The Hermetic Axiom and The Secret

I want to thank all those who came up to the plate to explain to me how they would explain my questions about The Secret. It turns out they were almost unanimous. The way to understand ‘The Secret’ or ‘The Law of Attraction’ is that it says – with a new twist on the Hermetic Axiom – as within, so without. I’ll go into why this is a somewhat new twist later.

The Hermetic axiom does say ‘as within, so without’. In the law of attraction this is said to mean that what we have inside us will manifest outside. Internal conflict will cause conflict in our personal lives. Abundance on the inside will give us abundance in our physical lives as well. The key is, so my commentators agree, to find inner peace or balance: the outside will take care of itself (the assumption seems to be that a person who is at peace on the inside is more productive on the outside). Some of the people commenting say that the law of attraction isn’t about money at all, though they understand why I would come to that conclusion.

The traditional interpretation of the Hermetic Axiom is holistic. The Emerald tablet says:

What is below is like that which is above. [about the source of the hermetic axiom]

Or in the words of the Bowen text about studying Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine (this text is attributed to Blavatsky):

As is the Inner, so is the Outer;
as is the Great so is the Small;
as it is above, so it is below;
there is but One Life and Law;
and he that worketh it is ONE.
Nothing is Inner, nothing is Outer;
nothing is Great, nothing is Small;
nothing is High, nothing is Low, in the Divine Economy.

This is exemplified for instance in what Confucius said about peace:

To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order;
to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order;
to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life;
and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.
Confucius (also known as K’ung-fu-tzu, master Kung or Kǒng Fūzǐ)

This type of hermetic thinking was quite usual in the ancient world. It’s known in India as well. Traditionally it also explains practices like astrology, alchemy and healing.

In astrology the direction is usually seen as starting with the universe (the stars) impacting the lives of nations, kings and individuals. The forces of the stars determine the potentials in the lives of people. This can work on the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual levels – depending in part on the ways in which the individual decides to deal with these forces.

In healing the idea has traditionally been that the source of illness is to be found in lack of harmony. This lack of harmony can be in the family life for instance, in diet, or in climate. Traditional solutions include meditation, herbs, tonics and talismans.

The main theme in traditional Hermeticism is harmony. Harmony between people will bring health. Harmony in the family follows harmony in the soul. Harmony in the country follows harmony in the home and so forth.

Wealth as an object hardly seems to be part of the picture. In premodern interpretations the individual is not the main object of discussion. There is always a preoccupation with the relationship between the individual and the whole. That whole can be the nation, the family or the universe – and all these are interconnected.

The contrast with the tradition of the law of attraction is, I hope, clear. It focusses on the individual. Individual peace of mind will bring happiness. The needs of the community, the nation, the world aren’t mentioned – probably not thought about. This context does get mentioned as an instrument. Give and you will receive – it’s clear that most of this giving happens in the neighbourhood, or to good causes, or by recycling or whatever.

I am glad the people commenting here agree that if giving isn’t done from a place of authentic generosity, it’s not a spiritual practice (though still better than not giving at all). Still that aspect of it gets stressed a lot. In fact, I plead guilty: I tend to write like that in other forums as well.

It is simply true in a social sense. One cannot expect to receive unless one gives. But that doesn’t make poor uneducated people rich. Poor uneducated people generally have less to give. This means less is expected of them spiritually, but it also means on a social level that wealth is not very likely to come their way (though some exceptions win the lotery or get help from tv-programs).

Alright, I think I now understand ‘the secret’ and ‘the law of attraction’ reasonably well. Do you all agree?

3 thoughts on “The Hermetic Axiom and The Secret”

  1. I agree with what you’ve written here. It watched The Secret and I noticed a definite focus on the individual; there were many testimonials from people who had used The Secret to manifest abundance, but there was no attention paid to where that abundance came from. It was said that the Secret would clear a path for the abundance to come to you, a quiet admission that the abundance is already present in the world, somewhere; but it went no farther. Where abundance comes from matters, though. What is not acknowledged is that there is a limited supply of abundance in the world, and to use The Secret to attract it without any consideration of that fact is to presume that one is more deserving of it than one who does not know The Secret; there is the attitude of, “It’s there, I will take it.”

    You mentioned that some people who are not quite so affluent may win the lottery; that would be a great turn of fortune, but sadly, many who win the lottery wind up broke very quickly. They receive a vast sum of money, but treat it no differently than they already treat their own money. Rather than conserve or even cultivate it, they squander it. This highlights the fact that no matter what, we cannot escape ourselves; even in the wake of great fortune, our outer circumstances will eventually reflect our inner circumstances.

  2. The so-called Law of Attraction is indeed intimately linked to the Laws of Karma and Balance (which I reckon is what you mean by the ‘harmony’ of Hermeticism), which operate in/as the Unified Consciousness Field with cause-effect properties that act much like electro-magnetics (Blavatsky’s, The Secret Doctrine). Thus, the abundance that one receives under the Law of Attraction must be taken from another under not-so-much-talked-about Law of Balance. Fine.

    But how does the LOA and Karma explain the suffering in the world? The Karrmic transaction seems too unbalanced to fit the definition of ‘Law,’ which should apply universally. Something is amiss.

    LOA is the epitome of enlightened self-interest which does not take in account the simple common sense point of ‘what is the best for all? Blavatsky (and before her, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby in a letter dated March, 1860) explained the LOA in ‘scientific’ terms in attempting to work out a schematic of the Divine Plan. The Law has been described and decoded many times throughout the centuries. John Dee believed that alchemy, ‘Angel-Magic’ and the divine nature of mathematics held the key to existence. Hermeticism, with its ancient origins in magic, astrology, wisdom and knowledge – was used in the same selfish way as the proponents of the modern LOA – empowerment.

    Blavatsky claimed her info came from Mahatmas who were guardians of the Divine Plan. If this is true, then there is something sinister going on in the so-called ‘spiritual realms,’ because their ‘wisdom’ has done doodley-squat in sorting out this world. Reminds me of ‘The Matrix’ movie more than ‘The Secret.’

    As above, so below…

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Well no, karma is not part of the traditional hermeticism, which is what I was talking about here. Traditional hermeticism has as a main law ‘as above, so below’. Taken on the level of universal thought, the below is the individual who wants something – the universal reflecting that. But ONLY, in the best LOA teachings anyhow, when it’s right FOR the whole.

    I agree on your general point though: that most of those who talk about the LOA forget about the ‘it has to reflect what’s best for everybody’ part, and only focus on the ‘abundance’ here and now. And they usually simply mean abundance of physical stuff.

    However, the gratitude teachings in The Secret ARE spiritually sound I think and do balance the worst selfishness that might otherwise be generated by these teachings.

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