Theosophy: Hermes In Christian Garb


thoth-hermes

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 foot-notes. And she says:  . . . The creation of the visible world by the ‘working gods’ or Titans, as agents of the Supreme God, 1 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 HinduPurânas.

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. Let us now compare the above with a like invocation in the Hindu Scriptures – undoubtedly as old, if not far older. Here it is Parâsara, the Aryan “Hermes” who instructs Maitreya, the Indian Asclepios, and calls upon Vishnu in his triple hypostasis.

“Glory to the unchangeable, holy, eternal Supreme Vishnu, of one universal nature, the mighty over all; to him who is Hiranyagarbha, Hari, and Sankara (Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva), the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer of the world; to Vasudeva, the liberator (of his worshippers); to him whose essence is both single and manifold; who is both subtile and corporeal, indiscreet and discreet; to Vishnu the cause of final emancipation, the cause of the creation, existence, the end of the world; who is the root of the world, and who consists of the world.” (Vish. Purâna, Book L.)

This is a grand invocation, full of philosophical meaning underlying it; but, for the profane masses, as suggestive as is the first of an anthropomorphic Being. We must respect the feeling that dictated both; but we cannot help finding it in full disharmony with its inner meaning, even with that which is found in the same Hermetic treatise where 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.

The latter teaches that the whole universe is ruled by intelligent and semi-intelligent Forces and Powers, as stated from the very beginning. Christian Theology admits and even enforces belief in such, but makes an arbitrary division and refers to them as “Angels” and “Devils.” Science denies the existence of such, and ridicules the very idea. Spiritualists believe in the Spirits of the Dead, and, outside these, deny entirely any other kind or class of invisible beings. The Occultists and Kabalists are thus the only rational expounders of the ancient traditions, which have now culminated in dogmatic faith on the one hand, and dogmatic denials on the other. For, both belief and unbelief embrace but one small corner each of the infinite horizons of spiritual and physical manifestations; and thus both are right from their respective standpoints, and both are wrong in believing that they can circumscribe the whole within their own special and narrow barriers; for – they can never do so. In this respect Science, Theology, and even Spiritualism show little more wisdom than the ostrich does, when it hides its head in the sand at its feet, feeling sure that there can be thus nothing beyond its own point of observation and the limited area occupied by its foolish head.

As the only works now extant upon the subject under consideration within reach of the profane of the Western “civilized” races are the above-mentioned Hermetic Books, or rather Hermetic Fragments, we may contrast them in the present case with the teachings of Esoteric philosophy. To quote for this purpose from any other would be useless, since the public knows nothing of the Chaldean works which are translated into Arabic and preserved by some Sufi initiates. Therefore the “Definitions of Asclepios,” as lately compiled and glossed by Mrs. A. Kingsford, F.T.S., some of which sayings are in remarkable agreement with the Esoteric Eastern doctrine, have to be resorted to for comparison. Though not a few passages show a strong impression of some later Christian hand, yet on the whole the characteristics of the genii 2 and gods are those of eastern teachings, while concerning other things there are passages which differ widely in our doctrines.

1  A frequent expression in the said Fragments, to which we take exception. The Universal Mind is not a Being or “God.”
2  The Hermetic philosophers called Theoi, gods, Genii and Daimones (in the original texts), those Entities whom we callDevas (gods), Dhyan Chohans, Chitkala (Kwan-yin, the Buddhists call them), and by other names. The Daimones are – in the Socratic sense, and even in the Oriental and Latin theological sense – the guardian spirits of the human race; “those who dwell in the neighbourhood of the immortals, and thence watch over human affairs,” as Hermes has it. In Esoteric parlance, they are called Chitkala, some of which are those who have furnished man with his fourth and fifth Principles from their own essence; and others the Pitris so-called. This will be explained when we come to the production of thecomplete man. The root of the name is Chiti, “that by which the effects and consequences of actions and kinds of knowledge are selected for the use of the soul,” or conscience the inner Voice in man. With the Yogis, the Chiti is a synonym of Mahat, the first and divine intellect; but in Esoteric philosophy Mahat is the root of Chiti, its germ; and Chitiis a quality of Manas in conjunction with Buddhi, a quality that attracts to itself by spiritual affinity a Chitkala when it develops sufficiently in man. This is why it is said that Chiti is a voice acquiring mystic life and becoming Kwan-Yin.

The Secret Doctrine, ii 285–288
H. P. Blavatsky

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