The great Fifth Hermetic Principle the Principle of Rhythm embodies the truth that in everything there is manifested a measured motion; a to-and-fro movement; a flow and inflow; a swing forward and backward; a pendulum-like movement; a tide-like ebb and flow; a high-tide and a low-tide; an oscillation between two poles manifest on the physical, mental or spiritual planes. The Principle of Rhythm is closely connected with the Principle of Polarity described in Chapter X. Rhythm manifests between the two poles established by the Principle of Polarity. This does not mean, however, that the pendulum of rhythm necessarily swings to the extreme poles, for this rarely happens; in fact, it is difficult to establish the extreme polar opposites in the majority of cases. But the swing is ever toward first one pole and then the other.
There is always an action and reaction, a rising and a sinking, manifested in all of the airs and phenomena of the Universe. Suns, worlds, men, animals, plants, minerals, forces, energy, mind, matter, yes even Spirit manifest this Principle. The Principle manifests in the creation and destruction of worlds, in the rise and fall of nations, in the life history of all things, and in the mental states of Man.
Beginning with the manifestations of Spirit of THE ALL it will be noticed that there is ever the Outpouring and the Indrawing the "outbreathing and inbreathing of Brahma" as the Brahmins word it. Universes [cosmoses! Ed.] are created, reach their extreme low point of materiality, and then begin their upward swing. Suns spring into being and, when their height of power has been reached, the process of retrogression begins; after aeons, they become dead masses of matter, awaiting another impulse which re-starts their inner energies into activity and a new solar life cycle is begun. And thus it is with all the worlds: they are born, grow, and die only to be reborn. And thus it is with all things of shape and form: they swing from action to reaction, from birth to death, from activity to inactivity and then back again. So also it is with all living things: they are born, grow, and die and then are reborn. So it is with all great movements, philosophies, creeds, fashions, governments, nations, and all else. They cycle through birth, growth, maturity, decadence, death and then new birth. The swing of the pendulum is ever in evidence.
Night follows day, and day night. The pendulum swings from summer to winter, and then back again. The corpuscles, atoms, molecules, and all masses of matter swing around the circle of their nature. There is no such thing as absolute rest or cessation from movement, and all movement partakes of rhythm. The principle is of universal application. It may be applied to any question or phenomenon of any of the many planes of life. It may be applied to all phases of human activity. There is always the rhythmic swing between one pole and the other. The Universal Pendulum is ever in motion. The Tides of Life flow in and out according to Law.
The Principle of Rhythm is well understood by modern science, and is considered a universal law as applied to material things. But the Hermetists carry the Principle much further. They know that its manifestations and influence extend to the mental activities of Man, and that it accounts for the bewildering succession of moods, feelings and other annoying and perplexing changes that we notice in ourselves. But by studying the operation of the Principle, the Hermetists have learned to escape some of its activities by Transmutation.
The Hermetic Masters long since discovered that while the Principle of Rhythm is invariable and ever in evidence in mental phenomena, there are still two planes of its mental manifestation. They discovered that there are two general planes of Consciousness, the Lower and the Higher, and the understanding of this fact enabled them to rise to the higher plane and thus escape the swing of the rhythmic pendulum which manifests on the lower plane. In other words, Consciousness is not affected by the pendulum swing which occurs on the Unconscious Plane. This they call the Law of Neutralisation. Its operations consist in the raising of the Ego above the vibrations of the Unconscious Plane of mental activity so that the negative swing of the pendulum is not manifested in consciousness, and therefore those who are able to apply this Law are not affected. It is akin to rising above a thing and letting it pass beneath you. The Hermetic Master, or advanced student, polarises himself at the desired pole, and by a process akin to "refusing" to participate in the backward swing (or, if you prefer, denying its influence over him) he stands firm in his polarised position and allows the mental pendulum to swing back along the unconscious plane.
All individuals who have attained any degree of self-mastery accomplish this more or less unknowingly, and apply the Law of Neutralisation by refusing to allow their moods and negative mental states to affect them. The Master, however, carries this to a much higher degree of proficiency, and by the use of his Will he attains a degree of Poise and Mental Firmness almost impossible of belief on the part of those who allow themselves to be swung backward and forward by the mental pendulum of moods and feelings.
