Tag Archives: Ethan Indigo Smith

The Tao of Thoth

Ethan Indigo Smith’s recent book, “The Tao of Thoth,” is a companion to a previous book of his I reviewed, “The Matrix of Four“. But instead of dwelling on fourfolds from ancient and esoteric sources, this book’s appeal to me is mainly for eightfolds. The sources are again traditional and occult, and indeed the title’s constituents come from ancient Asian and Egyptian cultures. Smith encourages us to contemplate these venerable concepts to reclaim simplicity in our lives and move away from any unnecessary complexity of modern life.

Certainly Smith is legitimate in critiquing present-day institutions and mentalities that valorize profit and consumption over ecological and humanitarian well-being. Can we learn from ancient cultural precepts and use them to heal the earth as a whole as well as enhance the health of our own lives, our descendants lives, and that of our follows? We seem to be avoiding the simple fact that current lifestyles are unsustainable for the earth and even harmful to our own psyche.

The first chapter introduces us to the Taiji, or Yin Yang, as well as the Tao of Asian study. The “Tao of Thoth” is also introduced and seems to be the relationship between the Taiji and the Tenets of Thoth (also referred to as Thoth Energy). Several claims are then made as to their separate and related simplicity and applicability. The next two chapters deal with this so-called Thoth Energy and the Taiji in more detail.

In Chapter 1 the Egyptian god Thoth is described in some detail, and his connection to gods in other mythologies, both Eastern and Western. The term Thoth Energy seems to describe the principles conceptualized by his attributes. That these principles are found in separate traditions is indicative our common humanity, rather than cultural approbation (maybe except for continuity between the Egyptian (Thoth), Greek (Hermes), and Roman (Mercury) gods). Next the Eight Trigrams of the Bagua and the eight deities of the Ogdoad are discussed.

A list of the Seven Tenets of Thoth close the chapter: Mentalism, Correspondence, Vibration, Polarity, Rhythm, Cause and Effect, Gender, and their relationship to the Tao. Hermetic and occult principles are often associated with individual self-development and not social coherence common to institutions. These tenets are the Seven Hermetic Principles mentioned in Chapter II of the Kybalion. Hermeticism is also deeply connected with Alchemic principles.

Chapter 2 discusses the Tao, Taiji (Yin Yang), and Taiji practice (Tai Chi). The Eight Layered Body is mentioned (the physical body, the chi body, the emotional body, mental body, psychic body, causal body, body of individuality, and the body of Tao). The next seven chapters deal with the seven hermetic principles which are hinted to align with Taoist principles as well, but do they do so in clear ways? Perhaps I need to study both the Kybalion and the Taiji in depth before I understand their connection.

And so briefly:

  • Chapter 3 (Mentalism) mentions The Eightfold Path.
  • Chapter 4 (Correspondence) mentions the Seven Minor Physical Planes (Chapter VIII of the Kybalion).
  • Chapter 5 (Vibration, Chapter IX of the Kybalion) mentions the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
  • Chapter 6 (Polarity, Chapter X of the Kybalion) mentions the Eight Energies or Gates of Taiji and the fourfold Known Knowns.
  • Chapter 7 (Rhythm, Chapter XI of the Kybalion) mentions the Bagua and Eight Taiji Principles.
  • Chapter 8 (Cause and Effect, Chapter XII of the Kybalion) mentions the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.
  • Chapter 9 (Gender, Chapter XIII of the Kybalion, and Mental Gender, Chapter XIV) mentions the Eight Auspicious Offering Bowls and the Eight Secrets of the Tao Te Ching.
  • In Chapter 10, I am certainly glad that Smith rounded out the Seven Tenets to Eight with Patience. Mentioned are Chakras and the Spectrum of Light and the fourfold Wu Wei. In contrast, the last Chapter XV of the Kybalion deals with “Hermetic Axioms,” discussing several of the principles together.

After each chapter discussing a tenet, Smith suggests a Taiji or Taiji-inspired meditative practice that embraces a core concept: standing meditation, champion posture, shaking, arm swinging (Renunciation/Reintegration, Evaporation/Condensation), spiraling balance, pressurization, integrating Yin and Yang, walking.

It would be nice to have a bibliography and index included in this book, as many sources are mentioned and it would be convenient to have it as a quick reference. I must say that I didn’t find this short book as rewarding as “The Matrix of Four,” nevertheless, I found it worth reading and it piqued my interest for trying Tai Chi.

Further Reading:

Ethen Indigo Smith / The Tao of Thoth






The Three Initiates / The Kybalion





[*12.50, *12.51]




The Matrix of Four, the Philosophy of the Duality of Polarity

The Matrix of Four“The Matrix of Four, the Philosophy of the Duality of Polarity” by Ethan Indigo Smith is basically a book about four-folds, or two-by-two matrices. It’s always nice to see a book devoted to this subject, and Smith has written several other books as well. They seem to range from politics to environmentalism to meditation and spirituality, but they all appear to have a “new age” or esoteric flavor. “The Matrix of Four” claims to be philosophy and even meta-philosophy but how well does it succeed? Perhaps I’m not one to answer, having no definite philosophy, having written no books, and with only a smattering of blog entries for my efforts. However, I’d like to look at this work in depth because I do think it is worthwhile.

What is the Matrix of Four, the Philosophy of the Duality of Polarity? And why have such an awkward name that is completely written out 71 times? The abstract on Amazon states it is a formula for enhancing consciousness or our potential by exploring philosophical fundamentals. The abstract goes on to give as example the Yin Yang symbol consisting of four aspects of one entirety: positive, negative, positive in negative, and negative in positive. In fact, the icon I created (and use on various websites) tries to express this notion by dividing the Yin Yang symbol into four pieces.

