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Storytime: Reading Zosimus of Panopolis’ The Final Accounting
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The ‘Final Quittance’ or ‘Final Accounting’ (Τελευταῖα ἀποχῆ) is Zosimus of Panopolis’ most intriguing work. In it he speaks of several types of alchemy, going back into the dim reaches of the Egyptian past, one of which – the kairikai baphai or ‘timely deep tinctures’, the tinctures which depend on kairos for their function – is spoken of only esoterically in the Pseudo-Democritus, but which were of course inscribed on stelai in temple sancta by the ancient Egyptians and transmitted in secret by the Jews meeting in what seem to be subterranean Jewish alchemical laboratories. These kairikai have been perverted, however, by evil daimones of uncertain provenance – maybe astral, or maybe something else – so as to trick humans into feeding them with sacrifices. The alchemical adept, however, through Solomonic banishing-rituals to clear out the demons, meditative practices to still the passions, and baptism in the Hermetic kratēr at the hands of Poimandres (for it is he, under a slightly altered name), will attain to the true kairikai katabaphai, which will purify her soul and allow her to fly up to her true race.
Heavy stuff, with a lot to tell us about ancient Hermetism, perhaps Christianity, and definitely the curious intersection of praxis and spirituality in Zosimean alchemy.
Works Cited in this Episode:
The Corpus Hermeticum on the ‘twelve tormentors’: CH XIII.7.
The ‘Apocalypse of Egypt’ in the Hermetic Asclepius: Ascl. 24-26 (see Episode 105).
Porphyry on evil daimones eating sacrifice: Abst. II 42.3; cf. II 39.2.
André-Jean Festugière. La révélation d’Hermes Trismegiste. J. Gabalda, Paris, 1944- 1954. 4 vols; we cite Vol. I, but in fact we are looking at the all-in-one edition André-Jean Festugière. La révélation d’Hermès Trismégiste. Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 2014. The page numbers cited below represent the older pagination followed by the newer. Specific references:
- Fest’s translation of the Final Accounting: pp. 275/291 – 282/298.
- His Greek edition: 363/379 – 368/384.
- On the ‘Zosimus of Thebes’ problem: 275/291, n. 2.
- On ‘the four things’: 275/291, n. 7.
Recommended Reading, aside from the ‘Fest’:
Christian H. Bull. The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus: the Egyptian Priestly Figure as a Teacher of Hellenized Wisdom. Brill, Leiden, 2018.
Wouter J. Hanegraaff. Hermetic Spirituality and the Historical Imagination: Altered States of Knowledge in Late Antiquity. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2022.
Richard Reitzenstein. Poimandres: Studien zur griechisch-ägyptischen und frühchristlichen Literatur. Teubner, Leipzig, 1904.
Guy G. Stroumsa. The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations of Late Antiquity. Chicago, IL, 2009.