The Old Path: The Way of Hermes Before Jesus walked the Earth, there was an Old Path

: The Way of Hermes. Passed down in myth and legends, the Old Path became a path of adeptship, embodied today in the teachings of the Rosicrusians and the idealized legends of Thoth the Egyptian and the teachings of the Emerald Tablet or the Hermiticum. . As described in the Kybalion, a book of teachings of the Rosicrucians, the Way of Thoth the Egyptian became a Path of Power to gain power over the forces of nature in order to ascend in spirit upward towards the Mind of the All. In fact, the aim was to evolve, strengthen individuality, gain power, and expand one’s consciousness. These teachings were based on the premise that the All was Mind, and that the way to adeptship was to employ higher level laws to command the lower laws of nature. In this way, man could command Nature. . The Way of the Adept presupposes that Man may ascend into godhood or immortality by Will and control of his Mind and emotional nature. This was apotheosis! In ancient Egypt, the Pharoah and his family anticipated becoming gods after death. Adepthood was a way by which the soul could achieve life in the land of the gods, rather than delving into the unconscious as a way of transformation in life or a path to meaning and peaceful acceptance of one‘s mortality in life. Thoth the Egyptian taught that Spirit is Mind, and the laws of the cosmos were stepping stones to knowledge and power. These ideas, heretical today, were the religion of the Pharoahs and the people of Egypt 2500 years ago. . Nevertheless, countless others have tried through the two millenia since those times to follow the way of the Magus, or the magician. Western literature has many works in heretical themes, including those in alchemy and sorcery. One of the greatest works of Western literature, for example, is Goethe’s great life work, Faust, which took him a lifetime to write. Goethe’s Faust is the story of a scholar obsessed with the pursuit of Truth, and unable to discern Truth, or God, he despaired and sold his soul to the Devil, so to speak, in exchange for magical powers. . Faust sought power and immortality, which lead him into corruption. The storyline embodies the Myth of the Magus…the one who would be a magician and who could thus bypass the laws of heaven and earth…the one who would control and command Nature and gain the powers of a god. Like other myths of the Magus, Faust’s magical powers granted to him by Mephistopheles lead him not into happiness, but into despair. Everything he touched turned to dust. Nevertheless, the lure of magical powers and adeptship still attract many even today. . Many seek God. Few find Him. Many seek relief and escape from their fear of death. All die…supposedly. Most are left with belief systems when what they desire the most is Mystery and Meaning in their lives. Unable to find mystery and personal spiritual experience, many are tempted into seeking power, and the easiest path to power is

economic, political or theological power on earth. Even in its materialistic form, the myth of the Magus still holds power in the Western cultures; the desire for power over Nature again. . The Egyptian god Thoth was renamed "Thrice Great" Hermes in the Greek pantheon of Olympian, and this Hermes was the subject of a number of important Greek legends available to us today. But the Hermes of Ancient Greece was different in important respects from the myth of the Hermes of the Egyptians. For one thing, the Greek religion accepted the concept of fate and a distinction between the realm of the gods and humankind. In the myths of Homer, by the advent of the birth of Hermes in myth, heaven had separated from Earth; and only Hermes might cross the divide. Only Hermes was able to bring messages from Zeus, the Mind of God, into the domain of Earth. Only Hermes could descend into the Land of the Dead, which in the human being is the Unconscious. Thus, the Way of Hermes in Ancient Greece was quite different than the tradition of Hermes in Egyptian myth; it was not a path of adeptship. Instead, it was a metaphor for the Night Sea Journey…the descent of the ego into the Unconscious Mind through dreams and visionary experiences. . The Greek Way of Hermes is a psychological process of delving into the Underworld (or Unconscious) for a dialog with the soul and the Self. The Egyptian Way of Hermes is a path of knowledge, adeptship and will by the ego. . Dream work is very much the essence of the Greek Hermes, but not at all in the tradition of the Egyptian Hermes. It appears these traditions pursued different goals. The Greek tradition was a Way in which Men were less than the Gods and could only seek to find meaning and peaceful acceptance of life as it was. The Egyptian tradition was a way by which the Rulers and priesthoods could seek godhood themselves. . The ancient Homeric poets followed extremely strict guidelines in passing the myths of the Greek pantheon into drama and poetry so that the teachings of the relationship between the gods of Olympus and mankind could be passed down in history. And it is often to these Greek myths of these "divine persons" that we turn today for an understanding of our selves in the West. As Joseph Campbell pointed out in his works on mythology, myths initiate each individual in a culture into the mysteries of his gods, his world, his society and his "self." . When a culture has lost its myths however, such as in modern day America, the individual is left without this critical support for comprehending who he is, why he is here on the earth, what his relationship is to the world and nature, and what his relationship is to the Divine. He is caught in a "in-between world"--a borderland-between the dead myths of the past and the unborn myths of the future. He is usually also left without genuine or meaningful spiritual experience, having to accept by faith a set of beliefs and sacred teachings by spiritual experts (read “priests”) . Jungian psychologist James Hollis argues that the loss of meaningful myths in modern cultures is profoundly disorienting. Our own American culture is one which has lost its

