on 22 March 2007
While I am strictly no student of the Hermetica and cannot critically comment on the quality of the actual translation with relation to other academic texts, I have found this to be an invaluable source material. It is one of the few contemporary translations that I have found to be accessible. The author has written an extensive introduction which places the Corpus Hermeticum nicely within its historical and religious context. He considers much of the extant academic information available at the time in the construction of his introduction. How much this has influenced his translation, I cannot say. In addition, there is a very useful appendix of additional notes which should aid both student and lay reader alike.
I appreciate the translation, found it lucid and would consider this an invaluable resource for anyone who wishes to understand this branch of late antique thought within the history of religious ideas. Serious students of the Hermetica may wish to supplement this with the additional translations and sources that the author continualy references in his introduction.
on 4 June 1999
Only 90 or so pages of this book comprise the actual translation. The long introduction is illuminative and absolutely necessary to show how these writings may have influenced early Christian and Platonic thinkers. The 150 pages found after the translation are exhaustive notes that would be of use only to scholars.
Moreso than the Bible, these writings expound on the natures of god and the desirability of adoration of the creator. Although pre-Christian, the most lock jawed modern day fundamentalist will find little that is objectionable here. Copenhaver's introduction makes it clear as to why these pre-Christian writings found favor with many early Christian thinkers. There is no hocus pocus in this book on Hermetica -- a word which is often associated with occult. Thanks to Copenhaver for the English translation.
on 13 December 2013
Of most interest to me here has been the introduction.
I will say that I find the older translation by Mead to be a far more enjoyable read, despite Copenhaver's ramerks. Far more poertic that this version and really more clearly conveying the hidden meanings of certain texts more clearly. Most of teh translations here are good enough, perhaps clearer in some aspects, but some of the magic is kind of lacking, especiallly so in Poemandres.
However, this book is well worth the purchase for the introduction and notes alone, and will point tho many other volumes that may be of interest.
Upon reading part of the introduction entitled "Technical and theoretical Hermetica", I did become worried when I read "With regard to the origins and interrelations, the claim that both types of Hermetica come from a common environment rings true, yet two other facts bear consideration: first, that the seventeen Greek treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum came to be treated as a distinct body of writing, though perhaps for no better reason than the accidents of textual transmission or the prejudices of Byzantine compilers; and second, that these seventeen Greek logoi are not much concerned with astrology, very little with magic and not at all with alchemy."
Those last words made me think that the translations to come may have been reshaped to be free of Alchemical thought, but upon reading the translation of Poemandres in this edition, as those with the right eyes will have recognised amongst verses 24, 25 and 26, it is all still there. But, of course, these texts were never so much about Alchemical technique in the sense the author of this book meant, even if esoterically revealing the underlying principles of the spiritual process. The same may be said for later sections, all is in tact. and it seems I am alone in thinking this modern translation a little dry and free from the sparkling beauty of other translations.
All in all, a wonderful addition to any library and none of this is any real criticism.
on 18 December 2010
The legendary "Corpus Hermeticum" (CH) is a motley collection of religious, philosophical and magical texts, composed during the Hellenistic period in Egypt. The main character is Hermes Trismegistus, a mythical figure based on the Greek god Hermes and his perceived Egyptian equivalent Thoth. In Europe, the CH became widely known during the Renaissance. Today, it's mostly associated with occultists and New Age believers.
The CH is highly eclectic. It resembles Plato's dialogue "Timaeus" and later Neo-Platonism and Gnosticism. There are similarities with Orphic hymns and the Sibylline oracles. Some scholars also believe that it contains authentic Egyptian influences. Many Christians have been mystified by the utterances of Hermes Trismegistus, no doubt because they occasionally resemble the creation story in the Book of Genesis or sound "monotheist". One Church Father, Lactantius, used the CH as a source of prophecies about Jesus Christ (!).
The last couple of decades, the New Age movement have in made ideas similar to those of the CH part of popular culture. Due to this, the Hermetic message sounds pretty old hat. God is both transcendent/"monotheist" and immanent/"pantheist". The soul is immortal and somehow divine. The body is a prison for the soul, and souls are trapped in it because of desire for the world of matter. Ideas resembling reincarnation and karma are also taught. The main characters frequently get mystical visions and theophanies. The goal is to become deified.
This book contains translations of Corpus Hermeticum I-XVIII and the Latin Asclepius. "Only" the more philosophical texts of the CH have been included. The more practical treatises on alchemy or astrology have been left out. The introduction and the notes are very scholarly and probably of less interest to more spiritual readers. The actual translation is only about 100 pages long, most of the book containing footnotes dealing with obscure issues of translation or parallels in other ancient literature. (The notes are almost esoteric!)
"Hermetica" is obviously intended for scholars, but might have some interest for the general reader as well, provided he or she is interested in alternative forms of spirituality, which often seem to resemble the ideas expounded by the Thrice Great Hermes.
on 3 October 2015
A work of considerable scholarship and produced at an affordable price. Professor Copenhaver rightly criticises the theological bias of certain other translations, including that of the 'Theosophists.' His volume analyses original texts in great detail, pulling together everything from Betz's translation of The Greek Magical Papyri to The Nag Hammadi and adds a lot of contextual history besides. It is a little disappointing then to discover, in a translation from the Greek with numerous references to specific Greek words of importance, that the actual Greek spelling of a particular word in question is not quoted. Perhaps this was a limitation of typesetting with Greek fonts, but one might perhaps hope that a future edition could include it. As an example of multilingual analysis, one needs to look no further than Hans Lewy's magnificent Chaldean Oracles and Theurgy. Yet at least as a book, much more effort has gone into publishing Copenhaver's Hermetica than with Professor Betz's work, which didn't even include an index or even much in the way of a usable list of contents.
on 16 April 2014
If the concept of required reading persists in our current educational framework, this ought to be prioritised across disciplines.
The simplicity of the discourse and dialogue has preserved huge wisdoms timelessly, and the greatest pearls to be seem only by the 'light' (luminescence not weight) of heart - these will (having read the text) be better equipped to identify third-party interference that would imposed upon their return journey to harmony (to be saved and reborn).
For the scholar, it is well notated - a reader can seek further interpretations or thoughts on translation process in the second half of this publication.