An introduction to Hermetic philosophy, the lost field of scientific investigation into magick, alchemy and the hidden nature of reality.
Alchemy is tradition spanning millennia that influenced the development of modern chemistry, medicine, philosophy and psychology. Western alchemy blends Greek, Egyptian, Islamic and Jewish traditions, and is a branch of Hermetic philosophy, which is based on the works of Hermes Trismegistus, meaning “Thrice-Great” Hermes.
It’s debated why Hermes Trismegistus was called “Thrice-Great,” but it’s thought that it was because he knows three parts of the wisdom of the universe: alchemy (the operation of the sun), astrology (the operation of the stars) and theurgy (the operation of the gods). Hermes credited the creation of astrology to Zoroaster, founder of the Zoroastrian religion and Middle Eastern philosopher living sometime in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC.
Hermes Trismegistus is considered the founder of science, religion, mathematics, geometry, alchemy, philosophy, medicine and magic. He is a combination of the Egyptian deity Thoth, god of wisdom, learning and communications, and the Greek deity Hermes, messenger of the gods.
He is also credited to have written somewhere between 20,000 and 36,525 works, of which 42 were kept in the great Library of Alexandria, which was destroyed multiple times. Unfortunately, but against all odds, a small handful of Hermes’ texts remain today, most of which are compiled into the Corpus Hermeticum.
It is said that Hermes Trismegistus received his divine wisdom in meditative trances. He covered topics such as medicine, chemistry, law, art, music, magic, philosophy, geography, mathematics and anatomy. His knowledge was so vast and all-encompassing that the ancient Egyptians called him the messenger or communicator of the gods.
Who Was Hermes Trismegistus?
Hermes Trismegistus may have been an actual living king, philosopher and priest, as well as a sage, scientist and sorcerer. He was known by many names, and was considered to be an amalgamation of several people and mythological figures of ancient history. The main function of the various “incarnations” of Hermes is to transcribe the word of God, and his main symbol is the caduceus or serpent staff.
Historical and mythological figures associated with Hermes Trismegistus included:
Thoth (Egyptian Paganism)
Egyptian god of wisdom, learning and communications. He is the scribe of the gods, and was believed to have invented language, the alphabet and writing (i.e. hieroglyphs). The Egyptians credit him as the author of all works of science, philosophy, religion, wisdom and magic. It is believed that Thoth would have actually been an Egyptian priest-king and philosopher who would have lived somewhere around 2000-1200 BC.
Hermes (Greek Paganism)
The Greeks identified Thoth with Hermes, the son of Zeus and the god of science, commerce, language and writing, as well as the messenger of the gods and the first teacher of alchemy. Hermes was also believed to be the inventor of astronomy, astrology, mathematics, geometry, medicine, botany, theology and all branches of knowledge.
Mercury (Roman Paganism)
The Roman adaptation of Hermes is the god Mercury, who is the patron of commerce.
Enoch/Metatron (Biblical figure in Judaism and Christianity)
Enoch is the great grandfather of Noah who ascends to heaven and becomes the archangel Metatron, celestial scribe.
Idris (Prophet in Islam)
Synonymous with Enoch.
Moses (Judaism, Islam & Christianity)
Moses was an Egyptian prince of Hebrew heritage, who lived in Egypt somewhere between 2000-1200 BC. He established a monotheistic religion in pagan Egypt but was forced to exile. He is credited with the writing of the Torah and the Ten Commandments, which were given by God through Moses.
Akhenaten (Egyptian Pharaoh; reigned from 1353–1336 BC)
He attempted to make pagan Egypt monotheistic under one sun god. His mother, Tuy, was likely of Hebrew origin and he was driven out of Egypt like Moses. The city with the most Statues of Akhenaten is the the city of Hermopolis, which is dedicated to Hermes Trismegistus.