The Church of Light renews a tradition that has gone through many phases in its two thousand year history. Hermetism flourished in second-century Egypt, and its earliest known texts are in Greek. Its central figure, Hermes, is an amalgamation of the Greek God Hermes (the planet Mercury) with the ancient Egyptian god Thoth. He is called Hermes Trismegistus, or thrice-great Hermes, for his mastery of three fields of study: astrology, alchemy, and magic. The Corpus Hermeticum is the collection of sacred texts that define early Hermetic teachings. Hermetism in its original form is defined as a religion, but from the beginning it incorporated elements of philosophy and science. Although it became extinct as a religion, the philosophy and science of Hermetism survived as an underground current influencing the history of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
The Greek manuscript of the Corpus Hermeticum was rediscovered in 1460 and first translated into modern languages by Marsilio Ficino, thereby becoming a major influence on the Renaissance. This rediscovery and new influence is called Hermeticism, which flourished in 16th century Christian Europe. At the time it was believed that the text dated to hundreds of years before Christ and that Hermes was a contemporary of Moses. But its alleged antiquity was undermined by scholar Isaac Casaubon in 1614, who found persuasive evidence that the Corpus dates to the early Christian era. Thereafter Hermetic teachings went back underground. However, recent scholarship has found increasing evidence of Egyptian roots of the Hermetic teachings. Discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in 1947 provided modern students of Hermetism with a hitherto unknown text, On the Ogdoad and the Ennead. Professor Gilles Quispel explains that “This work shows without any doubt that the Hermetic believer was initiated into several grades before transcending the sphere of the seven planets and the heaven of the fixed stars (the Ogdoad.) Then he would behold the God beyond and experience Himself. It is now completely certain that there existed before and after the beginning of the Christian era in Alexandria a secret society, akin to a Masonic lodge. ” (The Way of Hermes, p. 10)
The Church of Light is a renewal of the Hermetic tradition as a religion, with grades of initiation modeled on the original three fields of study: astrology, alchemy, and magic. It continues the work of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, founded as an organization in England in 1884, but derived from adepts who met in Egypt around 1870. Connecting these phases was Max Theon, a spiritual guide of the HBL but uninvolved in its public work. The Hermetic tradition is the common property of humanity, and no organization can contain it. The Church of Light is devoted to applying the Hermetic teachings today. The insights and information in the Hermetic tradition provide a tremendous source of spiritual guidance for seekers now and far into the future. Guided by the Hermetic axiom “As above, so below,” the Church of Light brings astrology, alchemy, and magic into daily life.