Sep 27, 2022 I Bibhu Dev Misra

The Lament of Hermes: A Soul-Stirring Prophecy of Civilizational Decline and the End-Times

There was a widespread belief in the ancient times that human civilization has declined from an erstwhile Golden Age of uncommon peace and prosperity, when all men were virtuous. The ancient accounts reveal that the high levels of planetary consciousness of the higher Ages allowed our ancestors to interact with extra-dimensional beings that they called their “gods”. In the Golden Age, the gods lived on the Earth with humans, married mortal women and gave birth to demi-gods of extraordinary strength and magical prowess. The gods founded kingdoms, established the rules of monarchy, built temples and instituted rituals and sacrifices. In the Critias, Plato wrote,

“In the days of old (Golden Age) the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by allotment...They all of them, by just apportionment, obtained what they wanted, and peopled  their own districts; and when they had peopled them they tended us, their nurselings and possessions, as shepherds tend their flocks...Now different gods had their allotments in different places which they set in order.”[1]

Over time, men began to fall from their state of divine grace, as their minds started becoming tainted with selfish desires. In tandem with the decline with human consciousness, the environment started to degrade, resulting in higher incidences of natural calamities and diseases. The gods, however, continued to maintain a watch over human civilization till the beginning of the Iron Age, which the Hindus call Kali Yuga – the current age of greed, lies, violence and corruption that began in 3676 BCE. It is at that point that the gods, possibly, thought to themselves, “this is quite hopeless”, and packed their bags and left. Hesiod wrote in his Works and Days, that, in the Iron Age,

“Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all. And then Aidos (Goddess of Modesty) and Nemesis (Goddess of Retribution), with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind, to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil.”[2]

Aidos was the goddess of shame and modesty whose presence prevented men from breaking the moral laws, while Nemesis was the goddess who afforded divine retribution against injustices and hubris. With both of them gone, it became an open playing field for the forces of evil; sort of like going to school with all the teachers on leave - the bullies call all the shots.

Figure 1: Statuette of Nemesis in form of a female griffin, resting on the wheels of fate. Roman period, 2nd century CE, Faience. Source: Brooklyn Museum, CC BY 3.0

The progressive degeneration of humanity, and the eventual renewal of the world at the end of this Age, was stated in a poignant manner in the form of a prophecy called the “The Lament of Hermes” in the Hermetic text called Asclepius.[3]

The Hermetic texts or Hermetica were written in Latin between the c. 1st century – 3rd century CE, during the Greco-Roman culture of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods of Egypt. These writings on philosophical and occult topics were attributed to Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, writing, science and magic, whom the Greeks identified with their god Hermes. Hermes was the “messenger of the gods”, who moved easily between the mortal and divine realms wearing his winged sandals. As such, his wisdom and insights were highly valued. 

Figure 2: Hermes, the messenger god, wearing winged sandals and holding the caduceus. Greek Terracotta oil flask, c.480 - 470 BCE. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain

The prophecy begins with Hermes telling his pupil Asclepius of the dark days of Egypt that were to come when the gods leave the Earth. 

The Lament of Hermes

“Do you not know, Asclepius, that Egypt is an image of heaven, or, to speak more exactly, in Egypt all the operations of the powers which rule and work in heaven have been transferred to earth below? Nay, it should rather be said that the whole Kosmos dwells in this our land as in its sanctuary. And yet, since it is fitting that wise men should have knowledge of all events before they come to pass, you must not be left in ignorance of this: there will come a time when it will be seen that in vain have the Egyptians honoured the deity with heartfelt piety and assiduous service; and all our holy worship will be found bootless and ineffectual. For the gods will return from earth to heaven. Egypt will be forsaken, and the land which was once the home of religion will be left desolate, bereft of the presence of its deities.”

