Spiritus Hermeticum: part five
An investigation of the origins of Hermeticism and the true teachings of Hermes Trismegistus
In the first part of this 12-part investigation we discussed the origins of Hermeticism and the Greek and Egyptian conceptions of the God variously known as Thoth, Theuth, Tat, and Tahuti. In the second part we considered the origins and extent of the Corpus Hermeticum. This was followed in parts three and four by an examination of the actual teachings of Hermes as they have come down to us in the Poemander, the Asclepios and the various Hermetic fragments. In this part we continue our discussion of the subject of Regeneration begun last month and tell you more about Hermes the man and Thoth the God.
Our principal aim, as we have explained from the very beginning of this investigation, is to uncover the original truths the man Hermes taught to his disciples, and to distinguish these without fail from the half-truths and speculations grafted onto them over the centuries by the many translators, editors and commentators through whose hands the Corpus Hermeticum has passed.
In the twelve afterwords accompanying this investigation we are meticulously dissecting the so-called Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean written by the 20th century occultist—Dr Maurice Doreal. In parts one to four we examined his life and career and the many ideas and teachings which influenced the fabrication of the aforementioned tablets. In this afterword we begin our examination of the tablets themselves.
In part six published in September 2020, we uncover more of the true teachings of Hermes and analyse Doreal's presumptuous pastiche of them. If you have not read parts one to four, now is the time to do so, for this investigation forms an ascending scale of revelation which cannot be understood by skimming through individual articles in a haphazard and piecemeal manner.
The doctrine of Regeneration continued
The 17th century Puritan clergyman, Stephen Charnock (1628-1680), whose discourses on Regeneration were for many years the great authority on this subject, defined it as a "powerful change, wrought in the soul by the efficacious working of the Holy Spirit, wherein a vital principle, a new habit, the law of God and a divine nature are put into and framed in the heart, enabling it to act holy and pleasingly to God." Charnock assures us in another place that Regeneration is "not an addition to nature," or a "change in the substance of the soul," meaning Higher Mind or Self in our terminology. Rather, he tells us: "As in the cure of a man, health is not added to the disease; but the disease is dispelled and another form and habit set in its place." We thus learn from him that though Regeneration is not an addition to nature, and the new creation gives no new faculties, yet a vital principle is put into the heart, and a new form is introduced. An American theologian from Princeton University tell us that there are no 'new faculties' obtained through Regeneration, but there are 'new principles.' Hence from him we obtain a definition of the word 'principle', which we seek in vain in Charnock. He defines it as "that foundation which is laid in nature, either old or new, for any particular kind or manner of exercise of the faculties of the soul." In other words, a 'principle' is a new ability or function established within the Higher Self enabling it to extend and augment its existing understanding.
However, neither the theologian in question, nor Charnock, discovered what Regeneration really is, no matter how subtle their arguments were. Nothing 'new' is laid in the heart, mind or soul at all, whose 'foundations' are unchanged at all times and under all conditions, here on earth or in any other dimension or realm of being the mind may find itself in. What really takes place during 'regeneration' is an awakening of the faculties that were present in the Higher Self from the beginning of its conscious existence. Or shall we say it is a re-awakening of the Higher Self which is either wholly- or half-asleep in most men and women on earth?
Psychology fails altogether to analyse or explain Regeneration since it is ignorant of the existence of the two minds or selves in man. In trying to analyse consciousness by interrogating experience and studying behaviour psychologists are like the prisoners in Plato's allegory of the Cave who mistake the shadows they see for realities, for they know nothing of the Higher Self, never mind the Divine Soul. Hence all these theologians, psychologists, philosophers and every one else, leave the path of simplicity and become lost in the byways of speculation, to be entirely lost in the labyrinths of misunderstanding! Another theologian described Regeneration as "an abdication of our own individuality, allowing the Holy Spirit to evoke a complete metamorphosis of our human nature." We need hardly add that this is completely wrong in every way. We cannot, even if we wanted to, 'abdicate our own individuality,' meaning lose all consciousness of who and what we are. It would make a complete mockery of creating that consciousness in the first place, whether it is the consciousness of the Higher or lower self. Nor can we achieve a 'complete metamorphosis of our human nature' in that way. True, we may refine or degrade our 'human nature,' if by this the learned cleric meant our personality of the lower self, but it remains human in every way, it cannot suddenly become god-like or devilish, overnight as it were!
