The Corpus Hermeticum and Asclepius

 

Corpus Hermeticum I <Discourse> of Hermes Trismegistus: Poimandres

 

Corpus Hermeticum II

 

Corpus Hermeticum III A sacred discourse of Hermes

 

Corpus Hermeticum IV A discourse of Hermes to Tat: The mixing bowl or the monad

 

Corpus Hermeticum V A discourse of Hermes to Tat, his son: That god is invisible and entirely visible

 

Corpus Hermeticum VI That the good is in god alone and nowhere else

 

Corpus Hermeticum VII That the greatest evil in mankind is ignorance concerning god

 

Corpus Hermeticum VIII That none of the things that are is destroyed, and they are mistaken who say that changes are deaths and destructions

 

Corpus Hermeticum IX On understanding and sensation: [That the beautiful and good are in god alone and nowhere else]

 

Corpus Hermeticum X [Discourse] of Hermes Trismegistus: The key

 

Corpus Hermeticum XI Mind to Hermes

 

Corpus Hermeticum XII Discourse of Hermes Trismegistus: On the mind shared in common, to Tat

 

Corpus Hermeticum XIII A secret dialogue of Hermes Trismegistus on the mountain to his son Tat: On being born again, and on the promise to be silent

 

Corpus Hermeticum XIV From Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepiuis, health of mind

 

Corpus Hermeticum XVI Definitions of Asclepius to King Ammon on god, matter, vice, fate, the sun, intellectual essence, divine essence, mankind, the arrangement of the plenitude, the seven stars, and mankind according to the image 

 

Corpus Hermeticum XVII

 

Corpus Hermeticum XVIII On the soul hindered by the body's affections

 

Asclepius To me this Asclepius is like the sun. A Holy Book of Hermes Trismegistus addressed to Asclepius

 

The Corpus Hermeticum.

 

Corpus Hermeticum I

 

<Discourse> of Hermes Trismegistus: Poimandres

 

[1] Once, when thought came to me of the things that are and my thinking soared high and my bodily senses were restrained, like someone heavy with sleep from too much eating or toil of the body, an enormous being completely unbounded in size seemed to appear to me and call my name and say to me: "What do you want to hear and see; what do you want to learn and know from your understanding?"

 

[2] "Who are you?" I asked.

 

"I am Poimandres," he said, "mind of sovereignty; I know what you want, and I am with you everywhere."

 

[3] I said, "I wish to learn about the things that are, to understand their nature and to know god. How much I want to hear!" I said.

Then he said to me: "Keep in mind all that you wish to learn, and I will teach you."

 

[4] Saying this, he changed his appearance, and in an instant everything was immediately opened to me. I saw an endless vision in which everything became light - clear and joyful - and in seeing the vision I came to love it. After a little while, darkness arose separately and descended - fearful and gloomy - coiling sinuously so that it looked to me like a <snake>. Then the darkness changed into something of a watery nature, indescribably agitated and smoking like a fire; it produced an unspeakable wailing roar. Then an inarticulate cry like the voice of fire came forth from it. [5] But from the light...a holy word mounted upon the <watery> nature, and untempered fire lept up from the watery nature to the height above. The fire was nimble and piercing and active as well, and because the air was light it followed after spirit and rose up to the fire away from earth and water so that it seemed suspended from the fire. Earth and water stayed behind, mixed with one another, so that <earth> could not be distinguished from water, but they were stirred to hear by the spiritual word that moved upon them.

 

[6] Poimandres said to me, "Have you understood what this vision means?"

 

"I shall come to know," said I.

 

"I am the light you saw, mind, your god," he said, "who existed before the watery nature that appeared out of darkness. The light giving word who comes from mind is the son of god."

 

"Go on," I said.

 

"This is what you must know: that in you which sees and hears is the word of the lord, but your mind is god the father; they are not divided from one another for their union is life."

 

"Thank you," I said.

 

"Understand the light, then, and recognize it." [7] After he said this, he looked me in the face for such a long time that I trembled at his appearance. But when he raised his head, I saw in my mind the light of powers beyond number and a boundless cosmos that had come to be. The fire, encompassed by great power and subdued, kept its place fixed. In the vision I had because of the discourse of Poimandres, these were my thoughts. [8] Since I was terrified, out of my wits, he spoke to me again. "In your mind you have seen the archetypal form, the preprinciple that exists before a beginning without end." This was what Poimandres said to me.

 

"The elements of nature - whence have they arisen?" I asked.

 

And he answered: "From the counsel of god which, having taken in the word and having seen the beautiful cosmos, imitated it, having become a cosmos through its own elements and its progeny of souls. [9] The mind who is god, being androgyne and existing as life and light, by speaking gave birth to a second mind, a craftsman, who, as god of fire and spirit, crafted seven governors; they encompass the sensible world in circles, and their government is called fate."

 

[10] "From the elements [ ] that weigh downwards, the word of god lept straight up to the pure craftwork of nature and united with the craftsman-mind (for the word was of the same substance). The weighty elements of nature were left behind, bereft of reason, so as to be mere matter. [11] The craftsman-mind, together with the word, encompassing the circles and whirling them about with a rush, turned his craftworks about, letting them turn from an endless beginning to a limitless end, for it starts where it stops. Revolving as mind wished them to, the circles brought forth from the weighty elements living things without reason (for they no longer kept the word with them); and the air brought forth winged things; the water things that swim. Earth and water had been separated from one another as mind wished, and <earth> brought forth from herself the living things that she held within, four-footed beasts <and> crawling things, wild animals and tame."

 

[12] "Mind, the father of all, who is life and light, gave birth to a man like himself whom he loved as his own child. The man was most fair: he had the father's image; and god, who was really in love with his own form, bestowed on him all his craftworks. [13] And after the man had observed what the craftsman had created with the father's help, he also wished to make some craftwork, and the father agreed to this. Entering the craftsman's sphere, where he was to have all authority, the man observed his brother's craftworks; the governors loved the man, and each gave a share of his own order. Learning well their essence and sharing in their nature, the man wished to break through the circumference of the circles to observe the rule of the one given power over the fire."

 

[14] "Having all authority over the cosmos of mortals and unreasoning animals, the man broke through the vault and stooped to look through the cosmic framework, thus displaying to lower nature the fair form of god. Nature smiled for love when she saw him whose fairness brings no surfeit <and> who holds in himself all the energy of the governors and the form of god, for in the water she saw the shape of the man's fairest form and upon the earth its shadow. When the man saw in the water the form like himself as it was in nature, he loved it and wished to inhabit it; wish and action came in the same moment, and he inhabited the unreasoning form. Nature took hold of her beloved, hugged him all about and embraced him, for they were lovers."

 

[15] "Because of this, unlike any other living thing on earth, mankind is twofold - in the body mortal but immortal in the essential man. Even though he is immortal and has authority over all things, mankind is affected by mortality because he is subject to fate; thus, although man is above the cosmic framework, he became a slave within it. He is androgyne because he comes from an androgyne father, and he never sleeps because he comes from one who is sleepless. <Yet love and sleep are his> masters."

 

[16] And after this: "..., o my mind. I love the word also."

 

Poimandres said: "This is the mystery that has been kept hidden until this very day. When nature made love with the man, she bore a wonder most wondrous.In him he had the nature of the cosmic framework of the seven, who are made of fire and spirit, as I told you, and without delay nature at once gave birth to seven men, androgyne and exalted, whose natures were like those of the seven governors."

 

And after this: "O Poimandres, now I have come into a great longing, and I yearn to hear; so do not digress."

 

And Poimandres said, "Be silent; I have not yet unfolded to you the first discourse."

 

"As you see, I am silent," said I.

 

[17] "As I said, then, the birth of the seven was as follows. <Earth> was the female. Water did the fertilizing. Fire was the maturing force. Nature took spirit from the ether and brought forth bodies in the shape of the man. From life and light the man became soul and mind; from life came soul, from light came mind, and all things in the cosmos of the senses remained thus until a cycle ended <and> kinds of things began to be."

 

[18] "Hear the rest, the word you yearn to hear. When the cycle was completed, the bond among all things was sundered by the counsel of god. All living things, which had been androgyne, were sundered into two parts - humans along with them - and part of them became male, part likewise female. But god immediately spoke a holy speech: 'Increase in increasing and multiply in multitude, all you creatures and craftworks, and let him <who> is mindful recognize that he is immortal, that desire is the cause of death, and let him recognize all that exists.'"

 

[19] "After god said this, providence, through fate and through the cosmic framework, caused acts of intercourse and set in train acts of birth; and all things were multiplied according to kind. The one who recognized himself attained the chosen good, but the one who loved the body that came from the error of desire goes on in darkness, errant, suffering sensibly the effects of death."

 

[20] "Those who lack knowledge, what great wrong have they done," I asked, "that they should be deprived of immortality?"

 

"You behave like a person who has not given thought to what he has heard. Did I not tell you to think?"

 

"I am thinking; I remember; and I am grateful as well."

 

"If you have understood, tell me: why do they deserve death who are in death?"

 

"Because what first gives rise to each person's body is the hateful darkness, from which comes the watery nature, from which the body was constituted in the sensible cosmos, from which death drinks."

 

[21] "Truly you have understood. But why is it that 'he who has understood himself advances toward god,' as god's discourse has it?"

"Because," I said, "the father of all things was constituted of light and life, and from him the man came to be."

 

"You say your speech well. Life and light are god and father, from whom the man came to be. So if you learn that you are from light and life and that you happen to come from them, you shall advance to life once again." This is what Poimandres said.

 

"But tell me again," I asked, "how shall I advance to life, O my mind? For god says, 'Let the person who is mindful recognize himself' [22] All people have mind, do they not?"

 

"Hold your tongue, fellow. Enough talk. I myself, the mind, am present to the blessed and good and pure and merciful - to the reverent - and my presence becomes a help; they quickly recognize everything, and they propitiate the father lovingly and give thanks, praising and singing hymns affectionately and in the order appropriate to him. Before giving up the body to its proper death, they loathe the senses for they see their effects. Or rather I, the mind, will not permit the effects of the body to strike and work their results on them. As gatekeeper, I will refuse entry to the evil and shameful effects, cutting off the anxieties that come from them. [23] But from these I remain distant - the thoughtless and evil and wicked and envious and greedy and violent and irreverent - giving way to the avenging demon who {wounds the evil person}, assailing him sensibly with the piercing fire and thus arming him the better for lawless deeds so that greater vengeance may befall him. Such a person does not cease longing after insatiable appetites, struggling in the darkness without satisfaction {This} tortures him and makes the fire grow upon him all the more."

 

[24] "You have taught me all things well, o mind, just as I wanted. But tell me again <about> the way up; tell me how it happens."

To this Poimandres said: "First, in releasing the material body you give the body itself over to alteration, and the form that you used to have vanishes. To the demon you give over your temperament, now inactive. The body's senses rise up and flow back to their particular sources, becoming separate parts and mingling again with the energies. And feeling and longing go on toward irrational nature. [25] Thence the human being rushes up through the cosmic framework, at the first zone surrendering the energy of increase and decrease; at the second evil machination, a device now inactive; at the third the illusion of longing, now inactive; at the fourth the ruler's arrogance, now freed of excess; at the fifth unholy presumption and daring recklessness; at the sixth the evil impulses that come from wealth, now inactive; and at the seventh zone the deceit that lies in ambush. [26] And then, stripped of the effects of the cosmic framework, the human enters the region of the ogdoad; he has his own proper power, and along with the blessed he hymns the father. Those present there rejoice together in his presence, and, having become like his companions, he also hears certain powers that exist beyond the ogdoadic region and hymn god with sweet voice. They rise up to the father in order and surrender themselves to the powers, and, having become powers, they enter into god. This is the final good for those who have received knowledge: to be made god. Why do you still delay? Having learned all this, should you not become guide to the worthy so that through you the human race might be saved by god?"

 

[27] As he was saying this to me, Poimandres joined with the powers. Then he sent me fort, empowered and instructed on the nature of the universe and on the supreme vision, after I had given thanks to the father of all and praised him. And I began proclaiming to mankind the beauty of reverence and knowledge: "People, earthborn men, you who have surrendered yourselves to drunkenness and sleep and ignorance of god, make yourselves sober and end your drunken sickness, for you are bewitched in unreasoning sleep."

[28] When they heard, they gathered round with one accord. And I said, "Why have you surrendered yourselves to death, earthborn men, since you have the right to share in immortality? You who have journeyed with error, who have partnered with ignorance, think again: escape the shadowy light; leave corruption behind and take a share in immortality."

 

[29] Some of them, who had surrendered themselves to the way of death, resumed their mocking and withdrew, while those who desired to be taught cast themselves at my feet. Having made them rise, I became guide to my race, teaching them the words - and I sowed the words of wisdom among them, and they were nourished from the ambrosial water. When evening came and the sun's light began to disappear entirely, I commanded them to give thanks to god, and when each completed the thanksgiving, he turned to his own bed.

 

[30] Within myself I recorded the kindness of Poimandres, and I was deeply happy because I was filled with what I wished, for the sleep of my body became sobriety of soul, the closing of my eyes became true vision, my silence became pregnant with good, and the birthing of the word became a progeny of goods. This happened to me because I was receptive of mind - of Poimandres, that is, the word of sovereignty. I have arrived, inspired with the divine breath of truth. Therefore, I give praise to god the father from my soul and with all my might:

 

[31] Holy is god, the father of all;

 

Holy is god, whose counsel is done by his own powers;

 

Holy is god, who wishes to be known and is known by his own people;

 

Holy are you, who by the word have constituted all things that are;

 

Holy are you, from whom all nature was born as image;

 

Holy are you, of whom nature has not made a like figure;

 

Holy are you, who are stronger than every power;

 

Holy are you, who surpass every excellence;

 

Holy are you, mightier than praises.

 

[31] You whom we address in silence, the unspeakable, the unsayable, accept pure speech offerings from a heart and soul that reach up to you. [32] Grant my request no to fail in the knowledge that befits our essence; give me power; and with this fight I shall enlighten those who are in ignorance, brothers of my race, but your sons. Thus I believe and I bear witness; I advance to life and light. Blessed are you, father. He who is your man wishes to join you in the work of sanctification since you have provided him all authority.

 

Corpus Hermeticum II

 

[1] "Is it not true, Asclepius, that everything moved is moved in something and by something?"

"Certainly."

 

"But isn't it necessary for that in which something is moved to be larger than the moved?"

"Stronger indeed."

 

"And that in which something is moved must necessarily have a nature contrary to that of the moved?"

 

"Yes, entirely so."

 

[2] "This cosmos is large, then, and no body is larger?"

 

"Agreed."

 

"And is it densely packed? For it has been filled with many other large bodies or, rather, with all the bodies that exist."

 

"So it is."

 

"But is the cosmos a body?"

 

"A body, yes."

 

"And a moved body?"

 

[3] "Certainly."

 

"The place in which it moves, then, how large must it be, and what is its nature? Is it not larger by far so as to sustain continuity of motion and not hold back its movement lest the moved be crowded and confined?"

 

"It must be something truly enormous, Trismegistus."

 

[4] "What is its nature? It will be of a contrary nature, Asclepius, no? But the nature contrary to body is the incorporeal."

"Agreed."

 

"Place is incorporeal, then, but the incorporeal is either divine or else it is god. (By 'divine' I mean here the unbegotten, not the begotten.) [5] If it is divine, it is something essential; but if it is god, it comes to be even without essence. Otherwise, it is something intelligible, and this is why: for us, god is the foremost intelligible entity, but not so for god himself; what is intelligible falls within the awareness of one who thinks of it; thus, for himself god is not intelligible because his is not something distinct from the object of his thought, i.e., so as to be an object of thought for himself. [6] For us, however, he is something distinct; hence, he is an object of thought for us. But if place is intelligible, it is intelligible not as god but as place, and if it were intelligible as god, it would be regarded so not as place but as energy capable of containing. Yet everything moved is moved not in something moved but in something at rest. And the mover is also at rest, unable to be moved conjointly.

 

"How then, O Trismegistus, are the things of this world moved conjointly with their movers? You have said that the planetary spheres are moved by the spheres of the fixed"

 

"This motion, Asclepius, is not conjoint but opposed, for the spheres are not moved in the same way; they moved contrary to one another, and the contrariety keeps the motion balanced through opposition. [7] Resistance is the stilling of motion. Since the planetary spheres are moved contrarily to the fixed {by a contrary encounter with them, they are moved because of their balance in relation to the contrariety itself}. It cannot be otherwise. For example: those bears that you see neither setting nor rising but turning about the same point, do you think they are moved or at rest?"

 

"They are moved, Trismegistus."

 

"What sort of motion, Asclepius?"

 

"Motion revolving about the same points."

 

"Revolution is the same thing as motion about the same point that is held in place by immobility. Going around it prevents going beyond it, but when the going beyond is prevented, there is resistance to the going around, and thus the contrary motion remains constant, stabilized by the contrariety. [8] I will give you an example here on earth, one that your eyes can see: as they swim, observe mortal living things, those like a human, I mean; when the water rushes by, the resistance of feet and hands becomes an immobility so that the person is not swept downstream with the water."

 

"A clear example, Trismegistus."

 

"Thus, all motion is moved in immobility and by immobility. And it happens that the motion of the cosmos and of every living thing made of matter is produced not by things outside the body but by those within it acting upon the outside, by intelligible entities, either soul or spirit or something else incorporeal. For body does not move ensouled body, nor does it move any body at all, not even the soulless."

[9] "How do you mean this, Trismegistus? Are they not bodies that move sticks and stones and all the other soulless things?"

 

"By no means, Asclepius. Not the body itself but what is within the body that moves the soulless thing is what moves them both, the body that bears as well as the body that is borne. Hence, the soulless will not move the soulless, and so you see how the soul is overloaded when it bears two bodies by itself. And so it is clear that things moved are moved in something and by something."

[10] "Must things that are moved be moved in emptiness, Trismegistus?"

 

"Hold your tongue, Asclepius! Not one of the things that are is empty - by reason of their substantiality. For a being could not be a being if it were not full of substance. The subsistent can never become empty."

 

"Are not some things empty, Trismegistus, such as a pail or a pot or a vat or other such things?"

 

"Ah, what a great mistake, Asclepius! Would you consider 'empty' the things that are entirely and completely full?

[11] "What do you mean, Trismegistus?"

 

"Air is a body, no?"

 

"Yes, it is a body."

 

"But does not this body pervade everything that exists and fill them all by pervading them? And a body is a mixture constituted of the four elements, is it not? So all those things that you call 'empty' are full of air. But if they are full of air, they are also full of the four bodies, and so it turns out that a contrary account comes to light: that the things you call 'full' are all empty of air since they are crowded with these other bodies and have no place to take in the air. Therefore, the things you call 'empty' must be named 'hollow' rather than 'empty,' for in their substance they are full of air and spirit."

 

[12] "Your reasoning is irrefutable, Trismegistus. So what have we said of the place in which the universe is moved?"

 

"That it is incorporeal, Asclepius."

 

"What is the incorporeal, then?"

 

"Mind as a whole wholly enclosing itself, free of all body, unerring, unaffected, untouched, at rest in itself capable of containing all things and preserving all that exists, and its rays (as it were) are the good, the truth, the archetype of spirit, the archetype of soul."

 

"What, then, is god?"

 

"God is what does not subsist as any of these since he is the cause of their being, for all of them and for each and every one of them that exists. [13] And he has left nothing else remaining that is not-being, for all things are those that come to be from things that are, not from those that are not. Things that are not do not have a nature that enables them to come to be; their nature is such that they cannot come to be anything. Things that are, on the other hand, do not have a nature that prevents them from ever existing." [14] {(What do you mean by what never exist?)}

 

"God is not mind, but he is the cause of mind's being; he is not spirit, but the cause of spirit's being; and he is not light, but the cause of light's being. Hence, one must show god reverence with those two name assigned to him alone and to no other. Except god alone, none of the other beings called gods nor any human nor any demon can be good, in any degree. That good is he alone, and none other. All others are incapable of containing the nature of the good because they are body and soul and have no place that can contain the good.

