HERMES, SURNAMED TRISMEGISTUS,
THRICE GREATEST INTELLIGENCER.
HERMES Trismegistus, (who was the author of the divine Pymander and some other books,) lived some time before Moses. He received the name of Trismegistus, or Mercurius ter Maximus, i. e. thrice greatest Intelligencer, because he was the first intelligencer who communicated celestial and divine knowledge to mankind by writing.
He was reported to have been king of Egypt; without doubt he was an Egyptian; nay, if you believe the Jews, even their Moses; and for the justification of this they urge, 1st, His being well skilled in chemistry; nay, the first who communicated that art to the sons of men; 2dly, They urge the philosophic work, viz. of rendering gold medicinal, or, finally, of the art of making aurum potabile; and, thirdly, of teaching the Cabala, which they say was shewn him by God on Mount Sinai: for all this is confessed to be originally written in Hebrew, which he would not have done had he not been an Hebrew, but rather in his vernacular tongue. But whether he was Moses or not 1, it is certain he was an Egyptian, even as Moses himself also was; and therefore for the age he lived in, we shall not fall short of the time if we conclude he flourished much about the time of Moses; and if he really was not the identical Moses, affirmed to be so by many, it is more than probable that he was king of Egypt; for being chief philosopher, he was, according
to the Egyptian custom, initiated into the mysteries of priesthood, and from thence to the chief governor or king.
He was called Ter Maximus, as having a perfect knowledge of all things contained in the world (as his Aureus, or Golden Tractate, and his Divine Pymander shews) which things he divided into three kingdoms, viz. animal, vegetable, and mineral; in the knowledge and comprehension of which three he excelled and transmitted to posterity, in enigmas and symbols, the profound secrets of nature; likewise a true description of the Philosopher's Quintessence, or Universal Elixir, which he made as the receptacle of all celestial and terrestrial virtues. The Great Secret of the philosophers he discoursed on, which was found engraven upon a Smaragdine table, in the valley of Ebron.
Johannes Functius, in his Chronology says, he lived in the time of Moses, twenty-one years before the law was given in the wilderness. Suidas seems to confirm it by saying, "Credo Mercurium Trismegistum sapientem Egyptium floruisse ante Pharaonem." But this of Suidas may be applied to several ages, for that Pharaoh was the general name of their kings; or possibly it might be intended before the name of Pharaoh was given to their kings, which, if so 1, he makes Trismegistus to exist 400 years before Moses, yea, before Abraham's descent into Egypt. There is no doubt but that he possessed the great secret of the philosophic work; and if God ever appeared in man, he appeared in him, as is evident both from his books and his Pymander; in which works he has communicated the sum of the abyss, and the divine knowledge to all posterity; by which he has demonstrated himself to have been not only an inspired divine, but also a deep philosopher, obtaining his wisdom from God and heavenly things, and not from man.
150:1 The Cabalists of the Hebrews affirm that Moses was this Hermes; and although meek, yet was a man possessed of the most serious gravity, and a profound speculator in chemistry and divine magic; that he by divine inspiration on the mount, became acquainted with the knowledge of all the natural and secret operations of nature; that he taught the transmutation of metals per Cabala, i. e. by oral tradition, to the Jews.
151:1 According to the best authorities to be taken, Hermes Trismegistus lived in the time of Pharaoh, Israel's tyrant and oppressor, and was not the same with Moses who opposed Jannes and Jambres.