(1906) by g.r.s mead
Corpus Hermeticum represents a linie of ancient Western mystecism
and magic that was lost but was rediscovered at the renaissance.
It reveals a number of fundamental assumptions on the structure
and divine mechanisms of the universe which form the basis of
Western magical thinking even today.
translation (1650) by John Everard is avalable here
the Shepherd of Men
on the text: This is the most famous of the Hermetic documents,
a revelation account describing a vision of the creation of the
universe and the nature and fate of humanity. Authors from the
Renaissance onward have been struck by the way in which its creation
myth seems partly inspired by Genesis, partly reacting against
it. The Fall has here become the descent of the Primal Man through
the spheres of the planets to the world of Nature, a descent
caused not by disobedience but by love, and done with the blessing
rulers of fate discussed in sections 9, 14 and 25 are the archons
of the seven planets, which also appear in Plato's Timaeus and
in a number of the ancient writings usually lumped together as
"Gnostic". Their role here is an oddly ambivalent one,
powers of Harmony who are nonetheless the sources of humanity's
tendencies to evil. - JMG
1. It chanced
once on a time my mind was meditating on the things that are,
my thought was raised to a great height, the senses of my body
being held back - just as men who are weighed down with sleep
after a fill of food, or from fatigue of body.
a Being more than vast, in size beyond all bounds, called out
my name and saith: What wouldst thou hear and see, and what hast
thou in mind to learn and know?
2. And I
do say: Who art thou?
I am Man-Shepherd (Poemandres), Mind of all-masterhood; I know
what thou desirest and I'm with thee everywhere.
I reply: I long to learn the things that are, and comprehend
their nature, and know God. This is, I said, what I desire to
back to me: Hold in thy mind all thou wouldst know, and I will
4. E'en with
these words His aspect changed, and straightway, in the twinkling
of an eye, all things were opened to me, and I see a Vision limitless,
all things turned into Light - sweet, joyous [Light]. And I became
transported as I gazed.
But in a
little while Darkness came settling down on part [of it], awesome
and gloomy, coiling in sinuous folds, so that methought it like
unto a snake.
the Darkness changed into some sort of a Moist Nature, tossed
about beyond all power of words, belching out smoke as from a
fire, and groaning forth a wailing sound that beggars all description.
that an outcry inarticulate came forth from it, as though it
were a Voice of Fire.
out of the Light [...] a Holy Word (Logos) descended on that
Nature. And upwards to the height from the Moist Nature leaped
forth pure Fire; light was it, swift and active too.
too, being light, followed after the Fire; from out of the Earth-and-Water
rising up to Fire so that it seemed to hang therefrom.
stayed so mingled with each other, that Earth from Water no one
could discern. Yet were they moved to hear by reason of the Spirit-Word
(Logos) pervading them.
6. Then saith
to me Man-Shepherd: Didst understand this Vision what it means?
shall I know, said I.
He said, am I, thy God, Mind, prior to Moist Nature which appeared
from Darkness; the Light-Word (Logos) [that appeared] from Mind
is Son of God.
- say I.
what sees in thee and hears is the Lord's Word (Logos); but Mind
is Father-God. Not separate are they the one from other; just
in their union [rather] is it Life consists.
to Thee, I said.
the Light [He answered], and make friends with it.
7. And speaking
thus He gazed for long into my eyes, so that I trembled at the
look of him.
He raised His head, I see in Mind the Light, [but] now in Powers
no man could number, and Cosmos grown beyond all bounds, and
that the Fire was compassed round about by a most mighty Power,
and [now] subdued had come unto a stand.
I saw these things I understood by reason of Man-Shepherd's Word
8. But as
I was in great astonishment, He saith to me again: Thou didst
behold in Mind the Archetypal Form whose being is before beginning
without end. Thus spake to me Man-Shepherd.
And I say:
Whence then have Nature's elements their being?
To this He
answer gives: From Will of God. [Nature] received the Word (Logos),
and gazing upon the Cosmos Beautiful did copy it, making herself
into a cosmos, by means of her own elements and by the births
9. And God-the-Mind,
being male and female both, as Light and Life subsisting, brought
forth another Mind to give things form, who, God as he was of
Fire and Spirit, formed Seven Rulers who enclose the cosmos that
the sense perceives. Men call their ruling Fate.
from out the downward elements God's Reason (Logos) leaped up
to Nature's pure formation, and was at-oned with the Formative
Mind; for it was co-essential with it. And Nature's downward
elements were thus left reason-less, so as to be pure matter.
the Formative Mind ([at-oned] with Reason), he who surrounds
the spheres and spins them with his whorl, set turning his formations,
and let them turn from a beginning boundless unto an endless
end. For that the circulation of these [spheres] begins where
it doth end, as Mind doth will.
the downward elements Nature brought forth lives reason-less;
for He did not extend the Reason (Logos) [to them]. The Air brought
forth things winged; the Water things that swim, and Earth-and-Water
one from another parted, as Mind willed. And from her bosom Earth
produced what lives she had, four-footed things and reptiles,
beasts wild and tame.
12. But All-Father
Mind, being Life and Light, did bring forth Man co-equal to Himself,
with whom He fell in love, as being His own child; for he was
beautiful beyond compare, the Image of his Sire. In very truth,
God fell in love with his own Form; and on him did bestow all
of His own formations.
13. And when
he gazed upon what the Enformer had created in the Father, [Man]
too wished to enform; and [so] assent was given him by the Father.
his state to the formative sphere, in that he was to have his
whole authority, he gazed upon his Brother's creatures. They
fell in love with him, and gave him each a share of his own ordering.
that he had well learned their essence and had become a sharer
in their nature, he had a mind to break right through the Boundary
of their spheres, and to subdue the might of that which pressed
upon the Fire.
