The Life and
Teachings of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus
THUNDER rolled, lightning
flashed, the veil of the Temple was rent from top to bottom. The venerable
initiator, in his robes of blue and gold, slowly raised his jeweled wand and
pointed with it into the darkness revealed by the tearing of the silken
curtain: "Behold the Light of Egypt! " The candidate, in his plain white robe,
gazed into the utter blackness framed by the two great Lotus-headed columns
between which the veil had hung. As he watched, a luminous haze distributed
itself throughout the atmosphere until the air was a mass of shining
particles. The face of the neophyte was illumined by the soft glow as he
scanned the shimmering cloud for some tangible object. The initiator spoke
again: "This Light which ye behold is the secret luminance of the Mysteries.
Whence it comes none knoweth, save the 'Master of the Light.' Behold Him!"
Suddenly, through the gleaming mist a figure appeared, surrounded by a
flickering greenish sheen. The initiator lowered his wand and, bowing his
head, placed one hand edgewise against his breast in humble salutation. The
neophyte stepped back in awe, partly blinded by the glory of the revealed
figure. Gaining courage, the youth gazed again at the Divine One. The Form
before him was considerably larger than that of a mortal man. The body seemed
partly transparent so that the heart and brain could be seen pulsating and
radiant. As the candidate watched, the heart changed into an ibis, and the
brain into a flashing emerald. In Its hand this mysterious Being bore a winged
rod, entwined with serpents. The aged initiator, raising his wand, cried out
in a loud voice: "All hail Thee, Thoth Hermes, Thrice Greatest; all hail Thee,
Prince of Men; all hail Thee who standeth upon the head of Typhon!" At the
same instant a lurid writhing dragon appeared--a hideous monster, part
serpent, part crocodile, and part hog. From its mouth and nostrils poured
sheets of flame and horrible sounds echoed through the vaulted chambers.
Suddenly Hermes struck the advancing reptile with the serpent-wound staff and
with snarling cry the dragon fell over upon its side, while the flames about
it slowly died away. Hermes placed His foot upon the skull of the vanquished
Typhon. The next instant, with a blaze of unbearable glory that sent the
neophyte staggering backward against a pillar, the immortal Hermes, followed
by streamers of greenish mist, passed through the chamber and faded into
THE IDENTITY OF HERMES
Iamblichus averred that Hermes
was the author of twenty thousand books; Manetho increased the number to more
than thirty-six thousand (see James Gardner)--figures which make it evident
that a solitary individual, even though he be overshadowed by divine
prerogative, could scarcely have accomplished such a monumental labor. Among
the arts and sciences which it is affirmed Hermes revealed to mankind were
medicine, chemistry, law, arc, astrology, music, rhetoric, Magic, philosophy,
geography, mathematics (especially geometry), anatomy, and oratory. Orpheus
was similarly acclaimed by the Greeks.
In his Biographia Antiqua,
Francis Barrett says of Hermes: "* * * if God ever appeared in man, he
appeared in him, as is evident both from his books and his Pymander; in which
works he has communicated the sum of the Abyss, and the divine knowledge to
all posterity; by which he has demonstrated himself to have been not only an
inspired divine, but also a deep philosopher, obtaining his wisdom from God
and heavenly things, and not from man."
His transcendent learning
caused Hermes to be identified with many of the early sages and prophets. In
his Ancient Mythology, Bryant writes: "I have mentioned that Cadmus was the
same as the Egyptian Thoth; and it is manifest from his being Hermes, and from
the invention of letters being attributed to him. " (In the chapter on the
theory of Pythagorean Mathematics will be found the table of the
original Cadmean letters.) Investigators believe that it was Hermes who was
known to the Jews as "Enoch," called by Kenealy the "Second Messenger of God."
Hermes was accepted into the mythology of the Greeks, later becoming the
Mercury of the Latins. He was revered through the form of the planet Mercury
because this body is nearest to the sun: Hermes of all creatures was nearest
to God, and became known as the Messenger of the Gods.
