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The Legacy of Thoth in the West (part 4)

"Among the Greeks, the influence of Egypt was felt primarily through its literature, but among the Romans, the influence took a different twist...At the beginning of the 1st c.

A.D., the Romans controlled the Nile Valley.  They embraced its culture, and the

emperor was compared to a pharoah.  The conquerors adopted certain rites of the land they had conquered, and the cult of Isis found a home in Rome. 


Rome adopted Egyptian architecture.  Even now, we can admire one of the last

remnants of this era, the pyramid of Caius Cestius...The existence of an Isaic college is attested to around 80 B.C.  By 105 B.C., a temple consecrated to the worship of Isis was located in Pompeii.  The Iseum in the Campus Martius, which included a temple dedicated to Isis and Serapis, remained the most important evidence of the existence of the presence of Egyptian cults among the Romans...Nero (37-66) introduced some some Isaic feast days in the Roman calendar.  Marcus Arelius (161 -180) constructed a temple for Thoth (Hermes).


...Nevertheless (future eras) saw Egypt fading away before an ever-expanding Christ-

ianity.  Alexandria played an  important role in the many controversies that marked the

beginnings of this religion newly imposed by Constantine.  In the 3rd c., the Egyptians abandoned hieroglyphics and adopted the Coptic script for transcribing their language.

The Copts adapted the secret knowledge of the pharoahs to Christianity.  Soon after-

wards, Emperor Theodosius promulgated an edict against non-Christian cults, thus mark-

ing the end of the Egyptian clergy and their ceremonies.   


Christianity, which began to gain in influence, was not unaware of Hermes.  In the

middle of the 2nd c., a kind of Christian Hermes appeared in the pages of a book entitled "The Shepherd", whose author was said to be Hermas.  It is a Roman work in which Hermas, the 'messenger' took the form of a prophet...In the early church, Jesus is often presented as a shepherd, a role that is attributed to Hermes...Considered for a long time to be an integral part of the canonical scriptures, The Shepherd passed to the status of apocryphal scripture at the beginning of the 4th c.


The Church fathers generally loved to delve into mythology so as to disclose the begin-

nings of the Gospel.  Hermes Trismegustus continued to garner respect among them.

Lactantius (250-325), in his "Divinarum Institutionum", saw Christian truth formulated in the 'Corpus Hermeticum'.  He placed Hermes Trismegustus in the first rank of Gentile prophets who foresaw the coming of Christ.  St. Augustine, the Father of the Church, in his 'City of God', a fundamental treatise of Christian theology, made Hermes a descendant of God.  Clement of Alexandria liked to compare the Hermes-Logos to the Christ-Logos.


On the island of Philae, an Egyptian temple continued to function, it was not closed until 551, by order of Emperor Justinian.  It will be noted that the Egyptian temples

remained active between the 1st and 6th c. - that is, during the period which covers the composition of the Hermetica.  It is often remarked that these texts are pessimistic regarding the future of the Egyptian religion, which leads us to think that they were written in an Egyptian setting by a priestly class.


Alexandria had been the starting point where Egyptian teachings entered the Greek and Roman worlds.  It was where the ancient tradition was reformulated by way of alchemy,

astrology and magic...This point of departure...was already disappearing by the 6th c."


"Rosicrucian History and Mysteries"  Christian Rebisse


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