Hermetic Philosophy, Astrology & Magic
That that which is Above is like that which is Below and that which is Below is like that which is Above, to accomplish the Miracle of Unity.
The Emerald Tablet
Hermetic Gnosis Video
Hermes Trismegistus: The Traditional View
Does the Date of the Writing of the Corpus Hermeticum Matter?
The summary of any philosophy or esoteric movement suffers an inevitable loss of meaning, but we can begin by seeing Hermeticism as a practical method of gnosis, i.e. direct knowledge of the Divine. The true nature of each of us is Divine and we can, through a process of purification, learning and initiation, come to have an actual experience of the One.
A key tenet of Hermeticism is the Unity of the Cosmos and the sympathy and interconnection of all things. Without this unity we could not accomplish the mystic union, but it also makes possible the spiritual connection, without which magic, astrology and alchemy could not function.
He was reported to have been king of Egypt; without doubt he was an Egyptian; nay, if you believe the Jews, even their Moses; and for the justification of this they urge, 1st, His being well skilled in chemistry; nay, the first who communicated that art to the sons of men; 2dly, They urge the philosophic work, viz. of rendering gold medicinal, or, finally, of the art of making aurum potabile; and, thirdly, of teaching the Cabala, which they say was shewn him by God on Mount Sinai: for all this is confessed to be originally written in Hebrew, which he would not have done had he not been an Hebrew, but rather in his vernacular tongue.
But whether he was Moses or not 1, it is certain he was an Egyptian, even as Moses himself also was; and therefore for the age he lived in, we shall not fall short of the time if we conclude he flourished much about the time of Moses; and if he really was not the identical Moses, affirmed to be so by many, it is more than probable that he was king of Egypt; for being chief philosopher, he was, according to the Egyptian custom, initiated into the mysteries of priesthood, and from thence to the chief governor or king.
He was called Ter Maximus, as having a perfect knowledge of all things contained in the world (as his Aureus, or Golden Tractate, and his Divine Pymander shews) which things he divided into three kingdoms, viz. animal, vegetable, and mineral; in the knowledge and comprehension of which three he excelled and transmitted to posterity, in enigmas and symbols, the profound secrets of nature; likewise a true description of the Philosopher's Quintessence, or Universal Elixir, which he made as the receptacle of all celestial and terrestrial virtues. The Great Secret of the philosophers he discoursed on, which was found engraven upon a Smaragdine table, in the valley of Ebron.
There is no doubt but that he possessed the great secret of the philosophic work; and if God ever appeared in man, he appeared in him, as is evident both from his books and his Pymander; in which works he has communicated the sum of the abyss, and the divine knowledge to all posterity; by which he has demonstrated himself to have been not only an inspired divine, but also a deep philosopher, obtaining his wisdom from God and heavenly things, and not from man.
Francis Barrett, The Magus, page 150-1.
That the traditional dating of the Corpus Hermeticum as contemporaneous with Moses was in error had been discovered by Issac Casaubon in 1614 who noted various anachronisms and established by the style and vocabulary that they were not early Greek works. Yates, at 400. A date of the 2nd to 4th centuries A.D. is now generally accepted as the date of the earliest known versions of the Corpus Hermeticum. Casaubon's view that the Corpus Hermeticum was, "...made up partly from the writings of Plato and the Platonists and partly from Christian sacred books." [Yates at 400.] is also the currently scholarly opinion of the origin of the Corpus. Finally since the Renaissance philosophers and mages accepted the Corpus only because it was ancient and its antiquity has been, "debunked" as Yates puts it, it has been asserted that the whole Hermetic phenomenon was built on a lie.
By examining Barrett's biography of Hermes Trismegistus we can see how this argument is flawed. Barrett's account shows that even in the traditional view that the dating of Trismegistus is not entirely clear. But, as Barrett notes, "there is no doubt but that he possessed the great secret of the philosophic work; and if God ever appeared in man, he appeared in him, as is evident both from his books and his Pymander." Francis Barrett, The Magus, page 150-1. The value of Hermeticism in the traditional view was not as a historical record, but as inspired Divine wisdom and a signpost on the mystic path to Divine union.
This points up the deeper problem that moderns must, of necessity, have with the Corpus. The Modern World View is an atheistic and materialistic one. "Rational" thought must a priori dismiss the possibility of the active intervention of the spiritual and the Divine in the Material World, which is, of course, the only true Reality. The true flaw of the Hermeticism is its affirmation that gnosis and mystic union are actually possible.
It is certainly useful to have an accurate historical perspective on the Corpus Hermeticum. We need not fall into the error of some more naive Masons who insist on the literal truth of Masonic ritual asserting that Solomon wore a white lambskin apron with compass and square at the building of the Temple. On the other hand, we need sufficient sophistication to be able to judge for ourselves the quality of knowledge on its own terms, without relying on its age or the authority of those who communicate it. The fact that the world's biggest fool says it's raining is no evidence that the sun is shining and we would be best advised to look out the window ourselves.
My experience is that, having followed the Hermetic preparatory studies of astrology and magic (alchemy no doubt also works, but I have not been inspired to study it) that Hermetic philosophy accurately describes Reality. Not only that, but I am convinced that Hermeticism is a Practical Path to Gnosis.
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Specializing in Horary Astrology, Electional Astrology Astrological Magic and Astrological Talismans.
Copyright 2004, Christopher Warnock, All Rights Reserved.