Altered States of Knowledge: The Attainment of Gnōsis in the Hermetica

"Research into the so-called “philosophical” Hermetica has long been dominated by the foundational scholarship of André-Jean Festugière, who strongly emphasized their Greek and philosophical elements. Since the late 1970s, this perspective has given way to a new and more complex one, due to the work of another French scholar, Jean-Pierre Mahé, who could profit from the discovery of new textual sources, and called much more attention to the Egyptian and religious dimensions of the hermetic writings. This article addresses the question of how, on these foundations, we should evaluate and understand the frequent hermetic references to profound but wholly ineffable revelatory and salvational ins

Coffin Texts Spell 761

The Coffin Texts are called such because they were written on the inside of coffins in order to aid the deceased to fulfill his or her needs in the afterlife. Many of the spells derive from the Old Kingdom (ca. 2686–2181 BCE) Pyramid Texts, which were exclusively the domain of the Pharaohs, but the Coffin Texts were available to anyone who could afford a coffin (like the one pictured). Egyptologists sometimes refer to this development as the “democratization of the afterlife.” The following translation is from R. O. Faulkner’s The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts. This spell is number 761 (p. 293 of “volume 2″). “N” in the text below would be replaced by the name of the deceased when he or she

Iamblichus’s “On the Mysteries”

The following is an introduction to the ancient text at the absolute center of any historical reconstruction of theurgy, Iamblichus’s “On the Mysteries.” The version pictured is the highly recommended recent translation by Clarke, Dillon, and Hershbell (2003). Historical Introduction and Significance The De mysteriis (hereafter DM) of the Neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus (c. 240 – c. 325 CE) is one of the most important texts for the study of Late Antique philosophy. It represents a definitive break from the systems of his immediate forebears, Plotinus (204/5 – 270 CE), generally considered the founder of “Neoplatonism” (a term coined in the late eighteenth century), and his student Porphy

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