Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hermes and Thoth

In the previous post, I attempted to show that there was not much validity in the claim to the discovery of "ancient Egyptian Wisdom" during the Hermetic revival of the Renaissance. I then posed the question: But certainly there was some Egyptian influence, wasn't there?

There are several issues surrounding this question that bear some examination in order to try and sort it all out.

First of all, Frances A. Yates tell us in her Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition:

The works which inspired the Renaissance Magus, and which he believed to be of profound antiquity, were really written in the second to the third centuries A.D. He was not returning to an Egyptian wisdom, not much later than the wisdom of the Hebrew patriarchs and prophets, and much earlier than Plato and the other philosophers of Greek antiquity, who had all - so the Renaissance Magus firmly believed - drunk from its sacred fountain. He is returning to the pagan background of early Christianity, to that religion of the world, strongly tinged with magic and oriental influences, which was the gnostic version of Greek philosophy, and the refuge of weary pagans seeking an answer to life's problems other than that offered by their contemporaries, the early Christians.

The Egyptian God, Thoth, the scribe of the gods and the divinity of wisdom, was identified by the Greeks with their Hermes and sometimes given the epithet of Thrice Great. The Latins took over this identification of Hermes or Mercurius with Thoth, and Cicero in his De natura deorum explains that there were really five Mercuries, the fifth being "he who killed Argus, and consequently fled in exile to Egypt where he "gave the Egyptians their laws and letters" and took the Egyptian name of Theuth or Thoth....

It is not known when the Hermetic framework was first used for philosophy, but the Asclepius and the Corpus Hermeticum, which are the most important of the philosophical Hermetica which have come down to us, are probably to be dated between A.D. 100 and 300. Though cast in a pseudo framework, these works have been thought by many scholars to contain very few genuine Egyptian elements. Others would allow for some influence of native Egyptian beliefs upon them. In any case, however, they were certainly not written in remotest antiquity by an all-wise Egyptian priest, as the Renaissance believed, but by various unknown authors, all probably Greeks, and they contain popular Greek philosophy of the period, a mixture of Platonism and Stoicism, combined with some Jewish and probably some Persian influences...

The Asclepius purports to describe the religion of the Egyptians, and by what magic rites and processes the Egyptians drew down the powers of the cosmos into the statues of their gods....

In the first volume of his work, La révélation d'Hermès Trismégiste, Festugière has analyzed the state of mind of the epoch, roughly the second century after the birth of Christ, in which the Asclepius and the Hermetic treatises which have reached us in the Corpus Hermeticum collection were written. Externally, that world was highly organized and at peace. The Pax Romana was at the height of its efficiency and the mixed populations of the Empire were governed by an efficient bureaucracy. Communications along the great Roman roads were excellent. The educated classes had absorbed the Graeco-Roman type of culture, based on the seven liberal arts.

The mental and spiritual condition of this world was curious. The mighty intellectual effort of Greek philosophy was exhausted, had come to a standstill, to a dead end, perhaps because Greek thinking never took the momentous step of experimental verification of its hypotheses - a step which was not to be taken until fifteen centuries later with the birth of modern scientific thinking in the seventeenth century. The world of the second century was weary of Greek dialectics which seemed to lead to no certain results. Platonists, Stoics, Epicureans could only repeat the theories of their various schools without making any further advances, and the tenets of the schools were boiled down in textbook form, in manuals which formed the basis of philosophical instruction within the Empire. Insofar as it is Greek in origin, the philosophy of the Hermetic writings is of this standardised type, with its smattering of Platonism, Neoplatonism, Stoicism, and the other Greek schools of thought.

This world of the second century was, however, seeking intensively for knowledge of reality, for an answer to its problems which the normal education failed to give it. It turned to other ways of seeking an answer, intuitive, mystical, magical. Since reason seemed to have failed, it sought to cultivate the Nous, the intuitive faculty in man. Philosophy was to be used, not as a dialectical exercise, but as a way of reaching intuitive knowledge of the divine and of the meaning of the word, as a gnosis, in short, to be prepared for by ascetic discipline and a religious way of life. The Hermetic treatises, which often take the form of dialogues between master and disciple, usually culminate in a kind of ecstasy in which the adept is satisfied that he has received an illumination through contemplation of the world or the cosmos, or rather through contemplation of the cosmos as reflected in his own Nous ... and gives him spiritual mastery over it, as in the familiar gnostic revelation or experience of the ascent of the soul through the spheres of the planets to become immersed in the divine.

Thus that religion of the world which runs as an undercurrent in much of Greek thought, particularly in Platonism and Stoicism, becomes in Hermetism actually a religion, a cult without temples or liturgy, followed in the mind alone, a religious philosophy or philosophical religion containing a gnosis.

The men of the second century were thoroughly imbued with the idea (which the Renaissance imbibed from them) that what is old is pure and holy, that the earliest thinkers walked more closely with the gods than the busy rationalists, their successors. Hence they strong revival of Pythagoreanism in this age. They also had the impression that what is remote and far distant is more holy; hence their cult of the "barbarians," of Indian gymnosophist, Persian Magi, Chaldean astrologers, whose approach to knowledge was felt to be more religious than that of the Greeks.

In the melting pot of the Empire, in which all religions were tolerated, there was ample opportunity for making acquaintance with oriental cults. Above all, it was the Egyptians who were revered in this age. Egyptian temples were still functioning, and devout seekers after religious truth and revelation in the Graeco-Roman world would make pilgrimages to some remotely situated Egyptian temple and pass the night in its vicinity in the hope of receiving some vision of divine mysteries in dreams. The belief that Egypt was the original home of all knowledge, that the great Greek philosophers had visited it and conversed with Egyptian priests, had long bee current, and, in the mood of the second century, the ancient and mysterious religion of Egypt, the supposed profound knowledge of its priest, their ascetic way of life, the religious magic which they were thought to perform in the subterranean chambers of their temples, offered immense attractions. It is this pro-Egyptian mood of the Graeco-Roman world which is reflected in the Hermetic Asclepius with it s strange description of the magic by which the Egyptian priests animated the statues of their gods, and its moving prophecy that the most ancient Egyptian religion is destined to come to an end....

So we can understand how the content of the Hermetic writings fostered the illusion of the Renaissance Magus that he had in them a mysterious and precious account of most ancient Egyptian wisdom, philosophy, and magic. Hermes Trismegistus, a mythical name associated with a certain class of gnostic philosophical revelations or with magical treatises, and recipes, was, for the Renaissance, a real person, an Egyptian priest who had lived in times of remote antiquity and who had himself written all these works. The scraps of Greek philosophy which he found in these writings, derived from the somewhat debased philosophical teaching current in the early centuries A.D., confirmed the Renaissance reader in his belief that he had her the fount of pristine wisdom whence Plato and the Greeks had derived the best that they knew. [Frances A. Yates]

Walter Scott was a classical scholar who wrote in the introduction to his edition of the Hermetica (1924; reprinted by Shambhala Publications, 1993):

Ficino's theory of the relation between Hermes Trismegistus and the Greek philosophers was based partly on data supplied by early Christian writers, especially Lactantius and Augustine, and partly on the internal evidence of the Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius of Pseudo-Apuleius. He saw... that the resemblance between the Hermetic doctrines and those of Plato was such as to imply some historical connection; but accepting it as a known fact that the author of the Hermetica was a man who lived about the time of Moses, he inverted the true relation and thought that Plato had derived his theology, through Pythagoras, from Trismegistus. And his view was adopted, at least in its main outlines, by all who dealt with the subject down to the end of the sixteenth century.

Yates believes that the end of the sixteenth century is too early a date for the "ending of this illusion."

Garth Fowden, in his book The Egyptian Hermes, does not, however, buy into this view wholesale. He wants very much to preserve something of the "Egyptian" in the hermetica. He writes:

Egypt, we read in the Hermetic treatise called Asclepius, is 'the image of heaven... the temple of the whole world.' Even today Upper Egypt, which has preserved traditional ways more faithfully than other parts of the country, is a land dominated by the immense stone temples of the old gods. The sprawling shrines of Amun at Karnak and luxor still stand, while the walls and palaces of "hundred-gated' Thebes have crumbled into the earth. ... And in the time of the Pharaohs this was already an ancient and holy land. ...

Of all the wonders past and present, natural and man-made, that Egypt had to show, it was her gods and temples that most caught the imagination of the foreign visitor. But the whole of Egypt's cultural and social life, like the configuration of the land itself, was unique. So too was the Egyptian mind, with its immovable conviction that the cultural identity of Egypt and the stability of the physical universe itself were one and the same thing. ...

And so it was that Alexander's conquest of the Nile valley marked a profound caesura in the country's political history, in that the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt was never again to be work by a native Pharaoh, but brought no such clear-cut results in the cultural sphere. When the two alien cultural traditions of Egypt and Greece began to mix, it was on terms that bore little relation to political realities.

In the centres of power, Hellenism was triumphant; but in cultural terms Egyptianism, instead of being submerged by hellenism, exercised so strong a gravitational and assimilative pull on it that the product of their interaction was at least as much Egyptian as Greek. ...

The Greek world at large, and after it the Roman, was firmly persuaded that the Egyptians had been the first people to organize formal religious cult. Men of these less ancient nations were prepared to admire quite uncritically the temples and rituals of the Egyptians, and even to accept the idea that the land of Egypt was intrinsically holy. The priesthood... enjoyed a reputation among men of Greek and Latin culture usually accorded only to the sages of nations safely and romantically remote from the well-trodden highways of the Mediterranean world, such as the Brahmins and Gymnosophists of India. Even the wisest representatives of other traditions - Moses among the Jews, Solon, Pythagoras and Plato among the Greeks - were acknowledged to have sat at the feet of Egyptian priests. In the imperial Roman period men continued to believe sufficiently in the wisdom of Egypt to travel there and seek out its far-famed temple-dwellers...

