Hermes Creation Story (more detail)

Hermes’ Seven Governors


Their Relationship to Astrological Chart Interpretation


Anne Beversdorf

“The corpus Hermetica,” a series of philosophical writings by the mystery-shrouded writer called Hermes Trismegistus (“thrice-blessed”), has intrigued philosophers and metaphysicians for millennia. Long considered a source of divine wisdom, the Hermetica either contains or predates parts of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. But the real source of this material is unknown. The name “Hermes” is the Greek god who is known as “Mercury” in the Roman pantheon, but that doesn’t help us much. More useful is the information that “Hermes” is another name for the Egyptian priest Thoth, who was so wise and influential that he was made one of the Egyptian gods.

Thoth, the Egyptian, had been entrusted with the secrets of creation, possibly by Atlantean sources. Some sources say he was the original teacher of Moses, as Moses grew up in the pharaonic palaces. However, other sources say the writers of these “Hermetic” works arbitrarily laid claim to this ancient Egyptian or Atlantean birthright in order to lend credibility to their own opinions. Regardless of the original source, most of the material available to us is from documents written (or copied) between 300 BC and 300 AD. Furthermore, what has reached us today has been arbitrarily “censored”. The introduction to Walter Scott’s translation explains that Scott only translated the “religious or philosophic teachings” and that there is

“another class of documents…ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus; namely writings concerning astrology, magic, alchemy, and kindred forms of pseudoscience. But in the character of their contents these latter differ fundamentally from the former. …. it is easy to decide at a glance whether a given document is to be assigned to the one class or the other. We are therefore justified in… ignoring the masses of rubbish which fall under the other head.” [1]

Fortunately, Project Hindsight has begun the work of translating the missing astrological works of Hermes–works which turn out to be quite important, indeed. [2]

In various lectures, Project Hindsight’s Roberts Schmidt and Hand have woven together newly discovered astrological material with some that “slipped through” the censorship of earlier translators. Their thinking inspired me to look more seriously at the philosophy and astrological implications of Hermes’ writings!

For example, Hermes tells a creation story that is very different from those we usually hear–but it resonates strangely in my mind. With Schmidt and Hand pointing the way, I began to realize that Hermes’ story speaks profoundly to astrologers, telling us something about how we got our personalities and why First Man became trapped on earth. Hermes’ creation story goes like this: (The story is from Scott’s Hermetica, but I have paraphrased it into contemporary English.)

First, God[3] created “Mind, the Maker” and Mind the Maker created the planets. The planets were called Governors, and they were administrators of all Destiny. Then God created, in his own image, First Man. Now, First Man saw the planets, the creation of his brother, and wished to become a creator himself. And God granted his wish. So First Man decided to travel through the spheres of the planets, starting by breaking through the orbit of Saturn. [Saturn, the outermost limit of the Hermetic planetary spheres, also represents the entrance of spirit into matter. ab] Passing through the spheres of all the planets, First Man engaged their interest, and each planet gave to First Man a portion of its own nature, thereby ensuring their participation in creation and in controlling the Destiny of First Man.

At last First Man broke through the final boundary of the Moon and beheld Nature. [Moon represents the boundary between conscious and unconscious, as well as instinctual, habitual nature, dreams, emotions. The Moon is considered by many esoteric traditions a major stumbling-block to reaching the godhead. ab] Nature, seeing for the first time the form of God in the body of First Man, fell in love with First Man and reflected his form on the waters and in shadows on the land. And First Man, seeing the form of God reflected to him by Nature and thinking it was God, fell in love with Nature and wished to dwell with her. And the two intermingled and became one, and First Man and Nature, entering matter devoid of reason, became creators, giving birth to the race of men who, living under the orbits of the planets, were thereafter subject to the forces of Destiny.

On earth, humankind is subject to the delusions of First Man and Nature. Being controlled by planetary Destinies, humans believe these natures are their own, and have become trapped by them. But it is possible, after many trials, to become free again from the Destinies administered by the planets. Hermes writes that, at the death of the corporeal form, it is possible to rise back again through the spheres of the planets, divesting oneself of each planetary nature. The Hermetic description of traits to be given back to the planets Sun through Saturn reads like a catalog of the Seven Deadly Sins, but after giving up these character traits, man enters the sphere of the fixed stars and can be met by those like himself, ascending to the sphere of God and entering into God.[4]

This story of Hermes suggested an immediate corollary to me. As each of us is born on earth, we too become attached to Nature and are imprinted with the natures of the planets/gods we know. Like First Man, each of us is unable to return to God without “transcending” the planetary natures–rising back through the planetary spheres. Knowing this, it seems logical that we choose our birthtimes, over multiple lifetimes, so as to place these planetary natures in our horoscopes in many different ways. Life after life, we try them out in different parts of our “charts” until we learn all the little tricks they have in store that bind us to the earth and our physical bodies, and prevent us from returning to God. Our hope is to gain enough experience that we can truly identify these planetary natures in all their manifestations, and recognize them as Not Self–not our True Nature. In this way, we will be able to shed them as we ascend back through the spheres of the planets on our return to God.

