Month: April 2016

Bringing Down the Heavens

The following excerpts are taken from G.R.S. Mead’s classic 1900 Fragments of a Forgotten Faith. In the book, G.R.S. Mead takes the reader on a guided tour through the history of heresy, by discussing key fertile crescent backgrounds and baptismal waters that gave birth to Gnosticism and Christianity in all their shades of glory. The following is taken from the section, “Gnosis According to Its Friends.” The Book of the Great Logos According to the Mystery, is a Gnostic text in fragmented form, from the Bruce Codex found by James Bruce, a travelling Scottish man who happened on it in upper Egypt, in 1769.

The Bruce Codex also features other Gnostic mystery texts like The Pistis Sophia and the Books of Jeu (IAO). The text itself presents Jesus Christ as an Illuminator and a universal Gnostic Savior, which isn’t all that different than the version of Jesus present in the Gospel of John. In fact, this version of Jesus has more to do with the Jesus presented in the Apocryphon of John (hence the emphasis on being attributed to John the Baptist), than other versions of Jesus as more of a Jewish Messiah, like we see in say the Gospel of Matthew.

Regarding the edited text: I reorganized the text to make it easier to read, so that is has a more logical and structured flow of ideas and quotes in accordance with the assigned title. The following version will feature underlines of the text that I want to highlight as well as some of the commentary that Mead offers on Jesus and his secret, mystery teachings that he passes on to his disciples. More underlines will be provided in the rest of the post. In many parts of this mystery text, there are also strong parallels with Hermetic literature as well, in particular with the Emerald Tablet of Hermes and the Corpus Hermeticum. After this, we will go into other connections as per the Knights Templar and Mete (Baphomet) and other related observations. 

Those with ears let them hear!

And Jesus saith: “I have loved you and longed to give you Life.”

“This is the Book of the Gnoses (pl.) of the Invisible God”; it is the Book of the Gnosis of Jesus the Living One, by means of which all the hidden mysteries are revealed to the elect. Jesus is the Saviour of Souls, the Logos of Life, sent by the Father from the Light-world to mankind, who taught His disciples the one and only doctrine, saying: “This is the doctrine in which all Gnosis dwelleth.”

Jesus saith: “Blessed is the man who crucifieth the world and doth not let the world crucify him.”

Jesus saith: “Blessed is the man who knoweth this [Word] and hath brought down the Heaven, and borne the earth and raised it heavenwards; and it [the Earth] becometh the midst, for it is a nothing.’

The Heaven is explained as being the invisible Word of the Father. They who know this–(who become children of the true Mind)–bring down Heaven to Earth. The raising of Earth to Heaven is the ceasing from being an earthly intelligence, by receiving the Word of these Gnoses (pl.) and becoming a Dweller in Heaven. Thus will they be saved from the Ruler of this World, and he will become the midst (that is to say, perhaps, that they will be above the Ruler and no longer subject to him as heretofore; he will be a “nothing” to them, that is to say, have no effect on them). Nay, the evil powers will envy them because they know Him, that He is not of this world and that no evil cometh from Him. But as for those who are born in the flesh of unrighteousness (and are not children of the Righteous Race, those of the second birth), they have no part in the Kingdom of the Father.

Thereupon the disciples are in despair, for they have been born “according to the flesh” and have known Him only “according to the flesh.” But the Master explains that not the flesh of their bodies is meant, but the flesh of unrighteousness and ignorance.”

The apostles answered and said, “Lord, Jesus, Thou Living One, teach us the Fullness and it sufficeth us.”

Now, let us compare this with the Emerald Tablet of Hermes:

“Thou shalt separate the Earth from the Fire, the subtle from the coarse, gently and with much ingenuity. It ascends from Earth to heaven and descends again to Earth, and receives the power of the superiors and the inferiors. Thus thou hast the glory of the whole world; therefore let all obscurity flee before thee. This is the strong fortitude of all fortitude, overcoming every subtle and penetrating every solid thing. Thus the world was created. Hence are all wonderful adaptations, of which this is the manner.”