In the Egyptian drawings of
him, Thoth carries a waxen writing tablet and serves as the recorder during
the weighing of the souls of the dead in the judgment Hall of Osiris--a ritual
of great significance. Hermes is of first importance to Masonic scholars,
because he was the author of the Masonic initiatory rituals, which were
borrowed from the Mysteries established by Hermes. Nearly all of the Masonic
symbols are Hermetic in character. Pythagoras studied mathematics with the
Egyptians and from them gained his knowledge of the symbolic geometric solids.
Hermes is also revered for his reformation of the calendar system. He
increased the year from 360 to 365 days, thus establishing a precedent which
still prevails. The appellation "Thrice Greatest" was given to Hermes because
he was considered the greatest of all philosophers, the greatest of all
priests, and the greatest of all kings. It is worthy of note that the last
poem of America's beloved poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was a lyric ode to
Hermes. (See Chambers' Encyclopædia.)
THE MUTILATED HERMETIC
On the subject of the Hermetic
books, James Campbell Brown, in his History of Chemistry, has written:
"Leaving the Chaldean and earliest Egyptian periods, of which we have remains
but no record, and from which no names of either chemists or philosophers have
come down to us, we now approach the Historic Period, when books were written,
not at first upon parchment or paper, but upon papyrus. A series of early
Egyptian books is attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, who may have been a real
savant, or may be a personification of a long succession of writers. *
* * He is identified by some with the Greek god Hermes, and the Egyptian Thoth
or Tuti, who was the moon-god, and is represented in ancient paintings as
ibis-headed with the disc and crescent of the moon. The Egyptians regarded him
as the god of wisdom, letters, and the recording of time. It is in consequence
of the great respect entertained for Hermes by the old alchemists that
chemical writings were called 'hermetic,' and that the phrase 'hermetically
sealed' is still in use to designate the closing of a glass vessel by fusion,
after the manner of chemical manipulators. We find the same root in the
hermetic medicines of Paracelsus, and the hermetic freemasonry of the Middle
Among the fragmentary writings
believed to have come from the stylus of Hermes are two famous works. The
first is the Emerald Table, and the second is the Divine Pymander,
or, as it is more commonly called, The Shepherd of Men, a discussion of
which follows. One outstanding point in connection with Hermes is that he was
one of the few philosopher-priests of pagandom upon whom the early Christians
did not vent their spleen. Some Church Fathers went so far as to declare that
Hermes exhibited many symptoms of intelligence, and that if he had only been
born in a more enlightened age so that he might have benefited by their
instructions he would have been a really great man!
In his Stromata, Clement
of Alexandria, one of the few chroniclers of pagan lore whose writings have
been preserved to this age, gives practically all the information that is
known concerning the original forty-two books of Hermes and the importance
with which these books were regarded by both the temporal and spiritual powers
of Egypt. Clement describes one of their ceremonial processions as follows:
"For the Egyptians pursue a
philosophy of their own. This is
HERMES MERCURIUS TRISMEGISTUS.
From Historia Deorum
Master of all arts and
sciences. perfect in all crafts, Ruler of the Three Worlds, Scribe of the
Gods, and Keeper of the Books of Life, Thoth Hermes Trismegistus--the Three
Times Greatest, the "First Intelligencer"--was regarded by the ancient
Egyptians as the embodiment of the Universal Mind. While in all probability
there actually existed a great sage and educator by the name of Hermes, it is
impossible to extricate the historical man from the mass of legendary accounts
which attempt to identify him with the Cosmic Principle of Thought.
principally shown by their
sacred ceremonial. For first advances the Singer, bearing some one of the
symbols of music. For they say that he must learn two of the books of Hermes,
the one of which contains the hymns of the gods, the second the regulations
for the king's life. And after the Singer advances the Astrologer, with a
horologe in his hand, and a palm, the symbols of astrology. He must have the
astrological books of Hermes, which are four in number, always in his mouth.