In relating this creation story to chart interpretation, one detail becomes immediately important. The planetary natures, revealed in the birth chart, ARE NOT the True Self of the chart owner. They are no more than pieces of the Governors’ egos, superimposed on First Man and passed down to humans as descendants of First Man and Nature. When we start looking at a chart from this perspective, two things happen. On a practical level, the astrologer can now introduce a little distance between the emotions of the client and some of the urgent issues which may be present. Hermes referred to only seven planets. We use at least nine. Today our astrological understanding is also enriched by using the symbolism of planetary mythology. But this story provides a very useful tool for counseling. By talking about the planetary natures as little pieces of egos of these ancient, and very egotistical planetary gods, and by recognizing that everyone has every one of these planets somewhere in their horoscope, it brings the client into the community of humanity. The experience of looking at the individual’s horoscope becomes an experience of joining together with all humanity in the shared experience of human life, while still providing a paradigm for learning more about what makes this single life unique.

The second thing that happens is even more subtle. By learning that there are parts of our “personality” that are not under our control, because we have introduced a little distance between what we’ve defined as “planetary ego-issues” and “our true self”, we can begin to explore what it is about us that makes us More than our ego-centered personality. Observe how we react in such absolutely predictable fashions when certain “planetary-ego-buttons” are pushed. (Just try moving furniture in the home of a Pluto-in-the-fourth house person!) When we see how these parts of our egos are “on automatic” we have to wonder Who’s home here? And when we can take our ego-natures a little less seriously, we come a little closer to our godlike nature.

At this point, I must issue a word of caution. In groups of astrologers it’s common to hear conversations about “transcending” one’s birthchart. Using the analogy of the story here, we are equating the birthchart with the “ego” (or “personality”) as opposed to the “true nature” of self (return to God), so a discussion of “transcending one’s chart” is, in this sense, a discussion about transcending ego. But often, when people speak of transcending ego issues, they think in terms of “kill the ego” “repress the ego” or at least, “restrain the ego.” You can’t transcend something that’s imprisoned or dead. In order to transcend one’s ego, first we must identify it. We have to learn to recognize its manifestations. We must learn to become observers of ourselves. Secondly, ego must be strengthened. We can’t observe something we are repressing. We must allow the ego to present itself (this doesn’t mean “indulging” the ego… simply recognizing and acknowledging its expressions in our daily life). Although, according to Hermes, we are unable to divest ourselves of the planetary natures while we are in body, it is possible to reduce our identification with those natures. But it is only when the ego is strong and clearly recognized that can one move beyond the need to identify with it.

My favorite story to illustrate this point is one told of the Lord Buddha at the time of his mother’s death. After his mother died, the Lord Buddha was sitting under a tree, tears streaming down his face. As you can imagine, his disciples were concerned–both for their teacher, whom they loved, and for the apparent contradiction between his tears and his philosophy of non-attachment.

“Lord Buddha,” they said. “Are you alright? Why are you crying?”

The Buddha responded simply. “I am fine,” he said. “My body is grieving.”

Here we see the Buddha’s recognition that his material body had the need to cry, to grieve, and he was neither denying that need nor was he attached to it. He also knew that his body’s grief was irrelevant to his being “fine”. He was not attached to the needs of his ego. (So here’s the test question: “Who” was fine?)

In addition to, or perhaps, because of, being a little bit of a god’s ego, each of the planets also poses a specific challenge, or obstacle, to our spiritual growth. In a specific way, each of the planets keeps us from returning to God by being associated with a specific “separative force”, or Fear. Love, being unity, and Fear, which is separative, are mutually exclusive. Therefore, fear is the one component of corporeal life that keeps us from unity with God. Fear equals separativeness. Love is unity. By becoming aware of these planetary natures and the type of fear each engenders, and by observing how these fears control our behaviors and attitudes, we can begin to see specific opportunities for spiritual growth.