I give the following commentary on all of this (minus the first excerpt) in my essay “The Gods of Imagination: Alchemy, Magic, and the Quintessence” which can be found in The Gnostic 6: A Journey of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality by Andrew Philip Smith. Here is one pertinent excerpt from my paper (if you want to read the entire paper, I suggest purchasing the book):

The famous axiom of “What is Below is like that which is Above sounds very close to what is described in the Gospel of Philip (Codex II), which records Jesus Christ performing initiation rites that sound much like that one of the Hermetic mystery schools of Alexandria, Egypt: “The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber. […] he said, “I came to make the things below like the things above, and the things outside like those inside. I came to unite them in the place.” The correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm, the inside and the outside of the totality of creation, is made explicit. This is reflective yet somehow different than Platonic thought: that the manifest world is merely a shadow of a greater truth, an ideal that can never be found in our daily reality.

Everything in creation, accordingly has its root in the transcendent, or the “One Thing.” The Emerald Tablet itself teaches in veiled language how to produce the alchemical Elixir of Life or “Quintessence,” the “Fifth Element,” that which is born from the “One Thing.” The father of this final product is the sun and the mother being the moon, which “defeats all subtle things and permeates all solids.” The sun symbolizes the fire; the moon, water; wind, air; and the earth, obviously, the Earth. The first three elements also correspond to sulphur, salt and mercury.

The Sun gives its life-giving rays throughout the solar system in a cyclical manner while providing its solar seeds into the Earth so that they may be “perfected.” All of these come from the One as adaptations, splitting off into specialized roles. The first three principal aspects of the One gather together to form the Earth. The three principal elements are separated out from the fourth element and purified and then recombined to form a new type of Earth, being the Fifth Element or the “Cosmic Quintessence.” That is the key to understanding all alchemy. The “Hermetic art” of alchemy itself as a mirror for psychological or spiritual transformation has a long tradition, going back at least to the time of Zosimos and way before that.

“Separate the Earth from the Fire, the Subtle from the Gross, repeatedly with great skillfulness.” This corresponds to the alchemical axiom of the Latin “Solve et Coagula,” meaning dissolve and coagulate or reconstitute. Any alchemical operation will involve these two fundamental steps. This process involves purging the influence of the lower and solidifying the influence of the higher and crystallizing it as a permanent substance on Earth. This process dissolves all of the impurities of matter and darkness until all that is left is the “true image” or the true expression of the “One Thing.” In this instance, we can see how Plato was using ancient, Hermetic-like ideas when he wrote in Timaeus 28a6, about how the divine Craftsman (the “Demiurge”), imitated the unchanging, eternal model above and imposes a mathematical order on the pre-existent primal chaos to generate the cosmos we know. The Demiurge, in this instance, can be seen as a cosmic alchemist or initiator who dissolves and perfects the chaotic realm into multiple structures and shapes based on the Eternal Forms above.

The alchemist raises the subtle into Heaven, from the below to the above, and allows it to descend again by dissolving one’s “wish” then coagulating it again after it has been above. The alchemist allows that creative imagination to descend into the Earth and bring with it the perfected substance. By the power of the “One Thing,” it becomes so. In the Corpus Hermeticum, Poimandres the Man-Shepard (1), we find this idea of ascending into the higher spheres, where the material body is dissolved into light and ascends.

“…To this Poimandres said: “First, in releasing the material body you give the body itself over to alteration, and the form that you used to have vanishes. To the demon you give over your temperament, now inactive. The body’s senses rise up and flow back to their particular sources, becoming separate parts and mingling again with the energies. And feeling and longing go on toward irrational nature. Thence the human being rushes up through the cosmic framework…”

To repeat what the Emerald Tablets of Hermes tells us, “The unique is of all the strengths the strongest strength. It defeats all subtle things and permeates all solids. In this way, the cosmic was created.” An alchemist might argue that this “strength” or force is that of the Philosopher’s Stone, the Pearl of the Great Price, the Divine Hermaphrodite, the Astral Fire, the Elixir of Life, being the “perfected” (Greek: teleios). These objects and symbols represent something that has completed the work of the alchemical process, called the Great Work (Magnum Opus). The final product can be called materialized spirit and spiritualized matter or what Carl Jung called the “coniunctio oppositorum.” It is the solid, unchanging realization of the above, which stands firm and “unshakable.” The spiritual is ironically represented as a physical object; the alchemical offspring or manifestation of the divine itself. The Philosopher’s Stone has completed the journey, which encases both worlds of “perfected” matter and spirit in its alloy.

