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Category: Hermes Trismegistos

The Search for the Prisca Theologia.

“These great and good men promulgated the idea of an ongoing, beneficent magic available to certain men of every age for the collective use of mankind. The Latin for this is prisca theologia, secret wisdom. The odd thing is that this belief in a secret wisdom is not the Rosicrucians’ alone. We know in London in the middle of the same century of the existence of a society called the Invisible College. Its members were reputed to be the very carriers of the beneficent magic I speak of.

You of course do not know of the writings of Giordano Bruno, of which here is a specimen page in his own handwriting. My scholars have traced for me, like the best detectives, the existence of this idea and of various mysterious organizations to maintain it, in most of the Renaissance cultures, in medieval societies and in ancient Greece.

I hope you are following this closely. The earliest recorded mention of special people born in each age to ease the sufferings of humankind with their prisca theologia comes to us through the Greek in the translated writings of the Egyptian priest Hermes Trismegistus. It is Hermes who gives the historical name to this occult knowledge. It is called the Hermetica.”

–EL Doctorow, Ragtime, pg. 124.

Spurious Attributions in Renaissance Alchemical Literature.

“The Processus sub forma missae and its author were not unknown to the alchemists of the early modern era. The text was printed in the famous anthology of alchemical literature, the Theatrum Chemicum (Chemical Theater), by Lazarus Zetzner in 1602.

This point needs to be emphasized because the confusion in the literature concerning both the person and the work of Melchior is so great that it is hard to differentiate between evidence and legends even with regard to such simple things as the bibliographical data of his published text.

Melchior’s portrait appears on the title page of the Symbola Aureae Mensae Duodecim Nationum (The Symbols of the Golden Table of the Twelve Nations) by Michael Maier (1568–1622), the alchemist of Emperor Rudolf II. In this international history of the royal art, Melchior is chosen to represent Hungary among the twelve most famous alchemists of the world, and thus he appears in the noble company of Hermes Trismegistos, Maria the Jewess, Avicenna, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and Raimundus Lullus.

He is mentioned and quoted by such authors and editors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg, Petrus Borelius, Libavius, and Athanasius Kircher. Even Isaac Newton was acquainted with Melchior’s name; relying on Maier’s description, he incorporated a number of Latin notes on a wide range of alchemical authors and myths in one of his many alchemical manuscripts, among these a few references to the alchemist of Transylvania.”

–Benedek Lang, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008. Pg. 145.

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