In this part of the prophecy, Hermes describes Egypt as an “image of heaven”, in which the heavenly powers dwell. Egypt is not an exception in this respect, for many ancient cultures laid out their cities in accordance with a cosmic plan, in which the central temple or palace symbolized the cosmic center and the seat of the cosmic sovereign; typically, four roads led outwards from this central place, dividing the kingdom into four parts, each of which represented one of the four cosmic quarters, presided over by a guardian deity. This basic pattern was followed not only in the Buddhist kingdoms of Asia, but also in large parts of Mesomerica.

Hermes tells Asclepius that the holy worship of the people of Egypt will become ineffective in future when “the gods will return from earth to heaven”. This suggests that the prophecy had been dictated at a time prior to the beginning of the Iron Age or Kali Yuga, when the gods still interacted with humans and responded to their prayers. Even though the prophecy was written down sometime between the 1st and 3rd centuries, the contents appear to be significantly older. 

Coming back to the prophecy, Hermes continues to describe to Asclepius the calamities that will befall Egypt:

The Lament of Hermes (contd)

This land and region will be filled with foreigners; not only will men neglect the service of the gods, but … ; and Egypt will be occupied by Scythians or Indians or by some such race from the barbarian countries thereabout. In that day will our most holy land, this land of shrines and temples, be filled with funerals and corpses...

Do you weep at this, Asclepius? There is worse to come; Egypt herself will have yet more to suffer; she will fall into a far more piteous plight, and will be infected with yet more, grievous plagues; and this land, which once was holy, a land which loved the gods, and wherein alone, in reward for her devotion, the gods deigned to sojourn upon earth, a land which was the teacher of mankind in holiness and piety, this land will go beyond all in cruel deeds. The dead will far outnumber the living; and the survivors will be known for Egyptians by their tongue alone, but in their actions they will seem to be men of another race.

O Egypt, Egypt, of thy religion nothing will remain but an empty tale, which thine own children in time to come will not believe; nothing will be left but graven words, and only the stones will tell of thy piety. And in that day men will be weary of life, and they will cease to think the universe worthy of reverent wonder and of worship. And so religion, the greatest of all blessings, for there is nothing, nor has been, nor ever shall be, that can be deemed a greater boon, will be threatened with destruction; men will think it a burden, and will come to scorn it. They will no longer love this world around us, this incomparable work of God, this glorious structure which he has built, this sum of good made up of things of many diverse forms, this instrument whereby the will of God operates in that which he has made, ungrudgingly favouring man’s welfare, this combination and accumulation of all the manifold things that can call forth the veneration, praise, and love of the beholder.

Darkness will be preferred to light, and death will be thought more profitable than life; no one will raise his eyes to heaven ; the pious will be deemed insane, and the impious wise; the madman will be thought a brave man, and the wicked will be esteemed as good. As to the soul, and the belief that it is immortal by nature, or may hope to attain to immortality, as I have taught you, all this they will mock at, and will even persuade themselves that it is false. No word of reverence or piety, no utterance worthy of heaven and of the gods of heaven, will be heard or believed.

And so the gods will depart from mankind, a grievous thing!, and only evil angels will remain, who will mingle with men, and drive the poor wretches by main force into all manner of reckless crime, into wars, and robberies, and frauds, and all things hostile to the nature of the soul…After this manner will old age come upon the world. Religion will be no more; all things will be disordered and awry; all good will disappear.

This part of the prophecy is quite striking in the sense that the fate of ancient Egypt turned out exactly the way it had been foretold by Hermes. When the vast architectural treasures of ancient Egypt were rediscovered in 1798, during the military expedition of Napoleon – when more than 160 artists and scholars had traveled with the French army to take extensive notes and make sketches – the religion, language and culture of Egypt had already been forgotten for many centuries. Many of the grand monuments of the past had collapsed into piles of stones and reclaimed by the sand. The exotic relief carvings and the extensive hieroglyphic inscriptions on the stones told of a mysterious past, when the pharaohs ruled the land and worshiped a litany of strange gods.