 

[15] For the magnitude of the good is as great as the substance of all beings, corporeal and incorporeal, sensible and intelligible. This is the good; this is god. You should not say that anything else is good or you will speak profanely, nor should you ever call god anything but 'the good' since this too would be profane. [16] All use the word 'good' in speaking, of course, but not all understand what it can mean. For this reason, god is not understood by all. In their ignorance, they apply the name 'good' to the gods and to certain humans even though these beings are never able to be good or to become so. The good is what is inalienable and inseparable from god, since it is god himself. All other immortal gods are given the name 'good' as an honor, but god is the good by nature, not because of honor. God has one nature - the good. In god and the good together there is but one kind, from which come all other kinds. The good is what gives everything and receives nothing; god gives everything and receives nothing; therefore, god is <the> good, and the good is god."

 

[17] "God's other name is 'father' because he is capable of making all things. Making is characteristic of a father. Prudent people therefore regard the making of children as a duty in life to be taken most seriously and greatly revered, and should any human being pass away childless, they see it as the worst misfortune and irreverence. After death such a person suffers retribution from demons. This is his punishment: the soul of the childless one is sentenced to a body that has neither a man's nature nor a woman's - a thing accursed under the sun. Most assuredly then, Asclepius, you should never congratulate a childless person. On the contrary show pity for his calamity, knowing what punishment awaits him."

 

"This is the content and the extent of what should be told to you, Asclepius, by way of introduction to the nature of all things."

 

Corpus Hermeticum III

 

A sacred discourse of Hermes

 

[1] God is the glory of all things, as also are the divine and the divine nature. God, as well as mind and nature and matter, is the beginning of all things that are since he is wisdom meant to show them forth. The divine is also a beginning, and it is nature and energy and necessity and completion and renewal.

 

In the deep there was boundless darkness and water and fine intelligent spirit, all existing by divine power in chaos. Then a holy light was sent forth, and elements solidified [ ] out of liquid essence. And all the gods {divide the parts} of germinal nature. [2] While all was unlimited and unformed, light elements were set apart to the heights and the heavy were grounded in the moist sand, the whole of them delimited by fire and raised aloft, to be carried by spirit. The heavens appeared in seven circles, the gods became visible in the shapes of the stars and all their constellations, and the arrangement of <this lighter substance> corresponded to the gods contained in it. The periphery rotated <in> the air, carried in a circular course by divine spirit.

 

[3] Through his own power, each god sent forth what was assigned to him. And the beasts came to be-four-footed, crawling, water-dwelling, winged - and every germinating seed and grass and every flowering plant: {within them they had the seed of rebirth. The gods sowed} the generations of humans to know the works of god; to be a working witness to nature; to increase the number of mankind; to master all things under heaven; to discern the things that are good; to increase by increasing and multiply by multiplying. And through the wonder-working course of the cycling gods they created every soul incarnate to contemplate heaven, the course of the heavenly gods, the works of god and the working of nature; to examine things that are good; to know divine power; to know the whirling changes of fair and foul; and to discover every means of working skillfully with things that are good.

 

[4] For them this is the beginning of the virtuous life and of wise thinking as far as the course of the cycling gods destines it, and it is also the beginning of their release to what will remain of them after they have left great monuments on earth in works of industry. {In the fame of seasons they will become dim, and, from every birth of ensouled flesh, from sowing of crops and from every work of industry,} what is diminished will be renewed by necessity and by the renewal that comes from the gods and by the course of nature's measured cycle.

 

For the divine is the entire combination of cosmic influence renewed by nature, and nature has been established in the divine.

 

Corpus Hermeticum IV

 

A discourse of Hermes to Tat: The mixing bowl or the monad

 

[1] "Since the craftsman made the whole cosmos by reasoned speech, not by hand, you should conceive of him as present, as always existing, as having made all things, as the one and only and as having crafted by his own will the things that are. For this is his body, neither tangible nor visible nor measurable nor dimensional nor like any other body; it is not fire nor water nor air nor spirit, yet all things come from it. Because he is good, it was <not> for himself alone that he wished to make this offering and to adorn the earth; [2] so he sent the man below, an adornment of the divine body, mortal life from life immortal. And if the cosmos prevailed over living things as something ever-living, <the man> prevailed even over the cosmos through reason and mind. The man became a spectator of god's work. He looked at it in astonishment and recognized its maker. [3] God shared reason among all people, O Tat, but not mind, though he begrudged it to none. Grudging envy comes not from on high; it forms below in the souls of people who do not possess mind."

 

"For what reason, then, did god not share mind with all of them, my father?"

 

"He wanted it put between souls, my child, as a prize for them to contest."

 

[4] "And where did he put it?"

 

"He filled a great mixing bowl with it and sent it below, appointing a herald whom he commanded to make the following proclamation to human hearts: 'Immerse yourself in the mixing bowl if your heart has the strength, if it believes you will rise up again to the one who sent the mixing bowl below, if it recognizes the purpose of your coming to be."

 

"All those who heeded the proclamation and immersed themselves in mind participated in knowledge and became perfect people because they received mind. But those who missed the point of the proclamation are people of reason because they did not receive <the gift of> mind as well and do not know the purpose or the agents of their coming to be. [5] These people have sensations much like those of unreasoning animals, and, since their temperament is willful and angry, they feel no awe of things that deserve to be admired; they divert their attention to the pleasures and appetites of their bodies; and they believe that mankind came to be for such purposes. But those who participate in the gift that comes from god, O Tat, are immortal rather than mortal if one compares their deeds, for in a mind of their own they have comprehended all things on earth, things in heaven and even what lies beyond heaven. Having raised themselves so far, they have seen the good and, having seen it, they have come to regard the wasting of time here below as a calamity. They have scorned every corporeal and incorporeal thing, and they hasten toward the one and only. [6] This, Tat, is the way to learn about mind, to {resolve perplexities} in divinity and to understand god. For the mixing bowl is divine."

 

"I too wish to be immersed, my father"

 

"Unless you first hate your body, my child, you cannot love yourself, but when you have loved yourself, you will possess mind, and if you have mind, you will also have a share in the way to learn."

 

"What do you mean by this, father?"

 

"My child, it is impossible to be engaged in both realms, the mortal and the divine. Since there are two kinds of entities, corporeal and incorporeal, corresponding to mortal and divine, one is left to choose one or the other, if choice is desired. One cannot {have both together when one is left to choose}, but lessening the one reveals the activity of the other."

 

[7] "Choosing the stronger, then [ ], not only has splendid consequences for the one who chooses - in that it makes the human into a god - but it also shows reverence toward god. On the other hand, choosing the lesser has been mankind's destruction, though it was no offence to god, with this single reservation: just as processions passing by in public cannot achiever anything of themselves, though they can be a hindrance to others, in the same way these people are only parading through the cosmos, led astray by pleasures of the body."

 

[8] "Since this is so, Tat, what proceeds from god has been and will be available to us. May what comes from us be suited to it and not deficient. And the evils for which we are responsible, who choose them instead of good things, are no responsibility of god's. Do you see how many bodies w3e must pass through, my child, how many troops of demons, <cosmic> connections and stellar circuits in order to hasten toward the one and only? For the good is untraversable, infinite and unending; it is also without beginning, but to us it seems to have a beginning - our knowledge of it. [9] Thus, knowledge is not a beginning of the good, but it furnishes us the beginning of the good that will be known. So let us seize this beginning and travel with all speed, for the path is very crooked that leaves familiar things of the present to return to primordial things of old. Visible things delight us, but the invisible cause mistrust. Bad things are the more open to sight, but the good is invisible to what can be seen. For the good has neither shape nor outline. This is why it is like itself but unlike all others, for the bodiless cannot be visible to body. [10] This is the difference between like and unlike and the deficiency in the unlike with respect to the like."

 

"The monad, because it is the beginning and root of all things, is in them all as root and beginning. Without a beginning there is nothing, and a beginning comes from nothing except itself if it is the beginning of other things. Because it is a beginning, then, the monad contains every number, is contained by none, and generates every number without being generated by any other number. [11] But everything generated is imperfect and divisible, subject to increase and decrease. None of this happens to what is perfect. And what can be increased takes its increase from the monad, but it is defeated by its own weakness, no longer able to make room for the monad."

"Such then, Tat, is god's image, as best I have been able to sketch it for you. If your vision of it is sharp and you understand it with the eyes of your heart, believe me, child, you shall discover the road that leads above or, rather, the image itself will show you the way. For the vision of it has a special property. It takes hold of those who have had the vision and draws them up, just as the magnet stone draws iron, so they say."

 

Corpus Hermeticum V

 

A discourse of Hermes to Tat, his son: That god is invisible and entirely visible

 

[1] This discourse I shall also deliver to you in full, O Tat, lest you go uninitiated in the mysteries of the god who is greater than any name. You must understand how something that seems invisible to the multitude will become entirely visible to you. Actually, if it were <not> invisible, it would not <always> be. Everything seen has been begotten because at some point it came to be seen. But the invisible always is, and, because it always is, it does not need to come to be seen. Also, while remaining invisible because it always is, it makes all other things visible. The very entity that makes visibility does not make itself visible; what <begets> is not itself begotten; what presents images of everything <is not> present to the imagination. For there is imagination only of things begotten. Coming to be is nothing but imagination. [2] Clearly, the one who alone is unbegotten is also unimagined and invisible, but in presenting images of all things he is seen through all of them and in all of them; he is seen especially by those whom he wished to see him.

 

You then, Tat, my child, pray first to the lord, the father, the only, who is not one but from whom the on comes; ask him te grace to enable you to understand so great a god, to permit even one ray of his to illuminate your thinking. Only understanding, because it, too, is invisible, sees the invisible, and if you have the strength, Tat, your mind's eye will see it. For the lord, who is ungrudging, is seen through the entire cosmos. Can you see understanding and hold it in your hands? Can you have a vision of the image of god? If what is in you is also invisible to you, how will god reveal his inner self to you through the eyes?

 

[3] If you want to see god, consider the sun, consider the circuit of the moon, consider the order of the stars. Who keeps this order? (For every order is bounded in number and in place.) The sun, the greatest god of those in heaven, to whom all heavenly gods submit as to a king and ruler, this sun so very great, larger than earth and sea, allows stars smaller than him to circle above him. To whom does he defer, my child? Whom does he fear? Does not each of these stars in heaven make the same circuit or a similar one? Who determined the direction and the size of the circuit for each of them?

 

[4] Who owns this instrument, this bear, the one that turns around itself and carries the whole cosmos with it? Who set limits to the sea? Who settled the earth in place? There is someone, Tat, who is maker and master of all this. Without someone to make them, neither place nor number nor measure could have been maintained. Everything that is an order <has been made; only> something placeless and measureless can be not made. But even this does not lack a master, my child. Even if the unordered is deficient {-deficient, that is, in that it does not retain the character of order-} it is still subject to a master who has not yet imposed order on it.

 

[5] Would that you could grow wings and fly up into the air, lifted between earth and heaven to see the solid earth, the fluid sea, the streaming rivers, the pliant air, the piercing fire, the coursing stars, and heaven speeding on its axis about the same points. Oh, this is a most happy sight to see, my child, to have a vision of all these in a single instant, to see the motionless set in motion and the invisible made visible through the things that it makes! This is the order of the cosmos, and this is the cosmos of order.

 

[6] If you wish also to see the vision through mortal things on earth and in the deep, my child, consider how the human being is crafted in the womb, examine the skill of the craftwork carefully, and learn who it is that crafts this beautiful, godlike image of mankind. Who traced the line round the eyes? Who pierced the holes for nostrils and ears? Who opened up the mouth? Who stretched out the sinews and tied them down? Who made channels for the veins? Who hardened the bones? Who drew skin over the flesh? Who parted the fingers? Who flattened the bottoms of the feet? Who cut passages for the pores? Who stretched out the spleen? Who made the heart in the form of a pyramid? Who joined the {ribs} together? Who flattened the liver? Who hollowed out the lungs? Who made the belly spacious? Who set the most honored parts in relief to make them visible but hid the shameful parts away?

 

[7] See how many skills have been applied to the same, single material, how many labors within the compass of a single work, all of them exquisite things, all finely measured, yet all different. Who made them all? What sort of mother or what sort of father if not the invisible god, who crafted them all by his own will? [8] No one claims that a statue or a picture has been produced unless there is a sculptor or a painter. Has this craftwork been produced without a craftsman, then? Oh, how full of blindness, how full of irreverence, how full of ignorance! Tat, my child, never deprive the craftworks of their craftsman.... Or rather, he is stronger even {than a name used of god,} so great is the father of all. Surely it is he alone whose work it is to be a father.

 

[9] If you force me to say something still more daring, it is his essence to be pregnant with all things and to make them. As it is impossible for anything to be produced without a maker, so also is it impossible for this maker [not] to exist always unless he is always making everything in heaven, in the air, on earth, in the deep, in every part of the cosmos, in every part of the universe, in what is and in what is not. For there is nothing in all the cosmos that he is not. He is himself the things that are and those that are not. Those that are he has made visible; those that are not he holds within him. [10] This is the god who is greater than any name; this is the god invisible and entirely visible. This god who is evident to the eyes may be seen in the mind. He is bodiless and many-bodied; or, rather, he is all-bodied. There is nothing that he is not, for he also is all that is, and this is why he has all names, because they are of one father, and this is why he has no name, because he is father of them all.

 

Who may praise you, then, acting on your behalf or according to your purpose? And where shall I look to praise you - above, below, within, without? For there is no direction about you nor place nor any other being. All is within you; all comes from you. You give everything and take nothing. For you have it all, and there is nothing that you do not have.

 

[11] When shall I sing a hymn to you? One cannot detect in you time or season. For what shall I sing the hymn - for what you have made or what you have not made, for what you have made visible or what you have kept hidden? And wherefore shall I sing the hymn to you - for being something that is part of me, or has a special property, or is something apart? For you are whatever I am; you are whatever I make; you are whatever I say. You are everything, and there is nothing else; what is not, you are as well. You are all that has come to be; you are what has not come to be; you are the mind who understands, the father who makes his craftwork, the god who acts, and the good who makes all things.

 

[The matter composed of the finest particles is air, but air is soul, soul is mind, and mind is god.]

 
 
 
 
 

Corpus Hermeticum VI

 

That the good is in god alone and nowhere else

 

[1] The good, Asclepius, is in nothing except in god alone, or rather god himself is always the good. If this is so, the good must be the substance of all motion and generation (for nothing is abandoned by it), but this substance has and energy about it that stays at rest, that has no lack and no excess, that is perfectly complete, a source of supply, present in the beginning of all things. When I say that what supplies everything is good, I also mean that it is wholly and always good.

 

Yet this good belongs [ ] to nothing else except to god alone. God lacks for nothing, to become evil in longing to possess it. Nothing that exists can be lost to him, to cause him grief in losing it (for grief is a part of vice). Nothing is stronger than god, to make an adversary of him (nor does he have a companion to give him injury); <nothing is more beautiful,> to cause desire in him; nothing is unheeding of him, to make him angry; and nothing is wiser, to make him jealous.

 

[2] Since none of these qualities belongs to the substance, what remains but the good alone? Just as none of these other qualities exists in such a substance, by the same token the good will be found in none of the other substances. All the other qualities exist in all things, in the small, in the large, in things taken one by one and in the living thing itself that is larger than all of them and the most powerful. Since generation itself is subject to passion, things begotten are full of passions, but where there is passion, there is no good to be found, and, where the good is, there is not a single passion - there is no night where it is day and no day where it is night. Hence, the good cannot exist in generation; it exists only in the unbegotten. Participation in all things has been given in matter; so also has participation in the good been given. This is how the cosmos is good, in that it also makes all things; <thus,> it is good with respect to the making that it does. In all other respects, however, it is not good; it is subject to passion and subject to motion and a maker of things subject to passion.

 

[3] With reference to humanity, one uses the term "good" in comparison to "evil." Here below, the evil that is not excessive is the good, and the good is the least amount of evil here below. The good cannot be cleansed of vice here below, for the good is spoiled by evil here below and, once spoiled it no longer remains good. Since it does not remain so, it becomes evil. The good is in god alone, then, or god himself is the good. Therefore, Asclepius, only the name of the good exists among mankind - never the fact. It cannot exist here. Material body, squeezed on all sides by vice, sufferings, pains, longings, angry feelings, delusions and mindless opinions, has no room for the good. And this is the worst of all, Asclepius: here below, they believe in each of the things I have just mentioned as the greatest good when actually it is insuperable evil. Gluttony <is the> supplier of all evils.... Error is the absence of the the good here below.

 

[4] As for me, I give thanks to god for what he has put in my mind, even to know of the good that it is impossible for it to exist in the cosmos. For the cosmos is a plenitude of vice, as god is a plenitude of the good, or the good of god.... If indeed there are things preeminently beautiful near to god's essence, those seem perhaps even cleaner and purer in some degree which are part of him. One dares to say, Asclepius, that god's essence (if, in fact, he has an essence) is the beautiful but that the beautiful and the good are not to be detected in any of the things in the cosmos. All the things that are subject to the sight of the eyes are as phantoms and shadowy illusions, but these are not subject to it, especially the <essence> of the beautiful and the good.... As the eye cannot see god, neither can it see the beautiful and the good, for they are integral parts of god alone, properties of god, peculiar to him, inseparable, most beloved; either god loves them or they love god.

 

[5] If you can understand god, you will understand the beautiful and good, the exceedingly bright whose brightness god surpasses. For this is the incomparable beauty and inimitable good, as is god himself. As you understand god, then, also understand the beautiful and the good. Because they are not separated from god, these have nothing in common with other [ ] living things. If you ask about god, you ask also about the beautiful. Only one road travels from here to the beautiful - reverence combined with knowledge. [6] Hence, those who remain in ignorance and do not travel the road of reverence dare to say that mankind is beautiful and good, but a human cannot see nor even dream of what the good might be. Mankind has been overrun by every evil, and he believes that evil is good; therefore, he uses evil the more insatiably and fears being deprived of it, striving with all his might not only to possess it but even to increase it. Such, Asclepius, are the good and the beautiful for humans, things we can neither shun nor hate. Hardest of all to bear is that we have need of them and cannot live without them.

 

Corpus Hermeticum VII

 

That the greatest evil in mankind is ignorance concerning god

 

[1] Where are you heading in your drunkenness, you people? Have you swallowed the doctrine of ignorance undiluted, vomiting it up already because you cannot hold it? Stop and sober yourselves up! Look up with the eyes of the heart - if not all of you, at least those of you who have the power. The vice of ignorance floods the whole earth and utterly destroys the soul shut up in the body, preventing it from anchoring in the havens of deliverance. [2] Surely you will not sink in this great flood? Those of you who can will take the ebb and gain the haven of deliverance and anchor there. Then, seek a guide to take you by the hand and lead you to the portals of knowledge. There shines the light cleansed of darkness. There no one is drunk. All are sober and gaze with the heart toward one who wishes to be seen, who is neither heard nor spoken of, who is seen not with the eyes but with mind and heart. But first you must rip off the tunic that you wear, the garment of ignorance, the foundation of vice, the bonds of corruption, the dark cage, the living death, the sentient corpse, the portable tomb, the resident thief, the one who hates through what he loves and envies through what he hates.

 

[3] Such is the odious tunic you have put on. It strangles you and drags you down with it so that you will not hate its viciousness, not look up and see the fair vision of truth and the good that lies within, not understand the plot that it has plotted against you when it made insensible the organs of sense, made them inapparent and unrecognized for what they are, blocked up with a great load of matter and jammed full of loathsome pleasure, so that you do not hear what you must hear nor observe what you must observe.

 

Corpus Hermeticum VIII

 

That none of the things that are is destroyed, and they are mistaken who say that changes are deaths and destructions

 

[1] "Now, my son, we must speak about soul and body and say in what way the soul is immortal and whence comes the energy that composes and dissolves the body. Death actually has nothing to do with this. Death is a notion that arises from the term 'immortal': either it is an empty usage, or, through the loss of the first syllable, 'immortal' is taken to mean 'mortal.' Death has to do with destruction, yet none of the things in the cosmos is destroyed. If the cosmos is a second god and an immortal living thing, it is impossible for any part of this immortal living thing to die. All things in the cosmos are parts of the cosmos, but especially mankind, the living thing that reasons."

