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.
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