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Hermeticism refers to a discipline of mysticism derived from traditions surrounding Hermes, the Greek god of communication, and Thoth the Egyptian god of wisdom. The combined reverence for these gods, Hermes-Thoth patronized the sciences, philosophy, intellectual activity and mathematics. This tradition dates back to the Hellenistic period and the marriage of Egyptian and Greek cultures under Alexander the Great. This melting pot of philosophical, religious, and cultural influences was centered in Alexandria, considered the center of civilization at the time.

Hermeticism (also known as Hermitism) encompasses Egyptian philosophy, Greek paganism, Platonism, Neoplatonism, Stoicism, Neopythagorism, Iamblichan, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism and even Christianity. Ultimately, it was a fusion of one of the most religious societies in history with one of the most philosophical.

Elements in Hermeticism[]

The earliest form of Hermeticism is found with Hermetists, educated in Greek and Egyptian philosophy, who examined and compared ancient texts involving Hermes and Thoth. Loose affiliations with spiritual schools of philosophy had developed around the studies of the Mysteries, but with more religious passion regarding God. The following are some original Hermetic schools of thought:

  • Egypt is considered a holy land
  • Way of Hermes honored through piety, morality and purity
  • Adoption of Greek philosophy
  • Common theological roots manifested in what would become the Mysteries.

Egyptian (Khem) Influences[]

Traditionally, the ancient Egyptians did not separate religion and everyday life. Almost every aspect had a magical or celestial component. The mythos is full of various methods of describing reality and although some philosophies seem contradictory they believed different stories to be different points of view on the same concept. Some influential Egyptian concepts that were adopted into Hermeticism are:

  • Creator deity in the form of a superior god related to the sun
  • Nature has regenerative power represented by the Nile and fertility deities
  • A divine human that coexists in the physical and spiritual worlds
  • Humans have several components: khat - physical body, ka - astral body, ba - soul, khu - spirit, sekhem - vital life force

Greek (Hellenes) Influences[]

Contrary to the Egyptian approach, the Ancient Greeks used philosophy to describe the reality they lived in via education, critical thinking and scientific principles. Amidst all of the various philosophical explanations of reality, many schools discussed the concept of "apeiron" or the boundless, or what Pythagoras called "number". This concept was also stretched into concepts of monotheism reflecting Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah. Some influential Hellenistic concepts that were adopted into Hermeticism are:

  • The four elements: fire, water, air, and earth
  • All material things are flawed versions of ideas in the supernatural world
  • There is a "One Thing" that is the root of all things
  • There is life after death wherein individuals are judged
  • The soul is divided into immortality (logos), intellect (thumos), and desire (epithymia).
  • There are three types of knowledge: mathesis - knowledge gained through perception, gnosis - knowledge gained through intuition and pathesis - knowledge gained through feeling.

The Mysteries[]

Developed during the Hermetic fusion of Alexander the Great, the mystery religions initiated a chosen few to learn higher knowledge through secret rites. The practices still remain mostly unknown, because the members held secrecy as the highest value. Often the mysteries dealt with the concepts surrounding death and rebirth. These concepts eventually were absorbed by the Rosicrucians and Golden Dawn.

  • Samothracian: followed the Kabiri
  • Orphic Mysteries
  • Isis and Osiris Mysteries
  • Eleusian Mysteries: Followed Demeter, Persephone and Hades
  • Mithras

Hermetic philosophies[]

Hermetic literature[]

The most notable works on Hermeticism are:[1]

Compilations from the 1st millennium

  1. The Corpus Hermeticum[2]
  2. Perfect Discourse, (Logos Teleios, also known as Asclepius)
  3. Discourses of Isis to Horus[3]
  4. The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth, (Nag Hammadi codex VI: On the Ogdoad and the Ennead)
  5. The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius[4]
  6. Anthology of Stobaeus

Middle ages

  • The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus[5]

Neo-Hermetic works

  • The Kybalion, attributed to "Three Initiates"[6]
  • A Suggestive Inquiry into Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy[7] (1850), published anonymously; Reprinted by Mary Anne Atwood; Reprinted again by Isabelle de Steiger

Hermetic works by the Golden Dawn

  • The Hermetic Museum Restored and Enlarged by Arthur Edward Waite[8]
  • The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus, two-volume set, edited by Arthur Edward Waite
  • Hermetic Papers of A. E. Waite: the Unknown Writings of a Modern Mystic, edited by R. A. Gilbert
  • Collectanea Hermetica series, edited by William Wynn Westcott

Franz Bardon's three-volume set:[9]

  1. Initiation Into Hermetics, 1956
  2. The Practice of Magical Evocation, 1957
  3. The Key to the True Quabbalah, 1958

Sources[]

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