Hermetica

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Between the mid-first and late third centuries AD a number of texts ascribed to Hermes Trismegistos came into circulation. They combined elements of Platonic, Neo-Pythagorean and Stoic thought with material drawn from the cults of the East and Near-East,31 and Gnostic teaching. The end of human life as they saw it was the 'deification' of man, achieved through subjugation of the 'beast' in a man, and cultivation of the spiritual and upwardly aspiring. A taint of magic and astrology hung about these texts as they were drawn on in the Middle Ages. There was also the tell-tale warning sign for orthodox Christians that this was a mystery religion.

Of the hermetic writings the Asclepius perhaps occurs most frequently in the Middle Ages. But pseudo-Hermetica were in mediaeval circulation too. The Secretum Secretorum was thought to be a work of Aristotle, written for a privileged readership of initiates. Roger Bacon rearranged it, making his own division into books. An unknown Western writer interested in astrology put together a 'hermetic' Liber HermetisMercurii Triplicis de VI Rerum Principiis, probably in the twelfth century. He drew on current Latin translations of Arabic works on cosmogony and used Adelard of Bath and William of Conches.

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