One can emulate this process and apply it by becoming “co-creators” of manifestation through the imagination since man is created in the “image of God” and is able to define reality as Adam named the animals in the Garden of Eden. 

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The idea of “bringing down the heavens” also reminds us of Mete (an incarnation or aspect of Baphomet and Dionysus). Mete is supposedly a wisdom/mother-goddess figure with connections with Sophia-Achamoth, which appears on Templar artifacts. However, Mete appears to be much more demonic and chthonic than holy–which in some ways, reminds us of Hekate because she too was depicted with three faces as was Baphomet was rumored to be depicted as a Templar idol and touch-point for divination with spirits. This is where things turn dark. In our book, Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled, in the chapter “Baptism of Wisdom,” we examine Joseph Von Hammer Purgstall’s work, especially in his comparison of the Knights Templar with the Gnostic Ophites and their orgy magic and veneration of the serpent from Eden, the later of which is almost universally condemned by both the church fathers, Jewish philosophers like Philo, and pagan critics alike.

The way Hammer‐Purgstall thought that the Templars saw it, these impious deeds of debauchery would not have counted against them in the afterlife. Rather they would earn them brownie points. He believed that this was illustrated by one of the images he found:

“On the left side is exhibited the end of a Templar’s life, already dead and lying on the ground, with the Archangel Michael holding a judgment scale and weighing his deeds. The scale, on which were placed apples, desserts and other blandishments of the senses, and by which the Ophitic Templar’s life is represented, descending to the earth, shows that the judgment of Michael favors him, because in order to hinder Jaldabaoth, he tries to depress the other, ascending, part of the scale. . . . The . . .serpent, called by the gnostics, Michael, carries out the details of judgment in this way: thinking, in the day of judgment, about the life of the Templar, or Gnostic, he accepts all of his disgraceful deeds as good works. In this way [goes] the cycle of a Gnostic’s life.”

The goal of all these impieties may have been, as we have suggested, nothing less than the toppling of the heavenly order. This may explain, then, several of the images presented by Hammer‐Purgstall which involve a bearded and breasted figure (Mete, or Baphomet, according to him) holding a set of chains—one in each hand, seemingly attached to and hanging down from the sky. Hammer‐Purgstall had said these represent “a chain of aeons . . . of the Gnostics,” “the hermetic chain of the Neoplatonists, and “the gods’ chain in Homer.”

This Gnostic, Hermetic, and Neoplatonic “chain” appears to be the chain of causality, and of the interconnected hierarchies of creation. Since in Gnostcism, each aeon corresponds to an archonic entity, and each Archon corresponds to one of the seven “classical planets” (the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn), and each planet was, in antiquity, believed to rule over one of the seven heavens (viewed as being spherical and concentrically stacked inside each other like a Russian doll, with the Earth in the middle), one can imagine this as a chain running from the center of the Earth, through the sky, then up through each of the seven heavens and all the way up to the Pleroma on the outside, where the real “Father” resides.

As bat-shit crazy as it sounds, all of the infamous raunchy rumors and accusations of infanticide against the various Gnostic groups issued from the church fathers, had a specific end goal: to bring about the apocalypse or the annihilation of the cosmos, and end the natural order of things. This was because the world or cosmos was seen as entirely hostile and evil to the Gnostic (just as the Christian is said to be), as it was, naturally, the other way around.

Another way of look at this issue is that the so-called “Gnostic apocalypse” was that the Kingdom of God would eventually manifest in the world (while bringing an end to the current world system), even though it remains invisible to earth-born people, as it states in the Gospel of Thomas. Most of these groups were actually ascetics and were pious (but for different reasons than the Orthodox church). Some existed in between the two extremes (asceticism and libertinism). The cult of Carpocrates were more than likely libertine. And yet, even their libertinism certainly wasn’t abnormal for greater pagan civilization. For Christianity, yes, but there were plenty of pagan philosophers who advocated that sort of lifestyle. Zeno of Citium, the father of Stoicism, supposedly thought likewise (that man should run around like dogs and randomly have sex in the streets as they pleased).

