Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition

by Glenn Alexander Magee

Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2001

The bold letters show the diversity of occult philosophies that fit under the broad umbrella of Hermeticism.

The bold, italicized sections show the roots of the strategies used by today's educational "change agents"  (in schools, corporations, community groups and churches) to change beliefs and mold a new kind of person.


See also Role-Playing Games & Popular Occultism

Brainwashing in America and Brave New Schools, Chapter 3: A New Way of Thinking

"What is Hermeticism?

     "Whether or not Hegel can be understood as "Hermetic" depends on how Hermeticism is defined. ... Its adherents all tend to share certain interests -- often classed as "occult" or "esoteric"-- which are held together merely by family resemblances.  In part, my argument for Hegel's Hermeticism depends on demonstrating that Hegel's interest coincide with the curious mixture interests typical of Hermeticists. These include Alchemy, Theosophy, Kabbalah, Mesmerism, extrasensory perception, spiritualism... Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Echartian mysticism, 'correspondences', secret systems of symbolism... and cosmic sympathies [astrology?].

     "Hermeticism constitutes a middle position between pantheism and the Judeo-Christian conception of God." 8

"Hermeticist not only hold that God requires creation, they make a specific creature, man, play a crucial role in God's self-actualization. Hermeticism holds that man can know God, and that man's knowledge of God is necessary for God's own completion. ... Man's knowledge of God becomes God's knowledge of himself." 9-10

This Hermetic knowledge of the "circular" relationship between God and creation and the necessity of man for the completion of God is utterly original. 10    

Gnosticism and Hermeticism both belief that a divine "spark" is implanted in man, and that man can come to know God." 10

"Salvation for the Hermeticists was... through gnosis, through understanding....  One must not only know doctrine, but have the real-life experience of the truth of the doctrine. One must be lead up to illumination carefully...." 11

"Using a kind of 'active imagination' to recollect these latent symbols, Bohme worked out his theosophy....

      "Faivre ranks 'imagination' as 'the essential component of esoterism.' The idea of occult correspondences that figures so largely in Hermeticism depends on 'a form of imagination inclined to reveal and use mediations of all kinds, such as rituals, symbolic images, mandalas, intermediary spirits.' but this imagination does not create from nothing, rather it 'recalls' images and associations from the collective unconscious of the race. Imagination depends on memory....

        "The occult philosophy of Bruno depended on the relationship of imagination to memory. Bohme continues this tradition by developing his theosophy entirely in terms of images that carry both a literal (often alchemical) and figurative sense." 46


Chapter 2: The Hermetic Milieu of Hegel's Early Years


"By far the most important event in the history of seventeenth-century Hermeticism was the appearance of the Rosicrucian manifestos. ...Some of the Rosicrucian texts were being circulated in manuscript form among certain life-minded individuals in Tubingen as early as the 1590s....

     "The three works modestly proposed the 'General Reformation of the Entire world.' The Rosicrucian manifestos centered around the legendary figure of Christian Rosenkreuz, who was supposed to have been born in 1878, taught the Hermetic art by Arabs...." 51


"The principal author of these works, and perhaps the 'inventor' of Rosicrucianism, seems to have been Johann Valentin Andreae (1586-1654).... Andreae's father was a clergyman and practicing alchemist." 52


"The Rosicrucian movement involved members of many different religious denominations. The Rosicrucians held a doctrine of prisca theologia, the position that there is one true, trans-denominational, trans-cultural theology, an account of divine being revealed by God to man in the remote past. they believed that if this ancient wisdom could b recovered it would unify the world's religions.  [This fits the teachings of the United Religions as well as Theosophy] 52


"The Rosicrucian manifesto captured the imagination of scores of intellectuals throughout Europe, many of whom desperately tried to made contact with the "order" and to join their ranks. Descartes and Bacon were two such seekers." 53


"In 1619, Andreae published Christianapolis, which called for a 'new reformation.' ... Christianapolis preached a mysterious doctrine of 'theosophy,' which involved a theory of 'mystical architecture.'" 53


"It is uncertain when Freemasonry was founded... It nevertheless became a repository for Hermetic philosophy, even employing the symbolic figure of Hermes Trismegistus in some of its rituals.. The freemasons numbered among their members some of the most prominent minds in Europe, and flourished in Germany." 53


"Like the Rosicrucians, the Masons believed in the fundamental identity of all religions. Beneath he superficial differences of regions was supposed to lie a prisca theologia. ... 'The aim of the lodges was the creation of a new man [the aim of Soviet brainwashing] through membership in a communion mirroring a rational universe of freedom and love, just as primitive Christianity had once sought to call into being children of God for the Kingdom of God.' Indeed the conception of an invisible church.... was one of the precepts of Masonry. [Including a counterfeit form of God's truth has always been an effective means of deception]  Indeed, Masonry would come to 'incorporate' Rosicrucianism, inventing its higher degrees with Rosicrucian imagery." 54


"According to Heinrich Schneider, the German Masonic lodges were 'teeming with magical, theosophical, mystical notions'... much of their lore was Kabbalistic.... About 1770, the year of Hegel's birth, a 'Hermetic Rite' was established..... In general, the higher degrees of Masonry were (and are) strongly mystical....

     "... the mystics in the secret societies... had made possible the later merging of German idealism and mysticism....