Of these, one is about the order of the fixed stars that are visible, and
another about the conjunctions and luminous appearances of the sun and moon;
and the rest respecting their risings. Next in order advances the sacred
Scribe, with wings on his head, and in his hand a book and rule, in which were
writing ink and the reed, with which they write. And he must be acquainted
with what are called hieroglyphics, and know about cosmography and geography,
the position of the sun and moon, and about the five planets; also the
description of Egypt, and the chart of the Nile; and the description of the
equipment of the priests and of the place consecrated to them, and about the
measures and the things in use in the sacred rites. Then the Stole-keeper
follows those previously mentioned, with the cubit of justice and the cup for
libations. He is acquainted with all points called Pædeutic (relating to
training) and Moschophaltic (sacrificial). There are also ten books which
relate to the honour paid by them to their gods, and containing the Egyptian
worship; as that relating to sacrifices, first-fruits, hymns, prayers,
processions, festivals, and the like. And behind all walks the Prophet, with
the water-vase carried openly in his arms; who is followed by those who carry
the issue of loaves. He, as being the governor of the temple, learns the ten
books called 'Hieratic'; and they contain all about the laws, and the gods,
and the whole of the training of the priests. For the Prophet is, among the
Egyptians, also over the distribution of the revenues. There are then
forty-two books of Hermes indispensably necessary; of which the six-and-thirty
containing the whole philosophy of the Egyptians are learned by the
forementioned personages; and the other six, which are medical, by the
Pastophoroi (image-bearers),--treating of the structure of the body, and of
disease, and instruments, and medicines, and about the eyes, and the last
One of the greatest tragedies
of the philosophic world was the loss of nearly all of the forty-two books of
Hermes mentioned in the foregoing. These books disappeared during the burning
of Alexandria, for the Romans--and later the Christians--realized that until
these books were eliminated they could never bring the Egyptians into
subjection. The volumes which escaped the fire were buried in the desert and
their location is now known to only a few initiates of the secret schools.
THE BOOK OF THOTH
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 his 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 when they were driven from their
ancient temple, the Serapeum. (According to the Secret Histories the gypsies
were originally Egyptian priests.) There are now in the world several secret
schools privileged to initiate candidates into the Mysteries, but in nearly
every instance they lighted their altar fires from the flaming torch of
Herm. Hermes in his Book of Thoth revealed to all mankind the "One
Way," and for ages the wise of every nation and every faith have reached
immortality by the "Way" established by Hermes in the midst of the darkness
for the redemption of humankind.
POIMANDRES, THE VISION
The Divine Pymander of
Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus is one of the earliest of the Hermetic
writings now extant. While probably not in its original form, having been
remodeled during the first centuries of the Christian Era and incorrectly
translated since, this work undoubtedly contains many of the original concepts
of the Hermetic cultus. The Divine Pymander consists of seventeen
fragmentary writings gathered together and put forth as one work. The second
book of The Divine Pymander, called Poimandres, or The Vision,
is believed to describe the method by which the divine wisdom was first
revealed to Hermes. It was after Hermes had received this revelation that he
began his ministry, teaching to all who would listen the secrets of the
invisible universe as they had been unfolded to him.
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. At hand while
preparing the following interpretation of the symbolic philosophy concealed
within The Vision of Hermes the present author has had these reference
works: The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus (London,
1650), translated out of the Arabic and Greek by Dr. Everard; Hermetica
(Oxford, 1924), edited by Walter Scott; Hermes, The Mysteries of Egypt
(Philadelphia, 1925), by Edouard Schure; and the Thrice-Greatest Hermes
(London, 1906), by G. R. S. Mead. To the material contained in the above
volumes he has added commentaries based upon the esoteric philosophy of the
ancient Egyptians, together with amplifications derived partly from other
Hermetic fragments and partly from the secret arcanum of the Hermetic
sciences. For the sake of clarity, the narrative form has been chosen in
preference to the original dialogic style, and obsolete words have given place
to those in current use.
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 released, 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. (Schure
identifies 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
THOTH, THE IBIS-HEADED.
