The compendium of Hermes Trismegistus

By Joost R. Ritman, Founder Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica

“Who is God, what is God?”

Since time immemorial the search for God, the basic question regarding the mysterious connection between the origin of life, the development of the infinite Universe, the mystery of our planet Mother Earth, the blue planet so splendidly visible from space, and the arrival of modern man, homo sapiens, now more than forty thousand years ago, has been central to man’s mind.

This search has acquired a new dimension in modern society as a result of ongoing research into the composition of the atom, the relationship between energy and matter.

This basic questions grips the scientists at Cern laboratory inGenevawho are involved in the project of the particle accelerator. The search for  “God’s Particle in the Universe”, apparently the moving Cause within the atom, is a prime concern there.

New developments in the domains of religion and spirituality connect at this intersection in time with those of natural science, to establish the mystery of origin, the Genesis of life, and to redirect the compass needle of human consciousness.

The mysterious beginning, concerning which modern man has come to the dazzling conclusion that it must be sought even before the Big Bang.

So back to the primal beginning, creation before creation, which set itself in motion in the Genesis of all times.

Back to zero, the point within modern scientific research where proof is found for the origin of Space and Time.

Partly because better equipment for observation is now available, such as the Hubble telescope, the birth moment of the infinite universe can now be established to have occurred some 15 billion years ago.

Our planet, Mother Earth, had its own birth moment in that breathtaking expansiveness of the surrounding myriads of planets and galactic systems some 4,5 billion years ago. Thus the evolutionary development of life on earth began within this immense span of time. Modern man, homo sapiens, arrived on the scene some forty thousand years ago during the last Ice Age, but his ancestors are much older. The oldest forms of human life go back to Yan-mou man (ca. 1,6-1,7 million years ago), Lantian man (700,000-650,.000 years ago) andPekingman (500,000-400,000 years ago). If we were to divide the great clockwork of Chronos, Father Time, into twenty-four hours, man’s arrival would only have occurred a few minutes ago.

Life on our planet has experienced in its subequent stages a continuous development, made possible partly through changing atmospheric conditions which enabled the unique waves of development. The planet’s unique position with respect to our central life source, the sun, the atmosphere surrounding our earth, the basic ingredients for life, such as oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon are at the basis of life organisms, which were essential for the evolution of the mineral, vegetable and animal life forms.

This brings us to the core of Christian-Hermetic Gnosis. At the beginning of the third millennium of our era, we are once again experiencing an acceleration of time. The world is becoming smaller through increasing globalization, and the infinite universe is offering a new perspective. We live, as it has been recently formulated, in a ‘liquid universe’, a world fully in motion, which allows us to grasp the infinite vastness of the universe surrounding us. It is a metaversum, in which beginning and end, present and past dissolve.

Hermes offers us the key formula to this mystery in the fifth book of the Corpus Hermeticum, which reads:

Everything seen has been begotten,

because at some point it came to be seen.

But the invisible always is,

and because it always is, it does not need to become visible.

He makes all other things visible,

Although he himself is invisible because he always is.

Although he makes everything visible, he himself does not become visible;

and he begets without having been begotten,

what presents images of everything,

is not present to the imagination.

For there is imagination only of things

that are begotten.

Coming to be is nothing but imagination.

The One, who alone is unbegotten,

is also unimagined and invisible,

but in presenting images of all things he is seen

through all of them and in all of them,

he is seen especially by those whom he wished to see him.

You then, Tat, my child, pray first to the lord,

the father, the only, who is not one

but from whom the one comes.

Ask him the grace to enable you to understand

so great a god, to permit even one ray of his

to illuminate your thinking.

Only understanding, because it, too,

is invisible, sees the invisible,

if you have the strength, Tat,

your mind’s eye will see it.       

Twelve thousand years after the dawn of the great human civilizations and their spiritual basis we are faced with a enormously accelerated human natality, now comprising not six million but six billion people.

The world, as is becoming clear, is going through a human revolution, in which all races and their religious convictions are thrown into a single global crucible to achieve an urgently needed transformation of human consciousness.

Or, as has been established in the ninth Hermetic Definition:

Everything is visible to him who possesss mind.

He who thinks about himself with his mind,

knows himself.

And he who knows himself, knows the All:

everything is in man.

All individual developments, merging in a collective process, are gaining momentum, involving at the same time the core of human consciousness and the total span of existence. This brings us to the imperative question answered by Hermes Trismegistus in the second Hermetic definition:

What is the power of the cosmos?

The eternal preservation of immortal beings,

in the forms in which they came into being,

and the continual change of what is mortal.

All individual developments, all collective developments, will accelerate in the force of an irreversible pogression. This will take place as it were in a process of nuclear fusion, a transformation of concsiousness, in which a quantum leap will occur, leading to a new frame of reference, a new paradigm, in which the living soul has a central place. A process in which man will arrive at that one great discovery, which is: why he is called the microcosm. Looking deep into his inner being, and aware of the force and power of the infinite universe, he will perceive that man, cosmos and macrokosmos are perfectly interwoven, and exist in and through each other.

