A Preliminary Account of the Hermetic Philosophy, with the more Salient Points of its Public History The Hermetic tradition opens early with the morning dawn in the eastern world. All pertaining thereto is romantic and mystical. Its monuments, emblems, and numerous written records, alike dark and enigmatical, form one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the human mind. A hard task were it indeed and almost infinite to discuss every particular that has been presented by individuals concerning the art of Alchemy; and as difficult to fix with certainty the origin of a science which has been successively attributed to Adam, Noah and his son Cham, to Solomon, Zoroaster, and the Egyptian Hermes. Nor, fortunately, does this obscurity concern us much in an inquiry which rather relates to the means and principles of occult science than to the period and place of their reputed discovery. Nothing, perhaps, is less worthy or more calculated to distract the mind from points of real importance than this very question of temporal origin, which, when we have taken all pains to satisfy and remember, leaves us no wiser in reality than we were before. What signifies it, for instance, that we attribute letters to Cadmus, or trace oracles to Zoroaster, or the kabalah to Moses, the Eleusian mysteries to Orpheus, or Freemasonry to Noah; whilst we are profoundly ignorant of the nature and true beginning of any one of these things, and observe not how truth, being everywhere eternal, does not there always originate where it is understood? We do not delay, therefore, to ascertain, even were it possible, whether the Hermetic Science was indeed preserved to mankind on the Syriadic pillars after the flood, or whether Egypt or Palestine may lay equal claims to the same; or, whether in truth that Smagardine table, whose singular inscription has been transmitted to this day, is attributable to Hermes or to any other name. It may suffice the present need to accept the general assertion of its advocates, and consider Alchemy as an antique arifice coeval, for aught we know to the contrary, with the universe itself. For although attempts have been made, as by Herman Conringius (1), to slight it as a recent invention, and it is also true that by a singularly envious fate, nearly all Egyptian record of the art has perished; yet we find the original evidence contained in the works of A. Kircher (2), the learned Dane Olaus Borrichius (3), and Robert Vallensis in the first volume of the Theatrum Chemicum (4), more than sufficient to balance every objection of this kind, besides ample collateral probability bequeathed in the best Greek Authors, historical and philosophic. In order to show that the propositions we may hereafter have occasion to offer are not gratuitous as also with better effect to introduce a stranger subject, it will be requisite to run through a brief account of the Alchemical philosophers, with the literature and public evidence of their science; the more so, as no one of the many histories of philosophy compiled or translated into our language advert to it in such a manner as, considering the powerful and widespread influence this branch formerly exercised on the human mind, it certainly appears to deserve. This once famous Art, then, has been represented both as giving titles and receiving them from its mother land, Cham; for so, during a long period, according to Plutarch, was Egypt denominated, or Chemia, on account of the extreme blackness of her soil: --- or, as others say, because it was there that the art of Vulcan was first practiced by Cham, one of the sons of the Patriarch, from whom they thus derive the name and art together. But by the word Chemia, says Plutarch, the seeing pupil of the human eye was also designated, and other black matters, whence in part perhaps Alchemy, so obscurely descended, has been likewise stigmatized as a Black Art (5).