The Hermetic Synthesis – extracts from Convivencia 2

‘It is true! It is certain! It is the whole truth! That which is below is the same to that which is above and that which is above is the same to that which is below, in order that the wonders of the One shall be accomplished. As all things are accomplished out of the One, through one mediatorship, so they are all born out of the One by transmission’.

The Tabula Smaragdina is known as the chief ‘canonical text’ of the alchemists, but the famous line, almost right at the beginning, is also highly illustrative for the theme of my talk: the Hermetic synthesis. It reminds us of Hermes, who has said it is human being, which is a miracle because he is able to perform the miracle of the One by unifying the macrocosmic universe and the world that he is himself, the microcosmic universe, by an inner process of formation: reformation, transformation.

It is the same spirit that gave expression to another passage of this wonderful Hermetic text: Treatise XI of the Corpus Hermeticum: ’Mind (Nous) to Hermes’ (20)

‘Unless you make yourself equal to God, you cannot understand God: like is understood by like. Make yourself grow to immeasurable immensity, outleap all body, outstrip all time, become eternity (Aion) and you will understand God’ (translation by Brian P. Copenhaver).

There are many instances in the Hermetic Corpus expressing the duality of man and his capacity to know God. In the Asclepius, a text dating back to the first centuries of the Christian era and the only Hermetic text known in the Middle Ages prior to the rediscovery of the Corpus Hermeticum, Hermes Trismegistus tells his pupil Asclepius:

How much happier is the blend of human nature! Conjoined to the gods by a kindred divinity, he despises inwardly that part of him in which he is earthly. All others he draws close to him in a bond of affection, recognizing his relation to them by heaven’s disposition. He looks up to heaven. He has been put in the happier place of middle status so that he might cherish those beneath him and be cherished by those above him. He cultivates the earth; he swiftly mixes into the elements; he plumbs the depths of the sea in the keenness of his mind. Everything is permitted him: heaven itself seems not too high, for he measures it in his clever thinking as if it were nearby. No misty air dims the concentration of his thought; no thick earth obstructs his work; no abysmal deep of water blocks his lofty view. He is everything, and he is everywhere’ (Asclepius: 6).

This element of ‘response-ability’, the spiritual and material aspect of creation, which results from the privileged ‘constellation’ human being characterizes is found in the so-called Consolamentum Latin de Florence. This also gives us a glimpse of the ultimate initiation rite of the Cathar Brotherhood:

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, your power en with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. You must also understand that you must love God with truth, gentleness, humility, mercy, chastity and all good virtues […] You need to understand that it is necessary that you are faithful and loyal regarding things temporal and spiritual; because if you were not faithful regarding the temporal, we should not believe that you can be regarding the spiritual’ (René Nelli, Écritures Cathares, Monaco, Éditions du Rocher, pp. 255-256).

But there is more to be said about the Hermetic synthesis, which is also reflected in the prophecy attributed to the Cathars: a testimony to the ideals and convictions of the Cathars of the Languedoc. I will only quote a part of the prophecy, but I am sure you will be reminded of the spirit of the Tabula Smaragdina.

‘It recognises that the time has come for the supreme transmutation, the ultimate alchemical act, the conscious change of the ego into a voluntary return to the whole’.

Philosophia Hermetica, ms.

Extracts from the keynote given at Convivencia – l’Art de Vivre Ensemble by Esther Oosterwijk-Ritman, director of the Ritman Library.

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    : (Hos. 4:6). When we lack understanding of divine truth we become separated from God and from one another, which is contrary to our calling, as well as to our well being (Jn. 17:21, 22; I Cor. 1:10). Our collective understanding of God’s love is the only thing that can keep us in one mind and one accord, which is the only way that God can truly be glorified among us (Rom. 15:5,6). In recognizing the holiness of God’s love, we have to realize that we cannot walk in the love of God and be under dominion to sin at the same time (Rom. 13:9-14; Gal. 5:14-16). So many of God’s people today have been taught that we are “just sinners saved by grace .” This kind of teaching leads away from the holy love of God and promotes the allowance of sinful habits, attitudes and the like in our lives. It also contaminates our spirits contrarily to the holy experience that we’ve had with the Lord, meaning the baptism of the Spirit. This in turn squashes the love and joy of the Lord out of our lives, and we become unfruitful of the virtues of godliness.