The forty-two sacred books of wisdom allegedly written by Hermes Trismegistus or “thrice great Hermes.” The books combine the mythological wisdom and attributes attributed to the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes.
The dating of the books is somewhere between the third century BC and the first century AD. Their influence has been tremendous on the development of Western occultism and magic. Neo-pagan witchcraft contains many rituals and much esoteric symbolism based upon Hermetic writings.
The authorship of the Hermetica is legendary. According to one legend Hermes Trismegistus, who was a grandson of Adam and a builder of the Egyptian pyramids, authored the books. But, more probably the books were written by several succeeding persons . Also, according to legend, the books were initially witten on papyrus.
A chronicler of pagan lore, Clement of Alexandria, stated thirty-six of the Hermetic books contained the entire Egyptian philosophy; four books on astrology; ten books called the Hieratic on law, ten books on sacred rites and observances, two on music, and the rest on writing, cosmography, geography, mathematics and measures and training of priests. Six remaining books concerned medicine and the body discussing diseases, instruments, the eyes and women.
Most of the Hermetic books along with others were lost during the burning of the royal libraries in Alexandria. The surviving books were secretly buried in the desert where they are presently located. A few initiates of the mystery schools, ancient secret cults, supposedly know their location.
What remains of the surviving Hermetic lore has been passed down through generation and published in many languages. Most important of all are three works: the most important and oldest is The Divine Pynander. It consists on 17 fragments all in one work. Within these fragments are many of the Hermetic concepts, including the was divine wisdom and the secrets of the universe were revealed to Hermes and the way in which Hermes established his ministry to spread this wisdom throughout the world. The Divine Pynander apparently was revised during the first centuries AD but lost none of its meaning due to incorrect translations.
Poimmandres or The Vision is the second book of The Divine Pynander and perhaps the most famous. It relates Hermes‘ mystical vision, cosmogony, and the secret sciences of the Egyptians as to culture and the spiritual development of the soul.
A third work is known as The Emerald Tablet, or the Emerald Table. A.G.H.