The Archaic Underground Tradition
"In the ancient city of Annu (later called On in the Bible and Heliopolis by the Greeks) there was a great sacred pillar, itself named Annu - possibly before the city. This, we believe, was the great pillar of Lower Egypt and its counterpart in Upper Egypt at the time of unification was in the city of Nekheb. Later the city of Thebes, known then as 'Waset', had the title 'Iwnu Shema', which meant 'the Southern Pillar'."
The tradition of a secret doctrine of Thoth appears to be well established in Egypt:
2.) A chapter in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, according to its rubric, is said to have been found at:
"Divine authorship elevates religious literature from present day existence; similarly, the accounts about the discovery of such works ascribe them to a more or less distant past. This exemplifies the tendency to emphasize the antiquity of sacred writings, which is particularly evident in the retention of ancient linguistic forms or the deliberate choice of archaistic expressions. Egyptians could also adopt the customs of bygone ages in their mode of writing."
Regarding the "Pillars of Hermes" of "Seth" and of "Solomon"
(2) Greek Accounts
"Explaining the Egyptian pantheon of twelve gods to his countrymen, the Greek historian Herodotus also wrote of an 'Immortal whom the Egyptians venerated as "Hercules".' He traced the origins of the worship of this Immortal to Phoenicia, 'hearing that there was a temple of Hercules at that place, very highly venerated'. In the temple he saw two pillars. 'One was of pure gold; the other was as of emerald, shining with great brilliancy at night."
"Plato's Timaeus and Critias state that about 560 BC in the temple of Neith at Sais there were secret halls containing historical records which had been kept for more the 9,000 years. Proclus gives the name of the high priest with whom Plato spoke in Sais - Pateneit. It is probably from him that the Greek philosopher learned about the oldest archives of Egypt. Another interesting fact to notice is that the high priest of Egypt Psonchis, teacher of Pythagoras, also mentioned sacred registers which even speak of a collision of the Earth with a giant asteroid in a remote past."
"Greek philosophy and Egyptian lore really came together at the time of the Lagides, who gradually made Alexandria the intellectual, scientific, philosophic and religious center of the Hellenistic world....Manetho [his hieroglyphic name meant 'Gift of Thoth'], the Egyptian priest of Heliopolis, was also famous for translating the mysteries into Greek. He lived during the final years of the fourth and first half of the third centuries B.C. in the reign of the last two Ptolemies."
"Manetho extracted his history from certain pillars which he discovered in Egypt, whereon inscriptions had been made by Thoth, or the first Mercury [or Hermes], in the sacred letters and dialect; but which were after the flood translated from that dialect into the Greek tongue, and laid up in the private recesses the Egyptian Temples. These pillars were found in subterranean caverns, near Thebes and beyond the Nile, not far from the sounding statue of Memnon, in a place called Syringes; which are described to be certain winding apartments underground; made, it is said, by those who were skilled in ancient rites; who, foreseeing the coming of the Deluge, and fearing lest the memory of their ceremonies be obliterated, built and contrived vaults, dug with vast labor, in several places."
Hermes Trismegistus "invented many things necessary for the uses of life, and gave them suitable names; he taught men how to write down their thoughts and arrange their speech; he instituted the ceremonies to be observed in the worship of each of the Gods; he observed the course of the stars; he invented music, the different bodily exercises, arithmetic, medicine, the art of working in metals, the lyre with three strings; he regulated the three tones of the voice, the sharp, taken from autumn, the grave from winter, and the middle from spring, there being then but three seasons. It was he who taught the Greeks the mode of interpreting terms and things, when they gave him the name of [Hermes], which signifies Interpreter.
"...The so-called Hermetic literature...is a series of papyri describing various induction procedures...In one of them, there is a dialogue called the Asclepius (after the Greek god of healing) that describes the art of imprisoning the souls of demons or of angel in statues with the help of herbs, gems and odors, such that the statue could speak and prophesy. In other papyri, there are still other recipes for constructing such images and animating them, such as when images are to be hollow so as to enclose a magic name inscribed on gold leaf."
