Hermeticism and Daoism: A Few Comparisons

Origins of Hermetic teachings: No known date, though they are inferred to be much older than the extant texts containing the teachings which were “collated” in the Egyptian city of Alexandria between 2nd and 3rd century CE (common era). Freke, T. & Gandy, P. (1999). The Hermetica. pxvi. Just how old these teachings are purported to be varies among authors, but it is certain that the Hermes Trismegustus (thrice great Hermes) is a Greek personification of the ancient Egyptian sage Thoth to whom the teachings were attributed, thus suggesting a much greater antiquity. It has been argued that the teachings are nothing more than pastiches of select parts of other religions deigned together by Greek scholars, but “all the modern evidence suggests that [they do] in fact express Egyptian beliefs filtered through the understanding” (Ibid.) of these scholars.

Origins of Daoist Teachings: The philosophies of Daoism are firstly attributed to Lao Zi, though a debate still swirls as to whether this sage ever existed. However, the work attributed to this man is confidently dated to the 4th century BCE (before common era).

The Hermetic writings speak of the origins of the universe as arising out of Atum, the one.

Daoism speaks of a primary principle, the Dao, from which all has originated.

In Hermeticism, Atum is divided, and from this division the four elements of nature are created. “By Atum’s will, the elements of nature were born as reflections of this primal thought in the waters of potentiality.”

In Daosim, the primary principle is divided as Yin and Yang, from which the Wu Xing (five elemental manifestations) are derived. “[H]aving no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth”.

In Hermetcism, Atum, the one, “embodies everything” but is embodied by nothing. He is without name for all names are his own.

In Daoism, the Dao that can be named is not the Dao.


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