Hermetic writings, also called Hermetica, works of revelation on occult, theological, and philosophical subjects ascribed to the Egyptian niter Thoth, in Greek: Hermes Trismegistos, who was believed to be the inventor of writing and the patron of all the arts dependent on writing, the creator of languages, the scribe, interpreter, adviser of the niters and the representative of the sun niter Ra. His responsibility for writing was shared with the goddess Seshat. The cult of Thoth was centred in the town of Khmunu (Hermopolis; modern Al-Ashmūnayn) in Upper Egypt.
The hermetic texts are collections, written in Greek and Latin, probably dated from the middle of the 1st to the end of the 3rd century AD. It was written in the form of Platonic dialogues and falls into two main classes: “popular” Hermetism, which deals with astrology and the other occult sciences; and “learned” Hermetism, which is concerned with theology and philosophy. Both seem to have arisen in the complex Greco-Egyptian culture of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.
The Lament, part of the Asclepius, is a prophecy, describing the end of the Egyptian civilisation. It is an insight into a lost world.
Asclepius III Lament – A Fragment
Walter Scott translated ASCLEPIUS from Latin documents by Apuleius.
“Do you not know, Asclepius, that Egypt is an image of heaven, or, to speak more exactly, in Egypt all the operations of the powers which rule and work in heaven have been transferred to earth below?
Nay, it should rather be said that the whole Kosmos dwells in this our land as in its sanctuary. And yet, since it is fitting that wise men should have knowledge of all events before they come to pass, you must not be left in ignorance of this: there will come a time when it will be seen that in vain have the Egyptians honoured the deity with heartfelt piety and assiduous service; and all our holy worship will be found bootless and ineffectual. For the gods will return from earth to heaven. Egypt will be forsaken, and the land which was once the home of religion will be left desolate, bereft of the presence of its deities.
This land and region will be filled with foreigners; not only will men neglect the service of the gods, but … ; and Egypt will be occupied by Scythians or Indians or by some such race from the barbarian countries thereabout. In that day will our most holy land, this land of shrines and temples, be filled with funerals and corpses. To thee, most holy Nile, I cry, to thee I foretell that which shall be; swollen with torrents of blood, thou wilt rise to the level of thy banks, and thy sacred waves will be not only stained, but utterly fouled with gore.
Do you weep at this, Asclepius? There is worse to come; Egypt herself will have yet more to suffer; she will fall into a far more piteous plight, and will be infected with yet more, grievous plagues; and this land, which once was holy, a land which loved the gods, and wherein alone, in reward for her devotion, the gods deigned to sojourn upon earth, a land which was the teacher of mankind in holiness and piety, this land will go beyond all in cruel deeds. The dead will far outnumber the living; and the survivors will be known for Egyptians by their tongue alone, but in their actions they will seem to be men of another race.
O Egypt, Egypt, of thy religion nothing will remain but an empty tale, which thine own children in time to come will not believe; nothing will be left but graven words, and only the stones will tell of thy piety. And in that day men will be weary of life, and they will cease to think the universe worthy of reverent wonder and of worship. And so religion, the greatest of all blessings, for there is nothing, nor has been, nor ever shall be, that can be deemed a greater boon, will be threatened with destruction; men will think it a burden, and will come to scorn it. They will no longer love this world around us, this incomparable work of God, this glorious structure which he has built, this sum of good made up of things of many diverse forms, this instrument whereby the will of God operates in that which be has made, ungrudgingly favouring man’s welfare, this combination and accumulation of all the manifold things that can call forth the veneration, praise, and love of the beholder.
Darkness will be preferred to light, and death will be thought more profitable than life; no one will raise his eyes to heaven ; the pious will be deemed insane, and the impious wise; the madman will be thought a brave man, and the wicked will be esteemed as good. As to the soul, and the belief that it is immortal by nature, or may hope to attain to immortality, as I have taught you, all this they will mock at, and will even persuade themselves that it is false. No word of reverence or piety, no utterance worthy of heaven and of the gods of heaven, will be heard or believed.
