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The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus: From Ancient Egypt to the Modern World Paperback – May 1, 2011
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'This book provides a very readable introduction to the history of Western Esotericism. However, the most exciting aspect of the book is Lachman's thesis that Hermeticism is grounded in a common spiritual or religious experience and that this experience can be grounded in recent neuropsychological research. This fascinating hypothesis invites further ... investigation.' -- De Numine 'Truly great individuals are discussed for centuries after their existence. "The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus: From Ancient Egypt to the Modern World" discusses this figure of ancient Alexandria who is an icon of ancient science and philosophy, as the two were closely related in ancient times. Analyzing history and the mindset of the times, author Gary Lachman hopes to explain this figure to modern reader s to give them greater insight into a time long past. "The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus" is an excellent addition to any history collection, highly recommended.' -- Midwest Book Review, May 2011 'It is a bewildering tale which has many twists and turns which Lachman considers not only in its historical but also cultural and philosophical connections across time. He also helps us unravel the development of hermecticism, Gnosticism, and connections across the ages to such seminal and initiatory characters as Rudolf Steiner, G.I. Gurdjeff, Giordano Bruno, Marcilio Ficino, Pico Mirandolla, Cornelius Agrippa, Robert Fludd, Dr John Dee, and Athansius Kircher.' -- Stephen Cox Trust, 2011 'Gary Lachman offers us a fascinating history of the myth of Hermes Trismegistus and the translation of the Corpus Hermeticum ... This is a comprehensive book covering all aspects of the tradition of Hermes, from the early periods through to modern explorations of Hermetic science as it resonates with altered states of consciousness. Lachman is an easy to read author yet has a near encyclopaedic knowledge of esotericism and is hence able to offer many different perspectives on the subject at hand. From the Egyptian influence on Greek philosophy to Islam and the Renaissance, Freemasons and the Rosicrucians this is a truly informative journey through all aspects of Hermes Trismegistus.' -- Living Traditions Magazine 'Immensely erudite and continuing the work of GRS Mead and Frances Yates, the book traces the influence of hermetic thinking through different areas of the Western tradition drawing on a wide range of scholarship. It gives the reader quite a different flavour of the development of Western philosophy than would be found in any standard textbook.' --David Lorimer, Scientific and Medical Network Review 'Here is an entertaining, mostly historical introduction to a body of religious knowledge that has a deep influence on the course of Western philosophy - Hermeticism...This is a concise and interesting introduction. Lachman covers much historical ground from Alexandria, via the Italian Renaissance and the Order of the Golden Dawn, to today.' -- Northern Earth 'Lachman's [book] at times is quite a deep study of the philosophy and psychology of esoteric sprituality.' --David V Barrett, Fortean Times.
About the Author
Gary Lachman was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, and has lived in London since 1996. He is a full-time writer with more than a dozen books to his name on topics ranging from the evolution of consciousness and the Western esoteric tradition to literature and suicide and the history of popular culture. Lachman writes frequently for journals in the US and UK and lectures on his work in the internationally. His work has been translated into several languages. Mr. Lachman's books include Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality (2012); Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work(2007); Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings (2010); The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus (Floris, 2011); and A Secret History of Consciousness (Lindisfarne, 2003).
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Who was Hermes Trismegistus? WAS there a Hermes Trismegistus?
Gary Lachman- author of many esoteric histories and biographies (the best of which is his The Secret Teachers of the Western World - his most comprehensive history to date)- tries to unravel the strange case of the forgotten ur-philosopher. After a great revival of Hermetic thinking in the 16th century, ultimately culminating in Giordano Bruno's quixotic attempt at reviving the Greco-Egyptian mystery tradition, Hermes suffered a literary blow in popularity when Isaac Casaubon's textual analysis declared the supposedly ancient works of the Corpus Hermeticum to be a pious fraud cooked up in late antiquity by Christian Neoplatonists trying to convert pagans. Given the textual style was that of biblical greek, Casaubon didn't believe it was possible that the Hermetic works could date from before the 1st century BC- and were more likely conceived in Alexandria around 200-300 AD. The Hermetica fell into centuries of disrepute, until 20th century scholars, like Garth Fowden, whose The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind took a new textual analysis to the works and determined that they more than likely were a product of an indigenous Egyptian tradition encountering the classical Hellenic mind. Further work by contrarian Egyptologists inspired by esotericist R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz further corroborated Fowden's thesis- indicating that the doctrines found inscribed in ancient Egyptian texts bore a close enough family resemblance to indicate a continuity of tradition between the flourishing of the Kingdom of Egypt and the philosophies that emerged from Alexandria post-hellenization.
Lachman is an able guide through not only the history of the Hermetica and the hermetic idea, from ancient Egypt to today, but to the core philosophical ideas themselves. While most of Lachman's work focuses more on the personalities around certain ideas than upon the ideas themselves, The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus shows us more of his speculative side, as he weaves a narrative of how altered consciousness and psychedelic experience has to inform any proper understanding of the Hermetic works (probably informed by the work of Jeremy Naydler, such as Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt). The Gnostics, Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, Isaac Newton, Freemasonry, Theosophy, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Schwaller de Lubicz, Carl Jung, Julius Evola, Jean Gebser, and even Valentin Tomberg all come into the narrative as Lachman takes one on a tour of the whole range of what Hermetic thinking entails- a comprehensively cosmopolitan, mystical worldview, not unlike the Integral Philosophy of Ken Wilber and Sri Aurobindo, only from a decidedly and uniquely Western point of view.
Is the Hermetic quest for you? If you'd like to answer that for yourself, this book is as good an introduction to the full sweep of Hermeticism and what it means for the western mind as you'll find, and it ranks among one of the best places to start with Lachman as well, if you're not quite ready to delve into as substantial a tome as The Secret Teachers. Highly recommended.
Any study of such a complex and mysterious real or mythical personage requires great diligence and the earnest hard work Mister Lachman Has undertaken for all of his books. The only reason I can't say I love it is that the quest for Hermes Trimegestis will always turn in circles in the sand of Egypt – but then I like very much Mister Lackman's approach, so that I wish I could give it four and a half stars.
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