But this sort of adulation was not necessarily reciprocated. Herodotus had already remarked on the Egyptians' hostility to foreign ways:

The keep the ancestral laws and add none other... They avoid the use of Greek customs, and generally speaking the customs of all other men.


One naturally wonders, then, to what extent it was possible for the interaction of Egyptianism and Hellenism to lead to their fusion, in the religious or any other sphere. Did the centuries that followed the conquest of Egypt by Alexander see the emergence of a new, Graeco-Egyptian consciousness? Undeniably, attempts to demonstrate a 'fusion' of Egyptianism and Hellenism run the constant risk of being undermined by a considerable body of evidence that the two cultures often contrived, especially in the Ptolemaic period, to exist in contiguous isolation. [The Greeks living in Egypt] persevered in Greek ways... they spoke their own language, keeping it free even of loan-words, and exploiting its flexibility... to disguise the uniqueness of their adopted land, bequeathing us in the process pyramids, obelisks, sphinxes and labyrinths.[...]

Nearly all our best evidence for cultic syncretism, of whatever sort, comes from the more heavily Hellenized parts of Egypt, such as Alexandria and the Fayyum. It was, after all, the Greeks who needed to acclimatized in a foreign land; and so it was they who took the initiative in identifying their gods with native divinities...

Even in areas that had a large Greek population, the immigrants were often happy to attach themselves to the dominant local gods, not excluding those, such as Sobek, the crocodile-god of the Fayyum, for whom even the most imaginative syncretist would have been hard put to it to find a Hellenic counterpart.... As late as the third century A.D. we find the philosopher Porphyry remarking on the antipathy of Egyptians towards "half-Greek fabrications" like Hermanubis....

The evolution of Hermes Trismegistus himself, out of the syncretism [heavily weighted on the Greek side] of Thoth and Hermes, well illustrates the tensions which arose from the encounter of these two strong-minded cultural traditions. ...

[Among the Egyptians] Thoth was regarded even in the most primitive period as the moon-god.... The moon, "ruler of the stars, distinguishes seasons, months and years; and so Thoth became the lord and multiplier of Time, and the regulator of individual destinies. ... To him, as divine scribe, inventor of writing and lord of wisdom, the priesthood attributed much of its sacred literature... And of the occult powers latent in all these aspects of the cult of the gods, Thoth was the acknowledged source. By extension he came to be regarded as the lord of knowledge, language and all science... Naturally enough his clergy were eager to aggrandize their patron; and the obvious way to do so was through the development of a distinctive cosmogony... So it was that Thoth acquired a leading role in the drama of creation itself, as a demiurge who called things into being merely by the sound of his voice. Besides the common near Eastern idea that speech has creative power, we can surely detect here the influence of Thoth the god of magic. ...

His was an inescapable presence; and it is easy to see why foreign settlers in Egypt were tempted to try to establish some sort of link with him. The second-century B.C. Jewish romancer Artapanus, for instance, wrote an account of the life of Moses in which he assimilated his hero to "Hermes" (i.e. Thoth) making him responsible for introducing the Egyptians to ships, machines, weapons, and philosophy... And the Greek settlers identified Thoth with their god Hermes. ...

Hermes Trismegistus, then, was the cosmopolitan, Hellenistic Hermes, Egyptianized through his assimilation to Thoth... Yet around and within the Egyptian Hermes there persisted serious tensions, mirroring the peculiarities of the Graeco-Egyptian milieu that had produced him.

In the beginning it no doubt seemed enough to say that the Greek god Hermes was equivalent to the Egyptian god Thoth, and leave it at that. But the temptation to provide a mythological explanation could not be resisted forever; and that was one of the reasons why Cicero was eventually able to enumerate no less than five different individuals who claimed the name Hermes, the third being the familiar offspring of Zeus and Maia, while:

...the fifth, who is worshipped by the people of Pheneus [in Arcadia], is said to have killed Argus, and for this reason to have fled to Egypt, and to have given the Egyptians their laws and alphabet - he it is whom the Egyptians call Theyn [Thoth]

In other words, the story that was produced - and widely circulated - to explain the emergence of Hermes Trismegistus invoked a relatively human Hermes who was recognized to be distinct from the messenger of the gods. So it is not surprising to find that people of Greek culture did not always envisage Trismegistus in the same terms as did those of a more Egyptian background.

It is in the Greek magical papyri rather than in the Hermetica that we most clearly discern the lineaments of Hermes Trismegistus, and that the Egyptian aspects of his identity are given fullest rein. In a country as renowned for its magic as was Egypt, that was only to be expected.

And so we see that the personage of Hermes Trismegistus is, undoubtedly, a composite of the Greek and Egyptian gods and ideas. Scott explains how the classical teachers and scholars of antiquity would have described Hermes:

"Hermes was a man like you and me - a man who lived in Egypt a very long time ago, in the time of King Ammon. But he was a man who attained to gnosis (that is to say, knowledge of God, but a kind of knowledge that involves union with God; and he was the first and greatest teacher of gnosis. He died, as other men die, and after death he became a god - just as you and I also, if we attain to gnosis, will become gods after our deaths. But in the dialogues which I and others like me write, and in which we make Hermes speak as teacher, we represent him as talking to his pupils at the time when he was living on earth; and at that time he was a man."

In short, according to the best scholarly analyses, most of what is found in the Corpus Hermeticum is NOT Egyptian. Quite a number of people - followers of popular occultism - have difficulty accepting this. They search the texts to find specifically "Egyptian ideas" and will quote such as the following in favor of their case:

"God is self-generated; that God is hidden; that God is nameless; and yet innumerably-named; that God is bisexual; that God is life and the source or author of all life, etc..."

This is certainly not an exclusively Egyptian idea though Scott acknowledges it to have a strongly Egyptian "flavor." This idea has been an esoteric thread for, undoubtedly, many thousands of years . But it ought to be made clear that, yes, the Hermetic literature makes reference to Egyptian things, or to things prior to Egypt and the documents produced in Hellenic Egypt do, indeed, make references to life on the Nile. So it could be said that the style and setting of the Hermetica is Egyptian, while the teachings are, essentially, esoteric - most often Gnostic - and not specifically Egyptian.

As Laura Knight-Jadczyk shows in her great opus, The Secret History of The World, the Hermetica is a distorted survival of the northern pagan cosmological doctrine that is based on things far more ancient than Egypt.

As we present the information in this volume, the reader will be introduced to the idea that the science of the ancients may have included a very comprehensive knowledge of the deeper reality that present day sciences, including physics, chemistry, mathematics, and astrophysics, are only rediscovering. And here we do not mean the ancient Egyptians or Babylonians or Sumerians, but rather peoples of far greater antiquity than they, and that the Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, and so on, retained only a distorted and corrupted version of these ideas in the form of myths and legends which they elaborated and utilized in their “magical practices.” Further, that it is only in the light of the present day scientific knowledge that the true ancient knowledge, depicted in these myths and legends and religious rites can be properly understood. This is not to say that we are suggesting that we understand or have interpreted all of them. We are only saying that there are many ideas in these ancient stories that suggest the former existence of an advanced science that may have enabled an interface between layers, or dimensions of reality, on this planet in archaic times.

  This idea is not original to us, as many readers will know. However, we do think that we have been able to shine a light into certain dark corners that have been, heretofore, poorly understood. Arthur C. Clarke pointed out, “Any sufficiently evolved technology is indistinguishable from magic.” When we divest our minds of preconceived notions about what the ancients may or may not have known, and we just look at myths and legends, the substrate of religions, over and over again we see descriptions of activities, events, terms and potentials that express such things as a knowledge of free energy, anti-gravity, time travel, interplanetary travel, atomic energy, atomic molecularization and demolecularization; just a whole host of doings that were formerly understood as the wild and superstitious imaginings of howling savages, that today - with scientific knowledge - are becoming commonplace activities. Many scholars explain that such stories were attempts to understand the environment by personifying, or anthropomorphizing, the forces of nature. Other interpreters make the mistake of assuming that it was a “sacred science” in terms that strictly deny any form of material interpretation.

About Egypt, specifically, she writes:

The fad for all things “Egyptian” has been with us for a very long time. Schwaller de Lubicz - the vector of many of these ideas - settled in Egypt in 1938 and for the next 15 years studied the symbolism of the temples, particularly Luxor, finding what he considered to be proof that the ancient Egyptians were the ultimate examples of Synarchy, because they were ruled by a group of elite initiates. He failed to point out that the Egyptian civilization was static and limited. What’s more, it caved in on itself, and never managed to produce any significant work of benefit for humanity, as Otto Neugebauer showed conclusively in his The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, whose evidence we will quote further on in this volume.

  The open-minded thinker ought to really consider the purported mysteries of Egypt in terms of the fact that they were so ignorant that they devoted a huge amount of energy to their “cult of the dead.” The whole Egyptian shtick is focused around preserving dead flesh for future or otherworldly reanimation. The very fact that there are so many of these dead bodies for Egyptologists to dig up is the clearest evidence that the Egyptian beliefs were nonsense. So, in that sense, certainly, Christianity as we know it has adopted the “Egyptian religion” and its beliefs in physical resurrection.

