Still from The Kybalion film (2022), shot on location in Egypt.

The Kybalion and the Importance of Religious Novelty

The early 20th century occult classic is neither “real” nor “fake” Hermeticism. That framing misinterprets how ideas endure.

Mitch Horowitz
27 min readAug 22, 2022

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This article is adapted from a talk I delivered at Masonic Con at the South Pasadena Masonic Lodge on July 23, 2022.

“Truth embodied in a tale shall enter in at lowly doors.” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850)

Freemasonry produces an extraordinary crop of scholars and historians of esotericism from within its own ranks. Based on everything I have seen traveling the country these past several years, lockdown permitting, I would say that probably no other private or spiritual organization in modern life has developed from within its own organization such quality in terms of writing, scholarship, and historicism.

And that is uniquely important because I often say that if you do not write your own history, it gets written for you. And it may get written by people who have no understanding of the values that emanate from the ideas and structures you embrace. That motivated me to write my first book Occult America in 2009.

If you do not write your own history, it gets written for you.

We simply cannot allow the esoteric tradition in the West to wither for lack of understanding or proper contextualization. The stakes are too high because, to stay with the example of Freemasonry — and this is one of the distinctive features of how Masonry interacts with the outer world — the organization has, I believe, done more than any other private group in recent history to ensure the protection of the individual search for meaning.

Masonry enshrines within its lodges, structures, and principles the value of radical ecumenism and the individual search for meaning — and that historical role should always be remembered. The preservation of the search is vitally important in a more than personal sense. Despite all the divisions in the United States today — and they are profoundly serious and none of us know their endpoint — I’ve always felt that so long as the individual search is protected, we as a society will make it. Our civilization will…

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Mitch Horowitz

"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China