Hermes spoke of divesting Self of the natures of the seven planets, Sun through Saturn. It’s interesting, though, to realize that we still count seven planets between earth and the outer galaxy, and the number seven has great esoteric significance. Since most astrologers agree that our discoveries of new heavenly bodies correspond with our ability to recognize their symbolic energies, we must now look at the implications of transcending more planets than those considered by Hermes. Daring to add my views to those of Hermes, I’m going to discuss the seven planets between Earth and the outer galaxy, starting this discussion with the planets closest to earth. I’m also including the Moon, for its position as final boundary, and have added Chiron.[5]

It’s important to start with the Moon since breaking through the Moon’s habits is the prerequisite for reaching the outer edges of our internal “solar systems”. Before we can go further, we must become conscious of our unconsciousness and “see” through the darkness. Perhaps this is related to the fact that in Vedic astrology, the brighter the Moon, the more auspicious. A full Moon, one that is opposite the Sun in our charts, is visible to us. We are usually quite aware of oppositions in our charts. By illuminating the night, a full Moon can help us make the unconscious visible to us–unless we project the Moon’s attributes onto others in our environment. So in order to break through the first circle and examine the other planets, we must break the habits of the Moon and start observing our own unconscious behaviors. The fear is that of leaving the familiar, the known, the “safety” of our illusions. The antidote is to observe where you are habit-bound.

Robert Hand suggests that the purpose of the aggressive force of Mars is to protect our personal physical boundaries. Too much Mars, and you have an aggressive personality. Too weak a Mars, and you are unable to stand up for your rights. He used the image of an inflated tire. Over-inflated, it explodes. Underinflated, it won’t support the vehicle: it wears out and slows you down. In addition, Mars is what we DO. Where Mars is placed in your chart, by house and sign, shows where you fear Not doing. Representing action, Mars can become more visible in your life if you simply observe your actions. Watch what you do. Your actions will reveal as much or more than your thoughts or intentions. The fear is of misplacing boundaries. Note that Neptune is all about losing boundaries–but in Neptune‘s case the fear is losing the illusion of no-boundary. Mars wants boundaries, and whether you fear having your own boundaries invaded or fear invading others’, the antidote is to recognize the fear as simply dictated by Mars’ placement in your chart, and therefore as subjective–not objectively real.

The next sphere is that of Jupiter. Jupiter is about what we believe. It is about what we (think we) know. It can also be about self-righteousness. When I talk about Jupiter-related “beliefs” I don’t mean large philosophies or religions nor do I mean concepts like reincarnation, karma, the afterlife. Jupiter is related to How we believe, and our need to defend our way of believing. For example, as Jupiter in Capricorn, I need beliefs to be practical and can become quite self-righteous when others (say, Jupiter in Pisces) go on about “airy-fairy stuff” that I am unable to relate to real-life experience. And even as I confess this, and even knowing there are many other valid ways of believing, I still feel I am “right”! To pass through the sphere of Jupiter we need to observe how our own belief systems operate and to relinquish our identification with our individual share of Jupiter’s planetary nature. The fear is not knowing the truth (believing), and the antidote is to recognize that you cannot know.

After Jupiter comes Saturn. Saturn was the outermost planet of ancient astrology and metaphysics. Formerly the “last boundary,” Saturn has to do with boundaries, limits, time, and authority. It also represents the entrance of spirit into matter. Saturn is about materiality. Our Saturn placements, by sign and to a lesser degree by house, reveal how we think things “should” be, and therefore how we think WE should be, how OTHERS should be, and how the world should be. When our personal sense of Saturn is violated, we can feel as if morality itself is violated. Folks with Saturn in Libra feel they Must be nice. They Must be fair. And if they observe others being mean or unfair, they become morally outraged. Saturns in Virgo thinks they should be perfect. These people are great self-critics because they can never be perfect enough. They will also readily point out where others fail in order to help others be “more perfect.” It’s fun to watch a Saturn in Libra encounter a Saturn in Sagittarius. One person must be Nice no matter what, and the other must be Truthful no matter what! Saturn’s fear is that things will not be as they SHOULD be (defined by sign and house) and the antidote is to recognize that your idea of “should” is only temporal–related to your particular corporeal birthtime this time around.

Next is Uranus. (Although Chiron is usually considered next in line, I have taken the liberty of placing it after the orbit of Uranus, since that’s where it was on its discovery date, and its symbolism is more closely allied with Neptune, in terms of this discussion.) Uranus is about freedom. By house, and to a lesser extent by sign placement, Uranus shows where we fear loss of freedom. This is where the most innocuous comment of another causes you to engage your “I’m outta here!” behavior. My favorite Uranus illustration is about the woman with Uranus in Cancer (food) in the third house (hands, details) who, when her friend suggested she chop the vegetables smaller threw down the knife and stormed out of the kitchen! “You can’t tell ME how to chop vegetables!” What we forget, in our eruptive demands for freedom, is that the other person isn’t taking our freedom from us. It is only our perception that our freedom is being challenged. If Uranus’ fear is loss of freedom, the antidote is to realize that true freedom comes from within.