14. So he
who hath the whole authority o'er [all] the mortals in the cosmos
and o'er its lives irrational, bent his face downwards through
the Harmony, breaking right through its strength, and showed
to downward Nature God's fair form.
she saw that Form of beauty which can never satiate, and him
who [now] possessed within himself each single energy of [all
seven] Rulers as well as God's own Form, she smiled with love;
for 'twas as though she'd seen the image of Man's fairest form
upon her Water, his shadow on her Earth.
He in turn
beholding the form like to himself, existing in her, in her Water,
loved it and willed to live in it; and with the will came act,
and [so] he vivified the form devoid of reason.
took the object of her love and wound herself completely around
him, and they were intermingled, for they were lovers.
15. And this
is why beyond all creatures on the earth man is twofold; mortal
because of body, but because of the essential man immortal.
and possessed of sway o'er all, yet doth he suffer as a mortal
doth, subject to Fate.
above the Harmony, within the Harmony he hath become a slave.
Though male-female, as from a Father male-female, and though
he's sleepless from a sleepless [Sire], yet is he overcome [by
[I say: Teach on], O Mind of me, for I myself as well am amorous
of the Word (Logos).
said: This is the mystery kept hid until this day.
by Man brought forth a wonder, oh so wonderful. For as he had
the nature of the Concord of the Seven, who, as I said to thee,
[were made] of Fire and Spirit - Nature delayed not, but immediately
brought forth seven "men", in correspondence with the
natures of the Seven, male-female and moving in the air.
said]: O Shepherd, ..., for now I'm filled with great desire
and long to hear; do not run off.
said: Keep silence, for not as yet have I unrolled for thee the
first discourse (logoi).
Lo! I am
still, I said.
17. In such
wise than, as I have said, the generation of these seven came
to pass. Earth was as woman, her Water filled with longing; ripeness
she took from Fire, spirit from Aether. Nature thus brought forth
frames to suit the form of Man.
And Man from
Light and Life changed into soul and mind - from Life to soul,
from Light to mind.
continued all the sense-world's parts until the period of their
end and new beginnings.
18. Now listen
to the rest of the discourse (Logos) which thou dost long to
being ended, the bond that bound them all was loosened by God's
Will. For all the animals being male-female, at the same time
with Man were loosed apart; some became partly male, some in
like fashion [partly] female. And straightway God spake by His
Holy Word (Logos):
ye in increasing, and multiply in multitude, ye creatures and
creations all; and man that hath Mind in him, let him learn to
know that he himself is deathless, and that the cause of death
is love, though Love is all."
He said this, His Forethought did by means of Fate and Harmony
effect their couplings and their generations founded. And so
all things were multiplied according to their kind.
And he who
thus hath learned to know himself, hath reached that Good which
doth transcend abundance; but he who through a love that leads
astray, expends his love upon his body - he stays in Darkness
wandering, and suffering through his senses things of Death.
is the so great fault, said I, the ignorant commit, that they
should be deprived of deathlessness?
He said, O thou, not to have given heed to what thou heardest.
Did I not bid thee think?
Yea do I
think, and I remember, and therefore give Thee thanks.
If thou didst
think [thereon], [said He], tell me: Why do they merit death
who are in Death?
It is because
the gloomy Darkness is the root and base of the material frame;
from it came the Moist Nature; from this the body in the sense-world
was composed; and from this [body] Death doth the Water drain.
was thy thought, O thou! But how doth "he who knows himself,
go unto Him", as God's Word (Logos) hath declared?
And I reply:
the Father of the universals doth consist of Light and Life,
from Him Man was born.
well, [thus] speaking. Light and Life is Father-God, and from
Him Man was born.
If then thou
learnest that thou art thyself of Life and Light, and that thou
[happen'st] to be out of them, thou shalt return again to Life.
Thus did Man-Shepherd speak.
me further, Mind of me, I cried, how shall I come to Life again...for
God doth say: "The man who hath Mind in him, let him learn
to know that he himself [is deathless]."
not all men then Mind?
well, O thou, thus speaking. I, Mind, myself am present with
holy men and good, the pure and merciful, men who live piously.
my presence doth become an aid, and straightway they gain gnosis
of all things, and win the Father's love by their pure lives,
and give Him thanks, invoking on Him blessings, and chanting
hymns, intent on Him with ardent love.
And ere they
give up the body unto its proper death, they turn them with disgust
from its sensations, from knowledge of what things they operate.
Nay, it is I, the Mind, that will not let the operations which
befall the body, work to their [natural] end. For being door-keeper
I'll close up [all] the entrances, and cut the mental actions
off which base and evil energies induce.
23. But to
the Mind-less ones, the wicked and depraved, the envious and
covetous, and those who mured do and love impiety, I am far off,
yielding my place to the Avenging Daimon, who sharpening the
fire, tormenteth him and addeth fire to fire upon him, and rusheth
upon him through his senses, thus rendering him readier for transgressions
of the law, so that he meets with greater torment; nor doth he
ever cease to have desire for appetites inordinate, insatiately
striving in the dark.
hast thou taught me all, as I desired, O Mind. And now, pray,
tell me further of the nature of the Way Above as now it is [for
To this Man-Shepherd
said: When the material body is to be dissolved, first thou surrenderest
the body by itself unto the work of change, and thus the form
thou hadst doth vanish, and thou surrenderest thy way of life,
void of its energy, unto the Daimon. The body's senses next pass
back into their sources, becoming separate, and resurrect as
energies; and passion and desire withdraw unto that nature which
is void of reason.
