Hermeticism - a philosophy or a religion?

Is hermeticism compatible or incompatible with catholicism?
I know many christians that believe they are compatible but i’ve never heard the catholic perspective on this matter.

The house of Medici was deeply involved in the funding of translations of the great hermetic works that came from Byzantium and the utmost priority was laid to the translation of the Corpus Hermeticum.

The freemasons for example incorporate alot of hermetic teachings and I know the catholic church forbids its members ti be initiated into a masonic order.

Some of the theologians that separated from the catholic church after the reformation also promulgated a form of hermetical christianity, such as Johann Valentin Andreae or Robert Fludd.

There are those that argue that the rejection of hermeticism for the aristotlean rationality set the ultimate course for western civilization to ultimately reach it’s state of complete materialism and the decline of christianity and I believe they might have a point ( rossbishop.com/blog/2013/03/14/hermeticism-a-short-history/ )

But what’s the position of the catholic church regarding hermeticism these days?

  • “The Principles of Truth are Seven; he who knows these,
    understandingly, possesses the Magic Key before whose
    touch all the Doors of the Temple fly open.” - The Kybalion*


Hermeticism, also called Hermetism, is a religious and philosophical tradition based primarily upon pseudepigraphical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (“Thrice Great”). These writings have greatly influenced the Western esoteric tradition and were considered to be of great importance during both the Renaissance and the Reformation. The tradition claims descent from a prisca theologia, a doctrine which affirms that a single, true theology exists which is present in all religions and was given by God to man in antiquity.

The Seven Hermetic Principles, upon which the entire Hermetic Philosophy is based, are as follows::

I. The Principle of Mentalism.

  • “THE ALL IS MIND; The Universe is Mental.” - The Kybalion.*

II. The Principle of Correspondence.

  • “As above, so below; as below, so above.” - The Kybalion.*

III. The Principle of Vibration.
“Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.” - The Kybalion.

IV. 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 Kybalion.*

V. 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.” - The Kybalion.*

VI. 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.” - The Kybalion.*

VII. The Principle of Gender.

  • “Gender is in everything; everything has its Masculine
    and Feminine Principles; Gender manifests on all
    planes.” - The Kybalion.*


According to wikipedia, Hermeticism believes in reincarnation, something that the Church does not, so it doesn’t seem to be compatible.

I’d have to do some research to provide you with a definitive answer, but a couple things from your post make me suspect hermeticism, whether a philosophy or a religion, is not compatible with Catholicism, especially as it was practiced by Free Masons, masonry being condemned by the Church. From your description, hermeticism seems to teach that the true religion is hidden inside the religions of the world. Catholicism has always rejected the idea that there is a true esoteric religion for the initiated and a false exoteric religion for the masses.

Yes and no. Many who adhere to hermeticism believe in the reincarnation of the soul and some hermetic texts mention it, but it’s not a part of the 7 principles of hermeticism, only a logical conclusion (according to some) of the hermeticall principles.
So it’s not a requirement to have faith in reincarnation just because you are a hermeticist. The italian catholic and traditionalist thinker of the 1900’s Julius Evola was one who allegedly rejected the idea of reincarnation but could be called a hermeticist philosophically, although he was a catholic.

Hermeticism contains no dogmas as such but is built on the above named 7 principles.

Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake during the renaissance for his wild heretical theories inspired by hermeticism like his belief that all religions are different paths toward God, so I know the church once upon a time had a difficult relationship with the philosophy.

Yet church fathers such as St Clement and Origen of Alexandria was obviously utilizing or at least inspired by pre-christian hermetical ideas for developing christian thought, although Origen was condemned by the later Ceasar’s and hierarchs because he believed in the pre-existence of the soul with God and that in the end every single thing in the universe will be saved and return to the source.

I personally believe that Origen was the greatest philosopher of early christianity

The Church still condemns this belief, it is incompatible with Christianity. See Lumen Gentium paragraphs 15 and 16.

These teachings are also still condemned by the Church.

If hermeticism leads to the condemned thoughts of Origen, the heresies of Bruno, and the beliefs of the Free Masons it seems likely hermeticism is not compatible with Catholicism.

