Wicked Angels and the Good Demon: The Origins of Alchemy According to the Physica of Hermes

In: Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies

Abstract

The alchemist Zosimus of Panopolis, writing around 300 ce, is our only source for a series of treatises by Hermes called the Physica, which reportedly spoke about angels who had intercourse with women, as in 1 Enoch, and which credited the revelation of alchemy to an enigmatic figure called Chemeu. The present contribution aims to show that Zosimus has in fact harmonized the account of 1 Enoch with the Physica of Hermes, identifying the Watchers of the former treatise with wicked angels who perverted the authentic art of alchemy, originally revealed to Hermes by Chemeu, who should be identified with Agathodaimon. It is further argued that the Physica likely served as a source for the Hermetic treatises the Perfect Discourse (Ascl. = nhc vi,8) and Kore Kosmou (Stob. herm. 23). This indicates that the literary relationship between the technical and theoretical Hermetica is tighter than hitherto assumed.

  • Adler, William. 1989. Time Immemorial: Archaic History and Its Sources in Christian Chronography from Julius Africanus to George Syncellus. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 26. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Adler, William, and Paul Tuffin. 2002. The Chronography of George Synkellos: A Byzantine Chronicle of Universal History from the Creation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen, James P. 2005. The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • Bain, David. 1999. “Μελανῖτις γῆ, an unnoticed Greek name for Egypt: New evidence for the origins and etymology of alchemy?” Pages 205–226 in The World of Ancient Magic: Papers from the first International Samson Eitrem Seminar at the Norwegian Institute at Athens 4–8 May 1997. Edited by David R. Jordan, Hugo Montgomery, and Einar Thomassen. Bergen: The Norwegian Institute at Athens.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Berthelot, Marcellin. 1885. Les origines de l’alchimie. Paris: George Steinheil.

  • Berthelot, Marcellin. 1887–1888. Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs. 3 vols. Paris: George Steinheil.

  • Berthelot, Marcellin, and Rubens Duval. 1893. La chimie au Moyen âge, vol. II: l’alchimie syriaque. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale.

  • Betz, Hans Dieter. 1966. “Schöpfung und Erlösung im hermetischen Fragment Kore Kosmu.” Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 63(2): 171–174.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bowen, Anthony and Peter Garnsey, eds. 2003. Lactantius: Divine Institutes. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

  • Bull, Christian H. 2012. “The Notion of Mysteries in the Formation of Hermetic Tradition.” Pages 399–425 in Mystery and Secrecy in the Nag Hammadi Collection and Other Ancient Literature: Ideas and Practices. Edited by Christian H. Bull, Liv I. Lied, and John D. Turner. Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 76. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bull, Christian H. 2014. “The Tradition of Hermes: The Egyptian Priestly Figure as a Teacher of Hellenized Wisdom.” PhD diss., University of Bergen.

    • Export Citation
  • Bull, Christian H. 2016. “No End to Sacrifice in Hermetism.” Pages 143–166 in Philosophy and the End of Sacrifice: Disengaging Ritual in Ancient India, Greece and Beyond. Edited by Peter Jackson and Anna-Pya Sjödin. Sheffield: Equinox.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bull, Christian H. 2017 . “Women, Angels, and Dangerous Knowledge: The Myth of the Watchers in the Apocryphon of John and its Monastic Manuscript-Context.” Pages 75–107 in Women and Knowledge in Early Christianity. Edited by Ismo Dunderberg, Outi Lehtipuu, Ivan Miroshnikov, and Ulla Tervahauta. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 144. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bull, Christian H. Forthcoming. “Hermes between Pagans and Christians in Fourth Century Egypt: The Nag Hammadi Hermetica in Context.” In The Nag Hammadi Codices and Late Antique Egypt. Edited by Hugo Lundhaug and Lance Jenott. Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Camplani, Alberto. 2000. “Procedimenti magico-alchemici e discorso filosofico ermetico.” Pages 73–98 in Il tardoantico alle soglie del duemila. Edited by Giuliana Lanata. Pisa: Edizione ETS.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carozzi, Pier Angelo. 1982. “Gnose et sotériologie dans la ‘korè kosmou’ hermétique.” Pages 61–78 in Gnosticisme et monde hellénistique. Acts du Colloque de Louvain-La-Neuve. Edited by Julien Ries. Louvain-La-Neuve: Publications de l’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dosoo, Korshi. 2016. “A History of the Theban Magical Library.” The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 53: 251–274.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Edwards, Mark J. 1992. “The Vessel of Zosimus the Alchemist.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 90: 55–64.