25. And thus
it is that man doth speed his way thereafter upwards through
To the first
zone he gives the Energy of Growth and Waning; unto the second
[zone], Device of Evils [now] de-energized; unto the third, the
Guile of the Desires de-energized; unto the fourth, his Domineering
Arrogance, [also] de-energized; unto the fifth, unholy Daring
and the Rashness of Audacity, de-energized; unto the sixth, Striving
for Wealth by evil means, deprived of its aggrandizement; and
to the seventh zone, Ensnaring Falsehood, de-energized.
26. And then,
with all the energisings of the harmony stript from him, clothed
in his proper Power, he cometh to that Nature which belongs unto
the Eighth, and there with those-that-are hymneth the Father.
are there welcome his coming there with joy; and he, made like
to them that sojourn there, doth further hear the Powers who
are above the Nature that belongs unto the Eighth, singing their
songs of praise to God in language of their own.
they, in a band, go to the Father home; of their own selves they
make surrender of themselves to Powers, and [thus] becoming Powers
they are in God. This the good end for those who have gained
Gnosis - to be made one with God.
thou then delay? Must it not be, since thou hast all received,
that thou shouldst to the worthy point the way, in order that
through thee the race of mortal kind may by [thy] God be saved?
when He'd said, Man-Shepherd mingled with the Powers.
But I, with
thanks and belssings unto the Father of the universal [Powers],
was freed, full of the power he had poured into me, and full
of what He'd taught me of the nature of the All and of the loftiest
And I began
to preach unto men the Beauty of Devotion and of Gnosis:
O ye people,
earth-born folk, ye who have given yourselves to drunkenness
and sleep and ignorance of God, be sober now, cease from your
surfeit, cease to be glamoured by irrational sleep!
28. And when
they heard, they came with one accord. Whereon I say:
folk, why have ye given yourselves up to Death, while yet ye
have the power of sharing Deathlessness? Repent, O ye, who walk
with Error arm in arm and make of Ignorance the sharer of your
board; get ye out from the light of Darkness, and take your part
in Deathlessness, forsake Destruction!
29. And some
of them with jests upon their lips departed [from me], abandoning
themselves unto the Way of Death; others entreated to be taught,
casting themselves before my feet.
But I made
them arise, and I became a leader of the Race towards home, teaching
the words (logoi), how and in what way they shall be saved. I
sowed in them the words (logoi) of wisdom; of Deathless Water
were they given to drink.
even was come and all sun's beams began to set, I bade them all
give thanks to God. And when they had brought to an end the giving
of their thanks, each man returned to his own resting place.
30. But I
recorded in my heart Man-Shepherd's benefaction, and with my
every hope fulfilled more than rejoiced. For body's sleep became
the soul's awakening, and closing of the eyes - true vision,
pregnant with Good my silence, and the utterance of my word (logos)
begetting of good things.
befell me from my Mind, that is Man-Shepherd, Word (Logos) of
all masterhood, by whom being God-inspired I came unto the Plain
of Truth. Wherefore with all my soul and strength thanksgiving
give I unto Father-God.
art Thou, O God, the universals' Father.
Thou, O God, whose Will perfects itself by means of its own Powers.
Thou, O God, who willeth to be known and art known by Thine own.
Thou,who didst by Word (Logos) make to consist the things that
Thou, of whom All-nature hath been made an image.
Thou, whose Form Nature hath never made.
Thou, more powerful than all power.
Thou, transcending all pre-eminence.
art, Thou better than all praise.
reason's offerings pure, from soul and heart for aye stretched
up to Thee, O Thou unutterable, unspeakable, Whose Name naught
but the Silence can express.
ear to me who pray that I may ne'er of Gnosis fail, [Gnosis]
which is our common being's nature; and fill me with Thy Power,
and with this Grace [of Thine], that I may give the Light to
those in ignorance of the Race, my Brethren, and Thy Sons.
cause I believe, and I bear witness; I go to Life and Light.
Blessed art Thou, O Father. Thy Man would holy be as Thou art
holy, e'en as Thou gave him Thy full authority [to be].
on the text: This dialogue sets forth the difference between
the physical and metaphysical worlds in the context of Greek
natural philosophy. Some of the language is fairly technical:
the "errant spheres" of sections 6 and 7 are the celestial
spheres carrying the planets, while the "inerrant sphere"
is that of the fixed stars. It's useful to keep in mind, also,
that "air" and "spirit" are interchangeable
concepts in Greek thought, and that the concept of the Good has
a range of implications which don't come across in the English
word: one is that the good of any being, in Greek thought, was
also that being's necessary goal.
criticism of childlessness in section 17 should probably be read
as a response to the Christian ideal of celibacy, which horrified
many people in the ancient world. - JMG
All that is moved, Asclepius, is it not moved in something and
H: And must
not that in which it's moved be greater than the moved?
A: It must.
again, has greater power than moved?
A: It has,
H: The nature,
furthermore, of that in which it's moved must be quite other
from the nature of the moved?
A: It must
2. H: Is
not, again, this cosmos vast, [so vast] that than it there exists
no body greater?
H: And massive,
too, for it is crammed with multitudes of other mighty frames,
nay, rather all the other bodies that there are?
A: It is.
H: And yet
the cosmos is a body?
A: It is
H: And one
3. A: Assuredly.
H: Of what
size, then, must be the space in which it's moved, and of what
kind [must be] the nature [of that space]? Must it not be far
vaster [than the cosmos], in order that it may be able to find
room for its continued course, so that the moved may not be cramped
for want of room and lose its motion?
Thrice-greatest one, it needs must be, immensely vast.
4. H: And
of what nature? Must it not be, Asclepius, of just the contrary?
And is not contrary to body bodiless?
then, is bodiless. But bodiless must either be some godlike thing
or God [Himself]. And by "some godlike thing" I mean
no more the generable [i.e., that which is generated] but the
5. If, then,
space be some godlike thing, it is substantial; but if 'tis God
[Himself], it transcends substance. But it is to be thought of
otherwise [than God], and in this way.
