What is a hermetic life?
It seems like anything labeled “hermetic” is geared towards understanding the universe and the divine but not so much about what to do. What is a hermetic life and what were the practices of the original followers of the Way of Hermes?
The central practice in the Way of Hermes, or Hermeticism, can be described in a few words, but it takes a lifetime to study, practice, and master:
“frequent contemplation and reverent worship”
The above practice will make you love and care for everything around and ‘below’ you, while you will be loved and cared for by the ones and the One ‘above’ you.
You will find powerful practices, hymns, and prayers to accomplish this in the Corpus Hermeticum, but they are mentioned in a subtle way.
Live our lives reverently and devoutly
The basic premise of the Way of Hermes is that we are all supposed to live our lives reverently and devoutly, coming to know God through the works of the divine and the workings of divine Nature.
As part of this, we also need to come to know ourselves (“gnōthi seauton“). What this entails means we need to relearn, remember, and reclaim our divine nature from ourselves, but this also means coming to learn about our purpose, function, and role to play in life, both as an essential human being in soul and as an incarnate human being in body.
To that end, in the course of our coming to revere and honor God and the cosmos of God’s creation, we engage in our proper works concerning both (which are unique to each individual person), and (since we have been endowed with all the powers of creation ourselves, as CH I states) we do so fundamentally as co-creators of creation with God.
Hermetic practices depend from person to person. Unfortunately, the hermetic texts do not provide us with a fixed or firm “prayer rule” as some monastic or religious traditions might have. However, based on the classical Hermetic texts and informed by what came afterward, we have a pretty good notion of the big things we need to cover are:
- Prayer to God (including silent adoration)
- Prayer to the gods
- Purification, both in terms of physical pollution as well as spiritual vice
- Cultivating morality so that we avoid engaging in evil and train ourselves to become better at being and becoming human
On top of this, a follower of the Way of Hermes might also engage with the following practices:
- The study and practice of astrology to determine events on the scale of the individual as well as greater than the individual, e.g. families and countries, and how celestial phenomena predict/affect mundane ones
- The study and practice of alchemy to understand and harness the powers of change on the material level using the occult virtues of material things
- The ensoulment of gods and spirits in material forms, both statues and ourselves
- The elevation of the soul to higher spheres to better explore, understand, and interact with those powers and the spirits that reside there
- To teach this to those who are ready for it (for those who are called to it and who are ready to do so)
The specific kinds of hermetic practices you engage with will need to consider what your background is, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what it is you need to accomplish. Above are just a few things for your consideration.
What a follower on the Way of Hermes needs to put into practice can be summed up by CH III.3:
We are made to observe the sign-seeding acts of Heaven, the course of the heavenly gods, the works of the divine, and the working of Nature so that we might be able to examine that which is Good and know the turbulent lots of divine Power, since we are made to come to know that which is Good and that which is not and to discover the arts of everything that is good (or Good).
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