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HERMES TRISMEGISTOS
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TRISMEGISTOS

The astrological order in the cosmos is manifest in the figure who winds seven times around the Anthropos. The motif of a serpent winding seven times up the body is taken from Orphic and Mithraic statuary. In the former, it depicts Phanes; in the latter, the lion-headed Zervan Arkana. In either case, the seven turns of the serpent symbolize the seven planets surrounding man (see right).

      Since, in the Poimandres, it is the Demiurge who orders the seven planets, we see that the upper figure with hands raised and the serpent’s body is none other than this Demiurge. Like an Astrologer, the divine Craftsman encompasses in his mind the knowledge of the seven planets and their turnings.
      On the Demiuge’s chest is the pentagram. It’s five points set in a circle indicate the four elements plus the quintessence which are set in the sphere of the surrounding cosmos. Like an Alchemist, the divine Craftsman masters the secrets of elements and their combinations.
      But, just as we may see ourselves in the Anthropos, so must we see ourselves in the Demiurge. He symbolizes the knowledge of the planets and the elements which we possess in ourselves, through the divine spark. As such, the upper figure with hands raised is a reflection of ourselves, reminding us that we too possess the craftsman's knowledge.
      The Demiurge holds up both his arms because he belongs to the upper aeons, as an emanation of the divine One. As the Poimandres describes these emanations:
      “The Mind who is god, being androgyne and existing as Life and Light, by speaking gave birth to a second Mind, a Craftsman, who... crafted seven governors; they encompass the sensible world in circles, and their government is called fate.” (C.H. I. 9)
      Behind the Demiurge and Anthropos, two bright figures appear with lionine faces and serpentine bodies, which wind five times like a caduceus. The imagery seems Gnostic, drawn particularly from the iconography of Yaldabaoth. But the intent, rather, is to portray the upper aeons, which are five in number and blaze with light and life.


 
 
 


PARIS - SPRING 2003

PHANES
2ND CENTURY BAS RELIEF
OF THE ORPHIC GOD PHANES
The five planets known to the Orphics are symbolized
by the serpent twisting round him five times.
He is enclosed in the cosmic egg, divided into
the twelve signs of the Zodiac.

      As such, these are the first emanations of the divine One - the Light and Life of the One. As leonine, these figures manifest the Light and, as serpentine, they manifest Life.
      But, we must see our own reflection, not only in the Anthropos and Demiurge, but in these glowing figures as well. These images reflect the divine Light and Life planted in us as mind and soul: “From the Light and Life, the man became soul and mind; from Life came soul and from Light came mind” (C.H. I. 17) As such, they reflect the light and life which we ‘know’ to exist in our mind and soul.
      The divine One is indicated by the crown. But, properly understood, the One is invisibly present in all the figures in the painting, and unites them all. As Poimandres says about the figures in the upper aeons, “they are not divided from one another, for their union is life” (C.H. I. 6). Most of all, the One is manifest in the golden circle of light on the chest of the central figure.
      The Corpus Hermeticum is useful in elucidating Johfra’s imagery. But, the only way the viewer may penetrate these symbols and ‘enter through the image’ is via meditation.



 
 
 


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