The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus: Hermeticism from Ancient to Modern Times

The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus: Hermeticism from Ancient to Modern Times

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"Perhaps Hermeticism has fascinated so many people precisely because it has made it possible to produce many analogies and relationships to various traditions: to Platonism in its many varieties, to Stoicism, to Gnostic ideas, and even to certain Aristotelian doctrines. The Gnostic, the esoteric, the Platonist, or the deist has each been able to find something familiar in the writings. One just had to have a penchant for remote antiquity, for the idea of a Golden Age, in order for Hermeticism, with its aura of an ancient Egyptian revelation, to have enjoyed such outstanding success."—from the Introduction

Hermes Trismegistus, "thrice-great Hermes," emerged from the amalgamation of the wisdom gods Hermes and Thoth and is one of the most enigmatic figures of intellectual history. Since antiquity, the legendary "wise Egyptian" has been considered the creator of several mystical and magical writings on such topics as alchemy, astrology, medicine, and the transcendence of God. Philosophers of the Renaissance celebrated Hermes Trismegistus as the founder of philosophy, Freemasons called him their forefather, and Enlightenment thinkers championed religious tolerance in his name. To this day, Hermes Trismegistus is one of the central figures of the occult—his name is synonymous with the esoteric.

In this scholarly yet accessible introduction to the history of Hermeticism and its mythical founder, Florian Ebeling provides a concise overview of the Corpus Hermeticum and other writings attributed to Hermes. He traces the impact of Christian and Muslim versions of the figure in medieval Europe, the power of Hermeticism and Paracelsian belief in Renaissance thought, the relationship to Pietism and to Freemasonry in early modern Europe, and the relationship to esotericism and semiotics in the modern world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801464881
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 686,705
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Florian Ebeling is a Lecturer at Heidelberg University. David Lorton, an Egyptologist, is the translator of many books, including Erik Hornung's books The Secret Lore of Egypt and Akhenaten and the Religion of Light, both from Cornell. The late David Lorton, an Egyptologist, was the translator of many books, including Ancient Egypt in 101 Questions and Answers, The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus, The Secret Lore of Egypt, and Akhenaten and the Religion of Light, all from Cornell. Jan Assmann is Professor Emeritus of Egyptology at Heidelberg University. His books include The Search for God in Ancient Egypt and Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, both from Cornell.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Jan AssmannIntroductionChapter 1. Prehistory and Early History of a Phantasm
What Are Hermetic Texts? — The Hermetic Texts of Late Antiquity — Hermes as Preacher of Theology and Philosophy — Hermes: Astrologer, Magus, and Alchemist — What Was Ancient Hermeticism?Chapter 2. The Middle Ages: Christian Theology and "Antediluvian" Magic
Christian Hermeticism — Arab Hermeticism — Hermes Latinus — Traditions of Medieval HermeticismChapter 3. Renaissance: Primeval Wisdom for a New World
Tradition or Rediscovery? — Hermeticism and Paracelsism — Religious Hermeticism — Two Paths of Hermeticism in the Early Modern PeriodChapter 4. Seventeenth Century: High Point and Decline
Casaubon and the Dating of the Hermetic Texts — Hermeticism and the Modern Natural Sciences — Hermeticism and Pietism — The Decrepitude of Hermeticism?Chapter 5. Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: Between Occultism and Enlightenment
Two German Editions of the Corpus Hermeticum — Hermes Trismegistus in Freemasonry — From Historical to Systematic HermeticismChapter 6. Twentieth Century: Systems and Esoterica
Julius Evola and Esoteric Hermeticism — Umberto Eco's Hermetic Semiosis and Heinrich Rombach's HermeticismChronology
Select Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

Martin Muslow

"Hermeticism was one of the major undercurrents in western intellectual and religious history, hard to overestimate and present even there where one would not expect it in the first place. Florian Ebeling's book proves a reliable guide through its long trajectory, combining the virtues of clear analysis and breadth of perspective."

Gerald E. Kadish

"The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus will be especially interesting to those studying the various intellectual strains in Western culture from late antiquity into the eighteenth century. Florian Ebeling has ventured something quite original, namely to distinguish the philosophical/theological emphases of the Italians who were interested in the hermetic corpus and the magico-alchemical concerns of the northern European readers of the corpus."

Richard Jasnow

"Hermeticism is a fascinating but famously difficult subject. Ranging widely in space and time, The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus skillfully introduces the reader to the many gods, philosophers, scholars, and authors who comprise the Hermetic tradition. In this excellent book Florian Ebeling makes accessible a rich chapter of intellectual history, hitherto basically the preserve of a small group of specialists."

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