     "The Illuminati were founded in 1776 as a means to advance the ideals of the Enlightenment: opposition to traditional religion, superstition, and feudalism, and advocacy for scientific rationalism and the rights of man. Initially they were led by their founder, Adam Weishaupt, a law professor a the Bavarian university of Ingolstadt.... Weishaupt appears to endowed the order with Hermetic trappings... to entice members...." 56


"No surprisingly, Weishaupt and company made the infiltration of the educational system a top priority.... Most of the Illuminati were also Masons..... The influence of the order was short-lived...."


"The conception of a unity of the world's religions is joined in Goethe's through, as it is in Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, to a quasi-pantheistic nature mysticism." 59


"The Eleusinian mysteries were very important to the Masons who traced their initiation back to them.... Hegel writes:  'Your halls have fallen silent, oh Goddess! Flown is the circle of gods back to Olympus from their consecrated alters. ...'" 75


Chapter 3: The Mythology of Reason


 "Hegel holds the traditional, Hermetic conception of philosphia perennis: all previous systems of thought -- religious, mythological philosophical-- aim at and partially unveil the same doctrine..... Hegel writes: ' From the true knowledge of [the principle of all philosophy], there will arise the conviction that at all times there has been only one and the same philosophy.'" 86

"In System-Program" Hegel writes,

"in the end enlightened and unenlightened must clasp hands, mythology must become philosophical in order to make the people rational, and philosophy must become mythological in order to make the philosophers sensible. Then reigns eternal unity among us. ... No more the look of scorn...  no more the blind trembling of the people before its wise men and priests. 87 [In other words, Hegel's synthesis will have led to unity and equality]

 "... we must have a new mythology, but this mythology must be in the service of the Ideas, must be a mythology of reason." 87-88

"...all philosophy is implicitly or explicitly dialectical in nature, and the activity of dialectic presupposes that one always already possess wisdom, but in inchoate form. Dialectic is a recollection and explication of that wisdom. This is true of both Hegelian and Platonic dialectic.... The key to the dialectic, then, is that the participants already know, in some sense, the meaning of the terms they aim at defining." 89

Hegel writes: "What the so-called common sense takes to be the rational consists similarly of single items drawn out of the Absolute into consciousness. They are
points of light that arise out of the night of totality and aid to get through life in an intelligent way.... men only have this confidence in the truth of these points of light because they have a feeling of the Absolute attending these points." 90


"Dialectic is the 'method' by which speculation aims to 'recollect' unconscious wisdom and to compete the perennial philosophy.... It is precisely Hegel's understanding of speculation as a 'Mythology of Reason'--his understanding of speculation as in some sense an aesthetic act -- that allows him to demonstrate the completeness of his recollection of the perennial philosophy." 90


"Hegel is advocating a 'third position'; a completely new form of thought in which the truth is laid bare by transcending and synthesizing the inadequate form of the pure image and the abstract concept. In the 'System-Program' this new form elevates poetic thought to a higher level; 'Poetry gains thereby a higher dignity,' he writes." 91


"It is important to see the radical difference between Hegelian thought and all other forms of philosophy. Non-Hegelian philosophy answers such questions as 'What is God?' or 'What is Being?' by equating its subject matter with some property or universal: 'God is water'... or 'God is Nature.' ...93
     "... But Hegel conceives the Absolute as the Whole itself, as the ultimate category beyond which there is no higher category. Hegel does not tell us what the Absolute is. Hegel's through give form to the Absolute itself. Yet the dialectic is driven precisely by the suppression of categories--'provisional definitions of the Absolute'--which purports to say what the Absolute is, but only say part.  Hegel can say that his system is complete because it achieves closure as a circle of thought...." 94


"Hegel has accomplished exactly what I described earlier: the creation of a new form of though, which takes up and thus in a sense 'unites' elements of both abstract, philosophical thought, and myth-poetic thought. His is truly a mythology of reason: a new myth-form made of ideas, a mytho-poetic creation that is not 'concrete' in its elements but only in its totality, as the concrete universal, as the Absolute....

    "The Absolute is literally embodied in the pure aether of thought. ... the 'spirit body' has become Hegel's 'concrete universal.'" 95


"Hegel rejects a transcendent Absolute and claims to have achieved Absolute Knowing.... His Absolute is Spirit or Idea come to consciousness of itself through the activity of speculation: the divine (the Absolute) cannot be without humanity. It is man who 'actualizes' God, and thus man becomes, if not God, then certainly a demigod.

     "Hegel... believes he can demonstrate that his system closes the circle. Thus, he can claim... that he has removed all mystery from the Absolute. ...  He employs mythic circumscription... but by closing the circle, he turns mytho-poetic circumscription into an absolute science." 96


"Part of the aim of Hegel's system is to restore something of the 'undivided consciousness' of the ancients. ...  to realize something of it in the modern age. ...  to heal the divide between intellectuals--scientist, philosophers -- and laymen, the Platonic 'wise' and 'vulgar.' This is the explicit goal of the 'mythology of reason,' as stated in the 'System-Program.'"97


"By showing humanity a God who expresses Himself (in part) in nature, he hoped to reconnect science with the experience of the divine...." 97

"What Hegel's system promises is a transformed experience of the world, in which we see familiar things in a new light. Science, poetry, art, religion, the state, are all seen to be expressions or embodiments of the Absolute. Ordinary things suddenly take on new meaning. That which had been thought to be ... devoid of any higher meaning....is now suddenly imbued with spiritual significance.... Thus, Hegel attempts to heal the rift in the modern consciousness between thought and sensation, or thought and experience, by giving us an new form of experience.  ... Hegel's systems is and attempt to 're-enchant' the world, to re-invest nature with the experience of the numinous lost with the death of the mythical consciousness." 97 


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