Hermes Trismegistus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Part of a series of articles on


Hermes Trismegistus

Hermetic Religion
Hermetism · Hermeticism

Hermes Trismegistus · Thoth · Poimandres

Corpus Hermeticum · Kybalion

Three Parts of the Wisdom of the Whole Universe
Alchemy · Astrology · Theurgy

Influence and Influences

Hermetic Movements

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn · Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor · Hermetic Brotherhood of Light

Topics in Hermetism

Hermetists and Hermeticists
John Dee . Aleister Crowley · Israel Regardie
Thābit ibn Qurra · Paracelsus
Giordano Bruno · Manly P. Hall · Samuel MacGregor Mathers · William Westcott · Emmanuel Campostrini
Franz Bardon

Hermes Trismegistus (Greek: Ἑρμῆς ὁ Τρισμέγιστος, "thrice-great Hermes"; Latin: Mercurius ter Maximus) is the representation of the combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.[1] In Hellenistic Egypt, the Greeks recognised the congruence of their God Hermes with the Egyptian god Thoth[2]. Subsequently the two gods were worshiped as one in what had been the Temple of Thoth in Khemnu, which the Greeks called Hermopolis.


[edit] Why Thrice Great?

The origin of the description Trismegistus or thrice great is unclear. Copenhaver reports that this name is first found in the minutes of a meeting of the council of the Ibis cult, held in 172 BCE near Memphis in Egypt[3]. Fowden however asserts that the earliest occurrence of the name was in the Athenagora by Philo of Byblos circa 64–141 CE[4]. Another explanation is that the name is derived from an epithet of Thoth found at the Temple of Esna, "Thoth the great, the great, the great"[5]. The date of his sojourn in Egypt, in that his last incarnation on this planet, is not now known, but it has been fixed at the early days of the oldest dynasties of Egypt–long before the days of Moses. The best authorities regard him as a contemporary of Abraham, and some of the Jewish traditions go so far as to claim that Abraham acquired a portion of his mystic knowledge from Hermes himself.(Kybalion)

Many Christian writers, including Lactantius, 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[6]. They believed in a 'Prisca Theologia', the doctrine that a single, true, theology exists, which threads through all religions, and which was given by god to man in antiquity [7][8] and passed through a series of prophets, which included Zoroaster and Plato. In order to demonstrate the verity of the 'priscia theologia' Christians appropriated the Hermetic teachings for their own purposes. By this account Hermes Trismegistus was either, according to the fathers of the Christian church, a contemporary of Moses[9] or the third in a line of men named Hermes i.e. Enoch, Noah and the Egyptian priest king who is known to us as Hermes Trismegistus[10] or thrice great on account of being the greatest priest, philosopher and king[11][12].

This last account of how Hermes Trismegistus received the name "Trismegistus," meaning "Thrice Great," is derived from statements both in the The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, that he knows the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe[13]. The three parts of the wisdom are alchemy, astrology, and theurgy. The pymander, from where 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"[14].

Another explanation, in the Suda (10th century), is that "He was called Trismegistus on account of his praise of the trinity, saying there is one divine nature in the trinity"[15].

[edit] The Hermetic writings

The Asclepius and the Corpus Hermeticum are the most important of the Hermetica, writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, which survive. During the Renaissance it was accepted that Hermes Trismegistos was a contemporary of Moses, however after Casaubon’s dating of the Hermetic writings as no earlier than the second or third century CE, the whole of Renaissance Hermeticism collapsed[16].

As to their actual authorship;

"... they were certainly not written in remotest antiquity by an all wise Egyptian priest, as the Rennaissance believed, but by various unknown authors, all probably Greeks, and they contain popular Greek philosophy of the period, a mixture of Platonism and Stoicism, combined with some Jewish and probably some Persian influences.[17]

Hermes Trismegistus is described in the Corpora Hermetica in a Euhemerist fashion, as a man who became a god or as a man who was the son of a god[citation needed].