  • Festugière, André-Jean. 1939. “Alchymica.” L’antiquité classique 8(1): 71–95.

  • Festugière, André-Jean. 1948. “L’arètalogie isiaque de la ‘Korè Kosmou’.” Revue Archéologique 29/30: 376–381.

  • Festugière, André-Jean. 1942. “Le style de la Korè Kosmou.” Vivre et Penser. Recherches d’exégèse et d’histoire 2(1): 15–57.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Festugière, André-Jean. 1944–1954. La révélation d’Hermès Trismégiste. 4 vols. Etudes bibliques. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

  • Festugière, André-Jean. 1967. “La création des âmes dans la Korè Kosmou.” Pages 230–248 in Hermétisme et mystique païenne. Paris: Aubier-Montaigne.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fowden, Garth. 1986. The Egyptian Hermes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Fraser, Kyle A. 2004. “Zosimos of Panopolis and the Book of Enoch: Alchemy as Forbidden Knowledge.” Aries 4(2): 125–147. Fraser, Kyle A. 2007. “Baptised in Gnôsis: The Spiritual Alchemy of Zosimos of Panopolis.” Dionysius 25: 33–54.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Greenbaum, Dorian G. 2016. The Daimon in Hellenistic Astrology: Origins and Influence. Ancient Magic and Divination 11. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Grimes, Shannon. 2006. “Zosimus of Panopolis: Alchemy, Nature, and Religion in Late Antiquity.” PhD diss., Syracuse University. ProQuest 3241855.

    • Export Citation
  • Halleux, Robert. 1979. Les textes alchimiques. Typologie des sources du Moyen âge occidental 32. Turnhout: Brepols.

  • Herman, Alfred. 1954. “Das Buch Kmj.t und die Chemie. Mit einem Anhang: Kmj.t-Ostrakon.” Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 79(1–2): 99–105.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Idel, Moshe. 1986. “The Origin of Alchemy according to Zosimos and a Hebrew Parallel.” Revue des Etudes Juifs 145(1–2): 117–124.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jackson, Howard M. 1978. Zosimos of Panopolis on the Letter Omega. Missoula: Scholars Press.

  • Jackson, Howard M. 1986. “Κόρη Κόσμου: Isis, Pupil of the Eye of the World.” Chronique d’Égypte 61: 116–135.

  • Klotz, David. 2012. Caesar in the City of Amun: Egyptian Temple Construction and Theology in Roman Thebes. Monographies Reine Élisabeth 15. Turnhout: Brepols.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Knipe, Sergio. 2011. “Sacrifice and self-transformation in the alchemical writings of Zosimus of Panopolis.” Pages 59–87 in Unclassical Traditions. Volume II: Perspectives from East and West in Late Antiquity. Edited by Christopher Kelly, Richard Flower, and Michael Stuart Williams. Cambridge Classical Journal, Supplemental Volume 35. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Letrouit, Jean. 1995. “Chronologie des alchimistes grecs.” Pages 11–93 in Alchimie: Art, histoire et mythes. Textes et travaux de Chrysopoeia 1. Edited by Didier Kahn and Sylvain Matton. Paris: S.É.H.A.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lindsay, Jack. 1970. The Origins of Alchemy in Graeco-Roman Egypt. London: F. Muller.

