Back to School with Dr. Trismegistus

Of Myth and Magic

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It’s September, and back to school isn’t what it used to be.

AI, online education, and social engineering are recalibrating consciousness. Algorithms slant academic research, as ancient lessons become consigned to disintegrating parchment. But just for fun, let’s go old, REALLY old, school. Trade your Samsung Galaxy Tab for an Emerald one, and welcome our visiting Professor….


Mythically speaking, Hermes, “Scribe of the Gods” and “Keeper of the Books of Life” is the Teacher Absolute.
He’s A) an Atlantean Priest-King, deified as the Egyptian Ibis-headed Thoth, who B) merged with the Greek god Hermes, and who C) looks like Albus Dumbledore! He’s so EXTRA, his name means “Thrice Greatest.” He’s the author of The Asclepius and The Corpus Hermeticum: a 17-book series, synthesizing Egyptian and Greek philosophy, religion, and the occult arts.

Renaissance Man or Immortal?

Herme’s teachings influenced Islam, Sufism, the Kabbalah and Byzantine Christianity. The Crusaders brought The Corpus Hermeticum back to 12th century Europe. In 15th century Italy, it was translated into Latin, under the aegis of the Medici. (The Medici family was also Leonardo’s patron. Da Vinci Code, anyone?) The study of Hermetic principles – when protected by a political/intellectual elite – fueled humanism, curiosity, and scientific inquiry. In the arts, pagan allegory merged with Christian symbolism. These cultural breakthroughs and harmonies defined the Renaissance. With such a legacy, why isn’t Hermes Trismegistus a household name?

Persecution by the Church drove Hermeticism underground, necessitating secret societies. Sometimes political influence intervened: occult arts that condemned a person of lower rank could be practiced by a court astrologer or seer. Since the 17th century, magick, astrology, metaphysics and alchemy were regarded as “pseudo-sciences”– and Hermes fell into disrepute.

Understandably, Trismegistus is an implausible figure. In addition to being Thoth and Hermes combined, he was rumoured to have been Enoch, Idris the Islamic prophet, Moses, and Pythagoras’ teacher. (Like Comte de Saint-Germain, Hermes pops up everywhere!) Most fantastically, he created an artifact dating back to his Atlantean origins: The Emerald Tablet. Its inscription was believed to contain a code for creating The Philosopher’s Stone; a material that turned base metals into gold and granted eternal life. (Yes, the same object that pitted Harry against He Who Must Not be Named!)

Bonkers, Bogus Hocus Pocus?

Not when you consider the influence that the Hermetica had on philosophy, spirituality and science. Alchemy – the quest for The Philosopher’s Stone – inspired experiments advancing our knowledge of metallurgy and chemistry. (“Chem” of both chemistry and alchemy, is Egypt’s true name: Khem or Khemet.) As for spirituality, the Hermetica is the genesis of mystery school traditions, for example, Gnosticism, the New Thought Movement (Christian Science, New Age), Theosophy, The Golden Dawn, Masonic and Rosicrucian studies. To have, at our disposal, books channeled through an Egyptian god is unlikely, but we can embrace Trismegistus as the avatar for centuries of anonymous scholars and enthusiasts.

The Emerald Tablet of Hermes

emerald tablet trimmed

The Emerald Tablet bears 14 lines of cryptic text containing Hermeticism’s core truth. Allegedly, the Tablet’s words go back 36,000 years, as inscribed on a 12” x 16” emerald slab. The Greek philosopher Plato (428 – 348 CE) believed the Tablet was made of Orichalcum, a mineral unique to Atlantis. Some say The Emerald Tablet is still enshrined in the Halls of Amenti, an other-dimensional underground passage between the Great Sphinx and Pyramid of Giza. Others claim the Tablet was re-discovered in the 1st century CE by Apollonius of Tyana, in Hermes’ burial cave in Hebron. Given the legends and rumours, was the Tablet entrusted to Emperor Hadrian? Was the Emerald Enigma protected by, and even once displayed, at the Library of Alexandria? Did the Tablet survive the Library’s fire, to be claimed by Crusaders? Did the Vatican crush the Knights Templar, in order to seize the ultimate prize for their Secret Archives? Some believe that 10 Emerald Tablets exist, each with a different inscription, and are located throughout the world, including the Yucatan Peninsula.

In lieu of Hermetic texts, one can access wisdom from an extraordinary object. The legendary Emerald Tablet has transfixed imaginations, from Plato to the present. What survives of the Tablet are records of what was inscribed upon it, first discovered in an Arabic book, attributed to “Balinas the Wise” (c. 800 CE).

Sir Isaac Newton’s Secret

Skipping ahead a few centuries, consider Sir Isaac Newton; (1642 – 1727) one of the greatest minds in history. As a mathematician, physicist, and creator of Calculus, he personified The Age of Reason. As Newton penned his computations, he hid other, more heretical papers amongst his manuscripts. Living during a time in England, when certain practices were punishable by hanging, Newton was a closeted alchemist. Many of his Hermetical writings were “accidentally” destroyed in a fire, after his death. He dedicated 25 years of his life to alchemy, and what survived was his translation and commentary on The Emerald Tablet. Unlike others before him, Newton didn’t seek The Philosopher’s Stone to obtain infinite riches. His Magnum Opus was to discover and describe, in the sublime language of mathematics, “the one thing by which the world was created.”

sir issac newton

Alchemy as Self-Realization

Carl Jung (1875 – 1961), the founder of analytical psychology, was introduced to alchemy in his mid-fifties and studied it for the next 30 years. Jung recognized, in alchemy’s surreal illustrations, the same symbols appearing in his patients’ dreams. This was the imagery and language of archetypes: the energies that occupy the collective unconscious. Jung posited that alchemical refinement was analogous to the process of integrating the subconscious and conscious mind into wholeness. The Philosopher’s Stone wasn’t a magickal object, but the purified Self. The Philosopher’s Stone was the attainment of complimenting polarities, achieved through the union of opposites, experiencing itself as both the macro and microcosm.

alchemy 1

To quote Swiss alchemist Paracelsus (1493 –1541), “The alchemical transmutation is impossible unless the alchemist himself is in the process of transformation.” What unites the myth of Trismegistus, science and psychoanalysis, is the belief in Transformation – be it material or spiritual. It’s the belief that perfection, or oneness with the Cosmos, is attained through both rational and ecstatic experience. The evolution of the human soul, and society, depends on this ongoing Transformation.

“Hypatia” original artwork by Lisa Iris

For Your Eyes Only

If you’ve made it to the end of Dr. Trismegistus’ Class, congratulations! You’ve graduated with honours, granting you access to The Emerald Tablet (including Newton’s translation, amongst others) for YOU to re-interpret:

“If thou but settest foot on this path, thou shalt see it everywhere.”

Hermes Trismegistus


“Hypatia” artwork and text is ©️ 2023 Lisa Iris. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with written permission from and Antonio DeLiberato Exclusive Worldwide agents for “Hypatia” by Lisa Iris.

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Lisa Iris

Lisa Iris is an artist and the proprietress of MYTHOS Art and Counselling, 289 High St., Fort Erie, Ontario.

Her work has appeared on CD and magazine covers, in oracle decks, and is featured in The Crystal Wind Oracle. She enjoys opening her home to kindred spirits for conversation, sharing dreams and making magic happen.