[edit] Origin and Identity

Hermes Trismegistus, floor mosaic in the Cathedral of Siena

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. And there is also a connection with the Egyptian Priest and Polymath Imhotep[citation needed].

A very early Greek reference found on a Linear B clay tablet (Pylos Tn 316) to a deity or semi-deity called TI-RI-SE-RO-E, Trisheros (the "thrice or triple hero [1]") could be connected to the later "thrice wise" "Trismegistus".[citation needed] On the same Tn 316 tablet as well as other Linear B tablets, found in Pylos and Knossos, appears the name of the deity "Hermes" as E-MA-A, but not in any apparent connection with the "Trisheros".

The majority of Greeks, and later Romans, did not accept Hermes Trismegistus in the place of Hermes[citation needed]. The two gods remained distinct from one another. Cicero noted several individuals referred to as "Hermes" (De natura deorum III, Ch. 56): the fifth, who is worshipped by the people of Pheneus [in Arcadia?], is said to have killed Argus, and for this reason to have fled to Egypt, and to have given the Egyptians their laws and alphabet: he it is whom the Egyptians call Theyt.

The Hermetic literature added to the Egyptian concerns with conjuring spirits and animating statues that inform the oldest texts, Hellenistic writings of Greco-Babylonian astrology and the newly developed practice of alchemy (Fowden 1993: pp65–68). In a parallel tradition, Hermetic philosophy rationalized and systematized religious cult practices and offered the adept a method of personal ascension from the constraints of physical being, which has led to confusion of Hermeticism with Gnosticism, which was developing contemporaneously [2]

As a divine fountain of writing, Hermes Trismegistus was credited with tens of thousands of writings of high standing, reputed to be of immense antiquity. Plato's Timaeus and Critias state that in the temple of Neith at Sais, there were secret halls containing historical records which had been kept for 9,000 years.Clement of Alexandria was under the impression that the Egyptians had forty-two sacred writings by Hermes, encapsulating all the training of Egyptian priests. Siegfried Morenz has suggested (Egyptian Religion) "The reference to Thoth's based on ancient tradition; the figure forty-two probably stems from the number of Egyptian nomes, and thus conveys the notion of completeness." The Neo-Platonic writers took up Clement's "forty-two essential texts".

The so-called "Hermetic literature", the Hermetica, is a category of papyri containing spells and induction procedures. In the dialogue called the Asclepius (after the Greek god of healing) the art of imprisoning the souls of demons or of angels in statues with the help of herbs, gems and odors, is described, such that the statue could speak and prophesy. In other papyri, there are other recipes for constructing such images and animating them, such as when images are to be fashioned hollow so as to enclose a magic name inscribed on gold leaf.

[edit] Hermetic revival

For the main article, see Hermeticism. For the career of the Corpus Hermeticum, see Hermetica.

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus known as Hermetica enjoyed great credit and were popular among alchemists. The "hermetic tradition" therefore refers to alchemy, magic, astrology and related subjects. The texts are usually distinguished in two categories the "philosophical" and "technical" hermetica. The former deals mainly with issues of philosophy, and the latter with magic, potions and alchemy. Among other things there are spells to magically protect objects; hence the origin of the term "Hermetically sealed".

The classical scholar Isaac Casaubon in De rebus sacris et ecclesiasticis exercitationes XVI (1614) showed, by the character of the Greek, the texts that were traditionally written at the dawn of time, to be more recent: most of the "philosophical" Corpus Hermeticum can be dated to around AD 300. However, flaws in this identification were uncovered by the 17th century scholar Ralph Cudworth, who argued that Casaubon's allegation of forgery could only be applied to three of the seventeen treatises contained within the Corpus Hermeticum. Moreover, Cudworth noted Casaubon's failure to acknowledge the codification of these treatises as a late formulation of a pre-existing (possibly oral) tradition. According to Cudworth, the text must be viewed as a terminus ad quem and not a quo.

