In Hermes-Mercury we find a clear syncretism in which we can distinguish three relevant aspects:
- the divine Egyptian scribe, Thot-Hermes;
- the mediator and messenger of the gods, the Greco-Roman Hermes-Mercury (capable of reconciling the opposites: the one and the multiple, faith and knowledge, materialistic rationalism and creative imagination...);
- and the mythical initiator, Hermes Trismegistus ("The Three Times Great") Egyptian-Hellenian-Arabic.
Hermes Trismegistus gathers in its triple nature both the traditions of the Egyptian occult knowledge linked to the word and the writing (the Egyptian Hermes-Thot was considered to be the inventor of the word and the writing), and the magico-alchemical hermetic traditions symbolized by the Hermes-Mercury (the messenger and mediator of the man with the gods, the "psychopomp" or conductor of the souls), as well as the model of the initiate or adept.
The ultimate goal of the hermetic teachings is "regeneration", a regeneration that provides the consciousness of unity with all creation or, in other words, enlightenment, or the awakening of a universal consciousness. Thus, the first book of the "Corpus Hermeticum" begins with a vision, the appearance of Poimandres who identifies himself with the "Nous", the Supreme Intelligence, and who asks the prepared candidate: "What do you want to see and what do you want to learn and know through your thought? (CH I,1).
The knowledge revealed by Poimandres has to be learned and known by "thought". However, it should be noted that this is not an intellectual knowledge, but one derived from the development of the higher power of thought (the higher Manas).
"Intelligence, O Tat, comes from the very reality of God (...) Intelligence, then, is not separated from the reality of God, but as it unfolds from it, as light unfolds from the Sun. This intelligence is the God who is in us, through it some men are gods, and their humanity is very close to the divinity. That is why the Good Genius called gods immortal, and men mortal gods" (CH XII,1).
Now, "Intelligence" (the new mental body or higher "Manas") is not something that is given to the human being by birth, but must be conquered. "God has distributed reason among all human beings, but not intelligence (...), it does not come from above, but is formed here below, in souls of men that do not possess intellect" (CH IV, 3). And when the candidate (Tat) asks why God has not distributed the intelligence among all men, Hermes answers: "Because (God) has wanted, oh my son, to place it among the souls as a prize to be conquered" (CH IV, 3).
The development of the new mental body, of the new thought is, in fact, a birth. Therefore, when the candidate before Hermes Trismegistus realizes that he does not know from which matrix man is born (immortal), and from which seed (CH XIII, 1), the master answers that man is born from the Will of God, and that "What is born will be different, it will be a god son of god" (CH XIII, 2). When the candidate recognizes that he is being spoken to in riddles, Hermes responds:
"What can I tell you, sonny? I cannot tell you anything else but that having contemplated an immaterial vision myself, by the mercy of God, I went out of myself and entered an immortal body, and I am no longer the one I was before, but I was born in intelligence" (CH XIII,3).
But he adds: "This experience cannot be taught or seen with this material element that we see here. (CH XIII.2).
Every spiritual quest is carried out within the human being, since there is nothing but God:
"Because You are all that I can be, You are all that I can do, You are all that I can say, because You are everything and there is nothing that is not You! (CH V,11).
Therefore, the candidate can exclaim: "Because you are what I am, what I do, what I say. "(CH V, 11). The candidate who can express such words has displaced his mind toward his inner Being, has stopped identifying himself with the material body, and thus can know God, because it is possible to know God only by identifying oneself with Him. Only like knows like.
The candidate must carry out a change of mentality, so that the "eye of the heart" can turn toward the Center, toward the One, leaving aside the "grave" of the illusory world, since the greatest evil, according to Trismegistus, is ignorance (not knowing God). Therefore, it is recommended that you seek the hand that will guide you "to the gates of knowledge", and that you tear off "the veil of ignorance" (CHVII).
The objective of the hermetic teachings is to prepare the candidate to receive the "nous" (the Spirit or the highest and most divine part of the Soul). This can only be done if the candidate can immerse himself in the "Crater", that is, in a concentrated, divine force field. Those who can assimilate such divine forces and allow them to transform their material personality, possess Gnosis, become "the initiates of Intelligence, the perfect men" (CH IV,4), and reach immortality, while those who do not follow this development "possess reason, but not intelligence, and ignore why and for what purpose they were born" (CH IV,4).
And so Hermes exclaims:
"Such is, O Tat, the science of the intellect, the possession of divine things and the understanding of God. Such is the gift of the divine crater.
TAT: I also want to be baptized, O father!
HERMES: If you do not start by hating your body, O my son, you cannot love yourself. By loving yourself, you will possess the intelligence and then you will obtain the science (the Knowledge).
TAT: What do you mean, oh father?
HERMES: It is impossible, oh my son, to be attached at the same time to mortal things and to divine things". (CH IV,6).
The underlying idea is that the human being is not his body, but rather that the body is the "prison" of the immortal principle. The "nous" (or spiritual principle) must stop identifying with the body (sôma) to return to its original abode (or become "god"). Thus, when the candidate exclaims: "You have taught me all things I wished, Oh Nous! but tell me now about the Ascension and how it takes place" (CH I,24), Poimandres answers that he must abandon all ties that bind him to the "spheres" (the astral planes). For this purpose, the candidate must purify himself and get rid of the seven vices that bind his soul, so that he can "cross" the seven planetary heavens that form the lower world (Hebdomad), linked with vices, and reach the eighth mansion (the "Ogdoadic region") and, from there, enter God (CH I.25).
Hermeticism postulates that the ordinary mind cannot see or even imagine God, since God cannot be conceptualized by the discursive mind. The "vision" of the divine (Enlightenment) can only be reached through the superior, pure and intuitive mind ("nous"), but "for this it is necessary that one of its rays illuminate your thought" (CH V,2).
What the hermetic texts teach, in essence, is that true wisdom does not come from "outside", but is found within the human being himself, since human "thought" (the superior Manas united with intuition) is the image of God ("Only thought sees the invisible", CH V,2), and in it is found all Knowledge.