Figure 3: Napoleon Bonaparte Before the Sphinx, oil on canvas by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1868 CE. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Figure 4: The temple of Horus at Edfu, Egypt. Coloured lithograph by Louis Haghe after David Roberts, 1846. Source: Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

There is no way that the compilers of the Hermetic texts, which had been put into writing between the 1st and 3rd centuries could have anticipated such a turn of events for the magnificent civilization of Egypt. Even though Egypt was under Greco-Roman rule from 304 BCE – 395 CE, there was hardly any diminution of the Egyptian culture or religion during this period. The Ptolemaic Greek rulers of Egypt called themselves “pharaohs”, participated in the rituals of kingship, and venerated the Egyptian gods just like their predecessors. More significantly, the Ptolemies renovated the existing temples and built a number of news ones in pure Egyptian style. In fact, the most well-preserved temples of Egypt in the current day – that of Horus at Edfu, Hathor at Dendera, Horus and Sobek at Kom Ombo and the ethereal temple of Isis at Philae – were built during the Ptolemaic period (304 BCE – 30 BCE), and sometimes completed during the Roman rule (30 BCE – 395 CE). Even during the Roman period, the Roman Emperor was represented as a pharoah in temple reliefs, and his name was enclosed in a cartouche, although few of them ever visited Egypt. 

Figure 5: Relief from the temple of Kom Ombo depicting Ptolemy VIII receiving the sed symbol from Horus. Source: Wikimedia Commons / Olaf Tausch, CC BY 3.0

The real decline of the Egyptian civilization started soon afterwards. The death knell was sounded in 391 CE, when the Roman Emperor Theodosius I issued the first in a series of edicts that prohibited all pagan cult worship. “No person shall approach the shrines, shall wander through the temples, or revere the images formed by mortal labor, lest he become guilty by divine and human laws.”[4] Then in 392 CE, in a long decree, he forbade all forms of pagan worship, including private religious rites. No sacrifice in any place or any city was permitted. A burnt offering became a treasonable offense, while one who practiced more humble pagan rites, such as the veneration of a statue or even tying a ribbon around a tree, was threatened with the loss of property.[5]

The enactments unleashed fanatical mobs of Christians monks across the Roman Empire on an unbridled spree of destruction of pagan temples and idols. Libanius, a teacher of the Sophist school, wrote to Theodosius describing the ongoing attacks of Christian monks, who he said,

“hasten to attack the temples with sticks and stones and bars of iron, and in some cases, disdaining these, with hands and feet. Then utter desolation follows, with the stripping of roofs, demolition of walls, the tearing down of statues and the overthrow of altars, and the priests must either keep quiet or die. After demolishing one, they scurry to another, and to a third, and trophy is piled on trophy, in contravention of the law. Such outrages occur even in the cities, but they are most common in the countryside.”[6]  

Theodosius ordered Cynegius, the praetorian prefect of the East, to permanently close down the temples and forbade the worship of the deities throughout Egypt and the East.[7] Cynegius went further than Theodosius’s official policy, and commissioned temple destruction on a wide scale, even employing the military under his command and “black-robed monks” for this purpose.[8]

In 391 CE, the bishop of Alexandria, Theophilus, ordered the destruction of the Serapeum – which housed the remaining books of the Library of Alexandra - and its conversion into a church. In an unsurpassed act of cruelty, a horde of Christian monks brutally murdered Hypatia, the world- reknowned mathematician, astronomer and philosopher of Alexandria. As per the Enclyclopedia Britannica, “they pulled her from her carriage on a street in Alexandria, dragged her to a church, stripped her naked, beat her to death and / or flayed her, tore off her limbs, and burned her remains.”[9] The acts of madness spread quickly throughout Egypt, leading to a wider destruction of holy sites, which is borne out by the archaeological findings of broken and burnt out buildings and hastily buried objects of piety.[10]

Figure 6: The Burning of the Library at Alexandria which was housed in the Sepapeum in 391 CE. Lithograph by Ambrose Dudley c. 1910. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