God is first
"thinkable" <or "intelligible"> for
us, not for Himself, for that the thing that's thought doth fall
beneath the thinker's sense. God then cannot be "thinkable"
unto Himself, in that He's thought of by Himself as being nothing
else but what He thinks. But he is "something else"
for us, and so He's thought of by us.
6. If space
is, therefore, to be thought, [it should] not, [then, be thought
as] God, but space. If God is also to be thought, [He should]
not [be conceived] as space, but as energy that can contain [all
all that is moved is moved not in the moved but in the stable.
And that which moves [another] is of course stationary, for 'tis
impossible that it should move with it.
A: How is
it, then, that things down here, Thrice-greatest one, are moved
with those that are [already] moved? For thou hast said the errant
spheres were moved by the inerrant one.
H: This is
not, O Asclepius, a moving with, but one against; they are not
moved with one another, but one against the other. It is this
contrariety which turneth the resistance of their motion into
rest. For that resistance is the rest of motion.
too, the errant spheres, being moved contrarily to the inerrant
one, are moved by one another by mutual contrariety, [and also]
by the spable one through contrariety itself. And this can otherwise
up there <i.e., Ursa Major and Minor>, which neither set
nor rise, think'st thou they rest or move?
A: They move,
H: And what
their motion, my Asclepius?
that turns for ever round the same.
H: But revolution
- motion around same - is fixed by rest. For "round-the-same"
doth stop "beyond-same". "Beyond-same" then,
being stopped, if it be steadied in "round-same" -
the contrary stands firm, being rendered ever stable by its contrariety.
8. Of this
I'll give thee here on earth an instance, which the eye can see.
Regard the animals down here - a man, for instance, swimming!
The water moves, yet the resistance of his hands and feet give
him stability, so that he is not borne along with it, nor sunk
A: Thou hast,
Thrice-greatest one, adduced a most clear instance.
H: All motion,
then, is caused in station and by station.
therefore, of the cosmos (and of every other hylic <i.e.,
material> animal) will not be caused by things exterior to
the cosmos, but by things interior [outward] to the exterior
- such [things] as soul, or spirit, or some such other thing
the body that doth move the living thing in it; nay, not even
the whole [body of the universe a lesser] body e'en though there
be no life in it.
9. A: What
meanest thou by this, Thrice-greatest one? Is it not bodies,
then, that move the stock and stone and all the other things
H: By no
means, O Asclepius. The something-in-the-body, the that-which-moves
the thing inanimate, this surely's not a body, for that it moves
the two of them - both body of the lifter and the lifted? So
that a thing that's lifeless will not move a lifeless thing.
That which doth move [another thing] is animate, in that it is
then, how heavy laden is the soul, for it alone doth lift two
bodies. That things, moreover, moved are moved in something as
well as moved by something is clear.
10. A: Yea,
O Thrice-greatest one, things moved must needs be moved in something
H: Thou sayest
well, O [my] Asclepius! For naught of things that are is void.
Alone the "is-not" is void [and] stranger to subsistence.
For that which is subsistent can never change to void.
A: Are there,
then, O Thrice-greatest one, no such things as an empty cask,
for instance, and an empty jar, a cup and vat, and other things
like unto them?
Asclepius, for thy far-wandering from the truth! Think'st thou
that things most full and most replete are void?
11. A: How
meanest thou, Thrice-greatest one?
H: Is not
A: It is.
H: And doth
this body not pervade all things, and so, pervading, fill them?
And "body"; doth body not consist from blending of
the "four" <elements>? Full, then, of air are
all thou callest void; and if of air, then of the "four".
of this the converse follows, that all thou callest full are
void - of air; for that they have their space filled out with
other bodies, and, therefore, are not able to receive the air
therein. These, then, which thou dost say are void, they should
behollow named, not void; for they not only are, but they are
full of air and spirit.
12. A: Thy
argument (logos), Thrice-greatest one, is not to be gainsaid;
air is a body. Further, it is this body which doth pervade all
things, and so, pervading, fill them. What are we, then, to call
that space in which the all doth move?
H: The bodiless,
then, is Bodiless?
H: 'Tis Mind
and Reason (logos), whole out of whole, all self-embracing, free
from all body, from all error free, unsensible to body and untouchable,
self stayed in self, containing all, preserving those that are,
whose rays, to use a likeness, are Good, Truth, Light beyond
light, the Archetype of soul.
then, is God?
13. H: Not
any one of these is He; for He it is that causeth them to be,
both all and each and every thing of all that are. Nor hath He
left a thing beside that is-not; but they are all from things-that-are
and not from things-that-are-not. For that the things-that-are-not
have naturally no power of being anything, but naturally have
the power of the inability-to-be. And, conversely, the things-that-are
have not the nature of some time not-being.
14. A: What
say'st thou ever, then, God is?
H: God, therefore,
is not Mind, but Cause that the Mind is; God is not Spirit, but
Cause that Spirit is; God is not Light, but Cause that the Light
is. Hence one should honor God with these two names [the Good
and Father] - names which pertain to Him alone and no one else.
For no one
of the other so-called gods, no one of men, or daimones, can
be in any measure Good, but God alone; and He is Good alone and
nothing else. The rest of things are separable all from the Good's
nature; for [all the rest] are soul and body, which have no place
that can contain the Good.