Not, therefore, the dim scenario of degeneration, denaturation, dehumanization. But finding the key which fits the inner compass giving sense and direction to the life of that wonderful creature which, forty thousand years ago, set his first conscious steps on this wonderful planet.

Perhaps we will then recover an inner modesty and an inner civilization, and come to the conclusion that man is but a tiny element in a momentous creative epic.

Thus we come to the core of Hermetic philosophy, which revolves around man as the microcosm. Man, who learns to distinguish and thus becomes a participant in that unbroken continuous creative revolution which causes the infinite universe to flow into a metaversum. Man, who discovers that the immortal soul expresses himself in mind. Man, who discovers the way inwards – to his true inner core – unlocking a new dimension which is equally infinitely great, as infinite as the universe enveloping him.

A domain filled with fullness of life, fulfilment of life, so that the conclusion may very well be drawn that the Big Bang which occurred some fifteen billion years ago, is likely to have been a continuation of that purposeful creative revolution which has never known a beginning or an end.

And here the wisdom of Hermes, which we are presenting today in its rich diversity and are approaching from various angles, is a reliable guide. The objective of Hermetic wisdom is to initiate man, as it happened in the past, as it happens in the present and as it will hapen in the future, into the mystery of the infinite universe, or the macrocosm, the mystery of our planet Earth, or the Kosmos and the mystery of mortal man, who is the inhabitant of the microcosm.

We recognize in the wisdom of Hermes both the initiation fullness of ancientEgyptas well as the foundation of all great world religions. It is a spiritual impulse, which we can trace historically to the point beyond the past ten thousand years and the beginning of the Christian era.

At this moment we are experiencing a third Renaissance of Hermetic wisdom,which was offered to mankind for the first time two thousand years ago. The Hermetic tradition revived in the Christian Middle Ages thanks to the Schoolof Chartres, with the Asclepius and the Book of the twenty-four philosophers as main Hermetic texts. In fifteenth-century Italy there was a second rvival, a rebirth. The Corpus Hermeticum in the translation of Marsilio Ficino became one of the jewels in the crown of the Renaissance and inspired the members of the Platonic Academy inFlorence.

And so today, at the beginning of a new millennium, we are witnessing the third Renaissance, and the ever renewing vitality of the Gnosis of Hermes Trismegistus. Professor Van den Broek  explained in the introduction of Hermes Trismegistus. Introduction, texts, commentaries that the Hermetica were produced by a religious community which awarded a central place to Gnosis, the primal knowledge, the source of self initiation.

Modern society is faced with the task further to unravel the wonderful key formula which explains the mystery of man, the Kosmos, the infinite universe and its Creator.

Not very long ago a Dutch jounalist described a virtual journey in a newly opened, digital planetarium in Amsterdam: And now we are preparing to leave our solar system. After having passed Mars, not forgetting the planet Jupiter, we briefly land on planet 581c, the recently discovered mirror image of our earth. But then we really set off on our intergalactic journey.

If it was an emotional experience to bid planet earth goodbye, it is startling to realize how insignificant our planet is. First the sun disappears from sight, a minute dot in a cluster of stars, hardly traceable in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way, and soon our galaxy, too, has become only one of billions of dots.

The journey ends with the famous so-called baby pictures of the universe, which document the afterglow of the Big Bang, some 15 billion years ago.

This is the oldest light in the universe.

The universe continues beyond this point,

but we will never be able to see it.

For us the visible universe ends here.

Standing at the beginning of a new develoment phase for humanity in a new millennium, in which the full force of the revelation of the Gnosis, the primal core, is placed in our hands as an instrument, we, aware of the new definition about the origin of life, need to ask ourselves again and again why we are called the microkosmos.

In addition to the ever refining research into the world of the infinitely small, the world of the atoms, neutrons, protons, the string theory and that of the membrane, we must look for the primal core, ‘God’s Particle’, the core of primal matter and primal energy. We must look for that mysterious creator God, who is everywhere and of whom Hermes says:

God is an infinite sphere,

the centre of which is everywhere

and the circumference nowhere.

Hermes Trismegistus preceded us long ago as the guide of wisdom. I would like to conclude with his eulogy, part of ‘The Ogdoad and the Ennead’, a text which is also included in Roelof van den Broek’s Introduction, texts, commentaries.

I will offer up the praise in my heart

As I pray to the end of the universe

and the beginning of the beginning,

to the object of man’s quest, the immortal discovery,

the begetter of light and truth,

the sower of Logos,

the love of immortal life.

No hidden word will be able to speak about you, Lord.

Therefore my mind wants yo sing a hymn to you daily.

I am the instrument of your spirit (Pneuma),

Mind (Nous) is your plectrum,

and your counsel plucks me.

I see myself!

I have received the power from you

for your love has made us alive.


Joost R. Ritman, Founder Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica