Spiritus Hermeticum: part four

An investigation of the origins of Hermeticism and the true teachings of Hermes Trismegistus


In the first part of this 12-part investigation we discussed the origins of Hermeticism, touched on the teachings of Hermes, and attempted to separate the Greek and Egyptian conceptions of the god variously known as Thoth, Theuth, Tat, and Tahuti. In part two we considered the origins and extent of the Corpus Hermeticum. In part three we began our examination of the actual teachings of Hermes as they have come down to us in the Poemander, the Asclepios and the various Hermetic fragments. In this part we continue our discussion of the knowledge of God.

Our principal aim, as we told you in part one, is to uncover the original truths the man Hermes taught to his disciples, and to distinguish these without fail from the half-truths and speculations grafted onto them over the centuries by the many translators, editors and commentators through whose hands the books of Hermes have passed.

In the twelve afterwords accompanying this investigation we are meticulously dissecting the so-called Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean written by the 20th century occultist—Dr Maurice Doreal. In part one we examined his early life and career. In part two we told you about the Shaver Mystery and other bizarre tales that influenced his ideas and teachings which ultimately led to the fabrication of the aforementioned tablets. In part three we concluded our investigation of his life and times and the Brotherhood of the White Temple he founded. In this part, we delve deeper into his imposture.

In part five, published in August 2020, we uncover more of the true teachings of Hermes and analyse Doreal's presumptuous pastiche of them. If you have not read parts one to three, now is the time to do so, for this investigation forms an ascending scale of revelation which cannot be understood by skimming through individual articles in a haphazard and piecemeal manner.

How can the Mind know God?

We ended part three of our investigation with the conclusion that our five physical senses and the lower mind they inform are utterly incapable of knowing God. But what of the Higher Mind, can that know God? In order to adequately answer that question we need to say a little more about the two minds and the differences between them.

Many wise men and women have said a great many things about the mind over the centuries. The mind has been called 'the eyesight of the soul,' and the 'atmosphere of the soul.' It is said that mind moves matter; it is the mind that makes the body rich (or sick); the mind is the proper judge of man; that mind unemployed is mind unenjoyed; few minds wear out, most rust out; the pen is the tongue of the mind, each mind has its own method—and so on and so forth. But none of these statements tell us what the mind really is, or whether it is the Higher or the lower mind which acts in these ways. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.), once said that "the brain is the citadel of the senses: this guides the principle of thought." How such 'learned' philosophers prate and prattle, being aped by those of even lesser wit, without knowing what they say. All such sayings seem very profound to the average man or woman, especially if they are expressed with sufficient gravitas and authority. But what do such sayings really tell us about either mind? Nothing—nothing at all.

In Hawaii and other Polynesian islands there existed—and may still exist to some extent for all we know—a certain class or tribe of sages known as the Kahunas, among whom there were magicians who taught that man is not a single spirit but consists of three spirits. They call these the low self, the middle self and the high self, and they teach that the first two, which live in the human body, are replicas of it, and therefore like unto one another. Freud and his associates and successors have called these three 'spirits' the conscious, the subconscious and the superconscious minds. But here again, the true functions of the three 'minds' are not explained nor understood by any psychiatrist or psychologist. The Kahunas were much nearer to the truth when they say that the two lowest, or first, of the three spirits are able to leave the body at times and live independently, here and in the next world, which is to say—the Astral World or plane.

Those of you who have studied our various articles or are accomplished occultists will recognise that the three selves of the Kahunas correspond to the body and lower mind (one principle), Higher Mind and Divine Soul in the scheme of Western occult science. Among Eastern occultists these three principles are generally called Manas, Buddhi and Atma. Theosophists use different terms such as Sthula-Sarira (physical body); Linga Sharira (astral body); and Kama rupa (lower, animal mind). In her books, H. P. Blavatsky invariably uses the term Manas to apply to either mind, sometimes qualifying it with the prefix 'higher' or 'lower' to indicate which is meant. She knew, as every occultist does, that the lower and Higher Minds can leave the body independently, such as happens during so-called 'dreams'. We discussed this in the penultimate article in our occult studies course, as well as in Bombast and Flitterflop's Astral Conversation about dreams and dreaming. Each mind can also leave the body during so-called 'astral projection,' deep meditation and during trauma of some kind. Near Death experiences (NDEs) are an example of such severe shocks.