[edit] Hermes Trismegistus in Islamic tradition

Antoine Faivre, in The Eternal Hermes (1995) has pointed out that Hermes Trismegistus has a place in the Islamic tradition, though the name Hermes does not appear in the Qur'an. Hagiographers and chroniclers of the first centuries of the Islamic Hegira quickly identified Hermes Trismegistus with Idris, the nabi of surahs 19.57; 21.85, whom the Arabs also identify with Enoch (cf. Genesis 5.18–24). Idris/Hermes is called "Thrice-Wise" Hermes Trismegistus because he was threefold: the first of the name, comparable to Thoth, was a "civilizing hero," an initiator into the mysteries of the divine science and wisdom that animate the world; he carved the principles of this sacred science in hieroglyphs. The second Hermes, in Babylon, was the initiator of Pythagoras. The third Hermes was the first teacher of alchemy. "A faceless prophet," writes the Islamicist Pierre Lory, "Hermes possesses no concrete or salient characteristics, differing in this regard from most of the major figures of the Bible and the Quran."[18]. Another common knowledge says "trismegistus=thrice great" means that three different privileges of Idris ; messenger of god(prophet), hikmet(wisdom-hokmah), king of world order(sultanate). These are called as "müselles bin ni'me".

[edit] In the Bahá'í writings

Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the Bahá'í Faith, in a Tablet identifies Idris with Hermes.[19] He does not, however, specifically name Idris as the prophet of the Sabians.

[edit] New Age revival

Modern occultists continue to suggest that some of these texts may be of Pharaonic origin, and that "the forty two essential texts" that contained the core work of his religious beliefs and his life philosophy remain hidden away in a secret library.

In some of the readings of Edgar Cayce, Hermes or Thoth was an engineer from the submerging Atlantis and he built or designed or directed the construction of the Pyramids of Egypt.

The book "The Kybalion" by an author nicknamed "The Three Initiates" talks about the Hermetic Principles.

Within the occult tradition, Hermes Trismegistus is credited with several wives, and more than one son who took his name, as well as more than one grandson. This repetition of given name and surname throughout the generations may at least partially account for the legend of his longevity, especially as it is believed that many of his children pursued careers as priests in the religion he started.

[edit] Fictional references

  • The book Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco concerns a universal conspiracy theory which revolves around Hermetic tradition. The main character and narrator of the book is called Casaubon.
  • "Lost Hearts," a short story by M. R. James, contains a reference to Hermes Trismegistus in its conclusion.
  • Ægypt, a sequence of books by the contemporary American author John Crowley, is in part a meditation on the influence of Hermetic ideas in the European Renaissance, and more or less indirectly on the lives of characters living in the second half of the twentieth century. In his author's notes, Crowley acknowledges his debt to Frances Yates, whose pioneering work Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition largely inspired the portions of Crowley's work which deal with the life of Giordano Bruno and the English mage John Dee. The motto of the novels is authentically, if at times ironically, Hermetic in spirit: "There is more than one history of the world."
  • In the book "The Astrological Diary of God" by Bo Fowler The main character thinks he is the reincarnation of Hermes Trigmegistus whom he names "the thrice-great one".
  • In the book "The Savage Garden" by Mark Mills; the main character refers to Hermes Trigmegistus and quotes "as above - so below".
  • The book series "The Chaos Chronicles" by John C. Wright features Hermes Trismegistus amongst many other Greek deities.
  • The final boss of the video game Atelier Iris is named Trismegistus (called Amalgam in the official US release).
  • In the video game Persona 3, Junpei Iori's Persona is named Hermes, and has a second form named Trismegistus.
  • In the comic book series "Promethea" by Alan Moore, Hermes Trismegistus appears as a resident of the kabbalistic Sephira Hod, where he explains the importance of language and mathematics in magic as being elements of that sephiroth.
  • In the comic book series "Battle Angel Alita: Last Order" Chapter 71, the capsule containing Alita's brain chip and the Fata Morgana crystal attacks the Tunguska battle robot from Jupiter using Trismegistus class nanomachines, possibly as a reference to the alchemy of corroding the metals of the robots arm.
  • In the anime OVA .hack//Liminality, the final episode is called Trismegistus and features the 3 characters, Mai Minase, Yuki Aihara, and Kyoko Tohno, from the previous episodes as they come together to restore the fallen coma victims from the online video game, The World.
  • In the d20 sourcebook The Slayers Guide to Undead by Gary Gygax and Jon Creffield (Mongoose Publishing) repeated reference is made to a Simon Trismegistus, a necromancer of evil reputation heading a fictional order styling itself the Sons of Dis.
  • In the January 5, 2009 The New Yorker, a poem by Richard Wilbur, "Trismegistus."