How misleading all such theories and concepts are to those of us in search of Truth and nothing but the Truth. As we have pointed out repeatedly in this investigation and in many of our other articles, but cannot emphasize often enough, there are thousands of these theories and concepts, not one being all correct, though we have gleams of truth here and there, which blind the seeker all the more on account of their being only half-true. One Biblical scholar came nearest to a solution of what Regeneration really is when he stated: "It is like another and higher will sustaining ours, and gradually subduing the whole nature to itself—till the natural life becomes 'spiritual' life." Here he senses the influence of the Divine Soul upon the Higher Self, so that the lower self shall lose its grip on the Higher, and the Self turns away from the absolute 'material' in which it dwelt before, and now reaches out to the higher Spiritual conditions in which the Soul ever dwells. This then is the correct and simple explanation of Regeneration and the changes it brings about.
It is an ancient, just and true Law that whereas the father of a man gives him his earthly body in which the Higher Mind slumbers and only the lower mind is awake, the Spiritual Father, who is, or should be, the True Teacher, is he who awakens that sleeping Higher Mind and shows it the Way to the Light—or to the darkness. Therefore, the deepest reverence and respect are due to that Spiritual Father who draws the curtain and shows what lies beyond. . . . IF he is a Teacher of Light. This is true Regeneration, but alas, how few can understand this Law, and not lose the Way to Salvation by forsaking the True Teacher for the purveyors of fantasy and falsehood! The body of matter perishes, but the Body of Light lives on for ever, therefore: pray for your Spiritual Father and give unto him all the love and loyalty of which you are capable. For as a dead man cannot inherit an estate, so it is impossible for the dead, which means the sleeping, Higher Mind to inherit heaven. Unless that Mind, or Self, is awakened, and is shown the Way by one who has walked the path before, it sleeps on and dwells within the realms of nightmares or restless dreams. The life of a godly man, who knows his divine Destiny, is like a flowing river whose wavelets glitter in the light of the heavenly Sun; the ungodly man, the ungrateful one who quarrels with his Teacher, is like a stagnant pool or a dead sea, filled with bitterness. The man who is shown the true Laws and Principles of occult science, as we have endeavoured to introduce them to you in our many articles, but turns away from them, as a dog returns to its vomit, is more surely lost than he whose Mind was never awakened at all. In his next incarnation, and in many incarnations to follow, the foolish seeker will hunger in vain for the Light, if that desire is still within him; he will knock at many doors, but they will remain firmly closed. This is the opposite of Regeneration: it is degeneration, and the direst fate any man or woman can experience.
Thoth—the Shepherd of Man
One writer states that the character of Thoth—the Shepherd of Man—is, in the mind of the ancient Egyptians, a lofty and beautiful conception, and is, perhaps, the highest idea of deity ever fashioned in the Egyptian mind. However, he adds that the Egyptians were somewhat prone to dwell on the material side of divine matters. He evidently did not realise that the 'material side' of divine matters is of the utmost importance in occult science as we pointed out to you long ago in our article on Why Matter matters. For unless we make the effort to understand the material and its laws, the spiritual will remain a closed book to us.
As to Thoth himself, it is quite clear, as has been pointed out by some thinkers, that Thoth held in the minds of the Egyptians a position quite different from that of any of their other Gods, and that the attributes which were ascribed to him were unlike the greater number of those of any member of their companies of Gods, such as that of Heliopolis, which was the oldest of such groups of deities, dating back to the First Dynasty and probably earlier. This originally comprised of eight Gods, divided into two groups of four male and four female deities. All personified specific aspects of the creation, or rather manifestation, of the Kosmos from the primeval matter. In order of appearance these Gods were Nu and Nut, Hehu and Hehut, Kekui and Kekuit and Gerh and Gerhet, also transliterated as Kerh and Kerhit. The first pair symbolized the primeval water, the second the male and female powers of Fire, the third the male and female powers of the darkness which covered the primeval waters, and the fourth 'day' and 'night', or the separation of the waters above from the waters below, as we find recorded in Genesis, in the Bible, which, for those who take the trouble to analyse these enigmatic verses, are a faithful, albeit distorted copy of the ancient Egyptian Cosmogenesis.