This begs the question how do the magicians of the Kahunas (in common with many other 'wild' or so-called 'primitive' peoples) know all this? The answer is simple and therefore not obvious to the clever anthropologists who study the customs and beliefs of such so-called 'savages.' Their knowledge is nothing more nor less than a faint and distorted echo of the once great Wisdom of the most evolved people of Atlantis, and, probably, of Lemuria too. If you were to conclude from this that the Kahunas have more awakened minds than the average 'civilized' person dwelling in the West today who is so proud of the achievements of our technological civilization, you would be right. The mind of the ordinary animal, from the cat to the tiger and the dog to the deer is not so very different from the lower mind of the average man or woman of low understanding, whose Higher Self is almost fast asleep on earth. We have pointed this out before in several of our articles, notably in part six of our Occult Studies Course.

Music: the highest of all Arts

It is necessary that the Higher Self—the Mind of Light—should awaken here on earth, but the results of this awakening may be somewhat alarming at times. Take, for example, the mind of a musician and what can issue from it. It is comforting and elevating to listen to real music, captured by the Higher Self of a great composer and put into understandable form for us who listen to his works, such as we discuss in our article on the Magic of Music. But it is a very different matter when our ears are tortured by having to listen to some of the music that comes under the category of 'Heavy Metal', 'Punk Rock' and 'Rap'! For then we hear the distorted, nightmarish noise the less evolved composers have captured in the lower planes of the Astral World. Occult science teaches us that we all bring the gifts—or curses—of the higher or lower planes from which we come to Earth, for us to use or misuse according to our capacities.

The Mind of Light, when awake, tries at all times to avoid the shadows cast by the Dark. But bear in mind that only the few who are awake are able to hear and appreciate the harmonies of Heaven. Men and women who are mired in the mud of the material and neither know nor care for anything higher than the cacophony we mentioned above, cannot hear these melodies, nor understand them when the great musicians translate them into the earthly idiom. Shakespeare knew this well, for he tells us in his play The Merchant of Venice:

"Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it."

This theme is taken up in Measure for Measure too, in which we may read: "Music oft hath such a charm to make bad good, and good provoke to harm." Here we have a direct reference to the discordant noise which passes for so much modern 'music' nowadays. We are in no doubt that this has a deleterious effect on both minds, but especially the lower, and there is a considerable amount or evidence that it arouses anger, hatred and depression. The reverse is true of most—but not all—classical music. This too, has been demonstrated in various experiments over the years, most recently in a three-month trial carried out by British Train operator Trans Pennine Express (TPE) at railways stations in Yorkshire in 2018. The company said that Cleethorpes station had seen complaints of anti-social behaviour drop by around 75%. TPE's station manager at Hull, Dan Dreggs commented: "We probably used to have about 20 to 25 youths on the station each night and now we'd be lucky to get two or three." So the Restoration playwright William Congreve (1670-1729) was right when, in his play The Mourning Bride, he penned the line: "Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, to soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak."

What has all this to do with Hermes you may ask? Everything! Music, true Philosophy, and a few other sciences or Arts, are the gifts of the gods to the god-inspired man or woman. All depend on piety and not on denial; least of all can they be felt by the mind which is wrapt in doubts or casuistry. True Music is nothing else than knowledge of the order and harmony of all things, and it is for this reason that it has been rightly regarded as the highest of all the Arts, for it connects the Higher Mind of Man with the Soul of all Things which is God. Beethoven said that Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy, adding that it was: "the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life." Bach said: "the aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul." All this is true philosophy of the right sort and in complete accord with the teachings of Hermes.

