Skip to Main Content

The Way of Hermes

New Translations of The Corpus Hermeticum and The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



Buy from Other Retailers

About The Book

Paperback edition of the recent translation of the esoteric masterpiece, including the first English translation of The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius

• A resource for scholars and religious seekers alike

The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius provides new insights into the actual workings of the gnostic spiritual path

The Corpus Hermeticum, a powerful fusion of Greek and Egyptian thought, is one of the cornerstones of the Western esoteric tradition. A collection of short philosophical treatises, it was written in Greek between the first and third centuries C.E. and translated into Latin during the Renaissance by the great scholar and philosopher Marsilio Ficino. These treatises were central to the spiritual work of hermetic societies in Late Antique Alexandria (200-700 C.E.) and aimed to awaken gnosis, the direct realization of the unity of the individual and the Supreme.

In addition to this new translation of The Corpus Hermeticum, which seeks to reflect the inspirational intent of the original, The Way of Hermes includes the first English translation of the recently rediscovered manuscript of The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius, a collection of aphorisms used by the hermetic student to strengthen the mind during meditation. With the proper mental orientation, a state of pure perception can be achieved in which the true face of God appears. This document is of enormous value to the contemporary student of gnostic studies for its insights into the actual workings of this spiritual path.


The Corpus Hermeticum

Book 1
Poimandres to Hermes Trismegistus

1. Once, when mind had become intent on the things which are, and my understanding was raised to a great height, while my bodily senses were withdrawn as in sleep, when men are weighed down by too much food or by the fatigue of the body, it seemed that someone immensely great of infinite dimensions happened to call my name and said to me:
'What do you wish to hear and behold, and having beheld what do you wish to learn and know?'

2, 'Who are you?' said I.
He said, 'I am Poimandres the Nous of the Supreme. I know what you wish and I am with you everywhere.'

3. 'I wish to learn,' said I, 'the things that are and understand their nature and to know God. O how I wish to hear these things!'
He spoke to me again. 'Hold in your Nous all that you wish to learn and I will teach you.'

Book 4
Hermes to Tat

1. H--Since the Creator made the whole cosmos, not with hands but by the Word, understand that he is present and always is, creating all things, being one alone, and by his will producing all beings. For such is his body: intangible, invisible, immeasurable, indivisible, like nothing else. It is not fire, nor water, nor air, nor breath, but through it all things exist.

2. Being supremely good, he set it up in dedication to that One alone, and he wished to adorn the earth as the form of the body of God. He sent down man, a mortal being, from an immortal being. The cosmos rules over the life of living beings and man rules over the cosmos by means of speech and Nous. For man became the witness of God's work, and he worshipped the Creator and came to know him.

Book 5
Hermes to Tat

5. O that you could grow wings and fly up into the air, and that, poised between earth and heaven, you might see the firmness of earth, the liquidity of the sea, the course of the rivers and the free flow of the air, the piercing fire, the revolution of the stars, the swiftness of the heavenly movement encircling all these things. What most blessed vision, O son, to behold all that in one moment; the unmoving being moved, the unmanifest being made manifest through what it creates! This is the very order of the universe and this is the beauty of the order.

8. No one says that a statue or a portrait has come into being without a sculptor or a painter; then has this work come into being without a creator? What blindness! What sacrilege! What mindless arrogance! My son Tat, never deprive the works of creation of their creator. He is greater than anything the name of God implies, so great is the Father of all; for He is single and His work is just this: to be Father.

Book 6
Hermes to Asciepius

4. And I am thankful to God for putting even a taste of the knowledge of the Supreme Good into my Nous, because this Good cannot exist in the world. For the world is the sum total of evil; God the unlimited goodness, or rather goodness the limitless God. For the excellencies of beautiful things are round His true nature, and appear in some way even more pure and simple, for they are of God. One must have courage to say, O Asclepius, that the essence of God, if indeed He has an essence, is beauty; but no beauty and goodness are to be found in the things of the cosmos. For all things which fall under the eye are images and, as it were, paintings. But what does not fall under the eye is chiefly the excellence of beauty and goodness. And just as the eye cannot see God, so it cannot see beauty and goodness. For these are the attributes of God, perfect and complete, belonging to Him alone, they are His very own, inseparable and most beloved; either God loves them or they love God.

From Hermes Trismegistus to Asciepius: Definitions
3. Earth is the support of the world, the basis of the elements, the nurse of the living (beings), the receptacle of the dead; for (it comes) last after fire and water, since it became what (it is) after fire and water. What is the power of the world? To keep up for ever the immortal (beings), such as they came into being, and to always change the mortal.

4. Water is a fecund essence, the support of earth, as a nutritive essence.

5. Fire is a sterile essence, the duration of the immortal bodies and the destruction of the mortal: an infertile substance, in as much (it belongs to) the destructive fire which makes (things) disappear; and the perpetuation of the immortal (beings), since what cannot be consumed by fire is immortal and indestructible, but the mortal can be destroyed by fire.

6. Light is a good, a clear vision, (which makes) appear all of the visible (things). The essence of fire is burning. However, fire is one (thing) and light is another one. For what fire has reached shall be destroyed, but light appears just as it is by itself. Every move of soul is perceived by Nous; since it is some (kind of) energy, breath performs (it).

1. Nothing is uninhabited by God, for where heaven is, God (is) too, and where the world is, heaven (is) too. I think that God is in heaven, and heaven in the world.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (January 30, 2004)
  • Length: 132 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780892811861

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

The Corpus Hermeticum is a key work standing between ancient Greek civilization and the dawn of Christianity. This work dates from the very beginning of the First Millennium. This important work was previously available to the English reader only in Sir Walter Scott's rather loose and inaccurate translation. The translators of this edition have been at the forefront of the much-acclaimed volumes of translations of The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, the father of the Florentine Renaissance, who himself first translated the Hermetica into Latin. This translation has a much greater accuracy and feel for the subject than Scott's translation. This edition also includes the first published translation by Professor Mahe of The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius from a recently re-discovered Greek manuscript in the Bodleian Library."

– Stephen Hill, Watkins Books

"By all standards, The Way of Hermes is the kind of contribution students of Hermeticism have been waiting for, for a long time.The Way of Hermes is a small book that will not be read quickly, and will take a lifetime to understand."

– Institute for Hermetic Studies, Feb 2006

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images