From Wilkinson's Manners &
Customs of the Ancient Egyptians.
It is doubtful that the deity
called Thoth by the Egyptians was originally Hermes, but the two
personalities were blended together and it is now impossible to separate them.
Thoth was called "The Lord of the Divine Books" and "Scribe of the Company of
the Gods." He is generally depicted with the body of a man and the head of an
ibis. The exact symbolic meaning of this latter bird has never been
discovered. A careful analysis of the peculiar shape of the ibis--especially
its head and beak--should prove illuminating.
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 mingled, 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 and Reason shall divide the
Light from the darkness and establish Truth in the midst of the waters.
Understand, O Hermes, and meditate deeply upon the mystery. That which in you
sees and hears is not of the earth, but is the Word of God incarnate. So it is
said that Divine Light dwells in the midst of mortal darkness, and ignorance
cannot divide them. The union of the Word and the Mind produces that mystery
which is called Life. As the darkness without you is divided against
itself, so the darkness within you is likewise divided. The Light and the fire
which rise are the divine man, ascending in the path of the Word, and that
which fails to ascend is the mortal man, which may not partake of immortality.
Learn deeply of the Mind and its mystery, for therein lies the secret of
The Dragon again revealed its
form to Hermes, and for a long time the two looked steadfastly one upon the
other, eye to eye, so that Hermes trembled before the gaze of Poimandres. At
the Word of the Dragon the heavens opened and the innumerable Light Powers
were revealed, soaring through Cosmos on pinions of streaming fire. Hermes
beheld the spirits of the stars, the celestials controlling the universe, and
all those Powers which shine with the radiance of the One Fire--the glory of
the Sovereign Mind. Hermes realized that the sight which he beheld was
revealed to him only because Poimandres had spoken a Word. The Word was
Reason, and by the Reason of the Word invisible things were made manifest.
Divine Mind--the Dragon--continued its discourse:
"Before the visible universe
was formed its mold was cast. This mold was called the Archetype, and
this Archetype was in the Supreme Mind long before the process of creation
began. Beholding the Archetypes, the Supreme Mind became enamored with Its own
thought; so, taking the Word as a mighty hammer, It gouged out caverns in
primordial space and cast the form of the spheres in the Archetypal mold, at
the same time sowing in the newly fashioned bodies the seeds of living things.
The darkness below, receiving the hammer of the Word, was fashioned into an
orderly universe. The elements separated into strata and each brought forth
living creatures. The Supreme Being--the Mind--male and female, brought forth
the Word; and the Word, suspended between Light and darkness, was delivered of
another Mind called the Workman, the Master-Builder, or the
Maker of Things.
"In this manner it was
accomplished, O Hermes: The Word moving like a breath through space called
forth the Fire by the friction of its motion. Therefore, the Fire is
called the Son of Striving. The Workman passed as a whirlwind through
the universe, causing the substances to vibrate and glow with its friction,
The Son of Striving thus formed Seven Governors, the Spirits of the
Planets, whose orbits bounded the world; and the Seven Governors controlled
the world by the mysterious power called Destiny given them by the
Fiery Workman. When the Second Mind (The Workman) had organized Chaos,
the Word of God rose straightway our of its prison of substance, leaving the
elements without Reason, and joined Itself to the nature of the Fiery Workman.
Then the Second Mind, together with the risen Word, established Itself in the
midst of the universe and whirled the wheels of the Celestial Powers. This
shall continue from an infinite beginning to an infinite end, for the
beginning and the ending are in the same place and state.
"Then the downward-turned and
unreasoning elements brought forth creatures without Reason. Substance could
not bestow Reason, for Reason had ascended out of it. The air produced flying
things and the waters such as swim. The earth conceived strange four-footed
and creeping beasts, dragons, composite demons, and grotesque monsters. Then
the Father--the Supreme Mind--being Light and Life, fashioned a glorious
Universal Man in Its own image, not an earthy man but a heavenly Man dwelling
in the Light of God. The Supreme Mind loved the Man It had fashioned
and delivered to Him the control of the creations and workmanships.
