The One God and Religion

Who else could give living creatures a soul, but the one God? Therefore God is one. It is quite ridiculous that you acknowledge the cosmos to be everlasting, the sun to be one, the moon to be one, and the divine nature to be one, yet you think God to be one of a series? This one God makes everything; a plurality of gods would be absurd.

Corpus Hermeticum Tractate XI, 11-12

God Himself teaches us in CH XI that there is only one God. This does not mean that Hermeticism is a monotheistic tradition, but that the source of all, so also of the other powers and gods, is God.

The One God is exempt from all limitation, transcendent in His very immanence, and transcendent in His very transcendence, who still remains immanent. It is He who manifests Himself to us, both in sensible reality and in our mind.

In conformity to what Hermes has said in numerous verses concerning the oneness of God, followers of Hermes can see the God of Hermeticism as the divine source of all other spiritual and religious communities. This is so, in spite of the great diversity of His theophanies, their absolute or limited character, their transcendence or immanence, and the variety of His manifestations.

God has manifested Himself beyond all forms while at the same time manifesting Himself in every form, without that involving incarnation, union, or a mixture. To some, He has manifested Himself in the form of a divine human being, or the form of fire, or the form of light and darkness, or in numerous other forms.

He has manifested Himself to each person who worships some particular thing – a rock, tree or animal – in the form of that thing, for no one who worships a finite thing worships it for the thing itself. What they worship is the epiphany in that form of the attributes of the One God.

These particular forms or images represent the divine aspect that properly corresponds to it, but beyond this diversity of theophanic forms, He whom all of these worshippers worship is One. Their fault, if it is indeed a fault, consists only in the fact that they restrict themselves in a limiting way by adhering exclusively to one or more particular forms or images.

Religion of the Mind

Now I will speak to you as a prophet: after us there will be no one who has that simple love, which is the nature of philosophy. This consists in frequent contemplation and reverent worship by which alone the divinity may be known.

Asclepius

By describing Hermeticism as a “religion mentis” in his book “The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind,” Fowden highlights that the Way of Hermes is fundamentally a religion centered on the mind, knowledge, and intellectual engagement with spiritual and metaphysical truths.

This contrasts with more external, ritualistic, cultic, or dogmatic forms of religion, emphasizing instead the inner journey and mental aspects of spirituality.

The “religion mentis” aspect of Hermeticism highlights the importance of understanding the true nature of the self and its connection to Nous, the divine mind, and the cosmos.

Unlike many traditional religions that emphasize external rituals and communal worship, Hermeticism focuses on inner spiritual experiences and personal transformation. It is about cultivating a direct, experiential knowledge, called gnosis, that transforms the individual’s perception of reality.

Different revelations

There is one way to worship God: be not evil.

Corpus Hermeticum XII.23

God is One, just as Hermes has taught us, but He has manifested Himself to the followers of Hermes through a different revelation than that by which He manifested Himself in His revelation to the Christians, the Jews, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Muslims, or any of the other spiritual or religious communities, sects, or traditions the world knows or has known.

Despite this diversity, He who manifests Himself is One, without changing, from an eternity without beginning to an eternity without end. He reveals Himself to every being endowed with mind (nous) according to the measure of their mind.

A follower of Hermes can see that all religions agree on the fundamental nature of worship, which is inherent in all people, even if few realize it. This agreement holds true as long as devotion is viewed in its pure form, not when considering the various ways it is practiced.

There may not be anyone in the world, whether they identify as a “rationalist”, “naturalist,” “materialist,” or something else, who is truly an atheist. Genuine atheism, or complete disbelief in any form of higher power or spiritual truth, may not truly exist universally. Rather, what might appear as atheism or disbelief may often be a misinterpretation or a relative, not absolute, stance.

Someone who does not know God and therefore does not believe in Him, maybe does not know and does not believe in an image or form conditioned by the beliefs that they hold concerning Him. Just like someone who does know God and believes in Him, maybe worships only an image or form conditioned by the beliefs that they hold concerning Him. These images or forms can only reveal God to them in the limited form of their beliefs, but the One God is beyond all images and forms.

We thank you, supreme and most high god, by whose grace alone we have attained the light of your knowledge; holy name that must be honored, the one name by which our ancestral faith blesses god alone, we thank you who deign to grant to all a father’s fidelity, reverence and love, along with any power that is sweeter, by giving us the gift of nous, logos and gnosis.

Asclepius

Hermeticism, as illustrated in the prayer of thanksgiving from the Asclepius, embodies a spiritual tradition that transcends the boundaries of individual religions and offers a universal framework for understanding the divine.

The prayer acknowledges the “supreme and most high god” and emphasizes that it is through divine grace that humanity can attain the light of true knowledge. This central tenet of Hermeticism — recognition of a singular, all-encompassing Source of All — underscores its compatibility with various religious traditions.

Universal presence and benevolence

The Latin prayer of thanksgiving includes the line, “the one name by which our ancestral faith blesses god alone“, highlighting the respect and unity central to the Hermetic worldview. It suggests that there is one divine name, honored by past generations, which points to a universal and benevolent presence.

Hermeticism does not aim to replace existing religions but seeks to enrich them by highlighting the common unity, which is their source, among all spiritual paths.

Hermes encourages his followers to see beyond the superficial differences between religions that can divide us and turn us against each other, and focus on the shared core principles: the pursuit of wisdom, the practice of piety, thankfulness, and compassion, and the acknowledgment of – and reverence for – higher powers.

The differences might be superficial, but that does not make them insignificant or unimportant. Often the metaphor of a prism is used. The source is a pure, white light but when it shines through a prism it is “broken up” into a spectrum of different colors. Each color is that pure light, but at the same time it is not. “Colors” is plural, but “spectrum” is singular.

This can be called perennialism, which may be true as this hermetic viewpoint can see that all religious traditions share a single, metaphysical origin from which all esoteric and exoteric knowledge and doctrine emerge.

Perennialism can become something negative. It becomes negative if one thinks that the prism as mentioned above is some pure ancient theology, but then it becomes Prisca theologia. Or when one thinks that what is universal in religious traditions is significant and what is particular to them is insignificant. It is the diversity of traditions that is important, just like a beautiful and healthy garden has lots of flowers and not just one.

Let us emphasize that his monist viewpoint is not Prisca theologia (“ancient theology”) as that doctrine asserts that an ancient, single, true theology exists that threads through all religions, and which was given by God to humans, which is indeed a negative viewpoint as is it is disrespectful to the other traditions and their beautiful diversity.

Hermeticism fosters a sense of spiritual inclusivity and mutual respect. It prompts individuals to recognize the common divine source that underlies all religious experiences and expressions.

Moreover, Hermeticism’s emphasis on inner enlightenment and personal spiritual growth resonates with the mystical and esoteric traditions within many religions. This inward journey towards understanding the divine essence or link between oneself, the Cosmos and God can complement and deepen the spiritual practices of other faiths.

The prayer’s gratitude for “fatherly kindness, affection, love, and sweetest activity,” underscores the nurturing and loving aspect of the divine, which is a universal theme across many religious traditions.

This paternal care can be interpreted as the divine guidance and support that is accessible to all, regardless of religious affiliation. By focusing on this shared divine love and care, Hermeticism encourages a harmonious and inclusive approach to spirituality and all spiritual and religious traditions.

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