature universe, the contents are reflected in the smaller, from the larger, and vice versa.

This is building off the laws of the prior chapter 07 of the Kybalion, but goes further to explain that the underlying code within the larger is also within the smaller. It is all built on the same foundation in essential qualities. That which is in the higher is also found in the lower, and vice versa. The Universe is divided into 3 Great Planes, they are:

  1. The Great Physical Plane

  2. The Great Mental Plane

  3. The Great Spiritual Plane

There are also subdivisions within each, usually of 7 in number and they are further explained within this chapter.

Chapter 09: Vibration.

"Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates."

This chapter of the Kybalion explains in more detail the tenets of the third Law of Hermetic Principles, thatall things are in constant motion and vibration, and the differences between them are in rate of vibration. Even in the mental and spiritual plane this is true.

Chapter 10: 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 Law of Polarity is the law of duality, all things have an opposite. That which we term good has an equal opposite called evil. Light has an opposite in darkness. However, the world is not just in black and white, there are all shades of grey between it, which reconcile the two.

Chapter 11: 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."

The principle of rhythm is in some respects like that of vibration, as a fluctuation of vibration working with Time. That is to say, there is a motion, or pattern of change within the vibration over time, where energy rises and falls, flourishes and decays. The human breath is a continuous motion of inhaling and exhaling, just as the heart is a continuous rhythm of expanding and contracting.

Chapter 12: Causation.

"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"

The Law of Cause and Effect is a Law which holds so much relevance in today’s day and age, just as it did throughout the Ages. Our actions have consequences, whether desired or detested. The rule here shows us that all things have a causality, nothing is truly random, and those that seem it, are but more intricate laws of causality unknown to us.

Chapter 13: Gender.

"Gender is in everything; everything has its Masculine and Feminine Principles; Gender manifests on all planes"

The Law of Gender is a concept that closely resembles that of Polarity, being that it is one aspect of it. The Law of Gender states that all beings contain within them a masculine and feminine principle. This has nothing whatsoever to do with physical traits, but rather, passive and active traits. The feminine side is ‘passive’ like the subconscious mind, a plane of emotion and thought. The masculine side is the active force.

Chapter 14: Mental Gender.

This chapter goes further into the preceding chapter on the mental side of the gender aspects, as in objective mind and subjective mind. The voluntary mind and involuntary mind, and breaks down the most basic idea of "I Am" and goes on to talk about the three-fold nature of man, and the feminine mind as being unrealized potential to be drawn from, to manifest his actions and impressions on others through the masculine mind.

Chapter 15: Hermetic Axioms.

The book ends with many of the following Hermetic Axioms in which is further explained in the book:

'The possession of Knowledge, unless accompanied by a manifestation and expression in Action, is like the hoarding of precious metals-a vain and foolish thing. Knowledge, like wealth, is intended for Use. The Law of Use is Universal, and he who violates it suffers by reason of his conflict with natural forces."

'To change your mood or mental state-change your vibration."

"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."

"Mind (as well as metals and elements) may be transmuted from state to state degree to degree. condition to condition pole to pole; vibration to vibration."

"Rhythm may be neutralized by an application of the Art of Polarization."

"Nothing escapes the Principle of Cause and Effect, but there are many Planes of Causation, and one may use the laws of the higher to overcome the laws of the lower."

"The wise ones serve on the higher, but rule on the lower. They obey the laws coming from above them, But on their own plane, and those below them they rule and give orders. And, yet, in so doing, they form a part of the Principle, instead of opposing it. The wise man falls in with the Law, and by understanding its movements he operates it instead of being its blind slave. Just as does the skilled swimmer turn this way and that way, going and coming as he will, instead of being as the log which is carried here and there-so is the wise man as compared to the ordinary man-and yet both swimmer and log; wise man and fool, are subject to Law. He who understands this is well on the road to Mastery"

"True Hermetic Transmutation is a Mental Art."

"THE ALL is MIND; The Universe is Mental."

Afterthought and Analysis

I very much enjoyed and appreciate the words within this book (unlike a lot of the last few book reviews I did, by psychopaths like Jonas Salk, Edward Bernays, and Michael Aquino). I love this style of Occultism and how it is written, it reminds me of one of my favorite Occult writers, Manly P. Hall, and this style calls you in because it stretches the mind to wonder and pulls you into its alluring Mystery, and that’s part of the process of initiation, that the contemplation of the Mystery itself has a magnetizing quality, it pulls you in, because that which is mysterious makes one curious to know more. And it is in this nature that leads us to the Path that Never Ends, that is Truth. Once you start, you never want to stop contemplating its Mystery, and through this study, you learn to master your lower natures and as the self-awareness grows, your understanding of the Mystery grows, and this is the process in the Path of the True Initiate described in the Kybalion...

Highly recommend the Kybalion to any serious student of Occult science....

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