Who or what exactly was Hermes? That is a question which cannot easily be answered because there is no one simple answer to it. But through the following compilation of passages from the Theosophical literature and some of the Hermetic texts themselves, we will endeavour to paint a just picture of the esoteric grandeur and vastness represented by that name and persona of Hermes, “the messenger of the gods,” or Mercury, as he was called by the Romans.
Although the Esoteric Philosophy presented by H. P. Blavatsky (founder of the modern Theosophical Movement) generally points to the Trans-Himalayan school of the real Esoteric Buddhism as its source or inspiration, HPB did occasionally express it in this vein: “Our work, then, is a plea for the recognition of the Hermetic philosophy, the anciently universal Wisdom-Religion, as the only possible key to the Absolute in science and theology.” (“Isis Unveiled” Vol. 1, Preface, p. vii)
SOME FUNDAMENTAL DEFINITIONS & DETAILS
“Hermes Trismegistus (Gr.). The “thrice great Hermes”, the Egyptian. The mythical personage after whom the Hermetic philosophy was named. In Egypt the God Thoth or Thot. A generic name of many ancient Greek writers on philosophy and Alchemy. Hermes Trismegistus is the name of Hermes or Thoth in his human aspect, as a god he is far more than this. As Herme-Thoth-Aah, he is Thoth, the moon, i.e., his symbol is the bright side of the moon, supposed to contain the essence of creative Wisdom, “the elixir of Hermes”. As such he is associated with the Cynocephalus, the dog-headed monkey, for the same reason as was Anubis, one of the aspects of Thoth. (See “Hermanubis”.) The same idea underlies the form of the Hindu God of Wisdom, the elephant-headed Ganesa, or Ganpat, the son of Parvati and Siva. (See “Ganesa”.) When he has the head of an ibis, he is the sacred scribe of the gods; but even then he wears the crown atef and the lunar disk. He is the most mysterious of gods. As a serpent, Hermes Thoth is the divine creative Wisdom. The Church Fathers speak at length of Thoth-Hermes.” (HPB, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 140)
“Hermetic. Any doctrine or writing connected with the esoteric teachings of Hermes who, whether as the Egyptian Thoth or the Greek Hermes, was the God of Wisdom with the Ancients, and, according to Plato, “discovered numbers, geometry, astronomy and letters”. Though mostly considered as spurious, nevertheless the Hermetic writings were highly prized by St. Augustine, Lactantius, Cyril and others. In the words of Mr. J. Bonwick, “They are more or less touched up by the Platonic philosophers among the early Christians (such as Origen and Clemens Alexandrinus) who sought to substantiate their Christian arguments by appeals to these heathen and revered writings, though they could not resist the temptation of making them say a little too much”. Though represented by some clever and interested writers as teaching pure monotheism, the Hermetic or Trismegistic books are, nevertheless, purely pantheistic. The Deity referred to in them is defined by Paul as that in which “we live, and move and have our being” – not with standing the “in Him” of the translators.” (HPB, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 140-141)
“Caduceus (Gr.). The Greek poets and mythologists took the idea of the Caduceus of Mercury from the Egyptians. The Caduceus is found as two serpents twisted round a rod, on Egyptian monuments built before Osiris. The Greeks altered this. We find it again in the hands of Æsculapius assuming a different form to the wand of Mercurius or Hermes. It is a cosmic, sidereal or astronomical, as well as a spiritual and even physiological symbol, its significance changing with its application. Metaphysically, the Caduceus represents the fall of primeval and primordial matter into gross terrestrial matter, the one Reality becoming Illusion. (See Sect. Doct. I. 550.) Astronomically, the head and tail represent the points of the ecliptic where the planets and even the sun and moon meet in close embrace. Physiologically, it is the symbol of the restoration of the equilibrium lost between Life, as a unit, and the currents of life performing various functions in the human body.” (HPB, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 71)
“The way to the Bible lies through Hermes, Bel, and Homer, as the way to these is through the Hindu and Chaldean religious symbols.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 383)
FROM THE ARTICLE “HERMES TRISMEGISTUS”
“The golden thread passing through and uniting all the guises of Hermes-Thoth is his veiled embodiment and vital teaching of primordial Wisdom. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, comprised of a variety of texts treating after-death states and the forces leading to diverse conditions of rebirth, Thoth is depicted in the great solar barque of Ra, standing opposite Maat. Here Ra is the solar creative force, the spirit of the Invisible Sun, while Thoth is its hidden wisdom and Maat, the feminine aspect of Thoth, is the law of noumenal Nature. According to the oldest known Egyptian cosmogony, Thoth utters the divine Word through which the whole cosmos emerges. When Atum, the golden sphere of light, arose in the incomprehensible Abyss of Nothingness, it differentiated itself into three creative aspects – Thought, Will and Command. While Ra is the divine idea of the universe to be, Thoth is the mysterious ideation which gives rise to the Word – Maat, the Law.