15. For that
as mighty is the Greatness of the Good as is the Being of all
things that are - both bodies and things bodiless, things sensible
and intelligible things. Call thou not, therefore, aught else
Good, for thou would'st imious be; nor anything at all at any
time call God but Good alone, for so thou would'st again be impious.
then, the Good is spoken of by all, it is not understood by all,
what thing it is. Not only, then, is God not understood by all,
but both unto the gods and some of the men they out of ignorance
do give the name of Good, though they can never either be or
become Good. For they are very different from God, while Good
can never be distinguished from Him, for that God is the same
of the immortal ones are nonetheless honored with the name of
God, and spoken of as gods; but God is Good not out of courtesy
but out of nature. For that God's nature and the Good is one;
one os the kind of both, from which all other kinds [proceed].
is he who gives all things and naught receives. God, then, doth
give all things and receive naught. God, then, is Good, and Good
17. The other
name of God is Father, again because He is the that-which-maketh-all.
The part of father is to make.
child-making is a very great and a most pious thing in life for
them who think aright, and to leave life on earth without a child
a very great misfortune and impiety; and he who hath no child
is punished by the daimones after death.
is the punishment: that that man's soul who hath no child, shall
be condemned unto a body with neither man's nor woman's nature,
a thing accursed beneath the sun.
Asclepius, let not your sympathies be with the man who hath no
child, but rather pity his mishap, knowing what punishment abides
Let all that
has been said then, be to thee, Asclepius, an introduction to
the gnosis of the nature of all things.
on the text: This brief and apparently somewhat garbled text
recounts the creation and nature of the world in terms much like
those of the Poemandres. The major theme is the renewal of all
things in a cyclic universe, with the seven planetary rulers
again playing a major role. - JMG
1. The Glory
of all things is God, Godhead and Godly Nature. Source of the
things that are is God, who is both Mind and Nature - yea Matter,
the Wisdom that reveals all things. Source [too] is Godhead -
yea Nature, Energy, Necessity, and End, and Making-new-again.
that knew no bounds was in Abyss, and Water [too] and subtle
Breath intelligent; these were by Power of God in Chaos.
Light arose; and there collected 'neath Dry Space <literally:
"sand"> from out Moist Essence Elements; and all
the Gods do separate things out from fecund Nature.
2. All things
being undefined and yet unwrought, the light things were assigned
unto the height, the heavy ones had their foundations laid down
underneath the moist part of Dry Space, the universal things
being bounded off by Fire and hanged in Breath to keep them up.
was seen in seven circles; its Gods were visible in forms of
stars with all their signs; while Nature had her members made
articulate together with the Gods in her. And [Heaven's] periphery
revolved in cyclic course, borne on by Breath of God.
3. And every
God by his own proper power brought forth what was appointed
him. Thus there arose four-footed beasts, and creeping things,
and those that in the water dwell, and things with wings, and
everything that beareth seed, and grass, and shoot of every flower,
all having in themselves seed of again-becoming.
selected out the births of men for gnosis of the works of God
and attestation of the energy of Nature; the multitude of men
for lordship over all beneath the heaven and gnosis of its blessings,
that they might increase in increasing and multiply in multitude,
and every soul infleshed by revolution of the Cyclic Gods, for
observation of the marvels of Heaven and Heaven's Gods' revolution,
and of the works of God and energy of Nature, for tokens of its
blessings, for gnosis of the power of God, that they might know
the fates that follow good and evil [deeds] and learn the cunning
work of all good arts.
there begins their living and their growing wise, according to
the fate appointed by the revolution of the Cyclic Gods, and
their deceasing for this end.
shall be memorials mighty of their handiworks upon the earth,
leaving dim trace behind when cycles are renewed.
birth of flesh ensouled, and of the fruit of seed, and every
handiwork, though it decay, shall of necessity renew itself,
both by the renovation of the Gods and by the turning-round of
Nature's rhythmic wheel.
whereas the Godhead is Nature's ever-making-new-again the cosmic
mixture, Nature herself is also co-established in that Godhead.
Cup or Monad
on the text: This short text gives an unusually lucid overview
of the foundations of Hermetic thought. The stress on rejection
of the body and its pleasures, and on the division of humanity
into those with Mind and those without, are reminiscent of some
of the so-called "Gnostic" writings of the same period.
The idea that the division is a matter of choice, on the other
hand, is a pleasant variation on the almost Calvinist flavor
of writings such as the Apocalypse of Adam.
speculates that the imagery of the Cup in this text may have
a distant connection, by way of unorthodox ideas about Communion,
with the legends of the Holy Grail. - JMG
With Reason (Logos), not with hands, did the World-maker make
the universal World; so that thou shouldst think of him as everywhere
and ever-being, the Author of all things, and One and Only, who
by His Will all beings hath created.
of Him is a thing no man can touch, or see, or measure, a body
inextensible, like to no other frame. 'Tis neither Fire nor Water,
Air nor Breath; yet all of them come from it. Now being Good
he willed to consecrate this [Body] to Himself alone, and set
its Earth in order and adorn it.
2. So down
[to Earth] He sent the Cosmos of this Frame Divine - man, a life
that cannot die, and yet a life that dies. And o'er [all other]
lives and over Cosmos [too], did man excel by reason of the Reason
(Logos) and the Mind. For contemplator of God's works did man
become; he marvelled and did strive to know their Author.
(Logos) indeed, O Tat, among all men hath He distributed, but
Mind not yet; not that He grudgeth any, for grudging cometh not
from Him, but hath its place below, within the souls of men who
have no Mind.
then did God, O father, not on all bestow a share of Mind?
H: He willed,
my son, to have it set up in the midst for souls, just as it
were a prize.
4. T: And
where hath He set it up?
H: He filled
a mighty Cup with it, and sent it down, joining a Herald [to
it], to whom He gave command to make this proclamation to the
hearts of men:
with this Cup's baptism, what heart can do so, thou that hast
faith thou canst ascend to him that hath sent down the Cup, thou
that dost know for what thoudidst come into being!
