The Hermetica: The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs

The Hermetica: The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs

by Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy

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The first easily accessible translation of the esoteric writings that inspired some of the world's greatest artists, scientists, and philosophers.

Here is an essential digest of the Greco-Egyptian writings attributed to the legendary sage-god Hermes Trismegistus (Greek for thrice-greatest Hermes)?a combination of the Egyptian Thoth and the Greek


The first easily accessible translation of the esoteric writings that inspired some of the world's greatest artists, scientists, and philosophers.

Here is an essential digest of the Greco-Egyptian writings attributed to the legendary sage-god Hermes Trismegistus (Greek for thrice-greatest Hermes)?a combination of the Egyptian Thoth and the Greek Hermes.

The figure of Hermes was venerated as a great and mythical teacher in the ancient world and was rediscovered by the finest minds of the Renaissance. The writings attributed to his hand are a time capsule of Egyptian and Greek esoteric philosophy and have influenced figures including Blake, Newton, Milton, Shelley, Shakespeare, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Jung.

Providing a fascinating introduction to the intersection of the Egyptian and Hellenic cultures and the magico-religious ideas of the antique world, The Hermetica is a marvelous volume for anyone interested in understanding the West's roots in mystical thought.

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Penguin Publishing Group
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Chapter One

The Prophecies of Hermes

In this chapter Hermes describes the
nature of pure philosophy, but laments
that in future generations it will
become all but lost.

The philosophy that Hermes teaches is not just a clever intellectual exercise. It is about focussing the mind in deep meditation on Atum (an ancient Egyptian name for God). Such pure philosophy is about rising above mere opinions to experience directly the Mind of the Universe. Using the God-given gift of our own little minds, we can come to know the Big Mind that creates and maintains the Cosmos in beautiful order.

    For Hermes, spiritual philosophy is not opposed to science, as it often is for us today. The student of spiritual philosophy studies science as a form of devotion to God. Through understanding the secrets of the natural world, he is overcome with a sense of awe and reverence for the Creator. He appreciates the perfect order of the universe, as if he were listening to a grand symphony in which every melody has been exquisitely combined to compose one magnificent harmony.

    Hermes prophesies, however, that this spiritual philosophy will one day become lost and confused. Speaking from our distant past, he uncannily describes the predicament we find ourselves in today. Pure philosophy has been replaced by the teachings of clever intellectuals with no mystical understanding of life. People have ceased to see the universe as a source of wonder, and no longer revere it as the work of God. Spirituality has come to bedismissed by science as primitive superstition. The profound wisdom of the ancient Egyptians is thought of as a dead religion and as little more than an archaeological curiosity. Hermes foretells that Egypt, once the home of spirituality, will become a desolate place deserted by the gods.

    Out of compassion for future generations, Hermes writes his wisdom in books and orders them to be hidden. Like a time capsule of truth, Hermes' vision waits for its chance to awaken future generations who are lost and bewildered by life. People such as ourselves.

The Prophecies of Hermes

Pure philosophy is spiritual striving,
through constant contemplation,
to attain True Knowledge
of Atum the One-God.
But, speaking now in prophecy,
I say that in times to come,
no one will pursue philosophy
with single-mindedness
and purity of heart.
Those with a grudging
and ungenerous temperament
will try and prevent men discovering
the priceless gift of immortality.
Philosophy will become confused,
making it hard to comprehend.
It will be corrupted
by spurious speculation.
It will be entangled with
bewildering sciences
like arithmetic, music and geometry.

The student of pure philosophy
studies the sciences,
not as fanciful theories,
but as devotion to Atum —
because they reveal a universe
perfectly Ordered by the power of number;
because measuring the depths of the sea
and forces of fire
and magnitudes of physical things
leads to a reverent awe
at the Creator's skill and wisdom;
because the mysteries of music
bear witness to the unsurpassed talent
of the Supreme Artist
who has beautifully harmonised
all things into a single Whole,
suffused with sweet melodies.

To simply love Atum in thought
with singleness of heart,
and to follow the goodness of his will —
this is philosophy,
unsullied by intrusive cravings
for pointless opinions.
But I foresee that, in times to come,
clever intellectuals
will mislead the minds of men,
turning them away from pure philosophy.
It will be taught that
our sacred devotion was ineffectual
and the heart-felt piety
and assiduous service
with which we Egyptians honour Atum
was a waste without reward.

Egypt is an image of the heavens,
and the whole Cosmos dwells here,
in this its sanctuary —
but the gods will desert the earth
and return to heaven,
abandoning this land
that was once the home of spirituality.
Egypt will be forsaken and desolate,
bereft of the presence of the gods.
It will be overrun by foreigners,
who will neglect our sacred ways.
This holy land of temples and shrines
will be filled with corpses and funerals.
The sacred Nile will be swollen with blood,
and her waters will rise,
utterly fouled with gore.

Does this make you weep?
There is worse to follow.
This land,
that was a spiritual teacher
to all humankind,
which loved the gods with such devotion
that they deigned to sojourn
here on earth —
this land will exceed all others in cruelty.
The dead will far outnumber the living,
and the survivors
will be known as Egyptians
by their language alone,
for in their actions
they will be like men of another race.
O Egypt!
Nothing will remain of your religion
but an empty tale,
which even your own children
will not believe.
Nothing will be left
to tell of your wisdom
but old graven stones.

Men will be weary of life,
and will cease seeing the universe
as worthy of reverent wonder.
Spirituality, the greatest of all blessings,
will be threatened with extinction,
and believed a burden to be scorned.
The world will no longer be loved
as an incomparable work of Atum;
a glorious monument
to his Primal Goodness;
an instrument of the Divine Will
to evoke veneration
and praise in the beholder.

Egypt will be widowed.
Every sacred voice will be silenced.
Darkness will be preferred to light.
No eyes will raise to heaven.
The pure will be thought insane
and the impure will be honoured as wise.
The madman will be believed brave,
and the wicked esteemed as good.
Knowledge of the immortal soul
will be laughed at and denied.
No reverent words worthy of heaven
will be heard or believed.

So I, Thrice-Great Hermes,
the first of men
to attain All-Knowledge,
have inscribed the secrets of the gods,
in sacred symbols and holy hieroglyphs,
on these stone tablets,
which I have concealed
for a future world
that may seek our sacred wisdom.

Through all-seeing Mind,
I myself have been the witness
of the invisible things of Heaven,
and through contemplation
come to Knowledge of the Truth.
This knowing I have set down in these
writings ...

Meet the Author

Timothy Freke is the author of many books on mystical philosophy, including The Tao Te Ching and, with Peter Gandy, The Complete Guide to World Mysticism. He lives in England.

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