mythic center, he observes, creating frightened or confused people who drift from cult to cult, ideology to ideology, and into dead religions. The soul loses itself in Matter when myth is lost. And the soul that loses itself in Matter sickens--identifying instead with ideologies, economics, nationalism--and begins to pathologize the human mind. Society becomes mentally ill, but continues to project its illness upon scapegoats who act out that mental illness. . Hollis says that traditional religion has too often become focused on icons which have lost their numinosity. Instead of supporting personal religious experience, traditional religions promote belief in sacred books and rituals, which he observes is a form of idolatry: just another "Golden Calf." The experience of "direct" communion with the Divine as advocated by the gnostics, for example, and the sense of meaning to life which emerges from that communion society views as heresy or mental illness. . In this existential vacuum, the modern is left without a feeling of security, a feeling of belonging, a feeling of being cared about, a feeling of having a connection to his Creator, or a feeling of knowing who he is. He is thrown into a constant search for meaning, safety, connection, love, or power. . This way of life of "becoming" is so familiar we don’t even question it. It seems to be what life is all about. If we are not seeking a better job, we’re seeking a better church, or seeing a psychotherapist or frustrated about not having good friends or battling our way through a divorce or fighting depression in overwhelm at the complexity of our lives. . But this is a life without a sense of completeness or wholeness or peace. It is a life where what one “is” is what one has, what one is doing...where one is is never enough as they already are. Whether the striving is for love, meaning, security, money, prestige, fame, religious assurances, knowledge, wisdom, clarity, adeptship or power, the result is constant anxiety and compulsive seeking behavior. . Here, the seeker is in the realm of Hermes. . So it appears that The Old Path of Hermes is still active in modern America. . The only way out of the Realm of Hermes is to stop "becoming." And to do that requires finding and relaxing into a relevant mythology which stabilizes the individual, "calms him," stops his fear of death, and stops his seeking behavior and needs. The only realistic way of doing that is through participating in the hermetic journey through dreaming and dialog with the soul and its allies, accepting responsibility for one’s own journey and shadow, and completing the work in progress as a personal calling. . This is the journey into and through the in-between places: not of this earth entirely yet not of heaven either. . Two modern sources that refer back to these Greek myths include the documentation of Karl Kerenyi of these divine archetypes and the archetypal psychology of Karl Jung and

James Hillman. In these modern day sources, one receives an entirely different take of the Way of Hermes than one gets from the Kybalion of the Rosicrusians. . Hermes was perceived by psychologist Karl Jung as the archetypal twin brother of Jesus Christ, but of the opposite polarity. So one would expect that instead of being concerned with the ascension of the spirit as Jesus was said to be, Hermes was concerned about the descent of the soul into the Underworld. Instead of a Savior, Hermes was a Master Thief and Trickster. Instead of an ethical exemplar, Hermes was amoral. Instead of a Hero, Hermes was the archetypal anti-hero, always avoiding conflict or combat. Instead of rescuing one from the pain of the world or death, Hermes takes one step-by-step into death. Hermes is a divine innocent, unconcerned with right or wrong--having nothing whatsoever to do with sins or atonement. To encounter Hermes is a catastrophe that will change one forever. . Hermes is the archetypal puer aeternis--the eternal and primordial child. He is an innocent, knowing nothing about society’s rules or judgment, nothing about ethics nor social expectations. He is entirely unencumbered by social rules. Therefore he is free from judgment of us as a small child. But as any child, he is concerned with the process of "Becoming." . In the Old Path, Hermes himself corresponded to "an archetypal Reality"--a subjectively experienced world and set of experiences: an entire psychic reality. The person who wanders into the realm of Hermes enters a different dimension with different rules and laws than in the current world. . For one thing, in Hermes’ realm dreams are important--perhaps the most important issue--for it is through dreaming, intuition, and trance work that the World of Hermes is first entered. This world was, and still is, mythically apprehended; that is, one’s everyday life and world takes on the themes of myth and moves in the rhythms of the old familiar stories told and retold in myths. In part, the task of the seeker is to identify the myth in order to live his or her personal myth consciously. . Where myth resides within a culture, it is the structure of the psyche of the community and the individual; therefore to understand community, we have to understand the myths of the culture. Myths then structure the thinking, values and beliefs of the people, so myth is the psychology of the people. The myth of Hermes also provides a particular structure to the minds of people who are living and traveling "the Old Path": the Way of Hermes. . Hermes is the God of Travelers. However, the travels of those who are "becoming" are arduous. To be "becoming" implies that a person is dissatisfied with who they are, where they are, and what they are doing. Modern man (and woman) is often caught up in the compulsions of constantly becoming someone else "better"; self improvement, religious seeking, keeping up with the neighbors, becoming better educated, earning larger salaries, and seeking greater power. And in a certain sense, such persons are never at home and at peace. They are constantly journeying elsewhere, unable to rest, unable to stop and "be at home" wherever they may be, being who they are, doing what they

