Hermeticism, with its ancient Egyptian roots, has captivated the minds of scholars and seekers of wisdom for centuries. Delving into the historical practices of the ancient Hermetists raises intriguing questions about their relevance in our modern era.
The purpose of the Hermetica is to heal the soul from its afflictions and restore the human spirit to its original condition of wholeness, divine consciousness, omniscience, and even omnipotence. This is nowadays as relevant for our well-being as it was 2,000 years ago.
Most scholars now refer to the astrological, magical, and alchemical materials ascribed to
Hermes as “practical” or “technical” Hermetica. Their counterpart is usually still referred to as “theoretical” or “philosophical” even by scholars who are quick to point out that those adjectives are inadequate.
The “philosophical” Hermetica focuses on spiritual, religious, cosmological, theological, theosophical, and philosophical aspects, while the “practical” Hermetica deals with incantation, astrology, alchemy, talisman creation, and various magical rituals and techniques.
However, this does not mean that you have to practice magic, study astrology, make talismans, or perform alchemical experiments to engage with Hermeticism in a practical way.
Having said that to me, Poimandres mingled with the powers. When I had thanked and praised the Father of the All, I was freed by him, having been strengthened and instructed in the nature of all and in the most high vision, and I began to proclaim to men the beauty of piety and knowledge:Corpus Hermeticum I.27
‘O people, men born of the earth, who have given yourselves over to drink and sleep, and to ignorance of God, be sober, cease being intoxicated, cease being beguiled by dull sleep.‘
At its core, Hermeticism aims to comprehend the universe and the divine. Hermetists, as practitioners of this mystical tradition, are expected to lead reverent, ethical, and pious lives. By studying the works of the divine and observing the workings of the divine Nature, they seek to develop a profound understanding of the divine and their own divine nature.
‘Plunge into this bowl, if you can, having faith that you will rise to him that sent down the bowl, realising why you came into being.’ Those who heard the proclamation, merged with Nous, partook of higher knowledge and became perfect and complete, since they had received Nous. Those who missed the proclamation had the Word, but had not received Nous, ignorant as they were as to why they were born, and from whom.Corpus Hermeticum IV.4
To truly know the divine, one must embark on a journey of self-discovery. Each individual must rediscover, appreciate, and cultivate their own divine nature. This requires understanding our purpose, function, and role in this life.
As our knowledge of ourselves and the divine deepens, so does our reverence and appreciation for the divine and the cosmos as a divine creation. Recognizing that humans possess the divine gift of creation, as stated in Chapter 1 of the Corpus Hermeticum, we can gradually become co-creators in the divine tapestry, step by step.
‘When Man had observed in the Father the creation of the Creator’ he himself wished to create; and he was given permission to do so by the Father, being begotten in the sphere of the Creator, he observed carefully the creations of his brother from which he obtained every power.‘Corpus Hermeticum I.13
As Hermes says in Book IV.4 (see quote above) a Hermetist should focus on learning about why they were born, and from whom. While not every aspect of life needs to be centered on the divine, cultivating a heightened awareness that allows us to align ourselves as much as possible with the divine is crucial.
A Hermetist can be engaged in a variety of practices. While no official meditation practices, prayers, or rituals have been handed down, we can glean insights from classical Hermetic texts. Just like his historical brothers and sisters, the practices of a modern Hermetist can include:
- Engaging in deep contemplation and reflection.
- Offering worship and silent reverence to the divine.
- Honoring and seeking the favor of the lesser gods.
- Purifying both the physical body and the mind.
- Cultivating the qualities of love, care, and compassion to become better individuals.
If you want to start practicing Hermeticism then a good first practice is the one of thankfulness. At the end of the book Asclepius Hermes shares a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving.
Recite the prayer below every day at sunset or before you go to sleep. When praying turn towards the South, for anyone wishing to ask anything of God at sunset should face that direction. After a while, you can also recite the prayer at sunrise or after waking up. At sunrise one should face East.
We give thanks to you!
Every soul and heart reaches up to you,
O ineffable Name
honored as “God” and praised as “Father”,
for to everyone and everything you have shown
fatherly kindness, affection, love, and sweetest activity,
granting to us Nous, Logos, and Gnosis:
Nous, that we may understand you;
Logos, that we may call upon you;
Gnosis, that we may know you.
We rejoice, for we have been illuminated by your knowledge.
We rejoice, for you have revealed yourself to us.
We rejoice, for you have made us incarnate divine by your knowledge.
The thanksgiving of mankind to you is this alone:
that we may know you.
O Light of Mind, we know you.
O Life of Life, we know you.
O Womb of every creature, we know you.
O Womb pregnant with the nature of the Father, we know you.
O eternal permanence of the begetting Father, we know you.
Thus do we worship your goodness.
Thus do we ask for one favor: that we be preserved in your knowledge.
Thus do we ask for one protection: that we not fall away from this sort of life.
It is recommended to memorize the above prayer so that you can recite it from the heart.
Additionally, a modern Hermetist can occupy themselves with various other pursuits, such as: Studying and practicing astrology to understand individual and collective events and how celestial phenomena influence our lives, invoking gods and spirits in material forms, such as statues, elevating the soul to higher spheres to establish deeper connections with the forces residing there or sharing these teachings with those who are ready and willing to answer the call of Hermes.
It is crucial to note that the examples provided are not exhaustive, and each practitioner must adapt their practices based on their strengths and weaknesses. Hermeticism does not adhere to a fixed orthodox form; there are no authorities dictating what a Hermeticist should do, in what order, or in what manner. You are free to choose from the above examples, deciding for yourself which practices resonate with you and when to engage in them.
All other beings, to whom he knows he is necessary through divine dispensation, he binds to himself in a knot of love. He raises his sight to heaven while he takes care of theAsclepius 6
earth. Thus he is in the fortunate middle position: he loves those things that are below him and is beloved by the beings above.
Man, then, is a creature, but I do not say that he is inferior because he is in part mortal; rather on that account is he better adapted and more effectual for his specific purpose, for this, his stature seems rather to have been increased by his mortality. Indeed, since he would not have been able to sustain both realms had he not been formed from the substance of both, he was so formed that he could care for the things of the earth and also love the divine.Asclepius 9
Book III of the Corpus Hermeticum also beautifully encapsulates the essence of Hermeticism. The gods inspire humanity to understand the divine works, bear witness to the divine nature of the universe, multiply, gain knowledge, recognize the good, improve, and multiply what needs to be enhanced.
Through the wondrous path laid by the celestial gods, every human soul is created to contemplate the heavens, comprehend the celestial order, explore the divine works and the mechanisms of nature, discern what is good, fathom the power of the divine, discern right from wrong, and skillfully work with all that is good.
In conclusion, embarking on the Way of Hermes means embarking on a personal journey of self-discovery, deepening our connection with the divine, and aligning ourselves with the harmonious workings of the universe.
By incorporating the historical practices of the Hermetists into your life, you can become a modern Hermetist and find profound meaning and purpose in the pursuit of divine hermetic wisdom.