Hermes Trismegistus

The Archaic Underground Tradition

(1) Ancient Egyptian 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 twin pillars of the Two Lands became the Pillars of Hermes and the attributes of the ancient Egyptian moon god Thoth became absorbed into Hermes...It was said that this god [Thoth] possessed all secret knowledge on 36,535 scrolls that were hidden under the heavenly vault (the sky) which could only be found by the worthy, who would use such knowledge for the benefit of mankind."
     - Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus

The tradition of a secret doctrine of Thoth appears to be well established in Egypt:
1.) According to a papyrus dating to Dynasty 12 of the Old Kingdom:

"Then [His Majesty] King Khufu, the vindicated, said: Now as for the rumor that you know the shrines of the secret chambers of the enclosure of [Thoth]? Dedi said: By your favor, I do not know their shrines, Sovereign, my lord, but I do know the place where they are. His Majesty said: Where are they? And Dedi said: There is a passage of flint in a chamber called the Inventory in Heliopolis in that passage."
     - "A Marvel in the Time of King Khufu Himself"

2.) A chapter in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, according to its rubric, is said to have been found at:

"Shmun [Hermopolis] under the feet of the majesty of this sublime god [Thoth] upon a slab of upper Egyptian granite in the script of the god himself in the tomb of...Mycerinus, by Prince Hor-dedef. He found the spell when he was engaged in inspecting the temples."
     - The Egyptian Book of the Dead

"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."
"There is a particle of truth in the statement of Clement of Alexandria that the Egyptians had forty-two sacred writings by Hermes (Thoth), in so far as these texts, which include geographical and medical works among others, constitute the entire range of material available for the education of priests. The reference to Thoth's based on ancient tradition; the figure forty-two probably stems from the number of Egyptian nomes, and thus conveys the notion of completeness."
     - Siegfried Morenz, Egyptian Religion

Regarding the "Pillars of Hermes" of "Seth" and of "Solomon"
"In the 9th chapter of the [Egyptian] Ritual of the Dead they are referred to as the 'Pillars of Shu', the 'Pillars of the Gods of the Dawning Light', and also as 'the North and Southern Columns of the Gate of the Hall of Truth'. In the 125th chapter, they are represented by the sacred gateway, the door to which the aspirant is brought when he has completed the negative confession. The archaic pictures on the one Pillar are painted in black upon a white ground, and those on the other in white upon a black ground, in order to express the interchange and reconciliation of opposing forces and the eternal balance of light and darkness which give force to visible nature....The archaic illustrations are taken from vignettes of the 17th and 125th chapter of the Ritual of the Dead, the Egyptian Book of the 'Per-em-Hru' or the 'Book of Coming Forth into the Day', the oldest book in the world as yet discovered."
"...The general design of the White Pillar is a pictorial synthesis of the gradual freeing of the soul from the body, left to be mummied and its union with Osiris, Lord and Judge of the Dead and of the resurrection, the sun in his rising....The Black Pillar symbolizes the pathway of darkness, the Negative Confession, as the White Pillar represents the Hymn to the Rising Sun, the Pathway of Light, and the Positive Confession."
     - G. H. Frater, "The Core of the Tradition"
     The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic

(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."
     - Zecharia Sitchin, The Stairway to Heaven

"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."
     - Andrew Tomas, On the Shores of Endless Worlds

"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."
     - Murray Hope, Practical Egyptian Magic

"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.
"In Egypt he instituted hieroglyphics: he selected a certain number of persons whom he judged fitted to be the depositories of his secrets, of such only as were capable at attaining the throne and the first offices in the Mysteries, he united them in a body, created them Priests of the Living God, instructed them in the sciences and arts, and explained to them the symbols by which they were veiled."
     - General Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma

"...The so-called Hermetic 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."
     - Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

"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."
     - Manly P. Hall, Masonic, Hermetic, Quabbalistic & Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy

"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."
     - David Conway, Ritual Magic

"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."
     - Daniel Cohen, Masters of the Occult

"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."
"It has been asserted that the Book of Thoth is, in reality, the mysterious Tarot of the Bohemians - a strange emblematic book of seventy-eight leaves which has been in possession of the gypsies since the time then they were driven from their ancient temple, the Serapeum."
     - Manly P. Hall, Masonic, Hermetic, Quabbalistic & Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy

