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The Master Key is Mental Alchemy
on September 5, 2002
"One of the old Hermetic Masters wrote, long ages ago: `He who grasps the truth of the Mental Nature of the Universe is well advanced on The Path to Mastery.' And these words are as true today as at the time they were first written. Without this Master-Key, Mastery is impossible, and the student knocks in vain at the many doors of The Temple." This quote was taken from a book of Hermetic Philosophy called "The Kybalion" (pg. 28) which was published at the beginning of the 20th century and anonymously written by "Three Initiates" but is reputed to be authored or co-authored by William Walker Atkinson, one of the authors quoted by Haanel in his book "The Master Key System". As a 32-degree Mason, Mr. Haanel was certainly familiar with esoteric philosophy (incl. Hermeticism and Kabbalah) and a comparison between Haanel's book and "The Kybalion" will reveal many commonalities, including an exposition of the causal, magnetic and compensatory Law of Attraction (like attracts like). Haanel's maxim of "As Within, So Without" is reflective of the Hermetic "As Above, So Below" and those familiar with the Hindu Upanishads, some sacred writings of India, will see how this relates to the Hindu idea that atman is Brahman or, to use Haanel's terms, the individual ("below") is one with the Universal ("above"). Also, the Law of Attraction is reflective of the Law of Karma. The Master Key of the Kybalion is the same as the Master Key of Haanel's book. The Key is the understanding and practical application of Hermetic principles which are rooted in the foundational idea of the essential oneness of the individual and the Universal, Creative Source (which some call "God"). According to Haanel, when this truth is understood and appreciated, one "will have come into the possession of the Master-Key" (Week Twenty-Four: Alchemy, page 197). In the "Questions and Answers" section of Haanel's book, he doesn't really answer the question, "Is not the Master Key Idea of `God' Pantheistic?" He basically just asserts that "this depends entirely upon your idea of Pantheism." Like the Kybalion, Haanel's idea of God is more bi-polar and panentheistic (All in God, God in All) than pantheistic (All is God) and both use the Bible's New Testament reference which states: "In Him we live and move and have our being" (a quote from the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:28). Panentheism (a.k.a. Process Theism) gained in popularity in the 20th century after A. N. Whitehead's book "Process and Reality" was first published in 1929. Also, the New Thought Movement (of which Haanel is considered by some to be a part) has recently recognized the value of panentheism through the New Thoughters Anderson and Whitehouse. See their book "New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality" where they acknowledge that pantheism underlies much of classical New Thought but see the philosophical problems of it and recommend panentheism instead by promoting Process New Thought a la Whitehead.
Hannel is one among many authors that were inspired by the nineteenth century's growing interest in esoteric philosophy and practical mysticism that spread throughout Europe and America. Some of the individuals (R. W. Emerson, Thomas Troward, W.W. Atkinson, James Allen, etc.) referenced or quoted in Hannel's work reveal his influences and links to the broader inter-connected movements, including the Transcendental and New Thought Movements. The 19th century also saw the founding of both the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, notable occult groups that explored the metaphysical laws of the Universe and eventually contributed (along with the other movements) to the current so-called "New Age Movement" with its Neo-Paganism and modern "magic".
With all that aside, one doesn't have to be a pantheist or panentheist (I am neither) to appreciate some of Haanel's insights. God is indeed the Omni-Source of all power, and the power of the human mind (both the conscious and subconscious aspects) to influence one's perception of reality and even contribute to it (including psychosomatically) certainly needs to be taken seriously. Also, the importance of self-discipline to one's overall success in life should not be underestimated. Human responsibility is an important factor in the human situation as is education, and the application (including mental application via meditation), not just knowledge, is what will effect change for the better not only in one's habits but also in one's circumstances.