According to one story, it was founded by the Egyptian god Hermes (Thoth), the reputed inventor of the arts and sciences, to whom, under the appellation Hermes Trismegistus, Tertullian refers as the master of those who occupy themselves with nature; after him later alchemists called their work the " hermetic art," and the seal of Hermes, which they placed upon their vessels, is the origin of the common phrase " hermetically sealed."
Dr Begemann considers that possibly during the decade from 1720 to 1730 a kind of Rosicrucian or Hermetic influence took place in the lodges of London, some additions to the ritual of that period not having been derived from operative masonry; but in the previous century no such influence is traceable.
In the leisure thus gained he wished to "recruit his spirits, range his papers," and prepare some important chemical investigations which he proposed to leave "as a kind of Hermetic legacy to the studious disciples of that art," but of which he did not make known the nature.
Paracelsus (London, 1887); Schubert and Sudhoff, Paracelsus-Forschungen (Frankfurt a.M., 1887-1889); Sudhoff, Versuch einer Kritik der Echtheit der Paracelsischen Schriften (Berlin, 1894); Waite, The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus (London, 1894).
Thoth was " the scribe of the gods," " Lord of divine words," and to Hermes was attributed the authorship of all the strictly sacred books generally called by Greek authors Hermetic. These, according to Clemens Alexandrinus, our sole ancient authority (Strom.
Of these pseudepigraphic Hermetic writings some have come down to us in the original Greek; others survive in Latin or Arabic translations; but the majority appear to have perished.
Other Hermetic writings which have been preserved, and which have been for the most part collected by Patricius in the Nova de universis philosophia (1593), are (in Greek) 'Iarpoµa011µaTCKit lrpos "Aµµcov a AMy 151rrCOV, llepI KaraKXia WS VOUOlurwv?repe-pyWa-TCKd, 'EK T7js µa8rJµaTCKijs brtUT1] µ1]s 7rpos"Aµµcova: (in Latin) Aphorismi sive Centiloquium, Cyranides; (in Arabic, but doubtless from a Greek original) an address to the human soul, which has been translated by H.
The connexion of the name of Hermes with alchemy will explain what is meant by hermetic sealing, and will account for the use of the phrase " hermetic medicine " by Paracelsus, as also for the so-called " hermetic freemasonry " of the middle ages.