  • Love, Edward O. D. 2016. Code-Switching with the Gods. The Bilingual (Old Coptic-Greek) Spells of PGM IV and their Linguistic, Religious, and Socio-Cultural Context in Late Roman Egypt. Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, Beihefte 4. Berlin: De Gruyter.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mahé, Jean-Pierre. 1978–1982. Hermès en Haute-Égypte. 2 vols. Bibliothèque copte de Nag Hammadi, section “Textes” 3 & 7. Québec: Les presses de l’université Laval.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martelli, Matteo. 2011. Pseudo-Democrito: Scritti alchemici con il commentario di Sinesio. Textes et travaux de Chrysopoeia 11. Paris: S.É.H.A.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martelli, Matteo. 2013. The four books of Pseudo-Democritus. Sources of alchemy and chemistry, Ambix 60 suppl. 1. Leeds: Maney Publishing.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martelli, Matteo. 2014a. “L’alchimie en syriaque et l’oeuvre de Zosime.” Pages 191–214 in Sciences en syriaque. Edited by Émilie Villey. Études syriaques 11. Paris: Geuthner.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martelli, Matteo. 2014b. “The Alchemical Art of Dyeing: The Fourfold Division of Alchemy and the Enochian Tradition.” in Laboratories of art: alchemy and art technology from Antiquity to the 18th century. Edited by Sven Dupre. Cham: Springer.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martelli, Matteo. 2017. “Alchemy, Medicine and Religion: Zosimus of Panopolis and the Egyptian Priests.” Religion in the Roman Empire 3(2): 202–220.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martelli, Matteo. Forthcoming. “Zosime gréco-syriaque, Plutarque et la teinture noire des statues égyptiennes.” Religion in the Roman Empire.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martelli, Matteo, and Maddalena Rumor. 2014. “Near Eastern Origins of Graeco-Egyptian Alchemy.” Esoteric Knowledge in Antiquity. TOPOI―Dahlem Seminar for the History of Ancient Sciences 2. Edited by Klaus Geus and Mark Geller. Berlin: Max-Planck-Instititut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mertens, Michèle. 1983–1984. “Un traité greco-égyptien d’alchimie: la lettre d’Isis à Horus: texte établi et traduit avec introduction et notes.” PhD diss., Université de Leuven.

    • Export Citation
  • Mertens, Michèle. 1988. “Une scène d’initiation alchimique: la ≪ Lettre d’Isis à Horus ≫.” Revue de l’histoire des religions 205(1): 3–23.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mertens, Michèle. 1989a. “Sur la trace des anges rebelles dans les traditions ésotériques du début de notre ère jusqu’au XVIIIe siècle.” Anges et demons: Actes du colloque de Liège et de Louvain-la-neuve, 25–26 novembre 1987. Edited by Julien Ries. Homo Religiosus 14. Leuven-La-Neuve: Centre d’histoire des religions.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mertens, Michèle. 1989b. “Pourquoi Isis est-elle appelée prophêtis?” Chronique d’Égypte 64: 260–266.

  • Mertens, Michèle. 1990. “Project for a New Edition of Zosimus of Panopolis.” Pages 121–126 in Alchemy Revisited: Proceedings of the International Conference on the History of Alchemy at the University of Groningen 17–19 April 1989. Edited by Z. R. W. M. von Martels. Collection de travaux de l’académie internationale d’histoire des sciences 33. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mertens, Michèle. 1995. Zosime de Panopolis: Mémoires authentiques. Les alchimistes grecs 4.1. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

  • Mertens, Michèle. 2002. “Alchemy, Hermetism and Gnosticism at Panopolis c. 300 A.D.: The Evidence of Zosimus.” Pages 165–175 in Perspectives on Panopolis: An Egyptian Town from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest. Edited by Arno Egberts, Brian P. Muhs, and Joep van der Vliet. Papyrologica Lugduno-Batava 31. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mosshammer, Alden A. 1984. Georgii Syncelli Ecloga Chronographica. Leipzig: Teubner.