  The whole issue of the excitement over Egyptian civilization is the belief that they had some mysterious powers because they built the pyramids and we can’t. And has it never occurred to anybody that the existence of the pyramids in conjunction with the worship of an elite group of human beings, while everybody else was wearing loincloths and sweating in the hot sun, might suggest a relationship between the two? The fact is, the Egyptian civilization seems to have been the chief example of a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots, and they managed to do it longer than anybody else.

  In examining the work of Schwaller, we have one of the better examples of the subtle way the negative occult societies attack those who come to bring light, by association and co-opting. The tactic is to find a means of subtly allying their message with that of the truth so as to generate confusion in untrained minds which would tend on surface evidence to accept these actually contrary messages as similar, at least in intent.

  The negative occultists who are promoting the new Control System borrow all their components from what is of truth, and proceed by the method of imitation. They literally will ape the expression of positive teachings, and all the more carefully when they wish to be mistaken altogether for purveyors of truth, so as to subvert the messages. [....]

[The alchemist Fulcanelli writes] Atlantis. Did this mysterious island, of which Plato left the enigmatic description, ever exist? A question difficult to solve, give the weakness of the means which science possesses to penetrate the secret of the abysses. Nevertheless, some observations seem to support the partisans of the existence of Atlantis. […]

Faith in the truthfulness of Plato’s works results in believing the reality of the periodical upheavals of which the Mosaic Flood, we said it, remains the written symbol and the sacred prototype. To those who negate what the priests of Egypt entrusted to Solon, we would only ask to explain to us what Aristotle’s master wanted to reveal by this fiction of a sinister nature. For we indeed believe that beyond doubt, Plato became the propagator of very ancient truths, and that consequently his books contain a set, a body of hidden knowledge. His Geometric Number, and Cave have their signification; why should the myth of Atlantis not have its own?

Atlantis must have undergone the same fate as the others, and the catastrophe, which submerged it, falls obviously into the same cause as that which buried, forty-eight centuries later, under a profound sheet of water, Egypt, the Sahara, and the countries of Northern Africa. But more favored than the land of the Atlantean, Egypt gained from a raising of the bottom of the ocean and came back to the light of day, after a certain time of immersion. For Algeria and Tunisia with their dry “chotts” covered with a thick layer of salt, the Sahara and Egypt with their soils constituted for a large part of sea sand show that the waters invaded and covered vast expanses of the African continent. The columns of the Pharaohs‘ temples bear on them undeniable traces of immersion; in the hypostyle chambers, the slabs, still extant, which form the ceilings have been raised and moved by the oscillating motion of the waves; the disappearance of the outer coating of the pyramids and in general that of the stone joins (the Colossus of Memnon who used to sing) the evident traces of corrosion by water that can be noticed on the sphinx of Giza, as well as on many other works of Egyptian statuary have no other origin. [...]

  One of the oft-reiterated themes of Fulcanelli is that the “ancient Greeks” — not the Egyptians — were the source of the Hermetic science.   Timaeus and Critias, written by Plato some time around 360 BC98 are the only existing written records which specifically refer to Atlantis. The dialogues are conversations between Socrates, Hermocrates, Timaeus, and Critias. Apparently in response to a prior talk by Socrates about ideal societies, Timaeus and Critias agree to entertain Socrates with a tale that is “not a fiction but a true story.”

It should be noted here that this is, indeed, true: Fulcanelli says that the Greeks were the source of the Hermetic Science. For those who suggest that Schwaller was the "real Fulcanelli," this immediately produces an insurmountable problem since Schwaller devoted all his time and energy to studies of Egypt and promoting the Egyptians as the source of Hermetic knowledge. Back to Knight-Jadczyk's exposition on the subject:

  The story is about the conflict between the ancient Athenians and the Atlanteans 9000 years before Plato’s time. Knowledge of the ancient times was apparently forgotten by the Athenians of Plato’s day, and the form the story of Atlantis took in Plato’s account was that Egyptian priests conveyed it to Solon. Solon passed the tale to Dropides, the great-grandfather of Critias. Critias learned of it from his grandfather also named Critias, son of Dropides. Let’s take a careful look at the main section of the story, omitting the introduction that describes Solon going to Egypt and chatting up the priests.

Thereupon one of the priests, who was of a very great age, said: O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are never anything but children, and there is not an old man among you. Solon in return asked him what he meant. I mean to say, he replied, that in mind you are all young; there is no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science, which is hoary with age. And I will tell you why.

There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other lesser ones by innumerable other causes. There is a story, which even you have preserved, that once upon a time Phaeton, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father’s chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals; at such times those who live upon the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore. And from this calamity the Nile, who is our never-failing saviour, delivers and preserves us.

When, on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, the survivors in your country are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on the mountains, but those who, like you, live in cities are carried by the rivers into the sea. Whereas in this land, neither then nor at any other time, does the water come down from above on the fields, having always a tendency to come up from below; for which reason the traditions preserved here are the most ancient. The fact is, that wherever the extremity of winter frost or of summer does not prevent, mankind exist, sometimes in greater, sometimes in lesser numbers. And whatever happened either in your country or in ours, or in any other region of which we are informed - if there were any actions noble or great or in any other way remarkable, they have all been written down by us of old, and are preserved in our temples.

  We want to here make note of the fact that present day evidence suggests that it is true both that Egypt has been inundated and that it experienced a rainy climate. Fulcanelli even commented upon the inundation of Egypt. This leads us to question whether or not this story actually came from the mouth of a true Egyptian priest with the full knowledge of the ancient cataclysms. If so, he would have known of the period of heavy rain and shallow seas in Egypt, by which the Sphinx and other monuments were eroded, and which deposited a layer of salt on the interior of the pyramids and other structures. And so we suggest, to reconcile this difficulty, not that the story is false — because Fulcanelli has told us to “have faith in the account of Plato” — but rather that the speaker was not aware of certain ideas specifically relating to Egypt, and that the dialogue has been put into the mouth of an Egyptian priest in order to preserve it in the context of the then current “Egyptian craze.” It might even be thought that this was a deliberate exoteric “blind.”

Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves. As for those genealogies of yours which you just now recounted to us, Solon, they are no better than the tales of children.

In the first place you remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones; in the next place, you do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land the fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, and that you and your whole city are descended from a small seed or remnant of them which survived. And this was unknown to you, because, for many generations, the survivors of that destruction died, leaving no written word. For there was a time, Solon, before the great deluge of all, when the city which now is Athens was first in war and in every way the best governed of all cities, is said to have performed the noblest deeds and to have had the fairest constitution of any of which tradition tells, under the face of heaven.

  Again, let’s interrupt the dialogue to point out that it is hardly likely that a priest of Egypt would have declared the Athenians to be “the fairest and noblest race of men,” nor that they “performed the noblest deeds” and had the “fairest constitution … under the face of heaven!” Another clue that the speaker is giving us that it is NOT Egypt that is the source of this information - at least not Egypt as we know it now.

Solon marveled at his words, and earnestly requested the priests to inform him exactly and in order about these former citizens. You are welcome to hear about them, Solon, said the priest, both for your own sake and for that of your city, and above all, for the sake of the goddess who is the common patron and parent and educator of both our cities. She founded your city a thousand years before ours, receiving from the Earth and Hephaestus the seed of your race, and afterwards she founded ours, of which the constitution is recorded in our sacred registers to be eight thousand years old.

  Yet again, the Egyptian priest is giving greater antiquity to the Greeks than to the Egyptians! Another clue for the reader to understand that this is not an Egyptian story! What is being said is being put in the mouth of an Egyptian priest to “conceal.” Indeed, the worship of the goddess, is the older form of worship in Egypt. But all of that came to an end, probably with the conquest of Narmer, the building of the temple to Hephaestus, the demoting of the goddess and the Moon calendar, and the instituting of the Solar worship and the solar calendar of 365 days.99

As touching your citizens of nine thousand years ago, I will briefly inform you of their laws and of their most famous action; the exact particulars of the whole we will hereafter go through at our leisure in the sacred registers themselves. If you compare these very laws with ours you will find that many of ours are the counterpart of yours as they were in the olden time.

  Here, of course, we come to the idea that there was an ancient connection and communication between the truly “old Egyptians” and the Northern peoples. Georges Gurdjieff once remarked that Christianity was taken from Egypt, a statement that might suggest that he agreed with the Pan-Egyptian school. But no: Christianity, he hastened to explain, was not taken from the Egypt of history, but from a “far older Egypt” which is unrecorded.100

In the first place, there is the caste of priests, which is separated from all the others; next, there are the artificers, who ply their several crafts by themselves and do not intermix; and also there is the class of shepherds and of hunters, as well as that of husbandmen; and you will observe, too, that the warriors in Egypt are distinct from all the other classes, and are commanded by the law to devote themselves solely to military pursuits; moreover, the weapons which they carry are shields and spears, a style of equipment which the goddess taught of Asiatics first to us, as in your part of the world first to you.

  The remark that the right function of society was “first taught to the Asiatics” is most interesting. The reference to “Asiatics” in this context from an historical “Egyptian Priest” is extremely questionable because, in the many Egyptian inscriptions of historical times, the Asiatics are always referred to as “Vile.” Nevertheless, even in historical times, it is indeed true that the Egyptians borrowed their military equipment and war strategies from the Asiatics, but that was a much later development than the above story would suggest. The issue of who the “vile Asiatics” were is an ongoing debate, but it seems to devolve on such as the Hittites, Hyksos, and other Indo-European tribes that came down from the Steppes in various waves. We will discuss, further on, the evidence that the Steppe peoples were the worshippers of the goddess in the most ancient times, and that the war god, the weather god, the god of fire and the mountains, was introduced later from the South.