 

[2] "God is in reality the first of all entities, eternal, unbegotten, craftsman of the whole of existence. But by his agency a second god

came to be in his image, and by him this second god is sustained, nurtured and immortalized, as from an eternal father, everliving because he is immortal. In fact, the everliving differs from the eternal. God did not come to be by another's agency, and, if he came to be, it was by his own agency. He never came to be, <however>; he comes to be always. {This is the eternal being through whom the universe is eternal,} the father who is eternal because he exists through himself. But the cosmos became {everliving} and immortal from an {eternal} father. [3] And the father {took the matter that he desired} to set aside and made it all into a spherical form with body and bulk. The matter that he invested with this spherical quality is immortal, and its materiality is eternal. Further, the father implanted in the sphere the qualities of forms, shutting them up as in a cave. He wanted to adorn what comes after him with every quality, to surround the whole body with immortality so that even matter, tending to separate from the composition of this body, would not dissolve into its typical disorder. When matter was without body, my child, it was without order. Especially here below, matter has {the disorder confined to the other lesser things that have qualities,} the property of increase and decrease that humans call death. [4] But this disorder arises among things that live on earth; the bodies of heavenly beings have a single order that they got from the father in the beginning. And this order is kept undissolved by the recurrence of each of them. The recurrence of earthly bodies, by contrast, is {the dissolution} of their composition, and this dissolution causes them to recur as undissolved bodies - immortal, in other words. Thus arises a loss of awareness but not a destruction of bodies."

 

[5] "According to the father's will, and unlike other living things on earth, mankind, the third living thing, came to be in the image of the cosmos, possessing mind as well as a relation not only of sympathy with the second god but also of thought with the first god. For they have perception of the former god as of a body, but they take thought of the latter as of a mind without body, as of the good."

"Does this living thing not perish, then?"

 

"Hold your tongue, my child, and understand what god is, what the cosmos is, what an immortal living thing is, what a dissoluble living thing is, and understand that the cosmos was made by god and is in god but that mankind was made by the cosmos and is in the cosmos; understand that god begins, contains, and composes all things."

 

Corpus Hermeticum IX

 

On understanding and sensation: [That the beautiful and good are in god alone and nowhere else]

 

[1] "Yesterday, Asclepius, I delivered the perfect discourse, and now I think that it needs a sequel, and exposition of the discourse on sensation. Apparently, there is a difference between sensation and understanding, the former being material and the latter essential. To me, however, the two appear to be combined, not separate - in humans, I mean, for in other living things sensation is combined with the natural character, but in humans understanding is combined with it <as well>." (Mind differs from understanding as much as god differs from divinity. Divinity comes to be by god's agency, understanding by the agency of mind. Understanding is the sister of reasoned speech, or each is the other's instrument. There is no utterance of reasoned speech without understanding, nor is there evidence of understanding without reasoned speech.)

 

[2] "Both sensation and understanding flow together into humans, intertwined with one another, as it were. For without sensation it is impossible to understand, and without understanding it is impossible {to have sensation.}"

 

"Can understanding be understood without sensation, however, in the way that one pictures images when dreaming?"

 

"{It seems to me that in dream-vision both these faculties have been eliminated, although, when sleepers wake, <understanding> and sensation <are always combined.>} At any rate, <sensation> is distributed to body and to soul, and, when both these parts of sensation are in harmony with one another, then there is an utterance of understanding, engendered by mind."

 

[3] "Mind conceives every mental product: both the good, when mind receives seeds from god, as well as the contrary kind, when the seeds come from some demonic being. {Unless it is illuminated by god,} no part of the cosmos is without a demon that steals into the mind to sow the seed of its own energy, and what has been sown the mind conceives - adulteries, murders, assaults on one's father, acts of sacrilege and irreverence, suicides by hanging or falling from a cliff, and all other such works of demons."

 

[4] "Few seeds come from god, but they are potent and beautiful and good - virtue, moderation and reverence. Reverence is knowledge of god, and one who has come to know god, filled with all good things, has thoughts that are divine and not like those of the multitude. This is why those who are in knowledge do not please the multitude, nor does the multitude please them. They appear to be mad, and they bring ridicule on themselves. They are hated and scorned, and perhaps they may even be murdered. As I have said, vice must dwell here below since this is its native land. The earth is its native land, not the cosmos, as some will blasphemously claim. The god fearing person, at least, will withstand all this because he is aware of knowledge, for all things are good to such a person, even things that others find evil. If they lay plots against him, he refers it all to knowledge, and he alone makes evil into good."

 

[5] "I return again to the discourse on sensation. For sensation to have a share in understanding is human, but, as I said before, not every person enjoys understanding. One will be a material, another an essential person. As I mentioned, material people surrounded by vice get the seed of their understanding from the demons, but god saves those who in their essence are surrounded by good. God, craftsman of all things, makes all things like himself in crafting them, but these things that begin as good come to differ in their use of energy. The motion of the cosmos, as it grinds away, produces generations of different kinds: some it soils with vice; others it cleanses with the good. For the cosmos has its own sensation and understanding, Asclepius, not like the human, not diverse, but far stronger and simpler."

 

[6] "The sole sensation and understanding in the cosmos is to make all things and unmake them into itself again, an instrument of god's will. In reality, god made the instrument to make all things actively in itself, taking under its protection the seeds it has received from god. In dissolving all things, the cosmos renews them, and when things have been dissolved in this way, the cosmos (like life's good farmer) offers them renewal through the same process of change that moves the cosmos. There is <nothing> that is not a product of the cosmic fecundity. In moving, it makes all things live, and it is at once the location and the craftsman of life. [7] All bodies come from matter but in different ways: some come from earth, some from water, some from air and some from fire. All are composite bodies, some of them more strongly so, and some are simpler. The more strongly composite are the heavier bodies; those less so are the lighter. The rapid motion of the cosmos produces diversity in causing generations of different kinds. When the cosmos breathes most frequently, it offers qualities to bodies, and their plenitude is one thing only - life. [8] Thus, god is father of the cosmos, but the cosmos is father of the things in the cosmos, the cosmos is the son of god, and the things in the cosmos are made by the cosmos. 'It is rightly called 'cosmos' or 'arrangement,' for it arranges all things in the diversity of generation, in the ceaselessness of life, in the tirelessness of activity, in the rapidity of necessity, in the associability of the elements, and in the order of things that come to be. That it should be called an 'arrangement,' then, is necessary and fitting."

 

"Therefore, in all living things sensation and understanding enter from outside, breathed into things by the atmosphere, but the cosmos got them once and for all when it came to be, and, having got them, it keeps them by god's agency. [9] God is not without sensation and understanding, though some would have it so, committing blasphemy in an excess of piety. For all things that exist are in god, Asclepius. they have come to be by god's agency, and they depend from on high, some of them acting through bodies, others moving through psychic substance, or making life through spirit, or taking in the spent remains, which is as it should be. Or rather, to let the truth be shown, I should say that god does not contain these things. He is all of them, so he does not acquire them as something added form outside but gives them freely to the outside, and this is god's sensation and understanding, always moving everything. The time will never come when any of the things that are will be abandoned. When I speak of the things that are, I speak of god. For god holds within him the things that are; none are outside of him; and he is outside of none."

 

[10] "If you are mindful, Asclepius, these things should seem true to you, but they will be beyond belief if you have no knowledge. To understand is to believe, and not to believe is not to understand. Reasoned discourse does <not> get to the truth, but mind is powerful, and, when it has been guided by reason up to a point, it has the means to get <as far as> the truth. After mind had considered all this carefully and had discovered that all of it is in harmony with the discoveries of reason, it came to believe, and in this beautiful belief it found rest. By an act of god, then, those who have understood find what I have been saying believable, but those who have not understood do not find it believable. Let this much be told about understanding and sensation."

 

Corpus Hermeticum X

 

[Discourse] of Hermes Trismegistus: The key

 

[1] "Yesterday's discourse, Asclepius, I entrusted to you. It is right that I entrust today's to Tat since it is a summary of the General Discourses delivered to him."

 

"Therefore, O Tat, god the father and the good have the same nature - or rather activity; 'nature' is the term for {growth} and increase, which apply to things that change and move ... while 'activity' <applies> also <to the> unmoved, to the divine, that is, {in which he himself wishes to include the human. Elsewhere} we have taught about divine as well as human activities, which one must now understand in the same sense as on those other occasions."

 

[2] "God's activity is will, and his essence is to will all things to be. For what are god the father and the good but the being of all things and, of things that are no longer, at least the very substance of their existence. This is god, this is the father, this is the good, to whom nothing else belongs. For the cosmos, <as> also the sun, is itself the father of things that exist by participation, but for living things it is not also - equally with god - the cause of the good nor of life. But if it is the cause, it is in any event entirely constrained by the good will, without which nothing can be or come to be. [3] The father, receiving the appetite for the good, by way of the sun, causes the begetting and rearing of his children, for the good is the principle of making. But the good can come to be in none other than him alone who receives nothing but will all things to be. I will not say 'who makes,' Tat, for much of the time one who makes is wanted both in quality and quantity in that sometimes he makes and sometimes not; now he makes this kind and this many, now the opposite. But god the father is the good in that he <wills> all things to be. [4] So it is, then, for one who can see. For god also wishes this seeing to happen, (and it happens for him too and chiefly,) and all else happens because of it.... For being recognized is characteristic of the good. <This> is the good, Tat."

 

"You have filled us with a vision, father, which is good and very beautiful, and my mind's eye is almost (blinded) in such a vision."

 

"Yes, but the vision of the good is not like the ray of the sun which, because it is fiery, dazzles the eyes with light and makes them shut. On the contrary, it illuminates to the extent that one capable of receiving the influence of intellectual splendor can receive it. It probes more sharply, but it does no harm, and it is full of all immortality. [5] Those able to drink somewhat more deeply of the vision often fall asleep, moving out of the body toward a sight most fair, just as it happened to Ouranos and Kronos, our ancestors."

"Would that we, too, could see it, father."

 

"Indeed, my child, would that we could. But we are still too weak now for this sight; we are not yet strong enough to open our mind's eyes and look on the incorruptible, incomprehensible beauty of that good. In the moment when you have nothing to say about it, you will see it, for the knowledge of it is divine silence and suppression of all the senses. [6] One who has understood it can understand nothing else, nor can he move his body in any way. He stays still, all bodily senses and motions forgotten. Having illuminated all his mind, this beauty kindles his whole soul and by means of body draws it upward, and beauty changes his whole person into essence. For when soul has looked on <the> beauty of the good, my child, it cannot be defied while in a human body."

 

[7] "Deification, father - what do you mean?"

 

"The changes that belong to any separated soul, my son."

 

"What do you mean by 'separated'?"

 

"In the General Discourses did you not hear that all the souls whirled about in all the cosmos - portioned out, as it were - come from the one soul of the all? Many are the changes of these souls, then, some toward a happier lot, others the opposite. The snake-like change into water creatures; the watery change into things of dry land; the dry-land souls change into winged things; the aerial into humans; and human beings, changing into demons, possess the beginning of immortality, and so then they enter the troop of gods, which is really two troops, one wandering, the other fixed. [8] And this is soul's most perfect glory. But if a soul that has entered into humans remains vicious, it neither tastes immortality nor shares in the good but turns back and rushes down the road toward the snakes, and this is the sentence pronounced against a vicious soul."

 

[8] "The vice of soul is ignorance. For the soul, when it is blind and discerns none of the things that are nor their nature nor the good, is shaken by the bodily passions, and the wretched thing becomes - in ignorance of itself - a slave to vile and monstrous bodies, bearing the body like a burden, not ruling but being ruled. This is the vice of soul. [9] The virtue of soul, by contrast, is knowledge; for one who knows is good and reverent and already divine."

 

"Who is this person, father?"

 

"One who says little and hears little. He fights with shadows, my son, who wastes time on talking and listening to talk. One neither speaks nor hears of god the father and the good. This being so - that there are senses in all things that are because they cannot exist without them - yet knowledge differs greatly from sensation; for sensation comes when the object prevails, while knowledge is the goal of learning, and learning is a gift from god. [10] For all learning is incorporeal, using as instrument the mind itself, as mind uses body. Both enter into body, then, the mental and the material. For everything must be the product of opposition and contrariety, and it cannot be otherwise."

 

"Who is this material god, then?"

 

"The cosmos, which is beautiful but not good. For it is material and easily affected, and of all those things that feel affect it is foremost, but among the things that are it is secondary and incomplete in itself; once it has come to be, it exists forever, but it exists in becoming and comes to be forever as the becoming of qualities and quantities; for it is subject to movement, and every motion of matter is becoming."

 

[11] "The immobility of mind initiates the motion of matter in this way: Since the cosmos is a sphere - a head, that is - and since there is nothing material above the head (just as there is nothing of mind below the feet, where all is matter), and since mind is a head which is moved spherically - in the manner of a head, that is - things joined to the membrane of this head (<in which> is the soul) are by nature immortal, as if they have more soul than body because body has been made in soul; things far away from the membrane, however, are mortal, because they have more body than soul; thus, every living being, and likewise then universe, has been constituted of the material and the mental."

 

[12] "And the cosmos is first, but after the cosmos the second living thing is the human, who is first of mortal beings and like other living things has ensoulment. Moreover, the human is not only good, but because he is mortal he is evil as well. For the cosmos is not good because it moves, yet because it is immortal it is not evil. But the human, because he moves and is mortal, is evil. [13] A human soul is carried in this way: the mind is in the reason; the reason is in the soul; the soul is in the spirit; the spirit, passing through veins and arteries and blood, moves the living thing and, in a manner of speaking, bears it up."

 

"Some hold, therefore, that the soul is blood, mistaking its nature and not seeing that the spirit must first be withdrawn into the soul and then, when the blood thickens and the veins and arteries are emptied, this destroys the living thing; and this is the death of the body."

[14] "All things depend fro one beginning, but the beginning depends from the one and only, and the beginning moves so that it can again become a beginning; only the one, however, stands still and does not move. There are these three, then: god the father and the good; the cosmos; and the human. And god holds the cosmos, but the cosmos holds the human. And the cosmos becomes the son of god, but the human becomes the son of the cosmos, a grandson, as it were."

 

[15] "For god does not ignore mankind; on the contrary, he recognizes him fully and wishes to be recognized. For mankind this is the only deliverance, the knowledge of god. It is ascent to Olympus. A soul becomes good only in this way, though it is not good <forever> but becomes evil. By necessity it becomes so."

 

"What do you mean, O Trismegistus?"

 

"Envision the soul of a child, my son, which has not yet accepted its separation from itself; its body has not yet attained its full bulk, {of which it has only a little as yet}. How beautiful it is to look at, from every point of view, not yet sullied by the passions of the body, still depending closely from the soul of the cosmos. But when the body gets its bulk and drags the soul down to the body's grossness, the soul, having separated from itself, gives birth to forgetting, and it no longer shares in the beautiful and the good. The forgetting becomes vice."

 

[16] "The same thing also happens to those who leave the body. When the soul rises up to itself. the spirit is drawn into the blood, the soul into the spirit, but the mind, since it is divine by nature, becomes purified of its garments and takes on a fiery body, ranging about everywhere, leaving the soul to judgement and the justice it deserves."

 

"What do you mean, father? How is mind parted from soul and soul from spirit when you say that soul is the garment of the mind and spirit the garment of the soul?"

 

[17] "The hearer must be of one mind with the speaker, my son, and of one spirit as well; he must have hearing quicker than the speech of the speaker. In an earthy body occurs the combining of these garments, my son, for the mind cannot seat itself alone and naked in an earthy body. The earth's body cannot support so great an immortality, nor can so great a dignity endure defiling contact with a body subject to passion. Mind, therefore, has taken the soul as a shroud, and the soul, which is itself something divine, uses the spirit as a sort of armoring-servant. The spirit governs the living being."

 

[18] "Then, when the mind has got free of the earthy body, it immediately puts on its own tunic, a tunic of fire, in which it could not stay when in the earth body. (For earth cannot bear fire; the whole things burns even from a little spark; this is why water has spread all around the earth guarding like a fence or a wall against the burning of the fire.) Mind, which is the most penetrating of all the divine thoughts, has for its body fire, the most penetrating of all the elements. And since mind is the craftsman of all beings, it uses fire as an instrument in its craftwork. The mind of all is the craftsman of all beings; the human mind is the craftsman only of the things that exist on earth. Since it is stripped of fire, the mind in humans is powerless to craft divine things because it is human in its habitation. [19] The human soul - not every soul, that is, but only the reverent - is in a sense demonic and divine. Such a soul becomes wholly mind after getting free of the body and fighting the fight of reverence. (Knowing the divine and doing wrong to no person is the fight of reverence.) The irreverent soul, however, stays in its own essence, punishing itself, seeking an earthy body to enter - a human body, to be sure. For no other body contains a human soul; it is not allowed for a human soul to fall down into the body of an unreasoning animal. This is god's law, to protect the human soul against such an outrage."

 

[20] "How then, father, is a human soul punished?"

 

"What greater punishment for a human soul, my son, than irreverence? What fire burns as much as irreverence? What beast maims the body so ravenously as irreverence maims the very soul? Do you not see what tortures the irreverent soul suffers, howling and shrieking, 'I'm on fire, I'm burning; I don't know what to say or do; I'm eaten up, poor wretch, by the evils that possess me; I neither see nor hear.' Are these not the cries of a soul being punished? Do you, too, believe what they all think, my son, that the soul which has left the body becomes an animal? This is a great error. [21] For the soul is punished in this way: the mind, once it has become a demon, is directed to acquire a fiery body in order to serve god, and, having entered into the most irreverent soul, mind afflicts that soul with scourges of wrongdoing; thus scourged, the irreverent soul takes to murders and outrages and slanders and the diverse kinds of violence by which people do wrong. But when mind has entered a reverent soul, it leads it to the light of knowledge. Such a soul as this never has its fill of hymning and praising, always blessing all people and doing them good in every deed and word, in memory of its father."

 

[22] "Therefore, my child, one who gives thanks to god must pray to acquire a good mind. The soul can then pass over into something greater but not into any lesser thing. There is a community of souls: the souls of the gods commune with souls of humans, those of humans with souls of unreasoning things. the greater take charge of the lesser: gods of humans, humans of living things without reason, and god takes charge of them all. For he is greater than all of them, and all are less than he. Thus, the cosmos is subject of god, mankind to the cosmos and unreasoning things to mankind. God stands above all things and watches over them. And energies are like rays from god, natural forces like rays from the cosmos, arts and learning like rays from mankind. Energies work through the cosmos and upon mankind through the natural rays of the cosmos, but natural forces work through the elements, and humans work through the arts and through learning. [23] And this is the government of the universe, dependent from the nature of the one and spreading through the one mind. Nothing is more godlike than <mind>, nothing more active nor more capable of uniting humans to the gods and gods to humans; mind is the good demon. Blessed is the soul completely full of mind, wretched the soul completely empty of it."

 

"Again, my father, what do you mean?"

 

"Do you suppose, my child, that every soul possess the good mind? Our present discourse concerns this mind, not the servile mind of which we spoke earlier, the one sent below by justice. [24] For without mind, soul

 

...can neither say

 

nor accomplish anything.

 

Mind often flies out of soul, and in that hour soul neither sees nor hears but acts like an animal without reason - so great is the power of mind. But in a sluggish soul mind cannot endure; it leaves such a soul behind as clinging to the body, held down and smothered by it. Such a soul, my child, does not possess mind, and so one must not say that such a thing is human. For the human is a godlike living thing, not comparable to the other living things of the earth but to those in heaven above, who are called gods. Or better - if one dare tell the truth - the one who is really human is above these gods as well, or at least they are wholly equal in power to one another."

 

[25] "For none of the heavenly gods will go down to earth, leaving behind the bounds of heaven, yet the human rises up to heaven and takes its measure and knows what is in its heights and its depths, and he understands all else exactly and - greater than all of this - he comes to be on high without leaving earth behind, so enormous is his range. Therefore, we must dare to say that the human on earth is a mortal god but that god in heaven is an immortal human. Through these two, then, cosmos and human, all things exist, but they all exist by action of the one."

 

Corpus Hermeticum XI

 

Mind to Hermes

 

[1] "Since people have said many contradictory things of all sorts about the universe and god, I have not learned the truth. Make the truth plain to me, master; it is you alone on whom I may depend to reveal it."

 

"Mark my words, then, Hermes Truismegistus, and remember what I say. I will not hesitate to speak what occurs to me. [2] [ ] Hear how it is with god and the universe, my child."

 

"God, eternity, cosmos, time, becoming."