We may consider all great artists as true Musicians. The Greek sculptor Phidias (ca. 480-430 B.C.) has been called a 'musician' in marble, ivory and gold, though he did not pluck the strings of the lyre nor play the flute. But if the 'instrument'—the Higher Mind—is still weak in evolution within the man or woman, the rhythm of the Harmonies of Heaven is marred, as we told you in our short story of The Broken Violin. Strange to say, very few readers ever write to us about this story, published over three years ago. We wonder why? As we learned from the Keeper of the Violin in this allegorical tale, the inability to sound forth pure harmonies attaches no real blame upon the musician, for his or her present efforts will bear fruit in future lives, as the little lad clearly realized at the end of the story. All of us have to make a beginning somehow at sometime during our many incarnations on Earth to develop the gift, or gifts, entrusted to us by our Creator. At first our efforts are bound to be clumsy and out-of-tune, but with time and practise over many lifetimes we may perfect our talent. So, if we are 'musicians' of any sort, in any craft or Art (and which of us is not?) let us retune our Lyre and replace the faulty strings and so do better in our future incarnations. Thus we may think of God as the Master-Musician, who not only makes the Harmony of His Celestial Songs (whatever be their form), but is also instrumental in sending forth the rhythm of His Harmony and the melody of His own Songs, right down into the separate 'instruments' which are the Minds of Light in various states of evolution on Earth.

The Mind of Light

As students of occult science, we cannot dwell too often or too deeply on the qualities of the man or woman who is led by their Higher Mind. A Mind of Light may still err, but never for long, for it has a sheet-anchor in the True Teachings of Hermes which will ever come to its aid in time of need. To get a clearer view of Hermes' teachings on the Mind of Light, we have decided to re-write part of the Seventh Book of the Poemander in our own words. This is a most important teaching of Hermes which all can profit from, whether they are occultists, mystics, or any other kind of seeker after Truth. You can compare our rendering with that by G. R. S. Mead in his Thrice Greatest Hermes or John Everard's Divine Pymander if you wish, though this is not really necessary.


One day a disciple came to his Master and asked: What is the Mind of Light?"
And his Master replied, remembering the Teachings of the Divine Hermes and its implications, answering: "It is Truth, my son."
And his disciple asked again, saying: "What is Truth?"
"That which is never troubled, my son," replied his Master. "Which cannot be defined; that which has no colour, nor any figure, which is not turned, which has no garment, which gives Light; that which is comprehensible to itself alone, and which never changes; that which no body can contain."

At this the poor disciple looked confused and said despairingly: "in very truth I lose my reason, Master. Just when I thought to be made wise by you, I find the senses of my mind blocked up and the Light has departed."
And his Master said unto him: "that which is borne upward like fire, yet is borne down like earth, and that which is moist, like water, yet blows like air, how can you hope to know this by means of the senses which delude and wrap the Higher Self in dire illusions?"

"Shall I then forever be incapable of knowing the inwardness of these great Mysteries?" asked the disciple.
"God forbid, my son! Withdraw into thyself, and Light and Truth will come; will, and it shall come to pass; rise in thought above the body's senses, and thy Divinity shall come to birth; purge yourself of all brutish torments, which are things of matter and thoughts of doubt and unbelief."
And the disciple asked: "Is it true that I have tormentors within me?"
"Yes, my son," replied his Master. "Indeed you have, many and fearful ones."
"But I do not know them. Who are they and how do they torment me?"

