Hermes Trismegistos

Trismegistos as depicted in D. Stolcius von Stolcenbeerg: Viridarium chymicum, 1624 via Wikipedia

Hermes Trismegistos (“Hermes the Thrice Great” or “Thrice Blessed”) is the supposed author of the Hermetica, an apparently divinely inspired ancient text concerned with cosmology and the dynamics of the spiritual life.

Scholars assume that the name Hermes Trismegistos comes from a combination of  the Greek deity Hermes and the Egyptian deity Thoth.

The content of the Hermetica could be quite fantastical, approaching something we’d see on TV or film sci-fi and fantasy epics.

The Hermetica, is a category of papyri containing spells and initiatory induction procedures. In the dialogue called the Asclepius (after the Greek god of healing) the art of imprisoning the souls of demons or of angels in statues with the help of herbs, gems and odors, is described, such that the statue could speak and engage in prophecy. In other papyri, there are recipes for constructing such images and animating them, such as when images are to be fashioned hollow so as to enclose a magic name inscribed on gold leaf.¹

The Alembic of Hermes Trismegistus: Inrō (WIP) 18
The Alembic of Hermes Trismegistus: Inrō (WIP) 18 by the justified sinner via Flickr

Towards the end of the Classical period the name also referred to the alleged author of several esoteric treatises on alchemy. These were jealously guarded over the centuries, coming to light in the 1600’s as the study of alchemy became fashionable in some European circles.

In one treatise attributed to Trismegistos, the author speaks of God’s inherent bisexuality and of an evil future time when

No one will gaze into heaven. And the pious man will be counted as insane, and the impious man will be honored as wise.²

However, Hermes Trismegistos remains a complicated and somewhat mysterious figure. A 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia called the Souda refers to him as an exemplar of the Christian trinity. And New Age groups have their own esoteric take on this enigmatic character.


² Willis Barnstone, ed. The Other Bible, p. 578.


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