The name means 'Hermes Thrice Greatest' and is the title given to the Egyptian lunar god Thoth (Tehuti*) by the Greeks in their attempt to equate the Egyptian gods with their own. According to many, Thoth was the inventor of magic and writing. It is also thought that Thoth was a human, either Adam or Adam's grandson. He is said to have authored the lost "Books of Thoth," which are either carved on slabs of emerald or in forty two books but explain the life and philosophy (therefore, secrets) of ancient Egypt. Regardless his name appears on many works on Alchemy, astrology, and magic. Within Lovecraft's work, Hermes Trimegistus or Thoth is the author of occult works including one that Mesnard prepared an edition of and which resides in the library of Joseph Curwen.
[The Evil Clergyman - H.P.L.]
[The Case of Charles Dexter Ward - H.P.L.]
Mead is available in the Miskatonic University Library (frontpage shown below)
Read the Francis Barrett entry on Hermes Trimegistus HERE
To learn more about Hermes Trimesigtus follow this LINK.
* Tehuti, who went about giving names to all created things, is also known as the first man, and so the name may itself be an alias of Adam. See on these points C.J. Jung, Collected Works, vol. XII, Psychology and Alchemy (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1953), pp. 349-50. In his book Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored (Rider, London, 1940), the modern alchemist, Archibald Cockren, draws attention to an old tradition that places Hermes Trismegistus in the Egypt of Sesosris II who was one of the pharaohs of the 12th Dynasty (c. 1900 B.C.).But, since Thoth's writing were lost, there were many around to recreate them (much like the lost religion of the Celtic druids has been reinvented from nothing).
The Greeks, and after them the Neo-Platonists and Christians, regarded him as an ancient king of Egypt, who invented all the sciences, and concealed their secrets in certain mysterious books. These ancient books, to the number of 20,000 according to some, and of 36,000 according to others, bore his name. Clement of Alexandria has described the solemn procession in which they were carried in ceremony. The tradition in virtue of which all secret works of magic, astrology, and chemistry were attributed to Hermes, persisted for a long time. He is mentioned in Iamblichus's "Iamblichus de Mysteriis Ægyptiorum, Chaldaeorum, Assyriorum. Proclus in Platonicum Alcibiadem de Naima, atque Dæmone . . . Porphyrius de divinis atque dæmonibus. Psellus de Dæmonibus. Mercurii Trismegisti Pimander. Eiusdem Asclepius" and by the late Hellenic period there were many "Hermetic" books. (Things were soon hermetically sealed since Hermes Trismegistus was supposed to have to have invented a seal to make vessels airtight.) The Arabians composed several of them; and the fabrication of Hermetic writing in Latin lasted during the entire Middle Ages.
Some of these writings have come down to us, either in the original Greek or in Latin and Arabic translations. From a philosophic point of view, the most interesting of them is the 'Poimandres' (the shepherd of men, symbolizing the Divine Intelligence). It has been divided into twenty books by Patricius. It is a dialogue composed some time in the fourth century of the Christian ear, and discusses such questions as the nature of the Divinty, the human soul, the creation and fall of man, and the divine illumination that alone can save him. It is written in Neo-Platonic spirit, but bears evidence of the influence of Jewish and Christian thought. It was translated into German by Tiedemann in 1781. There have been several editions of it. The first appeared at Paris in 1554, and the last, by Parthez, in Berlin, in 1854. The Logos teleios, the perfect Word, is somewhat older; it is a refutation of the doctrines of Christianity under the form of a dialogue between Hermes and his disciple Asclepius. An 'Address to the Human Soul' was translated from the Arabic and published by Fleischer in 1870. It is, doubtless, itself a translation from a Greek original. The most interesting passages in the Hermetic books have been rendered into French by Louis Menard (Paris, 1886). Baumgarten-Crusius in his 'De Librorum Hermeticorum Origine et Idole' (Jena, 1827), and Pietschmann in his 'Hermes Trismegistos' (Leipsic, 1875), have discussed this subject very fully.
The conformity between the part and the whole had another consequence which is of vital importance in the practice of magic. This is the ancient belief that the one can directly affect the other since each is subject to the same laws. It is best summed up by the so-called Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, reputed to have been a piece of emerald on which certain Phoenician characters were engraved. One tradition has it that this precious tablet was found by Abraham's wife, Sarah, in a cave where it was guarded by the corpse of Hermes Trismegistus, granson of Adam and architect of the pyramids. Another tradition names its discovere as Alexander the Great, while yet a third maintains that Hermes Trismegistus, alias Tehuti, the Egyptian god of wisdom, presented the tablet to an alchemist, Maria Prophetissa, who is said by some to have been Miriam, sister of Moses. Fortunately, readers familiar with magical literature will not be put out by these dubious origins which are, alas, an all-too-common feature of occultism. As the for message of the tablet iself, the Latin version contains these words: 'Verum est ... quod superius est sicut quod inferius et quod inferius est sicut quod superious, ad perpetrando miracula rui unius.' 'The truth is that what is above is like what is below and what is below is like what is above, to accomplish miracles of the one thing.' The 'miracles' of magic are governed by the same principle, although far from being miraculous, they are merely the results of applying certain natural though occult laws.