The persecutions did not stop here. More misery was in store for Egypt. In 639 CE, the Arabs conquered Egypt by wrestling control from the Byzantine Empire. This started another phase of tyranny, but this time the Coptic Christians bore the brunt of it. Christian churches were destroyed, forced conversions to Islam was order of the day, accompanied by jizya (tax) for those who refused to convert. By the 10th century, Islam had become the dominant faith of Egypt, and Arabic the sole vernacular. Almost as a reaction to the malice that men bore against each other, mother nature also turned violent. Secular records show that 83 earthquakes were recorded in Egypt between 2200 BCE – 1899 CE. Of these only 7 occurred in the BCE years; at most 3 till the end of the ninth century; and the remaining 73 earthquakes occurred in the next millenium.[11] Many of these earthquakes devastated the ancient temples, which had already been wrecked by the fanatics and were tottering due to disuse and neglect. Some of these temples disappeared in the sands of the expanding desert forever, taking with them the grand legends and mysterious incantations that they held. 

Thus, the prophecy of Hermes was fulfilled in a rather spectacular manner. Egypt was occupied by foreigners who did not speak their tongue or revere their gods, evil angels drove men to all kinds of reckless crimes, and nothing was left of the ancient Egyptian civilization except the stones that told of their religion and their piety. The sacred land of the gods was vandalized by waves of fanaticism and hatred that it had never witnessed before. In a way, what happened in Egypt was a mirror for what was happening in the rest of the world, as native cultures came under the sword of invaders, their natural resources plundered, their lands taken away from them, and their culture, language, manuscripts, temples and precious artifacts ruthlessly exterminated.

We have now reached a stage where the inversion of values is almost complete. Everything that is simple, pure and healthy, and brings peace, joy and contentment, has been devalued and cast away as being impractical or unnecessary, while the acquisition of wealth and power at any cost, and the uninhibited indulgence of the senses, has been touted as the sole purposes of life. Standing on their ivory towers, scientists and academics have proclaimed the non-existence of the soul and the futility of religious rituals and the spiritual way of life. The ancients have been labeled as primitives and our own self-destructive ways of life have been positioned as the greatest achievements of humanity.

It is difficult to imagine how any mortal, living in the 1st - 3rd centuries CE, could have made a prediction of such astonishing precision. Surely, the prophecy must have proceeded from some divine agency at an earlier period i.e. from Thoth / Hermes, and was put down in writing much later. In the final part of the prophecy, Hermes tells Asclepius that, at some point in the future, the decline will be reversed and the Earth will be renewed by the divine will of the Creator.            

The Lament of Hermes (contd)

But when all this has befallen, Asclepius, then the Master and Father, God, the first before all, the maker of that god who first came into being, will look on that which has come to pass, and will stay the disorder by the counterworking of his will, which is the good. He will call back to the right path those who have gone astray; he will cleanse the world from evil, now washing it away with water-floods, now burning it out with fiercest fire, or again expelling it by war and pestilence. And thus he will bring back his world to its former aspect, so that the Kosmos will once more be deemed worthy of worship and wondering reverence, and God, the maker and restorer of the mighty fabric, will be adored by the men of that day with unceasing hymns of praise and blessing.

Such is the new birth of the Kosmos; it is a making again of all things good, a holy and awe-striking restoration of all nature; and it is wrought in the process of time by the eternal will of God. For Gods will has no beginning; it is ever the same, and as it now is, even so it has ever been, without beginning. For it is the very being of God to purpose good.”

The final part of the prophecy tells us of the Purification event that occurs at the end of every World Age or Yuga, which has been mentioned in so many ancient traditions. The periodic cleansings are necessary, not only to remove the evil that gradually infests the minds of men in course of the descending Yuga Cycle, but, just as importantly, to return the Earth to a pure and pristine state for a new wave of human civilization to emerge; and god knows that over the past few centuries we have pumped the ecosphere of the Earth full with dangerous toxins and garbage, and polluted our minds with an endless stream of egoic desires and dark thoughts. This means that the next Day of Purification could be just round the corner.

