Since we are dealing with the so-called Hermetic principles we should probably start by asking: what is a principle? The word derives from principia meaning source or origin. However a principle is also considered to be a law, and sometimes the Hermetic Principles (perhaps erroneously) are referred to as laws.
It is generally considered that laws are causal to physical phenomena; like the laws of physics that govern nature. Extending this to the Hermetic principles, it could be argued that there are seven fundamental laws that determine what happens in the physical universe. Should one proceed with this common misconception from the outset, it may turn out to be catastrophic for a neophyte investing hours of study and contemplation.
If we take the law of gravity as an example, then what would be the cause of an apple falling on someone’s head? Is it gravity; or is it the mass of the earth? One is conceptual and invisible; the other real and visible. What even is a cause? The idea of cause suggests a separation from the effect that it causes; but this is another questionable assumption that has been explored earlier in A Cause for Every Effect.
The law of gravity can be considered to be co-existent with the phenomenon of gravity, neither one being the cause of the other. There is no separation between the two.
And so it is with the seven Hermetic principles. They are not the source code (to use a simulation analogy) of reality. Nor are they explanations for physical phenomena. Explanations numb the mind; they render reality onto a cardboard cutout image that is then taken for the real thing. As such, any notion of ‘karma’ as a system of cause and effect actuated by invisible natural laws should be handled with care. The word ‘karma’ is at best a metaphor that we can utilize consciously to convey something that it is not (the definition of metaphor); and at worst it is a tool for unconscious self-delusion.
So it might be more efficient to view principles as symbols that depict the dyanmic quality of physical phenomena. Like a deep ocean with its strong undercurrents might depict the unfathomable human subconscious. A depiction is not a cause. It is a representation of something; or better still, dropping the ‘re’ – it is a presentation of it.
The principles as symbols are essentially not different to the Roman gods that would participate in the affairs of men under the disguise of mortal beings; never actually as themselves.
The neophyte should be wary of imagining himself as a would-be-master or ‘tinkerer’ of the seven laws. This is a pitfall. The individual is not an entity existing outside of these laws looking in; if that were the case then we would need an eighth principle. The individual IS the seven laws, in the microcosm. The difficulty in dissociating from the idea of being a separate identity is directly related to the persisting notion that there are unmovable pillars of truth that create reality.
As if these principles are somehow chugging away in a virtual engine room behind a veil that no one can see. There are no such pillars; it is just a metaphor. But a dangerous metaphor that can too easily be taken for ‘objective truth’. The self-imposed certainty that such pillars do objectively exist establishes a rigid sense of self that in turn augments the belief; ad infinitum.
The instant we make any assertion about nature – such as nature being in flux – we are also asserting ourselves as being separate to nature. Nature is flexible; the statement about it is not. This should not necessarily be avoided but made with mindfulness at least. Like a wave that appears from the vast ocean and then morphs back into it, so the assertion of something creates its own form and then left to dissolve.
Principles as we are led to perceive them are actually inhibitors of flow. They short circuit the flow of thought. Whereas the seven rings of the seed of life are arranged so that flow is facilitated not impeded.
One might ask: how does one let go of these ingrained beliefs that inhibit flow? To understand something theoretically is not the same as being it.
There is no method; it has nothing to do with personal will. One identifies with what one sees; that is an unavoidable fact. Seeing brings about its own intensity; and reality by its own accord is attracted into this intensity where it begins to blossom.