Δευτέρα, 3 Δεκεμβρίου 2012

Hermetism


Gnosis and Hermeticism From Antiquity to Modern Times 
Roelof van den Broek and Wouter J. Hanegraaff.
(State University of New York Press)

The eighteen essays in this collection originated from lectures at Amsterdam Summer University in 1994. 
The stated objective for the volume is to highlight the importance of the third "current" or component of Western culture, characterized by resistance to the dominance of the presumed twin pillars of the European cultural tradition: rational inquiry from ancient Greek philosophy to modern science, and biblical faith.

From  Chapter 1 

Gnosticism and Hermetism in Antiquity: Two Roads to Salvation

Hermetism

Hermetism In a number of specific Hermetic writings the influence of Greek philosophical ideas is very conspicuous, much more than in the Gnostic treatises. However, there is here also a serious problem of definition: What do we exactly mean when we speak of Hermetism? 
Formally speaking it is easy enough, for everything ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, the ancient Egyptian sage, or to his first pupils (his son Tat or his associate Ammon in particular) can be said to be Hermetic. 

Thus there are philosophical, magical, astrological, and later also alchemical writings ascribed to Hermes, but these writings have so much in common with others that do not bear his name that the term Hermetic becomes almost meaningless. When I speak about Hermetism here I primarily have in mind the teachings and doctrines found in the so-called philosophical Hermetica. 
To these writings belong the seventeen treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum (henceforth abbreviated as CH), the Latin Asclepius, 14 the Armenian Hermetic Definitions,15 and the Coptic Hermetica found at Nag Hammadi, of which the new treatise entitled The Eighth and the Ninth Sphere (Codex VI.6) is the most important.16

These writings show a strong philosophical influence, in particular of Stoicism and later Platonism. In their teachings about God, the cosmos, and man the Hermetists made use of all kinds of views developed by Greek philosophy and science. It is even possible to write a commentary on these Hermetic tractates almost exclusively based on the Greek philosophical traditions found in them.17 
But then one is missing the point, for the central concern of these writings is not philosophical but religious. Their authors were convinced that, in the end, it is not philosophical reasoning but divine revelation that leads to the truth. The philosophical Hermetica teach a way by which the soul can ascend to the divine realm above the sphere of the fixed stars from which it has originally come down. 

There it mingles with the divine powers, comes to "see," that is, to know God, which means to become absorbed in God. As the Poimandres puts it: "This is the final good for those who have received knowledge [gnosis]: to be made god" (CH I.26). This deification will be fully attained after death when the soul ascends to God, but it can also be an inner experience during this earthly life, at the end of a process of Hermetic instruction culminating in mystical initiation. 
The ascent to the divine realm after death is described in the Poimandres (CH I.2426), the inner experience in CH XIII, called On being born again and on the promise to be silent, and in the Eighth and the Ninth Sphere.

As indicated above, the Gnostic and in particular the Hermetic texts of antiquity cannot be fully explained without reference to Greek philosophical traditions, but their main argument is distinctly religious. They both claim to have received their knowledge of the divine world and the fate of the soul from divine revelations. As we saw, the Gnostics of Rome appealed to revelations ascribed to visionaries such as Zostrianus, Allogenes, and the like. 
One of the basic texts of second-century Gnosticism, the Apocryphon of John, is put into the mouth of Christ himself, albeit only secondarily. The Hermetic Poimandres (CH I) claims to be a revelation by the Supreme Divine Mind to a unnamed pupil who already in antiquity was identified with Hermes Trismegistus. 18 In CH XIII and in the Eighth and the Ninth Sphere Hermes is the mystagogue who reveals the divine mysteries. 

This attribution of essential teachings to divine revelation characterizes Gnosticism and Hermetism as basically religious movements. With respect to the soul's final state of bliss as well there is not much difference between Gnosticism and Hermetism. The salvation of the soul consists in its deliverance from the bonds of the body and its return to its divine origin. The indispensable prerequisite for this return, and at the same time its instant realization, is a spiritual understanding (gnosis) of the nature of man, of the cosmos, and of the divine world. 

It seems that the Hermetists put much emphasis on a systematic instruction in "the way of Hermes," leading up to a final initiation into the Hermetic mysteries that they described as a mystic experience. In Gnosticism there is less interest in the intellectual aspects of the way to gnosis, all emphasis being laid on the gift of gnosis as the direct experience of salvation and enlightenment. 
But both in Hermetism and Gnosticism the basic idea is the fundamental identity between the soul and the divine and in both movements the final goal is the return of the soul to its origin, its reunion with God.

However, these similarities cannot conceal the great differences that separate Gnostics and Hermetists with respect to three fundamental issuesnamely, the doctrines of God (theology), of the visible world (cosmology), and of man (anthropology).

About the Author :

Roelof van den Broek is Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. He has also written The Myth of the Phoenix: According to Classical and Early Christian Traditions and Studies in Gnosticism and Alexandrian Christianity.
Also at the University of Utrecht, Wouter J. Hanegraaff is a Research Fellow in the Study of Religions.
He is the author of New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought.

Buy :  http://www.amazon.ca/Gnosis-Hermeticism-Antiquity-Modern-Times/dp/0791436128
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