“Thus an odour of sanctity surrounds the author of Egyptian Genesis, who is so like Moses, who prophesies Christianity, and who teaches a devout way of life in loving devotion to God the Father”
is the best sentence from this chapter to describe the general feelings of Hermes Trismegistus felt from both Lactantius and Ficino. This view persisted throughout history and is shown with its popularity through the renaissance and beyond.
In this chapter, Yates paraphrases the first treatise, Pimander (or Poimandres). She acknowledges the need to go about it imaginatively instead of just analytically, for the sake of fully understanding how these texts cemented themselves as foundational text of renaissance magic. She briefly explains Festugiere’s classifications of gnosis into pessimist and optimist, and notes that the Hermetica as the whole is often both of these, and that their contents are often inconsistent. She points out that Pimander is partly optimist and partly dualist gnosis.
After her summary, she goes on to explain Ficino’s linking of Mercurius to Moses, and the text of Pimander to that of Genesis. She notes how impressed Ficino was to the resemblances to Moses and not to Plato, and that this impression left such a mark that Ficino went on record in the Theologica Platonica his belief that Hermes Trismegistus may have, in fact, been Moses. She then draws attention to the ways the Mosaic and Egyptian Genesis’ differ, despite Ficino focusing on their similarities.
Egyptian regeneration (Corpus Hermeticum XIII; dualist gnosis):
Tat speaks to his father, Tristmegistus, about learning the doctrine of regeneration. We’re introduced to the 12 punishments, their link to the zodiac, and the 10 powers that cancel these punishments out. Yates says that Festugiere compares this regeneration with the ascent through the spheres in Pimander. This section ends on a few lines from The Hymn of Regeneration (The Secret Hymn), the latin appendix of punishments and powers, and speculation that Ficino found this portion of the Hermeticum to echo these words from John: “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men,” and to as many as received them “to them gave He power to become the sons of God.”
Egyptian Reflection of the Universe in the Mind. The Mind to Hermes. (Corpus Hermeticum XI; optimist gnosis):
In this treatise the Nous speaks to Hermes of the world being good for it is all of God. It talks of death not being the destruction of matter, but merely a transformation. Yates points out the differences of gnosis between this book and the previous book on Egyptian regeneration. She notes that the principle of world-reflection in the mind is found in both books despite the differences.
Egyptian Philosophy of Man and of Nature: Earth Movement. Hermes Trismegists to Tat on the Common Intellect. (Corpus Hermeticum XII; optimist gnosis):
This book echoes the philosophy found throughout the Corpus Hermeticum; that divine man, through divine intellect “participates in the intellect infused throughout the living world of divine nature” which sounds pretty familiar to me. This book also mentions Agathos Daimon, a divinity whom the fourth-century BC Egyptian Priest, Manetho, considered a First-Dynasty king (The Way of Hermes, Salaman 1999, pg. 79).
Here he is used as one of Hermes’ teachers. Agathos Daimon is also found within the teachings of Ancient Greece, but moreso as a spirit, which I'm sure you guys might already know, but I didn't, haha!
Egyptian Religion. The Asclepius (optimist gnosis):
Fortunately for the sake of moving my summary along, I don’t own the Asclepius in any form, so no cross referencing was done. The parts of this treatise that Yates chose to include remind me very much of what Blavatsky writes on cosmogenesis in The Secret Doctrine, which makes sense to me now that I read the exchange regarding SD between you, my brothers. But Hermes gathers with Tat, Hammon, and Asclepius, and their fervour mixed with the presence of God fills the holy place, and Hermes speaks the divine love which talks of man being magnum miraculum because “he goes into the nature of god as though he himself were a god” and though he is related to demons, he hates this part of his nature and hopes divinity will save him.
The principal gods are then listed as follows:
Jupiter, the Sun, the 36 (also known as Horoscopes, the 36 ten degree segments that make up the 360 degrees of the zodiacal circle), and the seven spheres ruled by Fortune or Destiny.
Hermes goes into detail on how man makes gods in the form of statues, which is the main part of the treatise that Augustine condemned. This passage ends with a line lamenting the demise of the religion of Egypt, which then leads into the next section, The Lament (or the Apocalypse).
This passage opens on a prophecy that Egypt will become godless and corrupted by non-Egyptians when the Egyptian gods inevitably desert the Earth to go back to Heaven. During this period of darkness, man all suffer under godlessness. Then the One God will return and cleanse the world (I admit I chuckled a little at the part about pestilential maladies, given the current global circumstance) and restore the world to a state worthy of Him, imposed by His will.
Yates goes on to state her belief that the rehabilitation of the Asclepius is chiefly responsible for the revival of magic during the renaissance. She loops back to Augustine’s interpretation of the Asclepius, Christianity being the light that saves the world from Egyptian idolatry, and reframes it the way the renaissance magician would now see it; that the Egyptian religion of the world, the religion of thought, would save the world from Christianity by infusing it with Egyptian piousness and goodness.
This chapter ends on a brief discussion of the portrait of Hermes with the Sibyls found in Duomo di Siena, laid in the 1480s, and how it stands as a symbol of deep reverence for the figure of Hermes Trismegistus in the Italian Renaissance.
Has anyone been here? I have recently added it to things I must see in this lifetime.