“Thoth was called “Lord of Khemennu, the Self-Created One, to whom none hath given birth, the first god”. As lord of Khemennu, later called Hemopolis, Thoth is lord of the City of Eight, chief of the eight great gods, whose correspondences include the seven sacred planets and the eighth sphere of the fixed stars. Like Hermes, the intimate friend of Apollo, Thoth is the wisdom that pervades all the spheres and descends in embodied form to earth. Thus Thoth is called “He who reckons in heaven, the Counter of the stars, the Enumerator of the earth and of what is contained therein, the Measurer of the Earth”. Thoth is the Logos. He is invoked as “the Heart of Ra that cometh forth in the form of Thoth”. As the judicious personification of wisdom and compassion, Thoth is portrayed as the scribe of the gods, the keeper of records, the recording judge of the dead. Thoth is the Lord of Books and “Mighty in Speech”, for he has the power of the spoken Word, the force of creative action. Known as Tehuti in ancient times, the name was sometimes thought to derive from tehu, a name for the ibis, and ti, signifying the qualities and powers of the tehu. As scribe, Thoth was shown with the head of an ibis, a mystery to the uninitiated, intimating the fluttering of Spirit over the waters of precosmic matter, the motion which brings order to chaos. The Egyptians also derived the name from tekh, a sign for the heart. Though the connection of Thoth, primordial Wisdom, with the ibis and the heart remains a mystery to all save those who know, one cannot refrain from thinking of the spiritual injunction, “Bestride the Bird of Life if thou would’st know.” [Note: This is a quote from “The Voice of The Silence” p. 5, translated by H. P. Blavatsky from The Book of The Golden Precepts.] The commentary from the Nadavindu Upanishad declares, “A Yogi who bestrides the Hansa (thus contemplates on Aum) is not affected by karmic influences or crores of sins.”
“Thoth is Aah, the Great Lord, the Lord of Heaven, who measures out the seasons and cycles and lays down the ultimate divisions of time. Thoth-Aah, therefore, stands behind all temporal distinctions and was called the Maker of Eternity and Creator of Everlastingness. As god of wisdom and the Logos in the cosmos, Thoth is also the reflection of that wisdom in the world and in the enlightened mind. Hermes-Thoth abides in the moon, the light whose borrowed radiance descends to earth to illumine the ways of men who dwell in darkness. His home in the bright side of the moon is the essence of creative wisdom, sometimes called the elixir of Hermes, but his abode in the moon’s dark half is the secret wisdom of the highest Initiates. When a human being crossed the threshold of the Egyptian mysteries, he became Hermes, the human embodiment of the god at one level of consciousness. The coadunition of souls allows each being to reflect the pervasive Thoth on some plane of manifestation. When the second sacred degree of initiation was passed, the disciple became Hermes Twice-Great. When the third stage was reached, the individual realized his essential consubstantiality with the god and called himself – with full knowledge of what he was saying – Hermes the Thrice-Great, one with Hermes Trismegistus, Termaximus, Thrice-Greatest Hermes, the highest embodiment of wisdom possible in the world of gross manifestation.
“Vettius Valens [i.e. a 2nd century A.D./C.E. astrologer, a contemporary of Ptolemy] bemoaned the fact that he did not live in the days of the divine dynasties when Initiate-Kings ruled by the light of the sacred sciences and sages saw clearly the invisible Hermetic table of the unseen universe. In those days, Vettius says, individuals became self-consciously immortal through love of the Mysteries and were called Walkers of the Sky. The incarnation of Thoth as Hermes Trismegistus taught humanity all the arts and sciences, including writing, astronomy, astrology, agriculture, metallurgy, alchemy and jurisprudence. Thereafter, each soul who awoke to the mysteries of being and non-being became one in consciousness with Hermes and taught in his turn. These great beings are the pillars of humanity, rooted in the human virtues. They support the protecting canopy of Divine Wisdom under which the complex and largely unrecorded story of human evolution proceeds. These Teachers of Humanity left writings which were preserved amongst the Egyptians for millennia, but as successive generations slowly distorted the teachings through forgetfulness and the flux of dynastic preference for one theology or another, an incomplete body of writings fell into Alexandrian hands. There they were sometimes adapted to reflect more clearly the Pythagorean-Platonic tradition, and sometimes mutilated to justify Christian dogma.