 

"God makes eternity; eternity makes the cosmos; the cosmos makes time; time makes becoming. The essence (so to speak) of god is [the good, the beautiful, happiness,] wisdom; the essence of eternity is identity; of the cosmos, order; of time, change; of becoming, life and death. But the energy of god is mind and soul; the energy of eternity is permanence and immortality; of the cosmos, recurrence and counter-recurrence; of time, increase and decrease; of becoming, quality <and quantity>. Eternity, therefore, is in god, the cosmos in eternity, time in the cosmos, and becoming in time. And while eternity has stood still in god's presence, the cosmos moves in eternity, time passes in the cosmos, but becoming comes to be in time."

 

[3] "The source of all things is god; eternity is their essence; the cosmos is their matter. Eternity is the power of god, and the cosmos is eternity's work, but the cosmos has never come into being; it comes to be forever from eternity. Therefore, nothing in the cosmos will ever be corrupted (for eternity is incorruptible), nor will it pass away since eternity encloses the cosmos."

 

"But the wisdom of god - what is it?"

 

"The good and the beautiful and happiness and all excellence and eternity. Eternity establishes an order, putting immortality and permanence into matter."

 

[4] "The becoming of that matter depends from eternity, just as eternity depends from god. Becoming and time, whose natures are twofold, exist in heaven and on earth: in heaven they are changeless and incorruptible, but on earth they change and become corrupt. And god is the soul of eternity; eternity is the soul of the cosmos; heaven is the soul of earth. God is in mind, but mind is in soul, and soul is in matter, yet all these exist through eternity. Inwardly, a soul full of mind and god fills this universal body in which all bodies exist, but outwardly and surrounds the universe and brings it to life. Outwardly, the universe is this great and perfect living thing, the cosmos; inwardly, it is all living things. Above in heaven soul persists in its identity, but on earth below it changes what it comes to be."

 

[5] "Eternity holds all this together, either through necessity or providence or nature or whatever else anyone believes or will believe. This universe is god producing his energy, but god's energy is an insuperable power, not comparable to anything human or divine. Therefore, Hermes, you should not suppose that anything below or anything above is like god since you would stray from the truth: nothing is like the unlike, the one and the only. Nor should you suppose that god gives up his power to anyone else. Besides him, is there any maker of life and immortality <and> change? What else might he do <but> make? God is not idle, else everything would be idle, for each and everything is full of god. Nowhere in the cosmos nor in any other thing is there idleness. Said of the one who makes or of one who comes into being, idleness is an empty word. [6] Everything must comer to be, always and according to the inclination of each place. The one who makes exists in all things, not firmly fixed or making in any particular thing but making all things. Because he is an energetic power, his autonomy does not come from things that come to be; those that come to be exist by his agency."

 

"Through me look out on the cosmos set before your gaze and observe its beauty carefully, a body undefiled, than which nothing is more ancient, always in its prime and young and yet even more in its prime. [7] And see the seven worlds spread out below, marshalled in eternal order, each completing eternity in a different circuit; see how everything is full of light, yet nowhere is there fire. The attracting and combining among things contrary and unlike became light shining down from the energy of the god who is father of all good, ruler and commander of the whole order of the seven worlds. Coursing ahead of them all is the moon, nature's instrument, transforming the matter below, and in the midst of the universe is the earth, the nurse who feeds terrestrial creatures, settled in the beautiful cosmos like sediment. Look at the multitude - how great it is - of immortal living beings and of the mortal, and in between the two, the immortal and the mortal, the circling moon. [8] All things are full of soul and all are moved, some around heaven, others about the earth. Those on the right do not go left; those on the left do not go right; those above do not go below, nor do those below go above. That all of them have come to be, dearest Hermes, you no longer need to learn from me. For they are bodies and they have a soul and they are moved, but body and soul cannot join in a single being without someone to bring them together. Such a one must exist, then, and must be one in all respects. [9] Since motions are many and diverse and bodies are dissimilar, while one speed has been ordained for all of them, there cannot be two makers or more than two. If there are many, one order cannot be kept. The consequence of plurality is envy of the better. I will explain: if there were a second maker of living things mortal and subject to change, he would long to make immortal beings as well, as the maker of immortals would wish to make mortals. Look - if there are two, and if matter is one and soul is one, which of them will supply the making? Or if both supply it, which has the greater part? [10] Think of it this way: Every living body, both immortal and mortal, <reasoning and> unreasoning, is composed of matter and soul. For all living bodies are ensouled. The non-living, on the other hand, consist of matter by itself; soul, likewise coming by itself from the maker, is the cause of life, but the one who makes the immortals causes all life. How, then, is he not also the maker of the mortal living things that differ from the {immortals}? How can an immortal being who makes immortality not make what is possessed by living things?"

 

[11] "Clearly, there is someone who makes these things, and quite evidently he is one, for soul is one, life is one and matter is one. But who is this someone? Who else but the one god? To whom, if not to god alone, might it belong to make ensouled living beings? God is one, then, {How entirely absurd!} Since you have agreed that the cosmos is always one, that the sun is one, the moon one and divinity one, do you propose to number god himself among them?"

 

[12] "God makes everything. {In a god who is many you have the ultimate absurdity.} And why is it a great accomplishment for god to make life and soul and immortality and change when you yourself make so many such things? You see and you speak and you hear; you smell and touch and walk about and think and breathe. It is not as if one sees, another hears, another speaks; and someone else touches, someone else smells, walks about, thinks and breathes. One person does all these things. In another sense, things on high cannot happen without god. Just as you are no longer a living being if you are idle at your affairs, so, if god is idle, he is no longer god - though it is not right to say so."

 

 

[13] "If it has been proven that <you> can<not> be without <making> something, how much truer is this of god? For if there is something that god does not make, he is imperfect - though it is not right to say so. But if god is perfect and not idle, then he makes everything."

 

"Give me just a moment, Hermes, and you shall quickly understand that god's work is one thing only: to bring all into being - those that are coming to be, those that have once come to be, those that shall come to be. This is life, my dearest friend. This is the beautiful; this is the good; this is god. [14] If you want to understand it from experience, notice what happens to you when you wish to beget; it is not like the work of god. God takes no pleasure in his work, nor does he have assistance in it. Working alone, he is in his work eternally since he is what he makes. If they were parted from it, all things would collapse; of necessity, all would die since there would be no life. But if all are alive and life is also one, then god, too, is one. Again, if all things are alive, those in heaven and also those on earth, and if life is one for all of them, it comes to be by god's agency and it is god. All tings come to be by the agency of god, then, and life is the union of mind and soul. [15] Eternity, therefore, is an image of god; the cosmos is an image of eternity; and the sun is an image of the cosmos. The human is an image of the sun."

 

"Death is not the destruction of things that have been combined but the dissolution of their union. They say that change is death because the body is dissolved and life passes on to the unseen. {Hear me devoutly,} my dearest Hermes, when I say that the cosmos and the things said to be dissolved in this manner are changed because each day a part of the cosmos becomes unseen, <but> they are by no means dissolved. These are the passions of the cosmos, swirlings and concealments. The swirling is {a return} and the concealment a renewal. [16] The cosmos is omniform: it does not have forms inserted in it but changes them within itself. Since the cosmos came to be as omniform, who can have made it? Let us not call him formless. But if he, too, is omniform, he will be like the cosmos. What if he has one form? In this respect he will be less than the cosmos. What do we say he is, then, so as not to bring our discourse to an impasse? For there can be no impasse in our understanding of god. Therefore, if he has any structure in him, it is one structure, incorporeal, that does not yield to appearances. And he reveals all structures through bodies."

 

[17] "Do not be surprised at the notion of an incorporeal structure, for it is like the structure of a word. Mountain ridges seem to stand out high in pictures, but in reality they are absolutely smooth and even. Be mindful of what I am saying, something rather daring but also quite true. Just as a human cannot live apart from life, neither can god exist without making the good. For in god this making is life and movement, as it were, moving all things and making them live."

 

[18] "Some things that I say need special attention. Consider what I am saying now. All things are in god but not as lying in a place (for place is also body, and body is immobile, and what is lying somewhere has no movement); in incorporeal imagination things are located differently. Consider what encompasses all things, that nothing bounds the incorporeal, that nothing is quicker nor more powerful. Of all things, the incorporeal is the unbounded, the quickest and most powerful."

 

[19] "Consider this for yourself: command your soul to travel to India, and it will be there faster than your command. Command it to cross over to the ocean, and again it will quickly be there, not as having passed from place to place but simply as being there. Command it even to fly up to heaven, and it will not lack wings. Nothing will hinder it, not the fire of the sun, nor the aether, nor the swirl nor the bodies of the other stars. Cutting through them all, it will fly to the utmost body. But if you wish to break through the universe itself and look upon the things outside (if, indeed, there is anything outside the cosmos), it is within your power."

 

[20] "See what power you have, what quickness! If you can do these things, can god not do them? So you must think of god in this way, as having everything - the cosmos, himself, <the> universe - like thoughts within himself. Thus, unless you make yourself equal to god, you cannot understand god; like is understood by like. Make yourself grow to immeasurable immensity, outleap all body, outstrip all time, become eternity and you will understand god. Having conceived that nothing is impossible to you, consider yourself immortal and able to understand everything, all art, all learning, the temper of every living thing. Go higher than every height and lower than every depth. Collect in yourself all the sensations of what has been made, of fire and water, dry and wet; be everywhere at once, on land, in the sea, in heaven; be not yet born, be in the womb, be young, old, dead, beyond death. And when you have understood all these at once - times, places, things, qualities, quantities - then you can understand god."

 

[21] "But if you shut your soul up in the body and abase it and say, 'I understand nothing. I can do nothing; I fear the sea, I cannot go up to heaven; I do not know what I was, I do not know what I will be,' then what have you to do with god? While you are evil and a lover of the body, you can understand none of the things that are beautiful and good. To be ignorant of the divine is the ultimate vice, but to be able to know, to will and to hope is the {straight and} easy way leading to the good. As you journey, the good will meet you everywhere and will be seen everywhere, where and when you least expect it, as you lie awake, as you fall asleep, sailing or walking, by night or by day, as you speak or keep silent, for there is nothing that it is not."

 

[22] "And do you say, 'god is unseen'? Hold your tongue! Who is more visible than god? This is why he made all things: so that through them all you might look on him. This is the goodness of god, this is his excellence: that he is visible through all things. For nothing is unseen, not even among the incorporeals. Mind is seen in the act of understanding, god in the act of making."

 

"Up to this point, O Trismegistus, these matters have been revealed to you. Consider all the rest in the same way - on your own - and you will not be deceived."

 
 
 
 
 
 

Corpus Hermeticum XII

 

Discourse of Hermes Trismegistus: On the mind shared in common, to Tat

 

[1] "Mind, O Tat, comes from the very essence of god - if, in fact, god has any essence - and god alone knows exactly what that essence might be. Mind, then, has not been cut off from god's essentiality; it has expanded, as it were, like the light of the sun. In humans this mind is god; among humans, therefore, some are gods and their humanity is near to divinity. For the good demon has said that gods are immortal <humans> and humans are mortal gods. In animals without reason, however, there is natural impulse."

 

[2] "Where soul is there also is mind, just as there is soul where life is. But the soul in unreasoning animals is life devoid of mind. Mind is a benefactor of human souls; it works on them for good. In things without reason, mind assists the natural impulse arising from each, but it opposes this impulse in human souls. Every soul, as soon as it has come to be in the body, is depraved by pain and pleasure. For in a composite body pain and pleasure seethe like juices; once immersed in them, the soul drowns."

 

[3] "Mind displays its own splendor to those souls that it commands, and it opposes their predilections. As a good physician, using the cautery and the knife, causes pain to the body overtaken by disease, in the same way mind causes pain to the soul, withdrawing it from the pleasure that gives rise to every disease of the soul. A great disease of the soul is godlessness, and next is mere opinion; from them follow all evils and nothing good. Therefore, the mind that opposes this disease secures good for the soul, just as the physician secures health for the body. [4] But those human souls that do not have mind as a guide are affected in the same way as souls of animals without reason. When mind connives with them and gives way to longings, the rush of appetite drives such souls to the longings that lead to unreason and, like animals without reason, they never cease their irrational anger and irrational longing, and they have never had enough of evil. For angers and longings are irrational vices that exceed all limits. God has imposed the law upon these souls as a torment and a reproof."

 

[5] "In that case, father, the discourse about fate that I heard finished earlier would seem to be contradicted. If it is absolutely fated for some individual to commit adultery or sacrilege or to do some other evil, how is such a person still to be punished [ ] when he has acted under compulsion of fate?"

 

"Everything is an act of fate, my child, and outside of it nothing exists among bodily entities. Neither good nor evil comes to be by chance. Even one who has done something fine is fated to be affected by it, and this is why he does it: in order to be affected by what affects him because he has done it. [6] Now is not the time for a discourse about vice or fate; we have spoken on these topics elsewhere. Now our discourse is about mind, what mind can do and how it admits of differences. In humans mind is one thing, but it is another in unreasoning animals. Moreover, in other living things mind is not beneficent. As it quells anger and longing, it acts differently in each individual, and one must understand that some of these are men who possess reason and that others are without it. But all people are subject to fate and also to birth and change, which are the beginning and the end of fate. [7] And what is fated affects all people. Yet those who possess reason, whom (as we have said) mind commands, and not affected as the others are. Since they have been freed from vice, they are not affected as a consequence of being evil."

 

"Again, father, what do you mean? The adulterer is not evil? The murderer not evil? And all the rest of them?"

 

"One who has reason will not be affected because he has committed adultery, my child, but as if he had done so, nor will he be affected because he has murdered but as if he had murdered. It is not possible to escape the quality of change any more than of birth, though it is possible for one who has mind to escape vice. [8] Thus, I have always heard the good demon say (it would have been most useful to humankind if he had given it out in writing; he alone, my child, because he looked down on everything as the firstborn god, the truly given voice to divine discourses), once, at any rate, I heard him say that all things are one, especially <the> intellectual bodies; that we live in power and in energy and in eternity; also, that the mind of eternity is good and that its soul is good as well. This being so, there is nothing dimensional among intellectual beings, and thus, since mind rules all and is the soul of god, mind can do as it wishes. [9] You must understand, then, and apply this discourse to the question that you asked me before - the one about fate [<and> mind], I mean. For if you careful avoid contentious discourse, my child, you will find that mind, and soul of god, truly prevails over all, over fate and law and all else. And nothing is impossible for mind, neither setting a human soul above fate nor, if it happens that a soul is careless, setting it beneath fate. These were the finest things that the good demon said about such matters."

 

"Divinely said, my father, and truly and usefully. [10] But make it even plainer to me. You have said that mind acts in the manner of a natural impulse in animals without reason, conniving with their instincts. But the instincts of unreasoning animals are passions, I believe. If mind assists the instincts, and instincts are passions, is mind also a passion since it is in defiling contact with passions?"

 

"Well said, child - an excellent question and one I ought to answer. [11] All embodied incorporeals are affected by passions, my child, and 'passions' they are rightly called. Every mover is incorporeal, but <not> everything moved is body; incorporeals are also moved by mind. Movement is passion, however, and so both are affected, the mover and the moved, one ruling, the other ruled. If there is release from the body, there is also release from passion. Yet one might better say that nothing is free form passion, my child, and that everything is affected by it. But there is a difference between passion and what is affected by passion. One is active and the other passive. Even bodies act of themselves, however; they are either unmoved or moved, and here is passion in either case. The incorporeals are always acted upon, which is why they are affected by passion. Do not let this terminology disturb you. Action and passion are identical, but it does no harm to use the more auspicious name."

 

[12] "You have delivered the discourse very plainly, father."

 

"Notice this also, my child, that to mankind - but not to any other mortal animal - god has granted these two things, mind and reasoned speech, which are worth as much as immortality. [Mankind also has the speech that he utters.] If one uses these gifts as he should, nothing will distinguish him from the immortals; instead, when he has left the body, both these gifts will guide him to the troop of the gods and the blessed."

 

[13] "The other living things, my father, do they not use speech?"

 

"No, child, they use only voice, and speech differs greatly from voice. Speech is common to all people, but each kind of living thing has its own voice."

 

"Even among humans, my father, does speech not differ for each nation?"

 

"It is different, my child, but humanity is one; therefore, speech is also one, and when translated it is found to be the same in Egypt and Persia as in Greece. My child, you seem to me to be ignorant of the excellence and importance of speech. The blessed god, the good demon, has said that soul is in body, that mind is in soul, that reasoned speech is in mind and that god is their father. [14] Reasoned speech, then, is the image and mind of god, as the body is the image of the idea and the idea is the image of the soul. Thus, the finest of matter is air, the finest air is soul, the finest soul is mind and the finest mind is god. And god surrounds everything and permeates everything, while mind surrounds soul, soul surrounds air and air surrounds matter."

 

"Necessity, providence and nature are instruments of the cosmos and of the order of matter. Each of the intellectual beings is an essence, and their essence is identity, but each of the bodies in the universe is multiple. Since composite bodies have their identity in always causing one body to change to another, they preserve the incorruptibility of identity. [15] Otherwise, for all composite bodies there is a number belonging to each. For without number, neither association nor composition nor dissolution can occur. The henads give birth to number, increase it and take it back to themselves after it has been dissolved, and yet the matter is one. This entire cosmos - a great god and an image of a greater, united with god and helping preserve the father's will and order - is a plenitude of life, and throughout the whole recurrence of eternity that comes from the father there is nothing in the cosmos that does not live, neither in the whole of it nor in its parts. For there never was any dead thing in the cosmos, nor is there, nor will there be. The father wished it to be alive as long as it holds together, and so it was necessary for the cosmos to be god. [16] How then, my child, can there be dead things in god, in the image of all, in the plenitude of life? For deadness is corruption, and corruption is destruction. How can any part of the incorruptible be corrupted or anything of god be destroyed?"

 

"The things that live in the cosmos, father, through they are parts of it, do they not die?"

 

"Hold your tongue, child; the terminology of becoming leads you astray. They do not die, my child; as composite bodies they are only dissolved. Dissolution is not death but the dissolution of an alloy. They are dissolved not to be destroyed but to become new. And what is the energy of life? Is it not motion? In the cosmos, then, what is motionless? Nothing, my child."

 

[17] "Does the earth not seem motionless to you, father?"

 

"No, child; it is the only thing that is full of motion and also stationary. Would it not be quite absurd if the nurse of all were motionless, she who begets everything and gives birth to it? For without motion the begetter cannot beget anything. It is most absurd of you to ask if the fourth part is idle; that a body is motionless can signify nothing but being idle. [18] Therefore, my child, you should know that everywhere in the cosmos everything is moved, either by decrease or by increase. What is moved also lives, but not everything that lives need stay the same. Taken as a whole, my child, the entire cosmos is free from change, but its parts are all subject to change. Nothing, however, is corruptible or destroyed - terms that disturb human beings. Life is not birth but awareness, and change is forgetting, not death. Since this is so, all are immortal - matter, life, spirit, soul, mind - of which every living thing is constituted."

 

[19] "Through mind, then, every living thing is immortal, but most of all mankind, who is capable of receiving god and fit to keep company with him. With this living thing alone does god converse, at night through dreams and through omens by day, and through all of them he foretells the future, through birds, through entrails, through inspiration, through the oak tree, whereby mankind also professes to know what has been, what is at hand and what will be. [20] And notice this, my child, that each living thing frequents one part of the cosmos: water for those that live in the water, earth for those that dwell on land, air for those that float above. But mankind uses them all - earth, water, air, fire. He even sees heaven, which he grasps by sensing it. And god, who is energy and power, surrounds everything and permeates everything, and understanding of god is nothing difficult, my child."

 

[21] "If you wish also to gaze upon him, look at the order of the cosmos and the careful arrangement of this order; look at the necessity of the heavenly phenomena and the providence in what has come to be and what comes to be; look at matter, completely full of life, and a great god moving along with all beings good and fair - gods and demons and humans."

 

"But these are energies, father."

 

"If they are entirely energies, my child, by whom are they energized? By <anyone> other <than god>? Or do you not know that, just as the parts of the cosmos are heaven, water, earth and air, likewise the limbs <of god> are life, immortality, {fate}, necessity, providence, nature, soul and mind, and that the permanence of them all is called the good? In what comes to be and has come to be, there is nothing where god is not, nothing beyond him."

 

[22] "Is he in matter, then, father?"

 

"If matter is apart from god, my son, what sort of place would you allot to it? If it is not energized, do you suppose it is anything but a heap? But who energized it if it is energized? We have said that the energies are parts of god. By whom, then, are all living things made alive? By whom are immortals made immortal? Things subject to change - by whom are they changed? Whether you say matter or body or essence, know that these also are energies of god and that materiality is the energy of matter, corporeality the energy of bodies and essentiality the energy of essence. And this is god, the all."