Lovecraft understood all this. William Conover in LOVECRAFT AT LAST quotes a letter from Lovecraft: "HERMES TRISMEGISTUS. This was the Greek name of the Egyptian god Thoth. Certain sacred books arising in Egypt at a late (Hellenistic) date were naively ascribed to this deity and called the 'Hermetic Books'. Fragments of these survived to the Middle Ages, by which time the ignorant populace had begun to regard 'Hermes Trismegistus' as a Chaldean philospher (just as they thought Virgil was a magician) and the founder of alchemy! The association of this name with alchemy-or chemical procedure-survives to this day in the term 'hermetically sealed'.
"About the relation of the word 'hermetic' or 'hermetically' to the god Hermes, I hope I made plain that it is a very indirect one. The mediæval alchemists who coined the word thought that 'Hermes trismegistus', supposed author of the 'Hermetic Books', was a Chaldean philosopher. Actually, 'Hermes Trismegistus' was simply the Greek name of the Egyptian god Thoth, to whom the books in question were attributed by the later ancients. (The books themselves were not older then the third century A.D.) Now Thoth and the real Greek god Hermes were not exactly the same thing. The Greeks and Romans always tried to identify the gods of foreign races with corresponding deities of their own, but the relationship was often forced and far-fetched. Sometimes, when two races were close enough to have inherited similar streams of Aryan mythology, there was agenuine resemblence between the different gods decalred to be the same. Thus the Greek Heremes was indeed very much like the Llatin Mercury with whom he was identified.
"But when it comes to Thoth the parallel is a bit stretched. Thoth was a pretty different bird [bum joke. Thoth had an ibis's head!] from Hermes, even though he did preside over speech, art, science, and literature. However, the fact that the Greeks thought that Thoth was their Hermes establishes the verbal linkage . . . and it doesn't matter much, since the books have no more real connexion with the one mythical figure than with the other! Greek god-Egyptian god-Chaldean philosopher . . . it's all the same. None of these hypothetical bearers of the name ver existed! The name 'Trismegistus' means merely 'thrice-greatest'. The books themselves were nothing more than scrambled extracts from the more mystical parts of Neoplatonic and Alexandrian-Jewish writings of the third century A.D. They treat of science, art, religion, medicine, cosmography, et cetera, and embody more than a hint of Pythagoreanism. They tell of the creation of the world from fluid, the formation of the 'soul' from life and light, the indestructibility of all things, the origin of tall suffering in motion, the transmigration of 'soul' from body to body, et cetera, et cetera. Their connexion with alchemy is very thin-but the uncritical mind of the Middle Ages (which made a Chaldean philosopher of their suppoed author ... and deemed Virgil a magician!) could imagine anything."
Thrice Greatest Hermes
Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis Being a Transaction of the Extant Sermons and Fragments of the Trismegistic Literature with Prolegomena, Commentaries, and Notes; All three volumes are combined into one book.
These volumes might be described as the preparation of materials to serve for the historic, mythic, and mystic consideration of the Origins of Christianity. The serious consideration of the matter contained in these pages will, enable the attentive reader to outline in his mind, however vaguely, some small portion of the environment of infant Christianity, and allow him to move a few steps round the cradle of Christendom. Partial Contents: Vol. 1: Remains of the Trismegistic Literature; History of the Evolution of Opinion; Thoth the Master of Wisdom; Popular Theurgic Hermes-Cult; Main Source of the Trismegistic Literature; An Egyptian Prototype of the Main Features of the Poemandres' Cosmogony; Myth of Man in the Mysteries; Philo of Alexandria; Plutarch: Concerning the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris; Hermas and Hermes; Concerning the AEligon Doctrine; Seven Zones and their Characteristics; Plato: Concerning Metempsychosis; Disciples of Thrice-Greatest Hermes. Vol. 2: Poemandres, the Shepherd of Men; General Sermon; Sacred Sermon; Cup or Monad; In God Alone is Good; Greatest Ill Among Men is Ignorance of God; But Men in Error Speak of Their Changes as Destructions and as Deaths; On Thought and Sense; The Key; Mind Unto Hermes; About the Common Mind; Secret Sermon on the Mountain. Vol. 3: Excerpts by Stobaeligus; Of Piety and True Philosophy; Ineffability of God; Of Truth; God, Nature and the Gods; Of Matter & Time; Energy and Feeling; Justice; Providence and Fate; Of Soul; Power of Choice; Of Isis to Horus; From Aphrodite; References and Fragments in the Fathers; Justin Martyr; Clement of Alexandria; Tertullian; Cyprian; Augustine; Cyril of Alexandria; References and Fragments in the Philosophers; Zosimus; Jamblichus; Julian the Emperor; Fulgentius the Mythographer.