“By the fourth century the collection of philosophical and ethical treatises known as the Corpus Hermeticum had been gathered together. Deeply appreciated by Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Lactantius and St. Augustine, they were lost to public memory with the closure of the Platonic Academies in Athens and Alexandria. Then, during the Italian Renaissance the Medicis sent agents throughout the Mediterranean world in search of classical wisdom. The Hermetic writings were brought to the Florentine Academy, where Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino translated and circulated them. These few fragments of the pristine wisdom provided the foundation for the mystical philosophies of Nicholas of Cusa and Giordano Bruno, inspired the alchemical science of the Rosicrucians and made possible the profound teachings of Robert Fludd and the early endeavours of the Royal Society. After being denounced as fourth-century forgeries in the late sixteenth century, their influence waned under the spreading overgrowth of mechanistic science, but in the twentieth century more discerning scholarship has detected strains of ancient doctrines among the heavily overlaid texts. In some treatises Hermes Trismegistus is taught by Thoth-Hermes, in others he instructs one of his sons, Tat or Asclepius, who are both disciples and yet aspects of himself. From the viewpoint of spiritual consciousness, the series of emanations from the Logos in the cosmos can be depicted as a personified genealogy, the Hermetic chain of teachers and their disciples.
“The first treatise, called the Poimandres or Pymander, intimates the exalted state of consciousness required for the acquisition of the deepest knowledge.
– Once when I had begun to think upon the things that exist and when my thoughts had soared high aloft, my bodily senses had been restrained by a kind of sleep which is not that of weariness or overindulgence in food. It seemed there came to me a Being of vast and boundless magnitude and who called me by name, saying, ‘What do you yearn to hear and see, to learn and come to know by thought?’
‘Who are you?’ I said.
‘I am’, he said, ‘Poimandres, the Mind (Nous) of the Sovereignty.’
‘I would learn of the things that exist’, I answered, ‘and I wish to understand their nature and gain knowledge (gnosis) of Deity. These are the things I desire to hear.’
‘I know what you wish’, Poimandres said, ‘for in truth I am with you everywhere. Keep in mind all that you would learn, and I will teach you.’
“In a state of profound meditation Hermes had come into contact with an aspect of himself that transcends all parameters of time, location and personality. His deep desire to comprehend Being, rather than the ephemeral realm of becoming, invoked that which knows and can reveal the mystery. Within ‘the boundless magnitude’ a cosmogonical representation is projected for Hermes to behold.
– I beheld a boundless view: all was changed into a mild and joyous light, and I marvelled when I saw it. Eventually there came to be in one region a descending darkness, terrible and grim. I saw the darkness become a watery substance unspeakably tossed about, giving forth smoke as from a fire. I heard it make an indescribable sound of lamentation, for it emitted an inarticulate cry. But from the light there came forth sacred Speech which established itself upon the fluid substance. This Speech seemed to be the Voice of the light.
“Hermes does not fathom what he has seen, as Poimandres explains.
– That light is I, Nous, the first god, who was before the watery substance appeared out of this darkness, and the Word which emanated from the light is the son of God. . . . Learn my meaning by looking at what is within yourself, for in you also Speech is son, and the mind is father of the Word. They are not separate from one another, for Life is the union of Word and Mind.
“. . . Hermes is shown bearing the caduceus, emblem of the teaching of ascent and descent, of the power to work in the world and abide in universal consciousness. This is the wand of the Magician, whose power lies in the ability to focalize the Logoic light in the world of passing shadows. The power of the Magician is the potency latent in every human being, the forces of Nature which reflect the Logos in the cosmos, the son of the first Nous. Man shares the highest sphere when he chooses to assume his proper station. The path of human evolution is at once magical and ethical, ontological and psychological, for all is ultimately the reflection of one Substance-Principle. . . . the Smaragdine Tablet [is] the veiled key to alchemy and self-regeneration . . .”
(The article “Hermes Trismegistus” was originally published in a magazine called “Hermes,” which was the monthly journal of the Santa Barbara Lodge of the United Lodge of Theosophists)
“AS ABOVE, SO BELOW” – TABULA SMARAGDINA, THE EMERALD TABLET OF HERMES
“Tradition declares that on the dead body of Hermes, at Hebron, was found by an Isarim, an initiate, the tablet known as the Smaragdine. It contains, in a few sentences, the essence of the Hermetic wisdom. To those who read but with their bodily eyes, the precepts will suggest nothing new or extraordinary, for it merely begins by saying that it speaks not fictitious things, but that which is true and most certain.
