How can I understand hermetics
One of the most enigmatic figures in intellectual history
A fictional Egyptian with a long tradition: Florian Ebeling from the Department of Egyptology at the University of Heidelberg on the subject of "The Secret of Hermes Trismegistos. History of Hermetism"
Hermes Trismegistus is one of the most enigmatic figures in intellectual history. Because the legendary wise Egyptian has been the author of a number of mystical and magical writings since ancient times. But he never existed. Because Hermes Trismegistos is a fictional character who emerged from the merging of two very different gods - the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek Hermes. Regardless of this, the history of so-called hermetism that began in antiquity continues to this day. Renaissance philosophers celebrated Hermes Trismegistus - 'three times the greatest Hermes', as the name was transferred - as the founder of philosophy. The Freemasons made him their ancestor, while enlighteners fought for religious tolerance on his behalf.
In addition, it can still be felt today - as one of the central figures of esotericism as well as in everyday language, as Florian Ebeling explains in his book "The Secret of Hermes Trismegistos": "In everyday language, 'hermetic' means something that is firmly closed from which nothing can come out and into which nothing can penetrate from outside. Language or texts are then 'hermetic' when they are initially incomprehensible. Although the everyday use of the term is certainly based on the ethos of secrecy, which is the subject of numerous hermetic writings , is derived, the contemporary uses this term mostly without recourse to Hermes Trismegistus and the writings ascribed to him. "
And there are quite a few of them, as Ebeling's interesting book proves, in which the author offers a generally understandable - albeit demanding - overview of the "Corpus Hermeticum". The scientist working at the Department of Egyptology at the University of Heidelberg thus paves the reader a sensible and practicable path to a seemingly confusing topic, since the term "hermetism" becomes more and more incomprehensible on closer inspection. Because where some authors understand by hermetism only the history of alchemy, numerous esoteric or occultists find a rich field of questionable theories, which view the hermetic doctrine as a doctrine of the superordinate laws of nature, what the hermetic - which one cannot with the hermeneutics, the science of understanding, confusing - positioned outside the natural sciences. At the same time, in the opinion of some followers, hermetics even offers the possibility of making predictions about the future and being able to change reality with magic.
Finding a clear line here to approach Hermetism in a serious way was certainly no easy undertaking. And yet the author - who initially set a limit and only considered writings that are explicitly attributed to the figure of Hermes Trismegistus - succeeded in creating a well-founded history of Hermetism. Ebeling thus offers a good overview of the "Corpus Hermeticum", in which he presents the various writings and traces the history of the reception of hermetic literature from antiquity through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment to the present day. For the first time, a scientific introduction to the history of hermetism, free of any mystification, is available, which allows an interesting look at one of the most enigmatic figures in intellectual history.
Info: Florian Ebeling: "The Secret of Hermes Trismegistos. History of Hermetism". C. H. Beck Verlag Munich. 214 p., 8 ills., 12.90 euros.
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press spokesman for the University of Heidelberg
Tel. 06221 542310, Fax 542317
Tel. 06221 542311, Fax 542317
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