[edit] See also

[edit] Source

Greek Wikisource has original text related to this article:

*Copenhaver, Brian P. 1995.Hermetica: the Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a new English translation, with notes and introduction, Cambridge; New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 1995 ISBN 0-521-42543-3.

[edit] References

  1. ^ (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 415)
  2. ^ Hart, G., The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, 2005, Routledge, second edition, Oxon, p 158
  3. ^ Copenhaver, B. P., "Hermetica", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992, p xiv.
  4. ^ Fowden, G., "The Egyptian Hermes", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987, p 213
  5. ^ Hart, G., The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, 2005, Routledge, second edition, Oxon, p 158
  6. ^ Yates, F., "Giordino Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition", Routledge, London, 1964, pp 9–15 and pp 61–66 and p 413
  7. ^ Yates, F., "Giordino Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition", Routledge, London, 1964, pp 14–18 and pp 433–434
  8. ^ Hanegraaff, W. J., "New Age Religion and Western Culture", SUNY, 1998, p 360
  9. ^ Yates, F., "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition", Routledge, London, 1964, p 27 and p 293
  10. ^ Yates, F., "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition", Routledge, London, 1964, p52
  11. ^ Yates, F., "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition", Routledge, London, 1964, p 52
  12. ^ Copenhaver, B.P., "Hermetica", Cambridge University Press, 1992, p xlviii
  13. ^ (Scully p. 322)
  14. ^ Copenhaver, Hermetica, p. xlviii
  15. ^ Copenhaver, Hermetica, p. xli
  16. ^ Haanegraaff, W. J., New Age Religion and Western Culture, Brill, Leiden, New York, 1996, p 390
  17. ^ (Yates Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition pp. 2–3)
  18. ^ (Faivre 1995 pp. 19–20)
  19. ^ Bahá'u'lláh (1994) [1873–92]. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 152. ISBN 0877431744. 
  • Ebeling, Florian, The secret history of Hermes Trismegistus: Hermeticism from ancient to modern times [Translated from the German by David Lorton] (Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 2007), ISBN 9780801445460.
  • Festugière, A.-J.,La révélation d'Hermès Trismégiste. 2e éd., 3 vol., Paris 1981.
  • Fowden, Garth, 1986. The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Princeton University Press, 1993): deals with Thoth (Hermes) from his most primitive known conception to his later evolution into Hermes Trismegistus, as well as the many books and scripts attributed to him.)
  • Yates, Frances A., Giordano Bruno and the hermetic tradition. University of Chicago Press, 1964. ISBN 0226950077.
  • Merkel, Ingrid and Allen G. Debus, 1988. Hermeticism and the Renaissance: intellectual history and the occult in early modern Europe Folger Shakespeare Library ISBN 0-918016-85-1
  • CACIORGNA, Marilena e GUERRINI, Roberto: Il pavimento del duomo di Siena. L'arte della tarsia marmorea dal XIV al XIX secolo fonti e simologia. Siena 2004.
  • CACIORGNA, Marilena: Studi interdisciplinari sul pavimento del duomo di Siena. Atti el convegno internazionale di studi chiesa della SS. Annunziata 27 e 28 settembre 2002. Siena 2005.

[edit] External links

Personal tools