Thoth, then, was the Divine Shepherd, the guide of those who were far enough advanced spiritually to receive instruction by that Holy Being, either directly in the case of the great Hierophants who presided over the Sacred Mysteries in Egypt, or indirectly, in the case of the Masters and Initiates below them in rank. The Egyptians conceived the visible creation as the counterpart of the unseen world, and this is correct. The substance of this conception consisted not of a mere vague belief in the life beyond the grave, but in tracing out the Path whereby the Just, when the portal of the tomb is raised, passed through the successive stages of Initiation, of Illumination, and of Perfection, necessary to fit them for an endless union with Light, the Mind of the Great Creator and that Creator Himself. Thus we are told that at a certain point in Aaru or Aahlu as it is also transliterated in the Book of the Dead, the Territory of Illumination, the purified Soul (Higher Mind), has achieved the 'Passage of the Sun'—that is to say, has passed beyond the mortal mind-plane, or, in other words, is now free from the allurements of the lower mind. He opens the Gates of the Celestial Nile and receives the Atef-crown, fashioned after the form of the Zodiacal Light, the glory of the Supreme Heaven, and this gives him entrance to Amenta, equivalent to the region or plane of the Astral Fire described so eloquently and truly in Vision Six of The Golden Star by J Michaud PhD. The Guide and Conductor is Thoth who here personifies the Eternal Wisdom which is the Light of the Mind.
The Book of the Dead goes on to tell us that Thoth, the Divine Shepherd of Man, clothes the departed who is Justified in Light in a garment of 'pure linen', that is, in a substance which by its purity and brilliancy reminds us of the mantles, woven out of rays of light, wherewith the sun enwraps the Earth afresh each day as the Earth rotates before him. So is the Mind of man invested with new radiance each time he turns to the Presence of his Creator. Thoth was also the Great Reckoner, the Recorder of the Balance of Justice, the Teller of the Scales of Fate and Destiny.
In all these ways, true Religion blossomed in ancient Egypt under the care of the Shepherd of Man, bringer of life and Wisdom. Not until the Mind of Light speaks to his light can any man be sure of his amazing future. He can but see the ruins of the past when the Light is absent, like the traveller beneath whom flows the river Rhine sees many ruined castles on its banks; but his blind eyes cannot behold the source of the great River, high up on distant Alps, nor can he see the ocean that drinks each drop with relish, just as each Soul is drunk in by Eternity so soon it leaves the Earth, to find some other Alp from whence to resume its journey. All the unawakened man can see is that the world is a bubble, and life of man less than a span; he is wretched in his conceptions from womb to tomb, and will not hear the voice within that could unfold him tales of wonder and of happiness would he but listen. He is one speck in that innumerable caravan of other specks, blown hither and thither at the mercy of the winds of Fate. How sombre a conception, how tragic must be the thought of those thus shackled by the iron fetters of the vapid thoughts of the lower self.
There are those who enter this world richly endowed with all the treasures and comforts it has to offer, to walk on velvet lawns and smooth terraces, where every gale is arrested and every shaft of sun tempered for their ease. There are others who walk upon the bare mountains, or stumble in the swamps of misery. Which would you choose if it were in your power to make a firm decision? Impossible, you say? Not so; you can make your choice right now, and live, and think, and act in such a way that the portals of Joy are open to welcome you when your task on Earth is done. Are you rich and happy? Then you have deserved this in a previous life on Earth or in other Realms of being. Is it otherwise? Then the same holds true, and this will be a lesson to do otherwise and find that bliss you may see even here on Earth when watching others who seem to be the children of capricious fortune.
Live in such a way that you may truly find Life and Light in times to come, having earned these blessings, that the Shepherd of Man may receive you with open arms, smiling WELCOME to the traveller. No sun ever sets but to rise again, and the present shadows will be dispersed by that great Light in Life and Beauty. Life on Earth is an Unfinished Symphony, the conclusion of which is found in Heaven, or down below in the realms of darkness and misery described so vividly in Dr Michaud's prophetic masterpiece Symphonie Fantastique. If you have not read it now is your opportunity to amend the omission. The grand theme of this book is Regeneration, and nowhere else do we find such clear and correct explanations of what body, mind and soul really are, as well as 'astral' projection, 'fallen angels', and the conditions to be found in the lower astral planes. So, whatever your present situation, remember that he who lives wisely lives well, for time misspent is not lived, but lost. Enjoy your Lease of Life on Earth that you may find your Freehold in Heaven.
All Truth, all Awareness, all Wisdom, reside within the Mind of Light of the Great Shepherd. The Egyptian texts tell us that Thoth is the mediator through whom our world is brought into manifestation. The German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884) described him as the Tongue of Ra, the Herald of the Will of Ra, and the Lord of the Sacred Speech. All these appellations are correct and well worth meditating upon. On a monument of the Pharaoh Seti I who flourished in the 13th century B.C., the Shepherd of Man is called "Scribe of the nine Gods", who writes the Truth of the Nine Gods, and is also called "Scribe of the King of Gods and men." All this contains great Wisdom of the right sort. For these reasons Thoth is rightly regarded as the inventor of the hieroglyphics and patron and protector of all temple-archives and libraries, and of all scribes. He is the Lord in the Hall of Books, which is a reference to the famous Library of Osymandias, at Thebes, which was known as 'The Great House of Life', and what better title could one think of when talking of a Mansion which once upon a time held all the sacred books known to the ancient Egyptians? The sacred books were called 'The Great Gnoses of Thoth', as we can read in the Coptic Codex Brucianus (also called the Bruce Codex)—a gnostic manuscript acquired by the British Museum In 1769.
