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Hermeticism and Ancient Astrology

In episode 339 Sam Block joins the show to talk about the ancient philosophy of Hermeticism and its relationship to Hellenistic astrology.

Hermeticism is a religious, philosophical, and mystical movement that arose in Hellenistic Egypt around the first century, and is attributed to the teachings and practices of Hermes Trismegistus.

It represents a popular synthesis of a number of philosophical and religious trends that were popular during the Hellenistic period, including Stoicism, Platonism, native Egyptian religion, and astrology.

The majority of what is known about this philosophical or religious school survives in the Corpus Hermeticum and a handful of other writings from that time period.

During the course of the episode we talk about what is known about the Hermetic philosophical tradition, and how it relates to the technical tradition of astrology that arose during the same time period.

Sam is the author of a series on Hermeticism on his website, which I would recommend checking out for more information on this topic:


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This episode is available in both audio and video versions below.


Timestamps for different topics covered and parts of the discussion:

00:00:00 Intro
00:01:07 What survives from ancient Hermeticism
00:06:12 Religions and philosophies that influenced Hermeticism
00:15:00 The Corpus Hermeticum
00:24:44 Excerpts from the Hermetica
00:34:00 Hermeticism vs. Gnosticism
00:37:00 Excerpts about planets, soul, and fate
00:50:40 Diagram of the spheres of the cosmos
00:52:26 Gnosis meaning
00:55:25 Excerpt about salvation of the soul
01:02:19 Passage from Introduction to Gnosticism
01:03:18 Why astrology recurs as a motif in Hermeticism
01:07:00 A Stoic prayer and fate
01:12:05 Philosophical Hermetica vs. practical Hermetica
01:19:37 Hermetic influence on Vettius Valens
01:24:52 Alchemist Zosimos on fate
01:29:46 The Hermetica had multiple authors
01:50:04 Thoth and Hermes
01:52:36 Hermes and Mercury
01:54:08 Planetary joys scheme originates from Hermetic text
02:01:27 House significations and the Hermetica
02:16:40 Eclecticism and accessibility of the Hermetica
02:27:56 Birth charts in Egyptian temples
02:31:06 Divination in the Mediterranean world
02:35:17 Astrology as divination
02:38:44 Why is Hermes called thrice great?
02:40:30 What is the Way of Hermes?
02:44:51 What to do with birth chart information?
02:49:49 Hermeticism and Christianity
02:52:41 How much of our fate can we change?
02:55:57 Resources about Hermeticism
03:02:59 Book 3 of the Hermetica and astrology
03:09:25 Patrons and sponsors

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A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 339 transcript

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1 comment
  • I’m not sure if it really makes a difference but:
    It stood out to me that one of the quotes you read from ralins (spelling inaccurate) his quote you stated heaven earth fire water . And we say earth air fire water typically . Is that because we do western astrology and not sidereal ? Maybe a silly question but could be a big deal for those who practice magic