The Mysterious Kybalion
January 13, 2011
By Richard Smoley
People who have spent time grazing in metaphysical bookshops may have come across a mysterious volume called The Kybalion, written by “Three Initiates” and first issued by the Yogi Publication Society of Chicago in 1908.
The most familiar edition is a plain volume bound in blue cloth and stamped with gold, in a format like those of other books from the same publisher, including various works on yoga by one Swami Ramacharaka.
The Kybalion claims to be a brief introduction to a mystical tradition that has survived from antiquity. The core of the work is a series of aphorisms that, the authors contend, go back to the “early days” and were “passed on from teacher to student,…the exact signification and meaning of the terms having been lost for several centuries.”
The word, taken at face value, looks vaguely Greek, but it has no meaning in this language (the closest Greek word to it, curiously, is kybeia, meaning “dice game” or “trickery”). It is also tempting to connect this work with the Jewish mystical tradition known as the Kabbalah, but as a matter of fact the Kabbalah is never mentioned in The Kybalion.
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