Those who follow the Hermetic path for a while may well encounter a very specific sense of feeling towards the world. A bittersweet feeling of connection and appreciation, along with a sense of sadness and mourning. As you become more aware and fine tune your own intentions it can start to become hard to deal with some of what you see happening around you.
Looking out at the world you could understandably become hurt by the thoughtless aggression, greed and clumsy destruction caused by mankind. It’s as if your improved sensitivity brings empathy for others in times of struggle, whether close or distant, and with a sense of oneness that means even the pain to plants, animals and the environment is felt within the self.
If you have experienced this you are not alone. The Corpus Hermeticism and other Hermetic works contain writings that clearly express this feeling.
The Lamentation of Hermes
Do you 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 are present in the Earth below? In fact it should be said that the whole Cosmos dwells in this our land as in a 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 what I will now tell you.
There will come a time when it will have been in vain that Egyptians have honoured the Godhead with heartfelt piety and service; and all our holy worship will be fruitless and ineffectual.
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.
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 worship.
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 many diverse forms, this instrument whereby the will of God operates in that which he has made, ungrudgingly favouring man’s welfare; this combination and accumulation of all the manifold things that 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, the impious wise; the madman will be thought a brave man, and the wicked will be esteemed as good.
As for 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, and even persuade themselves that it is false.
No word of reverence or piety, no utterance worthy 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 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 tremble, and the sea bear no ships; heaven will not support the stars in their orbits, all voices of the gods will be forced into silence; the fruits of the Earth will rot; the soil will turn barren, and the very air will sicken with sullen stagnation; all things will be disordered and awry, all good will disappear.
But when all this has befallen, Asclepius, then God the Creator of all things will look on that which has come to pass, and will stop the disorder by the counterforce 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 of evil, washing it away with floods, burning it out with the fiercest fire, and expelling it with war and pestilence.
And thus he will bring back his world to its former aspect, so that the Cosmos will once more be deemed worthy of worship and wondering reverence, and God, the maker and maintainer of the Mighty Fabric, will be adored by the men of that day with continuous songs of praise and blessing.
Such is the new birth of the Cosmos; it is a making again of all things good, a holy and awe-inspiring restoration of all nature; and it is wrought inside the process of Time by the eternal Will of the Creator. – Corpus Hermeticum.
Notice how, after all the predictions of disorder and calamity, we end with a revelation of goodness and light.
In ancient tradition there are no negative emotions, just emotions incorrectly expressed. It’s through the guilt of Heracles he completes his quests, the sadness of Psyche leads to her enlightenment, and the longing of Odysseus for his home that pushes him to become a hero. Could the ancient teachings hold a key to utilising this feeling of misanthropy and ontological angst?
If we read the Hermetic text Kore Kosmu we actually discover that it’s this feeling of despair that causes humans to start to fight with each other and lose control. The presence of pure good is in the world, but it’s not overt at the start of existence.
But we also learn something else. It’s not just your fellow Hermeticists from the past that share your feelings of hurt over the state of imbalance. In this text the very elements themselves rise up in upset rebellion against the evil in the world. Taking the form of an incantation they plead with the divine powers for balance.
The Incantation of the Elements
Fire Speaks: “O Master," he said, “Maker of this new world, Thou whose name, mysterious among the Gods, has hitherto been revered among all men; how long, O Divinity, halt Thou decreed to leave human life without the Divine? Reveal Thyself to the world which calls for Thee, correct its savage existence by the institution of peace. Grant unto life, law, grant unto night oracles; fill all things with happy auguries; let men fear the judgement of the Gods, and no man shall sin any more. Let crimes receive their just punishment, and men will abstain from unrighteousness. They will fear to violate oaths, and madness will have an end. Teach them gratitude for benefits, so shall I devote my flame to pure offerings and libations, and the altars shall yield Thee exhalations of sweet savours. For now I am polluted, O Master, because the impious temerity of men forces me to consume flesh. They will not suffer me to remain in my nature; they pervert and corrupt my purity!"
The air spoke in its turn:–“I am defiled by the effluvium of corpses, O Master; I am becoming pestilent and unwholesome, and from on high I witness things which I ought not to behold."
Then the water took up the word, and spoke on this wise, O my illustrious son:– “Father and wondrous Creator of all things, Divinity incarnate, Author of Nature who brings forth all through Thee, command the waters of the streams to be always pure, for now both rivers and seas are compelled to bathe the destroyer and to receive his victims!"
Then at the last the earth appeared, O my glorious son, and thus began:– “O King, Chief of celestial choirs and Lord of their orbits, Master and Father of the elements which lend to all things increase and decrease, and into which all must return; behold how the impious and insensate tribe of man overspreads me, O venerable One, since by Thy commands I am the habitation of all beings, bearing them all and receiving into my bosom all that is slain; such is now my reproach. Thy terrestrial world in which all creatures are contained is bereft of the Divine. And because they revere nothing, they transgress every law and overwhelm me with all manner of evil works. To my shame, O Lord, I admit into myself the product of the corruption of carcases. But I, who receive all things, would fain also receive the Divine. Grant to earth this grace, and if Thou comest not Thyself–for indeed I cannot contain Thee–let me at least receive some holy efflux of Thee. Let the earth become the most glorious of all the elements; and since she alone gives all things to all, may she revere herself as the recipient of Thy favours."
Thus the elements discoursed, and forthwith the Divine filled the universe with His divine voice. “Go," said He, “sacred offspring, worthy of your Father's greatness, seek not to change anything, nor refuse to my creatures your ministry. I will send you an efflux of myself, a pure Being who shall investigate all actions, who shall be the dreadful and incorruptible Judge of the living; and sovereign justice shall extend its reign even into the shades beneath the earth. Thus shall every man receive his merited deserts." Thereupon the elements ceased from their complaints, and each of them resumed its functions and its sway.
So as we can read, the elements themselves call out to divinity and ask for help. Their call is so strong that the divine goodness responds by imbuing them with an inherent sense of justice. Karma is created.
So let us as Hermeticists remember this. Sometimes it can be hard to see the higher light in the world around us, but we must be watchful. If we become despondent we can become part of the problem not the solution. For this reason we must make it our sacred duty at all times to keep the higher principles alive within ourselves and to be the change we wish to see in the world. Allowing any feelings of sadness or horror at the evil in the world to be a motivation to express goodness and harmony in all our actions.
And remember when you feel alone the elemental forces of nature themselves are your allies and have been gifted with a force to protect and comfort you.
Sit in nature and open the sacred circle, using the incantation above remind them of a time when they too felt a need to call for help and in sympathy they will rise up beside you in unity.