What are the Hermetic texts?

This article comes forth from a lack of (easily findable) information that I have been looking for and is the result of a series of adaptations and investigations during november 2003. There may still be changes still, but I think the information is fairly complete now. I had two ‘problems’ with Hermetic scriptures. Nowhere could I find a list with books ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus and second, the order of the ‘libelli’ and the content of the Corpus Hermeticum differs from translation to translation.

In this article I have looked into the first problem, what are the Hermetic texts? This means, writings that we nowadays believe to be genuinely ‘Hermetic’ (this does not mean: written by Hermes). Because I could’t find this list either in my personal library or on the internet, I started to make one myself. Later I ran into such a list on the internet AND on 15/11/03 the new book of the Dutch scholar Jacob Slavenburg was released (see review). It deals with Hermetic history and… has a list with Hermetic scriptures within his ‘sources list’. Here is the Slavenburg list:

Book of Thoth, recently discovered/compiled pre-Hermetic text;
Aphorisms of Hermes, from the Alchemista Graeca 115.10;
Asclepius, an older and long Hermetic text that is much more Egyptian than the Corpus Hermeticum and of which Latin translations were known in the Middle Ages. in 1945 a gnostic library was found near the Egyptian village Nag Hammadi. this library included three Hermetic texts of which one was unknown until then, including  a Coptic translation of the Logos Teleios (‘perfect doctrine’) which is the source-text of the Asclepius. the Coptic translation is much less free than the Latin translation that we already had;
Brontologion, also doctrine of thunder, a Greek-Egyptian astrological treatise;
Corpus Hermeticum in 17 "libelli" (plural of "libellus" a word that Slavenburg and Walter Scott (see second part of this article) use for "treatise"). there are versions of the Corpus Hermeticum that have other treatises than the normal ones (see below);
Prayer of Thanksgiving
(NHC VI-7);
The religious experience of doctor Thessalos, a medical Hermetic work;
Secret method of Hermes Trismegistos for every initiative, an astrological writing;
Greek magical papyri (Papyri Graecae Magicae). this list was unclear, here
is my version
:
– PGM I 232-247 “memory spell” (“Hermaic myrrh ink”);
– PGM III 1-164 “cat ritual for many purposes”;
– PGM III 467-178 “memory spell” (“hermes’ finger”);
– PGM IV 94-153 “love spell of attraction” (thoth);
– PGM IV 2241-2358 “document to the waning moon”;
– PGM IV 2373-2440 “charm for aquiring business”;
– PGM IV 2967-3006 “(no title) spell for picking a plant”;
– PGM IV 3125-3171 “(no title) spell for favor” (“Hermanubis” and “the ibis”);
– PGM V 213-303 “hermes’ ring”;
– PGM V 370-446 “spell for revelation”;
– PGM V 172-212 “another way (to catch a thief)”;
– PGM VII 540-1978 “lamp divination”;
– PGM VII 919-924 “hermes’ wondrous victory charm”;
– PGM VIII 1-63 “binding lvoe spell of astrapsoukos”;
– PGM 144-152 “request for a dream”;
– PGM XII 401-444 “interpretations”;
– PGM XIII 1-734 “a sacred book called “unique” or “eight book of moses”;
– PGM XIII 1-343 + 343-646 “ritual and magical handbook”;
– PGM XVIIb “prayer”
– PGM XXXII 1-19 “(no title) love spell of attractoin”
– PGM XXXVI 320-332 “contraceptive spell”;
– PGM L 1-18 “(no title) oracle (?)”;
– PGM LXVII 1-24 “(no title) love spell (?)”;
– PGM CIX 1-8 “(no title) love spell”

there are some left in which Thoth is named instead of Hermes:
+ PGM IV 94-153 “(no title) love spell of attraction”
+ PDM xiv 1-92 “[a vessel divination]”
+ PDM xiv 150-231 “an inquiry of the lamp”
+ PDM xiv 395-427 “[a vessel divination]”
+ PDM lxi 63-78 “(no title) spell for a dream revelation”
+ PGM LXXIX 1-7 (is the same as) LXXX 1-5 “charm to restrain anger”
+ PDM supplement 149-162 “a “god’s arrival” of thoth”
+ PDM supplement 168-184 “spell for reciting a document”

The holy book of Hermes to Asclepius, an astrological/medical text;
Hermetic definitions, or Definitions of Hermes Trismegistos for Asclepius, originally an Armenian text and which is fairly long;
Iatromathematica of Hermes Trismegistus to the Egyptian Ammon, subtitled foreknowledge concerning diseases that force people to bed ("bedlegerige ziekten" in Dutch) according to mathematical science;
– the Kyraniden 1) Kyranis and 2) Koiranides, medical texts;
Liber Hermetis Trismegisti, a fairly long astrological text;
Of the plant called Pioen;
Of the influence of planets on plants;
Peri Seismon, astrological text;
Salmeschoiniaka, either translated as book of images as book of great birthgiving, an astrological text;
fragments from StobaeusAnthologium (Stobaei Hermetica) a compilation of Greek quotes for his son of which some proved to be Hermetic and some even unknown:
  – 1  : fragment of conversation between Hermes and Tat;
  – 3  : of the same (Hermes);
  – 4  : fragments of conversations between Hermes and Tat;
  – 5  : fragments of conversations between Hermes and Tat and between Tat and Ammon;
  – 6  : fragment of conversation between Hermes and Tat;
  – 9  : fragments of conversations between Hermes and Tat;
  – 10: fragment of conversation between Hermes and Tat;
  – 16: fragments of conversations between Hermes and Ammon;
  – 23: korè kosmou (‘eye of the world’, but also ‘little maid of the world’, much longer than the rest and available in the Scott book "Hermetica" and in the ‘Secret Doctrine Reference Series’ in a translation by Anna Kingsford and Eward Maitland, two Theosophists);
  – 24: (Isis to Horus);
  – 28: aphorisms;
  – 29: from Hermes (about planets)
(three Stobaeus fragments can be found in the editions of the Corpus Hermeticum of Patrizi and Van Rijckenborgh (see below):
Hermes to Tat: of Thruth (Stobaeus IIA in the Scott counting);
Oration of Hermes to Tat / first book;
Of Operation and Sense.
Walter Scott has all 23 fragments, also those that can be found in other texts and those which are only one line. Also Scott has 37 fragments found in texts of Tertulian, all of which are only one or two lines.)