Morton Smith in his controversial and much disputed discovery of the Secret Gospel of Mark, the early church leader, Clement, attempts to discredit claims by the Carpocratians that Christ and Lazarus, a young man whom he had just revived from the dead, had been seen naked together at night with Lazarus being initiated into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. This is what some scholars might refer to as the “Gay Magical Jesus Hypothesis.” Please see Craig A. Evan’s Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt, for the low down. (Long story short: he too, like many other Christian apologist scholars, think its a hoax perpetrated by Morton Smith.)

Morton Smith is also responsible for writing Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God?, in which I plan to write an in-depth review at a future time. But for now, let’s enjoy some made up juicy gossip about the Jewish source for Jesus’s divine magical powers, taken from the Toldot Yeshu. The resemblance between this text and the anti-Jesus legends of the Talmud, the Cabala, and the Mandaean Book of John (Sidra d’Yahya) and Book of Adam (Codex Nasarous), are all at once apparent.

After King Jannaeus, his wife Helene ruled over all Israel. In the Temple was to be found the Foundation Stone on which were engraved the letters of God’s Ineffable Name. Whoever learned the secret of the Name and its use would be able to do whatever he wished. Therefore, the Sages took measures so that no one should gain this knowledge. Lions of brass were bound to two iron pillars at the gate of the place of burnt offerings. Should anyone enter and learn the Name, when he left the lions would roar at him and immediately the valuable secret would be forgotten.

Yeshu came and learned the letters of the Name; he wrote them upon the parchment which he placed in an open cut on his thigh and then drew the flesh over the parchment. As he left, the lions roared and he forgot the secret. But when he came to his house he reopened the cut in his flesh with a knife an lifted out the writing. Then he remembered and obtained the use of the letters.

Epiphanius in the Panarion tells us wild tales of the Carpocratian swinging, bisexual orgies and escapades in efforts to escape the realm of astral fate and reincarnation.

4:3 By recklessly giving their minds to frenzy they have surrendered themselves to the sensations of countless pleasures. For they say that such things as men consider evil are not evil but good by nature17—nothing is evil by nature—but are regarded as evil by men.

4:4 And if one does all these things in this one incarnation the soul will not be embodied again to be cast down once more. By performing every action in one round it will escape, freed and with no more debt of activity in the world.

4:5 Again, I am afraid to say what sort of actions, or I might uncover a trench like a hidden sewer, and some might think that I am causing the blast of foul odour. Still, since I am constrained by the truth to disclose what goes on among the deluded, I am going to make myself speak—with some delicacy and yet without overstepping the bounds of the truth.

4:6 The plain fact is that these people perform every unspeakable, unlawful thing, which is not right even to say, and every kind of homosexual union and carnal intercourse with women, with every member of the body18

4:7 and that they perform magic, sorcery and idolatry and say that this is the discharge of their obligations in the body, so that they will not be charged any more or required to do anything else, and for this reason the soul will not be turned back after its departure and go on to another incarnation and transmigration.

But, it isn’t entirely implausible that there were libertine Gnostics who did those sorts of things. There are Christians who do similar things today, so why not back then? In the book, we also discuss one specific part of The Pistis Sophia, which contains a condemnation of ingesting semen, and since that’s a Gnostic text, it would appear that even the ascetic Gnostics themselves were aware of this practice.

Thomas said: “We have heard that there are some on the earth who take the male seed and the female monthly blood, and make it into a lentil porridge and eat it, saying: ‘We have faith in Esau and Jacob.’ Is this then seemly or not?”

