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Anna van den Kerchove Hermeticises Further
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In this extended interview we delve into various questions about ancient Hermetism and the Hermetica which are mostly unanswerable, but really, really interesting. Anna van den Kerchove fields these with good humour, scholarly acumen, and a beautiful exercise of the historical imagination. Points discussed include:
- The degree to which Hermetic texts left the ‘Hermetic’ circles to circulate more widely, for example among Christians like Tertullian (possibly) and Lactantius (most definitely), and some speculation about the ways in which this process of dissemination occurred,
- The possibility of filling the hole in our evidence of Hermetic transmission between Stobæus in the fifth century CE and Psellos, in the eleventh,
- How we should contextualise the Hermetica in terms of ‘monotheism’ and ‘polytheism’ in later antiquity,
- The interesting (and completely irresponsible) speculation as to why the Late Platonists adopted the Chaldæan Oracles as a quasi-scriptural source of truth, but pretty much ignored the Hermetica, and
- The need for more research looking at the second century, taking into account thinkers like Clement of Alexandria (and Origen), Numenius (and Philo), and texts like the Poimandres and the Chaldæan Oracles.
Anna van den Kerchove is Titulaire de la chaire d’histoire du christianisme ancien et patristique de l’Institut Protestant de Théologie in Paris. Her superb work spans pretty much all of our favourite fields in late-antique religion and the places where it meets philosophy, including lots of important work on aspects of ritual and performativity in ancient religion (and ‘magic’), studies on the Chaldæan Oracles, the Hermetica, the esoteric fringes of Orthodox Christianity, and so on, and more. She is involved in a number of really cool scholarly projects, including the amazing online database of voces magicæ/nomina barbara CENOB, and the Platonismes de l’Antiquité Tardive website, both of which provide unique and essential tools for scholars.
Works Cited in this Episode:
- Iamblichus refers to the Hermetic way: Response to Porphyry/De mysteriis 8.4 ff.
- Christian H. Bull. The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus: the Egyptian Priestly Figure as a Teacher of Hellenized Wisdom. Brill, Leiden, 2018.
- Garth Fowden. The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986.