Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Archeology of the Term Hermetic & Hermetic Reading List

I had a question recently asking me what I meant when I said I practiced "Hermetic" magic?

Well, let's look at the dictionary definition, "(1) made airtight by fusion or sealing.; (2) not affected by outward influence or power; isolated; (3) of, pertaining to, or characteristic of occult science, especially alchemy; (4) of or pertaining to Hermes Trismegistus or the writings ascribed to him. Origin: 1630–40; Medieval Latin hermeticus of, pertaining to Hermes Trismegistus, equivalent to Latin Herme"

Ok, this actually lays things out really well! As we move from definition (1) up to definition (4) we go back in time from more contemporary definitions back to the original and all the definitions fit nicely together. So the original definition of Hermetic, which is what I mean when I say I practice Hermetic magic, means following the teaching attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, which are the philosophical Hermetica, in particular the Corpus Hermeticum as well as the technical Hermetica, which are practical texts of the Hermetic arts of alchemy, astrology and magic. The earliest written versions that we have of these teachings are circa 1st century AD, but likely are older.

Then as we go a bit further forward in time, to definition (3), hermetic has come to mean occult sciences in general, and specifically alchemy. This is the sense in which the 19th century Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn uses the term hermetic. Similarly, we can understand definition (2) how hermetic could come to be isolated, as the word occult means hidden. Finally, definition (1) the current usage, a hermetic or airtight seal, which comes from practical laboratory alchemy.

Very interesting! We have a complete archeology of the term hermetic. By following the etymology of the word, we can understand it more completely.

Now, of course, I use the oldest, most traditional definition, no surprise there! When I say I practice Hermetic magic, I don't mean I use airtight seals or that I am doing occult magic, I mean that I actually follow the Corpus Hermeticum and practical Hermetica, particularly as those sources were known and explained in Picatrix and by Renaissance mages like Cornelius Agrippa and Marcilio Ficino. Well, that and putting this magical practice within a Buddhist context! Here's an example of my Hermetic Zen Ritual

As a good general intro here is my Hermes Trismegistus page

I also have two Youtube videos on Hermeticism:

a History of Hermeticism

and Hermetic Gnosis

Here is a a reading list of authentic Hermetica:

I recommend Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum translated by Brian Copenhaver

I can also recommend two good secondary sources on Hermeticism:

the Egyptian Hermes by Garth Fowden

and the Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus by Florian Ebeling

We should also keep in mind that reading and just reading books makes one a dabbler and dilettante in Hermeticism or almost any other practical subject.

Alchemy, astrology and magic are the three Hermetic arts and by actually learning AND practicing traditional astrology and astrological magic, you are preparing yourself for the true Hermetic spiritual path. If you are serious about learning Hermeticism take one of my full courses in particular the full Astrological Magic Course

This includes a free copy of the most important book of Hermetic astrological magic, the Picatrix