The Hermetic Tradition (PHI 531)

The Hermetic Tradition (PHI 531)

Course Description

The Corpus Hermeticum consists of fifteen tractates or texts and fragments collected into a coherent teaching during the first through third centuries CE. These rare and insightful dialogues combine spiritual, philosophic and religious themes from ancient Egyptian, early Christian and traditional Hebrew materials into a synchronous whole, with the added importance of expanding in great depth upon those traditions to answer difficult questions and offer new interpretations of familiar accounts. The Corpus came to us through Cosimo du Medici and his friend and scholar Marcilio Ficino, who in fifteenth century Florence translated the materials from the Greek into Latin. The legendary figure Hermes Trismegistus, or Thoth in Egyptian tradition, is the teacher of these great principles of the wisdom traditions.

Course Sessions and Topics

This course is divided into ten, one-hour lectures.

Session 1 | Myth, Mind, and Reality

Session 2 | Manly Hall: The Hermetic Tradition

Session 3 | The Founding Teachers

Session 4 | Revisionism – Early and Late

Session 5 | Revision Continued: Symbolist Egypt

Session 6 | The Fusion of Traditions: East and West

Session 7 | Introduction to the Hermetic Texts

Session 8 | Hermetic Texts and Mind and Soul

Session 9 | Hermetic Texts: Books 9-12

Session 10 | Remaining Texts and Summary

Learning Outcomes for this Course

Week 1 – Myth, Mind, and Reality

  1.  To understand how the principles of the Kybalion frame the discussion of the tradition
  2.  To appreciate how this body of work came to Florence in the Fifteenth Century

Week 2 – Manly Hall: The Hermetic Tradition

  1. To see how the tradition came to be thought of as a mystery school
  2. To understand the various religious and spiritual influences behind the tradition

Week 3 – The Founding Teachers

  1. To understand how the tradition framed the nature of Divine
  2. To see how the theme of magic was handled by Ficino

Week 4 – Revisionism – Early and Late

  1. To understand the distinctions between Hermetic and Gnostic traditions
  2. To see how Casaubon’s assertions changed the natrue of the tradition

Week 5 – Revision Continued: Symbolist Egypt

  1. To appreciate the challenges of understanding the role of Egyptian influence
  2. To understand the role of alchemy in the tradition

Week 6 – The Fusion of Traditions: East and West

  1. To understand the concept of the tabula rasa or blank slate
  2. To see how Plato developed the idea of intuitional knowledge

Week 7 – Introduction to the Hermetic Texts

  1. To understand the concept of Mind as revealed in Book 1
  2. To see how the tradition is presented as a dialogue between teacher and student

Week 8 -  Hermetic Texts and Mind and Soul

  1. To understand how “self-remembering” introduces the subject of consciousness
  2. To see how the death of Hypatia brings paganism to a violent end

Week 9 – Hermetic Texts: Books 9-12

  1. To understand the difficulty of defining the nature of the soul
  2. To see the importance of the life of the soul in the tradition

Week 10 – Remaining Texts and Summary

  1. To understand the coherence of all the books of the Hermetic Tradition
  2. To appreciate the importance of the tradition in relation to personal spiritual growth

Your Teacher

Richard Geldard, Ph.D. |  Dramatic Literature and Classics, Stanford University. Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Yeshiva University, Doctoral Faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and Author of ten books on Early Greek philosophy and the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson (see www.rgbooks.com)

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