  • Nock, Arthur Darby and Andrè-Jean Festugière. 1945–1954. Hermès Trismégiste: Corpus Hermeticum. 4 vols. Collection des universités de France. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Olson, Daniel C. 2013. “From the Alchemists library? Zosimos of Panopolis and Codex Panopolitanus.” Henoch 35(1): 135–153.

  • Oréal, Elsa. 1998. “Noir parfait.” Revue des Études Grecques 111(2): 551–565.

  • Patai, Raphael. 1994. The Jewish Alchemists: A History and Source Book. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Philonenko, Marc. 1975. “Un allusion de l’Asclepius au livre d’Hénoch.” Pages 161–163 in vol. 2 of Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults. Edited by Jacob Neusner. 4 vols. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Philonenko, Marc. 1991. “La Korè Kosmou et les ‘Paraboles’ d’Hénoch.” Pages 119–124 in Hellénismos. Quelques jalons pour une histoire de l’identité grecque. Actes du colloque de Strasbourg 25–27 octobre 1989. Edited by Suzanne Said. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pietersma, Albert. 1994. The Apocryphon of Jannes and Jambres the Magicians: P. Chester Beatty XVI (with new editions of Papyrus Vindobonensis Greek inv. 29456+29828 verso and British Library Cotton Tiberius B. v f. 87). Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 119. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Quack, Joachim F. 2002. “Die Spur des Magiers Petese.” Chronique d’Égypte 77: 76–92.

  • Ritner, Robert K. 1993. The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 54. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ruska, Julius. 1926. Tabula Smaragdina: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der hermetischen Literatur. Heidelberg: Winter.

  • Scott, Walter. 1924–1936. Hermetica: the Ancient Greek and Latin Writings which Contain Religious or Philosophic Teachings Ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sheppard, H. J. 1962. “The Ouroboros and the Unity of Matter in Alchemy: A Study in Origins.” Ambix 10(2): 83–96.

  • Stolzenberg, Daniel. 1999. “Unpropitious Tinctures. Alchemy, Astrology & Gnosis according to Zosimos of Panopolis.” Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 49(142): 3–31.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stroumsa, Guy G. 1984. Another Seed: Studies in Gnostic Mythology. Nag Hammadi Studies 24. Leiden: Brill.

  • Taylor, F. Sherwood. 1930. “A Survey of Greek Alchemy.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 50(1): 109–139.

  • Thissen, Heinz. 1996. “ΚΜΗΦ—Ein verkannter Gott.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 112: 153–160.

  • Timotin, Andrei. 2012. La démonologie platonicienne: histoire de la notion de daimon de Platon aux derniers néoplatoniciens. Philosophia Antiqua 128. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Van Bladel, Kevin. 2009. The Arabic Hermes: From Pagan Sage to Prophet of Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Van den Broek, Roelof. 2000. “The Hermetic Apocalypse and other Greek Predictions of the End of Religion.” Pages 97–113 in From Poimandres to Jacob Böhme: Gnosis, Hermetism and the Christian Tradition. Edited by Roelof van den Broek and Cis van Heertum. Amsterdam: Pelican.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Van den Kerchove, Anna. 2012. La voie d’Hermès: Pratiques rituelles et traités hermétiques. Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 77. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Van der Vliet, Jacques. 1991. “Varia magica coptica.” Aegyptus 71(1/2): 228–231.

  • Van der Vliet, Jacques. 2012. “Solomon in Egyptian Gnosticism.” Pages 197–218 in The Figure of Solomon in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Tradition. Themes in Biblical Narrative 16. Leiden: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wente, Edward Frank. 1990. Letters from Ancient Egypt. Writings from the Ancient World 1. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

  • Zago, Michela. 2010. Tebe magica e alchemica: L’idea di biblioteca nell’Egitto romano: la Collezione Anastasi. Padova: Libreriauniversitaria.it.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 509 297 32
Full Text Views 308 90 0
PDF Downloads 52 22 0