His Master smiled at him, and said: "The first torment is called 'Not-knowing'; the second is called 'Grief'; the third 'Intemperance'; the fourth 'Concupiscence'; the fifth 'Unrighteousness'; the sixth is 'Avarice'; the seventh 'Error'; the eighth is 'Envy'; the ninth 'Guile'; the tenth 'Anger'; the eleventh 'Rashness'; the twelfth is 'Malice'; the thirteenth 'Doubt'; the fourteenth 'Wilfulness.' There are many, many more, all of which prevent Truth from being known, so that your Mind of Light is led unto Darkness, where Truth does not dwell and the Light does not shine. In this way the Mind as well as the senses suffer various ills. But they depart, though not all at once, when God takes pity on the sinner and grants him rebirth in later times. And then, mere 'Reason', which is of the lower mind only, will gradually be replaced by the apprehension of Wisdom, which is Truth in Light, and the liberated Mind will rejoice and give thanks to its Lord and Father. My words to you are these; be still and keep the most profound silence on these matters; for only thus shall God's Mercy never cease to flow into your true Being, which is the Mind of Light. If you can achieve this Boon, then rejoice, for by the Powers of God you shall be purified and ready to accept and know Truth and Wisdom.

"When the Gnosis of God has come to us, 'Not-knowing' is cast out. Gnosis of 'Joy' casts out Sorrow; the Power that follows 'Joy' is Self-control, a Power most sweet and rewarding. Let us most gladly bid it welcome. When 'Joy' and 'Self-control' are yours, they chase 'Intemperance' away. The next virtue that comes into being is 'Continence' which drives 'Incontinence' away. Continence brings 'Righteousness' in its train, for she chases 'Unrighteousness' away. In this manner we are made 'Righteous' and worthy of the regard of God. 'Avarice' departs when we achieve the state of 'Sharing-with-all'. And when 'Avarice' is gone you may call on 'Truth.' Then 'Error' flees from the domain of your Spirit and Truth will abide with you for evermore.

"Therefore, my son," continued the Master, "Good follows hard upon the soft footfalls of Truth. Thus Truth is joined with Good as well as with Life and Light. Now no torment of the Darkness ventures nigh and all evil is vanquished, having fled with whirring wings into the domains of Night. There will be no more anger, rashness, doubt, malice or wilfulness to plague the Self with nightmare shapes of unbelief and terror. When the Mind is reborn in Light it takes the place of rebirth on Earth with all its troubles. Whosoever gains his Birth in God, abandoning the body's treacherous senses, knows himself to be made one with Light and Life, and knowing that he consists of these, he becomes filled with Bliss."

At this the disciple exclaimed joyfully: "By God and thy holy counsel made steadfast, O my Master, no longer do I see with the sight of my eyes, thinking they see Truth beholding Earthly things, but I see with the energy the Higher Mind has given me through the Power of the Light and Life of God. I am in Heaven, in sky and earth; in water and air; I am in animals, in plants; I'm in the womb, before the womb, after the womb; I'm everywhere! Yet I am free from all these things, knowing my Home in Truth and Light and Life Eternal; O, joyful day and blessed hour of my rehabitation!"

The Mind of the Master was glad when his good Disciple spoke these words, inspired by the Wisdom of Hermes, which had led him back to his true Home on High, whereas life on earth in a body made of clay is exile in slavery. Though, strange to say, few seem eager to seek the eternal joy of life in Light, being content to dwell on earth forever if only they could. And the Master spoke again unto his disciple, saying: "When the Mind frees itself from the earthly body, it straightway enters into the more volatile and ethereal body which awaits it in the next higher Realm. As it ascends from Realm to Realm, its vehicle becomes more and more ethereal until it is able to don the robe of pure, holy Fire within the Highest Realms of all, such as Enoch and Ezekiel beheld in their blessed visions.

"This is the Destiny of the Higher Mind, free from the body, which has fought the good fight of Truth and Wisdom against Lies and Ignorance. Such warriors on behalf of the Light are known to God and His Holy Ones who rule the Universe under His Majesty in strict Justice. They, who do wrong to none, but fight evil with righteousness and Wisdom, rescuing the persecuted from malice and leading it to Love and Freedom. Such Minds of Light are rejoined to their Souls. The impious ones remain in their own essence, chastised by their own deeds, ever seeking for another earthly body once they have departed from their present one. For the impious or cruel mind cannot rise to that which is good and of the true Light. Such minds are mired in darkness from which they cannot find release."

