The texts now known as the Corpus Hermeticum are dated by modern translators and most scholars as beginning of 2nd century or earlier.
Their predominant literary form is the dialogue : Hermes Trismegistus instructs a perplexed disciple upon various teachings of the hidden wisdom. After centuries of falling out of favor, Hermeticism was reintroduced to the West when, in , a man named Leonardo de Candia Pistoia  brought the Corpus Hermeticum to Pistoia.
He was one of many agents sent out by Pistoia's ruler, Cosimo de' Medici , to scour European monasteries for lost ancient writings.
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In , Isaac Casaubon , a Swiss philologist , analyzed the Greek Hermetic texts for linguistic style. Even in light of Casaubon's linguistic discovery and typical of many adherents of Hermetic philosophy in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries , Thomas Browne in his Religio Medici confidently stated: "The severe schools shall never laugh me out of the philosophy of Hermes, that this visible world is but a portrait of the invisible. In , however, flaws in Casaubon's dating were discerned by 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 oral tradition.
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According to Cudworth, the texts must be viewed as a terminus ad quem and not a terminus a quo. Lost Greek texts, and many of the surviving vulgate books, contained discussions of alchemy clothed in philosophical metaphor. In , Hermetic texts were found near the Egyptian town Nag Hammadi. One of these texts had the form of a conversation between Hermes and Asclepius. A second text titled On the Ogdoad and Ennead told of the Hermetic mystery schools.
It was written in the Coptic language , the latest and final form in which the Egyptian language was written. According to Geza Vermes , Hermeticism was a Hellenistic mysticism contemporaneous with the Fourth Gospel, and Hermes Tresmegistos was "the Hellenized reincarnation of the Egyptian deity Thoth , the source of wisdom, who was believed to deify man through knowledge gnosis.
Gilles Quispel says "It is now completely certain that there existed before and after the beginning of the Christian era in Alexandria a secret society, akin to a Masonic lodge. The members of this group called themselves 'brethren,' were initiated through a baptism of the Spirit, greeted each other with a sacred kiss, celebrated a sacred meal and read the Hermetic writings as edifying treatises for their spiritual progress.
There is neither internal nor external evidence for such an Alexandrian 'lodge', a designation that is alien to the ancient world and carries Masonic connotations. In Hermeticism, the ultimate reality is referred to variously as God, the All, or the One. God in the Hermetica is unitary and transcendent: he is one and exists apart from the material cosmos.
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Hermetism is therefore profoundly monotheistic although in a deistic and unitarian understanding of the term. Its philosophy teaches that there is a transcendent God , or Absolute, in which we and the entire universe participate. It also subscribes to the idea that other beings, such as aeons , angels and elementals , exist within the universe.
Hermeticists believe in a prisca theologia , the doctrine that a single, true theology exists, that it exists in all religions, and that it was given by God to man in antiquity. By this account, Hermes Trismegistus was according to the fathers of the Christian church either a contemporary of Moses  or the third in a line of men named Hermes— Enoch , Noah , and the Egyptian priest-king who is known to us as Hermes Trismegistus.
The actual text of that maxim , as translated by Dennis W. Hauck from The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus , is: "That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing. This principle, however, is more often used in the sense of the microcosm and the macrocosm.
The microcosm is oneself, and the macrocosm is the universe. The macrocosm is as the microcosm and vice versa; within each lies the other, and through understanding one usually the microcosm a person may understand the other. Alchemy the operation of the Sun : Alchemy is not merely the changing of lead into gold.
Astrology the operation of the stars : Hermes claims that Zoroaster discovered this part of the wisdom of the whole universe, astrology, and taught it to man. Astrology has influences upon the Earth, but does not dictate our actions, and wisdom is gained when we know what these influences are and how to deal with them. Theurgy the operation of the gods : There are two different types of magic, according to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola's Apology , completely opposite of each other. The second is Theurgy , divine magic reliant upon an alliance with divine spirits i. Reincarnation is mentioned in Hermetic texts.
Hermes Trismegistus asked:. O son, how many bodies have we to pass through, how many bands of demons, through how many series of repetitions and cycles of the stars, before we hasten to the One alone? Hermes explains in Book 9 of the Corpus Hermeticum that nous reason and knowledge brings forth either good or evil, depending upon whether one receives one's perceptions from God or from demons.
God brings forth good, but demons bring forth evil. Among the evils brought forth by demons are: "adultery, murder, violence to one's father, sacrilege, ungodliness, strangling, suicide from a cliff and all such other demonic actions".
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This provides evidence that Hermeticism includes a sense of morality. However, the word "good" is used very strictly. It is restricted to references to God. Men are prevented from being good because man, having a body, is consumed by his physical nature, and is ignorant of the Supreme Good.
A focus upon the material life is said to be the only thing that offends God:. As processions passing in the road cannot achieve anything themselves yet still obstruct others, so these men merely process through the universe, led by the pleasures of the body. One must create, one must do something positive in one's life, because God is a generative power. Not creating anything leaves a person "sterile" i. A creation story is told by God to Hermes in the first book of the Corpus Hermeticum. It begins when God, by an act of will, creates the primary matter that is to constitute the cosmos.
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From primary matter God separates the four elements earth, air, fire, and water. Then God orders the elements into the seven heavens often held to be the spheres of Mercury , Venus , Mars , Jupiter , Saturn , the Sun, and the Moon , which travel in circles and govern destiny. Nous then makes the seven heavens spin, and from them spring forth creatures without speech. Earth is then separated from water, and animals other than man are brought forth.
The God then created androgynous man, in God's own image, and handed over his creation.
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Man carefully observed the creation of nous and received from God man's authority over all creation. Man then rose up above the spheres' paths in order to better view creation. He then showed the form of the All to Nature. Nature fell in love with the All, and man, seeing his reflection in water, fell in love with Nature and wished to dwell in it.
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Immediately, man became one with Nature and became a slave to its limitations, such as sex and sleep. In this way, man became speechless having lost "the Word" and he became " double ", being mortal in body yet immortal in spirit , and having authority over all creation yet subject to destiny. These will be explored as they appear for each card, but there is no point in doing this systematically, since the system itself has no underlying meaning. Pareidolia is sufficient to account for any insights discovered therein. The human mind is a kind of terrain that as yet comes with no map that bears any geographical likeness to the terrain itself.
The map is symbolic, so in ways it must be taken on its own terms, and because of this it can be a little too easy to get lost in the map without continually referring back to the reality it is supposed to represent. This will be repeated later: If a map of the psyche or symbolic language is to be useful in a real world, the orienting and interpretive grids that it superimposes onto reality will continue to hover pretty closely over that reality, instead of moving further away into multiple levels of abstraction on abstraction.
As simple as these systems are, the permutations within the organizing system, which are separate from the individual symbols and ideas, can get extremely complex. These are the maps that our sojourners get lost in, believing there is more information there than in the contact with the world that the symbols are supposed to point to. The abstraction itself becomes a distraction, often a mindless one. Over-elaboration is a real problem in all of these symbolic languages. Newcomers and old-timers alike will get fascinated by all of the permutations and extrapolations of the structural system and wander away into ever-higher levels of remove, each thinking they might be onto something big, but almost always moving ever further from the point of having such a system in the first place.
It is independent of verification or refutation because it exists only in its own world.