As many then
as understood the Herald's tidings and doused themselves in Mind,
became partakers in the Gnosis; and when they had "received
the Mind" they were made "perfect men".
who do not understand the tidings, these, since they possess
the aid of Reason [only] and not Mind, are ignorant wherefor
they have come into being and whereby.
5. The senses
of such men are like irrational creatures'; and as their [whole]
make-up is in their feelings and their impulses, they fail in
all appreciation of <lit.: "they do not wonder at">
those things which really are worth contemplation. These center
all their thought upon the pleasures of the body and its appetites,
in the belief that for its sake man hath come into being.
who have received some portion of God's gift, these, Tat, if
we judge by their deeds, have from Death's bonds won their release;
for they embrace in their own Mind all things, things on the
earth, things in the heaven, and things above the heaven - if
there be aught. And having raised themselves so far they sight
the Good; and having sighted it, they look upon their sojourn
here as a mischance; and in disdain of all, both things in body
and the bodiless, they speed their way unto that One and Only
6. This is,
O Tat, the Gnosis of the Mind, Vision of things Divine; God-knowledge
is it, for the Cup is God's.
I, too, would be baptized.
thou first shall hate thy Body, son, thou canst not love thy
Self. But if thou lov'st thy Self thou shalt have Mind, and having
Mind thou shalt share in the Gnosis.
what dost thou mean?
H: It is
not possible, my son, to give thyself to both - I mean to things
that perish and to things divine. For seeing that existing things
are twain, Body and Bodiless, in which the perishing and the
divine are understood, the man who hath the will to choose is
left the choice of one or the other; for it can never be the
twain should meet. And in those souls to whom the choice is left,
the waning of the one causes the other's growth to show itself.
7. Now the
choosing of the Better not only proves a lot most fair for him
who makes the choice, seeing it makes the man a God, but also
shows his piety to God. Whereas the [choosing] of the Worse,
although it doth destroy the "man", it doth only disturb
God's harmony to this extent, that as processions pass by in
the middle of the way, without being able to do anything but
take the road from others, so do such men move in procession
through the world led by their bodies' pleasures.
8. This being
so, O Tat, what comes from God hath been and will be ours; but
that which is dependent on ourselves, let this press onward and
have no delay, for 'tis not God, 'tis we who are the cause of
evil things, preferring them to good.
son, how many are the bodies through which we have to pass, how
many are the choirs of daimones, how vast the system of the star-courses
[through which our Path doth lie], to hasten to the One and Only
For to the
Good there is no other shore; It hath no bounds; It is without
an end; and for Itself It is without beginning, too, though unto
us it seemeth to have one - the Gnosis.
to It Gnosis is no beginning; rather is it [that Gnosis doth
afford] to us the first beginning of its being known.
Let us lay
hold, therefore, of the beginning. and quickly speed through
all [we have to pass].
hard, to leave the things we have grown used to, which meet our
gaze on every side, and turn ourselves back to the Old Old [Path].
delight us, whereas things which appear not make their believing
are the more apparent things, whereas the Good can never show
Itself unto the eyes, for It hath neither form nor figure.
the Good is like Itself alone, and unlike all things else; or
`tis impossible that That which hath no body should make Itself
apparent to a body.
10. The "Like's"
superiority to the "Unlike" and the "Unlike's"
inferiority unto the "Like" consists in this:
being Source and Root of all, is in all things as Root and Source.
Without [this] Source is naught; whereas the Source [Itself]
is from naught but itself, since it is Source of all the rest.
It is Itself Its Source, since It may have no other Source.
then being Source, containeth every number, but is contained
by none; engendereth every number, but is engendered by no other
11. Now all
that is engendered is imperfect, it is divisible, to increase
subject and to decrease; but with the Perfect [One] none of these
things doth hold. Now that which is increasable increases from
the Oneness, but succumbs through its own feebleness when it
no longer can contain the One.
O Tat, God's Image hath been sketched for thee, as far as it
can be; and if thou wilt attentively dwell on it and observe
it with thine heart's eyes, believe me, son, thou'lt find the
Path that leads above; nay, that Image shall become thy Guide
itself, because the Sight [Divine] hath this peculiar [charm],
it holdeth fast and draweth unto it those who succeed in opening
their eyes, just as, they say, the magnet [draweth] iron.
Unmanifest God Is Most Manifest
on the text: This sermon is a fairly straightforward Hermetic
version of the "argument by design", a standard approach
since ancient times to a proof of the existence of God. Typically,
for a Hermetic tractate, its choice of evidence includes a paean
on the beauty and perfection of the human form. - JMG
1. I will
recount to thee this sermon (logos) too, O Tat, that thou may'st
cease to be without the mysteries of the God beyond all name.
And mark thou well how that which to the many seems unmanifest,
will grow most manifest for thee.
it manifest, it would not be. For all that is made manifest is
subject to becoming, for it hath been made manifest. But the
Unmanifest for ever is, for It doth not desire to be made manifest.
It ever is, and maketh manifest all other things.
unmanifest, as ever being and ever making-manifest, Himself is
not made manifest. God is not made Himself; by thinking-manifest
<i.e., thinking into manifestation>, He thinketh all things
deals with things made alone, for thinking-manifest is nothing
else than making.
2. He, then,
alone who is not made, 'tis clear, is both beyond all power of
thinking-manifest, and is unmanifest.
And as He
thinketh all things manifest, He manifests through all things
and in all, and most of all in whatsoever things He wills to
then, Tat, my son, pray first unto our Lord and Father, the One-and-Only
One, from whom the One doth come, to show His mercy unto thee,
in order that thou mayest have the power to catch a thought of
this so mighty God, one single beam of Him to shine into thy
thinking. For thought alone "sees" the Unmanifest,
in that it is itself unmanifest.
thou hast the power, He will, Tat, manifest to thy mind's eyes.