Ultimately, Catholicism is a worldview in and of itself. We can use various philosophical methods to better explain the truths of Catholicism, but if we put some other worldview (eg hermeticism) above Catholicism and try to interpret Catholicism through that lens we are bound to fall into error.

IV. 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 Kybalion.

I had never heard of Hermeticism before but the IV priciple you mentioned seems a lot like Dualism or Arianism. Catholocism believes that God is good and there is no dual evil god and that good and evil are fundementally different not identical in nature as the above principle states. Also as Catholics we believe there is ultimate Truth in Jesus and that this is not a half truth. For this reason I would assume Hermeticism is contrary to Catholic beliefs.

I found this information on the USCCB.org web site while researching forms of consecrated life

"Eremetic Life

  1. Without always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits “devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.”
  2. They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One"



The principle of duality applies to creation, but ultimately everything comes from “The All” in which there is no duality.
The principle of dualism accurately describes things such as: male / female, plus / minus, heat / cold, birth / death, creation / destruction, happiness / sadness etc. They are not 2 separate entities or things but simply one extreme of the same nature as the opposite extreme;

*The Hermetic Teachings are to the effect that the difference between things seemingly diametrically opposed to each other is merely a matter of degree. It teaches that “the pairs of opposites may be reconciled,” and that “thesis and anti-thesis are identical in nature, but different in degree”; and that the “universal reconciliation of opposites” is effected by a recognition of this Principle of Polarity. The teachers claim that illustrations of this Principle may be had on every hand, and from an examination into the real nature of anything. They begin by showing that Spirit and Matter are but the two poles of the same thing, the intermediate planes being merely degrees of vibration. They show that THE ALL and The Many are the same, the difference being merely a matter of degree of Mental Manifestation. Thus the LAW and Laws are the two opposite poles of one thing. Likewise, PRINCIPLE and Principles. Infinite Mind and finite minds.

And it is this fact that enables the Hermetist to transmute one mental state into another, along the lines of Polarization. Things belonging to different classes cannot be transmuted into each other, but things of the same class may be changed, that is, may have their polarity changed. Thus Love never becomes East or West, or Red or Violet-but it may and often does turn into Hate and likewise Hate may be transformed into Love, by changing its polarity. Courage may be transmuted into Fear, and the reverse. Hard things may be rendered Soft. Dull things become Sharp. Hot things become Cold. And so on, the transmutation always being between things of the same kind of different degrees. Take the case of a Fearful man. By raising his mental vibrations along the line of Fear- Courage, he can be filled with the highest degree of Courage and Fearlessness. And, likewise, the Slothful man may change himself into an Active, Energetic individual simply by polarizing along the lines of the desired quality.* - The Kybalion ( sacred-texts.com/eso/kyb/kyb12.htm )

Hermeticism is ultimately monistic because the dualism as explained in the principle of polarity is that of degrees of what in the ultimate reality is One. In hermeticism, evil is a lack of good.

Catholicism and orthodox christianity seems to me to be a truly dualistic philosopy because christianity explains that there exists a separate source for all Evil; that Evil is not just the lack of good but is being actively “produced” by a creation of God, that is not controlled by God.

Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote in the foreword to “Meditations on the Tarot”:

A thinking, praying Christian of unmistakable purity reveals to us the symbols of Christian Hermeticism in its various levels of mysticism, gnosis and magic, taking in also the Cabbala and certain elements of astrology and alchemy. These symbols are summarised in the twenty-two so-called “Major Arcana” of the Tarot cards. By way of the Major Arcana the author seeks to lead meditatively into the deeper, all-embracing wisdom of the Catholic Mystery. Firstly, it may be recalled that such an attempt is to be found nowhere in the history of philosophical, theological and Catholic thought.

And since I’ve read some of the things that were produced at Vatican 2 it seems to me that catholicism today does not claim that **all **other humans are eternally damned, except for those catholics, but recognize that there can exist that which is Holy and Good within other religions. This is by itself radically different from earlier notions in which all people, “christian” or “non-christian”, was lost.

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