“What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is similar to that which is below to accomplish the wonders of one thing.
“As all things were produced by the mediation of one being, so all things were produced from this one by adaptation.
“Its father is the sun, its mother is the moon.
“It is the cause of all perfection throughout the whole earth.
“Its power is perfect if it is changed into earth.
“Separate the earth from the fire, the subtile from the gross, acting prudently and with judgment.
“Ascend with the greatest sagacity from the earth to heaven, and then descend again to earth, and unite together the power of things inferior and superior; thus you will possess the light of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly away from you.
“This thing has more fortitude than fortitude itself, because it will overcome every subtile thing and penetrate every solid thing.
“By it the world was formed.”
“This mysterious thing is the universal, magical agent, the astral light, which in the correlations of its forces furnishes the alkahest, the philosopher’s stone, and the elixir of life. Hermetic philosophy names it Azoth, the soul of the world, the celestial virgin, the great Magnes, etc., etc. Physical science knows it as “heat, light, electricity, and magnetism”; but ignoring its spiritual properties and the occult potency contained in ether, rejects everything it ignores. (HPB, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 1, p. 507-508)
After commenting on an Esoteric Commentary shedding light on the Stanzas of Dzyan, HPB remarks, “Remember in this connection the Tabula Smaragdina of Hermes, the esoteric meaning of which has seven keys to it.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 109)
“To what epoch may we ascribe the origin of Alchemy? No modern writer is able to tell us exactly. Some give us Adam as its first adept; others attribute it to the indiscretion of “the sons of God, who seeing that the daughters of men were beautiful, took them for their wives” [Gen. vi, 2.]. Moses and Solomon are later adepts in the science, for they were preceded by Abraham, who was in turn antedated in the Science of Sciences by Hermes. Does not Avicenna tell us that the Smaragdine Tablet – the oldest existing treatise on Alchemy – was found on the body of Hermes, buried centuries ago at Hebron, by Sarah, the wife of Abraham? But “Hermes” never was the name of a man, but a generic title, just as the term Neo-Platonist was used in former times, and “Theosophist” is being used in the present. What in fact is known about Hermes Trismegistos, “thrice-greatest”? Less than we know of Abraham, his wife Sarah and his concubine Agar, which St. Paul declares to be an allegory. Even in the time of Plato, Hermes was already identified with the Thoth of the Egyptians. But this word thoth does not only mean “Intelligence”; it also means “assembly” or school. In reality Thoth-Hermes is simply the personification of the voice (or sacred teaching) of the sacerdotal caste of Egypt; the voice of the Great Hierophants. And if this is the case, can we tell at what prehistoric epoch this hierarchy of initiated priests began to flourish in the land of Chemi? Even if this question could be answered, we should still be far from a solution of our problems. For ancient China, no less than ancient Egypt, claims to be the fatherland of the alkahest and of physical and transcendental alchemy; and China may very possibly be right.” (HPB, “Alchemy in the Nineteenth Century,” “Theosophy: Some Rare Perspectives” p. 131-132)
“Of the real Hermetic books there only remains a fragment known as the Smaragdine Tablet, of which we shall presently speak. All the works compiled on the books of Thoth were destroyed and burnt in Egypt by order of Diocletian in the third century of our era. All the others, including Poimandres [i.e. The Divine Pymander], are in their present form merely reminiscences, more or less vague and erroneous, of different Greek or even Latin authors, who often did not hesitate to palm off their own interpretations as genuine Hermetic fragments.” (HPB, “Alchemy in the Nineteenth Century,” “Theosophy: Some Rare Perspectives” p. 151)
FROM THE HERMETIC FRAGMENTS
“Thus it may be shown that all the fundamental truths of nature were universal in antiquity, and that the basic ideas upon spirit, matter, and the universe, or upon God, Substance, and man, were identical. Taking the two most ancient religious philosophies on the globe, Hinduism and Hermetism, from the scriptures of India and Egypt, the identity of the two is easily recognisable.
“This becomes apparent to one who reads the latest translation and rendering of the “Hermetic Fragments” just mentioned, by our late lamented friend, Dr. Anna Kingsford. Disfigured and tortured as these have been in their passage through Sectarian Greek and Christian hands, the translator has most ably and intuitionally seized the weak points and tried to remedy them by means of explanations and footnotes. And she says: . . . . “The creation of the visible world by the ‘working gods’ or Titans, as agents of the Supreme God, [A frequent expression in the said Fragments, to which we take exception. The Universal Mind is not a Being or “God.” – H.P.B.] is a thoroughly Hermetic idea, recognisable in all religious systems, and in accordance with modern scientific research (?), which shows us everywhere the Divine power operating through natural Forces.”