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."
     - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)

"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."
     - Tobias Churton, The Gnostics

"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.
"Immediately the form of Poimandres changed. Where it had stood there was a glorious and pulsating Radiance. This Light was the spiritual nature of the Great Dragon itself. Hermes was 'raised' into the midst of this Divine Effulgence and the universe of material things faded from his consciousness. Presently a great darkness descended and, expanding, swallowed up the Light. Everything was troubled. about Hermes swirled a mysterious watery substance which gave forth a smokelike vapor. The air was filled with inarticulate moanings and sighings which seemed to come from the Light swallowed up in the darkness. His mind told Hermes that the Light was the form of the spiritual universe and that the swirling darkness which had engulfed it represented material substance.
"Then out of the imprisoned Light a mysterious and Holy Word came forth and took its stand upon the smoking waters. This Word - the Voice of the Light - rose out of the darkness as a great pillar, and the fire and the air followed after it, but the earth and the water remained unmoved below. Thus the waters of Light were divided from the waters of darkness, and from the waters of Light were formed the worlds above and from the waters of darkness were formed the worlds below. The earth and the water next mingle, becoming inseparable, and the Spiritual Word which is called Reason moved upon their surface, causing endless turmoil."

"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'."
     - Manly P. Hall, Masonic, Hermetic, Quabbalistic & Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy

[Compare with the tradition behind the pillar of fire that the Isrealites followed in the wilderness.]

"Of the immortal man it should be said that He is hermaphrodite, or male and female, and eternally watchful. He neither slumbers nor sleeps, and is governed by a Father also both male and female, and ever watchful. Such is the mystery kept hidden to this day, for Nature, being mingled in marriage with the Sky Man, brought forth a wonder most wonderful - seven men, all bisexual, male and female, and upright of stature, each one exemplifying the natures of the Seven governors [spirits of the Planets]. These, O Hermes, are the seven races, species, and wheels."
"Then all living creatures, including man, which had been hermaphroditical, were separated, the males being set apart by themselves and the females likewise, according to the dictates of Reason.'
"Then God spoke to the Holy Word within the soul of all things, saying: 'Increase in increasing and multiply in multitudes, all you, my creatures and workmanships. Let him that is endued with Mind know himself to be immortal and that the cause of death is the love of the body; and let him learn all things that are, for he who has recognized himself enters into the state of Good.'"
     - Poimadres (or The Vision of Hermes)

"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."
     - Peter Tompkins, The Magic of Obelisks

"We suffer a perpetual transmutation, whereby we receive a perpetual flow of fresh atoms, while those that we have received are leaving us."
     - Giordano Bruno

"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.'"
     - Mircea Eliade, Rites and Symbols of Initiation

"...You saw the spirit, you became spirit. You saw Christ, you became Christ. You saw the father, you shall become see yourself, and what you see you shall [become]."
"Whoever achieves gnosis becomes "no longer Christian but a Christ."
     - Gospel of Philip

"...I was very disturbed, and I turned to myself...Having seen the light that surrounded me and the good that was within me, I became divine."
     - Allogenes

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."
     - Peter Tompkins, The Magic of Obelisks

"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."
"The Corpus Hermeticum takes the form of dialogues between Trismegistus, Thoth, and several other Egyptian deities, including Isis. Scholars point out that little in the text is truly original. In fact, much of the Hermetic world view is grounded in the philosophy of Plato. Hermetics saw the universe in terms of light and dark, good and evil, spirit and matter. Like their Gnostic contemporaries, practitioners preached a mind-body dualism and salvation through the possession of true and divine knowledge."
     - Ancient Wisdom and the Secret Sects

"...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."
     - Tobias Churton, The Gnostics

"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."
     - Fr Festugiere, Revelation of Hermes

"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."
     - Gerry Rose ,"The Venetian Takeover of England and Its Creation of Freemasonry"

"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."
     - Murray Hope, Practical Egyptian Magic

Related Sites
The Church of Light
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     Core documents of the Hermetic tradition taken from Mead's translations