When the earliest people began to form spoken language, their thoughts shaped their words, but soon, words in turn shaped their thoughts. And by shaping their thoughts, words shaped reality itself. Words had power. When words first were written down in Ancient Sumer, words took on even greater power, because now one could take one's own words, or the words of another, from place to place, or hide them, or share them with countless others. And if words had power, the power to write down the name of someone else was a special kind of power, for names are among the most powerful words of all. Only the priests and royal officials were at first allowed to read and write, but soon mere merchants were using words to generate wealth, and with wealth came power. Users of Magick began to write down their spells and concepts, to share with others their learning or to hide dangerous spells from prying eyes. The greatest of all these mages and writers of spells was a man known as Hermes Trismigestus. He laid the foundation for the Order that would eventually be named after him in ancient Egypt in the sixth century BC. Following his example, his disciples gathered all the knowledge of the world in the Great Library of Alexandria, to be studied and expanded for the benefit of all. But soon the proliferation of philosophies and cults that this sharing of knowledge generated would be brought to a screeching halt by the rise of Christianity and the fall of Rome. The Library was burned, and the Hermetic Scholars fled into hiding. They formally organized as the Order of Hermes in 767 AD, and tried to put back together the knowledge that had been lost. They organized themselves into dozens of Houses, which would alternately cooperate and feud with each other for the next millennium and a half. One of the founding houses, House Tremere, was expelled from the order in 1204 after their experiments into immortality had turned them into a new form of Vampires.
Over the centuries, many houses were accused of Diabolism, devil-worship, and wiped out, their surviving members fleeing to join the Nephandi. Other houses grew too rational-minded from all their studies, and left to join the Order of Reason. Stil others simply dwindled in numbers and were absorbed into House Ex Miscellanea, a catch-all house for all minor sects and sub-sects too small to be a full-fledged house on their own. But new houses arose to take their place, and the Order as a whole prospered, becoming one of the founding members of the Council of Nine Mystical Traditions. The order preserved and expanded upon the magical knowledge of the ancients, carrying their ancient traditons into the modern age more or less intact. But centuries of hiding from the Order of Reason and then the Technocracy took their toll on the Order's original commitement to the free exchange of information. Secrecy, distrust, and paranoia took hold, and much that should not have been forgotten, was lost into the mists of history. Other important information was so obfuscated with arcane symbolism, hidden behind riddles and puzzles to protect it from inexperienced dabblers, that even the expert mages who could have make use of it, could not fully comprehend the truth behind all the symbolism.
Gehenna and BeyondEdit
When Gehenna laid bare the magickal world for all to see, the Order's role and purpose as a repository for secret ancient magickal knowledge came to be seen as over. After briefly fighting the Technocracy for control, the Order surrendered, and many of its members became instructors in the new schools for mages set up by the Earth Federation government and the Tech Infantry. Of course, many of these instructors turned out to be still loyal to the Council rather than the Technocracy, and worked to undermine the system from within, spiriting away many of their most promising young students into the ranks of the Resistance to hide them from the draft. But the destruction of the Resistance as an organization after their second flight from Earth also broke the back of what was left of the Order. While many of its former members survive, the organization as such is now defunct.