And so the gods will depart from mankind, a grievous thing!, and only evil angels will remain, who will mingle with men, and drive the poor wretches by main force into all manner of reckless crime, into wars, and robberies, and frauds, and all things hostile to the nature of the soul. Then will the earth no longer stand unshaken, and the sea will bear no ships; heaven will not support the stars in their orbits, nor will the stars pursue their constant course in heaven; all voices of the gods will of necessity be silenced and dumb; the fruits of the earth will rot; the soil will turn barren, and the very air will sicken in sullen stagnation. After this manner will old age come upon the world. Religion will be no more; all things will be disordered and awry; all good will disappear.
But when all this has befallen, Asclepius, then the Master and Father, God, the first before all, the maker of that god who first came into being, will look on that which has come to pass, and will stay the disorder by the counterworking of his will, which is the good. He will call back to the right path those who have gone astray; he will cleanse the world from evil, now washing it away with water-floods, now burning it out with fiercest fire, or again expelling it by war and pestilence. And thus he will bring back his world to its former aspect, so that the Kosmos will once more be deemed worthy of worship and wondering reverence, and God, the maker and restorer of the mighty fabric, will be adored by the men of that day with unceasing hymns of praise and blessing.
Such is the new birth of the Kosmos; it is a making again of all things good, a holy and awe-striking restoration of all nature; and it is wrought in the process of time by the eternal will of God. For Gods will has no beginning; it is ever the same, and as it now is, even so it has ever been, without beginning. For it is the very being of God to purpose good.”
The lament is relevant to our times and previous centuries, in which the foundation of the ancient world was abandoned. Ancient man saw its role on Earth as a contemplation of the divine creation, to admire God’s work and be part of it, and trying to sustain it. That harmony – balance – has now been abandoned, and it is of course one of the reasons why the niters (gods) left. The Lament gives a description of the philosophy involved in this ancient mindset: “The soul and all the beliefs attached to it, according to which the soul is immortal by nature or foresees that it can obtain immortality as I have taught you – this will be laughed at and thought nonsense.” The immortality of the soul was another teaching (treatise) of the Corpus, which had preceded the Asclepius. As it predicted the future, like John’s Apocalypse, it was positioned last in the Corpus Hermeticum.
And so it happened. Today, Egypt is indeed nothing but tombs and corpses, with Egyptology a science that is purely interested in the tombs and corpses, with only the most minimal of attention paid to the Egyptian religion and spirituality, if at all. Indeed, today, most argue that the ancient Egyptian civilisation was impressive, but that their religion was ignorant of modern philosophical frameworks; several academics label the ancient Egyptian mindset as little better than primitive or one step beyond “savages”.
We stand in awe of the temples and the statues of Horus in front of the Temple of Edfu, but we see nothing but a statue. In ancient Egyptian times, these statues were seen as being alive, animated – holding the spirit of the deity – being the deity – represented on Earth. But now the statues are indeed silent and “divinity has returned from Earth to Heaven”. The bond between Heaven and Earth, so central to the ancient Egyptian mind, has been broken and nothing but a dead landscape remains. Whereas the Lament is at pains to explain that, as unlikely it may seem for the ancient Egyptian that this will happen, for modern man, it is as unlikely to imagine that a stone statue was once believed to be a living entity, an earthly residence for a niter, somehow “alive”.
The ancient Egyptians stated that the human magical act resulted in “heka”, the cosmic energy, which was meant to flow. The Lament suggests that this energy solidified, when the niters were no longer worshipped – it blocked up, and Heaven and Earth separated.
The story of visualising the gods by continued thought is similar to the biblical story of Jacob praying to his angel, who finally, after much concentrated thought, manifests himself. Jacob too challenges and fights with his angel, before he gets from that angel what he wants. The “guardian angel” in ancient Egypt was often referred to as the ka: it was the conscience or guide of each individual and in Asclepius’ dialogue with Hermes, we should perhaps see this as an inner dialogue, of Asclepius talking to his “guardian angel” and guide – an archetype, Hermes. “Archetypical magic” is still used today: in war, the home nation is identified as the land of “good” and the enemy is identified as the “evil empire”, linked with Satan, a Christian adaptation of Seth. The ancient Egyptian templates, archetypes, still exist today and remain widely used, though seldom pointed out.
In this video The Lament is narrated by Graham Hancock and illustrated with an impressive animation.