Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Way of the Hermetica - part II

Hopefully by now you will at the very least have read the first ten little books of the Corpus Hermeticum, ending with the tenth book "The Key".

Here are some bullet points, covering some points of interest that arise in the tutorials. The internet reader is encouraged to add their own feedback as a comment to this blog and I will do my best to respond:

It was once thought that the Hermetica were essentially works of Greek philosophy with a bit of Egyptian local colour added for effect. The discovery of some of the libellos of the CH amongst the Nag Hammadi Gnostic library demonstrates the Egyptian context. So it may be that the CH is essentially an Egyptian initiatory text with the odd bit of Greek window dressing. Or the true maybe somewhere in between these two views. Keep this issue in mind.

Modern research has made untenable the distinction between philosophical and practical Hermetica made by earlier commentators. Hence we must study the practical Hermetica (eg Magical Papyri) to form a complete picture of the classical Pagan mind.

The texts are in dialogue form and lead the student through stages to a final view.

The text mirrors the structure of the Hermetic universe.

This universe has much in common with other contemporary classical religions - Notably Kabbalah, Gnosticism, the Upanishads and indeed many early part of Egyptian theology - notable that of the priests of Heliopolis, the cult of AmunRa and the religious changes of Ramesside times.

Aratalogies (mythic biographies - not to be confused with Aratology - ethical treatise) of the time, exspecially those of univeral goddess Isis, are also amenable to an Hermetic interpretation. Ie one goddess under a multiplicity of names.

The CH has inconsistencies and this may be deliberate. It is said that Plato's Timaeus, with which the CH is often compared - also has inconsistencies.

One possible inconsistency is whether "God" is part of his own creation
or radically separate.

The CH can appear quite anti "the flesh", ie the created world.

The initiate aims to become godlike.

In practical magic, the magician must also "assume the godform".

Is successful completion of the gnostic, Hermetic path a necessary prerequisite of operational magick? In later doctrines of esoteric Hinduism, this is certainly the case.

Final liberation may not be possible without bodily death or at bodily death when the limitations of the physical are finally transcended.

The CH is text of ascension through stages, returning to the source.

Various of the Lebellos offer summaries of the Hermetic doctrine. See for example CH X and CH XVI. The Latin Asclepius also provides a neat summary.

The evolutionary map looks thus:

Sun (Helios, Amun Ra etc)

Sphere of the fixed stars and planets

daemons - who are both good and bad and therefore may function as intermediaries between humanity and the divine source.

Human microcosm.

Union with the divine is not seen as an end in itself.

There must be a flow of knowledge or "gnosis".

In practical hermetica, the magicians quests for gnosis and the power it brings much as the ancient Egyptian had always had a pragmatic approachs to their gods. This may be in contrast to later concepts of religion, where union or communion is an end in itself.

Prayer of Thanksgiven occurs in "The Perfect Discourse" found at Nag Hammadi,
and several other sources, including magical spells.
(eg compare PGM III 591-609 with Asclepius 41)

"we give you thanks with every soul and heart stretched out to you, unutterable name honoured with the appellation of god and blessed with the [appelation of father] for to everyone and to everything you have shown fatherly / goodwill, affection, friendship and sweetest power, granting us intellect, [speech], and knowledge; intellect so that we might understand you; speech [so that] we might call upon you, knowledge so that we might know you. . . "

compiled by Mogg Morgan
Guardian of the House of Life at Abydos
{more next time}


Steve Davies said...

thanks for part two Mogg,I find the synthesis represented in the Hermetic impulse very heady- sort of similar in some ways to the chaos current in the way that they both make really good use of the science that was contemporary to their times.


Mogg Morgan said...

Steve thanks - yes I agree the mix and the times seems very lively. I suppose by science of the time you mean some of the so-called "technical" Hermetica such as Alchemy and Astrology. I have explored someof the neglected Egyptian roots of both these occult sciences in my book "Supernatural assault in Ancient Egypt" which incidentally also deals with the Wheel of the Year - with Halloween approaching - something very much on my mind just now.