“That Universal Being, that contains all, and which is all, put into motion the Soul and the World, all that nature comprises, says Hermes. In the manifold unity of universal life, the innumerable individualities distinguished by their variations, are, nevertheless, united in such a manner that the whole is one, and that everything proceeds from Unity.” (Asclepios, Part I.)
“God is not a mind, but the cause that the mind is; not a spirit, but the cause that the Spirit is; not light, but the cause that the Light is” (Divine Pymander, Book IX., v. 64.)
“The above shows plainly that “Divine Pymander,” however much distorted in some passages by Christian “smoothing,” was nevertheless written by a philosopher, while most of the so-called “hermetic Fragments” are the production of sectarian pagans with a tendency towards an anthropomorphic Supreme Being. Yet both are the echo of the Esoteric philosophy and the Hindu Purânas.
“Compare two invocations, one to the Hermetic “Supreme All,” the other to the “Supreme All” of the later Aryans. Says a Hermetic Fragment cited by Suidas (see Mrs. Kingsford’s “The Virgin of the World”):—
“I adjure thee, Heaven, holy work of the great God; I adjure thee, Voice of the Father, uttered in the beginning when the universal world was framed; I adjure thee by the word, only Son of the Father who upholds all things; be favourable, be favourable.”
“This just preceded by the following: “Thus the Ideal Light was before the Ideal Light, and the luminous Intelligence of Intelligence was always, and its unity was nothing else than the Spirit enveloping the Universe. Out of whom is neither God nor Angels, nor any other essentials, for He (It?) is the Lord of all things and the power and the Light; and all depends on Him (It) and is in Him (It), etc.” (Fragments of the writings of Hermes to Ammon.)
“This is contradicted by the very same Trismegistos, who is made to say: “To speak of God is impossible. For corporeal cannot express the incorporeal. . . . . That which has not any body nor appearance, nor form, nor matter, cannot be apprehended by sense. I understand, Tatios, I understand, that which it is impossible to define – that is God.” (Physical Eclogues, Florilegium of Stobæus.)
“The contradiction between the two passages is evident; and this shows (a) that Hermes was a generic nom-de-plume used by a series of generations of mystics of every shade, and (b) that a great discernment has to be used before accepting a Fragment as esoteric teaching only because it is undeniably ancient.
“. . . in the same Hermetic treatise . . . it is said:
“Reality is not upon the earth, my son, and it cannot be thereon. . . . Nothing on earth is real, there are only appearances. . . He (man) is not real, my son, as man. The real consists solely in itself and remains what it is. . . Man is transient, therefore he is not real, he is but appearance, and appearance is the supreme illusion.
“Tatios: Then the celestial bodies themselves are not real, my father, since they also vary?
“Trismegistos: That which is subject to birth and to change is not real. . . . . There is in them a certain falsity, seeing that they too are variable. . . . .
“Tatios: And what then is the primordial Reality?
“Trismeg.: That which is one and alone, O Tatios; That which is not made of matter, nor in any body. Which has neither colour nor form, which changes not nor is transmitted but which always is.”
“This is quite consistent with the Vedantic teaching. The leading thought is Occult; and many are the passages in the Hermetic Fragments that belong bodily to the Secret Doctrine.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 285-287)
NOUS TO HERMES
(From “The Jewel in The Lotus” p. 86-87, compiled and edited by Raghavan Iyer, published in 1983 by the Santa Barbara Lodge of the United Lodge of Theosophists)
Although many men have discussed many diverse aspects of the All and of Theos, I have yet to see the truth. llluminate me, Master, for in these matters I trust you and you alone.
Hear, then, my son, the true relationship of Theos and all things.
Theos causes Aeon;
Aeon causes Kosmos;
Kosmos causes Chronos;
Chronos causes Genesis.
The essence of Theos is Agathon – The Good;
that of Aeon is identity;
that of Kosmos is order;
that of Chronos is change;
that of Genesis is life and death.
The energies of Theos are Nous and Psyche;
those of Aeon are immortality and duration;
those of Kosmos are restoration and substitution;
those of Chronos are growth and decay;
those of Genesis are quality and magnitude.
So, Aeon is in Theos;
Kosmos is in Aeon;
Chronos is in Kosmos;
Genesis is in Chronos.
Whilst Aeon remains near to Theos;
Kosmos moves within Aeon;
Chronos passes through Kosmos;
Genesis takes place within Chronos.