"The Man, desiring to labor,
took up His abode in the sphere of generation and observed the works of His
brother--the Second Mind--which sat upon the Ring of the Fire. And having
beheld the achievements of the Fiery Workman, He willed also to make things,
and His Father gave permission. The Seven Governors, of whose powers He
partook, rejoiced and each gave the Man a share of Its own nature.
"The Man longed to pierce the
circumference of the circles and understand the mystery of Him who sat upon
the Eternal Fire. Having already all power, He stooped down and peeped through
the seven Harmonies and, breaking through the strength of the circles, made
Himself manifest to Nature stretched out below. The Man, looking into the
depths, smiled, for He beheld a shadow upon the earth and a likeness mirrored
in the waters, which shadow and likeness were a reflection of Himself. The Man
fell in love with His own shadow and desired to descend into it. Coincident
with the desire, the Intelligent Thing united Itself with the unreasoning
image or shape.
"Nature, beholding the descent,
wrapped herself about the Man whom she loved, and the two were mingled. For
this reason, earthy man is composite. Within him is the Sky Man, immortal and
beautiful; without is Nature, mortal and destructible. Thus, suffering is the
result of the Immortal Man's falling in love with His shadow and giving up
Reality to dwell in the darkness of illusion; for, being immortal, man has the
power of the Seven Governors--also the Life, the Light, and the Word-but being
mortal, he is controlled by the Rings of the Governors--Fate or Destiny.
"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. These O
Hermes, are the seven races, species, and wheels.
"After this manner were the
seven men generated. Earth was the female element and water the male element,
and from the fire and the æther they received their spirits, and Nature
produced bodies after the species and shapes of men. And man received the Life
and Light of the Great Dragon, and of the Life was made his Soul and of the
Light his Mind. And so, all these composite creatures containing immortality,
but partaking of mortality, continued in this state for the duration of a
period. They reproduced themselves out of themselves, for each was male and
female. But at the end of the period the knot of Destiny was untied by the
will of God and the bond of all things was loosened.
"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.'
A GREEK FORM OF HERMES.
From Bryant's Mythology.
The name Hermes is derived from "Herm,"
a form of CHiram, the Personified Universal Life Principle, generally
represented by fire. The Scandinavians worshiped Hermes under the name of
Odin; the Teutons as Wotan, and certain of the Oriental peoples as
Buddha, or Fo. There are two theories concerning his demise. The
first declares that Hermes was translated like Enoch and carried without death
into the presence of God, the second states that he was buried in the Valley
of Ebron and a great treasure placed in his tomb--not a treasure of gold but
of books and sacred learning.
The Egyptians likened humanity to a
flock of sheep. The Supreme and Inconceivable Father was the Shepherd, and
Hermes was the shepherd dog. The origin of the shepherd's crook in religious
symbolism may be traced to the Egyptian rituals. The three scepters of Egypt
include the shepherd's crook, symbolizing that by virtue of the power reposing
in that symbolic staff the initiated Pharaohs guided the destiny of their
"And when God had said this,
Providence, with the aid of the Seven Governors and Harmony, brought the sexes
together, making the mixtures and establishing the generations, and all things
were multiplied according to their kind. He who through the error of
attachment loves his body, abides wandering in darkness, sensible and
suffering the things of death, but he who realizes that the body is but the
tomb of his soul, rises to immortality."
Then Hermes desired to know why
men should be deprived of immortality for the sin of ignorance alone. The
Great Dragon answered:, To the ignorant the body is supreme and they are
incapable of realizing the immortality that is within them. Knowing only the
body which is subject to death, they believe in death because they worship
that substance which is the cause and reality of death."
Then Hermes asked how the
righteous and wise pass to God, to which Poimandres replied: "That which the
Word of God said, say I: 'Because the Father of all things consists of Life
and Light, whereof man is made.' If, therefore, a man shall learn and
understand the nature of Life and Light, then he shall pass into the eternity
of Life and Light."
