From INTRODUCTION: The Text Itself Is the Secret
A NEW IMAGINATION OF INTELLIGENCE
Hermes is the very principle of the mind in all its possibilities: from heights of intellectual and contemplative brilliance to the daily cognitive life of each of us, from a cosmic principle of creative vision to the cognitive capacities of birds, fungi, and microbes. Hermes organizes academic discussion and public debate and encourages the most intimate and private occult speculation; he stimulates insights—wise, cantankerous, or frankly conspiratorial—and delusions—deleterious or divine. Hermes manifests between things: between sleep and waking he is the bringer of enigmatic dreams; between waking and sleeping, outré or quotidian mathematical clarities, eternal verities, insidious machinations. His mood and attitude might be glad inventiveness, helpful and generous, sparkling with open frankness, tantalizing with unexpected phenomena in and out of the mind. Hermes sponsors scientific disciplines but also negotiates with magical agencies and Wiccan theurgy. He whispers in the minds of CEOs, demagogues, pundits, visionaries, curious children, careful craftsmen, secret sages, and underworld dons.
Hermes as the sponsor of intellectual penetration gives us modern mathematics, modern physics, modern technology, information theory, modern weaponry, and modern finance. Yet, Hermes as trickster knows that these “smart” and powerful practices of cognitive resourcefulness cannot penetrate to the truth of Being or effect a commodious alignment upon or with it. There are mathematicians in whose psychic core nestles a will to unravel or further entangle the knotted skein of existence; it hardly matters which. These are the self-articulations of the inescapably inscrutable—that mathematics itself discovers paradoxes; that fundamental physics powers up from contradictory theoretical unnegotiables; that young physicists at Cern or Fermilab enthuse over the promise of enigmas to come! But far from gleefully celebrating scientific discoveries, where technologies seek mastery rather than harmony, Trickster Hermes countenances environmental, military, fiduciary, and medical catastrophes. We have given ourselves an ever-increasingly integrated global system of finance, information, and communication. These only exist, however, by a perpetual will-to-expand that threatens terrestrial existence as a whole. Is intelligence itself irremediably rigged so that it overwhelms, floods, manipulates, teases, demands our participation, sues for our allegiance, and torments our self-esteem, all the while entangling reason and existence in networks across the world, until it well might seem that our will to ameliorate our sundry predicaments—in short technology—is engineering our demise?
Our time seems overwhelmed by multiple spheres of intelligent concern that must but, it would seem, cannot be brought under a coherent set of views. How such views might steer clear of authoritarian dogmatism, head-in-the-sand private intuition, narrow professional specialization, or extravagantly broad but undependable fantasy is rarely discernible. We require not further elaboration of what mind we have thus far been able to muster but an altogether new imagination of intelligence. Any further life for the tradition of the Hermetic does not proffer itself merely as the continuation of ideas and practices of the past. These seven texts are offered for their hidden gems of insight and direction, some of which insights indeed are tried and true though eclipsed (occulted) by more familiar texts and contexts. Others have yet to find their articulation and their time of invention, discovery, or application. Still, without the whole of the Hermetic universe being brought to bear in principle, the partial activities of mind are subject to all the familiar consequences of intellectual partiality—global conflict, ecological devastation, fundamentalist confusions of all kinds (not only religions suffer from unnegotiably intransigent practices and beliefs). Here Hermes, slighted by partiality, plays the trickster and allows the conflict of ontologies to wreak havoc upon the whole of apparent Being. If technological reason is one facet of mind but has managed to project itself over the whole of the world of our time, crises of climate change, habitat destruction, overpopulation, and income inequality would be the dark jest of that partiality—Hermetic blowback, the devastating games of Trickster Hermes. But to return to Hermes the dignity of a principle of intellect that cannot be fragmented is to heal the inescapably discordant multiplicity of the world, not by bringing the fragments together under a normative hierarchy but by opening the ground from which this very multiplicity continues to grow and into which each phenomenon dissolves when its time-span form comes to a close. What I call a time-span form is any continuing phenomenon: a gesture, a plan of action, a conversation, a poem, a narrative, a musical or dance performance.
These seven texts are central to a still-evolving Western Esoteric Tradition in which the principle of spiritual awakening engages creativity exactly where its dark twin—the inalienably transitory character of being in time—is also in play. Solve et coagula, dissolve and bind together, the alchemists love to say. The Hermetic work involves breaking apart and bringing together, incursions of things appearing suddenly and phenomena vanishing from view. That which has become stultifying in its overbearing coherence or manically prolific without regard to context or use must be dissolved to reveal the fresh, creative ground that still underlies its elements. That which suffers in an agony of mere repetition or random incoherence must be recombined, reaggregated, forged and fused anew under the aegis of an emergent harmony. That which is impossible but desirable must be delivered to and from means available from the invisible, that is, the Divine Background to all that comes to appear.
Hermetic work, in spite of its comfortable fellowship with abstraction, is concrete and specific. Its values proceed from action appropriate to its phase, not the rigid insistence upon atemporally lodged, abstract generalities. And yet the work itself follows from a principle of radical immediacy that is in time but not of time and is nowhere apart from intelligence and Hegel’s “labor of the concept,” the intellectual concentration required to make thoughts cogent and appropriately communicable.
Though all seven texts have been translated before, they have never before been published together. The hope is that here their points of connection and mutual illumination might spark originary insights in their readers. The numen, godhead, or spirit or what I think of as the Genius of Hermes inspires the deepest kind of research—private, contemplative investigations into the nature of Being itself, as well possibilities for new social formations. If, as one of the slogans of Occupy Wall Street had it some years ago, “Another world is possible,” it is through a commonly communicable yet individually accessed ground of awakening that new sociality might evolve. What one discovers under such an aegis is the continuing reconstruction of the concerns of what, some years ago, Peter Lamborn Wilson and Chris Bamford dubbed “Green Hermeticism” (Wilson 2007)—Hermeticism reconvened for the renewal of the world.