Jesus was wroth with the world in that hour and said unto Thomas: “Amen, I say: This sin is more heinous than all sins and iniquities. Such men will straightway be taken into the outer darkness and not be cast back anew into the sphere, but they shall perish, be destroyed in the outer darkness in a region where there is neither pity nor light, but howling and grinding of teeth. And all the souls which shall be brought into the outer darkness, will not be cast back anew, but will be destroyed and dissolved.”

pp. 322-323 (G.R.S. Mead Translation 1921)

The accusations of secret rituals/black mass has its origins (ironically) in Roman attempts to discredit early Christians/Gnostics and Dionysian cults (especially in Celsus in the True Doctrine). The trope evolved and absorbed by the Orthodox and used it against the heretics later on that continued to evolve from Irenaeus to Epiphanius to Constantine and finally by the papacy between the 10th and 12th centuries in the infamously bat-shit crazy papal bull Vox in Rama of Pope Gregory IX, which was directed against German heretical Bogomils who were accused of a “Luciferian” devil-worshiping heresy while made edicts to torture and kill all black cats because of their association with Satanic Bogomil rituals and even as an incarnation of Satan himself. (This may also be connected with the leontocephalus [lion-headed] gods, like Mithras and Ialdabaoth, in the ancient world.)

Yes, slander against the Gnostics and later Cathars and Bogomils were on the same level of accusations of devil worship, unnatural vices and heresy, against the Templars. In most cases, however, they are more than likely evidence-free fabrications, which were only “proven” by confessions extracted under torture (which were later recanted). There is little evidence of them doing so, however, despite much later accusations from 18th and 19th century scholars, from the French Revolution onward. So, like their earlier Gnostic brethren, the Templars, too, were deemed a threat to the Catholic Church, scapegoated, sacrificed as the “other” (Azazel) and were wiped out, through stake-fire and blood. In other words, while the Templars, perhaps held to secret doctrines and rites–perhaps they too, fell as victims of the Orthodox rumor mill that led to the Grand Inquisition of torture and sacrifice of all heretics.

While the connection between the Ophites and the Templars remains tenuous at best (as per Joseph Von Hammer-Purgstall’s writings), there is evidence the Templars did practice some sort of composite secret Johannite (John the Baptist as the “true Christ”) heresy that may go back all the way to the Mandaeans, the cult of Abrasax and Basilides, as we discuss in the book at length. Jules Loiseleur in his 1872 book, La doctrine secrète des Templiers, rejected Hammer-Purgstall’s pet theory that they were secretly Ophites and instead replaces it with his own construct of them being secretly Luciferian Bogomils…

Nesta Webster goes into all this more in depth in chapter 3 of Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, where she also writes about the frenetic connections between the Bogomils, John the Baptist, the Templars, Freemasonry, and Jewish Babylonian witchcraft (I placed ellipses in between the various excerpts taken from the third chapter of the book). However, I cannot, in the right mind, agree with her overall assessment of Gnosticism as a whole, among other subjects. I would cover more about the Bogomils but her lurid summary of their supposed blasphemies really takes the cake–more than I care to expose here. (You can read it for yourself in the book).

If the Templar heresy was that of the Johannites, the head in question might possibly represent that of John the Baptist, which would accord with the theory that the word Baphomet was derived from Greek words signifying baptism of wisdom. This would, moreover, not be incompatible with Loiseleur’s theory of an affinity between the Templars and the Bogomils, for the Bogomils also possessed their own version of the Gospel of St. John, which they placed on the heads of their neophytes during the ceremony of initiation, giving as the reason for the peculiar veneration they professed for its author that they regarded St. John as the servant of the Jewish God Satanael.(75) Eliphas Lévi even goes so far as to accuse the Templars of following the occult practices of the Luciferians, who carried the doctrines of the Bogomils to the point of paying homage to the powers of darkness:

“Let us declare for the edification of the vulgar . . . and for the greater glory of the Church which has persecuted the Templars, burned the magicians and excommunicated the Free-Masons, etc., let us say boldly and loudly, that all the initiates of the occult sciences . . . have adored, do and will always adore that which is signified by this frightful symbol [the Sabbatic goat]. Yes, in our profound conviction, the Grand Masters of the Order of the Templars adored Baphomet and caused him to be adored by their initiates.”

The Sabbatic goat is clearly of Jewish origin. Thus the Zohar relates that ” Tradition teaches us that when the Israelites evoked evil spirits, these appeared to them under the form of he-goats and made known to them all that they wished to learn.“–Section Ahre Moth, folio 70a (de Pauly, V. 191).