 

[23] "But in the all there is nothing that he is not. Hence, neither magnitude nor place nor quality nor figure nor time has any bearing on god. For god is all. And the all permeates everything and surrounds everything. Show this discourse reverence, my child, and keep it religiously. There is but one religion of god, and that is not to be evil."

 

Corpus Hermeticum XIII

 

A secret dialogue of Hermes Trismegistus on the mountain to his son Tat: On being born again, and on the promise to be silent

[1] "My father, you spoke indistinctly and in riddles when talking about divinity in the General Discourses; claiming that no one can be saved before being born again, you offered no revelation. But after you talked with me coming down from the mountain, I became your suppliant and asked to learn the discourse on being born again since, of all the discourses, this one alone I do not know. And you said you would deliver it to me when 'you were about to become a stranger to the cosmos.' I have prepared myself, and I have steeled my purpose against the deceit of the cosmos. Grant me what I need and give me - whether aloud or in secret - the <discourse on> being born again that you said you would deliver. I do not know what sort of womb mankind was born from, O Trismegistus, nor from what kind of seed."

 

[2] "My child, <the womb> is the wisdom of understanding in silence, and the seed is the true good."

 

"Who sows the seed, father? I am entirely at a loss."

 

"The will of god, my child."

 

"And whence comes the begotten, father? He does not share in my essence [ ]."

 

"The begotten will be of a different kind, a god and a child of god, the all in all, composed entirely of the powers."

 

"You tell me a riddle, father; you do not speak as a father to a son."

 

"Such a lineage cannot be taught my child, but god reminds you of it when he wishes."

 

[3] "Father, what you tell me is impossible and contrived, and so I want to respond to it straightforwardly: I have been born a son strange to his father's lineage. Do not begrudge me, father; I am your lawful son. Tell me clearly the way to be born again."

 

"What can I say, my child? I have nothing to tell except this: seeing { } within me an unfabricated vision that came from the mercy of god, I went out of myself into an immortal body, and now I am not what I was before. I have been born in mind. This thing cannot be taught, nor can it be seen through any elementary fabrication that we use here below. Therefore, the initial form even of my own constitution is of no concern. Color, touch or size I no longer have; I am a stranger to them, Now you see me with your eyes, my child, but by gazing with bodily sight you do <not> understand what <I am>; I am not seen with such eyes, my child."

 

[4] "You have driven me quite mad, father, and you have deranged my heart. Now I do not see myself."

 

"My child, would that you, without sleep, had also passed out of yourself like those who dream in sleep."

 

"Tell me this especially: Who is the progenitor of rebirth?"

 

"The child of god, primal man, by god's will."

 

[5] "Whatever remains, father, you have now made me speechless, bereft of what was in my heart before. I see that your size and its external aspect remain the same."

 

"And in this you are deceived, for my mortal form changes daily, altered in time toward increase and decrease - as a deception."

[6] "What is the true, then, Trismegistus?"

 

"The unsullied, my child, the unlimited, the colorless, the figureless, the indifferent, the naked-seeming, the self-apprehended, the immutable good, the incorporeal."

 

"In reality, father, I have gone mad. Though I expected that you would make me wise, the awareness of this understanding in me has been blocked."

 

"So it has, my child: what rises up like fire, falls down like earth, is moist like water and diffuses like air <is subject to sensation; on the other hand> if something is not hard, not moist, not tight, not volatile, how can you understand it through the senses - something understood only through its power and energy yet requiring one empowered to understand the birth in god?"

 

[7] "Am I without the power, then, father?"

 

"May it not be so, my child. Draw it to you, and it will come. Wish it, and it happens. Leave the senses of the body idle, and the birth of divinity will begin. Cleanse yourself of the irrational torments of matter."

 

"Do I have tormenters in me, father?"

 

"More than a few, my child; they are many and frightful."

 

"I am ignorant of them, father."

 

"This ignorance, my child, is the first torment; the second is grief; the third is incontinence; the fourth, lust; the fifth, injustice; the sixth, greed; the seventh, deceit; the eighth, envy; the ninth, treachery; the tenth, anger; the eleventh, recklessness; the twelfth, malice. These are twelve in number, but under them are many more besides, my child, and they use the prison of the body to torture the inward person with the sufferings of sense. Yet they withdraw (if not all at once) from one to whom god has shown mercy, and this is the basis of rebirth, the means and method. [8] From here on, my child, keep silence and say nothing; if you do so, you will not obstruct the mercy that comes to us from god. Henceforth, my child, rejoice; the powers of god purify you anew for articulation of the word."

 

"To us has come knowledge of god, and when it comes, my child, ignorance has been expelled. To us has come knowledge of joy, and when it arrives, grief will fly off to those who give way to it. [9] The power that I summon after joy is continence. O sweetest power! Let us receive her too, most gladly, child. As soon as she arrives, how she has repulsed incontinence! Now in fourth place I summon perseverance, the power opposed to lust. This next level, my child, is the seat of justice. See how she has expelled injustice, without a judgment. With injustice gone, my child, we have been made just. The sixth power that I summon to us is the one opposed to greed - liberality. And when greed has departed, I summon another, truth, who puts deceit to flight. And truth arrives. See how the good has been fulfilled, my child, when truth arrives. For envy has withdrawn from us, but the good, together with life and light has followed after truth, and no torment any longer attacks from the darkness. Vanquished, they have flown away in a flapping of wings."

 

[10] "My child, you have come to know the means of rebirth. The arrival of the decad sets in order a birth of mind that expels the twelve; we have been divinized by this birth. Therefore, whoever through mercy has attained this godly birth and has forsaken bodily sensation recognizes himself as a constituted of the intelligibles and rejoices."

 

[11] "Since god has made me tranquil, father, I no longer picture things with the sight of my eyes but with the mental energy that comes through the powers. I am in heaven, in earth, in water, in air; I am in animals and in plants; in the womb, before the womb, before the womb, after the womb; everywhere. But tell me this also: how is it that the torments of darkness, twelve in number, are repulsed by ten powers? By what means, Trismegistus?"

 

[12] "This tent - from which we also have passed, my child - was constituted from the zodiacal circle, which was in turn constituted of [ ] entities that are twelve in number, one in nature, omniform in appearance. To mankind's confusion, there are disjunctions among the twelve, my child, though they are unified when they act. (Recklessness is not separable from anger; they are indistinguishable.) Strictly speaking, then, it is likely that the twelve retreat when the ten powers (the decad, that is) drive them away. The decad engenders soul, my child. Life and light are unified when the number of the henad, of spirit, is begotten. Logically, then, the henad contains the decad, and the decad the henad."

 

[13] "Father, I see the universe and I see myself in mind."

 

"This, my child, is rebirth: no longer picturing things in three bodily dimensions. . . . through this discourse on being born again that I have noted down for you alone to avoid casting it all before the mob but [to give it] to those who god himself wishes."

 

[14] "Tell me, father, does this body constituted of powers ever succumb to dissolution?"

 

"Hold your tongue; do not give voice to the impossible! Else you will do wrong, and your mind's eye will be profaned. The sensible body of nature is far removed from essential generation. One can be dissolved, but the other is indissoluble; one is mortal, the other immortal. Do you not know that you have been born a god and a child of the one, as I, too, have?"

 

[15] "Father, I would like to hear the praise in the hymn which you said I should hear from the powers once I had entered the ogdoad, just as Poimandres foretold of the ogdoad."

 

"That you hasten to strike the tent is good, child, for you have been purified. Poimandres, the mind of sovereignty, has transmitted to me no more than has been written down, knowing that on my own I would be able to understand everything, to hear what I want and to see everything, and he entrusted it to me to make something beautiful of it. Thus, the powers within me sing in all things as well."

 

"I want to hear them, father, and I wish to understand them."

 

[16] "Be still, my child; now hear a well-tuned hymn of praise, the hymn of rebirth. To divulge it was no easy choice for me except that I do it for you, as the end of everything. Hence, it cannot be taught; it is a secret kept in silence. Therefore, my child, stand in the open air, face the south wind when the setting sun descends, and bow down in adoration; when the sun returns, how likewise toward the east. Be still, child."

 

Singing the secret hymn: Formula IV

 

[17] "Let every nature in the cosmos attend the hearing of the hymn. Open, O earth; let every lock that bars the torrent open to me; trees, be not shaken. I am about to sing a hymn to the lord of creation, to the universe and to the one. Open, you heavens, and be still, you winds. Let god's immortal circle attend my discourse. For I am about to sing a hymn to the one who created everything; who fixed the earth in place; who hung heaven above; who ordered the sweet water away from the ocean and toward land, the habitable and the uninhabitable, as the means of mankind's nourishment and creation; who ordered fire to shine on gods and humans for their every use. Together let us praise him, raised high above the heavens, creator of all nature. He is the mind's eye. May he accept praise from my powers."

 

[18] "Powers within me, sing a hymn to the one and the universe. Sing together, all you powers within me, for I wish it. Holy knowledge, you enlightened me; through you, hymning the intellectual light, I take joy in the joy of mind. Join me, all you powers, and sing the hymn. You also, continence, sing me the hymn. My justice, through me hymn the just. My liberality, through me hymn the universe. Truth, hymn the truth. Good, hymn the good. Life and light, praise passes from you and to you. I thank you, father, energy of the powers. I thank you, god, power of my energies; through me your word hymns you; through me, O universe, accept a speech offering, by <my> word. [19] This is what the powers within me shout; they hymn the universe; they accomplish what you wish; your counsel foes forth from you, and to you the universe returns. Accept a speech offering from all things. Life, preserve the universe within us; light, enlighten it; god, {spiritualize} it. For you, O mind, are a shepherd to your word, O spirit-bearer. O craftsman. [20] You are god! Your man shouts this through fire, through air, through earth, through water, through spirit, through your creatures. From your eternity I have won praise, and in your counsel I have found the rest I seek; I have seen, as you wished it."

"This praise that you have told. [21] father, I have also established in my cosmos."

 

"Say 'in the intellectual cosmos,' child."

 

"In the intellectual cosmos, father. I have the power; your hymn and your praise have fully illuminated my mind. I, too, wish to send praise to god from my own heart."

 

"Be not heedless, my child."

 

"I say what I see in my mind, father. To you, god, genarch of progeneration, I, Tat, send speech offerings. God - you, father; you, lord; you, mind - accept from me what speech you want. For everything is accomplished by your willing it."

 

"My child, send an acceptable sacrifice to god, the father of all, but also add 'through the word.'"

 

[22] "I thank you, father, {for approving the prayers that I have made}."

 

"I rejoice that the truth has borne good fruit for you, my child, an undying crop. Now that you have learned it from me, promise to be silent about this miracle, child, and reveal the tradition of rebirth to no one lest we be accounted its betrayers. For each of us has done enough study - I the speaker, you the hearer. You know yourself and our father intellectually."

 

Corpus Hermeticum XIV

 

From Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepiuis, health of mind

 

[1] In your absence, my son Tat wanted to learn the nature of things as a whole, and he would allow me no delay. Because he is my son and a newcomer who but lately gained knowledge of them in each particular, I was forced to hold forth at some length so it would be easy for him to follow the explanation. To you, however, I wanted to write selectively on a few of the most important headings of what I told him, but I have given them a more mystical interpretation, suitable to someone of your greater age and learning in the nature of things.

 

[2] If all visible things have come to be and are coming to be; if those that are begotten come to be by another's agency, not of their own (the begotten are many or, rather, they are all visible things, all that are different and not alike); if, then, things that come to be come by another's agency, there is someone who makes them; and, if this someone is to be older than the begotten, he must be unbegotten. For I maintain that things begotten come to be by the agency of another; it is impossible, however, for anything to be older than all begotten entities unless it alone is unbegotten. [3] Also, such a one is stronger, unique, and alone truly wise in everything since none is older. In quantity, in magnitude, and in being different that what comes to be, such a one comes first, as also in the continuity of his making. Moreover, although things begotten are seen, he is unseen. And this is why he makes, in order to be seen. He is always making, so assuredly he is seen.

 

[4] This is the proper way to understand and, having understood, to be astonished and, having been astonished, to count oneself blessed for having recognized the father.

 

What is dearer than a true father? Who is this father, and how shall we recognize him? Is it right to dedicated to him alone the name "god" or "maker" or "father" or even the three of them? "God," because of his power? "Maker," because of his action? "Father," because of the good?

 

He is power, certainly, since he is different from things that come to be, and he is activity in the coming to be of all things.

Therefore, after we have done with our loquacity and idle chatter, we must understand these two things: what comes to be and who makes it. Between them there is nothing, no third thing. [5] From all that you understand and all that you hear, remember these two and acknowledge that they are everything, reckoning no difficulty about things because they are above or below or divine or changeable or deep down. For the two are all there is, what comes to be and what makes it, and it is impossible to separate one from the other. No maker can exist without something that comes to be. Each of the two is just what it is; therefore, one is not to be parted from the other <nor> from itself.

 

[6] If the maker is nothing other than the making - solitary, simple, uncomposed - then necessarily the making happens of its own because the making that the maker does is generation, and it is impossible for all coming-to-be to come to be of its own; coming-to-be necessarily comes to be of another. Without the maker, the begotten neither comes to be nor is, for the one without the other completely loses its own nature form deprivation of the other. Thus, if one agrees that there exist two entities, what comes to be and what makes it, they are one in their unification, an antecedent and a consequent. The antecedent is the god who makes; the consequent is what comes to be, whatever it may be.

 

[7] You need not be on guard against the diversity of things that come to be, fearing to attach something low and inglorious to god. God's glory is one, that he makes all things, and this making is like the body of god. There is nothing evil or shameful about the maker himself; such conditions are immediate consequences of generation, like corrosion on bronze or dirt on the body. The bronzesmith did not make the corrosion; the parents did not make the dirt; nor did god make evil. But the persistence of generation makes evil bloom like a sore, which is why god has made change, to repurify generation.

 

[8] Now if it is given to one and the same painter to make heaven, gods, earth, sea, humans, things without reason and things without soul, is it not possible for god to make them? Oh, how foolish it is - ignorance concerning god! The strangest thing of all happens to such foolish people. While claiming to revere god and praise him, they do not know him because they do not attribute to him the making of all things, and, besides not knowing him, they profane him greatly by imputing to him conditions of disdain and impotence. If he does not make all things, it must be out of contempt or out of impotence that he does not make them - which is an irreverent notion. [9] For in god there is only one condition, the good, but one who is good is not contemptuous or impotent. This is what god is, the good, all power to make all things. All that is begotten has come to be by god's agency, by the agency of one who is good, in other words, of one able to make all things.

 

If you want to learn how he makes, how things come to be that come to be, it is given to you. Consider this lovely image that is very like him: [10] See a farmer casting seed upon the earth, here the wheat, there the barley, elsewhere seed of some other kind; see him planting the vine and the apple and other kinds of trees. In the same way, god sows immortality in heaven, change in the earth, life and motion in the universe. The things he sows are not many but few and easily numbered. In all, there are four of them, besides god himself and generation; in them exist the things that are.

 

Corpus Hermeticum XVI

 

Definitions of Asclepius to King Ammon on god, matter, vice, fate, the sun, intellectual essence, divine essence, mankind, the arrangement of the plenitude, the seven stars, and mankind according to the image

 

[1] I have sent you a long discourse, my king, as a sort of reminder or summary of all the others; it is not meant to agree with vulgar opinion but contains much to refute it. That it contradicts even some of my own discourses will be apparent to you. My teacher, Hermes - often speaking to me in private, sometimes in the presence of Tat - used to say that those reading my books would find their organization very simple and clear when, on the contrary, it is unclear and keeps the meaning of its words concealed; furthermore, it will be entirely unclear (he said) when the Greeks eventually desire to translate our language to their own and thus produce in writing the greatest distortion and unclarity. [2] But this discourse, expressed in our paternal language, keeps clear the meaning of its words. The very quality of speech and the <sound> of Egyptian words have in themselves the energy of the object they speak of.

 

Therefore, my king, in so far as you have the power (who are all powerful), keep the discourse uninterpreted, lest mysteries of such greatness come to the Greeks, lest the extravagant, flaccid and (as it were) dandified Greek idiom extinguish something stately and concise, the energetic idiom of <Egyptian> usage. For the Greeks have empty speeches, O king, that are energetic only in what they demonstrate, and this is the philosophy of the Greeks, an inane foolosophy of speeches. We, by contrast, use not speeches but sounds that are full of action.

 

[3] This established, I shall open the discourse by invoking god, the master, maker, father and container of the whole universe, the all who is one and the one who is all. For the plenitude of all things is one and is in one, not because the one duplicates itself but because both are one. Keep to this meaning carefully, my king, through the whole length of my discourse. If anyone sets his hand against what seems to be all and one and identical and tries to part it from the one - taking the term "all" to mean "multitude" rather than "plenitude" - he will be doing the impossible, breaking the all apart from the one and destroying the all. For all must be one, if in fact one exists (as it does) and never ceases to be one so that the plenitude is not broken apart.

 

[4] Look in the middlemost parts of the earth at the many founts of water and fire gushing forth. In the same place, one observes three natures, those of fire, of water and of earth, depending from one root. Hence, the earth has been believed to be a storehouse of all matter, sending forth supplies of matter and in return receiving substance from above. [5] In this way, the craftsman (I mean the sun) binds heaven to earth, sending essence below and raising matter above, attracting everything toward the sun and around it, offering everything from himself to everything, as he gives freely of the ungrudging light. For it is the sun whence good energies reach not only through sky and air but even to earth and down to the nethermost deep and abyss.

 

[6] But if there also exists some intellectual essence, it is the sun's mass, whose receptacle may be sunlight. Only the sun knows ... of what this essence is composed or whence it flows since by location and nature it is near the sun.... {We, who are forced to understand by guesswork, do not observe it.} [7] But a vision of the sun is not a matter of guesswork. Since it is the visual ray itself, the sun shines all around the cosmos with the utmost brilliance, on the part above and on the part below. For the sun is situated in the center of the cosmos, wearing it like a crown. Like a good driver, it steadies the chariot of the cosmos and fastens the reins to itself to prevent the cosmos going out of control. And the reins are these: life and soul and spirit and immortality and becoming. The driver slackens the reins to let the cosmos go, not far away (to tell the truth) but along with him. [8] In this way are all things crafted. The sun portions out eternal permanence to the immortals and feeds the immortal part of the cosmos with the rising light emitted from its other side, the one that faces heavenward. But, with the light held in confinement as it shines all around inside the hollow of water and earth and air, the sun enlivens and awakens, with becoming and change, the things that live in these regions of the cosmos. [9] It brings transmutation and transformation among them, as in a spiral, when change turns one thing to another, from kind to kind, from form to form, crafting them just as it does the great bodies. For the permanence of every body is change: in an immortal body the change is without dissolution; in a mortal body there is dissolution. And this is what distinguishes immortal from mortal, mortal from immortal.

 

[10] Just as the sun's light is continuous, so also - both in location and supply - does its fecundity continue on and on without cease. Around the sun are many troops of demons looking like battalions in changing array. They are not far from the immortals though they dwell <with mortals>. From on high, they have been assigned the territory of mankind, and they oversee human activity. What the gods enjoin them they effect through torrents, hurricanes, thunderstorms, fiery alterations and earthquakes; with famines and wars, moreover, they repay irreverence. [11] Irreverence is mankind's greatest wrong against the gods: to do good is the god's affair; to be reverent is mankinds; and the demons' is to assist. Whatever else humans dare to do - out of error or daring or compulsion (which they call fate) or ignorance - all these the gods hold guiltless. Irreverence alone is subject to judgement.

 

[12] For every kind, the sun is preserver and provider. Just as the intellectual cosmos that encompasses the sensible cosmos fills it by making it solid with changing and omniform appearances, so also the sun that encompasses all things in the cosmos strengthens and makes solid all of them that are generated, as it takes in those that are spent and dwindling away. [13] The sun sets in array the troop or, rather, troops of demons, which are many and changing, arrayed under the regiments of stars, an equal number of them for each star. Thus deployed, they follow the orders of a particular star, and they are good and evil according to their natures - their energies, that is. For energy is the essence of a demon. Some of them, however, are mixtures of good and evil.

