The Hermetic Chain

     One of the most interesting passages in Valentin Tomberg's Meditations on the Tarot is the Appendix to the chapter on The Magician: "Historical Note Concerning the Emerald Table."  In this Appendix, Tomberg discusses the history of the Emerald Tablet, which is itself interesting.  However, at the end of the appendix, Tomberg writes: "in which tradition [the Hermetic tradition] the principal links (according to Ficino, writing in 1471) are: Hermes Trismegistus - Orpheus - Pythagoras - Philolaus (Divini Platonis nostri praeceptor) - Plato - the Neopythagoreans (Apolllonius) - the Neoplatonists (Plotinus)"

    This is an interesting idea of Tomberg's, that the ancient Greek philosophers were part of a tradition that began with Hermes.  Interestingly enough, it is not just an idea of Tomberg's.  In his biography of Proclus, Marinus wrote the following about his teacher Proclus: 

"At the the beginning of his 42nd year, he seemed to be shouting the following verses: 'I am possessesd by a spirit which breathes into me the force of fire, which enfolding and entrancing my reason in a whirl of flame, flies toward the aether, and with its immortal vibrations reechoes in the starry vaults!' 

Besides, in a dream he had clearly seen that he belonged to the Hermetic Chain; and, on the authority of a dream, he was convinced that his was the reincarnated soul of the Pythagorean Nicomachus."

    This is all that Marinus says about this idea, but it shows that there is something more to the idea of the Hermetic chain.  

    There are other interesting things about this biography as well.  Marinus was a Samaritan who converted to, of all religions, philosophical paganism in, of all times, the fifth century AD when paganism was on the way out.  

    Also, this particular translation came to be translated into English in an interesting way.  The translator, Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie (1871 - 1940) had two PhD's and an M.D., was the rector of a Church in New York City and also translated many ancient writings into English.  Here is Guthrie's account of how he came to translate Proclus: 

"This reissue of Proclus' works came about in a strange, Providential way, Mr Emil Verch was a California miner, with no classical education, but with a deep desire to know the truth, and with abstemious impulses, and desire for knowledge of the Invisible.

One day, much to his surprise, he heard a great oration, in an unknown tongue, by a sage who appeared to him, and who was demonstrating geometrical and symbolic figures. After his great surprise was over, he insisted on knowing the sage's name, and was told it was PROCLUS (this happened in a miner's cabin in California's mountain mining district, and later in the Delta Hotel in San Francisco).

As Mr Verch did not know anything about PROCLUS he went around asking about him, and ultimately, while working as engineer on a ship in New York Harbour, through the Marine Y.M.C.A, thanks to the enlightened liberality of Mr Beard who could appreciate mystic devotion even if in unfamiliar language, he came to me, and visited TEOCALLI, where I showed him what works of Proclus. I happened to have, and a list of his works.

Till then I had neglected Proclus, being absorbed in Plotinus, Numenius, Pythagoras. Indeed, the ebbing of the forces of my life seemed to preclude any new interests; but Mr Verch's insistence that I do something for PROCLUS led me to assent in principle. Encouraged by vague promises of assistance when I gave up my heart-breaking work at ALL SAINTS, during the 1924 Christmas vacation, I did my best to investigate anew a manifolding process, through which I have managed to get this much together, trusting to God to help."


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