The Egyptians believed that the collapse and re-emergence of civilization occurs on a periodic basis; and that the triggers for periodic cataclysmic events that obliterate civilization come from outer space in the form of comets and meteors. This belief was expressed quite explicitly by an old Egyptian priest of Sais, in course of his conversation with Solon, the Athenian law-giver, as recounted by Plato in the Timaeus. The Egyptian priest of Sais told Solon,

“There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other lesser ones by innumerable other causes…

There is a story, which even you have preserved, that once upon a time Phaethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father's chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals; at such times those who live upon the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore...When, on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, the survivors in your country are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on the mountains, but those who, like you, live in cities are carried by the rivers into the sea. 

Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves.”[12]

The reference to the “stream from heaven” that comes pouring down like a pestilence, is a clear allusion to the many meteor streams that the Earth crosses during its annual orbit around the Sun. During such times, the Earth can get impacted by civilization-ending bolides and large comet fragements, that move within these streams. Evidence is mounting by the day that comet impacts and meteor airbursts have caused widespread devastation in the past. Many such events have been recorded in the folklore and sacred texts of the ancients. The periodic nature of such events led the people of antiquity to look upon comets as the portents of all sorts of troubles such as wars, earthquakes, famines, diseases etc. Comets were called the “harbingers of doom”, and “the portents of impending disaster” sent directly from heaven for the warning of mankind.

Considering the unnerving accuracy of the prophecy of Hermes thus far, there is every likelihood that the final part of the prophecy will also be fulfilled at some point in the future. As much as some people would like to believe, there is no magic wand which can be waved to turn the tide and miraculously elevate human consciousness and restore all of nature to the original pristine state. We must, necessarily, go through these narrow environmental bottlenecks, out of which only a few survivors emerge, and begin again from scratch with a new set of values and guiding principles. The ancients knew about these grand cycles very well, and we would do well to heed their warnings. 


References

1 Plato, CRITIAS (360 BCE), tr. by Benjamin Jowett, https://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/plato/critias.htm
2 Hesiod: Works and Days translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White [1914], https://people.sc.fsu.edu/~dduke/lectures/hesiod1.pdf
3 The Lament, Asclepius III, tr. by Walter Scott, taken from https://www.kemetexperience.com/the-lament/
4 Codex Theodosianus XVI.10.10, taken from “The End of Paganism”, Encyclopaedia Romana, https://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/greece/paganism/paganism.html
5 Codex Theodosianus. XVI.10.12, taken from: as above
6 Pro Templis (Oration XXX.8-10)
7 Grindle, Gilbert (1892), The Destruction of paganism in the Roman Empire, pp. 29–30
8 Peter Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire, University of Wisconsin Press, 1992, pp. 107.
9 “Hypatia”, Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hypatia
10 MacMullen, Ramsay (1984), Christianizing The Roman Empire AD 100–400, Yale University Press
11 Ahmed Badawy, "Historical Seismicity of Egypt", Acta Geodaetica et Geophysica Hungarica 34(1):119-135, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283839188_Historical_seismicity_of_Egypt
12 Plato, Timaeus (360 BC) tr. by Benjamin Jowett

Bibhu Dev Misra

Bibhu Dev Misra is an independent researcher and writer on ancient civilizations and ancient mysteries. His passion is to explore the knowledge left behind by the ancients in the form of inscriptions, artifacts, monuments, symbols, glyphs, myths and legends. His articles have been published in different magazines and websites such as the New Dawn, Science to Sage, Nexus, Viewzone, Graham Hancock's website, Waking Times etc. and he has been featured on podcasts, interviews and online conferences organized by Earth Ancients, Portal to Ascension, OSOM, Watcher's Talk, Times FM and others. He is an engineer from IIT and a MBA from IIM, and has worked in the Information Technology industry for more than two decades. He can be reached at [email protected] and via his website Ancient Inquiries: www.bibhudevmisra.com

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