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Storytime: Reading the Corpus Hermeticum, Part II

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We continue our reading of the Hermetic corpus, covering tractates VI-X. We are blown away by numerous passages – our first full-length Hermetic harangue, curious parallels with the Chaldæan Oracles, and lots more goodies – but especially by the two final tractates, ‘The Key’ and ‘On Sensation and Noêsis’, which get into the territory of the practical induction of highly altered states of consciousness.

Works Cited in this Episode:


  • God’s freedom from pathê and their presence in everything else: cf. C.H. XII 4-7, 10-11; XIV 8-9.
  • The Chaldæan Oracles on the ‘noeric membrane’ (ὑμὴν νοερός): fr. 6 Des Places/Majercik.
  • Plotinus on the first reality as The Beautiful (τὸ κάλλος or τὸ κάλον): e.g. Enn. V.5[32]8.10; VI.2[43]18.1.
  • On drunkenness/sobriety in ‘Gnostic’ texts, see Bentley Layton. The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations and Introductions. Doubleday, New York, 1995, pp. 46, 85, 256, 385, 405, 408; cf. 382.
  • Pistis in the Hermetica: cf. C.H. 1.32; IV.4, 5, 9; VI.6; XI.1 ; XVI.4; Asclep. 29; cf. Bentley Layton. The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations. Doubleday, New York, 1995, pp. 68, 261, 282, 294, 305, 321-2, 337, 349, 433.


  • Reitzenstein on noêsis in C.H. IX: Hellenistic Mystery-Religions: Their Basic Ideas and Significance. Pickwick Press, Pittsburgh, 1979, p. 433.
  • Ouranos and Kronos in C.H. X as Greek versions of the Egyptian gods Shu and Seb: see Walter Scott. Hermetica: The Ancient Greek and Latin Writings Which Contain Religious or Philosophic Teachings Ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus: Vol. II, Notes on the Corpus Hermeticum. Dawsons, London, 1968, pp. 240-1.