Then as to wisdom, do you observe how our law from the very first made a study of the whole order of things, extending even to prophecy and medicine which gives health, out of these divine elements deriving what was needful for human life, and adding every sort of knowledge which was akin to them. All this order and arrangement the goddess first imparted to you when establishing your city; and she chose the spot of earth in which you were born, because she saw that the happy temperament of the seasons in that land would produce the wisest of men. Wherefore the goddess, who was a lover both of war and of wisdom, selected and first of all settled that spot which was the most likely to produce men likest herself. And there you dwelt, having such laws as these and still better ones, and excelled all mankind in all virtue, as became the children and disciples of the gods.

  Again and again, this very strange “Egyptian” priest is saying things that completely contradict the more “historical” Egyptian view that they are the most “ancient and noble race.” In the above remarks, he has said that the goddess imparted to the Greeks first all of the laws of health and those things needed to preserve and prolong life. The Greeks are pronounced to have been the “wisest of men,” and those “most like the goddess” herself. And again “excelled all mankind in all virtue,” which is not very likely to have been said by an Egyptian priest.

Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent.

Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire, which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.

  Of all the things the “Egyptian priest” has said, the above is the most astonishing and the most telling. Again he is giving pre-eminence to the Greeks, that they performed the most heroic deed of all times, which was to defeat the Atlantean Empire! And this is the point that is so often just simply overlooked by all the Atlantis lovers! Atlantis was the original “evil empire of the Borg!” And what is more, in this passage, the clue is given that the ancient Egyptian civilization — the pyramids and other monumental architecture upon which so much of the current Egyptian craze is based, stemming from the work of Schwaller de Lubicz, and which is declared to be the offspring of Atlantis - the ancient Egypt that is so admired by the current day flock of Egyptophiles - was very likely an attempt to re-construct the EVIL EMPIRE OF ATLANTIS! In other words, the “priestly science” of the Egyptians, referred to by Fulcanelli, antedated the material so diligently studied and propagated by Schwaller and others for “clues” to alchemical secrets and methods of “ascension.”

But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.

I have told you briefly, Socrates, what the aged Critias heard from Solon and related to us. And when you were speaking yesterday about your city and citizens, the tale which I have just been repeating to you came into my mind, and I remarked with astonishment how, by some mysterious coincidence, you agreed in almost every particular with the narrative of Solon; but I did not like to speak at the moment. For a long time had elapsed, and I had forgotten too much; I thought that I must first of all run over the narrative in my own mind, and then I would speak.

  Here we find another interesting clue. Critias has just told us that Socrates was discussing the very things that are included in this story — that everything Socrates had been saying the previous day “agreed in almost every particular with the narrative of Solon.” Apparently, this story had been handed down via another line of transmission.

And so I readily assented to your request yesterday, considering that in all such cases the chief difficulty is to find a tale suitable to our purpose, and that with such a tale we should be fairly well provided. And therefore, as Hermocrates has told you, on my way home yesterday I at once communicated the tale to my companions as I remembered it; and after I left them, during the night by thinking I recovered nearly the whole it. Truly, as is often said, the lessons of our childhood make wonderful impression on our memories; for I am not sure that I could remember all the discourse of yesterday, but I should be much surprised if I forgot any of these things which I have heard very long ago. I listened at the time with childlike interest to the old man’s narrative; he was very ready to teach me, and I asked him again and again to repeat his words, so that like an indelible picture they were branded into my mind.

As soon as the day broke, I rehearsed them as he spoke them to my companions, that they, as well as myself, might have something to say. And now, Socrates, to make an end my preface, I am ready to tell you the whole tale. I will give you not only the general heads, but the particulars, as they were told to me.

The city and citizens, which you yesterday described to us in fiction, we will now transfer to the world of reality. It shall be the ancient city of Athens, and we will suppose that the citizens whom you imagined, were our veritable ancestors, of whom the priest spoke; they will perfectly harmonise, and there will be no inconsistency in saying that the citizens of your republic are these ancient Athenians. Let us divide the subject among us, and all endeavour according to our ability gracefully to execute the task which you have imposed upon us. Consider then, Socrates, if this narrative is suited to the purpose, or whether we should seek for some other instead.101

  And we come to the final understanding that conveys to us the secret of the story of Atlantis: that it did not actually come from an Egyptian priest, but that this was a story that was created to “execute the task which you [Socrates] have imposed upon us,” which was to veil in fiction something that was Truth. Does this mean that they were “making it up”? No, indeed. It means that they were attempting to find a vehicle for the history that would insure its preservation.

  Thus we come to the conclusion that it is entirely possible that the story was not given to Solon by an Egyptian priest, but that it was attributed to same because at the time everyone was convinced of the antiquity of the Egyptians. It was as much a fad then as now, due to the presence of the pyramids and other monuments. If Fulcanelli is correct about the cult of the dead of the Egyptians being a distortion of this knowledge, and this cult was encouraged, supported, and furthered by the Egyptian elite of the past several thousand years, then it is almost a certainty that they were not in possession of the knowledge that was conveyed to Solon. But it seems apparent that he did, indeed, get it from somewhere. And he tells us that the Greeks were instructed by the Arabs which certainly makes us wonder who were the original “Arabs” since the time referred to was long before Abraham and his son Ishmael, the alleged “father of the Arabs.” [The Secret History of the World, Laura Knight-Jadczyk, 2005, Red Pill Press, Canada]

When discussing historical chronology, Knight-Jadczyk brings up Egypt again:

Otto Neugebauer began the ten-page section on Egypt in his later History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy with the provocative sentence, “Egypt has no place in a work on the history of mathematical astronomy.”332

  Did you catch that? Neugebauer is telling us that the Egyptians were scientifically illiterate. He read and examined everything. All the Egyptologists who were inculcated into the belief of the superiority of Egyptian science were sending him their papyri and inscriptions from tombs and monuments. All the things that are so difficult to get hold of nowadays were sent to Neugebauer. And what did Neugebauer say?

Mathematics and astronomy played a uniformly insignificant role in all periods of Egyptian history. […] The fact that Egyptian mathematics has preserved a relatively primitive level makes it possible to investigate a stage of development which is no longer available in so simple a form, except in the Egyptian documents.

To some extent Egyptian mathematics has had some, though rather negative, influence on later periods. Its arithmetic was widely based on the use of unit fractions, a practice which probably influenced the Hellenistic and Roman administrative offices and thus spread further into other regions of the Roman empire. […]The influence of this practice is visible even in works of the stature of the Almagest, where final results are often expressed with unit fractions in spite of the fact that the computations themselves were carried out with sexagesimal fractions. […] And this old tradition doubtless contributed much to restricting the sexagesimal place value notation to a purely scientific use.

It would be quite out of proportion to describe Egyptian geometry here at length. It suffices to say that we find in Egypt about the same elementary level we observed in contemporary Mesopotamia.

The role of Egyptian mathematics is probably best described as a retarding force upon numerical procedures. Egyptian astronomy had much less influence on the outside world for the very simple reason that it remained through all its history on an exceedingly crude level which had practically no relations to the rapidly growing mathematical astronomy of the Hellenistic age. Only in one point does the Egyptian tradition show a very beneficial influence, that is, in the use of the Egyptian calendar by the Hellenistic astronomers. This calendar is, indeed, the only intelligent calendar which ever existed in human history. A year consists of 12 months of 30 days each and five additional days at the end of each year. A second Egyptian contribution to astronomy is the division of the day into 24 hours, through these hours were originally not of even length, but were dependent on the seasons. […]

Lunar calendars played a role since early times side by side with the schematic civil calendar of the 365-day year. An inscription of the Middle Kingdom mentions “great” and “small” years, and we know now that the “great” years were civil years which contained 13 new moon festivals in contrast to the ordinary “small” years with only 12 new moons. The way these intercalations were regulated, at least in the latest period, is shown by the Demotic text.

This Demotic text contains a simple periodic scheme which is based on the fact that 25 Egyptian civil years (which contain 9125 days) are very nearly equal to 309 mean lunar months. These 309 months are grouped by our text into 16 ordinary years of 12 lunar months, and 9 “great” years of 13 months. Ordinarily two consecutive lunar months are given 59 days by our scheme, obviously because of the fact that one lunar month is close to 29 ½ days long. But every 5th year the two last months are made 60 days long. This gives for the whole 25 year cycle the correct total of 9125 days.

Since at this period all astronomical computations were carried out in the sexagesimal system, at least as far as fractions are concerned, the equinoctial hours were divided sexagesimally. Thus our present division of the day into 24 hours of 60 minutes each is the result of a Hellenistic modification of an Egyptian practice combined with Babylonian numerical procedures.

Finally, we have to mention the decans. […] The decans are the actual reason for the 12 division of the night and hence, in the last analysis, of the 24 hour system. Again, in Hellenistic times the Egyptian decans were brought into a fixed relation to the Babylonian zodiac which is attested in Egypt only since the reign of Alexander’s successors. In this final version the 36 decans are simply the thirds of the zodiacal signs, each decan representing 10 degrees of the ecliptic. Since the same period witnesses the rapid development of astrology, the decans assumed an important position in astrological lore and in kindred fields such as alchemy, the magic of stones and plants and their use in medicine. In this disguise the decans reached India, only to be returned in still more fantastic form to the Muslims and the West. […]

[In the decans] we have not a calendar but a star clock. The user of this list would know the hour of night by the rising of the decan which is listed in the proper decade of the month. […]

We call this phenomenon the “heliacal rising” of S, using a term of Greek astronomy. [...]

