Hermetic tradition, huh?

4300 years ago is the oldest estimate I have seen, and the oldest known sources are more like 2100 years old; but even then they claim to be part of a much older tradition, so who knows when and where it started.

It would seem that I am become part of the Hermetic tradition, and presumably so is the Pope. I am sure Hermes would enjoy that; perhaps I should write him a letter…

Back when I started reading the blog “One Cosmos”, one of the recommended books (and oft quoted) was Meditations on the Tarot, by a now deceased Catholic philosopher who prefers to be known only as “your unknown friend”. Although his real name is known (and a little famous), it is customary to not mention it. Despite the mention of Tarot, the book is unabashedly Christian, with a vaguely Catholic slant (at least if you know it). It does however draw on a multitude of sources also outside of Christianity.

I bought the book, a hefty tome, unfortunately not available in Kindle form yet.  Truth to tell, I did not get far into it. At the time, it was a rather heavy read. This was at the early years (if not months) of my interest in books of timeless wisdom, and I had little training in reading such things and little understanding of this way of thinking. Some five years have passed since then, I think.

The book was pulled out again on the same blog recently, and I also brought out my own copy.  That’s when I actually noticed the subtitle: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. 

I was about to write something like “I have written at great length about Hermes Trismegistus”, then decided to link to it, then my search function only showed a couple drive-by mentions. Have I really not gone into detail about this mysterious person, who supposedly lived in ancient Greece or perhaps Egypt? He is known mainly from Egypt after it was conquered by Alexander the Great, and evidently the Egyptian god Thoth was identified with the Greek Hermes. This combined god was called Hermes Trismegistus, Hermes the three times greatest. Perhaps that was their way to say “awesome”?

In any case, Hermes supposedly wrote a large number of books containing the wisdom of the universe, but only a tiny portion of these writings are still extant. And this has been the case for a long time. From these somewhat cryptic sources we have people drawing very different conclusions. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, for instance, is more similar to witchcraft than to Christianity. But this book is not.

If you are in doubt, it may be worth noticing that the current Pope is photographed with Meditations on the Tarot on his table. Of course that is not proof, he may have been surveying it for heresies. But he spent his adult life in the same intellectual circle as Hans Urs von Balthasar, who wrote a foreword (now afterword) to the book, and who was nominated as Cardinal by the earlier Pope but died before he could take office.

So Hermeticism seems to have, in fact, once again entered mainstream Christianity. (It made several appearances in the early church, in apologetic writings – that doesn’t mean the church fathers apologized, rather they wrote books to defend the faith. The word has changed meaning since, I guess. But back then, Hermes was considered more respectable than Jesus in some parts of the civilized world.)

Anyway, it seems their paths are meeting again, as it were. I am sure this would amuse members of the Japanese new religion Happy Science, who believe that Hermes and Jesus were friends since before the age of the dinosaurs. But Jesus hasn’t said anything about that to me, so don’t quote me on it. Anyway, I doubt the happy sect members have time to read my blog, given they now have over 700 books to read by the reincarnation of Hermes. And I still haven’t read through Meditations on the Tarot.



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