The Source of Authority

With the fourth Arcanum of the Emperor, we have reached a critical stage. Since the hermetic path is also known as the Royal Way, understanding the quality of royalty is the key to understanding Hermetism. What we see here will challenge all our normal and accepted standards of authority. We all bristle under authority and that theodrama began in Eden. The urge for rebellion and revolution lies within each one of us.

First of all, a person has authority only if:

  • He has depth
  • He has being
  • He knows something
  • He can do something

Thus he gains authority as soon as he reunites in himself the depth of mysticism, the direct wisdom of gnosis, and the productive power of magic.

Note that his authority arises out of his own being. Modern ideas of democratic elections, legal appointments, hereditary monarchy, etc. cannot reach legitimate authority.

The Exercise of Authority

The Arcanum of the Emperor teaches us that the Emperor renounces compulsion and violence. This is counter-intuitive since the common belief is that the compulsion and violence are privileges of the government. Theologically, it means that God does not act through compulsion and violence (although there are several exceptions in Scripture). This frustrates us since a common plaint following some disaster or tragedy is, “Why did God allow this to happen?”

The only answer can be “freedom”. In the mineral kingdom, there is no freedom and, barring some miracle, physical events happen through inexorable law. The plant, and then the animal, kingdoms offer increasing levels of freedom. With man, freedom is absolute, at least at the level of the rational or intellectual soul which is the distinctive feature of man. Plants and animals still follow certain laws. But man has the choice of following God’s law, or not.

It is no easy task to follow God’s law, as the human spirit chafes at any such restrictions. That is why we need to follow the Royal way of the Emperor. His crown is a crown of thorns, as its restrains thoughts and arbitrary imaginations. In other words, the personality is directed toward the cosmic law and thoughts irrelevant to that are eliminated.


While Nature abhors a vacuum, Spirit abhors fullness. This gives us a clue to our own spiritual progress. If our mind is filled with random opinions, unguarded images, and a constant flow of idle chatter, then we are still at the level of Nature. At that level, we are constantly seeking distractions to fill up the void in our consciousness. We crave novelty, the next great movie, new restaurant, or insidious ideology. This is what we, at that level, consider to be freedom and it is difficult, or even impossible, for any deeper idea to penetrate that type of consciousness.

On the other hand, the Spirit is truly free only when it has discarded all personal opinions, projects and initiatives. This provides the space for divine revelation to manifest; such a Spirit is then open to the kingdom of heaven. Such a Spirit does not “choose” in the conventional sense; rather he lives by intuition, trusting in divine guidance to be always active in his life.