It is this sequence of phenomena which led the Egyptians to measure the time of night by means of stars, which we now call decans. This was intended to devise some method of indicating the times of office for the nightly service in the temples, (and other practical reasons.) Just as the months were divided into decades, so were the services of the hour-stars. For 10 days, S indicated the last hour of night, then the next star for the next ten days, and so on. […]

All this was, in fact, taken into account by the inventors of the decanal hours, as can be demonstrated by the terminal section of the “diagonal calendars” on the coffin lids. […]

By the time of the New Kingdom, the usefulness of the decans as indicators of hours had ceased. […] The decans held a secure position as representatives of the decades of the year in the decoration of astronomical ceilings, as in the tomb of Senmut or in the cenotaph of Seti I. In this form, they continued to exist until their association with the zodiac of the Hellenistic period revived them and made them powerful elements of astrological doctrine.

The coffins with the “diagonal calendars” belong roughly to the period from 2100 BC to 1800 BC. […] Astronomical accuracy was nowhere seriously attempted in these documents. […]

In summary, from the almost three millennia of Egyptian writing, the only texts which have come down to us and deal with a numerical prediction of astronomical phenomena belong to the Hellenistic or Roman period. None of the earlier astronomical documents contains mathematical elements; they are crude observational schemes, partly religious, partly practical in purpose.

Ancient science was the product of a very few men; and these few happened not to be Egyptians.333

  It seems that we have learned several things from Neugebauer’s examination of the texts of the various papyri, tomb inscriptions, monuments, calendars, and so forth. One of the most important things we have learned is that the Egyptians did, indeed, correct their calendar every five years, similar to what we do every four years with our leap year. This naturally makes the idea of the Sothic cycle irrelevant in terms of calendrical reconciliation. We also begin to understand some of the totally incomprehensible sayings of the Pyramid Texts. They were recitations of prayers and magical spells that had to be performed at a certain “moment” in the night, and the only way to determine time at night was by the stars. According to Neugebauer, there are sufficient numbers of these star clocks in tombs to confirm this idea.

  Next we note that Neugebauer tells us that the only texts which have come down to us and deal with a numerical prediction of astronomical phenomena belong to the Hellenistic or Roman period and in Hellenistic times the Egyptian decans were brought into a fixed relation to the Babylonian zodiac which is attested in Egypt only since the reign of Alexander’s successors.

  In other words, the “occult secrets” generally attributed to the Egyptians, must actually belong to the Greeks.

So, what can we conclude from all of this? It would be helpful for the interested Hermeticist to read thoroughly Knight-Jadczyk's amazing synthesis along with the works of Frances A. Yates, Garth Fowden, and their sources in order to get the fullest understanding of the fact that a huge error has been made and as a consequence, there is a serious distortion in Hermeticism as it is generally understood today.

It seems that when the Greeks conquered Egypt, they were so impressed with the architectural marvels that they assumed that the present population was the one that had been responsible for those structures. However, that may not be the case at all. I can't cover that argument right now, but suffice it to say that there is enough evidence available to strongly suspect that the Egyptians that built the pyramids and the sphinx and the great temples were already long gone by the time the Greeks arrived and that the Egyptians in residence were but a remnant that had long forgotten the original science behind their structures and writings. All that was left was distortions and meaningless rituals, from which the original true knowledge had been long lost.

The careful reader may have noted the reference to Egyptian "religion" as being infused with "magic" and incantations that had to be performed at certain hours and that this was the reason for the so called Pyramid Texts and the existence of the star clocks. If there has been any corruption of the ancient texts, it is this infusion of ritualistic nonsense into the process of Hermetic Gnosis, the subject I want to cover next.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Egyptian Hermes

In the present day, it has become clear that the the confidence that the Enlightenment would lead man into the light of peace and prosperity has failed to fulfill its promise for the reasons I have pointed out in the previous post: Western civilization arose hampered by a serious deficiency in the very area which ought to play a role in creativity: a proper understanding of the human psyche. This civilization developed formulations of law, national, civil, and canon, which were designed for fictitious and simplified beings which bore no resemblance to normal humans. Such a civilization is insufficiently resistant to evil, which originates beyond the easily accessible areas of human consciousness and takes advantage of the great gap between formal or legal thought and psychological reality. In such a civilization - deficient in psychological cognition - the origins of evil in the minds of psychologically deviant individuals is masked from other people’s insufficiently developed consciousness. This is currently being discussed on the Ponerology site created by, among others, Laura Knight-Jadczyk.

In this bit of writing, I want to begin to trace this process of Ponerogenesis in the Hermetic Tradition. That is, how did it get taken over by deviants, buried with disinformation, and obscured by nonsense.

Roelof van den Broek and Wouter J. Hanegraaff write in their introduction to Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times:

Most literature about the various aspects of "western esotericism" has traditionally been of an apologetic or polemic nature: a debate, basically, among believers and their opponents. Academic researchers generally tended to avoid an area of cultural expression that was widely regarded as inherently suspect; openly to express interest in these traditions might too easily endanger a scholar's prestige among colleagues.

During the last few decades, the realization has been growing that this attitude has little to commend it from a scholarly point of view, and may on the contrary have blinded us to important aspects of our cultural past. Even more importantly, it has become increasingly clear that the scholarly recovery of "esoteric" traditions may eventually force us to question basic received opinions about the foundations of our present culture.

These considerations apply most directly to those movements that developed in the wake of the Hermetic revival of the Renaissance period. ... This should not surprise us, if we take into account the battle between doctrinal Christian theology and Enlightenment rationality that began around two centuries ago. An impartial - instead of polemic - historical study of Gnosticism was potentially dangerous to the self-understanding of traditional Christianity and its modern representatives. [...]

The situation was entirely different with respect to post-Renaissance "Hermeticist" movements. Not only were these less distant in a strictly chronological sense, they were also much closer in spirit. Having flowered in the same period that saw the emergence of modern science and rationality (and having been, as we now know, crucially involved in that emergence) they evidently touched upon the very roots of modernity itself. If Gnosticism had traditionally been perceived as the enemy of established Christianity - exemplifying what were regarded as essentially pagan temptations - modern Hermeticism held a comparable position in relation to the newly established rationalist worldview. To the intellectual heirs of the Enlightenment, it appeared very much as Gnosticism had appeared to the early church fathers: as a collection of archaic and potentially dangerous superstitions. They were regarded as the epitome of those kinds of error from which human reason had now finally managed to free itself.

However, one openly fights an enemy only as long as one fears that he still might win. ... Like the Christian Church before it, modern rationalism, once safely consolidated, could afford itself the luxury of exchanging active combat for a more comfortable (and perhaps more effective) solution:silence. Believing in the inevitable progress of human rationality, one could simply ignore esotericism, in the confident expectation that its still surviving remnants would eventually wither and die by itself. (1998, SUNY Press)

That isn't what has happened, however. Hermeticism was relegated to the fringe, and the fringe elements, often psychological deviants of society, saw the advantage and undertook to create "esoteric systems" of distortions and lies founded on poorly understood or deliberatly altered ancient texts. So it was that the abandonment of the study by properly trained scholars created a gap in which deviance could grow. The same could be said for the current day UFO phenomenon, not to mention the research into what really happened on September 11, 2001.

In Western Society, when we face the spiritual failure such as confronts us today, when people become disillusioned with the "doctrine of human progress," and they begin to look for alternatives, they are open to the predations of deviants and spellbinders always looking to impose their dreams of power on the environment and society. In this particular field, they do this by promising secret knowledge. Such promises attract mostly deviant personalities who are, in a normal milieu, ignored and/or ridiculed. What these individuals then do is create "ideologies" that attract disenfranchised, ignorant people who seek to "level the playing field". You then end up with the blind leading the blind.

Today there is a great deal of interest in alternatives to the Imperial Roman interpretation of Greek thought but it is becoming all too clear that esotericism is being put into the service of covert religious and ideological warfare.

Most so-called "Western Esoteric Traditions" are either directly or indirectly influenced by the Occultists of the Renaissance and post Renaissance periods. The great "rebirth" and movement "forward into the future of a splendid humanistic era" of the Renaissance was, oddly enough, based on looking backward in Time. The idea of cyclical time, moving through progressive ages of Gold, bronze, and iron was at the root of this tendency to "look back" to the pure Golden Age for the greatest Truth. Any progress that man could make would only happen if he could find the earliest, the most ancient, the least corrupt ideals and ideas and put them into action so as to bring society to a new birth: the Renaissance of the Golden Age.

The scholars and humanists of that day sought diligently to recover the literature and monuments of classical antiquity while the religious reformers simultaneously endeavored to return to the fundamentals of holy writ, study of the scriptures and the works of the early church fathers to recover what was lost, what had degenerated. In many cases, the two efforts crossed paths and purposes.

Both of these movements of "return" knew very well the date of Cicero and his golden age of classical culture; the religious reformers knew that they were trying to return to original Christianity, even if they were not clear on the dates of the Gospels, or even if they were the earliest documents; and there were always clever deviants lurking in the shadows ready and willing to pass on the knowledge for a price.

What appears to have happened in this searching for the most ancient texts, the most ancient knowledge, was that certain texts were turned up that seemed to posit that the True ancient religion, the True ancient knowledge, the True secret of the Golden Age was Magic! And the race was on to return to the "Golden Age of Magic." It is here that a great error was made. The Renaissance Magus was inspired by works that he thought were extremely ancient when, in fact, they were really written in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. He thought he was returning to a Golden Wisdom of Ancient Egypt - the knowledge of the Great Hermes Trismegistus - a Wisdom that he believed had infused the Hebrew prophets, taught the philosophers of Greece, and even gave birth to Christianity itself. But it was all an illusion. His "Thrice Great Hermes" was little more than a very late invention and only in more recent times has it been possible to trace the steps of this imposture.

