Chapter X — Polarity
"Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled." — The Kybalion
The great Fourth Hermetic Principle — the Principle of Polarity — embodies the truth that all manifested things have two sides, two aspects, two poles, or a pair of opposites with manifold degrees between the two extremes. The old paradoxes, which have ever perplexed the minds of men, are explained by an understanding of this Principle. Man has always recognised something akin to this Principle and has endeavoured to express it by such sayings, maxims and aphorisms as the following: "Everything is and isn't, at the same time"; "all truths are but half-truths"; "every truth is half-false"; "there are two sides to everything"; "there is a reverse side to every shield"; etc.
The Hermetic Teachings are to the effect that the difference between things seemingly diametrically opposed to each other is merely a matter of degree. It teaches that the pairs of opposites may be reconciled, that thesis and antithesis are identical in nature but different in degree, and that the universal reconciliation of opposites is effected by a recognition of this Principle of Polarity. The teachers claim that illustrations of this Principle may be had on every hand, and from an examination into the real nature of anything. They begin by showing that Spirit and Matter are but the two poles of the same thing, the intermediate planes being merely degrees of vibration. They show that THE ALL and The Many are the same, the difference being merely a matter of degree of Mental Manifestation. Thus the LAW and Laws are the two opposite poles of one thing: likewise PRINCIPLE and Principle, Infinite Mind and finite minds.
Then passing on to the Physical Plane, they illustrate the Principle by showing that Heat and Cold are identical in nature, the differences being merely a matter of degrees. The thermometer shows many degrees of temperature, the lowest pole being called "cold" and the highest "hot". Between these two poles are many degrees of "heat" or "cold": call them either, and you are equally correct. The higher of two degrees is always "warmer" while the lower is always "colder". There is no absolute standard — all is a matter of degree. There is no place on the thermometer where heat ceases and cold begins. It is all a matter of higher or lower vibrations. The very terms "high" and "low", which we are compelled to use, are but poles of the same thing — the terms are relative. So with East and West: travel around the world in an eastward direction and you reach a point which at your starting point was called "West", and you return from that westward point. Travel far enough North and you will find yourself travelling South, and vice-versa.
Light and darkness are poles of the same thing, with many degrees between them. The musical scale is the same: starting with C, you move upward until you reach another C, and so on, the differences between the two ends of the keyboard being the same in nature but with many degrees between the two extremes. The scale of colour is the same, higher and lower rates of vibration being the only difference between high violet and low red. Large and small are relative. So are noise and quiet, hard and soft, sharp and dull. Positive and negative are two poles of the same thing, with countless degrees between them.
Good and bad are not absolute: we call one end of the scale good and the other bad or evil. A thing is "less good" than the thing higher in the scale; but that "less good" thing is, in turn, "more good" than the thing next below it, and so on, the "more or less" being regulated by the position on the scale.
And so it is on the Mental Plane. Love and hate are generally regarded as being diametrically opposed to each other, entirely different and unreconcilable. But when we apply the Principle of Polarity, we find that there is no such thing as Absolute Love or Absolute Hate as distinguished from each other. The two are merely terms applied to the two poles of the same thing. Beginning at any point of the scale, we find "more love" or "less hate" as we ascend the scale and "more hate" or "less love" as we descend, this being true no matter from what point we may start. There are degrees of love and hate, and there is a middle point where "Like and Dislike" become so faint that it is difficult to distinguish between them, Courage and fear come under the same rule. The Pairs of Opposites exist everywhere. Where you find one thing you find its opposite — the two poles.
And it is this fact that enables the Hermetist to transmute one mental state into another along the lines of polarisation. Things belonging to different classes cannot be transmuted into each other, but things of the same class may be changed, that is, may have their polarity changed. Thus Love never becomes East or West, or Red or Violet — but it may, and often does, turn into Hate; and likewise Hate may be transformed into Love, by changing its polarity. Courage may be transmuted into Fear, and the reverse. Hard things may be rendered Soft. Dull things become Sharp. Hot things become Cold. The transmutation is always between things of different degrees of the same essential quality.
Take the case of a fearful man. By raising his mental vibrations along the line of Fear-Courage, he can be filled with the highest degree of courage and fearlessness. Likewise, the slothful man may change himself into an active, energetic individual simply by polarising along the lines of the desired quality.
The student who is familiar with the processes by which the various schools of Mental Science, etc., produce changes in the mental states of those following their teachings may not readily understand the principle underlying many of these changes. However, when the Principle of Polarity is once grasped, it is seen that the mental changes are occasioned by a change of polarity, a sliding along the same scale, the matter is more easily understood. The change is not in the nature of a transmutation of one thing into another entirely different thing, but is merely a change of degree in the same things. Borrowing an analogy from the physical plane, it is not possible to change heat into sharpness, loudness, highness, etc., but may be readily transmuted into cold simply by lowering the vibrations. In the same way, hate and love are mutually transmutable; so are fear and courage. But fear cannot be transformed into love, nor can courage be transmuted into hate. The mental states belong to innumerable classes, each class having its opposite poles along which transmutation is possible.
The student will readily recognise that in the mental states, as well as in the phenomena of the physical plane, the two poles may be classified as positive and negative, respectively. Thus love is positive to hate, courage to fear, activity to non-activity, etc. And it will also be noticed that even to those unfamiliar with the Principle of Vibration, the positive pole seems to be of a higher degree than the negative and readily dominates it. The tendency of Nature is in the direction of the dominant activity of the positive pole.
In addition to the changing of the poles of one's own mental states by the operation of the art of Polarisation, the phenomena of Mental Influence, in its manifold phases, shows us that the principle may be extended so as to embrace the influence of one mind over that of another, of which so much has been written and taught of late years. When it is understood that mental induction is possible, i.e. that mental states may be produced by "induction" from others, then we can readily see how a certain rate of vibration or polarisation of a certain mental state may be communicated to another person and thus change his polarity in that class of mental states. It is along this principle that the results of many of the "mental treatments" are obtained. For example, consider a person who is "blue" — melancholy and full of fear. A mental scientist who, by his trained will, is able to bring his own mind up to the desired vibration and thus obtain the desired polarisation in his own case, then by induction produces a similar mental state in the other, the result being that the vibrations are raised and the person is polarised towards the positive end of the scale instead of the negative, and his fear and other negative emotions are transmuted to courage and similar positive mental states. A little study will show you that these mental changes are nearly all along the line of polarisation, the change being one of degree rather than of kind.
A knowledge of the existence of this great Hermetic Principle will enable the student to better understand his own mental states and those of other people. He will see that these states are all matters of degree, and seeing this he will be able to raise or lower the vibration at will to change his mental poles, and thus be Master of his mental states instead of being their servant and slave. By his knowledge he will be able to aid his fellows intelligently, and by the appropriate methods change the polarity when it is undesirable or inappropriate. We advise all students to familiarise themselves with this Principle of Polarity, for a correct understanding will throw light on many difficult subjects.