Paradigm Basics: Hermetics believe that each human has a spark of the divine within him or herself. This "soul" is not present in lower animals or in many spirits. Each mortal's soul can be empowered through trials and experience, both metaphorical and actual. Those who can work magick are those whose Will is sufficient to understand the relationship between soul and reality, and who empower themselves by altering the world. Those who practice True Magick are those with a Daemon or Avatar that can grant understanding and greatness with much more facility than any other teacher, and thus they are more versatile and potentially powerful than those who must learn magick purely by training.
The actual processes of Hermetic magic follow a few basic concepts that are modified by each house. Most important is the idea of symbolism: the world is made of concepts that are linked to other concepts, and by commanding many linked concepts, the target can be commanded. For example, fire is linked to its name in various languages, to objects that have been burned and can ignite fire, to spirits and angels that embody fire, and to vibrant numbers, colors, and inflections. To create fire a Hermetic would use a spell that incorporated a number of these symbols in the hope of creating a conduit through which to manifest her Will and thus cause fire to spring into being. Hermetics extend this symbolic knowledge to other elements of the world, the mythic threads, such as astrology, numerology, and other "pseudo"-sciences, and can incorporate into their spells the most powerful symbols for any given situation or circumstance for a greater degree of influence.
Hermetic magic is formulaic and can be taught to anyone, though only the gifted or the truly dedicated will usually do very well in the process. To the Order, the only difference between True Mages and Hedge Mages is that the former have an awakened Avatar that grants more flexibility and speed in training. Thus, two Hermetics that can accomplish similar levels of effect are considered equals, whether or not one of them has an asset, in the avatar, not available to the other. The training of apprentices is an incredibly important facet of the paradigm, and each apprentice is expected to perform numerous responsibilities for her mentor. The typical period of instruction is seven years before release, though more traditional masters may keep a student as long as fifteen under ideal conditions. Some students may achieve all the requirements of full magus status before this period, but releasing the student before this period is up to the mentor (though modern Hermetics can typically appeal to a council of adepts and masters if they feel they are being kept for an unfair duration).
Paradigm Casting: Hermetics cannot cast spontaneous effects quickly, requiring a rote to perform magic in less than a minute. The Order compensates for this by having mastered the High Ritual and Rotes. Ritualizing an effect takes less time for a properly-equipped Hermetic than for any other tradition, but the presence of tools and symbols is essential. Hermetics also learn rotes more easily than other traditions, their training being based on them, and can typically learn them faster and more cheaply than other traditions.
Paradigm Benefits: The Order emphasizes the use of sympathetic magick against other humans and against spirits. Any Hermetic can benefit from using less-powerful links to the target than is typical for resonant difficulty reduction. Detailed knowledge of the subject or a prized object can be used for a small reduction, while knowing her True Name or having a portion of her body can have a major benefit on the casting. To defend against others, Hermetics typically change their True Name regularly, making it much harder to divine via magick.
Long ago, the Order developed the Parma Magicka, a specialized technique of countermagick. By performing a one minute ritual and spending 1 WP or Quintessence, the Hermetic gains +1 die of countermagick (not including Unweaving) until the next rising or setting of the sun. This bonus adds +3 against other Hermetic castings, and +2 against other Traditional castings.
While not a specific benefit of the paradigm, all Hermetics can call on ancient pacts with many supernatural beings. This is due to long histories of dealings between the Order and all elements of the world. A Hermetic that knows what she's dealing with can typically research these pacts for some benefit with entities towards which they can be enforced.
Finally, as Hermetics believe they can call patterns from the realm of forms, a Hermetic can substitute Spirit 2 for Prime 2 when creating a pattern with Life, Forces, or Matter.
Paradigm Limits: A number of things are simply not possible in the Hermetic paradigm, based on their understanding of the universe. These restrictions were originally much more involved, but have faded with the times. The most major of these is that Hermetics can not alter, harm, destroy, or create the spark of divinity within humans, the "soul." While minds can be adjusted and the soul can even be transferred, no Hermetic can seriously change a soul by direct magic. A Hermetic can create or restore life, but must encourage an existing spirit to inhabit such a creation or else give it the semblance, but not the fact, of having a soul. This extends to curses and afflictions that penetrate to the soul, such that the Order has a very hard time altering or undoing such conditions as Vampirism. Wraiths can still be affected, as Hermetics believe them to be the psychic remainder of a dead person, not a true soul. Gilgul is not a Hermetic ritual.
Further, Hermetics cannot permanently create something from nothing, even from the realm of ideal forms. All magickal creations will eventually fade unless their casting involves the use of an appropriate amount of invested Quintessence (which does not alter the difficulty when used in this manner).
This limitation extends to transformations; anything magickally transmuted or drastically altered will eventually revert to its true form unless the transformation was incredibly appropriate or followed a truly effective symbolic channel. For example, a man turned into a wolf would eventually revert to his true form, no matter how successful the casting, unless his nature was rather wolf like. Other processes, like reversing aging, are included in this limit. Similarly, the transmutation of lead into gold has always been a temporary measure for Hermetics (and the Solificati who joined them), which was why they tried so hard to find a Philosopher's Stone that would symbolically legitimize the process.