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With special reference to Diotima’s teaching in Plato’s Symposium, this chapter discusses the central importance to Hermetic spirituality of beauty and reverence (eusebeia), Hermetic psychological theory, and the centrality of imagination to the Hermetic concept of “becoming aiōn” and gaining cosmic consciousness.
Discussion of the only Hermetic practitioners still known to us by name: Zosimos of Panopolis, Theosebeia, and Iamblichus of Chalcis. They shared a strong emphasis on the embodiment of spirit, in the contexts of alchemy and theurgy.
Hermetic spirituality must be seen in the context of visionary experiences in Roman Egypt. The story of Thessalos and the Mithras Liturgy are discussed as examples of spiritual practices for inducing powerful alterations of consciousness and luminous visions.
Introduction to the basis worldview of the Hermetica at the example of the Asclepius, with special attention to the double nature of human beings as entities that participate simultaneously in matter and spirit, the practice of animating temple statues, and the Hermetic prophecy of apocalyptic decline.
Spiritual training in the Way of Hermes was supposed to culminate in an experience of radical transformation known as rebirth (palingenesis). This process involved a state of mania (divine madness) and an exorcism of daimonic entities, and is analyzed in detail with reference to Corpus Hermeticum XIII.
The constituent elements of the book: Hermetic spirituality, the historical imagination, alterations of consciousness, the relation between language and experiential knowledge, and radical agnosticism in the study of religion. Narrative historiography and historical-comparative methods.
Having attained rebirth, the pupil’s mind was opened permanently to the universal cosmic consciousness of Gods own imagination. As described in a unique Coptic treatise, s/he could then make a further ascent beyond the cosmos to experience the Ogdoad of universal Life, the Ennead of universal Light, and even glimpse the pēgē, the divine Source of manifestation.
Discussion of what happened to the Hermetic literature during the process of scribal transmission in Byzantine culture, and the importance of Gadamerian hermeneutics for mediating between patterns of familiarity and strangeness.
The Hermetic literature should be seen not in terms of philosophical speculation but as a path of experiential practice that aimed at radical spiritual liberation. To understand it properly, we must pay attention to the problematics of translation and be aware of philhellenist frames.
Historical writing described a form of imaginal enchantment, as illustrated by Hans Jonas’ concept of “gnosticism,” André-Jean Festugière’s “religion of the world,” and Frances A. Yates’ “Hermetic Tradition.” The importance of overcoming philhellenist ideologies, and the centrality of nonduality and embodiment to Hermetic spirituality.
Hermetic spirituality was focused on healing the embodied soul from its corruption by the passions. Analysis of the Poimandres as a visionary revelation in which Hermes Trismegistus receives enlightenment about the nature of reality and the human predicament.
Since the Ogdoad, the Ennead, and the Source are described as beyond verbal description, how can written language convey anything at all about this ultimate experience of gnōsis? Discussion of oral transmission by means of logos, dissemination of written treatises, and the paradoxes of hermeneutics as understood in terms of Deconstruction (Derrida) and Hermeneutics (Gadamer).