Hermes next inquired about the
road by which the wise attained to Life eternal, and Poimandres continued:
"Let the man endued with a Mind mark, consider, and learn of himself, and with
the power of his Mind divide himself from his not-self and become a servant of
Hermes asked if all men did not
have Minds, and the Great Dragon replied: "Take heed what you say, for I am
the Mind--the Eternal Teacher. I am the Father of the Word--the
Redeemer of all men--and in the nature of the wise the Word takes flesh. By
means of the Word, the world is saved. I, Thought (Thoth)--the Father
of the Word, the Mind--come only unto men that are holy and good, pure and
merciful, and that live piously and religiously, and my presence is an
inspiration and a help to them, for when I come they immediately know all
things and adore the Universal Father. Before such wise and philosophic ones
die, they learn to renounce their senses, knowing that these are the enemies
of their immortal souls.
"I will not permit the evil
senses to control the bodies of those who love me, nor will I allow evil
emotions and evil thoughts to enter them. I become as a porter or doorkeeper,
and shut out evil, protecting the wise from their own lower nature. But to the
wicked, the envious and the covetous, I come not, for such cannot understand
the mysteries of Mind; therefore, I am unwelcome. I leave them to the
avenging demon that they are making in their own souls, for evil each day
increases itself and torments man more sharply, and each evil deed adds to the
evil deeds that are gone before until finally evil destroys itself. The
punishment of desire is the agony of unfulfillment."
Hermes bowed his head in
thankfulness to the Great Dragon who had taught him so much, and begged to
hear more concerning the ultimate of the human soul. So Poimandres resumed:
"At death the material body of man is returned to the elements from which it
came, and the invisible divine man ascends to the source from whence he came,
namely the Eighth Sphere. The evil passes to the dwelling place of the
demon, and the senses, feelings, desires, and body passions return to their
source, namely the Seven Governors, whose natures in the lower man destroy but
in the invisible spiritual man give life.
"After the lower nature has
returned to the brutishness, the higher struggles again to regain its
spiritual estate. It ascends the seven Rings upon which sit the Seven
Governors and returns to each their lower powers in this manner: Upon the
first ring sits the Moon, and to it is returned the ability to increase and
diminish. Upon the second ring sits Mercury, and to it are returned
machinations, deceit, and craftiness. Upon the third ring sits Venus, and to
it are returned the lusts and passions. Upon the fourth ring sits the Sun, and
to this Lord are returned ambitions. Upon the fifth ring sits Mars, and to it
are returned rashness and profane boldness. Upon the sixth ring sits Jupiter,
and to it are returned the sense of accumulation and riches. And upon the
seventh ring sits Saturn, at the Gate of Chaos, and to it are returned
falsehood and evil plotting.
"Then, being naked of all the
accumulations of the seven Rings, the soul comes to the Eighth Sphere, namely,
the ring of the fixed stars. Here, freed of all illusion, it dwells in the
Light and sings praises to the Father in a voice which only the pure of spirit
may understand. Behold, O Hermes, there is a great mystery in the Eighth
Sphere, for the Milky Way is the seed-ground of souls, and from it they drop
into the Rings, and to the Milky Way they return again from the wheels of
Saturn. But some cannot climb the seven-runged ladder of the Rings. So they
wander in darkness below and are swept into eternity with the illusion of
sense and earthiness.
"The path to immortality is
hard, and only a few find it. The rest await the Great Day when the wheels of
the universe shall be stopped and the immortal sparks shall escape from the
sheaths of substance. Woe unto those who wait, for they must return again,
unconscious and unknowing, to the seed-ground of stars, and await a new
beginning. Those who are saved by the light of the mystery which I have
revealed unto you, O Hermes, and which I now bid you to establish among men,
shall return again to the Father who dwelleth in the White Light, and shall
deliver themselves up to the Light and shall be absorbed into the Light, and
in the Light they shall become Powers in God. This is the Way of Good
and is revealed only to them that have wisdom.