The Egyptians said of Thoth: "Thou hast given life in the Land of the Living; Thou hast made them live in the Region of Flames; Thou hast given respect of thy counsels in the breasts and in the hearts of men—mortals, intelligences, creatures of Light." This is a concealed reference to the three Grades in the Egyptian Mysteries which were constituted as follows.
- Mortals: probationary pupils who were instructed in the doctrines, but who had not yet realised the inner vision.
- Intelligences: those whose Inner Mind had been opened and so had become 'men', as it was then said; in other words, they were men who had in this way 'received' the Higher Mind.
- The Highest Grade consisted of the Sons of Light: who were those who had become 'One' with the Light, or the great Mind of Thoth; they were those who had become fully aware of the Shepherd of Man.
According to the 20th century Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934), Thoth and Maat stand one on either side of the Great God of the Sun in his Boat, and their existence was believed to be coeval with his own. Maat is thus seen to be the feminine counterpart of Thoth, and her name is associated with the idea of Truth and Righteousness, or with that which is right, true, real, genuine, upright, steadfast and unalterable. Thus she is the Goddess of Truth in its highest sense. We agree with Budge here, for he was a man we may trust to a very large extent when he speaks about Egypt, a man who had a most unusual insight when it came to interpreting the ancient Manuscripts and Papyri, the Hymns to Ra in the Ritual of the Book of the Dead, and in works of a similar nature. This is probably the reason he is now so sadly out of favour among Egyptologists, or to use the contemporary meme, has been comprehensively 'cancelled'.
Thoth is most often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis. Now, the Egyptians were not so ignorant as to suppose that their Gods and Goddesses really had the heads of various birds and animals, nor did their wandering fancy see any likeness in their deities to such creatures. Least of all had they any intention of making puzzles to baffle future generations of scholars and Egyptologists! Having observed that certain animals and birds possessed specific qualities and characteristics such as courage (lion), penetrating vision (hawk) or faithfulness (dog), they adopted these zootypes to symbolize the same virtues in their Gods and Goddesses. If you think about it—as you should—is this not an eminently more scientific way of conveying information that the incomprehensible verbiage beloved of modern science? But such elegant solutions are far too simple for the prolixious minds of most Egyptologists, past and present, who still insist that the ancient Egyptians were a bunch of priest-bound necrophiles who worshipped animal-headed Gods. Hence, it is no surprise that the average person, reared on such mad fantasies, subscribes to such infantile fallacies, much the same as it is still widely believed that the Great Pyramid was a tomb built by slaves.
Let us now unveil the mystery that continues to puzzle the clever Egyptologists who investigate the ancient Egyptian religion and mostly fail to make any sense of it. The reason why Thoth, the Mind of Light and Shepherd of Man, is symbolised by the Ibis, whether in human form with the head of an Ibis or as the entire bird itself is really very simple if one considers the following. When the Egyptians wished to write the word 'heart' they drew an Ibis, as we may still observe in the hieroglyph. Now Thoth, or Hermes, was He who held the scales of Balance between Light and Darkness, or Horus and Set, and the highest form of Light is the Hidden Sun, as we told you in our article about the Occult Sun, quoting H. P. Blavatsky, who wrote in The Secret Doctrine: "The Sun is the heart of the Solar System and its brain is hidden behind the (visible) Sun." Not only is the Sun behind the Sun the heart of our Kosmos, it is the heart of all other Solar Systems, and in a larger sense, the entire Universe too.
The ancient Egyptians considered the Ibis the wisest of birds, far exceeding man in cunning and intelligence, and it is the white Ibis, or Ibis religiosa with which the symbol of Thoth is concerned. Even today there is an echo of this ancient wisdom among the natives of the Sudan, who consider that the intelligence of the Ibis is of the highest order. As the Shepherd of Man in our Solar System, Thoth is a reflection of the Light of the Heart of our Universe, together with His divine Consort, Maat, mentioned earlier, and together they are the Dispensers of all Knowledge, all Wisdom, and all Understanding. When Thoth is represented as the dog-headed Ape, the reason for this symbol is the same, for the Ape is considered to be the wisest of all animals, as the Ibis is the wisest of birds. But we must not become confused when we see the Ape seated on the top of the Beam of Balance as depicted in the illustrations from the Book of the Dead included in our article on the Weighing of the Heart. In this context the Ape tells Thoth—his Master—when the beam is level; for all symbols have different meanings from time to time and according to the use to which they are put as we have explained many times in our many articles on symbolism and the Mystery Language. So the significance of the 'Balancer' when he sits on top of the beam, is obvious. It is Thoth who stands at the meeting of the Two Ways, to Light or to Darkness, and whose Divine Mind knows the purposes of both Ways, and the state of evolution and consciousness of he who approaches Him for Judgement.