The importance of this will be appreciated by any thinking person who realises what creatures of moods, feelings and emotion the majority of people are, and how little mastery of themselves they manifest. If you will stop and consider a moment, you will realise how much these swings of Rhythm have affected you in your life how a period of enthusiasm has invariably been followed by an opposite feeling and mood of depression. Likewise, your moods and periods of courage have been succeeded by periods of fear. And so it has ever been with the majority of persons tides of feeling have ever risen and fallen with them, but they have never suspected the cause of the mental phenomenon. An understanding of the workings of this Principle will provide the key to the Mastery of these rhythmic swings of feeling, and will enable the student to know himself better and to avoid being carried away by these inflows and outflows. The Will is superior to the conscious manifestation of the Principle and we may escape its effects, although the Principle itself can never be destroyed. The pendulum ever swings, although we may escape being carried along with it.
There are other features of the operation of this Principle of Rhythm of which we wish to speak at this point. There comes into its operations that which is known as the Law of Compensation. One of the meanings of the word compensate is to counterbalance, which is the sense in which Hermetists use the term. It is this Law of Compensation to which the Kybalion refers when its says, "The measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates".
The Law of Compensation is that the swing in one direction determines the swing in the opposite direction or towards the opposite pole: the one counterbalances the other. We see many examples of this Law on the physical plane. The pendulum of the clock swings a certain distance to the right, and then an equal distance to the left. The seasons balance each other in a similar way. The tides follow the same Law. And the same Law is manifested in all the phenomena of Rhythm. The pendulum with only a short swing in one direction has but a short swing in the other, while a long swing to the right invariably means a long swing to the left. An object hurled upward to a certain height has an equal distance to travel on its return to earth. The force with which a projectile is propelled upwards is reproduced when the projectile returns to earth on its return. This Law is constant on the physical plane, as confirmed by the standard authorities.
But the Hermetists carry it still further. They teach that a man's mental states are subject to the same Law. The man who enjoys keenly is subject to keen suffering, while he who feels but little pain is capable of feeling but little joy. The pig suffers but little mentally, and enjoys but little: he is compensated. On the other hand, there are other animals which enjoy keenly, but whose nervous system and temperament cause them to suffer exquisite degrees of pain. And so it is with Man. There are temperaments which permit of but low degrees of enjoyment and equally low degrees of suffering, while there are others which permit the most intense enjoyment, but also the most intense suffering. The rule is that the capacities for pain and pleasure, in each individual, are balanced. The Law of Compensation is in full operation here.
But the Hermetists go still further in this matter. They teach that before one is able to enjoy a certain degree of pleasure, he must have swung as far, proportionately, toward the other pole of feeling. They hold that the Negative is precedent to the Positive in this matter, that is to say that in experiencing a certain degree of pleasure it does not follow that it will have to "be paid for" with a corresponding degree of pain; on the contrary, the pleasure is the rhythmic swing according to the Law of Compensation for a degree of pain previously experienced either in the present life or in a previous incarnation. This throws a new light on the Problem of Pain.
The Hermetists regard the chain of lives as continuous, and as forming a part of one life of the individual, which makes it possible to regard the rhythmic swing in this way, whereas it would be without meaning unless the truth of reincarnation were admitted.
But the Hermetists claim that the Master or advanced student is able, to a great degree, to escape the swing toward pain by the process of Neutralisation previously mentioned. By rising on to the higher plane of the Ego, much of the experience that comes to those dwelling on the lower plane is avoided.
The Law of Compensation plays an important part in the lives of men and women. It will be noticed that one generally "pays the price" of anything he possesses or lacks. If he has one thing, he lacks another: the balance is struck. No one can keep his penny and have the cake at the same time. Everything has its pleasant and unpleasant sides. The things that one gains are always paid for by the things that one loses, The rich possess much that the poor lack, while the poor often possess things that are beyond the reach of the rich. The millionaire may have the inclination toward feasting and the wealth wherewith to secure all the dainties and luxuries of the table, but lack the appetite to enjoy them; he envies the appetite and digestion of the labourer who lack the millionaire's wealth and inclinations but who gets more pleasure from his plain food. The Law of Compensation is ever in operation, striving to balance and counterbalance, and always succeeding in time even though several lives may be required for the return swing of the Pendulum of Rhythm.