Kabbalah: Hermetics: Hermes Trismegistus

The Wisdom of Hermes "Thrice Great"

By Robert Zucker

Hermes Trismegistus or "Thrice Great Hermes" was the symbol of the Neo-Platonic philosophy of Hermetics.

Hermes was also called Ter Maximus, having perfect knowledge of all things in the world.

Hermes may have been adopted from the Egyptian equivalent of Thoth (Tehuti), the god of wisdom and magic.

Hermes Trismegistus is credited with having written 20,000 books by the authority of Selecucus, according to Iamblicus.

The workings include treatises on magic, Jewish Qabalah, astrology and alchemy. The collection of works were called Hermetics or Hermetica.

How did Hermetics originate?

Hermetic writings date from the Roman period in Egypt. But, they are not Egyptian. The Greeks adopted the Egyptian ideas of Thoth, included some Judaic sources, to create their interpretation.

Between the second through fourth centuries, growing Christian philosophies influenced later Hermetic texts.

The theological writing of Hermes Trismegistus is collected in 17 treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum, dated during the first three centuries AD. Fragments of Hermetic writings were found in a Latin translation of the Asclepius, preserved among the works of Apuleus. Although the philosophy was basically Egyptian and Judaic, the language was in Greek.

From the Renaissance period until the end of the 19th century little attention was given to popular Hermetics.

Hermetic magic re-emerged in Western Europe when the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in 1888. In the late 20th century, authors like Franz Bardon popularized Hermetics with his series that included the practical magic handbook "Initiation into Hermetics."

Who is Hermes?

Hermes is the Greek messenger of the gods. He is the god of science, the arts and life. Hermes Trismegistus, the author of Hermetic literature, was also called the Deion of Phocis in Greek and Roman myths. The Romans called him Mercury.

As least as early as Herodotus, the Greek identified the Egyptian god Thoth with the Greek Hermes. By the third century BC, this connection was inscribed on the Rosetta Stone (196 BCE). "Hermes "the great, the great" was written. At the time, the epitaph of Hermes Trismegistus was rarely found outside of Hermetic texts.

Later, there were frequent mentions of Hermes Trismegistus in medieval and Renaissance literature.

Hermes is also the god of herds, being a fertility god. He is the guardian of travellers (as psychopompos) as well as the conductor of the dead to the underworld.

Hermes means hastener, interpreter or mediator. He is the symbolic messenger. In his role as a fertility god, Hermes was displayed as a phallic herm to increase the animal kingdom.

Hermes also presides as a deity of wealth, patron of athletes, god of trade, commerce, manual skill, oratory and eloquence of the wind (with whose speed he was able to move).

He was also the god of thieves and trickery. In the Roman period, Hermes was worshipped as the revealer of Divine Wisdom.

Next: Symbolism in Hermetics and Kabbalah

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Hermetica Book Recommendations

These are among some of the Hermetic books in my library, now available through Amazon.com. When you click on any link or image, follow through for more books in related topics.

"Initiation into Hermetics"
Author: Franz Bardon

Initiation into Hermetics provides step by step instruction in the form of practical magical exercises. These exercises lead to the development of body, soul and spirit. The result of the practical exercises is the development of occult abilities which can be of benefit to the student, in as far as he can change his existence for the better. 356 pages.

"The Secret Teachings of All Ages"
Manly Palmer Hall

In 1928, a 20-something Renaissance man named Manly Hall self-published a vast encyclopedia of the occult, believing that "modern" ideas of progress and materialism were displacing more important and ancient modes of knowledge. Hall's text has become a classic reference, dizzying in its breadth: various chapters explore Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah, alchemy, cryptology, Tarot, pyramids, the Zodiac, Pythagorean philosophy, Ma index.html sonry and gemology, among other topics. Includes a 16-page color insert.

"Meditation and Kabbalah"
Author: Aryeh Kaplan

368 pages. Meditative methods of Kabbalah. A lucid presentation of the meditative methods, mantras, mandalas and other devices used, as well as a penetrating interpretation of their significance in the light of contemporary meditative research. Jason Aronson; 1st Jason Aronson Inc. Ed edition (November 28, 1994). More Kabbalah books.

"Golden Dawn"
Israel Regardie

These Twelve Signs are distributed among the Four Triplicities, or sets of three Signs, each being attributed to one of the Four Elements, and they represent the operation of the elements in the Zodiac. 807 pages. Llewellyn Publications; 6th edition (September 1, 2002)

"Ecstatic Kabbalah"
Author: David A. Cooper

(Bob's note: "I just got this book with a meditative CD using Abulafia's techniques).