Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Hermetic Philosophy


Let us compare reality with a circle. Science divides the circle at the periphery into many segments, many special disciplines (medicine, physics, chemistry, biology, etc) Scientists hope that by research into all these specialized areas, they can eventually reach the centre where all the disciplines meet. In practice the scientific approach makes this goal unattainable because, as specialization increases, inter-disciplinary communication becomes more and more difficult.
Esotericism does not start at the periphery, but goes straight to the centre. Esotericism explores universal law – once we have recognized this law we need only project it on to the different areas of specialization. Such knowledge is superior to that of the specialist because it can relate to all areas and enable one to see how every specialized area fits into universal reality.
Esoteric thinking rests on a set of basic principles originally put into words by the progenitor of esotericism, Hermes Trismegistos, after whom it is called “Hermetic philosophy”. This “Thrice-greatest Hermes” was a priest and initiate in Egypt. His exact biography is lost in the darkness of history. He summarized the quintessence of all wisdom in fifteen propositions written on a slab of green corundum from the orient. This long-lost tablet has gone down in history as the “Tabula Smaragdina”. The text of this emerald tablet reads, in English, as follows:

The Tabula Smaragdina of Hermes Trismegistos

1 True it is without mendacity, certain and most true
2 That which is below is like that which is above: and that which is above is like that which is below for performing the miracles of the one thing
3 And as all things are from One, by the evocation of the One: so all things arose from this one thing in imitation
4 The father of it is the sun, the mother of it is the moon
5 The wind carried it in its belly
6 The wet nurse of it is the earth
7 In it is the father of all perfection of the entire world
8 The power of it is integral when it is turned into earth
9 Earth thou shalt separate from fire, the subtle from the gross, gently, with much sagacity
10 It ascends from earth to heaven and again descends to earth and receives the power of the superior and the inferior things
11 So thou shalt have the splendour of the entire world. Therefore let all darkness flee before thee. This is of all fortitudes the strongest fortitude, because it will overcome all subtleties and penetrate all solidities
12 In this way the world is created
13 Hence there will be prodigious imitations, the way and manner of which are described herein
14 Thus I am called Hermes Trismegistos who owns the three parts of the wisdom of the entire world
15 What I have said about the operations of the sun is short of nothing, it is complete.

At first glance this text seems irrelevant to modern man. Not because of its content, but because of our understanding. The fifteen propositions sum up all knowledge that man can ever attain. The text describes both the creation of the universe and the making of the alchemical Stone of the Wise. For him who understands this text completely all libraries have become superfluous, because he possesses all wisdom which is “short of nothing, it is complete”.
Such assertions may sound far-fetched and may even prompt some readers to abandon all interest in esotericism at this point. But anyone who makes the effort to study the language and symbolism of hermeticism and thus learns to penetrate to its deeper levels, will sooner or later experience the significance of this text for himself.

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