The Book of the Dead mentions a mysterious 'Net' which has puzzled many writers about Egypt and continues to do so. Budge suggests rightly that there was a Net in the so-called Underworld, and that it was greatly feared by the deceased if he should come into contact with it. The deceased had to know all the various 'parts' of this dreadful Net, such as its poles and ropes, weights and small cords or hooks; names which he was obliged to learn if later on he wanted to escape from it, and make use of it to catch 'food' for himself, instead of being caught by 'those who laid snares.' All very mysterious, is it not? No wonder no Egyptologist has ever been able to explain this strange Net—a mystery wrapped in an enigma no less impenetrable than the riddle of the Sphinx we unravelled for you in our article on the Magic of Egypt.
So far as we are aware the real meaning of this allegorical Net and its rich and multiform symbolism has never been made known in any books, on or offline. Some of you who have studied occult symbolism and are familiar with the Book of the Dead may have already guessed what it represented. Let us see if you have got it right, so that you will not be misled by the various explanations about the Net given by Egyptologists and others who have no more idea what it stood for than they have of the real nature of Thoth we have discussed with you just now. The best way in which to regard and understand the Net is to conceive it as The Net of temptation, which leads to the lower regions so graphically described in Symphonie Fantastique mentioned earlier. Not for nothing is the World Wide Web generally known as the 'Internet' or simply 'net'! Now, we are not suggesting for one moment that the Internet is an unalloyed source of evil or a pit of perdition, for there are always two sides to everything, even a bad penny, as you know. But we do say most emphatically that it has its dangers and temptations which a good many of you will have fallen foul of. Need we spell them out? The lure of Social Media is one, we're sure you can think of many others!
But why should the evil ones alone be able to ensnare the unwary, the thoughtless and the untaught? Are we, as seekers after Truth without powers of our own? Of course not! We can all do something which will save not only ourselves from the Net, but others too. Let US make a web of Salvation to counteract the Net. Let us do it by means of tolerance for the mistakes of others; let us smile kindly and give soft words to all we meet on the thorny path of life. Let us do generous things, without counting the cost; let us aid those who are in trouble. Such simple actions will create a strand in the Web of Goodness, which will guard us from falling into the snare of the Net. A tender smile is balm for those who are wrapt in sorrow, for smiles are the language of love and compassion. The brute, animal or human, does not know how to smile. Surly growls are his only language. The answer to a kindly smile is seen in the face of those to whom it is directed, and a slight blush, rosy red with celestial hue will be the sign that the message from soul to soul has been received and understood. But beware of the smiling villain, who betrays you with a toothsome grin.
Like foolish fish the multitudes swarm into the meshes of the Net in their millions to satisfy some temporary desire. At times temptations may appear like roaring lions as you can read in our story of the Adept who was tempted by the Devil's imp. Other temptations are like cosy nests in which the silly bird seeks for sips of honey, but finds nothing but the bitter gall of the huntsman's snare. One of the traps which the dark ones spread before the unsuspecting, is to tell us parts of truths, and win us with small and worthless gifts in order to betray us finally and gather us into the Net. The vacant and thoughtless person enters the Net like a tramp who comes across a deserted house, and makes himself at home there to dwell in solitude in its desolate apartments. This is another prop of the Net. Let us also remember that all who foster intolerance, in religion as in everything else, will need another Christ to die on account of it. For clemency alone makes us equal to the gods so long we are still mere mortals.
Be tolerant, so that your Web will grow around you. Be generous, for generosity is benevolence in practice, and generosity is more charitable than wealth. We shall be in great need of generosity when we stand before the Judge that guards the way to Heaven! In this world it is not what we take up and gather around us, but what we give up. Many men are capable of doing a wise thing, many more a cunning thing, but very few a generous thing.
You can read more about the Wisdom of Hermes in part six of our investigation. Meanwhile, we hope this part has encouraged you to build your own Web of Light so that you may escape the ropes, weights and hooks of the Net!
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article published 9 August 2020. Updated 24 December 2022.