Chiron. The new fellow on the block. To me, Chiron, with its eccentric, highly personalized orbit, is our own personal mentor through life. And the fear represented by Chiron starts with the fear of not belonging and escalates to a fear of meaninglessness. Where Chiron sits in our chart is where we feel alienated, different, and where our search for meaning falters, frustrated, and turns up empty. And if the fear is that there is no meaning, the antidote is faith, based on the realization that it is only the chart placement of Chiron in this body that makes that arena of life look empty.

With Neptune we become caught in grand illusions. Identifying with boundarylessness, Neptune is about ideals, dreams, religious ecstasy, spirituality. But by its placement in our chart we can see where we fear the loss of our own personal illusions. And since the fear is loss of cherished illusions, of ideals, the antidote is to consciously unmask the illusion. Seek the shattering of illusion, of your dreams.

And Pluto. With Pluto we must learn surrender. Pluto is related to what I call “the adrenalin factor” in our life. This is where an apparently innocuous event will set all the alarm bells in your system clanging and charge you with extra bolts of adrenalin. A boss says “we’re going to change to a new database” and a sixth house Pluto reacts as if the boss said “I’m going to kill you and your lifework”. Pluto indicates the arena of life with which we identify so completely we believe it truly IS who we are. When challenged we fight as if our life is at stake. The issue is that of control. Where Pluto is, is where we desperately fear loss of control. The desire to not lose control is often manifested in very subtle controlling behaviors. But Jeff Green points out that by attempting to maintain control of plutonic areas, we actually draw to us situations that challenge that control. In the end, you Must give up control. Fast learners metaphorically put their hand near the hot stove and learn to leave it alone. Slow learners keep trying until they, metaphorically, rest their hand on the burner and get third degree burns. Sooner or later, you’ll learn. And while Pluto’s fear is loss of control, the antidote is to shift your identity away from the house and sign of it’s placement in your chart and move it toward the opposite sign and house.

Even great living masters, however, remain under the control of the Destinies. Vedic astrologer, Chakrapani Ullal tells a story of a great Indian saint who was suffering terribly with terminal cancer. His followers begged him to use his powers to end his pain. His response was, “It doesn’t matter!” Like Buddha, he accepted the destiny of his physical form and was still serene in spirit. Few of us are close to this level of acceptance, but the process of divesting ourselves of identification with our planetary natures, with our temporal personality, is certainly one of the steps we must take as we use astrology to assist us in spiritual growth. In the words of Hermes: “And he who has recognized himself [the true Self, apart from planetary natures] has entered into that Good which is above all Being.[6]

© 1995 Anne Beversdorf


Anne Beversdorf is a practicing astrologer, astrological speaker, and writer living in San Diego‘s North County. She specializes in spiritual issues relating to transition and loss and the search for meaning. She welcomes conversations (and clients) and can be reached at 1119 Anza Avenue, Vista, CA 92084,  (760) 724-3622 ; or email [email protected] .

[1] Hermetica: The Ancient Greek and Latin Writings Which Contain Religious or Philosophic Teachings Ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus. edited and translated by Sir Walter Scott. Shambala, 1993 ed. Introduction, p B.

[2] Hermes, Liber Hermetis Part I and Hermes Liber Hermetis Part II, translated by Robert Zoller and edited by Robert Hand. Project Hindsight, Golden Hind Press, 1963. (Golden Hind Press, PO Box 002, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411)

[3] Hermes uses the phrase “Mind, Father of All”, “Mind the Father” or “the Great Poimandre”. For simplicity’s sake, I will use the word “God” to represent, god/goddess, the gods, the universe, spirit, the force, etc. Please substitute whatever terms you prefer when referring to higher power(s).

[4] Paraphrased from Hermetica: The Ancient Greek and Latin Writings Which Contain Religious or Philosophic Teachings Ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus. edited and translated by Sir Walter Scott. Shambala, 1993 ed. p 121-129.

[5] I wish to warmly thank and acknowledge Hugh Martin for many of the insights related to Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. His teaching has been extremely important to me, and misrepresentations of his original concepts here are due to my own incomplete understanding.

[6] Scott; Hermetica. p. 125