 

[14] They have all been granted authority over the things of the earth and over the troubles of the earth, and they produce change and tumult collectively for cities and nations, individually for each person. They reshape our souls to their own ends, and they rouse them, lying in ambush in our muscle and marrow, in veins and arteries, in the brain itself, reaching to the very guts.

 

[15] The demons on duty at the exact moment of birth, arrayed under each of the stars, take possession of each of us as we come into being and receive a soul. From moment to moment they change places, not staying in position but moving by rotation. Those that enter through the body into the two parts of the soul twist the soul about, each toward its own energy. But the rational part of the soul stands unmastered by the demons, suitable as a receptacle for god.

 

[16] Thus, if by way of the sun anyone has a ray shining upon him in his rational part (and the totality of those enlightened is a few), the demons' effect on him is nullified. For none - neither demons nor gods - can do anything against a single ray of god. All others the demons carry off as spoils, both souls and bodies, since they are fond of the demons's energies and acquiesce in them. {And it is the love that} misleads and is misled. So, with our bodies as their instruments, the demons govern this earthly government. Hermes has called this government "fate."

 

[17] The intelligible cosmos, then, depends from god and the sensible cosmos from the intelligible, but the sun, through the intelligible cosmos and the sensible as well, is supplied by god with the influx of good, with his craftsmanship, in other words. Around the sun are the eight spheres that depend from it: the sphere of the fixed stars, the six of the planets, and the one tht surrounds the earth. From these spheres depend the demons, and then, from the demons, humans. And thus all things and all persons are dependent from god.

[18] Therefore, the father of all is god; their craftsman is the sun; and the cosmos is the instrument of craftsmanship. Intelligible essence governs heaven; heaven governs the gods; and demons posted by the gods govern humans. This is the army of gods and demons. [19] Through them god makes everything for himself, and all things are parts of god. But if all things are parts of god, then all things are god, and he makes himself in making all things. His making can never cease because he is ceaseless. And as god has no end, so his making has neither beginning nor end.

 

Corpus Hermeticum XVII

 

"... If you thing about it, O king, incorporeals also exist among the corporeals."

 

"What kind?" asked the king.

 

"Bodies that appear to be in mirrors seem incorporeal to you, do they not?"

 

"Yes, Tat, they do; your understanding is godlike," said the king.

 

"But there are also other incorpeals: doesn't it seem to you, for example, that there are forms that appear in body even though they are incorporeal, in the bodies not only of ensouled beings but of the soulless also?"

 

"You put it well, Tat."

 

"Thus, there are reflections of the incorporeals in corporeals and of corporeals in incorporeals - from the sensible to the intelligible cosmos, that is, and from the intelligible to the sensible. Therefore, my king, adore the statues, because they, too, possess forms from the intelligible cosmos."

 

Rising, the king then said, "It is time that I attend to my guests, O prophet; tomorrow we shall theologize further."

 

Corpus Hermeticum XVIII

 

On the soul hindered by the body's affections

 

[1] If someone promises to bring harmony out of a piece of music played on many instruments, his effort will be laughable if during the performance discord among the instruments hinders his zeal. Since weak instruments are altogether unequal to the task, inevitably the spectators will jeer at the musician. Indeed, while this well-meaning person gives tirelessly of his art, <the hearer> finds fault with the weakness of the instruments. He who is truly a musician [ ] by nature, not only producing harmony in song but also providing the rhythm of the music appropriate to each instrument, this tireless musician is god, for it does not befit god to tire. [2] If ever a performer wanted to excel in a musical contest, entering just after the trumpeters had likewise shown their skill, after the flautists had produced sweet music on their melodious instruments, after <others> had finished the singing of the song with reed-pipe and plectrum, no one would blame the musician's inspiration <if his instrument failed under the strain>, nor would they blame the almighty, to whom they would render due honor while finding fault with the defective instrument because, in fact, it created a hindrance to greater beauty by hindering the musician's rapport with the music and robbing the audience of sweet song.

 

[3] With us it is the same. Let no spectator irreverently find fault with our kind for weakness that belongs to the body. Let it be known, however, that god is a tireless inspiration, who always and in the same way possesses the skill appropriate to him, whose blessings are uninterrupted, who continually enjoys the same kind attentions. [4] If even the craftsman Phidias used material that did not yield to his striving for consummate diversity . . . <and> our musician could only make the best of his ability, let us not put the blame on him but find fault with the weak string that [slackened the tension,] lowered the tone and muffled the rhythm of the lovely music.

 

[5] But no one ever blames the musician for an accident that happened to his instrument. And the more they reproach the instrument, the more they extol the musician when he strikes the sting and hits the right tone ... so the audience feels even friendlier to the musician and finds nothing to blame him for, after all.

 

{So it is with you also, most honored ones: you, in turn, should tune the inward lyre and adjust it to the <divine> musician.} [6] But I see it now: some performer readies himself for a composition of great genius and, even without playing his lyre, he somehow uses himself as an instrument and finds some secret way to tune his string and heal it, stunning his audience by turning something deficient into something magnificent. [ ] They say that a certain player on the cithara, dear to the patron god of music-making, once entered a contest of singing to the cithara, but when a string broke he was hindered in his exertions until his dearness to the mighty one restored the string for him and granted him the grace of fame. In place of the string, a providence of the mighty one caused a cicada to light upon the cithara and restore the song by keeping the space where the string had been. Thus, the cithara-player won a victor's reputation when his string was mended and his grief came to an end.

 

[7] Somehow, I feel the same thing happening to me as well. Most honored sirs, just recently it was as if I confessed my weakness and lay sick for a little while, yet now by the power of the mighty one, as it were, my song about the king has been restored and I made music. Accordingly, the aim of the assistance will be the renown of kings, and from their trophies arises the zeal of my discourse. Come, then, let us proceed, for this is the musician's desire. [Come, make haste! This is the musician's will.] This is why he tuned his lyre. His song will be sweeter and his playing more pleasant as instructions require greater music.

 

[8] Therefore, since he has tuned his lyre specially for kings, since it has a panegyric tone, since its aim is to commend royalty, he raises his voice first to the supreme king of all, the good god, and, after he has opened his song on high, in its second section he descends to those who bear the sceptre in god's image. Kings themselves find it pleasing that the song moves down step by step from on high and that it comes from the very place where victory was conferred on them, victory from which, in their turn, our hopes also derive. [9] So then, let the musician approach the supreme king, the god of all: he is ever immortal, eternal in having dominion from eternity, first in glorious victory, source of all victories for <those who> have received victory in due course....[10] Our discourse hastens to descend to such commendation, to commend kings who are princes of the common security and peace. Authority from god almighty long since rose to a height in them; victory was conferred on them from the right hand of god; prizes were prepared for them even before they performed heroic deeds in battle; trophies were set up for them before they engaged the enemy; it was ordained for them not only to be kings but also to be the best; and, even before an army moves, they panic the barbarian.

 

On praise for the almighty and a royal panergyric

 

[11] My discourse hastens on to make an ending suited to its beginning, to conclude by praising the almighty and then also to praise kings who are most divine, the arbiters of our peace. Just as we began with the almighty and the power above, so shall we make our ending revert to the beginning and refer again to the almighty itself. The sun, nourisher of all that grows, harvests the first pick of the crops as it first rises, using its rays like great hands to gather in the crops, and the rays that are its hands gather in the most ambrosial <effluences> of the plants; in just this way, since w2e have taken our beginning from the almighty and have received the effluence of his wisdom and have used it up in growing the super celestial plants that are our souls, we must go back again and exercise the praise from which he will water every shoot that we plant.

 

[12] To god, <then,> who is entirely undefiled, who is father of our souls, it is fitting that praise should rise up from ten thousand mouths and voices, even if one can say nothing worthy of him because our speech is no match for him; the newborn cannot sing a hymn worthy of their father, yet if they render him as much of his due as their strength permits, then they also will be forgiven. Moreover, this very fact contributes to god's renown: that he is greater than his own progeny, and that the preface, beginning, middle and end of our praises are to confess our father's limitless power and limitless extent. [13] [For the king it is just the same.]

 

Praising god is in our nature as humans because we happen to be in some sense his descendants, but we must ask forgiveness even if for the most part it comes from the father before the asking. A father cannot turn away newborn infants because they lack strength; no, he delights in their coming to know him; in the same way, the knowledge of the universe that confers on everything life as well as the praise of god that god has presented to us....[14] God, who is good and evershining, who always contains within him the limit of his own eminence, who is immortal, who encompasses within himself the endless portion allotted to him, who always keeps flowing from the energy there above to the cosmos here below and makes the promise that leads to the praise that saves.... There above, then, beings are not different from one another, nor does inconstancy exist there above. All think one thought, and all have the same foreknowledge; they have one mind, the father. One sense works in them, and the charm that brings them together is love, the same love that makes one harmony act in all things.

 

[15] Therefore, let us praise god, but next let us descend to those who have received their sceptres from him. We began with kings, and the practice we had with them also accustomed us to giving panegyrics and singing reverent hymns to the almighty, so we must first begin our praise with god and use it as training and then exercise the training through god; the purpose is to have in us the exercise of reverence for god as well as praise for kings. [16] We must also render them compensation for spreading before us the prospertiy that comes of such great peace. A king's virtue - indeed, his name alone - is the arbiter of peace. For a king is so called from the light step with which he sets his foot even upon the highest authority, because he achieves dominion over the discourse that brings peace, and because he was born to outdo barbarian kingship inasmuch as his name is the token of peace. Accordingly, a king's challenge has often caused the enemy's withdrawal. Even statues of the king are havens of peace for the tempest-tost; the sight alone of a king's image has brought quick victory and, if it stands unthreatened and undamaged, has protected those who stand by it.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Asclepius

 

To me this Asclepius is like the sun. A Holy Book of Hermes Trismegistus addressed to Asclepius

 

[1] "God, Asclepius, god has brought you to us so that you might join in a divine discourse, such a discourse as, in justice, seems more divine in its reverent fidelity than any we have had before, more than any that divine power inspired in us. If you are seen to understand it, your whole mind will be completely full of all good things - assuming that there are many goods and not one good in which all are. Admittedly, the one is consistent with the other: all are of one or all are one, for they are linked so that one cannot be separated from the other. But you will learn this by careful concentration from the discourse to come. Now go out for a moment, Asclepius, and call Tat to join us."

 

When Tat came in, Asclepiuis suggested that Hammon also join them. Trismegistus said: "No jealousy keeps Hammon from us; indeed, we recall having written many things in his name, as we have also written so much on physical and popular topics for Tat, our dearest and most loving son. But this treatise I shall write in your name. Call no one but Hammon lest the presence and interference of the many profane this most reverent discourse on so great a subject, for the mind is irreverent that would make public, by the awareness of the many, a treatise so very full of the majesty of divinity."

 

When Hammon had also come into the sanctuary, the reverence of the four men and the divine presence of god filled that holy place; duly silent, the minds and thoughts of each of them waited respectfully for a world from Hermes, and then divine love began to speak.

[2] "Every human soul is immortal, Asclepius, but not all in the same way; some differ in manner and time from others."

 

"Is it not true, Trismegistus, that every soul is of the same quality?"

 

"Asclepius, how quickly you have lapsed from reason's true restraint! Did I not say that all are one and one all inasmuch as all were in the creator before he created them all? Not unjustly was he called all, whose members are all. In this whole discussion, then, take care to remember him who alone is all or who is himself the creator of all."

 

"From the heavens all things come into earth and water and air. Only the fire that moves upward is lifegiving; what moves down is subservient to it. But whatever descends from on high is a breeder; what diffuses upward is a feeder. Earth, who alone stands still in herself, is the receptacle of all and the renewer of all the kinds that she takes in. Therefore, this is the whole - as you remember - because it is all and consists of all. Soul and matter, embraced by nature, are so stirred by the varied multiform quality of all images that, in the discontinuity of their qualities, the forms are known to be infinite, yet they are united to this end: that the whole might seem to be one and that all might seem to be from one. [3] The elements by which the whole of matter has been formed, then, are four: fire, water, earth, air. One matter, one soul and one god."

 

"Now give me your whole attention, all your strength of mind, all your clever ingenuity. Giving an account of divinity, whose knowing needs a godlike concentration of consciousness, is most like a river running in torrent from a height, sweeping, plunging, so that its rapid rush outraces our concentration, not only as we listen but even as we teach."

 

"The heavens, a perceptible god, administer all bodies whose growth and decline have been charged to the sun and moon. But god, who is their maker, is himself governor of heaven and of soul itself and of all things that are in the world. From all these, all governed by the same god, a continuous influence carries through the world and through the soul of all kinds and all forms throughout nature. God prepared matter as a receptacle for omniform forms, but nature, imaging matter with forms by means of the four elements, causes all things to reach as far as heaven so that they will be pleasing in the sight of god."

 

[4] "All things that depend from above, however, are divided into forms in the way that I am about to explain. Forms of all things follow kinds, so that the kind is the entirety while the form is a smaller part of the kind. Thus, the kind made up of gods will produce from itself the forms of gods. The kind made up of demons, as that of humans an likewise birds and all things that the world contains, breeds forms resembling itself. There is another kind of living thing, a kind without soul yet not lacking senses; it thus finds joy in good treatment, harm and weakness in adversity. I am speaking of all those things that come to life in the earth when their roots and stems are undamaged; their forms have been scattered all over the earth. Heaven itself is full of god. The aforesaid kinds, however, dwell as far as the places that belong to its forms, and the forms of all these things are immortal. Now a form is part of a kind, as a human is of humanity, and it must follow the quality of its kind. Whence, although all kinds are immortal, it happens that not all forms are immortal. In the case of divinity, both kind and form are immortal. The fertility of coming to be preserves the kinds of other things, where eternity belongs to the kind even though the forms perish. Thus, there are mortal forms, <but not kinds,> so that a human is mortal and humanity immortal."

 

[5] "However, the forms of all kinds combine with all kinds; some were made before; some are made from those that were made. Those made by gods or by demons or by humans are all forms closely resembling their kinds. It is impossible for bodies to be shaped without divine assent, for forms to be figured without the aid of demons, and without humans soulless things cannot be started and kept going. Therefore, because they are conjoined to some form of a divine kind, any demons who by chance drop down from their kind into a form are considered godlike by nearness and association. But those demons are called friendly to humans whose forms persist in the quality of their kind. For humans the pattern is similar but broader. The form of humankind is multiform and various: coming down from association with the <higher form> just described, it makes many conjunctions with all other forms and, of necessity, makes them with almost everything. Hence, one who has joined himself to the gods in divine reverence, using the mind that joins him to the gods, almost attains divinity. And one who has been joined to the demons attains their condition. Human are they who remain content with the middle status of their kind, and the remaining forms of people will be like those kinds to whose forms they adjoin themselves."

 

[6] "Because of this, Asclepius, a human being is a great wonder, a living thing to be worshipped and honored: for he changes his nature into a god's, as if he were a god; he knows the demonic kind inasmuch as he recognizes that he originated among them; he despises the part of him that is human nature, having put his trust in the divinity of his other part. How much happier is the blend of human nature! Conjoined to the gods by a kindred divinity, he despises inwardly that part of him in which he is earthly. All others he draws close to him in a bond of affection, recognizing his relation to them by heaven's disposition. He looks up to heaven. He has been put in the happier place of middle status so that he might cherish those beneath him and be cherished by those above him. He cultivates the earth; he swiftly mixes into the elements; he plumbs the depths of the sea in the keenness of his mind. Everything is permitted him: heaven itself seems not too high, for he measures it in his clever thinking as if it were nearby. No misty air dims the concentration of his thought; no thick earth obstructs his work; no abysmal deep of water blocked his lofty view. He is everything, and he is everywhere."

 

"Of all these kinds, the ensouled have roots reaching them from on high to below, but living things without soul branch from a root that grows from beneath to above. Some things are nourished on composite food, others on simple food. The types of food are two: one for the soul, the other for the body - the two substances of which living things consist. Soul feeds on the ever restless stirring of the world. Bodies grow on water and earth, foods of the lower world. The spirit that fills all mixes with everything and enlivens everything. And in humans consciousness is added to understanding: only this fifth part, granted to humanity, comes from the aether. Of all living things, consciousness equips only the human, exalts it, raises it up to understand the divine plan. But since I am reminded to speak about consciousness, I shall also set forth an account of it for you a little later. It is a great subject and very holy, no less than an account of divinity itself."

 

"But now let me finish for you what I began. [7] At the very beginning I was speaking of that conjunction with the gods which only humans enjoy fully because the gods esteem them - those humans who have gained so much happiness that they grasp the divine consciousness of understanding, the diviner consciousness that is only in god and in human understanding."

"Is consciousness not uniform in all people, Trismegistus?"

 

"Not all have gained true understanding, Asclepius. They are deceived, pursuing, on rash impulse and without due consideration of reason, an image that begets malice in their minds and transforms the best of living things into a beastly nature with brutal habits. When I speak about spirit, I will give you a full account of consciousness and related topics."

 

"Mankind is the only living thing that is twofold: one part of him is simple, what the Greeks call ousiodes, what we call a form of divine likeness. What the Greeks call hulikos and we call earthly is fourfold. From it is made the body that covers over what we have already termed divine in mankind; it covers the divinity of pure mind, which rests alone with its kindred, the thoughts of pure mind, at peace with itself as if sheltered by a wall of body."

 

"Why then, Trismegistus, should humans have been put in the world? Why do they not live in the highest happiness in the region where god is?"

 

"You are right to ask, Asclepius. Indeed, we beseech god to grant us the strength to find a reason for it. Although everything depends on god's will, those things especially depend on it that concern the summit of the all, the all whose reason we seek in our present inquiry."

[8] "Listen, then, Asclepius. When the master and shaper of all things, whom rightly we call god, made a god next after himself who can be seen and sensed (I call the second god sensible not because he senses but because he impinges on the senses of those who see him; at another time we shall discuss whether he senses or not), then, having made this god as his first production and second after himself, it seemed beautiful to him since it was entirely full of the goodness of everything, and he loved it as the progeny of his own divinity. Then, so great and good was he that he wanted there to be another to admire the one he had made from himself, and straightaway he made mankind, imitator of his reason and attentiveness. God's will is itself perfect achievement since willing and achievement are complete for him at one and the same moment of time. After he <had made> mankind ousiodes and noticed that he could not take care of everything unless he was covered over with a material wrapping, god covered him with a bodily dwelling and commanded that all humans be like this, mingling and combining the two natures into one in their just proportions. Thus god shapes mankind form the nature of soul and of body from the eternal and the mortal, in other words, so that the living being so shaped can prove adequate to both its beginnings, wondering at heavenly beings and worshipping them, tending earthly beings and governing them."

 

"Just now, in speaking about mortal things, I mean to speak not about water and earth, those two of the four elements that nature has made subject to humans, but about what humans make of those elements or in them - agriculture, pasturage, building, harbors, navigation, social intercourse, reciporcal exchange - the strongest bond among humans or between humanity and the parts of the world that are water and earth. Learning the arts and science and using them preserves this earthly part of the world; god willed it that the world would be incomplete without them. Necessity follows god's pleasure; result attends upon his will. That anything agreed by god should become disagreeable to him is incredible since he would have known long before that he would agree and that it was to be."

 

[9] "But I notice, Asclepius, that mind's quick desire hastens you to learn how mankind can cherish heaven (or the things in it) and tend to its honor. Listen, then, Asclepius. Cherishing the god of heaven and all that heaven contains means but one thing: constant assiduous service. Except for mankind alone, no living thing, neither divine nor <mortal>, has done this service. Heaven and heavenly beings take delight in wonderment, worship, praise and service from humans. Rightly the supreme divinity sent the chorus of Muses down to meet mankind lest the earthly world lack sweet melody and seem thereby less civilized; instead, with songs set to music, humans praised and glorified him who alone is all and is father of all, and thus, owing to their praise of heaven, earth has not been devoid of the charms of harmony. Some very small number of these humans, endowed with pure mind, have been allotted the honored duty of looking up to heaven. But those who lagged behind <at> a lower reach of understanding, under the body's bulk and because theirs is a mingled twofold nature, have been appointed to care for the elements and these lower objects. Mankind is a living thing, then, but none the lesser for being partly mortal; indeed, for one purpose his composition seems perhaps fitter and abler, enriched by mortality. Had he not been made of both materials, he would not have been able to keep them both, so he was formed of both, to tend to earth and to cherish divinity as well."

