Why do most Christians not remember the past? Because they do not love the past. One has to love the pagan past. ~ Valentin Tomberg
Marsilio Ficino, writing in 1471, provided the following list of the founders of the Hermetic Tradition. By building on earlier thinkers, this progression produced a body of profound and sublime thought that has served as the background of Western intellectual right up until modern times. Instead of relying on some arbitrary modernist canon, those seeking to understand or recreate the West as a spiritual entity ought to start with this list. The goal is not to learn what to think but rather how to think, specifically, how to align one’s mind with the spirit of the Heart of the West.
There are some points about this list:
- Egypt is the ultimate source of Western civilization, not India.
- Scholars may reject the schema because of the lack of a paper trail. This is not unexpected, since Hermetic teachings were passed on orally and in systems of symbols.
- Extant writings represent a school started by one of the figures, although gathered, edited and modified by later students.
- There are those who can only see occult or New Age ideas in these thinkers. This only shows how far we have drifted from the intellectual roots of the West.
- The beginnings of Hermetism was geographically located in what later became the Roman Empire.
An Egyptian priest, Hermes was the founder of Hermetic philosophy and science. Early Christians considered Hermes to be a prophet of Christianity. They recognized in him the existence of a Primordial Tradition whose doctrines are incorporated in all true religions.
He brought music, poetry and literature to the Greeks, all distinctive to the West. He also brought them knowledge of the mystery religions.
Pythagoras was a Greek who studied in Egypt and then founded an esoteric school in Greece. Mathematics served as the base for his philosophy. The use of number in esoteric symbolism is characteristic of the Western races.
Philolaus continued the work of Pythagoras through his use of mathematics and music. He recognized the existence of ideal forms which define the material world.
Plato developed the Pythagorean philosophy in great detail. He is the most influential of Western philosophy and Christianity is, as Whitehead famously said, “Platonism for the masses.” Despite the great deal of written material available, Plato’s most important teachings were given orally in the Academy.
Apollonius was a Pythagorean philosopher, teacher and miracle worker.
Plotinus was an Egyptian philosopher who developed the more esoteric aspects of Platonism. Although a pagan, his philosophy was adopted by some of the most important Christian theologians. He spent his life in Rome, thus completing the circle from Egypt to Rome.