The Dominican scholar Festugière surveyed the technical Hermetica in his first volume of La révélation d'Hermès Trismégiste. As one studies this material, it becomes obvioust that though Hermes wasn't always the "authority," his authority "added up" in the end to a more dominant position. There are certain magical texts that are specifically attributed to Hermes, and his position as an authority in that sphere gave him de facto authority in other fields as well. Magic seemed to be ubiquitous, being found in such things as the "occult properties of different substances and organisms" which pretty much covered everything material. As a result of this, Alchemists claimed Hermes as the founder and propagator of their art also and so Hermes' name is found at the top of the lists of alchemical authorities written by late antique and Byzantine writers. Interestingly, it is in the field of astrology that the most frequent references to Hermes as the ultimate authority are found. The gods Asclepius, Isis, the priest Petosiris and King Nechepso were all considered to have been pupils of Hermes. As a subset of this field are found astrological medicine and astrological botany which endeavored to use astrology in the diagnosis and cure of disease.

An overview of the technical Hermetica demonstrates a general "kinship" of thought and similarity of style covering a heterogeneity of both subject matter and internal structure of the individual texts. In other words, it is clear that there are different authors/ editors/ redactors, but in a certain way, there is still a "school of thought" that links them together. These texts have been repeatedly copied and "remodeled" over the centuries, especially since they were popular in Byzantium, so dating of the originals is extremely difficult even with textual analysis.

The magical texts - as opposed to the philosophical texts - represent a mature phase with no "stages of development" obviously evident and are mostly of later date, though one of the earliest surviving magical texts, firmly dated to the period of Augustus, is also the oldest Hermetic text preserved in papyrus. This suggests that magic must have been one of the first fields attributed to Hermes Trismegistus.

Most of the surviving astrological and medical Hermetica are of Roman date, in circulation in the First century AD or, possibly, a bit earlier. Coming along a little after that was the first evidence for the existence of the Cyranides (occult properties of substances and organisms). The alchemical hermetica are somewhat later and it was only in Roman times that alchemy assumed its classical form.

Philosophical Hermetica were already being compiled into collections in antiquity, but the first collection of technical Hermetica (the various texts seem to have circulated as individual treatises) is encountered in Byzantium, Marcianus 299, dated only to the tenth or eleventh centuries, followed by the thirteenth century Parisinus 2325.

Respecting compilations, there is a reference by Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) to "the man who put together at Athens the fifteen so-called Hermaic books." So we know that there was a collection that early. There are also quotes from the Hermetica found in non-Hermetic literature which suggests that anthologies of these texts were available. Stobaeus' collection provides a good example of such an anthology (early fifth century) which included forty Hermetic texts. This collection included the Korë kosmou which is almost a collection in itself.

There is concrete evidence of the existence of very early philosophical collections in circulation though some of the texts are now lost. The most spectacular evidence of this is the Nag Hammadi library. Three of the eight texts contained in codex VI are indisputable Hermetic tractates. A number of the other texts from this collection give evidence of doctrinal parallels though they do not claim to be Hermetic and none of the Hermetic characters show up in them.

The three indisputable Hermetic texts at the end of NHC VI seem to be simply part of a wider Gnostic compilation which leads to the question: were these three texts a specifically Hermetic collection, or did the compiler of the codex bring them together on his own initiative, for his own reasons?

The first of the three texts, (apparently translated from Greek into Coptic), is an initiatory dialogue between Hermes and Tat. References in the text suggest that the untitled piece was called The Ogdoad reveals the Ennead, or The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth Spheres. This text was previously unknown and this creates the difficulty that there is no other tradition to compare it with.

In ancient times it was thought that the first Seven Spheres were the realms of the sun, moon and planets which represented the lower powers that controlled humanity and were NOT benevolent except insofar as it served their own interests. The Eighth and Ninth Spheres represented the levels beyond the control of the lower forces. The tractate may also assume a tenth sphere where God dwells, though this is not explicit.

The tractate is a dialogue between Hermes Trismegistus, the "father," who instructs an initiate, the "son." Thus, the Hermetic character is emphasized by the use of the name of Hermes, though the strong, Gnostic dualistic theme is also present. Scholars note certain affinities to Middle Platonism which suggest a composition date of about the Second Century AD.

The two other texts are both translations from the Hermetic Perfect discourse, known previously from the Latin Asclepius. Number 7 is the prayer of thanksgiving from this latter text, and number 8 corresponds to section 21-29 of Asclepius: Hermes' famous prophecy.

These three texts together do not suggest that they were a connected series and the only clue to their origin is a scribal note inserted between text 7 and 8 that says:

I have copied this single discourse (logos) of his, because many indeed have reached me, but I did not write them down, thinking that they had reached you [plural]; and what is more I hesitate to copy these for you, because possibly they did [already] reach you, and the matter was troublesome for you; for the discourses which have reached me from that source are numerous.

The scribe, referring to a "single discourse," is obviously talking specifically about the Prayer of Thanksgiving from Asclepius and not the previous text, the Ogdoad reveal the Ennead. He apparently intended it to follow the Ogdoad as a sort of thanks for the deifying knowledge. What is interesting about this prayer is that it provides evidence for liturgical prayer, a ritual embrace or kiss, and a cultic meal in a typically Gnostic community. The prayer ends with: "When they had said these things in prayer, they embraced each other and they went to eat their holy food, which has no blood in it."

Moving on to the Corpus Hermeticum itself, again, the problem is the fact that no one has yet proved it's existence as a collection prior to Michael Psellus's references to it in the eleventh century. The alchemist Zosimus of Panopolis mentions CH I and CH IV together at the end of the third century, but that doesn't prove that the entire collection was assembled. Stobaeus included in his Anthologium extracts from CH II, IV and X, but he also knew many other unattested texts so one cannot make any conclusions about his sources, whether they were collections or just a pile of individual tractates.

The only thing certain is that the texts of the Corpus Hermeticum did not all come from the same place. Notable, also, is the fact that the Corpus Hermeticum does NOT include the undoubtedly popular Perfect Discourse that the above scribe mentions being so abundantly available. So, where are all the texts and who decided what got preserved and what didn't? Garth Fowden writes:

If we look at a writer who knew the philosophical Hermetica well, like the Christian Lactantius (d. c. 320), it becomes clear not only that he was acquainted with many more Hermetic writing than we are, but also that he tended to quote only from those that fitted with the particular doctrinal points that he wanted to make.

From Lactantius we learn a great deal about, for example, Hermetic doctrine on the nature of God, since it corresponded closely with his own understanding of Christianity; but about Hermetic mystical teaching, which could not easily be accommodated to a Christian context, he leaves us largely in the dark.

That a writer as sympathetic to Hermetism as Lactantius could convey, albeit for understandable reasons, such an unbalanced picture of its doctrine, arouses a suspicion that the composition of the Corpus too, though it may go back to a late antique core, reflects the taste of the Christian Byzantine readership to which we owe our manuscripts.

Byzantine disapproval of certain aspects of Hermetism is vividly conveyed by the abusive epithets that spatter the margins of one of our manuscripts. Perhaps this is the explanation for the absence of CH XVI thru XVIII from many of our manuscripts, SVI and SVII being too pagan, and SVIII, the last treatise in the collection and anyway not Hermetic, being naturally likely to fall out with them.

Quotations made from Hermetic books by late antique writers provide a useful control on the Corpus, this time on the fidelity of the text itself. ... More significantly, material offensive to Christian and Greek taste might also be allowed to drop out in the course of the long process of transmission from scribe to scribe. NHC VI 6, for instance, includes references to magic, astrology and pagan cult, and a variety of Egyptian decor, of a sort conspicuously absent from the otherwise closely analogous CH XIII. (The Egyptian Hermes, 1986, Princeton University Press)

And we should note also that, in the same way, extraneous - even corrupting - material can be introduced into the tradition and undoubtedly was.

In addition to the Corpus Hermeticum, the Stobaean fragments and the Vienna and Nag Hammadi papyri, there are three other sources of information about the doctrines of philosophical Hermetism. These include the Perfect discourse, the Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius, preserved in an Armenian translation, and a variety of comments and testimonies from pagan and Christian writers of late antiquity. The Perfect discourse has survived intact in Latin, (the Asclepius), apparently done during the fourth century and attributed to Apuleius. There are a few Greek fragments of the same text, and the Coptic version of the two fragments from Nag Hammadi. Comparison of the fragments show that the complete Latin version is very definitely paraphrased. Fowden writes:

Though the Perfect discourse itself was clearly a long and composite text whose incoherences were rather unsuccessfully camouflaged by a feeble editor. Yet the Asclepius has its moments, notably Hermes's great prophecy of the demise of Egypt. And doctrinally it is almost encyclopaedic. So it was widely read in late antiquity; and the loss of the original is surprising, to say the least. No doubt we have here another symptom of Byzantine censorship, since the work contains several openly - even to the Christina mind, shockingly - pagan passages.

The Armenian Definitions is dated to 1273, but most copies date to the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

Regarding the dating of the earliest textual strata of the philosophical hermetica, it is difficult. All that can really be said is that there were specimens circulating by the end of the second century. This is the same time that allusions to philosophical Hermetica turn up. The Nag Hammadi texts only tell us that the three Hermetic texts must antedate their inclusion into the codex in the mid-fourth century. So, basically, the end of the road leads to the time of composition being from the late first century to the late third century.

