Up until around the 1600’s, all the Greeks were read, within not only the Christian tradition, but often in the Islamic tradition as well, within the larger context of Hermeticism. In fact, it’s not until around the 1600’s that it was proven that the so-called Corpus Hermeticum was not one of the most ancient books ever written, but actually written around the same time as Plotinus and other Neoplatonists composed their primary works. And we don’t even know who wrote the Corpus today, yet this text (really a collection but often treated as a unit), was so widely understood as more ancient than the dialogues of Plato, that Cosimo de Medici on his deathbed famously had Marcello Ficino stop his new translations of Plato’s dialogues from the Greek, so that the could translate for him instead the newly acquired works of the Corpus. It wasn’t until Isaac Casaubon came along, a few years before Descartes wrote his Meditations, that a strong argument was made to disprove the authenticity and dating of the Corpus, as well as the faulty reading of the Ancient Greeks and others based around it.

According to the books of the Corpus, the works of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, and all the Greeks were the inheritors of a secret wisdom, which could only be put in riddles to protect its knowledge from the masses, and which was bequeathed to the ancient Greeks by Pythagorus. What’s more, Pythagorus himself supposedly studied in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and it was supposedly in Egypt where he learned these deep truths, as did Moses, who passed them down to the Jews, which is why the Ancient Greeks and Jews eventually produced montheistic philosophies that overcame the polytheistic tendencies of their people. Pythagorus and Moses were taught this deep monotheism by descendents of the most ancient sage, Hermes Trismegistus, often depicted as the origin of the Greek god Hermes, and either as a student of the Egyptian god of writing named Thoth, or sometimes even Thoth himself. From Thoth/Hermes to Hermes Trismegistus to Moses to Pythagorus, the order sometimes shifts around in the Hermetic tradition, but the basic idea of a deeply philosophical, mystically mathematical monotheism comes to be in something like this fashion (and for more on this, see Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s excellent The Western Esoteric Tradition: A Historical Introduction, along with the classic works of Frances Yates).

In hindsight, it seems obvious that the Corpus was a book influenced by Neoplatonism, mixed with the religious ideas of late Hellenism. Causabon simply pointed out that there were parts of the Corpus that couldn’t have been quite so ancient, because they were anachronistic, and dated the text in the Hellenistic period. But up until this point, Thoth, Hermes, Moses, Pythagorus, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, and all the Greeks were most often seen as avatars of what was generally called the prisca philosophia, the ‘perenial philosophy’ of which monotheism, astrology, number and geometry worship, and Neoplatonic synthesis were all a part. That these figures were all sides of the same larger tradition, with many branches leading off into specific philosophies and monotheisms, was simply widely accepted as fact.


The primary aim of this site is to act as a platform for the development of my primary endeavor, Networkologies, a project to articulate a new philosophy of networks for our hyperconnected age.


3 thoughts on “Trismegistus

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