Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The art of Hermeticism

Posted by Fredsvenn on February 12, 2015

Hermeticism

Hermeticism, also called Hermetism, is a religious and philosophical tradition based primarily upon writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (“Thrice Great”). These writings have greatly influenced the Western esoteric tradition and were considered to be of great importance during both the Renaissance and the Reformation.

The tradition claims descent from a prisca theologia, a doctrine which affirms that a single, true theology exists which is present in all religions and was given by God to man in antiquity.

Many Christian writers, including Emerson, Lactantius, Thomas of Aquinas, Augustine, Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, Campanella and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola considered Hermes Trismegistus to be a wise pagan prophet who foresaw the coming of Christianity.

An account of how Hermes Trismegistus received the name “Thrice Great” is derived from the The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, wherein it is stated that he knew the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe. The three parts of the wisdom are alchemy, astrology, and theurgy.

The Poimandres, from which Marsilio Ficino formed his opinion, states that “They called him Trismegistus because he was the greatest philosopher and the greatest priest and the greatest king.” The Suda (10th century) states that “He was called Trismegistus on account of his praise of the trinity, saying there is one divine nature in the trinity.”

Much of the importance of Hermeticism arises from its connection with the development of science during the time from 1300 to 1600 A.D. The prominence that it gave to the idea of influencing or controlling nature led many scientists to look to magic and its allied arts (e.g., alchemy, astrology) which, it was thought, could put Nature to the test by means of experiments. Consequently it was the practical aspects of Hermetic writings that attracted the attention of scientists.

Isaac Newton placed great faith in the concept of an unadulterated, pure, ancient doctrine, which he studied vigorously to aid his understanding of the physical world. Many of Newton’s manuscripts — most of which are still unpublished — detail his thorough study of the Corpus Hermeticum, writings said to have been transmitted from ancient times, in which the secrets and techniques of influencing the stars and the forces of nature were revealed.

Hermes Trismegistus (“thrice-greatest Hermes”; Latin: Mercurius ter Maximus) is the purported author of the Hermetic Corpus, a series of sacred texts that are the basis of Hermeticism. The Asclepius and the Corpus Hermeticum are the most important of the Hermetica, writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, which survive.

He may be a representation of the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. In Hellenistic Egypt, the Greeks recognised the congruence of their god Hermes with Thoth. Subsequently the two gods were worshipped as one in what had been the Temple of Thoth in Khemnu, which the Greeks called Hermopolis.

Both Thoth and Hermes were gods of writing and of magic in their respective cultures. Thus, the Greek god of interpretive communication was combined with the Egyptian god of wisdom as a patron of astrology and alchemy.

In addition, both gods were psychopomps, guiding souls to the afterlife. The Egyptian Priest and Polymath Imhotep had been deified long after his death and therefore assimilated to Thoth in the classical and Hellenistic period.

The renowned scribe Amenhotep and a wise man named Teôs were equally deified as gods of wisdom, science and medicine and thus placed alongside Imhotep in shrines dedicated to Thoth-Hermes during the Ptolemaic period.

Thoth, depending on the phonological interpretation of Egyptian’s emphatic consonants) was one of the deities of the Egyptian pantheon. In art, he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His feminine counterpart was Seshat, and his wife was Ma’at.

Hermes is an Olympian god in Greek religion and mythology, son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia. He is second youngest of the Olympian gods.

Hermes is a god of transitions and boundaries. He is quick and cunning, and moves freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, as emissary and messenger of the gods, intercessor between mortals and the divine, and conductor of souls into the afterlife. He is protector and patron of travelers, herdsmen, thieves, orators and wit, literature and poets, athletics and sports, invention and trade.

In some myths he is a trickster, and outwits other gods for his own satisfaction or the sake of humankind. His attributes and symbols include the herma, the rooster and the tortoise, purse or pouch, winged sandals, winged cap, and his main symbol is the herald’s staff, the Greek kerykeion or Latin caduceus which consisted of two snakes wrapped around a winged staff.

In the Roman adaptation of the Greek pantheon (see interpretatio romana), Hermes is identified with the Roman god Mercury, who, though inherited from the Etruscans, developed many similar characteristics, such as being the patron of commerce.

The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu (the son of Marduk) was in Sumerian times, identified with Enki, the originally patron god of the city of Eridu  (Cuneiform: NUN.KI; Sumerian: eriduki; Akkadian: irîtu). He was the deity of crafts, mischief, water intelligence and creation.

Ningishzida (sum: dnin-g̃iš-zid-da) is a Mesopotamian deity of the underworld. His name in Sumerian is translated as “lord of the good tree” by Thorkild Jacobsen. In Sumerian mythology, he appears in Adapa’s myth as one of the two guardians of Anu’s celestial palace, alongside Dumuzi. He was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head.

Ningishzida is the earliest known symbol of snakes twining around an axial rod. It predates the Caduceus of Hermes, the Rod of Asclepius and the biblical Nehushtan of Moses by more than a millennium. One Greek myth on origin of the caduceus is part of the story of Tieresias, who found two snakes copulating and killed the female with his staff.

Tammuz (Akkadian: Duʾzu, Dūzu; Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”) was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.

Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year.

Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre. Inanna can be considered the most prominent female deity in ancient Mesopotamia. As early as the Uruk period (ca. 4000–3100 BC), Inanna was associated with the city of Uruk. Inanna was associated with the planet Venus, which at that time was regarded as two stars, the “morning star” and the “evening star.”

Baldr (also Balder, Baldur) is a god of light and purity in Norse mythology, and a son of the god Odin and the goddess Frigg. He has numerous brothers, such as Thor and Váli. Grimm traces the etymology of the name to *balþaz, whence Gothic balþs, Old English bald, Old High German pald, all meaning “white, good”.

In Norse mythology, Nanna Nepsdóttir or simply Nanna is a goddess associated with the god Baldr. Accounts of Nanna vary greatly by source. In the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, Nanna is the wife of Baldr and the couple produced a son, the god Forseti.

After Baldr’s death, Nanna dies of grief. Nanna is placed on Baldr’s ship with his corpse and the two are set aflame and pushed out to sea. In Hel, Baldr and Nanna are united again.

In an attempt to bring back Baldr from the dead, the god Hermóðr rides to Hel and, upon receiving the hope of resurrection from the being Hel, Nanna gives Hermóðr gifts to give to the goddess Frigg (a robe of linen), the goddess Fulla (a finger-ring), and others (unspecified).

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