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What is Hermeticism?


Hermeticism is an esoteric religion based on the supposed writings of Hermes Trismegistus, whose name means “Hermes, Thrice Great” in Greek. Most likely, Hermes Trismegistus was not a historical person. The personage is thought to be an amalgamation of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. Several facts point to these two gods being synonymous or in some manner combined and having similar roles in the Greek and Egyptian pantheons. Hermes Trismegistus was a deity of writing, magic, astrology, and alchemy. The Bible does not mention Hermeticism, but it does condemn the worship of gods other than the one true God (Deuteronomy 4:15–24; 1 Corinthians 10:1).

Hermeticism claims to be an ancient philosophy that predates all religions and from which all religions stem. Hermes Thrice-Great is believed to be an ancient deity associated with the earliest dynasties of Egypt. On the Temple of Esna, to Thoth, there is an inscription that says, “Thoth, the great, the great, the great,” which may be the first instance of the thrice-great name. Some Jewish traditions teach that Abraham was taught by Hermes, and some Christian writers in the past believed that Hermes Trismegistus was a pagan prophet who foretold the coming of Christianity. The writings attributed to him, called the Hermetica or Hermetic Corpus are pseudepigraphal—that is, they were written by someone other than the purported author. This collection of wisdom texts about the divine, the cosmos, the mind, nature, alchemy, and astrology is dated to around the first century AD. Followers of Hermeticism in ancient times were alchemists and magicians or sorcerers.

Today, students of Hermeticism and the occult believe that there is a secret library containing the “forty-two essential texts” of Hermes Trismegistus that are a kind of New Age holy grail of wisdom. Other New Age philosophers have claimed to have been taught by Hermes Trismegistus while in a trance state. Mystic Edgar Cayce claimed Hermes Trismegistus was an engineer from the lost city of Atlantis who helped construct the pyramids of Egypt. Other spiritualists have called him a new incarnation of Thoth.

A prime characteristic of Hermeticism appears to be the search for secret wisdom or knowledge. For this reason, and because Hermeticism and Gnosticism rose to popularity during the same era, the two systems are sometimes confused with each other. There is undeniably something tantalizing about the idea that somewhere out there is a hidden vault or secret book that explains all of life’s mysteries and opens doors to another realm of wisdom. However, according to the Bible, wisdom is not set aside for a select few who have the key to a secret door; rather, wisdom is free to all (Proverbs 8). God’s wisdom is deep and unsearchable (Romans 11:33), but He is generous to give it to those who seek it from Him (James 1:5). God’s wisdom is high above the grasp of the wise man and the scholar, and God chooses to give it to those who believe, rather than those who try to attain it with their minds and with striving (1 Corinthians 1:20–21). “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22–24).

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022