Hobbes's "Mortal God" and Renaissance Hermeticism

in Hobbes Studies
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Abstract

Research made by Schuhmann and Bredekamp has pointed up the unsuspected links between Hobbes and one of the ancient traditions best loved by Renaissance philosophy: Hermeticism. Our goal will be to proceed further and to stress the Hermetic significance implicit in the formula "mortal God". If Asclepius can act as a source for the theme of the fabrication of gods, it does not fit in with the antithesis ("mortal god/immortal God") typical of the Leviathan. A proper source for this topic can rather be found in treatise X ("Clavis") of the Corpus Hermeticum, well known to Ficino and to Iustus Lipsius. We must also stress one capital difference: whereas in the Hermetic texts man's apotheosis passes through gnosis and the exercise of the intellect, reserved in practice for a few selected people, in Leviathan on the contrary it is the holder of sovereignty who acquires the features of the "mortal god". Divinisation passes through politics, with the delicate artificial process of "generating the state"; knowledge only provides the tools for the rational technique needed to elaborate sovereignty, through stipulating pacts and the convention of impersonation. The "artificial man" as a mortal God is the apotheosis of the common man who enters into the founding pact with his ordinary intellectual and motivational faculties.

Hobbes's "Mortal God" and Renaissance Hermeticism

in Hobbes Studies

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