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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Hermeticism

This article was written by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero on May 13, 2002
posted under Golden Dawn

Throughout history, several people have contributed to the collective knowledge of the Western Esoteric Tradition or Western Hermetic Tradition, a tradition in which the Golden Dawn plays an important role. Such individuals as Pythagoras, Iamblichus, Agrippa, Paracelsus, Francis Bacon, Robert Fludd, and John Dee are included as significant figures in the Hermetic Tradition that has its roots in antiquity. They produced works on Qabalah, astrology, geomancy, gematria, alchemy, Egyptian magic, Enochian magic, and skrying. But it was not until the foundation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888 that these various elements of the Western Esoteric Tradition were brought together in a unified curriculum of study for the aspiring magician.

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn takes its name in part from the Hermetic Tradition, which is in turn named after the Greek divinity, Hermes, who was the god of communication. He became identified with Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom and magic, and thus Hermes-Thoth became known as the patron god of all intellectual activity and all sciences including: astrology, astronomy, architecture, alchemy, mathematics, medicine, writing, biology, agriculture, commerce, divination, and especially practical magic. Hermes was also said to be the greatest of all philosophers. He understood the secret nature of the universe and the spiritual physics that run it. Above all, Hermes was thought of as the great teacher of humanity—instructing men and women throughout the ages about technologies that would improve their lives.

In the second century A.D., the figure of Hermes, complete with serpent-entwined Caduceus Wand, became immersed into the personage of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistos, or Hermes the Thrice-Great. Hermes Trismegistos was said to be an ancient Egyptian priest and magician who was credited with writing forty-two books on esoteric wisdom collectively known as the Hermetic literature. These books, which include The Emerald Tablet and the Divine Pymander, describe the creation of the universe, the soul of humanity and the way to achieve spiritual rebirth.

Hermes’ greatest contribution was to teach human beings about our own spiritual nature, and our place within the divine universe. Our true mission is to realize that we are each slivers of the divine spirit within physical bodies. We are the vehicles through which the deity experiences the created world of matter. We are to become more than human, to permit the divine spirit within us to see and experience the physical world in the best manner possible, by being true to our inner divine nature—without guilt, without perversion or obsession, and without harm to others. And above all, we must actively try to return to the godhead.

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