Whenever someone asks what the most important lesson of Hermeticism is, the answer is universal: know thyself. There are, of course, many other lessons to be gleaned from Hermetic philosophy, but most of them boil down to this one thing. Knowledge of self is the knowledge of the universe. More than that, it is knowledge of the Divine. The Principle of Correspondence is found in all Heremtic texts and highlighted in the Emerald Tablet (600-800 C.E.). It states, “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below…” More succinctly it’s often phrased, “As Above so Below.” I’ve heard the second phrasing often in my studies, typically in Wiccan and Neo-Pagan circles, but I must confess that I really didn’t have a firm grasp of what that meant. I thought of it more in terms of a metaphorical understanding of how the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. Until I began my study of Hermeticism, I didn’t grasp the significance of how the Divine Mind is reflected in the mind of all self-aware beings.
I also didn’t grasp how trying and grueling it is to go through the self-discovery process. I had to learn how to dig in the dirt of my past and to mentally confront what I found. I had to learn how to analyze my thoughts and to observe my analysis. I had to learn how to form many thoughts on what I found and to select those that served me and let go of the ones that didn’t. I had to learn what actually served me versus what I merely liked or found pleasing. I had to learn how to listen to my heart when it spoke truth to me and not brush it off as I have so often in the past. I had to learn that my intuition is real and it deserves my attention. I had to unlearn all that I have learned before and look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes and an open mind. It is exhausting, heartbreaking, confusing, illuminating, freeing, gut-wrenching, and ultimately the best thing I’ve ever done. But I acknowledge that it is an on-going process and there are tougher things ahead.
When one opts for the red pill, they don’t usually know what they’re really asking for in the end. We all want to believe that we’d have the courage opt for the red pill over the blue, but there is no end to the illusions that burst when one swallows the red one. I’m not sure I would have chosen it had I known what it’d really be like. What I found, is that once I really dug in and went there, I couldn’t find any refuge from the crumbling of illusions. Not the societal manufacture ones and definitely not the illusions I created for myself. I found my own created comfort illusions were as numerous as the comfort foods I stocked up on in case of panic. I could probably match a comfort illusion with a comfort snack to coordinate the anesthetization process of my brain.
Finding out the extent of my self-created illusions was more difficult for me than the societal ones. While those are bad, I’ve always had a healthy distrust for what I’ve been told by authority figures and institutions. While I wasn’t always aware of being duped, I can’t think of a time when it actually shocked me to discover that I was being duped. Angered and saddened, but not shocked. But how often I did it to myself was shocking to me. I’ve made a lot of life changes based on my discoveries in 2018. Each one has been mentally exhausting, but necessary.
How does this relate to the Principle of Correspondence? Well, when all the clutter is cleared and one learns how to think and how to process information into personal knowledge about themselves and the world, one begins to know God. We can learn to know God because we were created with minds in God’s own likeness. As Above, so Below. Within our own minds the universe exists. As God created the universe and all that is in it, so too can we create a universe in our own minds. The ability is there if we break out of all the illusions that society imposes on us, but more importantly, the illusions we impose on ourselves that keeps us from breaking through and recognizing the Divine presence that exists inside of each of us. We are not God, but we are Godly and made of Divine Godstuff. We have access to this power if we want it. But we must work for it. To say that it is difficult is to understate the case, especially in the modern world where we tend to either reject the very idea of Divinity or we think that every opinion we hold is of value and worth without the process of discernment.
The Principle of Mentalism in Hermetic philosophy is the notion that all that exists is a product of the One Mind. Put another way, the universe and everything in it is a physical manifestation of the Thought of God (Logos). The physical universe didn’t give rise to consciousness, it’s the other way around. The universe is inherently ordered by the Mind of God and operates on physical laws. As the universe is ordered and unfolds according to these laws, so does everything in it. Our minds, then, operate as microcosms of the One Mind. When we know ourselves as we truly are, stripped of ego and accumulated illusions, we know God. Not in the afterlife, but in the here and now.
This is not the easy road. It is on-going and there are many stumbling blocks along the way. I have to tell myself to keep going up that hill when often times I want to get off and find a dark corner with a giant bowl of ice cream. The past two weeks have been this way for me. I didn’t want to write this. I haven’t wanted to study. I didn’t want to think about how I’ve been telling myself a lot of comfort lies to get through the day. But the heart of the matter is this: I can’t go back. Once illusions are stripped, they’re stripped. I don’t want more in their place. While I haven’t been writing, I’ve managed to keep reading, and more important than that, to meditate. I still need to learn to not give myself a hard time when I reach a difficult patch, but I’m still on the path. I getting there.