And the Disciple asked: "How, dear Master, is a man's Mind punished when it has accepted evil as its good?"
His Master told him that there is no greater chastisement than lack of piety, for there is no flame of torment so fierce as that of impiety, which is hedged with terrors and remorse, and there is no ravenous beast that so mauls the Mind as lack of piety and encirclement of evil in its many forms. Such a Mind cries out on all occasions: I burn, I am ablaze, I know not what to cry or do; ah, wretched me! I am devoured by all the ills that compass me about; alack, poor me, I neither see nor hear my happiness and my Redeemer holds himself aloof! Such are the cries wrung from the Mind chastised by itself and its vile tendencies. Such is the Law of Truth and Justice, and no evil one escapes it here on earth or in the realms of Light and darkness which encircle it about."

Thus did one Master instruct his worthy disciple with the imperishable and unchangeable Truths taught by the Divine Hermes in the long ago. May they find a lodging within your inmost heart and be unto you a guiding star in all the vicissitudes of earthly life. But do not forget your brothers and sisters either. Let your Mind of Light have compassion for the unhappy and unfortunate ones whose torments Hermes describes. Pray that the Light be given to them when they have learned their bitter lessons of remorse and turn to the better way, as all will do and must do in the end, however long it may take. This leads us to a most important teaching of Hermes found in the seventh book of the Poemander under the heading The Secret Sermon on the Mountain.

The doctrine of Regeneration

In 1904, the German philologist and scholar of Hermeticism and Gnosticism, Richard Reitzenstein (1861-1931), published his pioneering study of the Poemander or Poimandres: Studien zur Griechisch-Ägyptischen und frühchristlichen Literatur, as he called his work. As we told you in part two of this investigation, the word is generally thought to mean 'Shepherd of Man' but more recent scholarship think it is derived from the ancient Egyptian phrase peime-ent-ra, meaning "Knowledge of Ra" or "Understanding of Ra." Whatever the truth of these claims, there is no doubt that the 17 books which comprise the Poemander made about A.D. 300 by an Egyptian priest are the most valuable of the Hermetic texts we have today. Reitzenstein copiously edited his Poimandres which consists of Greek fragments of various ages belonging to several religious communities. The type of religion presented in these 17 books is generally Hellenized Egyptian, but in the seventh book we find a most remarkable dialogue between Hermes and his son Tat on the subject of Regeneration, part of which we reconstructed in our own words above. But the whole is well worth analysing in some depth, which we will now do.

Tat begins by reminding Hermes that he once said that no man can attain to union with God and have eternal life unless he is born again and estranges himself from the world of seeming—that is, the world of illusion we know on Earth. Tat says that he has done this, and begs to be instructed in the doctrine of Regeneration. Hermes replies: "It cannot be taught. God causes it to grow in human hearts. The event is a begetting. God's will begets. Those begotten are reborn; they are sons of God." Tat still presses his father to reveal more. He seeks to have a description of the new nature, and asks: "He who is born, of what sort is he? For that which is born will be another and will have no share in the noetic being which is me." The father can only reply that such knowledge is not taught, but, when God wills, He can cause it to come to mind. But the son asks again: "Do you mean that I who am by nature descended from my father am another's son? Explain to me the matter of the Regeneration." Hermes can give little light as to the method; but the results of the change are remarkable. Form loses its outline, and magnitude loses its dimensions. The mind cognises; no longer do the senses perceive. The injunction is: "Nullify the perceptions of the body and the birth of the Deity will take place in thee."

