Are we simply living in one major hermetic process?
OK. Mythology is all about archetypes – those big patterns that come up again and again in the world and in our lives and in our personalities.
Mythology (and fables and fairy tales), well, stories generally, never fail to enchant us.
Even our modern story machines – movies – have a predictable pattern or rhythm to them. Scenes start downhill and end up victorious, next scene is victorious and ends up going wrong. A continuous rollercoaster for your emotions. It’s a formula. An ancient formula, at that. One designed to keep you enthralled. Remember that.
Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung are people to check out for more information about consistency of archetypes and mythology around the world.
Anyway. Let me tell you a story that starts in ancient times, and which weaves it’s scenes fully into our modern life even today. Especially today.
Do you remember your Greek Mythology? Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Artemis, Athena and others? My first serious grown up book was the Larousse Encyclopedia of World Mythology, which my dad bought for me, at my request, when I was only 10. I poured over this huge book (for a little girl) for hours and hours and hours. Often. It’s interesting how the foundations of your future become established.
Anyway, I want to focus on one character in particular. He was one of Zeus’s many children, so he was a brother to Apollo and to Ares, and a slew of others. I want to spotlight Hermes.
Hermes is that zippy little character, with wings on his shoes and on his funny tin hat. Right from the start, when he was born, his charm and his mischief both frustrated and endeared him to his relatives.
Hermes was a trickster, an excellently adept and nimble thief. He could make himself invisible with a special cap.
He was the protector of merchants, shepherds, and all things underworld, like gamblers, liars, and thieves.
But he was also a sweet talker who could make bad things look terrific.
But, (and this is an important but) he was also a messenger. An intermediary between heaven and earth, between earth and the underworld, humanity and the Gods and Goddesses, the conscious and the subconscious. He was a link between worlds, but without making any judgment.
It was Hermes who helped Orpheus to lead his adored Eurydice back from the land of the dead, except Orpheus broke the rule of looking behind him to make sure Eurydice was indeed following.
It was Hermes who is credited with bringing maths and science into the world. It is Hermes who brought trade and commerce into the world.
Now, Greek Mythology heavily influenced and shaped Roman Mythology, when Rome conquered Greece in …
The Romans based a lot of their civilization on what the Greeks had been achieving for hundreds of years. Philosophy, Architecture, …
And the Greek Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses became Romanised as well.
So Zeus is equivalent to Jupiter, his wife Hera is equivalent to Juno, Artemis is Diana. And Hermes is equivalent to Mercury. Like the planet closest to the Sun.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that Hermes, as Mercury, is deeply embedded into our cultural foundation. As commerce, commercial, merchant, mercenary, mercantile, market.
And his symbol, the Caduceus , is often a symbol of merchants primarily. Its widespread use as a medical symbol, particularly in the US (I have to check in Australia) is an interesting story in itself.
Hermes wasn’t really associated with medicine, but strongly with commerce. So how did a commerce symbol come to be used as a medical symbol?
Most people probably wouldn’t know the difference between the Rod of Asclepius and the Caduceus, so it’s a simple piece of weaving one symbol and people just assuming it to be another symbol. A perfect example of Hermes being tricky again.
Now, switch back to the ancient world, into Ancient Egypt. Egypt is generally regarded to have been a major centre for practical and esoteric learning, like an ancient centralised prestigious university. Researchers and students travelled far and wide, from India, Persia and beyond, to both share and further their own knowledge on the mysteries of life and the rules that bound it, both physically and metaphysically. For instance, some modern scholars speculate that the pyramids were built by levitating the stones through sound waves that had an anti-gravitational effect. Something that science is on the verge of rediscovering.
And the Egyptians certainly appeared to have the Death Mysteries seemingly well researched at great depths, sufficient to pivot much of their culture around it.
Now, there emerged this great teacher – Hermes Trismegistus, or Hermes, the Thrice-Great – whose influence still reaches out to our current time. There is a lot of speculation as to who this person was, whether or not it was a single person, or a collection of great teachers. Myth has it that it was the god Hermes himself.
Regardless, it is true to say that he had a far reaching influence. His Mystery School teachings were collectively called Hermeticism. The Hermetic School, and many other mystery schools flourished until about 300 CE when there was a major power struggle involving the newly emerging Christian Church. The burning of the great library at Alexandria was the point in time when Hermeticism went underground.
Which, appropriately enough, fits with the character of Hermes, who was equally at home in the underworld, as in the outer world.
Now, a quick highlight of what was involved in the Hermetic teachings.
The Hermetic Arts are Alchemy, Medicine/Pharmacy, Chemistry, Mining, and Metallurgy.
Thinly disguised Hermeticism is seen in studies of the Kabalah, Gnosticism, Grail myths, Alchemy, Wicca, Theosophy, and modern day Paganism.
As above, so below, is one of the central tenets of Hermeticism.
Regardless of who the individuals were who set into motion the Hermes Trismegistus lore, the fact that the god Hermes is energetically drawn in, give, I believe, a major, major clue – hidden in plain sight – the dynamics of the trickster and psychopomp at work in our historic and modern culture.
(A psychopomp is someone who travels between worlds, such as the land of the dead and the land of the living. Or the world of light and the world of shadows.)
Hermeticism is the foundation of many hidden societies such as the Freemasons, Rosicrucians and the alleged Illuminati. These societies are the hidden culture weavers that create the fabric of our society.
It is important to remember that Hermes is one who travels easily between the shadow and the light. Without judgment of, or allegiance to either one.
Hermes was also an emissary of his father, Zeus. He simply did his bidding. So it would be a reasonable extension of the simile of Hermes and the hidden Hermetic culture weavers, that they too are emissaries, simply doing the bidding of a higher power.
What might this bidding be? I take my clues from the almost pervasive dynamics of Alchemy, which is entwined through most of the Hermetic teachings.
Namely, the purification of the base elements. Turning lead into gold.
Many people, past and present, have taken this literally. And certainly, with the “As above, so below” teachings, it could be expected to have be just as effective in the physical world as in the metaphysical. But the physicality, is, I believe, a distraction. At least, for the unwary.
No. The more I look into this, the more I am convinced of the Hermetic game playing happening upon the human race. With members of the hidden societies simply being the shuttle-weavers, bringing in new elements to move the collective alchemical process along.
They weave in elements of truth and deception, outrage and celebration, catastrophes and miracles, oppression and liberation.
Now, while the hidden culture weavers may shape the collective transmutation from baseness into purity, we are each individually responsible for our own transmutation into purity.