That pretty much does away with the "ancient Egyptian Wisdom" of the Hermetic revival. But certainly there was some Egyptian influence, wasn't there? I will examine that question next.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Faults in The Twin Pillars of Western Civilization

Having been diverted for some months from the original plan for this blog - truly a bizarre word, but there it is - I have finally had a relaxation of external pressures so that I can resume my original plan: to discuss Gnosis and Hermeticism so as to show, by a series of arguments, that the positive paths of Gnosticism and Hermeticism are but degraded variations of Esoteric Christianity and that this "Esoteric Christianity" itself is but a continuation of a tradition so ancient that it is lost in the mists of pre-modern civilization antiquity.

It is generally regarded as a given fact that Western Culture is predicated upon, and dominated by, the twin pillars of Greek rationality and "biblical" faith. Greek thought is defined as "sole reliance on the rationality of the mind" and the "Biblical Faith" is described as "emphasis on divine revelation."

However, there is a problem with this assumption and that problem is the failure to consider the equally powerful influence of Imperial Rome.

It was Imperial Rome that conquered Greece and then, subsequently imposed "Biblical Judeo-Christianity" on the West, so it behooves us to pause a moment and consider this factor in context.

One of the big mysteries of ancient times is the origins of the Greeks. It is surprising to observe that the culture of the ancient Greeks represented what must have been an astonishingly autonomous tribe. It is said that no civilization could develop in isolation, without being affected by older cultures, but Greece seems to have been relatively unaffected by the rest of the Asiatic influenced Mediterranean civilizations; isolated, culturally speaking. No one has ever satisfactorily explained this, though many theories have been proposed.

The work that is supposed to give us insight into the development of Greek culture is Homer's Iliad. Right up to the present time, it is believed that the Trojan War between the Achaeans and Trojans described in this work was waged near Hissarlik in north-west Turkey despite the fact that there is little evidence of the Asiatic influences from that region of the world on Greek Culture proper. And certainly, these influences are noted to be heavily stamped on every other culture emerging from those same regions.

The fact is, there was a so-called Dark Age that conceals the development of Greek Civilization and this age is said to have covered the period 1200 to about 750 BC. More recent scientific discoveries about the eruption of the Volcano Thera on the island of Santorini, and it's dating to around 1600 BC suggest that this Dark Age was a great deal longer than anyone formerly supposed.

Several scholarly and compelling books of recent times have made very good cases for the idea that the Greeks did NOT develop their civilization in the Mediterranean, but rather a more northerly location. These studies suggest that the climatic disruption caused by the eruption of Thera forced survivors of the Trojan War, which took place in an altogether different, northern, location, to flee South where they settled and named their towns and villages after the places they knew exactly as the refugees from Europe who fled religious persecution, or were simply looking for a more prosperous life named their towns and settlements after cities and towns in Europe.

Plato himself had doubts about the Greek origins of Homer’s work because not only do the physical descriptions in his poems not correspond to the Greek world that Plato knew, but also the Homeric philosophy is very different from the mainstream Greek philosophy of Plato's time, and which we know about today. The latter is based on the dualism of two opposing elements, thesis/ antithesis, good/ evil, life/death, body/soul - pure rationality - omitting the idea of the Third Force that was clearly present in Homer..

Since Plato’s times, many have sought to derive “synthesis” from these opposing elements, with little success and so I propose that, just as others are looking elsewhere for the location of ancient Troy, we look elsewhere for the origins of the philosophy evident in Homer which was the platform for the emergence of the later "rationality" of the Greeks.

It is clear from the Greek myths that their most ancient cultural foundations developed in direct contact with nature and the experiences of life and war. These conditions were recorded in a fully formed literary tradition that still stands as a model of depth and deft perception which gave birth to later philosophical reflections searching for generalities, essential contents, and criteria of values. The Greek heritage is fascinating due to its richness and individuality, but above all due to its almost primeval nature.

Aristotle considered Gaul to be the “teacher” of Greece and the Druids to be the “inventors of philosophy.” The Greeks also considered the Druids to be the world’s greatest scholars, and whose mathematical knowledge was the source of Pythagoras‘ information so perhaps there is more to the idea that the Greeks came from the Northern climes than we might initially suppose when inculcated in our beliefs that civilization was born in Mesopotamia.

A close and careful reading of Homer reveals that the philosophy of the ancient world included the idea that there was a third element that linked opposing elements. Between the body and the soul, there is the spirit. Between life and death there is the transformation that is possible to the individual, between father and mother there is the child who takes the characteristics of both father and mother, and between good and evil there is the SPECIFIC SITUATION that determines which is which and what ought to be done.

This is clearly an ancient Celtic idea. Let us look at a quote from Laura Knight-Jadczyk's informative work The Secret History of the World for insight:

We begin with the question: who were the Celts? We are taught almost nothing about them in school, though they seem to be considered as the ancestors of most Europeans, thus also Americans. Why is it that the religion and culture of the Mesopotamian region dominates our lives and our culture when it is, in effect, “foreign”?

Celtic vernacular literature, including myths, stories and poems, in its written form, dates mainly from the Middle Ages. It is based on oral transmission that goes far beyond the Christian Era. It is very difficult to get a clear picture of the pre-Christian Celts from the transmitted texts, not only because of the typical mixture of myth and reality, and the lapse of time, but also because the Roman empire sought to stamp it out starting with Caesar and continuing with the Roman church.

However, studying what is available closely, one gets the impression of a dynamic, somewhat undisciplined people. The Celts were proud, imaginative, artistic, lovers of freedom and adventure, eloquence, poetry, and arts. You can always discern the Celtic influence by the great artistic talents of these peoples.

The Celts were VERY suspicious of any kind of centralized “authority,” and this is, in the end, what brought about their downfall. They could not stand against the hierarchical war machine of the Roman empire. In a sense, you could almost say that this is how Hitler nearly conquered Europe, most especially France. Gauls take the principles of liberty and equality VERY seriously - right down to the common man on the street who in no way considers himself inferior to the Prime Minister.

One of the principal historians of the Roman era, Julius Caesar, tells us that the Celts were ruled by the Druids. The druids “held all knowledge.” The Druids were charged with ALL intellectual activities, and were not restricted to religion, per se, which suggests to us that “religion” and “knowledge” in a more or less scientific approach, were considered essential to one another - symbiotic.

It is later writers who began to vilify the Celts by accusing them of the usual things that people get accused of when someone wants to demonize them: human sacrifice, homosexuality, and so on. Most of that nonsense goes back to Posidonius, who has been quoted as an “authority” by every other “authority” on the Celts since. Unfortunately, when one checks Posidonius, one finds that he really didn't have a clue and was probably making stuff up to fulfill an agenda.

The lack of written texts by the Celts has been the greatest problem for historians and students of the Celts. A lot of ideas are “supposed” or ancient sources with agendas have been relied on, and some of them even propose that there was a “taboo” by the Celts on putting things into writing.

Well, I suppose that, if our civilization came to an end and all our records on magnetic media were destroyed, people might say that we didn't put anything in writing either.

There has been a lot of nonsense written about WHY the Celts didn't write things down, and the most nonsensical, considering what we do know about their culture, is that this was how the Druids “kept their power” or that they believed something silly like: “if the sacred myths were revealed, they would become profaned and thus lose their mystic virtues.”

What Caesar said was that the reason for the ban on writing was that the Druids were concerned that their pupils should not neglect the training of their memories ... by relying on written texts. ...

It is worth noting that, in the nineteenth century, it was observed that the illiterate Yugoslav bards, who were able to recite interminable poems, actually lost their ability to memorize once they had learned to rely on reading and writing.

Although the Druids prohibited certain things from being written down, it’s clear that they DID write. Celtic writings in Ogamic script have been found on many ancient stones. Caesar tells us that the Celts were using the Greek alphabet when the Romans arrived in Gaul in the first century BC.

However, the knowledge of the initiates was transmitted entirely orally...

The destruction of Celtic culture was so complete that we know very little about their religion. We do know that they celebrated their “rites” in forests and by lakes without erecting any covered temples or statues of divinities. Tacitus tells us:

They do not think it in keeping with the divine majesty to confine gods within walls, or to portray them in the likeness of any human countenance. Their holy places are woods and groves and they apply the names of deities to that hidden presence which is seen only by the eyes of reverence. [The Secret History of the World, 2nd Edition, Laura Knight-Jadczyk, 2005, Red Pill Press, Canada pp.118-120]

Returning to the Three Forces of the ancient Celtic and Homeric philosophy, Knight-Jadczyk tells us:

In other words, there are three simultaneous determinants in any situation that make it impossible to say that any list of things is “good” or “evil” intrinsically, and that the true determinant is the situation. ... the symbol of this philosophy is the triskele, representing three waves joined together.

The simultaneous existence of the third element does not mean that the notion of “good” and “evil” did not exist or was not reflected in the Celtic law. What was clear was that it was understood that nothing could be “cut and dried” in terms of law, that each situation was unique and the circumstances had to be carefully weighed.

The Greek philosophy that we know was probably the result of Asiatic influences upon the Greek refugees from the Northern climes. Greek architecture seems to be a consequence of the rich mythological imagination of these people being employed in the practical occupation of building dwellings and cities with techniques influenced, again, by the Asiatic elements of the Levant. As Imam Wilkens says:

It will now appear that there have indeed been Trojans living in north-west Turkey but that they were survivors of the famous war which had been fought in a far-off country to which their grand-children would return. Their presence in Hissarlik lasted for three generations only, from about 1180 to 1100 BC. [Iman Wilkens, Where Troy Once Stood, 2005, Gopher Publishers, Netherlands]

It is more likely that the Trojans fled to Hissarlik before 1600 BC, and the Achaeans fled South soon after with the eruption of Thera casting a chilling pall over the Bronze Age world. And so, these creative - extraordinarily deep and thoughtful people of the north - developed a civilization in the Mediterranean basin unlike anything ever seen there before. Until the Romans...

