Hermetic Growth Hacking : Ancient wisdom for 21st Century Start-Ups.

There is much debate about just how far back the Seven Hermetic principles go, but they certainly go back to ancient Greece ( 500 BC) and there is strong evidence to suggest they originated in ancient Egypt ( 1500 BC). Whatever their actual age, it is apparent that to have been treasured and passed down for so long they contain some universal truths that are likely to have relevance to a modern audience, even one that is technologically light years removed from the world in which they were first defined. Attributed to someone called Hermes Trismegistus, assumed to be the same person that was elevated to the rank of “god” in Egypt as Thoth ( Who is the equivalent of the Greek Hermes in the corresponding pantheon) there are 42 books ( Take not Hitch-Hikers Guide fans) attributed to Hermes Trismegistus and they are called the Hermetica. From these are distilled seven core principles that underpin all aspects of life, including Growth Hacker Marketing !

The Hermetica is a body of ancient wisdom that has been treasured by occult seekers and esoteric mystery cults since at least the beginning of the first millennia BC. In more recent times ( and by recent, I mean the last 500 years) it has been at the heart of what is called the Western Esoteric Tradition, ( Esoteric= 'universal spiritual dimension of reality, as opposed to the merely external ('exoteric') religious institutions and dogmatic systems of established religions.') a cover all term for various schools of thought and mystical societies that looked for an alternative philosophical basis to the all powerful Christian church of medieval Europe. A dangerous thing to do for large parts of this time span, hence the need to be occult ( ie hidden). This tradition is said to be responsible, in some part at least, for some of the great milestones of western society such as the renaissance and the enlightenment.

We will not go into greater depth here, other than to set the credentials for these seven principles as having stood the test of time and ben judged worthy of respect from some of the greatest thinkers in history.

Whilst it may not rank with either the renaissance or the enlightenment, there is a mini revolution occurring in the area of marketing that can draw parallels with the fundamental re-thinking that powered those movements. At some point, very recently, marketing got stuck in dogma, lost its connection to both the product and potential customers and ended up as a self-serving and isolated fiefdom within many corporate bodies. The term “ sales and marketing” moved every so subtly from a term where the “and” denoted unity to a situation where the “and” was a line of separation between functions.

It was in the dynamic environment of Silicon Valley start-ups where the Growth Hacker Marketing phenomena was born. The ability to launch a global business with minimal capital is a 21st century phenomena, enabled by the internet and the availability of “rent-able” technology services in the cloud allows great ideas to be realised with little more than sweat and talent. It was in such a lean environment that the corruption of the established marketing mind set was exposed as redundant. A start up marketer called Sean Ellis, when looking at how to find his replacement, realised that the people applying for his role ( largely highly qualified with great CVs) saw Marketing as something far more rigid and restrictive than met the needs of dynamic start up. He realised that an alternative job description was required that differentiated the traditional corporate marketing executive mind set from someone who took ownership of every aspect of a business that caused or influenced the adoption of product in a chosen market. Its not that Sean was the first to behave like this, far from it, but it was Sean Ellis that gave the role a name, an identity, a label around which those with such talents could rally and a job title that those who needed such services could recruit with.

The fact of giving identity to something being as important as what the thing its-self is takes us very nicely to the first of the Hermetic principles:

Principle of Mentalism

Everything is in the mind. The truth of this statement from a philosophical perspective is a fascinating concept, from the Buddhist position that everything is Maya (an illusion) to the ideas explored by the popular sci-fi movie The Matrix. I think we can all relate to the importance that perception carries when we accept the scientific reality that we are entirely made up of atoms which are 99.9999999999996% empty space. Beyond the mind, there is almost nothing else !


Growth Hackers know that the way a brand is perceived is what breathes life into it. With life, comes a personality, a set of values, a purpose and an emotional connection. When someone feels they “know” your brand as mental construct, they have something upon which to form a relationship and build a loyalty that transcends the functional value of your product.


Whilst it is important to have the best product your engineers can create, having great technology is just the starting point and is absolutely no guarantee of mass adoption and commercial success. Having a company personality that is reflected in your product but is focussed on resonating with your target audience is the mystical secret sauce that you can then leverage to build a successful business. I'm sure we can all think of examples of mediocre products that captured the public's imagination far beyond their actual worth because the marketeers tapped into something that transcended a logical feature/price equation.

Principle of Correspondence

Most commonly expressed as “as above, so below” the principle of correspondence states that the same primary structures can be found at every plane of existence. The features found in one environment can be recognised in apparently unrelated areas.,e.g.how the structure of an atom and that of a solar system have incredible similarity despite their vast difference of scale. This article its-self is an example of how the seven principles of Egyptian mystical philosophy correspond perfectly with those of 21st century digital commerce.

One of the key “sacred cows” that Growth Hacker Marketing has barbecued is that the marketing function is discrete from the rest of the business. Not only does this allow (oblige) marketing to input into other departments ( and vice versa), it also suggest that methodologies used in one part of the business might have a correspondence in another.

Developers have moved, in recent years, from the rigidity of Systems Development Life-cycle ( SDLC ) in the 1960s to the increasingly popular Agile methodologies of this millennia. Each has its merits and any wise CTO will consider all possibilities before embarking on a project. What has probably never happened before the era of Growth Hacking is that a CMO has looked at software design processes and asked if there is anything they can learn from them and whether any of the principles can be mapped onto the marketing function. The Hermetic principle of correspondence suggests that not only should the engineers and the marketeers be swapping notes, but there is probably something to be learned from every process that a business uses across every function. When was the last time you asked the receptionist, or the cleaner ( the gardener, if you have one*) to brain storm with you about how the way their world works might have something to teach you ?

*Actually a gardener might be a powerful mentor, even if your company doesn't actually own a garden. Growing a business has much in common with growing crops, not least of which is the importance of sowing good seed, watering and feeding the soil, understanding the time it takes for germination and growth.. months of uncertainty during which the wise gardener prepares to enjoy a bumper harvest even though there is little visible above the soil. Thinning out the plants as they appear to gain maximum yield from the strongest specimens and always thinking at least 2-3 months ahead.



Alchemy and Ancient Wisdom for Growth Hackers

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Discover how the seven hermetic principals of Hermes Trismegistus can be used to guide your growth hacking journey.

Esoteric wisdom dating back 4000 years is as relevent to today's technology start- ups as it was to the Ancient Egyptians, Greek Philosophers, Renaissance Alchemists and occult seekers through the ages.

Add a little magic to you hacks !

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Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business. Growth hackers often focus on low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing, e.g. using social mediaviral marketing or targeted advertising instead of buying advertising through more traditional media such as radionewspaper, and television.
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