What is the explanation of this choice of St. John for the propagation of anti-Christian doctrines which we shall find continuing up to the present day ? What else than the method of perversion which in its extreme form becomes Satanism, and consists in always selecting the most sacred things for the purpose of desecration? Precisely then because the Gospel of St. John is the one of all the four which most insists on the divinity of Christ, the occult anti-Christian sects have habitually made it the basis of their rites.

So Mote It Be

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And finally, there are also more compelling parallels between Jesus of the Gospel of John and Hermes himself, that I have not seen anyone else bring up. The Corpus Hermeticum XI (22), presents Hermes as an initiator and revealer of the divine mysteries to his student/son Tat.

[22] “And do you say, ‘God is unseen’? Hold your tongue! Who is more visible than God? This is why he made all things: so that through them all you might look on him. This is the goodness of God, this is his excellence: that he is visible through all things. For nothing is unseen, not even among the incorporeals. Mind is seen in the act of understanding, God in the act of making.”

“Up to this point, O Trismegistus, these matters have been revealed to you. Consider all the rest in the same way – on your own – and you will not be deceived.”

In the Gospel of John, we read Jesus Christ’s words:

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John 14:21 KJV

The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) reads:

20 At that time [when that day comes] you will know [for yourselves] that I am in My Father, and you [are] in Me, and I [am] in you.

21 The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.]

The Names of God Edition (NOG) gives us the third translation:

20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me and that I am in you. 21 Whoever knows and obeys my commandments is the person who loves me. Those who love me will have my Father’s love, and I, too, will love them and show myself to them.”

One can go to many translations and you will find the word “manifest” as meaning to reveal, to disclose, show, take off the cover, pierce the veil, to show plainly, etc. This is just one verse of many that the Christian must have a full revelation of Jesus Christ. In essence, Christ is the divine spirit that manifests in the believer and reveals the gnosis. Jesus Christ himself is this Gnostic knowledge. It this knowledge that makes the unregenerate, regenerate, that heals the spiritually sick sinner, opens the eyes of the blind, and drives out the strongman and his legion (Matthew 12:29). This is the rebirth process that both Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John and Hermes in the Corpus Hermeticum discuss at great length as well.

Phanes, the Orphic mystical god of creation and regeneration, also comes from the Greek phainein to shine, (in passive) appear or reveal. Phanes is also equated with Eros and sometimes Mithras, who either emerges from Aion’s silver egg or the dark abyss to “bring forth” and “to bring light” to the universe, just like we see in Genesis and 2 Enoch creation accounts as well as the prologue from the Gospel of JohnThe Derveni Papyrus refers to Phanes as:

Πρωτογόνου βασιλέως αἰδοίου∙ τῶι δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἀθάνατοι προσέφυν μάκαρες θεοὶ ἠδ̣ὲ θέαιναι καὶ ποταμοὶ καὶ κρῆναι ἐπήρατιο ἄλλα τε πάντα , ἅ̣σσα τότ’ ἦγγεγαῶτ ’ , αὐτὸς δ’ ἄρα μοῦνος ἔγεντο.

“Of the First-born king, the reverend one; and upon him all the immortals grew, blessed gods and goddesses and rivers and lovely springs and everything else that had then been born; and he himself became the sole one”

In the Corpus Hermeticum XIII, we read:

A secret dialogue of Hermes Trismegistus on the mountain to his son Tat: On being born again, and on the promise to be silent [1]

“My father, you spoke indistinctly and in riddles when talking about divinity in the General Discourses; claiming that no one can be saved before being born again, you offered no revelation. But after you talked with me coming down from the mountain, I became your suppliant and asked to learn the discourse on being born again since, of all the discourses, this one alone I do not know. And you said you would deliver it to me when ‘you were about to become a stranger to the cosmos.’ I have prepared myself, and I have steeled my purpose against the deceit of the cosmos. Grant me what I need and give me – whether aloud or in secret – the being born again that you said you would deliver. I do not know what sort of womb mankind was born from, O Trismegistus, nor from what kind of seed.” [2]

“My child, is the wisdom of understanding in silence, and the seed is the true good.”

“Who sows the seed, father? I am entirely at a loss.”

“The will of God, my child.”

“And whence comes the begotten, father? He does not share in my essence [ ].”