"Blessed art thou, O Son of
Light, to whom of all men, I, Poimandres, the Light of the World, have
revealed myself. I order you to go forth, to become as a guide to those who
wander in darkness, that all men within whom dwells the spirit of My Mind
(The Universal Mind) may be saved by My Mind in you, which shall call forth My
Mind in them. Establish My Mysteries and they shall not fail from the earth,
for I am the Mind of the Mysteries and until Mind fails (which is never) my
Mysteries cannot fail." With these parting words, Poimandres, radiant with
celestial light, vanished, mingling with the powers of the heavens. Raising
his eyes unto the heavens, Hermes blessed the Father of All Things and
consecrated his life to the service of the Great Light.
Thus preached Hermes: "O people
of the earth, men born and made of the elements, but with the spirit of the
Divine Man within you, rise from your sleep of ignorance! Be sober and
thoughtful. Realize that your home is not in the earth but in the Light. Why
have you delivered yourselves over unto death, having power to partake of
immortality? Repent, and change your minds. Depart from the dark light
and forsake corruption forever. Prepare yourselves to climb through the Seven
Rings and to blend your souls with the eternal Light."
Some who heard mocked and
scoffed and went their way, delivering themselves to the Second Death from
which there is no salvation. But others, casting themselves before the feet of
Hermes, besought him to teach them the Way of Life. He lifted them gently,
receiving no approbation for himself, and staff in hand, went forth teaching
and guiding mankind, and showing them how they might be saved. In the worlds
of men, Hermes sowed the seeds of wisdom and nourished the seeds with the
Immortal Waters. And at last came the evening of his life, and as the
brightness of the light of earth was beginning to go down, Hermes commanded
his disciples to preserve his doctrines inviolate throughout all ages. The
Vision of Poimandres he committed to writing that all men desiring
immortality might therein find the way.
In concluding his exposition of
the Vision, Hermes wrote: "The sleep of the body is the sober
watchfulness of the Mind and the shutting of my eyes reveals the true Light.
My silence is filled with budding life and hope, and is full of good. My words
are the blossoms of fruit of the tree of my soul. For this is the faithful
account of what I received from my true Mind, that is Poimandres, the Great
Dragon, the Lord of the Word, through whom I became inspired by God with the
Truth. Since that day my Mind has been ever with me and in my own soul it hath
given birth to the Word: the Word is Reason, and Reason hath redeemed me. For
which cause, with all my soul and all my strength, I give praise and blessing
unto God the Father, the Life and the Light, and the Eternal Good.
"Holy is God, the Father of all
things, the One who is before the First Beginning.
"Holy is God, whose will is
performed and accomplished by His own Powers which He hath given birth to out
"Holy is God, who has
determined that He shall be known, and who is known by His own to whom He
"Holy art Thou, who by Thy Word
(Reason) hast established all things.
"Holy art Thou, of whom all
Nature is the image.
"Holy art Thou, whom the
inferior nature has not formed.
"Holy art Thou, who art
stronger than all powers.
"Holy art Thou, who art greater
than all excellency.
"Holy art Thou, who art better
than all praise.
"Accept these reasonable
sacrifices from a pure soul and a heart stretched out unto Thee.
"O Thou Unspeakable,
Unutterable, to be praised with silence!
"I beseech Thee to look
mercifully upon me, that I may not err from the knowledge of Thee and that I
may enlighten those that are in ignorance, my brothers and Thy sons.
"Therefore I believe Thee and
bear witness unto Thee, and depart in peace and in trustfulness into Thy Light
"Blessed art Thou, O Father!
The man Thou hast fashioned would be sanctified with Thee as Thou hast given
him power to sanctify others with Thy Word and Thy Truth."
The Vision of Hermes,
like nearly all of the Hermetic writings, is an allegorical exposition of
great philosophic and mystic truths, and its hidden meaning may be
comprehended only by those who have been "raised" into the presence of the
Next: The Initiation of the