happened to have at hand to do. Driven by whatever unmet need, they move in response to fear, to a need for love, to a need for safety, to a need for possessions, to a need for knowledge, or to a need for relationship with God. Such people too are residents of the realm of Hermes! . Such a life dwells within the borderlands between life and death, for the rejection of ones existing sense of self holds one in the realm of death and dying. Such a person dwells in the realm of Hermes. And when one "reaches home" and stops attempting to "become" someone else, they pass through the veil and stop traveling. No longer motivated by fear, by hunger for power or love or or knowledge or wisdom or even need itself, they become the Buddha. Then, the Universe delivers them Home. The difficulty is though that the Journeyer never reaches home. . Hermes’ world is a state of consciousness which is projected out into the outer world, until the outer world was a reflection of the inner. The Way of Hermes, psychologist James Hillman asserts, was concerned not with the ascension of the spirit of a Man--as we view Christianity today for the gaining of salvation, or the gaining of power by the ego elsewhere in life--but with the making or creating of soul. As many sources suggest, the wish of the spirit is to ascend, whereas the wish of soul is to descend into Matter. Ascension is associated with the enhancement of consciousness, whereas descent of the soul, as Karl Jung reported, is a process of loss of consciousness. . As a psychopomp, Hermes gently carried the dead into the Realm of the Dead ruled by Lord Hades. But death, in Hermes realm, is not final, for Hermes not only lulls the dreamer into unconsciousness but reawakens them. Death here is metaphorical rather than literal. Each night, the Seeker descends into the Realms of dreams (or Hades) to be resurrected each morning--like the Sun. But also at the end of life, Hermes escorts the dying soul into the Underworld. The making of soul during life requires the descent of the ego into the realms of sleep and dreams; and after dying the reincarnation of the Spirit into the World of Matter to continue its learning process. As a man requires many dreams over many nights to make the Journey of Life, so too does the soul require many life experiences over vast spans of time to make the Journey of the Soul through Time and Space. . The making of soul required that the conscious mind of the seeker be immersed in the waters of oblivion--what today is called in psychology "the Collective Unconscious." Thus, soul-making is a healing process involving becoming less conscious--not more conscious. . It also should not be surprising to find that the Old Path did not lead to heightened individuality, did not lead to a stronger ego, but instead to the breaking down of boundaries between the individual and the collective unconscious, to grappling with realms of fantasy, and imagination, and to loss of grounding and functioning in "ordinary reality." This experience is not the realm of Apollo, the god of Light--who represented the ego or conscious mind, but of Hermes, the god of Night. The realm of the imagination, death and the Abyss, in fact, was and is the Realm of the Soul.