"The Vision is the most famous of all the Hermetic fragments, and contains an exposition of Hermetic cosmogony and the secret sciences of the Egyptians regarding the culture and unfoldment of the human soul. For some time it was erroneously called 'The Genesis of Enoch', but that mistake has now been rectified."
"His importance in magic is due to the so-called 'Emerald Tablet' which succinctly sets out the 'as above, so below' principle on which most magical theory is based."
"The exact origins of the celebrated 'Emerald Tablet' are lost, but it is certainly not nearly as old as it is supposed to be. The content of the 'Emerald Tablet' can be traced back, with a fair degree of certainty, to Moslem alchemists in Syria in about the tenth or eleventh centuries."
"While Hermes still walked the earth with men, he entrusted to his chosen successors the sacred Book of Thoth. This work contained the secret processes by which the regeneration of humanity was to be accomplished and also served as the key to is other writings. Nothing definite is known concerning the contents of the Book of Thoth other than that its pages were covered with strange hieroglyphic figures and symbols, which gave to those acquainted with their use unlimited power over the spirits of the air and the subterranean divinities. When certain areas of the brain are stimulated by the secret processes of the Mysteries, the consciousness of man is extended and he is permitted to behold the Immortals and enter into the presence of the superior gods. The Book of Thoth described the method whereby this stimulation was accomplished. In truth, therefore, it was the 'Key to Immortality'.
According to legend, the Book of Thoth was kept in a golden box in the inner sanctuary of the temple. There was but one key and this was in the possession of the 'Master of the Mysteries', the highest initiate of the Hermetic Arcanum. He alone knew what was written in the secret book. The Book of Thoth was lost to the ancient world with the decay of the Mysteries, but its faithful initiates carried it sealed in the sacred casket into another land. The book is still in existence and continues to lead the disciples of this age into the presence of the Immortals. No other information can be given to the world concerning it now, but the apostolic succession from the first hierophant initiated by Hermes himself remains unbroken to this day, and those who are peculiarly fitted to serve the Immortals may discover this priceless document if they will search sincerely and tirelessly for it."
The Philosphy of Hermes
"According to the Neoplatonic view the material world is arranged as a 'golden chain', which reaches from the topmost being and from the one which is beyond even existence, down to the last shimmer of being in matter, joining plane with plane in their essence. Ascending the chain the beings climb back to the summit of all being."
"Written by a Neoplatonist philosopher of about the fifth century, "the Celestial Hierarchies describes three worlds of which ours is the lowest. This is the elemental world of nature and is subject to influences from above. Above this 'sublunary' world, is what is called the 'celestial' world wherein are found the stars and their 'spirits' or 'guardians' (analogous to the Gnostic archons). Even higher is the sphere of the 'supercelestial' world, the world of nous, the 'intellectual' or 'intelligible' world of angelic spirits, of superior knowledge of reality because closer to the One, the divine source of creation, who is beyond the three worlds. Hand in hand with this concept of worlds, of which ours is the lowest projection, goes it essential counterpart; the concept of microcosm.... Going deeper and deeper into the mind of Man, illuminated by nous, man could travel farther and farther into the universe - and back again."
"Hermes, while wandering in a rocky and desolate place, gave himself over to meditation and prayer. Following the secret instructions of the Temple, he gradually freed his higher consciousness from the bondage of his bodily senses; and, thus release, his divine nature revealed to him the mysteries of the transcendental spheres. He beheld a figure, terrible and awe-inspiring. It was the Great Dragon, with wings stretching across the sky and light streaming in all directions from its body. (The Mysteries taught that the Universal Life was personified as a dragon.) The Great Dragon called Hermes by name, and asked him why he thus meditated upon the World Mystery. Terrified by the spectacle, Hermes prostrated himself before the Dragon, beseeching it to reveal its identity. The great creature answered that it was Poimandres, the Mind of the Universe, the Creative Intelligence, and the Absolute Emperor of all. [Edouard Schure, The Mysteries of Egypt, identities Poimandres as the god Osiris.] Hermes then besought Poimandres to disclose the nature of the universe and the constitution of the gods. The dragon acquiesced, bidding Trismegistus hold its image in his mind.