The begotten will be of a different kind, a God and a child of God, the all in all, composed entirely of the powers.

Tat in the rest of the discourse becomes increasingly frustrated with his dad Hermes because of his mystical “riddles” and gobbledygook, in effort to know how to be reborn. Finally, Hermes yields a solid answer to Tat, telling him to renounce his flesh, the world and the “tormentors” inside it (i.e. evil spirits that induce ignorance, various lusts of the flesh and oblivion). This is very similar to how Jesus in many instances in the Gospels conducts exorcisms and cast out demons while in the Pauline literature, Christians are rebuked and required to “crucify” their flesh and “deceitful lusts”.

“Leave the senses of the body idle, and the birth of divinity will begin. Cleanse yourself of the irrational torments of matter.”

“Do I have tormenters in me, father?”

“More than a few, my child; they are many and frightful.”

“I am ignorant of them, father.”

1 John 3:1 tells us something similar to Hermes’ words:

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

To “behold” means to look upon, to see what is revealed. The beholder is granted the Divine Vision and the inner man is transformed from the inside out through divine love. The “beholders” are also referred to as initiates of theurgy in Neoplatonism via Iamblihcus, as well. And yet, as we’ve already seen in Porphyry, he actually revered the figure of Jesus Christ, as much as he argued against the Christians of his time. However, much of his work has been destroyed thanks to Emperor Constantine’s edicts and only survives in fragments preserved as quotations by the Church historian and forger, Eusebius.

The great Romanian historian and religious scholar, Mircea Eliade, in The Quest for the “Origins” of Religion, tells us some fascinating lore regarding the connection between ancient Christianity and Hermetic religion.

In 1463, a year before Cosimo’s death, these translations were complete. Thus Corpus hermeticum was the first Greek text to be translated and published by Marsilio Ficino. Only afterward did he start working on Plato. This detail is important. It sheds light on an aspect of the Italian Renaissance ignored or at least neglected by the historians of a generation ago.

Both Cosimo and Ficino were thrilled by the discovery of a primordial revelation, that is, the one disclosed in the Hermetical writings. And, of course, they had no reason to doubt that the Corpus hermeticum represented the very words of Hermes the Egyptian, that is, the oldest revelation accessible-one which preceded that of Moses and which inspired Pythagoras and Plato as well as the Persian Magi. Though he exalted the holiness and the veracity of the hermetic texts, Ficino did not-and could not-suspect himself of not being a good Christian. Already in the second century the Christian apologist Lactantius considered Hermes Trismegistos a divinely inspired sage, and interpreted some Hermetic prophecies as fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Marsilio Ficino reasserted this harmony between Hermetism and Hermetic magic on the one hand and Christianity on the other. No less sincere was Pico della Mirandola, who considered that Magia and Cabbala confirmed the divinity of Christ. Pope Alexander VI had a fresco teeming with Egyptian-that is, Hermetic-images and symbols painted in the Vatican! This was done not for aesthetic or ornamental reasons; rather, Alexander VI wanted to mark his protection of the exalted and occult Egyptian tradition. Such an extravagant interest in Hermetism is highly significant. It discloses the Renaissance man’s longing for a “primordial revelation” which could include not only Moses and Cabbala but also Plato and, first and foremost, the mysterious religions of Egypt and Persia. It reveals also a profound dissatisfaction with the medieval theology and medieval conceptions of man and the universe; a reaction against what we may call “provincial,” that is, purely Western Christianity; a longing for a universalistic, transhistorical, “mythical” religion.

For almost two centuries Egypt and Hermetism, that is, the Egyptian magic, obsessed innumerable theologians and philosophers-believers as well as unbelievers or crypto-atheists. If Giordano Bruno acclaimed Copernicus’ discoveries enthusiastically, it was because he thought that the heliocentrism had a profound religious and magical meaning. While he was in England, Giordano Bruno prophesied the imminent return of the magical religion of the ancient Egyptians as it was described in Asclepius. Bruno felt superior to Copernicus, for whereas Copernicus understood his own theory only as a mathematician, Bruno could interpret the Copernican diagram as a hieroglyph of divine mysteries.

 

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More as it develops…

 

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