. By descending into the dream, the Seeker delves into a psychic Underworld while still living through sleep, trance and intuition. It is Hermes who brings them their dreams, for he is the Carrier and Ruler of Dreams as well. . Unlike the messengers of the Light, such as Jesus represented, Hermes was a God of Death, Night and Journeys. And he was a cold and calculating guide to the Seeker. In the world of Hermes, the journeyer will lose, lose, and lose again. But each loss also brings a win of some kind. . Hermes was the god of highwaymen, thieves, merchants, bandits, and liars; he was known to be a prowler, a secret agent of the gods, an ruthless opportunist, and a flattering deceiver. A grandson of the Titan Atlas, he was crafty and deceitful. He could be cruel. But he could also be gentle. . He was the guide of souls of ordinary persons--not of heroes. Worshippers of Hermes were not of a heroic nature. The world of the ancient Greeks was an insecure life. The warriors’ life was short, brutal and difficult. Merchants and farmers fell prey to bandits and pirates constantly. The individual survived by craftiness and avoiding violence or conflict. So the culture encouraged the development of a society of quick-thinking, sly, survivors in the byways and alleys of the cities and countrysides. They survived by finding and using whatever they could find, whatever came to hand. . Morals are not a guide in the world of Hermes, because right and wrong are niceties for a more gentle society. In the world of Hermes, life is difficult and un-homed. The journeyer must keep moving and never quite gets his feet, or the ground, under him. Therefore, depression and fear hound him everywhere. . Unlike the Monomyth Hero, Parsival of the Grail Myth, the Hermetian Seeker is modeled on the archetypal journeyer, Odysseus. And like Odysseus, the Seeker journeys without hope of finding Home--each day experiencing a disheartening loss--but surviving by guile, wiliness, craftiness--always in pain and experiencing a neediness for love and companionship. . The Seeker on his Path is not able to focus upon fame or victory as a goal in his life; rather than heroic battles, the Seeker survives this life through cleverness, subtlety and avoids battles. He makes do with whatever comes to hand, plagiarizing and stealing ideas, using others resources when necessary, taking direction from whatever people or coincidences occur along the way. Cunning is often his greatest asset. . In the world of Hermes, there is no well laid-out path, no guru who knows the way, no teacher who has been before. Each step on the path is taken without knowing what the next step might be or what dangers lurk ahead. There is no feeling that "one is making progress on his path." The watching gods take as much delight in the Seeker’s mistakes and mis-steps as in his right choices. There is the constant feeling that the gods are laughing as he blunders through his journey, never knowing what he is doing well or

poorly. . The Journeyer soon loses the sense that the world works by rational laws and meaning evaporates. The Realm of Hermes is existential. The seeker constantly moves from place to place compulsively, not finding meaning or peace anywhere, but unable to stop wandering and watching. Death and loss are his constant companions. . Hermes lulls the dreamer into sleep, beckoning souls away to distant meadows within the dream. Yet the dream is oftimes deceitfully misleading, leading the seeker into trials and misunderstandings constantly. He is left in confusion and fights severe depression constantly, feeling as though the knowledge he gaining is irrelevant, useless, and unsustaining of his life processes in ordinary reality. Everything around the journeyer becomes ghost-like, and he himself often feels invisible to others. Companions drop away until he goes on alone. He no longer seeks human community and dwells in solitude. Fear is his constant companion, and there is no way to hide his fear from his occasional companions. But the compulsion to go on journeying is seductive, irresistible! . The worshippers of Hermes in the ancient world were considered "dream people." They were not fully in the material world. . In this realm between life and death in which he wanders, there is little firm ground beneath his feet. The Journeyer "floats" from place to place, feeling empty, thin, hollowed out, drained, fatigued. In dreams, the roads before the dream ego are often "wet"; in the Old Path, the Way of the Sea are the Roads of the Earth. In dreams, he is constantly encountering water, oceans, rivers, lakes. Dreaming, he walks the ways into the Underworld, clawing his way back into Life each morning. The boundaries are open between life and death, time and eternity, earth and Olympus; even in daylight hours, he feels the drain of his energies into the realms of night. . The daytime ego progressively dissolves and his grasp on the ordinary world of daytime fray and becomes tenuous, but at the same time his dream ego learns the Ways into and around the world of the Deep Unconscious. The terrors of the Night Dream no longer terrify, but are faced confidently. The dream ego "knows" the ways of the awake ego and has access to daytime memories. The soul grows stronger in this way. . As the daytime ego grows weaker, the Journeyer becomes strange, eccentric, clumsy in "making things happen" in the outer world of other humans. The ways in which his mind now works are so different from those in the World he left behind that he frequently wonders how others get things done so easily within society. But he feels shameless and finds somehow that he "loves" the strangeness and seductiveness of his dream-like life. He prefers his own World to that he left behind. . From the Underworlds of Dream and the imagination, the Journeyer takes the gifts of cunning, craftiness, and subtleness. There is much of the Titan world in Hermes, and as the descent continues, the journeyer becomes more and more aware of his animal-like nature, his instincts, his violent emotions bequeathed to him through his animal heritage.