Thus, Theos is the source of all, its substance being Aeon, its matter Kosmos.
The power of Theos is Aeon.
The work of Aeon is Kosmos, never born and yet always being born through Aeon.
Aeon is imperishable; therefore, Kosmos will never die.
No part of Kosmos can be destroyed, because the whole is embraced by Aeon.
Theosophia, then, is Agathon – beauty, goodness, virtue and happiness. Surely Genesis and Chronos differ between heaven and earth? In heaven, they are unchanging and eternal, on earth they are mutable and transient.
The Psyche of Aeon is Theos,
of Kosmos Aeon,
of earth heaven.
Theos is in Nous.
Nous is in Psyche.
Psyche is in matter.
All these are in Aeon, and the whole body, in which all bodies are contained, is full of Psyche, and hence of both Nous and Theos. It fills this within, and encompasses it without, vitalizing the whole – without, the vast and perfect Kosmos; within, everything that lives. In heaven, it abides in identity; on earth, it alters in Genesis. This whole is bounded by Aeon – whether it is thought to be so by necessity, providence, nature or some other – that is to say, by the energy of Theos. The energy of Theos is unsurpassable, power incomparable to anything human or divine. Never regard, O Hermes, anything either below or above as similar to Theos, or you will stray from the truth, for nothing is like the incomparable, the One and Only. What is there apart from it? What else can be the cause of life, deathlessness and mutability? Of what else could it be the cause? Theos is not inactive, for then all things would be inert, but all things are filled with Theos. There is no inactivity in Kosmos or anywhere else, for ‘inaction’ is an empty word, applicable neither to that which causes nor to that which becomes. All things are ever becoming according to the nature of their situation. The sole cause is in all things, not some one thing, and it is not the cause of some one thing, but of all things. Its energizing power is not separate from becoming, but all that becomes is subordinate to it. – Corpus Hermeticum
HERMES – MERCURY – BUDHA
“There were five Hermes – or rather one, who appeared – as some Manus and Rishis did – in several different characters. In the Burham-i-Kati he is mentioned as “Hormig,” a name of the planet Mercury or Budha; and Wednesday was sacred both to Hermes and Thot. [Note: “Wednesday” is in French “Mercredi,” literally “Mercury Day.”] The Hermes of Oriental tradition, worshipped at Phineata and said to have fled after the death of Argus into Egypt, civilized it under the name of Thoth. But under whichever of these characters, he is always credited with having transferred all the sciences from latent to active potency, i.e., with having been the first to teach magic to Egypt and to Greece, before the days of Magna Græcia, and when the Greeks were not even Hellenes.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 366-367)
“Mercury is, as an astrological planet, still more occult and mysterious than Venus. It is identical with the Mazdean Mithra, the genius, or god, “established between the Sun and the Moon, the perpetual companion of ‘Sun’ of Wisdom.” Pausanias shows him as having an altar in common with Jupiter (Book V). He had wings to express his attendance upon the Sun in its course, and he was called the Nuntis, or Sun-wolf, “solaris luminis particeps.” He was the leader of and the evocator of Souls; the “great Magician” and the Hierophant. Virgil depicts him as taking “his wand to evoke from Orcus the souls plunged therein” – tum virgam capit, hac animas ille evocat Orco. (See also the 21st Fargard of the Vendidad on the celestial militia.) He is the golden coloured Mercury, the Χρυσοφαὴς Ἑρμῆς [i.e. “golden-gleaming Hermes,” “Hermes who shines like gold,” “Hermes of golden light”] whom the Hierophants forbade to name. He is symbolised in Grecian mythology by one of the dogs (vigilance), which watch over the celestial flock (occult wisdom), or Hermes Anubis, or again Agathodæmon. He is the Argus watching over the Earth, and which the latter mistakes for the Sun itself. It is through the intercession of Mercury that the Emperor Julian prayed to the Occult Sun every night; for, as says Vossius: “All the theologians agree to say that Mercury and the Sun are one. . . . He was the most eloquent and the most wise of all the gods, which is not to be wondered at, since Mercury is in such close proximity to the Wisdom and the Word of God (the Sun) that he was confused with both.” (Idolatry, Vol. II., p. 373.) Vossius utters here a greater occult truth than he suspected. The Hermes-Sarameyas of the Greeks is closely related to the Hindu Saram and Sarameya, the divine watchman, “who watches over the golden flock of stars and solar rays.”” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 28)