The Lord begrudgeth not Himself to anything, but manifests Himself
through the whole world.
the power of taking thought, of seeing it and grasping it in
thy own "hands", and gazing face to face upon God's
Image. But if what is within thee even is unmanifest to thee,
how, then, shall He Himself who is within thy self be manifest
for thee by means of [outer] eyes?
3. But if
thou wouldst "see" him, bethink thee of the sun, bethink
thee of moon's course, bethink thee of the order of the stars.
Who is the One who watcheth o'er that order? For every order
hath its boundaries marked out by place and number.
the greatest god of gods in heaven; to whom all of the heavenly
gods give place as unto king and master. And he, this so-great
one, he greater than the earth and sea, endures to have above
him circling smaller stars than him. Out of respect to Whom,
or out of fear of Whom, my son, [doth he do this]?
nor equal is the course each of these stars describes in heaven.
Who [then] is He who marketh out the manner of their course and
4. The Bear
up there that turneth round itself, and carries round the whole
cosmos with it - Who is the owner of this instrument? Who He
who hath set round the sea its bounds? Who He who hath set on
its seat the earth?
there is someone who is the Maker and the Lord of all these things.
It cound not be that number, place and measure could be kept
without someone to make them. No order whatsoever could be made
by that which lacketh place and lacketh measure; nay, even this
is not without a lord, my son. For if the orderless lacks something,
in that it is not lord of order's path, it also is beneath a
lord - the one who hath not yet ordained it order.
that it were possible for thee to get thee wings, and soar into
the air, and, poised midway 'tween earth and heaven, behold the
earth's solidity, the sea's fluidity (the flowings of its streams),
the spaciousness of air, fire's swiftness, [and] the coursing
of the stars, the swiftness of heaven's circuit round them [all]!
sight were it, my son, to see all these beneath one sway - the
motionless in motion, and the unmanifest made manifest; whereby
is made this order of the cosmos and the cosmos which we see
6. If thou
would'st see Him too through things that suffer death, both on
the earth and in the deep, think of a man's being fashioned in
the womb, my son, and strictly scrutinize the art of Him who
fashions him, and learn who fashioneth this fair and godly image
of the Man.
is He who traceth out the circles of the eyes; who He who boreth
out the nostrils and the ears; who He who openeth [the portal
of] the mouth; who He who doth stretch out and tie the nerves;
who He who channels out the veins; who He who hardeneth the bones;
who He who covereth the flesh with skin; who He who separates
the fingers and the joints; who He who widens out a treading
for the feet; who He who diggeth out the ducts; who He who spreadeth
out the spleen; who he who shapeth heart like to a pyramid; who
He who setteth ribs together; who He who wideneth the liver out;
who He who maketh lungs like to a sponge; who He who maketh belly
stretch so much; who he who doth make prominent the parts most
honorable, so that they may be seen, while hiding out of sight
those of least honor?
how many arts [employed] on one material, how many labors on
one single sketch; and all exceeding fair, and all in perfect
measure, yet all diversified! Who made them all? What mother,
or what sire, save God alone, unmanifest, who hath made all things
by His Will?
8. And no
one saith a statue or a picture comes to be without a sculptor
or [without] a painter; doth [then] such workmanship as this
exist without a Worker? What depth of blindness, what deep impiety,
what depth of ignorance! See, [then] thou ne'er, son Tat, deprivest
works of Worker!
is He greater than all names, so great is He, the Father of them
all. For verily He is the Only One, and this is His work, to
be a father.
9. So, if
thou forcest me somewhat too bold, to speak, His being is conceiving
of all things and making [them].
And as without
its maker its is impossible that anything should be, so ever
is He not unless He ever makes all things, in heaven, in air,
in earth, in deep, in all of cosmos, in every part that is and
that is not of everything. For there is naught in all the world
that is not He.
He is Himself,
both things that are and things that are not. The things that
are He hath made manifest, He keepeth things that are not in
10. He is
the God beyond all name; He the unmanifest, He the most manifest;
He whom the mind [alone] can contemplate, He visible to the eyes
[as well]; He is the one of no body, the one of many bodies,
nay, rather He of every body.
there which he is not. For all are He and He is all. And for
this cause hath He all names, in that they are one Father's.
And for this cause hath He Himself no nome, in that He's Father
of [them] all.
may sing Thee praise of Thee, or [praise] to Thee?
again, am I to turn my eyes to sing Thy praise; above, below,
no way, no place [is there] about Thee, nor any other thing of
things that are.
in Thee; all [are] from Thee, O Thou who givest all and takest
naught, for Thou hast all and naught is there Thou hast not.
11. And when,
O Father, shall I hymn Thee? For none can seize Thy hour or time.
again, shall I sing hymn? For things that Thou hast made, or
things Thou hast not? For things Thou hast made manifest, or
things Thou hast concealed?
shall I hymn Thee? As being of myself? As having something of
mine own? As being other?
Thou art whatever I may be; Thou art whatever I may do; Thou
art whatever I may speak.
art all, and there is nothing else which Thou art not. Thou art
all that which doth exist, and Thou art what doth not exist -
Mind when Thou thinkest, and Father when Thou makest, and God
when Thou dost energize, and Good and Maker of all things.
the subtler part of matter is the air, of air the soul, of soul
the mind, and of mind God.
God Alone Is Good And Elsewhere Nowhere
on the text: This sermon on the nature of the Good, like To Asclepius
(CH II), relies heavily on the technical language of classical
Greek philosophy - a point which some of Mead's translations
tend to obscure. "The Good," in Greek thought, is also
the self-caused and self-sufficient, and thus has little in common
with later conceptions of "goodness," just as the Latin
word virtus and the modern Christian concept of "virtue"
are very nearly opposites despite their etymological connection.