It is taught in the Corpus Hermeticum that Regeneration is the end and aim of all revelation. Occultists understand the term 'Regeneration' to mean Liberation from rebirth, or the Cycle of Necessity as it is sometimes called, which is to say, freedom from any further incarnations on earth. While Tat, in silent devotion, sits listening to the instruction of his father Hermes concerning the occult laws and principles, these manifestly enter into him and form his new 'I'. It is further taught that the judicious reader of the conversation between Hermes and Tat might also be regenerated by the grace of God. On the other hand, it is believed that a mere translation of the book would not have the same effect. Now, why should people think that? We will tell you. Because a translation would never contain the subtle meanings of the original words of the Initiate who wrote the book. Not because such words cannot be translated but because it needs an Initiate of the same calibre as the author of the book to put into new form the same subtleties and hidden meanings of the first writer. A translation of the mere words alone cannot do this. The words may be changed into another language, or replaced by others which give the secret meaning; but where does one find such an Initiate among the philosophers, historians and scholars who make these translations? If you have followed our investigation so far, you will agree with us that the answer is "nowhere."

Having said this, if a verbatim, word for word translation falls into the hands of a real Initiate, he will be inspired and see what has been left out or misunderstood by the translator. No one else will be able to do this. Now you know why we are so very scathing of inferior translations and translators in our many book reviews, and why we say that a literal word for word translation—however inelegant—is always to be preferred over one composed to appeal to 'modern' readers and written in 'modern' prose. The many modern editions of the Bible are the perfect example of how well-intentioned, but ignorant translators and scholars, have managed to remove almost all the hidden meanings in the book, as John Temple explains in his analysis of the esoteric truths to be found in the Old and New Testaments.

The idea or concept of Regeneration, or rebirth into a higher life, occurs in all religions. But there is also another kind of Regeneration, as mentioned in the Old Testament, where the word means turning away from evil, from chaos, from sin, from abomination, and so on. Thus there is an inward and outward form of the term. Both find an expression in the Jewish Scriptures. In the New Testament we find the Greek word and its synonyms, and 'generation' occurs twice there, meaning 'becoming new again'—a sort of reconstitution. It is proverbially difficult to translate emotions into words; and to very many of the early Christians who had previously been steeped in 'sin', the change which took place when they entered on the Christian life was so radical and so thorough that it demanded many modes of expression. Such an experience can be expressed only in figures. 'Regeneration' is only one of many metaphors employed in the New Testament, all of which are designed to express the fact that, before any man can enjoy the favour of God, a profound change must be wrought within him, which God alone can effect. The early Christians were so amazed at the change which had suddenly come over them that they framed all sorts of theories to account for it, describing their new experience in terms of the preconceptions of their own age and time.

Regeneration has also been compared with a change of clothing; clothing is external, Regeneration is internal, psychical and vital. In John 5:24 we may read: "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me. . .is passed from death unto life." And Ephesians 2:1 says further: "And you hath he quickened [cause to live], who were dead in trespasses and sins." These texts are sometimes taken to imply the instantaneousness of the new birth and the absolute deadness and insensibility of the human soul (Higher Mind in our terminology), as well as man's native incapacity for goodness and godliness; and thus they present difficulties to the scientist and the theologian alike. Many theologians feel obliged, however by the general trend of Scripture to regard the 'deadness' referred to as relative rather than absolute, and to consider man's spiritual nature as diseased and inert rather than literally dead; while the scientist, who objects to anything instantaneous and unprepared for, in any grade of life, organic or psychical, explains the apparent suddenness of the change in man's religious life by the hypothesis of the 'subliminal self' postulated by such psychologists as F. W. H. Myers, or the more modern term 'unconscious', which may mean anything or nothing, as you will readily see, for either mind may be 'unconscious' in relation to the other. It all depends upon which is in the ascendant at any particular time and the state of evolution of the individual man or woman, as we have discussed in several previous articles and especially in our Occult Studies Course.

We conclude our discussion of Regeneration in part five of this investigation. Meanwhile, we hope that what we have put before you has quickened your desire to learn more about the true Teachings of Hermes.

© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article published 12 July 2020. Updated 24 December 2022.

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