“In astronomy, as said, Mercury is the son of Cœlus and Lux – of the sky and light, or the Sun; in mythology he is the progeny of Jupiter and Maia. He is the “messenger” of his Father Jupiter, the Messiah of the Sun; in Greek, his name “Hermes,” means, among other things, the “Interpreter” – the “Word” by mouth; the LOGOS, or VERBUM. Now, Mercury, besides being born on Mount Cyllene among shepherds, is the patron of the latter. A psychopompic genius, he conducted the souls of the dead to Hades and brought them back, an office attributed to Jesus, after his death and resurrection. The symbols of Hermes-Mercury (Dii Termini) were placed along and at the turning points of highways (as crosses are now placed in Italy) and they were cruciform. Every seventh day the priests anointed these termini with oil, and once a year hung them with garlands, hence they were the anointed. Mercury, when speaking through his oracles said, “I am he whom you call the Son of the Father (Jupiter) and Maia. Leaving the King of Heaven (the Sun) I come to help you, mortals.” Mercury heals the blind and restores sight, mental and physical. He was often represented as three-headed and called “Tricephalos,” “Triplex,” as one with the Sun and Venus. Finally, Mercury, as Cornutus shows, was sometimes figured under a cubic form, without arms, because “the power of speech and eloquence can prevail without the assistance of arms or feet.” It is this cubic form which connects the termini directly with the cross, and the eloquence or the power of speech of Mercury, which made the crafty Eusebius say Hermes “is the emblem of the Word which creates and interprets all,” for it is the creative word; and he shows Porphyry teaching that the speech of Hermes, (now interpreted “Word of God” (!) in Pymander) a creative speech (Verbum), is the seminal principle scattered throughout the Universe. In Alchemy “Mercury” is the radical Moyst, primitive or elementary water, containing the seed of the Universe, fecundated by the solar fires. To express this fecundating principle, a phallus was often added to the cross (the male and female, or the vertical and the horizontal united) by the Egyptians (Vide Egyptian Museums). The cruciform termini also represented this dual idea, which was found in Egypt in the cubic Hermes.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 541-542)
“The full awakening of Buddhi Manas is technically impossible without coming into conscious relation with the hierarchy of the informing Intelligences connected with Mercury-Budha-Hermes. These Rishis, Mahatmas, Dhyanis and Chohans, mirroring the Divine Mind on the plane of Aditi-Akasha, fulfil a necessary hierophantic role in relation to spiritual humanity. This was shown, for example, in the life of the emperor Julian, who prayed to the Occult Sun every night through the intercession of Mercury.” (Raghavan Iyer, “The Logos and Man”)
“The Globe, propelled onward by the Spirit of the Earth and his six assistants, gets all its vital forces, life, and powers through the medium of the seven planetary Dhyanis from the Spirit of the Sun. They are his messengers of Light and Life.”
“Like each of the seven regions of the Earth, each of the seven First-born (the primordial human groups) receives its light and life from its own especial Dhyani – spiritually, and from the palace (house, the planet) of that Dhyani physically; so with the seven great Races to be born on it. The first is born under the Sun; the second under Brihaspati (Jupiter); the third under Lohitanga (the “fiery-bodied,” Venus, or Sukra); the fourth, under Soma (the Moon, our Globe also, the Fourth Sphere, being born under and from the Moon) and Sani, Saturn, the Krura-lochana (evil-eyed) and the Asita (the dark); the fifth, under Budha (Mercury).” (An Esoteric Commentary quoted in “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 29)
The Esoteric Commentary just quoted reveals the highly important and significant fact that the present Fifth Root Race and thus its associated epoch is born under the occult influence of Mercury-Budha-Hermes and even receives its very “light and life” from that particular Hierarchy of Dhyan Chohans or celestial beings which rules or presides over the sacred planet Mercury. In other words, this great vast evolutionary wave in which we are currently living came into being under, and is sustained by, the “Mercury Ray” or “Hermes Ray” of the Seven Rays.
