The group of documents known as the Corpus Hermeticum forms the basis of the Hermetic tradition of philosophy, and provides the grounding for the magical and alchemical systems that followed it and shared its name. The Corpus Hermeticum is, in fact, one of the primary ancestors of what we think of today as Hermetic occultism.

The Corpus Hermeticum was supposedly written or dictated by the semimythical figure Hermes Trismegistus, who is sort of a fusion of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth, both of which were gods of magic and secret knowledge. This is where the term "Hermetic" comes from, and that word provides the tie that binds Hermetic philosphy, Hermetic magic, and Hermetic mystery orders together. We now know that this material was written by unknown authors in Egypt some time prior to the end of the third century CE. Its roots reach back earlier than that, however; most of the philosophy in the Corpus Hermeticum is borrowed or copied directly from ancient (pre-Christian) Egyptian belief, philosophy and magical tradition. These Egyptian roots provide Hermeticism with much of its ritual trappings and pagan overtones.

The Corpus Hermeticum comes out of the continued religious upheaval that took place as Christianity spread across Europe. It has a unique flavor, since paganism and polytheism still existed, indeed even coexisted side-by-side with more monotheistic beliefs. The text is most fascinating, though, because it is quite literally the foundation of most of the Western magical tradition. Alchemy, Christian mysticism, modern neopaganism, and the Hermetic mystery orders have all borrowed, bastardized and outright stolen from the body of literature attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. Much of what is found in these more recent practices is heavily modified from the original tradition, or is completely new, but an educated reader of the text will see that the relation is clear.

For my own benefit, as well as the noding community as a whole and noders with an interest in the occult in particular, I have noded the G. R. S. Mead translation (from the original Ancient Greek) of the first thirteen sections or books of the Corpus Hermeticum. These are the most important and easily-located sections; if I manage to locate the others (there may be as few as two more or as many as five; sources disagree) I will node them at a future date. My desire is to give noders with an interest in the occult a look at the foundations on which much of the Western occult tradition was founded, without all the Crowleyan bastardization that went on in the late 19th century that fills the shelves of most modern "occult bookstores".

This translation, published in 1906, is generally considered to be the finest translation in the public domain. There are other, more recent translations, many of which are improvements upon this one, but none of them are in the public domain. Mead published this translation in a book called Thrice Great Hermes: Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis, Volume II under the auspices of the London Theosophic Publishing Society, which at that time was run by its founder, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a well-known medium. Since the Theosophic Society was a group rather close to the edges of the occult, Mead's translation was poorly received by the academic community of its time, despite its merits.

Whew. Anyway. Here's the real goods, folks, on the Old School of Hermetic thought. Noding this lot was quite a job, but I'd appreciate any feedback, suggestions, or corrections you might have for me. As a final note, I am greatly indebted to the introduction to the Corpus Hermetica, written by John Michael Greer for information specifically on the Mead translation.


The Corpus Hermeticum

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