In the “Introduction to Absolutes”, other examples suggest what the duality of polarity is. One example is that of planetary elliptical orbits, giving rise to two solstices and two equinoxes, the first pair the closest and furthest from the sun, and the second the positions halfway between the solstices. The tilt of the Earth’s axis gives rise to the four seasons: summer, fall, winter, spring. I can clearly see the concept of the duality of polarity here. Another is due to the Earth turning every day: the diurnal cycle of day, dusk, night, and dawn. The third is the set of four arithmetic operations, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division. Here I’m not sure how well the duality of polarity is shown. Multiplication is not “subtraction in addition”, but a repeated application of addition, just as exponentiation is repeated multiplication.

But perhaps the matrix of four, the philosophy of the duality of polarity is essentially just considering two associated pairs of opposites at once. I have said something similar in my notion of the Marriage of Opposites, that the way to solve the problem of dualities (Smith says polarities) is to consider two pairs at once. In the book’s eleven chapters, Smith looks at various subjects and their ubiquitous use of four-folds to conceptualize them.

In Chapter 1, “The Magic of Breath”, Smith discusses a subject that he has done extensive reading on, and from what I can tell, experience of: meditation and Buddhism. Matrices of Four mentioned include the Buddhist mantra “Aum mani paddle hum”, the four physical positions for meditation discussed in Angeles Arrien’s book “The Four Fold Way” (also called the four actions), and Buddhism’s Four Thoughts.

In Chapter 2, “The Riddle”, the Yin Yang symbol and its history is presented. It is perhaps the exemplary paradigm for his philosophy of the duality of polarity. Other matrices of four discussed are the four types of information (known knowns, unknown knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns) and Buddhist mandalas.

Chapter 3, “The Cross”, discusses the symbolism of the cross throughout human history and religion. Other four-folds mentioned include ankhs, swastikas, the four Christian gospels, the Tetragrammaton, the four questions of Passover, the four forms of theological interpretation (literal, allegorical, comparative, and secretive), the Sufi four gates of speech, Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, Four Immeasureables, and the Four Right Exertions, the Classical Four Elements, and the four cardinal directions.

“From Egyptian to Jungian”, Chapter 4, talks about the four humors or four vital fluids, the Classic four-fold hot/cold and moist/dry, the four temperaments, the four personality types of Plato and those of Aristotle, the Four Causes of Aristotle, the four forms of spiritual development due to G.I. Gurdjieff as presented by P.D. Ouspensky, psychologist Carl Jung and his four psychic functions, and the ancient Pythagorean symbol of the Tetraktys.

“The Exclusion of Four” is the title for Chapter 5. In this chapter, Smith returns to mathematical reasonings for his matrix of four. He also argues that the consideration of dualities of polarity is richer and more informative than merely thinking about polarities or opposites. Often triplets of things leave out a fourth that should be included. In some cultures the word death is a homonym for the word for four, giving rise to tetraphobia. The set of Three Monkeys (See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil) should include a fourth, Fear or Do No Evil. Does the common triple of mental, physical, and spiritual have a missing quarter-part of “natural”? Other matrices of four or four-folds described and expounded on come from classical philosophy: the Allegory of the Cave and the Divided Line.

Chapter 6 is “Questions and Answers”. The human body and certain of its organs are considered as four-part structures, for example the brain and heart. The physical universe can be carved into four parts in a variety of ways, e.g. four dimensions and four fundamental forces. Answers to questions have four truth claims (it is so, it is not so, it is both, it is neither), and so to the Hegelian synthesis, antithesis, synthesis can be added nullisis, or none (others have suggested anti-synthesis). Smith goes on to talk about various mythologies and religious systems that consider four important. Prejudice is discussed at length in relation to the matrix of four or the duality of polarity.

In Chapter 7, “Right and Rule”, Smith compares and contrasts legality and morality, human laws and human rights and wrongs. The matrix of four to be considered is legal/moral, illegal/moral, legal/immoral and illegal/immoral. In Chapter 8, “A Set of Reactions”, the freed prisoner in the Allegory of the Cave and the Wise Monkey that fears or does no evil are the best of their set, those that break harmful custom or immoral laws to do the right thing. Wu Wei, the concept of natural action, is discussed as a matrix of knowledge and action in relation to four cardinal “velocities” of thinking and being.

“Life and Literature” (Chapter 9), “The Matrix of Mind” (Chapter 10), and “The Final Chapter” (Chapter 11) explore miscellaneous topics using the concepts introduced so far. Many polarities are mentioned, and many dualities of polarity, such as the “Four Laws that Drive the Universe” by Peter Atkins. Even self-help and leadership books are mentioned. The Johari Window is discussed as well.

Perhaps I was overly harsh in my introduction of Smith’s book. I might have started reading it thinking that it was not going to be worthwhile. Instead, I learned of several four-folds that I was not aware of and different ways to think about them, and I enjoyed reading it on the whole. I’m excited that Smith is working to bring four-folds in all their fascination and generalization to the public. Plus, this was a good opportunity to go crazy and link many of my posts to this review.

So what exactly is the matrix of four, or the duality of polarity? There doesn’t seem to be a simple formula. Perhaps this sentence of Smith sums it up best: “There is polarity in practically all things and there is duality in practically all polarity and yet there is always more.”

Further Reading:

Ethan Indigo Smith / The Matrix of Four, the Philosophy of the Duality of Polarity

Author’s Facebook Page:



[*9.129, *10.172]