He discovers his cruelty, his rage, his deviousness, his ruthlessness, his talents to deceive. Within each of these negative aspects of his humanity, he discovers a positive gift which contributes to his survival and well being. He learns to accept and value these traits for the power they give him to survive and thrive in uncertain environments. And he learns to discipline them. He knows himself. . Hermes is associated with dice and lotteries. Life, the journeyer learns, is filled with the need to take risks, and so the he learns to take risks and make mistakes. The Old Path is not possible without taking risks and making mistakes. This too strengthens the Seeker to accept loss and error without loss of self respect and self reliance. . Hermes is the archetypal androgynous puer aeternis, and this quality is taken on by the worshiper of this god. The conscious mind of the seeker becomes childlike. He looks at life as a child might--as a playground, no hurry, nothing to achieve, nothing done during the Journey really matters; it is not what happens during the Journey. It is the accumulated effect of the suffering and resourcefulness learned on the journey that matter. The Journey is the Quest, and the Journey is the Pearl. . On this journey, the seeker is not seeking adeptship. Power is not achieved by what one can do by using Laws against Laws, but by how the Journey transforms the Journeyer. He does different things and lives differently because he has been transformed--not because he has become a Master or Adept of hidden knowledge. His personality is transformed. His soul self-image is directing his life course. His attention is upon his own death and the Way towards the event. He has lost his fear of dying. He loses his fear, but his need for love remains. He becomes childlike, losing consciousness as his social programming is shredded and his interest in the day world declines. His needs become simple, his lifestyle unpretentious. His interest in power for "doing" declines. His sense of self opens, and he is more open-hearted and accepting of other people’s ways of seeing things. He is not so concerned about winning or losing, for either will take him along his way. His interest in material possessions drop away. . Dreams bring transformation, but dreams deceive as well. And it is in experiencing the constant losing without resistance that endurance and patience is developed. Dreams given are stolen by the God of Night; lessons learned are stolen out of memory again and again. So the journeyer is constantly "forgetting" his lessons and finds himself constantly repeating the same lessons again and again--lessons which have not been learned and taken into the body. . Intellect doesn’t work the same in Hermes’ Realm as in "objective reality." To catch an insight intellectually won’t affect a change; only after repeated mistakes and experiences might the lesson "sink in" and bring a change in bodily knowing so that a transformation occurs. . As guardian of Apollo’s cattle, Hermes is responsible for the animals and beasts. The journeyer is often a "beast master" or shepherd-like personality, preferring animals around him to persons. Animal symbols figure prominently in the seeker’s journey. The

tortoise is his totem, and Hermes "hollows him out" as he did an unfortunate turtle outside his mother’s home. The journey into death of the seeker is symbolized by the death of the tortoise. The hollowing out of the animal symbolizes the journeyer’s shamanic-like removal of his internal organs. He is left empty, but is transformed into a lyre, which is gifted to Apollo, god of light, who plays beautiful music upon his new instrument. The emptiness of the tortoise, and felt by the seeker constantly, is the emptiness of the Void. He now is filled with Air, symbol of Spirit. . The Seeker also comes to feel a special tie to the Plants, and frequently seeks the calming influence of tree-filled forests and walkways to escape the chaos and insanity of society’s byways. . In the World of the journeyer of Hermes’ Realms, there is a strangeness about what is intimate and dear. There is a seductive charm about what was once frightening--that dark depth of being from which we all originated. The seeker sometimes experiences a fascination with the depths of being that can be dangerous, and the need arises again and again to ground ones self in ordinary routine and physical activity. . While Thoth of the Eqyptians was the original model for the Greek Hermes, he was in some respects more akin to the Greek Apollo than to the Greek Hermes. Like Hermes of the Greeks, Thoth was a psychopomp, bringing each soul to the Lord of the Dead, Osiris, and weighing it for its rewards in the afterlife. But he was also a Visionary, seeing the process of Creation and recording it in the Emerald Tablets. He was an adept and Master of Magic as well, unlike Hermes. As outlined in the Kybalion and the Emerald Tablets, he received and proclaimed the Laws of Power and the nature of the Universe. . Like heroes, the Adept is not a resident in the Greek world of Hermes. Indeed, it is Apollo, god of Light, who was the god of oracles and visions at Eleusis. It is Apollo who is the master of Reason and Enlightenment, the god of philosophy, music, culture, and a good society. And it is Apollo who knew and was the Light Aspect of the Mind of the King of the Gods, Zeus. And some might suspect that it is Apollo who is the hidden god, or Animus, of modern American society.

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