 

[10] "Asclepius, I want you to grasp the theory that follows, not only through thoughtful concentration but also with an energetic attitude. The theory seems incredible to most, but holier minds should grasp it as sound and true. Now let me begin."

 

"The master of eternity is the first god, the world is second, mankind is third. God is maker of the world and all it contains, governing all things along with mankind, who governs what is composite. Taking responsibility for the whole of this - the proper concern of his attentiveness - mankind brings it about that he and the world are ornaments to one another so that, on account of mankind's divine composition, it seems right to call him a well-ordered world, though kosmos in Greek would be better. Mankind knows himself and knows the world: thus, it follows that he is mindful of what his role is and of what is useful to him; also, that he recognizes what interests he should serve, giving greatest thanks and praise to god and honoring him image but not ignoring that he, too, is the second image of god, who has two images, world and mankind. Whence, though mankind is an integral construction, it happens that in the part that makes him divine, he seems able to rise up to heaven, as if from higher elements - soul and consciousness, spirit and reason. But in his material part - consisting of fire <and earth,> water and air - he remains fixed on the ground, a mortal, lest he disregard all the terms of his charge as void and empty. Thus, humankind is divine in one part, in another part mortal, residing in a body."

 

[11] "For him - for mankind, that is - and for the sum of his parts, the ultimate standard is reverence, from which goodness follows. Goodness is deemed perfect only when fortified by the virtue of disdain, which repels desire for every alien thing. Any earthly possessions owned out of bodily desire are all alien to every part of his divine kinship. To name such things 'possessions' is correct because they do not come to be with us but come to be possessed by us later on, wherefore we call them by the name 'possessions.' Everything of this kind, then, is alien to mankind, even the body, and we should despise both the things we yearn for and the source within us of the vice of yearning. The aim of the argument leads me to think that mankind was bound to be <human> only to this extent, that by contemplating divinity he should scorn and despise that mortal part joined to him by the need to preserve the lower world. Now in order for mankind in both his parts to have all that he can, note that he was formed with a quaternary of elements in either part: with pairs of hands and feet and other bodily members to serve the lower or earthy world; and with those four faculties of thought, consciousness, memory and foresight by means of which he knows all things divine and looks up to them. Hence, searching warily, mankind hunts in things for variations, qualities, effects and quantities, and yet, because the heavy and excessive vice of body slows him down, he cannot rightly discern the true causes of their nature.

 

Therefore, given that mankind was made and shaped in this way and that the supreme god appointed him to such duty and service, if he observes the worldy order in an orderly way, if he adores god faithfully, complying duly and worthily with god's will in both its aspects, with what prize do you believe such a being should be presented? (Seeing that the world is god's work, one who attentively preserves and enriches its beauty conjoins his own work with god's will when, lending his body in daily work and care, he arranges the scene formed by god's divine intention.) Is it not the prize our parents had, the one we wish - in most faithful prayer - may be presented to us as well if it be agreeable to divine fidelity: the prize, that is, of discharge and release from worldly custody, of loosing the bonds of mortality so that god may restore us, pure and holy, to the nature of our higher part, to the divine?"

 

[12] "What you say is right and true, Trismegistus."

 

"Yes, this is the payment for those who live faithfully under g

od, who live attentively with the world. For the unfaithful it goes differently: return to heaven is denied them, and a vile migration unworthy of a holy soul puts them in other bodies."

 

"As the pattern of your discourse has developed, Trismegistus, it seems that souls run a great risk in this earthly life regarding hope of eternity to come."

 

"Of course, but some find this incredible, others fictitious, others laughable perhaps. For in this bodily life the pleasure one takes from possessions is a delight, but this delight, as they say, is a noose round the soul's neck that keeps mankind tied to the part that makes him mortal, nor does the malice that begrudges immortality let him acknowledge the part of divinity in him. Speaking as a prophet, I will tell you that after us will remain none of that simple regard for philosophy found only in the continuing reflection and holy reverence by which one must recognize divinity. The many make philosophy obscure in the multiplicity of their reasoning."

 

"What is it that the many do to make philosophy incomprehensible? How do they obscure it in the multiplicity of their reasoning?"

 

[13] "In this way, Asclepius: by combining it through ingenious argument with various branches of study that are not comprehensible - arithmetike and music and geometry. Pure philosophy that depends only on reverence for god should attend to these other matters only to wonder at the recurrence of the stars, how their measure stays constant in prescribed stations and in the orbit of their turning; it should learn the dimensions, qualities and quantities of the land, the depths of the sea, the power of fire and the nature and effects of all such things in order to commend, worship and wonder at the skill and mind of god. Knowing music is nothing more than being versed in the correct sequence of all things together as allotted by divine reason. By divine song, this sequencing or marshalling of each particular thing into a single whole through reason's craftwork produces a certain concord - very sweet and very true."

 

[14] "Accordingly, the people who will come after us, deceived by the ingenuity of sophists, will be estranged from the true, pure and holy philosophy. To adore the godhead with simple mind and soul and to honor his works, also to give thanks to god's will (which alone is completely filled with good), this is a philosophy unprofaned by relentlessly curious thinking."

 

"And this is our account of these topics. From this point let us begin the treatment of spirit and related matters."

 

"There was god and hule (which we take as the Greek for 'matter'), and attending matter was spirit, or rather spirit was in matter, but it was not in matter as it was in god nor as the things from which the world came were in god. Because these things had not come to be, they were not as yet, but by then they already were in that from which they had their coming to be. Not only of those that have not yet come to be, but also of those that lack the fertility for breeding so that nothing can come to be from them, is it said that they do not produce being. Therefore, things can breed that have in them a nature capable of breeding; something can come to be from them even though they have come to be from themselves (for there is no doubt that the things from which all come to be can easily come to be from those that have come to be from themselves). The everlasting god, god eternal, neither can nor could have come to be - that which is, which was, which always will be. This is the nature of god, then, which is wholly from itself."

 

"But hule (or the nature of matter) and spirit, though from the beginning they seem not to have come to be, nonetheless possess in themselves the power and nature of coming to be and procreating. For the beginning of fertility is in the quality of nature, which possesses in itself the power and the material for conceiving and giving birth. Nature, therefore, can breed alone without conceiving by another."

 

[15] "By contrast, things that have the power to conceive only by coupling with natures outside themselves must be divided in such a way that the place of the world along with its contents are seen not to have come to be - which place in any event has in itself the power of the whole of nature. 'Place' I call that in which all things are, for none of them could have been, lacking a place to keep them all (a place must be provided for everything that is to be); the fact is, that if things were nowhere, one could not distinguish their qualities, quantities, positions or effects."

 

"Therefore, although matter did not come to be, it nonetheless has in itself the natures of all things inasmuch as it furnishes them most fertile wombs for conceiving. The whole of matter's quality, then, is to be creative, even though it was not created. Just as there is a fertile quality in the nature of matter, so also is the same matter equally fertile in malice."

 

[16] "Thus, Asclepius and Hammon, I have not said what the many say: 'Was god not able to put an end to evil and banish it from nature?' One need not respond to them at all, but for your sake I shall pursue this question as well since I have opened it, and I will give you an answer. Now these people say that god should have freed the world of every kind of evil, yet evil is so much in the world that it seems almost to be an organ of the world. Acting as reasonably as possible, the supreme god took care to provide against evil when he deigned to endow human minds with consciousness, learning and understanding, for it is these gifts alone, by which we surpass other living things, that enable us to avoid the tricks, snares and vices of evil. He that avoids them on sight, before they entangle him, that person has been fortified by divine understanding and foresight, for the foundation of learning resides in the highest good."

 

"Spirit supplies and invigorates all things in the world; like an instrument or a mechanism it is subject to the will of the supreme god. For now let this be our understanding of these issues."

 

"Understood by mind alone, the god called 'supreme' is ruler and governor of that sensible god who encloses within him all place, all the substance of things, all the matter of things that produce and procreate, all that there is whatsoever and however much there is. [17] But spirit stirs and governs all the forms in the world, each according to the nature allotted it by god. Hule or matter, however, receives them all, <spirit> stirs and concentrates them all, and god governs them, apportioning to all things in the world as much as each one needs. He fills them all with spirit, breathing it into each thing according to the quality of its nature."

 

"This hollow of the world, round like a sphere, cannot itself, because of its quality or shape, be wholly visible. Choose any place high on the sphere from which to look down, and you cannot see bottom from there. Because of this, many believe that it has the same quality as place. They believe it is visible after a fashion, but only through shapes of the forms whose images seem to be imprinted when one shows a picture of it. In itself, however, the real thing remains always invisible. Hence, the bottom - {if it is a part or a place} in the sphere - is called Haides in Greek because in Greek 'to see' is idein, and there is no-seeing the bottom of a sphere. And the forms are called 'ideas' because they are visible forms. The <regions> called Haides in Greek because they are deprived of visibility are called 'infernal' in Latin because they are at the bottom of the sphere."

 

"Such, then, are the original things, the primeval things, the sources or beginnings of all, as it were, for all are in them or through them or from them."

 

[18] "All these of which you speak, Trismegistus, what are they?"

 

"The whole substance of all the forms in the world and of each one of them in its normal state is, if I may say so, 'material.' Matter nourishes bodies; spirit nourishes souls. But consciousness, the heavenly gift that is happiness for humanity alone (not all humans, but only the few who have the mind to contain so great a bounty - as the sun lights up the world, so the human mind shines with the light of consciousness, but it is greater, for whatever the sun illuminates is sometimes deprived of its light by the interposition of earth and moon and the intervening night), consciousness, once coupled with the human soul, becomes one material in the closely joined coupling, so that minds of this sort are never obstructed by the errors of darkness. They are right who have said that the soul of the gods is consciousness, though I say it is the soul not of all gods but only of the great and original gods."

 

[19] "Which gods do you call the sources of things or the first beginnings, Trismegistus?"

 

"Longing for heaven's favor, I begin by disclosing great things to you and exposing divine mysteries."

 

"There are many kinds of gods, of whom one part is intelligible, the other sensible. Gods are not said to be intelligible because they are considered beyond the reach of our faculties; in fact, we are more conscious of these intelligible gods than of those we call visible, as you will be able to see from our discussion if you pay attention. For my discourse is indeed a lofty one, all the more divine for remaining beyond human thought and effort, and, unless your ears take in the words I speak and do heedful service, my discourse will fly past you and flow by you or rather flow back within itself, mixing with the streaming of its source."

 

"The heads of all classes are gods, after whom come gods who have a head-<of>-ousia; these are the sensible gods, true to both their origins, who produce everything throughout sensible nature, one thing through another, each god illuminating his own work. The ousiarches of heaven (whatever one means by that word) is Jupiter, for Jupiter supplies life through heaven to all things. Light is the ousiarches of the sun, for the blessing of light pours down on us through the orb of the sun. The thirty-six (the term is 'horoscopes'), the stars that are always fixed in the same place, have as their head or ousiarches the one called Pantomorphos or Omniform, who makes various forms within various classes. The so-called seven spheres have the ousiarchai or heads called Fortune and Heimarmene, whereby all tings change according to nature's law and a steadfast stability that stirs in everlasting variation. Air is the instrument or mechanism of all the gods, that through which all things are made; its ousiarches is the second...."

 

"... to mortals the mortal and to them their like. Given such conditions, all things from bottom to top {reach out to one another and link together in mutual connections. But ...} mortals are attached to immortals and sensibles to insensibles. And the whole of it complies with that supreme governor, the master, so that really there are not many, but rather one. In fact, all depend from one and flow from it though they seem separated and are believed to be many. Taken together, however, they are one or rather two, whence all are made and by which they are made - out of the matter, in other words, of which they are made, and from the will of him whose assent makes them different."

 

[20] "Once more, Trismegistus, what does this explanation say?"

 

"This, Asclepius: God, father, master of all, whatever name people use to call him something holier or more reverent, a name that should be sacred among us because of the understanding we have (given the greatness of this divinity, none of these titles will name him precisely; if a word is this - the sound of spirit striking the air and declaring a person's whole wish or meaning as his mind happens to grasp it from the senses, a name, its whole content defined and circumscribed, composed of a few syllables, providing the necessary exchange between human voice and ears - then the whole of god's name also includes meaning and spirit and air and everything at once that is in them or through them or from them; no, I cannot hope to name the maker of all majesty, the father and master of everything, with a single name, even a name composed of many names; he is nameless or rather he is all-named since his is one and all, so that one must call all things by his name or call him by the names of everything), god, the only and the all, completely full of the fertility of both sexes and ever pregnant with his own will, always begets whatever he wishes to procreate. His will is all goodness. From his divinity the same goodness that is in all things came to be naturally so that tall might be as they are and were, so that to all things to come hereafter they might provide the power to come to be of themselves. This is the explanation given to you. Asclepius, why and how all things are made."

 

[21] "Do you say that god is of both sexes, Trismegistus?"

 

"Not only god, Asclepius, but all things ensouled and soulless, for it is impossible for any of the things that are to be infertile. Take away fertility from all the things that now exist, and it will be impossible for them to be forever. I say {that sensation and growth are also in the nature of things, that the world} contains growth within it and preserves all that have come to be. For each sex is full of fecundity, and the linking of the two or, more accurately, their union is incomprehensible. If you call it Cupid or Venus or both, you will be correct."

"Grasp this in your mind as truer and plainer than anything else: that god, this master of the whole of nature, devised and granted to all things this mystery of procreation unto eternity, in which arose the greatest affection, pleasure, gaiety, desire and love divine. One should explain how great is the force and compulsion of this mystery, were it not that each individual already knows from contemplation and inward consciousness. For if you take note of that final moment to which we come after constant rubbing when each of the two natures pours its issue into the other and one hungrily snatches <love> from the other and buries it deeper, finally at that moment from the common coupling females gain the potency of males and males are exhausted with the lethargy of females. Therefore, the act of this mystery, so sweet and vital, is done in secret so that the divinity that arises in both natures from the sexual coupling should not be forced to feel the shame that would come from the laughter of the ignorant if it happened in public or, much worse, if it were open to the sight of irreverent people."

 

[22] "The reverent are not many, in any case, no more than a few whose number in the world can be counted, whence it happens that evil remains in the many because they lack wisdom and knowledge of all the things that are. Scorn for the vices of the whole world - and a cure for those vices - comes from understanding the divine plan upon which all things have been based. But when ignorance and folly persist, all vices thrive and wound the soul with incurable disorders. Tainted and corrupted by them, the soul grows inflamed as if poisoned - except the souls of those who have the sovereign remedy of learning and understanding."

 

"Therefore, since my help is only for the few, it will be worthwhile to follow and finish this treatise, which tells why divinity deigned to impart its understanding and learning to humans alone. Hear me, then."

 

"God, the father and master, made gods first and then humans, taking equal portions from the more corrupt part of matter and from the divine; thus it happened that the vices of matter remained coupled with bodies, along with other vices caused by the foods and sustenance that we are obliged to share with all living things. Hence it is inevitable that the longings of desire and the other vices of mind sink into human souls. Even though immortality and unaging vigor were wisdom and learning enough for the gods, who were made of nature's cleanest part and had no need of help from reason and learning, nonetheless, because god's plan was a unity, he established in eternal law an order of necessity framed in law, which stood in place of learning and understanding lest the gods be detached from them, for among all living things god recognized mankind by the unique reason and learning through which humans could banish and spurn the vices of bodies, and he made them reach for immortality as their hope and intention. In short, god made mankind good and capable of immortality through his two natures, divine and mortal, and so god willed the arrangement whereby mankind was ordained to be better than the gods, who were formed only from the immortal nature, and better than all other mortals as well. Consequently, since he is conjoined to them in kinship, mankind honors the gods with reverent and holy mind; the gods also show concern for all things human and watch over them in faithful affection. [23] But one may say this only of the few people endowed with faithful mind. Of the vice-ridden say nothing, lest we profane this most holy discourse by considering them."

 

"And since this discourse proclaims to us the kinship and association between humans and gods, Asclepius, you must recognize mankind's power and strength. Just as the master and father - or god, to use his most august name - is maker of the heavenly gods, so it is mankind who fashions the temple gods who are content to be near to humans. Not only is mankind glorified; he glorifies as well. He not only advances toward god; he also makes the gods strong. Are you surprised, Asclepius? Surely you do not lack confidence, as the many do."

 

"I am confused, Trismegistus, but I gladly agree to what you say, and I find mankind most fortunate to have attained such happiness."

"Mankind certainly deserves admiration, as the greatest of all beings. All plainly admit that the race of gods sprang from the cleanest part of nature and that their signs are like heads that stand for the whole being. But the figures of gods that humans form have been formed of both natures - from the divine, which is purer and more divine by far, and from the material of which they are built, whose nature falls short of the human - and they represent not only the heads but all the limbs and the whole body. Always mindful of its nature and origin, humanity persists in imitating divinity, representing its gods semblance of its own features, just as the father and master made his gods eternal to resemble him."

 

[24] "Are you talking about statues, Trismegistus?"

 

"Statues, Asclepius, yes. See how little trust you have! I mean statues ensouled and conscious, filled with spirit and doing great deeds; statues that foreknow the future and predict it by lots, by prophecy, by dreams and by many other means; statues that make people ill and cure them, bringing them pain and pleasure as each deserves."

 

[24] "Do you not know, Asclepius, that Egypt is an image of heaven or, to be more precise, that everything governed and moved in heaven came down to Egypt and was transferred there? If truth were told, our land is the temple of the whole world."

 

[24] "And yet, since it befits the wise to know all things in advance, of this you must not remain ignorant: a time will come when it will appear that the Egyptians paid respect to divinity with faithful mind and painstaking reverence - to no purpose. All their holy worship will be disappointed and perish without effect, for divinity will return from earth to heaven, and Egypt will be abandoned. The land that was the seat of reverence will be widowed by the powers and left destitute of their presence. When foreigners occupy the land and territory, not only will reverence fall into neglect but, even harder, a prohibition under penalty prescribed by law (so-called) will be enacted against reverence, fidelity and divine worship. Then this most holy land, seat of shrines and temples, will be filled completely with tombs and corpses."

 

"O Egypt, Egypt, of your reverent deeds only stories will survive, and they will be incredible to your children! Only words cut in stone will survive to tell your faithful works, and the Scythian or Indian or some such neighbor barbarian will dwell in Egypt. For divinity goes back to heaven, and all the people will die, deserted, as Egypt will be widowed and deserted by god and human. I call to you, most holy river, and I tell your future: a torrent of blood will fill you to the banks, and you will burst over them; not only will blood pollute your divine waters, it will also make them break out everywhere, and the number of the entombed will be much larger than the living. Whoever survives will be recognized as Egyptian only by his language; in his actions he will seem a foreigner."

 

[25] "Asclepius, why do you weep? Egypt herself will be persuaded to deeds much wickeder than these, and she will be steeped in evils far worse. A land once holy, most loving of divinity, by reason of her reverence the only land on earth where the gods settled, she who taught holiness and fidelity will be an example of utter <un>belief. In their weariness the people of that time will find the world nothing to wonder at or to worship. This all - a good thing that never had nor has nor will have its better - will be endangered. People will find it oppressive and scorn it. They will not cherish this entire world, a work of god beyond compare, a glorious construction, a bounty composed of images in multiform variety, a mechanism for god's will ungrudgingly supporting his work, making a unity of everything that can be honored, praised and finally loved by those who see it, a multiform accumulation taken as a single thing."

 

"They will prefer shadows to light, and they will find death more expedient than life. No one will look up to heaven. The reverent will be thought mad, the irreverent wise; the lunatic will be thought brave and the scoundrel will be taken for a decent person. Soul and all teachings about soul (that soul began as immortal or else expects to attain immortality) as I revealed them to you will be considered not simply laughable but even illusory. But - believe me - whoever dedicates himself to reverence of mind will find himself facing a capital penalty. They will establish new laws, new justice. Nothing holy, nothing reverent nor worthy of heaven or heavenly beings will be heard of or believed in the mind."

 

"How mournful when the gods withdraw from mankind! Only the baleful angels remain to mingle with humans, seizing the wretches and driving them to every outrageous crime - war, looting, trickery and all that is contrary to the nature of souls. Then neither will the earth stand firm nor the sea be sailable; stars will not cross heaven nor will the course of the stars stand firm in heaven. Every divine voice will grow mute in enforced silence. The fruits of the earth will rot; the soil will no more be fertile; and the very air will droop in gloomy lethargy."

