If you’ve read any book on magic or the occult then you’ve most likely come across the name Hermes Trismegistus. Then you probably asked yourself, “Who was Hermes Trismegistus?” Excellent question, intrepid reader! I hope this helps!
The following is an excerpt from (the increasingly indispensable) The Book of Secrets by Daniel Pineda
Hermes Trismegistus or Thrice Greatest Hermes was worshipped as the Greco-Egyptian deity and patron of magic, astrology, alchemy, and spiritual advancement. He was called thrice great because he had attained mastery over the realms of heaven, earth, and humankind, making him the epitome of priests, philosophers, and kings. It is from him that the doctrines of Hermeticism proceed, being chiefly concerned with the realization of divinity within the individual and the betterment of society through scientific advancement. Many scholars understand him to be the synthesis of the Greek Hermes with the Egyptian Thoth, thus establishing him as both messenger of God and creator of language.
According to legend, Hermes Trismegistus is at times described as the contemporary of various biblical patriarchs, most notably Abraham and Noah. There are thousands of writings attributed to him, each revealing the secrets of existence and the path to uniting the soul with the eternal One. The most famous of these writings is the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, a document that has been translated by a multitude of occult scholars including Sir Isaac Newton and Giorgio Beato.
Here is the Latin translation of the Emerald Tablet from Chrysogonus Polydorus, Nuremberg, 1541, along with a new English translation by the author.
Verum, sine mendacio, certum et verissimum:
Being true, without lying, certain, and of the highest order of truth:
Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius, ad perpetranda miracula reiunius.
The inferior is alike to the superior, and the superior is alike to the inferior, in reaching the performance of the one miraculous matter.
Et sicut res omnes fuerunt ab uno, meditatione unius, sic omnes res natae ab hac una re, adaptatione.
And as all things come from the One, meditating on the One, so also are all things born from the One thing, through change.
Pater eius est Sol. Mater eius est Luna.
His Father is the Sun. His Mother is the Moon.
Portavit illud Ventus in ventre suo. Nutrix eius terra est.
Carried by the Wind in its belly, He is nursed by the Earth.
Pater omnis telesmi totius mundi est hic.
In this is the Father of all the rites and magical workings of the world.
Virtus eius integra est si versa fuerit in terram.
His Power is integrated if it enters the earth.
Separabis terram ab igne, subtile ab spisso, suaviter, magno cum ingenio.
Dividing the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, with gentleness, greatness, and genius.
Ascendit a terra in coelum, iterumque descendit in terram, et recipit vim superiorum et inferiorum.
He Climbs the earth to heaven, then descends back to the earth, and receives the superior and inferior powers.
Sic habebis Gloriam totius mundi. Ideo fugiet a te omnis obscuritas.
Therefore you have the glory of the entire world. Thus you may expel all obscurities.
Haec est totius fortitudinis fortitudo fortis, quia vincet omnem rem subtilem, omnemque solidam penetrabit.
She is the source of strength within the strength of force, being victorious over all subtleties, completely penetrating the hard.
Sic mundus creatus est.
For this reason was the world created.
Hinc erunt adaptationes mirabiles, quarum modus est hic.
Hence there have been miraculous changes, which have been effected through this method.
Itaque vocatus sum Hermes Trismegistus, habens tres partes philosophiae totius mundi.
Thus am I called Hermes Thrice Greatest, holding the three parts of the philosophies of the whole World.
Completum est quod dixi de operatione Solis.
Complete are my words concerning the Solar operation.
The Emerald Tablet is a foundational work of the Western mystery tradition, revealing the detailed operations of the Great Work. Hermes Trismegistus, a spring of wisdom, has continued to guide aspirants both in spirit and thought within Hermetic literature.
Now this may not answer all of your questions about that primary figure of the Hermetica, but it is a good place to start – and from here, I suggest the following for further investigation:
The Eternal Hermes; From Greek God to Alchemical Magus by Antoine Faivre, transl. by Joscelyn Godwin