Introduction
The Corpus Hermeticum
The Way of Hermes

Agathos Daimon

The origin of Agathos Daimon (“ἀγαθὸς δαίμων”) is disputed. Some experts claim that he may have originally been a psychopomp – someone who accompanied the souls of the deceased.

In addition, Agathos Daimon was also worshiped as the patron god of Alexandria, whose cult was probably founded by Alexander himself.

His function as a protective deity also caused Agathos Daimon to be identified with Sarapis. In addition, he was known as a god of fortune associated with “Τυχὴ Ἀγαθή” who in turn was also identified as Isis and Sarapis.

The association of Agathos Daimon with two psychopomps (Hermes and Dionysus) can be found in the description of the god by the Greco-Egyptian alchemist Zosimos of Panopolis. Zosimos met the god in a dream and learned that Agathos Daimon was “a spirit and a protector of spirits.”

Zosimos also refers to an early transmission of chemical knowledge written down by a certain Chemeu in a book that carried his name. Chemeu is sometimes identified as Agathos Daimōn (Kmēph).

In the Corpus Hermeticum, Agathos Daimon appears as a reference rather than an active interlocutor (this only occurs in CH. XII). He is mentioned twice as an authority in CH. XII, 1 and 13. In all of Hermeticism, Agathos Daimon is the only master of Hermes Trismegistus besides Poimandres/Nous.

Teacher of Hermes?

Many experts have decided that the teacher/herald in CHI Poimandres is Hermes, although no name is mentioned in that text. The experts base their conclusion upon two other hermetic texts, namely CH XIII and XII, because in both these texts Hermes mentions Poimandres or a ‘shepherd’.

In CH IV Hermes mentions a Herald sent to mankind to teach us about Nous and the Way of Immortality:

He filled a great bowl with Nous and sent it down, and he appointed a herald to make this announcement to the hearts of men...”

CH IV

This seems to indicate that Hermes is not the herald. So, who can the mysterious herald in CH I and IV who gains the illuminating vision and spreads the wisdom of Nous be? Maybe the herald is Agathos Daimon. Why? Because he might be the teacher of Hermes:

Let me tell you what I have always heard Agathos Daimon say. If he had set this forth in writing, he would have greatly helped the race of men, for he alone, my son, as the firstborn god, looking down upon all things, truly spoke divine words.

CH XII.8

The Herald in CH I also proclaims wisdom and does not write anything down. And not Hermes but Agathos Daimon ‘truly spoke divine words’. Just like the first Herald in CH I does.

The animals of Thoth

A further possible proof that the Herald in CH I is Agathos Daimon and not Hermes, might be shown on a statue from the 1st century AD that can be seen in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam (see image right).

The statue is of Thoth as a baboon with a scroll with a snake (Agathos Daimon) on his head. On the foot of the statue is an ibis. This statue could be a representation of the genealogy of divine wisdom. From Agathos Daimon (the snake) to Thoth (the baboon) to finally the human teacher Hermes Trismegistus (the Ibis).

In CH1 Poimandres shares the following secret with the person that would become His herald. Poimandres says:

This is the mystery which has been kept secret until this day. For Nature, united with Man, has brought forth a wonder of wonders. Man, as I told you, was of the Father and of spirit and had the nature of the harmony of the seven spheres. So Nature did not wait, but immediately brought forth seven men corresponding to the natures ‘of the seven powers beyond gender and sublime.

Then in CHXII.1 Hermes says the following to Tat:

Nous, O Tat, comes from God’s essence, if indeed He has essence. What sort of thing this essence is, He alone knows fully. In fact, Nous is not separate from God’s true essence, but is, as it were, spread out from it just like the light of the sun. In men this Nous is God; thus some men are gods, and then humanity is akin to divinity; in fact, Agathos Daimon called gods immortal men, and men mortal gods. But in irrational creatures there is just nature.

CHXII.1

This is the mystery that the herald learns from Nous in CHI, namely that gods are immortal men, and men are mortal gods.

So, Agathos Daimon, the “firstborn god”, might be the mysterious “I”-person in CH1. And this anonymous person became the first herald. Agathos Daimon, through the vision of Poimandres, became a god. And as the firstborn god he became the herald that would teach mankind the ways of immortality.