 

[26] "Such will be the old age of the world: irreverence, disorder, disregard for everything good. When all this comes to pass, Asclepius, then the master and father, the god whose power is primary, governor of the first god, will look on this conduct and these willful crimes, and in an act of will - which is god's benevolence - he will take his stand against the vices and the perversion in everything, righting wrongs, washing away malice in a flood or consuming it in fire or ending it by spreading pestilential disease everywhere. Then he will restore the world to its beauty of old so that the world itself will again seem deserving of worship and wonder, and with constant benedictions and proclamations of praise the people of that time will honor the god who makes and restores so great a work. And this will be the geniture of the world: a reformation of all good things and a restitution, most holy and most reverent, of nature itself, reordered in the course of time <but through an act of will,> which is and was everlasting and without beginning. For god's will has no beginning; it remains the same, everlasting in its present state. God's nature is deliberation; will is the supreme goodness."

 

"Deliberation <is will>, Trismegistus?"

 

"Will comes to be from deliberation, Asclepius, and the very act of willing comes from will. Gods wills nothing in excess since he is completely full of all things and wills what he has. He wills all that is good, and he has all that he wills. All things are good that he considers and wills. Such is god, and the world is his image - <good> from good."

 

[27] "Good, Trismegistus?"

 

"Good, Asclepius, as I shall teach you. for just as god dispenses and distributes his bounty - consciousness, soul and life - to all forms and kinds in the world, so the world grants and supplies all that mortals deem good, the succession of seasons, fruits emerging, growing and ripening, and other such things. And thus, seated atop the summit of the highest heaven, god is everywhere and surveys everything all around. For there is a starless place beyond heaven remote from all bodily objects. The one who dispenses <life,> whom we call Jupiter, occupies the place between heaven and earth. But Jupiter Plutonius rules over earth and sea, and it is he who nourishes mortal things that have soul and bear fruit. The powers of these gods invigorate crops, trees and soil, but powers and effects of other gods will be distributed through all things that are. The gods who rule the earth will <withdraw>, and they will be stationed in a city founded at Egypt's farthest border toward the setting sun, where the whole race of mortals will hasten by land and sea."

 

"But tell me where these gods of yours are now, Trismegistus?"

 

"Stationed in the great city on the Libyan mountain. And, for the time being, let that be their story."

 

"We must talk now about the immortal and the mortal, for anticipation and fear of death torture the many who do not know the true account of it. Death results from the disintegration of a body worn out with work, after the time has passed when the body's members fit into a single mechanism with vital functions. The body dies, in fact, when it can no longer support a person's vital processes. This is death, then: the body's disintegration and the extinction of bodily consciousness. Worrying about it is pointless. But there is another problem worth worrying about, though people disregard it out of ignorance or disbelief."

 

"What is it that they ignore, Trismegistus, or whose possibility they question?"

 

[28] "Listen then, Asclepius. When soul withdraws from the body, it passes to the jurisdiction of the chief demon who weighs and judges its merit, and if he finds it faithful and upright, he lets it stay in places suitable to it. But if he sees the soul smeared with the stains of wrongdoing and dirtied with vice, he sends it tumbling down from on high to the depths below and consigns it to the storms and whirlpools of air, fire and water in their ceaseless clashing - its endless punishment to be swept back and forth between heaven and earth in the streams of matter. Then the soul's bane is its own eternity, for an undying sentence oppresses it with eternal torment. To escape this snare, let us recognize what we must fear, dread and avoid. After they have done wrong, the unbelievers will be forced to believe, not by words but by example, not threats but real suffering of punishment."

 

"Is it not human law only that punishes the wrongs that humans do, Trismegistus?"

 

"In the first place, Asclepius, everything earthly is mortal, as are also those beings that live in a bodily state and fade from life in that same bodily state. They are all subject to penalties after death are more severe in so far as their wrongdoing may have been hidden during life. The divinity foreknows all of it, so one pays the penalty precisely in proportion to one's wrongdoing."

 

[29] "Who deserve the greater penalties, Trismegistus?"

 

"Those condemned by human laws who lose their lives violently so that they seem to have been penalized deservedly and not to have paid their debt to nature with a soul. On the other hand, the upright person's defence lies in reverence for god and supreme fidelity. God protects such people from all evils. For the father and master of all, who alone is all, shows himself freely to all - not where as in a place nor how as through some quality nor how much as in a quantity but by illuminating people with the understanding that comes only through mind. And when the shadows of error have been scattered from a person's soul and he has perceived the light of truth, he couples himself with divine understanding in his whole consciousness, and when his love of it has freed him from the part of nature that makes him mortal, he conceives confidence in immortality to come. This is what will separate the good from the wicked. When he has seen the light of reason as if with his eyes, every good person is enlightened by fidelity, reverence, wisdom, worship and respect for god, and the confidence of his belief puts him as far from humanity as the sun outshines the stars. In fact, the sun illuminates the other stars not so much by the intensity of its light as by its divinity and holiness. The sun is indeed a second god, Asclepius, believe it, governing all things and shedding light on all that are in the world, ensouled and soulless."

 

"For if the world was and is and will be a living thing that lives forever, nothing in the world is mortal. Since each part of it, as such in its actual state, lives forever and also lives in a world which is itself a single living thing that lives forever, there is no place in it for mortality, so if the world must always live, the world must be completely full of life and eternity. Just as the world is everlasting, then, so the sun is ever the governor of things that have life and of all their power to live, dispensing and continuing it. Hence, god is the everlasting governor of things living in the world and of those that have life, and he dispenses this life eternally. He dispensed it all at once, however: life is supplied by eternal law to all that have it, in the way that I shall describe."

 

[30] "Eternity's lifegiving power stirs the world, and the place of the world is in living eternity itself; since everlasting life hedges it about and, in a manner of speaking, holds it together, the world will never stop moving nor be destroyed. The world itself dispenses life to everything in it, and it is the place of all things governed under the sun. The world's motion is a twofold activity: eternity enlivens the world from without, and the world enlivens all within it, dispersing them all according to numbers and times fixed and appointed by the action of the sun and the movements of the stars, the whole chronological scheme framed in divine law. On earth one tells time by the quality of the air and the change of hot seasons and cold, but in heaven time runs by the return of the coursing stars to the same places in chronological cycles. The world is time's receptacle; the cycling and stirring of time invigorate it. Yet time works by orderly rule: order and time cause the renewal of everything in the world through alternation. Nothing in this situation is stable, nothing fixed, nothing immobile among things that come to be in heaven and earth: the lone exception is god, and rightly he alone, for he is whole, full and perfect in himself and by himself and about himself. He is his own steadfast stability, and no external impulse can move him from his place since everything is in him and he alone in everything - unless one ventures to say that his motion is in eternity. But eternity, toward which all the stirring of the time recedes and from which all the stirring of time taken its rise, is itself immobile."

 

[31] "Therefore, god has <always> been stable, and eternity likewise has always stood still along with him, holding within it a world that had not come to be, the one we correctly call sensible. This sensible world, which imitates eternity, was made in the image of that god. Though it always stirs, time in its own way still has the power and character of stability by the very necessity of recurring upon itself. Thus, although eternity is stable, immobile and fixed, yet because the stirring of time (which moves) always comes back to eternity and because the movement turns in a temporal pattern, it happens that eternity (which in itself does not move) seems to be stirred through the time in which it is, and it is in time that all the stirring goes on. So it happens that eternity's stability is moved and that time's mobility becomes stable by the fixed law of its cycle. Thus may one also believe that god stirs within himself - but in the same immobility, for because of its immensity the stirring of his stability is in fact immobile. The law of immensity itself is immobile. This being, then, which is not of a kind to be accessible to the senses, lies beyond limitation, comprehension and calculation. It cannot be carried or fetched or hunted down. Where it is, whither it goes, whence it came, how it acts, what it is - uncertain. It carries on in exalted stability, and its stability acts within it: god, eternity, both, one in the other or both in both. Consequently, eternity as no limitation within time. But time, granted that it can be limited by number or alternation or periodic return through recurrence, is eternal. Both are infinite, then; both seem eternal. For stability, firmly fixed to sustain the things that can be stirred, rightly takes first place owing to its steadfastness."

 

[32] "The beginnings of everything, then, are god and eternity. But because it is mobile the world does not hold first place; mobility exceeds stability in it even though, conforming to the law that keeps it ever stirring, it has a steadfastness free of motion."

 

"The total consciousness that resembles divinity, immobile in itself, moves itself in its own stability. It is holy, uncorrupted, everlasting and whatever one can say better of it - if anything can be better than the eternity of the supreme god that rests in truth itself - completely full of all sensible forms and of the whole ordering, resting, so to speak, with god. The world's consciousness is the receptacle of all sensible forms and orderings. But to be mindful of all that it has done, human <consciousness depends on> memory's tenacity. In its descent, the divinity of consciousness reaches down only as far as the human animal, for the supreme god did not want the divine consciousness to mingle with every living thing. He did not want it to be ashamed from coupling with the other living things. The understanding of human consciousness, what it is and how great it is, comes entirely from memory of past events. (Because of his tenacity of memory, he was even made governor of earth.) The understanding of nature, however, and the quality of the world's consciousness can be fully perceived from all the things in the world that sense can detect. Eternity's understanding, which comes next, is a consciousness gained from the sensible world, from which its quality can be discerned. But the quality of consciousness in the supreme god and the understanding of that quality is truth alone. Not a shadow, not even the faintest trace of this truth can be discerned in the world, for there is falsehood wherever one discerns anything by measuring time, and where there is geniture one finds error."

 

"So you see the depth of the subjects we deal with, Asclepius, and what we venture to achieve. But to you, supreme god, I give thanks for enlightening me with the light by which divinity can be seen. And you, Tat and Asclepius and Hammon, hide these divine mysteries among the secrets of your heart and shield them with silence."

 

"Understanding differs from consciousness in this, however: that our understanding comes to understand and discern the quality of the consciousness of the world by concentrating the mind, while the world's understanding comes to know eternity and the gods who are above the world. And thus it comes about that we humans see the things that are in heaven as if through a mist, to the extent that we can, given the condition of human consciousness. When it comes to seeing great things, our concentration is quite confined, but once it has seen, the happiness of our awareness is vast."

 

[33] "On the void that so many consider an important topic now, I hold the following: there is no such thing as a void, nor can there have been, nor will there ever be. For all the members of the world are completely full so that the world itself is complete and filled with bodies diverse in quality and form, each having its own shape and size. Some are larger than others, some smaller, and they differ in density and rarity. The denser, like the larger, are easier to see, but the smaller and rarer are very difficult or altogether impossible to see, and we can detect them only by touch. Hence, many believe that these are not bodies and that they are empty places - which is impossible. For just as that which is said to be 'beyond the world' (if there is any such thing, I do not believe that <it is void>) is full of intelligible things resembling it in divinity, as I take it, so also is this world that we call 'sensible' completely full of bodies and living things that conform to its nature and quality. We do not see them all in their true aspects, but some as far too large, others as much too tiny; they look like this to us either because they are far away from us or because our eyes have gone bad. Or else, because they are so very tiny, many believe that they do not exist at all. (I am speaking now of the demons who always stay near us, so I believe, and the heroes who dwell between the purest part of the air above us and the place where there are no fogs or clouds or disturbance from the stirring of the signs.)

 

Consequently, Asclepius, you are to call nothing 'void' unless you mean to say that what you call 'void' is 'void-of' something - void of fire or void of water and so on. Thus, though one may see something that can be void of such things as these, in no even can it be empty of spirit and air, no matter how small or large the thing that seems void."

 

[34] "One must say the same about place, which lacks meaning as a term in isolation. For the evidence of place is from that whose place it is; indeed, take away this most important feature, and you truncate the sense of the word. This is why we may speak correctly of the place of water, the place of fire, and so on. Just as it is impossible for anything to be void, so the meaning of place in isolation is indiscernible. If you assume a place apart from that of which it is the place, it would seem to be an empty place, which, I believe, cannot exist in the world. If nothing is void, it is also evident that nothing is place as such, except as you add visible marks to it - length, breadth, height - as you would to human bodies."

 

"Asclepius and the rest of you here: given these conditions, know that the intelligible world, discernible only through mind's intuition, is incorporeal and that nothing corporeal can be combined with its nature, nothing discernible by quality, quantity and number, for there is no such thing in it."

 

"The world called 'sensible' is the receptacle of all the sensible forms or qualities of bodies, none of which can be invigorated without god. For god is everything; everything comes from him; everything depends on his will. And the whole of it is good, fair, wise, inimitable, to god alone sensible and intelligible. Without god there was nothing, nor is, nor will be, for all things are from him, in him and through him: qualities multiform and various, great quantities, all immeasurable magnitudes and omniform forms. If you come to understand them, Asclepius, you will thank god. And if you consider the whole. you will learn that the sensible world itself and all it contains are in truth covered over by that higher world as if by a garment."

 

[35] "Each kind of living thing, Asclepius, no matter whether mortal or immortal, rational <or irrational>, whether ensouled or soulless, every one has the appearance of its kind in keeping with its relation to the kind. And although each kind of living thing possess the whole form of its kind, within that same form each of them differs from the other: for example, although man-kind is one in form, so that a human can be distinguished on sight, each person within the same form differs from the others. For the class is divine and incorporeal, as is anything apprehended by the mind. Therefore, since these two components that make up forms are bodies <and> the non-bodily, it is impossible for any form to come to be in close similarity with another at distant points of time and latitude. The forms change as often as the hour has moments in the turning circle where the god resides whom we have called Omniform. The class persists, begetting copies of itself as often, as many and as diverse as the rotation of the world has moments. As it rotates the world changes, but the class neither changes nor rotates. Thus, the forms of each kind persist, though within the same form there are differences."

 

[36] "And does the world change its form, Trismegistus?"

 

"You see, Asclepius: it is as if I had been telling you all this in your sleep. What is the world, really? Of what does it consist if not of all the things that have come to be? What you mean to ask about, then, is heaven, earth and the elements. What else changes its form more continually? Heaven becomes wet or dry, cold or hot, clear or foul; these forms keep changing into one another under the one form of heaven. Earth is always undergoing many transformations in form as it begets its fruits, as it promotes the growth of what it has begotten, and as it produces the various qualities and different quantities of all its fruits, their stages or courses of growth, and especially the qualities, odors, tastes and forms of trees, flowers and shrubs. Fire causes many alterations that are divine. Indeed, the appearances of sun and moon are omniform, rather like our mirrors that reproduce likenesses through reflections comparable in brilliance. [37] But now enough has been said of such things."

 

"Let us turn again to mankind and reason, that divine gift whereby a human is called a rational animal. What we have said of mankind is wondrous, but less wondrous than this: it exceeds the wonderment of all wonders that humans have been able to discover the divine nature and how to make it. Our ancestors once erred gravely on the theory of divinity; they were unbelieving and inattentive to worship and reverence for god. But then they discovered the art of making gods. To their discovery they added a conformable power arising from the nature of matter. Because they could not make souls, they mixed this power in and called up the souls of demons or angels and implanted them in likenesses through holy and divine mysteries, whence the idols could have the power to do good and evil."

"Take your ancestor, for example: he was the first to discover medicine, Asclepius. They dedicated a temple to him on the Libyan mountain near the shore of the crocodiles. There lies his material person - his body, in other words. The rest, or rather, the whole of him (if the whole person consists in consciousness of life) went back happier to heaven. Even now he still provides help to sick people by his divine power, as he used to offer it through the art of medicine. And Hermes, whose family name I bear, does he not dwelling his native city that was named for him, where mortals come from all around for his aid and protection? Isis, wife of Osiris: we know how much good she can do when well disposed, when angered how much harm! Anger comes easily to earthly and material gods because humans have made and assembled them from both natures. Whence it happens that these are called holy animals by the Egyptians, who throughout their cities worship the souls of those deified while alive, in order that cities might go on living by their laws and calling themselves by their names. For this reason, Asclepius, because what one group worships and honors another group treats differently, Egypt's cities constantly assail one another in war."

 

[38] "And the quality of these gods who are considered earthly - what sort of thing is it, Trismegistus?"

 

"It comes from a mixture of plants, stones and spices, Asclepius, that have in them a natural power of divinity. And this is why those god are entertained with constant sacrifices, with hymns, praises and sweet sounds in tune with heaven's harmony: so that the heavenly ingredient enticed into the idol by constant communication with heaven may gladly endure its long stay among humankind. Thus does man fashion his gods."

 

"Do not suppose that these earthly gods act aimlessly, Asclepius. Heavenly gods inhabit heaven's heights, each one heading up the order assigned to him and watching over it. But here below our gods render aid to humans as if through loving kinship, looking after some things individually, foretelling some things through lots and divination, and planning ahead to give help by other means, each in his own way."

 

 

[39] "Then what part of the plan belongs to Heimarmene or the Fates, Trismegistus? The heavenly gods rule universals, but singulars belong to the earthly gods - correct?"

"What we call Heimarmene, Asclepius, is the necessity in all events, which are always bound to one another by links that form a chain. She is the maker of everything, then, or else the supreme god, or the second god made by the supreme god, or the ordering of all things in heaven and earth made steadfast by divine laws. Therefore, this Heimarmene and Necessity are bound to one another by an unbreakable glue, and, of the two, Heimarmene comes first, begetting the sources of all things, but the things that depend on her beginning them are forced into activity by Necessity. What follows them both is Order, the structure and temporal arrangement of the things that must be brought about. For without the fitting together of an order, there is nothing, and in everything the world's order is complete. Order is the vehicle of the world itself, and the whole consists of order."

 

[40] "These three, then - Heimarmene, Necessity and Order - are in the very fullest sense the products of god's assent, who governs the world by his own law and divine plan, and god has barred them altogether from every act of willing or willing-not. Not disturbed by anger nor swayed by kindness. they subject themselves to the necessity of the eternal plan. And the plan is eternity itself: irresistible, immovable, indestructible. First comes Heimarmene, then, who provides progeny enough for all to come with the seed she has sown, as it were, and Necessity follows, forcing them all into activity by compulsion. Order comes third to preserve the structure of the things that Heimarmene and Necessity arrange. This is eternity, then, which can neither begin to be nor cease being, which turns round and round in everlasting motion under the fixed and unchanging law of its cycle, its parts rising and falling time and again so that as time changes the same parts that had fallen rise anew. Circularity gives the turning a pattern that crowds everything together so that you cannot know where the turning starts (assuming that it starts) since everything always seems to follow and also to precede itself. But accident and chance are also mixed into everything material in the world."

 

"I have told you everything that a human being could say, with god's willingness and permission. Blessing god and praying, it remains for us only to return to the care of the body. We have dealt engouth with theology, and we souls have eaten our fill, so to speak."

[41] As they left the sancturary, they began praying to god and turning to the south (for when someone wants to entread god at sunset, he should direct his gaze to that quarter, and likewise at sunrise toward the direction they call east), and they were already saying their prayer when in a hushed voice Asclepius asked: "Tat, do you think we should suggest that your father tell them to add frankincense and spices as we pray to god?"

 

When Trismegistus heard him, he was disturbed and said: "A bad omen, Asclepius, very bad. To burn incense and such stuff when you entreat god smacks of sacrilege. For he wants nothing who is himself all things or in whom all things are. Rather let us worship him by giving thanks, for god finds mortal gratitude to be the best incense."

 

"We thank you, supreme and most high god, by whose grace alone we have attained the light of your knowledge; holy name that must be honored, the one name by which our ancestral faith blesses god alone, we thank you who deign to grant to all a father's fidelity, reverence and love, along with any power that is sweeter, by giving us the gift of consciousness, reason and understanding:

consciousness, by which we may know you;

 

reason, by which we may seek you in our dim suppositions;

 

knowledge, by which we may rejoice in knowing you.

 

And we who are saved by your power do indeed rejoice because you have shown yourself to us wholly. We rejoice that you have deigned to make us gods for eternity even while we depend on the body. For this is mankind's only means of giving thanks: knowledge of your majesty.

 

We have known you, the vast light perceived only by reason.

 

We have understood you, true life of life, the womb pregnant with all coming-to-be.

 

We have known you, who persist eternally by conceiving all coming-to-be in its perfect fullness.

 

Worshiping with this entire prayer the good of your goodness, we ask only this, that you wish us to persist in the love of your knowledge and that we never be cut off from such a life as this."

 

"With such hopes we turn to a pure meal that includes no living thing."

 
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