An Analysis of Possible Authors of The Kybalion

Adam J. Pearson posted an interesting paper: “Three Initiates” Unveiled: A Critical-Historical Analysis of 12 Proposed Candidates for Authorship of The Kybalion (1908).” It begins:

Published in 1908, The Kybalion: Hermetic Philosophy by the anonymous “Three Initiates” is undeniably one of the most famous and influential occult texts of all time. This holds true to the chagrin of many occultists who have rightfully questioned its invented frame narrative, divergences from classical Hermeticism, and spurious roots in an imaginary ancient text (Block, 2019; Chapel, 2013; Farrell, 2014). To this point, with his characteristic wit and humor, Sam Block (2019) went so far as to claim that “The Kybalion is a farcical waste of ink, paper, and time, and is not representative of Hermetic philosophy, instead being a work of New Thought dressed up in Egyptomaniacal cosplay. There’s literally everything else better to read than The Kybalion.”

As we shall see, the present study largely agrees with the substance of these critiques. In all fairness to The Kybalion’s faux-legendary origins, however, the legacy of Medieval and Renaissance grimoires attests to the fact that the tendency to attribute fictional origins to esoteric texts is so commonplace in the history of magic as to virtually be a staple of the genre. To offer some well-known examples of this trend, we note, for instance, that the Clavicula Salomonis was attributed to King Solomon, the Grimoire of Pope Honorius to the historical Pope, the Tuba Veneris to John Dee, The Heptameron to Peter d’Abano, and the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses and Sword of Moses to the biblical Moses despite these figures having nothing to do with their composition (Bailey, 2009; Bailey, 2017; “Dee,” 2001; Pearson, 2018; Peterson, 2005; Peterson, 2018; Skinner, 2013; Stratton-Kent, 2014). The authorial intent behind this fabrication of textual origins was likely to add authoritative weight and prestige to the grimoires so that they would be taken more seriously by the reader. Just as a “master’s guide to boxing” would tend to be taken more seriously if it was attributed to Muhammad Ali rather than revealed to be written by Bob from the local gym, such was the case for the grimoires.

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