Possibly one of the oldest books ever written, the Divine Pymander is essentially as old as they come. Written sometime around the 1st Century AD and arguably as far back as the 3rd Century BC, around the time of Ptolomeic time of Egypt; this book is one of many that had laid the foundation for Western Esoteric Philosophy and the Sacred Sciences. This book has been translated so many times into countless languages that its influence along with the Hermetic philosophies have laid the groundwork for many of the largest religions in the world including the foundation of early Christianity itself from a historical perspective. The very principles of hermeticism are simple and complex as it deals with reconciling the spiritual and material aspects of being. More will be discussed along the post.
About Hermes Trismegistus or Hermes the Thrice-Greatest
Not much is really known about the author, only that he is a syncretization of two messenger deities, the Greek god Hermes, and The Egyptian god Thoth. Chances are he may not have even been a historical figure at all and is perhaps a pseudonym by one author or multiple authors. This is of course speculation. All we know is that he is accredited for being one of the greatest sages in the magical world as well as a brilliant philosopher.
His writings deal with the very complex nature that governs the cosmos both material and immaterial, hence he is accredited with the most popular phrase “As Above So Below. As Below So Above where all things are accomplished by the ONE thing.” The phrase itself has been used in various contexts and it could many things. The simplest meaning is that Matter and Spirit are reflections of each other as both aspects operate under the same Divine principle. You can find more information on Hermes Trismegistus here. It also means union of opposites which bears resemblance to Taoism in the Eastern context.
While not much is known about the author, there is no doubt that his works play a key role in understanding the nature of the sacred. It is not the end-all-be-all but it does serve as a foundation for one’s spiritual quest.
On the contents of the Pymander itself
The very contents of the Divine Pymander also known as The Corpus Hermeticum is primarily written in dialogue format similar to Plato’s Republic. It’s language is very simplistic but depending on the translation the very structure is poetic, abstract and profound rather than concrete and academic. Much of the Ancient Philosophers place their metaphysical writings in a poetic format as it is also considered a sacred art. It was a time when magic and philosophy in the classical sense was just as valid a science as any other physical science of today.
The dialogue is between Hermes Trismegistus himself and his son, Tat, as he discusses the very nature of the cosmo, the dichotomy between matter and spirit, and the very essence of divine nature itself. The book is around 17 chapters or what the ancient Greeks refer to as books. Primarily speaking, depending on which translation you go by as let’s be honest there are many translations of the book, but the most impressive translation I have found is the 1650 John Everard version. As you know the original translation was Greek but after the fall of the Roman Empire, the surviving copies were handwritten into Arabic by scholars, and then during the Middle Ages translated into Greek again, then Latin and then, of course, Dutch and eventually English.
I would tell more, but where’s the fun in that. It’s better if you read it for yourselves, as you might reach different conclusions and speculations than my own.
Why Three Times Greatest?
If you have learned about Plato’s Tripartite of the soul, and have looked at Hermes Trismegestus’s other work the Emerald Tablet, three is a very sacred number as it deals with the three primary states of being Body, Mind, and Spirit, which are expressed through the alchemical components of Salt, Mercury, and Sulphur respectively. When Hermes T. said “having three parts of the philosophies of the whole world”, he expresses the understanding of these three characteristic aspects of Cosmic Law.
That being said it means he has a grasp of not only the physical knowledge, but also the psychological and spiritual components of the perennial wisdom that has existed throughout the ages. This can also apply that he has an understanding of the triumvirate view of time all humans share having a full grasp of the Past, Present, and Future. Hermetics as a system itself has three aspects in its principles: Astrology, Alchemy, and Theurgy each of them have various parts that make up the whole in creating a cosmic point of view. In the wrong hands, they can be the most dangerous tools you can ever utilize as it can harm not only other people but the practitioner as well. So do act with discretion.
Honestly, you can make connections with the Number 3, so many that it will not be discussed here. Rather these factors do need to be taken into account on why The Rule of Thirds is so prevalent no matter where you go.
Its Major Influence
As a result of the profound wisdom of the Hermeticum, it has influenced some of the most renown scholars, scientists, and mathematicians known throughout history, including those who have shaped medical sciences as well. You may be familiar with some of them.
- Roger Bacon
- Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa
- Dante Alighieri
- Nicolaus Copernicus
- Johannes Kepler
- Robert Boyle
- Sir Issac Newton
- Al Kindi
To all the weebs out there, you would be amazed that the teachings of this book have also had influences on various anime.
- Fullmetal Alchemist
- Magi The Labyrinth of Magic
- Madoka Magica
- Soul Eater
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Gegege no Kitaro
Please note that this may not be an accurate article discussing Hermeticism as a whole, but it does a good introductory course into the philosophical aspect of The Hermeticum. If you want a more detailed explanation of hermeticism, I would recommend reading :
- Julius Evola’s The Hermetic Tradition
- The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P Hall
- The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus: From Ancient Egypt to the Modern World by Gary Lichman
- Symbols of Sacred Science by Rene Guenon
- Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism by Anonymous, Fr. Robert Powell (translator and personal friend), Hans urs Von Balthasar (afterword)
- The writings of Carlos Castenandas and Phillip K Dick.
Thank you all for reading this article and God Bless You All.
As Above So Below. As below So Above.