“The vibration of the Logos associated with Hermes-Mercury-Budha which rejoices in the void anticipates, encompasses and transcends all historical parameters. This vibration represents the reverberation of Brahma Vach [i.e. literally Divine Word, Divine Sound, Divine Logoic Speech, a synonym for Theosophia], unaffected and unmodified by the great vicissitudes of the historical process and the cycles of manifestation. It is archetypally and magnificently summed up in the figure of Sage Bhusunda in Valmiki’s Yoga Vasishtha. . . . Surveying vast worlds, epochs, civilizations and historical eras, Bhusunda stood apart, rooted in dharana and dhyana. He represents the eternal spectator, unaffected and unmodified by the vicissitudes of the process of history. It is this supreme detachment rooted in meditation that may be called the Hermes current.” (Raghavan Iyer, “Dhyana Marga”)
“The extraordinarily evocative power of the name and presence of Hermes is especially relevant to the 1975 Cycle and to the civilization of the future. Hermes is a generic name, associated with potent thought, and linked to Mercury-Buddha – a Dhyani – as well as with multiple incarnations in the history of humanity. As the god Hermes-Thot, he is the pristine archetype of Initiators in ancient Egypt, where he was reverenced as Hermes Trismegistus, a name applying to an entire lineage of Initiators. This solar line of spiritual Teachers can be traced back to Shiva as Dakshinamurti, the Initiator of Initiates. The hoary tradition which holds that Hermes taught all sciences to the nascent Mediterranean civilization suggests that he instructed those ready for divine theurgy. The arcane sciences transferred by Hermes from latent to active potency collectively constitute divine gnosis, a precise and comprehensive knowledge of the complex laws governing the seven kingdoms of nature. . . .
“Hermes is the paradigm of the oldest sacred tradition, going back a million years ago to India (Bharata Dwipa). There, among the Initiates, the basis was laid in all the Mystery Schools for the Manasic development of the seminal civilizations of the Fifth Race. When the most creative minds of the Aquarian Age gain a sufficient knowledge of Sanskrit, they will come to see that all latter-day sciences are but pale and poor fragments compared with the systematic ontology and epistemology of Brahma Vidya, Theosophia or Dzyan.
“. . . To understand the work of Hermes at a more fundamental level in relation to civilization, one must begin to generate a conception of the cosmic hierarchies in Nature and in Man which unites the spiritual with the physical, and both of these with the moral and the political. This fundamental recognition of the relationship of the celestial and the terrestrial must be forged through a living link in the psychological realm. That link is Man. Only through the rediscovery within human nature of all orders of being from the gods to the elementals can there be a recovery of the continuity of the Great Chain of Being from the highest to the lowest. All hierarchies – from the Dhyanis through the danavas and daityas, to the devas or gods, the devatas and elementals – are represented within the individual human being. . . .
“This universal Aquarian diffusion of the true ideal of spiritual science and lifelong learning will enable human beings to awaken a vibrant sense of universal justice, universal compassion and universal concord. It will enable people to learn anew how to think, how to speak and how to contribute fearlessly yet appropriately to the collective fund of human wisdom: how to evoke benevolent spirits. If one employs harsh words, or even gentle words in a harsh manner, one will attract negative elementals. These, over time, accumulate, blocking the capacity to question or to formulate truths. But, by purifying words, speech and the aura around words and by cleansing one’s motivation, one’s tone of voice and one’s movements, one can reorient oneself and so draw finer elementals into one’s sphere. Through this elevation of the orbit of one’s consciousness, one may become more benevolent and more magnanimous, while at the same time learning to use potent knowledge with more deliberation, courage and compassion.
“The regeneration of global civilization through such a tapping of the inward spiritual resources of humanity is the enigmatic Hermetic and Avataric function exemplified by Hermes-Thot. It is the sacred function central to every Mystery School in recorded and unrecorded history. It goes back directly to Dakshinamurti, the Initiator of Initiates, and it has never been absent from the earth. It has been self-evidently crucial when the beginnings of civilizations were laid in different parts of the world. To make it now a vital part of a universal outlook in the dawning Aquarian Age, where there is more freedom from competitiveness and more openness to universal truths, could lead to a new kind of soul-etiquette. Founded upon the principle of drawing the larger circle, there could be the elaboration of a new code of relationship between human beings which would be more hospitable to the profoundly paradigmatic teachings of the Upanishad, “Sit down near me and let me whisper in your ear.” This is the ancient Platonic-Upanishadic method, born with the human race, perpetually nourishing it, and recognized by the noblest precursors of the Aquarian Age.” (Raghavan Iyer, “Aquarian Civilization”)
“To be brief, it is January the 4th which ought to be selected by the Theosophists – the Esotericists especially – as their New Year. January is under the sign of Capricornus, the mysterious Makara of the Hindu mystics – the “Kumaras,” it being stated, having incarnated in mankind under the 10th sign of the Zodiac. For ages the 4th of January has been sacred to Mercury-Budha, or Thoth-Hermes. Thus everything combines to make of it a festival to be held by those who study ancient Wisdom.” (HPB, “1890! On The New Year’s Morrow”)
~ * ~
This article may have raised more questions about various things. Please make use of the site search function (the magnifying glass symbol at the top of the page) and visit the Articles page to see the complete list of over 300 articles covering all aspects of Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement.
~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~