Hermes Trismegistusis a legendary figure who is the author of the Emerald Tablet, the foundation of Western Magic and esoteric tradition. Hermes Trismegistus is a composite of the Greek god HERMES and the Egyptian god THOTH.
The Greeks who settled in Egypt identified Thoth and Hermes with one another. Thoth ruled mystical wisdom, magic, writing, and other disciplines and was associated with healing. Hermes was the personification of universal wisdom and patron of magic; a swift, wing-footed messenger, he carried a magic wand, the caduceus.
Both were associated with the spirits of the dead: Thoth weighed their souls in the Judgment Hall of osiris; Hermes escorted shades to Hades. Both were credited with writing the sacred books of science, healing, philosophy, magic, and law and revealing the wisdom to mankind. Thrice greatest refers to Hermes Trismegistus as the greatest of all philosophers, the greatest of all kings, and the greatest of all priests.
The legend that developed around him held him to be a mythical king who reigned for 3,226 years. He carried an emerald, upon which was recorded all of philosophy, and the caduceus, the symbol of mystical illumination. He vanquished Typhon, the dragon of ignorance and mental, moral, and physical perversion. He is credited with writing 36,525 books on the Principles of Nature. Iamblichus reported the number at 20,000, and Clement of Alexandria at 42.
The biblical prophet Enoch is identified with Hermes Trismegistus. Hermetica The spiritual wisdom that, along with the Kabbalah, forms the foundation of the Western esoteric tradition, including Magic and Alchemy. The Hermetica are early writings that were attributed to the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus. Some are short treatises, and others are collections of aphorisms that are meant to be learned and put into practice. The most famous Hermetic work is the Emerald Tablet.
Most Hermetic writings were done during the first four centuries after Christ; some were written even later. They are a syncretism of Hellenistic and JudeoChristian thought. Hermetism is not a philosophy or teaching but a way to spiritual progress. Humanity is created by God like God and lives under the aegis of Nature. Destinies are ruled by the heavenly bodies; the microcosm, or Earth, is a reflection of the macrocosm, or heaven. Through the spiritual path, a human can know God and thus himself or herself and realize his or her immortal nature.
This is accomplished by developing three faculties:
• Gnosis, or knowledge, which is a spiritual awakening to the realization that God wants to be known;
• Logos, or reasonable speech, which is education on the structure and nature of creation;
• Nous, or mind, which is enlightenment achieved through the development of intuition, imagination, and mystical initiation.
According to lore, Hermes Trismegistus is credited with the writings of 36,525 books on the Principles of Nature. Iamblichus reported the number at 20,000, and Clement of Alexandria at 42.
Most were said to have been lost in the destruction of the library at Alexandria where they were housed. Legend says that surviving texts were buried in the desert by initiates. Key Hermetic texts, known as the Corpus Hermeticum, were rediscovered in 1461 and were translated and published throughout Europe to an enthusiastic audience of scholars and scientists.
They fell into disrepute in the 17th century but regained significance in the 20th century, especially with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi literature in Egypt in 1945.
Hermes Trismegistus “The thrice greatest Hermes,” a mythological blend of the Egyptian god Thoth, who governed mystical wisdom, Magic, writing and other disciplines, and was associated with Healing; and the Greek god Hermes, the personification of universal wisdom and patron of Magic, the swift, wing-footed messenger god who carried a magic wand, the caduceus. The ancient Greeks associated Hermes with Thoth so closely that the two became inseparable. “Thrice greatest” refers to Hermes Trismegistus as the greatest of all philosophers; the greatest of all kings; and the greatest of all priests.
Both Thoth and Hermes were associated with sacred writings. As scribe of the gods, Thoth was credited with all sacred books. In some Egyptian writings, he was described as “twice very great” and “five times very great.” Hermes was credited with the authorship of 20,000 books by Iamblichus (ca. 250–300 b.C.e.), a Neo-platonic Syrian philosopher, and more than 36,000 by manetho (ca. 300 b.C.e.), an Egyptian priest who wrote the history of Egypt in Greek, perhaps for Ptolemy I. According to myth, both Thoth and Hermes revealed to mankind the healing arts, magic, writing, astrology, sciences and philosophy. Thoth recorded the weighing of souls in the Judgment Hall of Osiris Hermes conducted the souls of the dead to Hades. Hermes, said Francis Barrett in Biographia Antiqua, “. . . communicated the sum of the Abyss, and the divine knowledge to all posterity . . .”
Hermes Trismegistus provided the wisdom of the light in the ancient Egyptian mysteries. He carried an emerald, upon which was recorded all of philosophy, and the caduceus, the symbol of mystical illumination. Hermes Trismegistus vanquished Typhon, the dragon of ignorance and mental, moral and physical perversion.
The surviving wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus is said to be the Hermetica, 42 books that profoundly influenced the development of Western occultism and magic. These books, probably authored by a succession of anonymous persons date to between the third century b.C.e. and the first century C.e.
- Mead, G. r. S. Thrice Greatest Hermes: Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis. York Beach, me.: Samuel Weiser, 1992.