The Hermetic Tradition is a path of magic which has evolved from a diverse blending of influences during two key periods. The first period was during the Rennaissance, when scholars of a mystical bent combined newly unearthed Greek, Kabbalistic and Arabic mysticism with Alchemy, Freemasonry, and heretical Christian Theurgy and Thaumaturgy. The second period was during the Victorian era, when colonization of orient brought back a variety of meditational techniques (including Tantra) which were combined with the previously mentioned influences and both Spiritism and Theosophy.
Arising from the muddle of secret organizations was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which claimed to be descended from the Rosicrucians.
This organization harboured a good number of English aristocrats as members, as well as theologians, poets, and people still known primarily for their occult work. One such person was Aleister Crowley, who left the Order angrily and began work with Ordo Templi Orientis.
Claiming to descend from the Knights Templar, this organization was largely centered in Germany and one of its primary focuses was Tantra (sexually induced Trances). Crowley added his own ideas to the mix, including his "Book of the Law", the basic text of the religion he founded called Thelema.
During roughly the same period, Crowley's students and contemporaries added an immense amount of public literature to Hermeticism; largely because the Hermetic Orders were splintering into factions. New organizations devised new material in a flurry of Inspiration, and individuals published the previously secret papers of dying Orders for the sake of posterity.
During this period came forth individuals like Austin Osman Spare and Kenneth Grant, whose ideas on Hermetica go off into controversial directions (and border on, or are an early form of Chaos Magic). Nevertheless, the history of Hermeticism is extremely complicated and highly disputed.
see also: CORPUS HERMETICUM, HERMES TRIMEGISTUS; HERMETICA
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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