The Kybalion: A Study of The Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece was published in 1908 and claimed to contain the essence of the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus (Hermeticism). Many of the ideas in the Kybalion are actually modern concepts found in the New Thought movement.
The Kybalion is credited to the authorship of “Three Initiates” who chose to remain anonymous. As such, there is only speculation about who the actual authors of the book really are.
The following people are commonly suggested as authors, either alone, or working together:
William Walker Atkinson. He was known to use various pseudonyms was the owner of the “Yogi Publication Society of Chicago” who published The Kybalion. He was known to have self published various other works. The main evidence is that he had earlier published a series entitled The Arcane Teachings, which has some similarities to The Kybalion. For example, while The Kybalion examines seven “Hermetic Principles”, The Arcane Teachings explores seven “Arcane Laws”. Likewise, The Kybalion is said to be an elucidation of an ancient, unpublished Hermetic text called The Kybalion, and The Arcane Teachings claims to reveal the wisdom of an ancient, unpublished scroll of occult aphorisms. Both books describe the three “Great Planes” of reality which are subdivided into the seven lesser planes and the also both describe three of the lesser planes as “astral black keys” analogous to the black keys on a piano, and inhabited by elemental spirits. Further, both of these books describe a process of “Mental Alchemy” which are almost in complete agreement with each other.
Paul Foster Case, Michael Whitty and Charles Atkins, (chiefs of the Thoth Hermes temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn). It is often claimed, sometimes by members of the Builders of the Adytum, that Case was one of the authors of The Kybalion. The Fraternity of Hidden Light are likely the originators of this claim. Case was certainly a notable author of this period of time, and had a good knowledge of the concepts and principles outlined in The Kybalion. The first seven lessons from the Builders of the Adytum study course talk of similar concepts to The Kybalion. The lessons were originally written by Paul Foster Case, and later additional information was added by Ann Davies. It is impossible to tell if The Kybalion influenced the lessons, or offers evidence that Case (or Davies) were involved in writing The Kybalion.
Other people suggested to be co-authors of The Kybalion include: Harriet Case (Paul Foster Case was her husband at the time The Kybalion was written), Ann Davies (who was the head of B.O.T.A. after Paul Foster Case), Mabel Collins (a Theosophical writer), Claude Bragdon (a writer on “mystic geometry” and a known Theosophist), and Claude Alexander (a stage magician, mentalist, proponent of crystal gazing, and New Thought author).
Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, is referenced in The Kybalion, and is said to have shown a good understanding of Hermetic Principles. Spencer is said to have been a reincarnation of a 5th Century BCE Greek philosopher, Heraclitus.
Thomson Jay Hudson, a psychical researcher is mentioned in the chapter on Mental Gender. Hudson formulated the Three Laws of Psychic Phenomena, which was published in 1893. He is well known for his theories of the subjective and objective mind.
Hudson’s three laws are as follows:
- Man has two minds: the objective mind (conscious) and the subjective mind (subconscious).
- The subjective mind is constantly amenable to control by suggestion.
- The subjective mind is incapable of inductive reasoning.
William Walker Atkinson, influential in the New Thought Movement, and credited with authorship with The Arcane Teachings. If The Kybalion was not written by Atkinson or adapted from the The Arcane Teachings, then it would appear likely that this series was influential in the development and philosophy of The Kybalion.
Rama Prasad, a Theosophist and author of the classic book Nature’s Finer Forces, published 1894, may have had some influence on the Kybalion, if for no other reason that The Kybalion’s author choosing to mention the use of the term “Nature’s Finer Forces” when talking of seven sub-planes of the Plane of Energy.
Hermes Trismegistus, perhaps only a mythical influence. The Kybalion has many influences from Hermetic Philosophy. The Kybalion uses the Hermetic Axiom “As above, so below; as below, so above” which is found in the Emerald Tablet.
Divine Magic: The Seven Sacred Secrets of Manifestation by Doreen Virtue, Ph.D. This book claims to present a more modern version of The Kybalion and includes a companion meditation CD. The author claims that one can learn to master one’s moods, release negativity, manifest “higher levels of abundance”, and attract new opportunities into one’s life with the aid of the teachings of The Kybalion. This is similar to the Law of Attraction popularly marketed as The Secret (book and movie). It is no surprise that William Walker Atkinson, a possible author of The Kybalion also wrote a book in 1906 entitled Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World.
Summum, an esoteric organization. This group rewrote The Kybalion to incorporate the Principle of Creation, which they claim to be the grand principle underlying the existence of The ALL, and the source from which the previously detailed seven Principles emanate.