Tabula Smaragdina;
Therapeutic manual of Harpokration;
Received from the angels as gift of the unforgettable God, the God Hermes Trismegistus, to tell to people who are endowed with understanding;
From Hermes about the plants of the twelve signs;
Discourse on the eight and ninth (celestial spheres) (Nag Hammadi Codex VI-6);
(Hermetic) discourse about the soul;
Abridged medical manual of Hermes Trismegistos in accordance with astrological science en the natural influences of animals, addressed to his student Asclepius;
True book of Sophé, anonymous alchemical text;
Fragments of Vienna, Vindobonenses Graecae 29456r and 29828r;
Fragments of Oxford, part of the Greek Clarkianus 11 of the Bodleian Library;
Testimonia, other writers about Hermes and his doctrine, compiled by Walter Scott;
Book of the secret of creation:
The large letter of the spheres of Hermes of Dendera;
Light upon the life of Hermes of Hermesses for who wishes this, Arabic text;
Liber XXIV Philosophorum, or book of the 24 wise, an alchemical writing of which some versions say it is by Hermes, some don’t say that.
Liber Alcidi, book with aphorisms of Hermes;
Silverwater and starearth, Arabic alchemical text.

To this already impressive text I would like to add the following titles:

De Castigatione Animae, an Arabic text with the title Kitab Mu‘ádilat
an-Nafs
that was translated to Latin twice (1736 J.J. Reiske and 1873 O. Bardenhewer) and can be found in a few German books of 1840 and 1870. it is now also translated to Dutch. This book is reviewed in the book reviews section;
Tractatus aureus de Lapide Philosophico, I am in doubt about this one. an esoteric encyclopedia of mine lists this as an Hermetic text and Frank van Lamoen also has it as authentic Hermetic text, but it was  written by a certain Joannes de Lasnioro, according to this page. the text is part of the alchemical book Musaeum Hermeticum (1625, 1678, 1749) and also Ars Chemica (1556);
Papyrus Mimaut the Prayer Of Thanksgiving that is also found in Asclepius
(Latin), the Nag Hammadi library (Coptic) and as XVIII, 591-611 also in Greek in the Papyrus Mimaut;
Fragmenta Hermetica, "1-36 (Nock and Festugiere, 1945-1954, vol. 4): various fragments quoted in Greek, Latin or Syriac by several authors from Tertullian (second-third century CE) to Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286). to these fragments should be added the papyri Vindobonenses Graecae 29456r and 29828r, as well as an Armenian fragment and several Syriac fragments." <info from this page>;
Minerva Mundi, Eliphas Levi mentions this "Hermetic text" on page 176 of my Dutch translation of his Dogme et Rituel de la haute Magie and a website that no longer excists has it as alchemical Hermetic text and says the following: "The treatise "Minerva Mundi," attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, contains, under the most poetical and profound allegories, the dogma of the self-creation ‘of beings, or of the law of creation that results from the accord of two forces, these which the Alchemists called the Fixed and the Volatile, and which are, in the Absolute, Necessity and Liberty." (the text is from Albert Pike);
Centiloquium, published in the Liber Nativitatem (1501) and is an astrological text that is also sometimes ascribed to Ptolemaeus (2nd cent.).

Many texts have been lost, also keytexts such as the General Discourses that are referred to in the Corpus Hermeticum and which Slavenburg believes to be the beginners lessons of the Hermetic initiation education.

Originally as ‘one article’ I also have sought into the subject of the order of the treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum which you can find in a separate article now.

For book reviews about the subject, click here.

6 comments

  1. Hi there Gangleri et al,

    I have a question, probably mundane for you learned persons.

    It is this – In their book, The Hermetica, authors Freake and Gandy, refer to the role of the Zodiac in destiny, (p97).

    I find no reference to this in their nominated sources, namely the Asclepius, Stobaeus and Corpus Hermeticum.

    Even if you are unfamiliar with that work can you enlighten me as to their possible source.

    best wishes, Hermes

  2. I have heard that there are at least 200 texts in the Hermetic canon. Do you know of all of these texts? Have you heard of this or know where to find them?

  3. Yes, thank you, your list is very helpful. I am glad I discovered your website. I didn’t see 200, unless I’m not considering something. I was curious as to the total number of Hermetic texts.

    1. I don’t know where your number 200 comes from, but my side of the story is that when I wrote this article many years ago, I could not find a list of the Hermetic texts. What you see above are the texts that I found at the time.

  4. Dear Roy:

    Thanks for the great work on this list. I’ve suffered the same frustration, and your list has been a real help. One thought for you: I think Levi’s “Minerva Mundi” is a quirky attempt at translating the title of “Kore Kosmou.”

    Best regards,
    APF

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