"Then again was heard the voice of Poimandres, but His form was not revealed: 'I Thy God am the Light and the Mind which were before substance was divided from spirit and darkness from Light. And the Word which appeared as a pillar of flame out of the darkness is the Son of God, born of the mystery of the Mind. the name of that Word is Reason. Reason is the offspring of Thought [Thoth] and Reason shall divide the Light from the darkness and establish truth in the midst of the waters'."
[Compare with the tradition behind the pillar of fire that the Isrealites followed in the wilderness.]
"Man, according to Hermes, had taken on a mortal body merely to commune with nature, but at heart remained a spirit, a divine, creative, and immortal essence. Living beings did not die, but, being composite, dissolved the bond in order to reunite and re-form. Nothing dies; it only dissolves and transforms. The gnosis consisted in re-becoming a god."
"Indeed, for antiquity in general, the divination of man was not an extravagant dream. 'Know, then, that you are a God,' Cicero wrote. And in a Hermetic text we read: 'I know thee, Hermes, and thou knowest me: I am thou and thou art I.' Similar expressions are found in Christian writings. As Clement of Alexandria says, the true (Christian) Gnostic 'has already become God.' And for Lactantlius, the chaste man will end by becoming consimilis Deo, 'identical in all respects with God.'"
The Neoplatonic Origins of the Writings
"...A Greek manuscript in seventeen books brought from Macedonia to Cosimo de' Medici...was said to contain the secret wisdom of Thoth, the Egyptian sage whom the Greeks called Hermes Trismegistus, or the Thrice Great Hermes."
"A fusion of Greek philosophy and the ancient religion of Egypt, the beliefs of Hermeticism were contained in a body of texts known as the Corpus Hermeticum."
"...In 1614 the brilliant scholar of Greek, Isaac Casaubon had shown in his de rebus sacris et ecclesiaticis exercitiones XVI that the Corpus Hermeticum could not possibly have been written by an ancient Egyptian sage - be he Hermes Trismegistus or anyone else. The Greek style was of the period of Plotinus (second and third century) and, furthermore, it had clearly escaped the attention of former commentators that neither Plato nor Moses nor Aristotle nor indeed any pre-Christian writer had ever made reference to this Hermes Trismegistus."
"It is this very book [the Book of Moses/] which Hermes plagiarized when he named the seven perfumes of sacrifice in his sacred book entitled The Wing."
"According to the legend... which had come from Lactantius, a father of the Church, Hermes Trismegistus was supposed to have foretold the coming of Christ. Hermes Trismegistus, in the book titled The Perfect Word, made use of these words: 'The Lord and Creator of all things, whom we have thought right to call God, since He made the second God visible and sensible.... Since, therefore, He made Him first, and alone, and one only, He appeared to Him beautiful, and most full of all good things; and He hallowed Him, and altogether loved Him as His own Son.' The fraud perpetrated by Neoplatonics of the second century was that Hermes was supposed to have been living at the time of Moses and his creation story and the quote which I read you was all about 1,500 years before Christ. In reality it was dated about the second century AD."
"The Neoplatonics believed in a world spirit, and that one could coax the spirit into matter through the use of the soul, which was located midway between spirit and matter. This use of the soul is what is known as magic. Augustine was revulsed by this practice and strongly admonished Hermes for practicing such magic."
"The Trismegistus, then, came under the influence of the early Christian Gnostics, many of whom adopted large chunks of it in defense of their 'heresies'. The most notable of these was Basilides, whom the great psychologist Carl Jung believed to be either a fragment of his own group soul guiding him in trance through the Seven Sermons of the Dead, or himself in a former life. The Valentinian Gnosis was also strongly Hermetical. The Gnostic flavor in the Trismegistus literature is therefore obviously very strong, so it will pay the student to strip away some of these Christo-Gnostic overleaves in order to get a little nearer to the Egyptian original."