It would take us too far afield to examine just who the Romans were at this point, but it is an interesting question. In any event, the Romans seem to have been a hybridization of an indigenous population, Etruscans and Greeks. This mixture was vital and practical and the resultant social structure was one that did not see it as necessary to reflect profoundly upon the Greek thoughts it had appropriated. As Rome evolved into an empire, the imperial administrative and judicial needs imposed practical priorities. The role of philosophy was more didactic, helping to develop and refine the thinking processes that were useful for the discharge of administrative and political functions.

Certainly, the Greek reflective tendencies modified and "civilized" Roman society, but in general, only to the extent that was circumscribed by practical considerations. In any Imperial structure, the questions of human nature are troublesome factors that only complicate legal and administrative considerations, and thus they are quickly dismissed. Instead, the tendency is to develop a concept of human nature that is simple enough to serve the purposes of law. The result of this was a concept of the human being that had very little to do with actual psychological - let alone spiritual - properties. In Imperial Rome, citizens could achieve their goals and develop their personal concepts only within the framework set by legal principle and precedent. The psychological or spiritual life of peoples without citizenship was not considered a subject worthy of consideration much less study.

Thus, cognation of and reflection upon psychology, spirituality, human nature, and related concepts was barren and limited within the Roman system.

Judaism and later, Christianity, had strong ties to the ancient cultures of the Asiatic continent, including their philosophical and psychological reflections. The most attractive thing about these cultures was the "focus on the future." The Greeks had "fathered" history in the works of Hellenic historians like Herodotus and Thucycdides, but the Greeks failed to see history in terms of a future; the Greek focus was geared toward the present. The Roman peoples, deprived of the rich spiritual reflections of Greek culture, burdened by an administrative system that did little to give them hope for the future, becoming dissatisfied with the outward pomp and psychologically unfulfilling cults of the empire, began to turn more and more to ideas that suggested a "different future," one free of Imperial restrictions.

The promise of a better future was, of course, the dynamic factor rendering Christianity more attractive, but it was not the most important one. Observing and understanding the transformations faith caused in human personalities created a psychological school of thought and art on the part of the first believers. This new relationship to another person, i.e. one’s neighbor, characterized by understanding, forgiveness, and love, opened the door to a psychological cognition which, often supported by charismatic phenomena, bore abundant fruit during the first three centuries after Christ.

Here the reader might wish to avail themselves of Burton Mack's analysis of the Q Document which reveals that the early Jesus people were something quite different from Christianity as we know it today.

The remarkable thing about the people of Q is that they were not Christians. They did not think of Jesus as a messiah or the Christ. They did not take his teachings as an indictment of Judaism. They did not regard his death as a divine, tragic, or saving event. And they did not imagine that he had been raised from the dead to rule over a transformed world. Instead, they thought of him as a teacher whose teachings made it possible to live with verve in troubled times. Thus they did not gather to worship in his name, honor him as a god, or cultivate his memory through hymns, prayers, and rituals. They did not form a cult of the Christ... The people of Q were Jesus people, not Christians. [...]

Mack's discussion shows how the Jesus movement was a vigorous social experiment that was generated for reasons other than an "originating event" such as a "religious experience" or the "birth of the son of God."

The Jesus movement seems to have been a response to troubled and difficult times. Mack outlines and describes the times, and shows how the pressures of the milieu led to thinking new thoughts about traditional values and experimenting with associations that crossed ethnic and cultural boundaries. The Jesus movement was composed of novel social notions and lifestyles that denied and rejected traditional systems of honor based on power, wealth, and place in hierarchical social structures. Ancient religious codes of ritual purity, taboos against intercourse across ethnic boundaries, were rejected. People were encouraged to think of themselves as belonging to the larger, human family. Q says: "If you embrace only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?"

The Jesus people not only rejected the old order of things, they were actively at work on the questions of what ideal social order they wanted to manifest and promote. The attraction of the Jesus people to its followers was not at all based on any ideas to reform a religious tradition that had gone wrong, nor was it even thought of as a new religion in any way. It was quite simply a social movement that sought to enhance human values that grew out of an unmanageable world of confusing cultures and social histories. It was a group of like-minded individuals that created a forum for thinking about the world in new ways, coming up with new ideas that included the shocking notion that an ethnically mixed group could form its own kind of community and live by its own rules. Mack writes:

At first no one was in charge of the groups that formed around such teachings. Conversation and mutual support were enough to encourage an individual to act "naturally," as if the normal expectations of acquiescence to social conventions did not apply. As groups formed in support of like-minded individuals, however, loyalty to the Jesus movement strengthened, a social vision for human well-being was generated within the group, and social codes for the movement had to be agreed upon . Why not ask when in need and share what one had when asked, they wondered? Eventually, therefore, the Jesus movement took the form of small groups meeting together as extended families in the heady pursuit of what they called God's kingdom.

To explore human community based on fictive kinship without regard to standard taboos against association based on class, status, gender, or ethnicity would have created quite a stir, and would have been its own reward. Since there was no grand design for actualizing such a vision, different groups settled into practices that varied from one another. Judging from the many forms of community that developed within the Jesus movement, as documented in literature that begins to appear toward the end of the first century, these groups continued to share a basic set of attitudes. They all had a certain critical stance toward the way life was lived in the Greco-Roman world. They all struggled not to be determined by the emptiness of human pursuits in a world of codes they held to be superficial. [...] Despite these agreements, however, every group went its own way and drew different conclusions about what to think and do. [The Lost Gospel by Burton L. Mack]

In short, the early Jesus movement was seeking answers to the very questions that Imperial Rome found so troublesome because they got in the way of administrative simplicity. The Jesus movement was focused on developing the art of human understanding to a higher level than the older cultures and religions had done. It might also be speculated that it was an attempt to restore the ancient Greek/Celtic ideas of the Three Forces which may very well have been the original idea behind the "Trinity." The Jesus movement sought to find ways to protect human beings from the dangers of speculative thought divorced from profound psychological reality which can only be comprehended through sincere respect for another human being.

The Empire was not to be outfoxed, however. What it could not destroy, it assimilated and modified to its own purposes. By 350 AD, the decay in sensitivity to the psychological reality of human beings as well as the tendency to impose extrinsic and unreal concepts on the human psyche can be observed. The Roman Imperial system adapted the Geek heritage of philosophical thought and language to its purposes. This made it possible to develop its own "Imperialistic Christian Philosophy".

At the same time that groups carrying the original ideas of the Jesus people expanded along the well worn tracks of the Roman empire’s transportation lines, within the imperial civilization, the newly official Christian Church appropriated Roman organizational forms and adapted to existing social institutions. As a result of this, Christianity was created in the image of Roman habits of legal thinking, including its indifference to the reality of the depth and variety of the psychology of human nature.

Two heterogeneous items - Greek Philosophy and Roman law - were thus linked together so seamlessly and permanently that scholars of later centuries have lost the ability to see just how strange they are to each other. However, time and compromise have not eliminated the internal inconsistencies that resulted when Roman influence removed the primeval psychological knowledge from the Jesus movement. Christian groups developing under different cultural conditions in far flung reaches of the empire, or outside the empire altogether, created forms so variegated that maintaining unity turned out to be an historical impossibility.

We come back now to the assumption that Western Civilization is founded on the twin pillars of Greek thought and Biblical faith, and we find that it is not so simple. What is clear is that Western civilization is founded upon the Imperial Roman version of Greek thought which is defined as "sole reliance on the rationality of the mind" and the Imperial Roman version of "Biblical Faith" which is described as "emphasis on divine revelation" both of which have been subjected to a legal codification that completely obviates the ancient concept of the Third Force: the specific situation that determines good from evil.

Western civilization thus arose hampered by a serious deficiency in the very area which ought to play a role in creativity. This civilization developed formulations of law, national, civil, and canon, which were designed for fictitious and simplified beings which bore no resemblance to normal humans. These conceptions gave short shrift to the rich and varied contents of the human personality and the great psychological differences between individual members of the species Homo sapiens.

Such a civilization is insufficiently resistant to evil, which originates beyond the easily accessible areas of human consciousness and takes advantage of the great gap between formal or legal thought and psychological reality. In such a civilization - deficient in psychological cognition - the origins of evil in the minds of psychologically deviant individuals is masked from other people’s insufficiently developed consciousness. Such individuals are then able to impose their dreams of power upon both the environment and society.

In this series of essays, I hope to show exactly how this has been done through the perversion of Hermeticism which gave birth to science.

The Third Way, characterized by a blending of rational thought and faith based on that rationality, can lead to inner enlightenment or gnosis. Some parts of this way of Gnosis have been preserved in certain Gnostic teachings which I will show are the origins of Hermeticism. I will also argue that the Cathars were carriers of the same tradition and that the early Jesus people were Gnostics and that the entire teaching, or way, is directly related to the ancient Greek Philosophy of which we find traces in Homer, and that this philosophy was identical to that of the Celtic Druids and Bards. Further, I hope to argue satisfactorily that this tradition extends back into antiquity and can be called, as Gurdjieff referred to it: Esoteric Christianity, though one must understand the word "Christ" in the most original meaning.

And so, until next week, I bid you adieu.

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