The word "passion" here also needs to be understood
in its older sense, as the opposite of "action" (cf.
"active" and "passive").
negative attitude toward humanity and the cosmos which appears
in this text contrasts sharply with the more positive assessment
found, for example, in the Poemandres (CH I) or in the Asclepius
- a reminder that these documents are relics of a diverse and
not necessarily consistent school of thought. - JMG
O Asclepius, is in none else save in God alone; nay, rather,
Good is God Himself eternally.
If it be
so, [Good] must be essence, from every kind of motion and becoming
free (though naught is free from It), possessed of stable energy
around Itself, never too little, nor too much, an ever-full supply.
[Though] one, yet [is It] source of all; for what supplieth all
is Good. When I, moreover, say [supplieth] altogether [all],
it is for ever Good. But this belongs to no one else save God
For He stands
not in need of any thing, so that desiring it He should be bad;
nor can a single thing of things that are be lost to him, on
losing which He should be pained; for pain is part of bad.
Nor is there
aught superior to Him, that He should be subdued by it; nor any
peer to Him to do Him wrong, or [so that] He should fall in love
on its account; nor aught that gives no ear to Him, whereat He
should grow angry; nor wiser aught, for Him to envy.
2. Now as
all these are non-existent in His being, what is there left but
as naught of bad is to be found in such transcendent Being, so
too in no one of the rest will Good be found.
For in them
are all of the other things <i.e., those things which are
not Good> - both in the little and the great, both in each
severally and in this living one that's greater than them all
and the mightiest [of them] <i.e., the cosmos>.
subject to birth abound in passions, birth in itself being passible.
But where there's passion, nowhere is there Good; and where is
Good, nowhere a single passion. For where is day, nowhere is
night; and where is night, day is nowhere.
in genesis the Good can never be, but only be in the ingenerate.
that the sharing in all things hath been bestowed on matter,
so doth it share in Good.
In this way
is the Cosmos Good; that, in so far as it doth make all things,
as far as making goes it's Good, but in all other things it is
not Good. For it's both passible and subject unto motion, and
maker of things passible.
in man by greater or less of bad is good determined. For what
is not too bad down here, is good, and good down here is the
least part of bad.
therefore, be that good down here should be quite clean of bad,
for down here good is fouled with bad; and being fouled, it stays
no longer good, and staying not it changes into bad.
In God alone,
is, therefore, Good, or rather Good is God Himself.
Asclepius, the name alone of Good is found in men, the thing
itself nowhere [in them], for this can never be.
For no material
body doth contain It - a thing bound on all sides by bad, by
labors, pains, desires and passions, by error and by foolish
ill of all, Asclepius, is that each of these things that have
been said above, is thought down here to be the greatest good.
is still an even greater ill, is belly-lust, the error that doth
lead the band of all the other ills - the thing that makes us
turn down here from Good.
4. And I,
for my part, give thanks to God, that He hath cast it in my mind
about the Gnosis of the Good, that it can never be It should
be in the world. For that the world is "fullness" of
the bad, but God of Good, and Good of God.
of the Beautiful are round the very essence [of the Good]; nay,
they do seem too pure, too unalloyed; perchance 'tis they that
are themselves Its essences.
For one may
dare to say, Asclepius - if essence, sooth, He have - God's essence
is the Beautiful; the Beautiful is further also Good.
no Good that can be got from objects in the world. For all the
things that fall beneath the eye are image-things and pictures
as it were; while those that do not meet [the eye are the realities],
especially the [essence] of the Beautiful and Good.
Just as the
eye cannot see God, so can it not behold the Beautiful and Good.
For that they are integral parts of God, wedded to Him alone,
inseparate familiars, most beloved, with whom God is Himself
in love, or they with God.
5. If thou
canst God conceive, thou shalt conceive the Beautiful and Good,
transcending Light, made lighter than the Light by God. That
Beauty is beyond compare, inimitate that Good, e'en as God is
thou dost conceive of God, conceive the Beautiful and Good. For
they cannot be joined with aught of other things that live, since
they can never be divorced from God.
for God, thou seekest for the Beautiful. One is the Path that
leadeth unto It - Devotion joined with Gnosis.
6. And thus
it is that they who do not know and do not tread Devotion's Path,
do dare to call man beautiful and good, though he have ne'er
e'en in his visions seen a whit that's Good, but is enveloped
with every kind of bad, and thinks the bad is good, and thus
doth make unceasing use of it, and even feareth that it should
be ta'en from him, so straining every nerve not only to preserve
but even to increase it.
the things that men call good and beautiful, Asclepius - things
which we cannot flee or hate; for hardest thing of all is that
we've need of them and cannot live without them.
Greatest Ill Among Men is Ignorance of God
stumble ye, sots, who have sopped up the wine of ignorance and
can so far not carry it that ye already even spew it forth?
be sober, gaze upwards with the [true] eyes of the heart! And
if ye cannot all, yet ye at least who can!
the ill of ignorance doth pour o`er all the earth and overwhelm
the soul that's battened down within the body, preventing it
from fetching port within Salvation's harbors.
2. Be ye
then not carried off by the fierce flood, but using the shore-current
<lit., "back-current" or "up-current">,
ye who can, make for Salvation's port, and, harboring there,
seek ye for one to take you by the hand and lead you unto Gnosis'
clear Light, of every darkness clean; where not a single soul
is drunk, but sober all they gaze with their hearts' eyes on
Him who willeth to be seen.
No ear can
hear Him, nor can eye see Him, nor tongue speak of Him, but [only]
mind and heart.
thou must tear off from thee the cloak which thou dost wear -
the web of ignorance, the ground of bad, corruption's chain,
the carapace of darkness, the living death, sensation's corpse,
the tomb thou carriest with thee, the robber in thy house, who
through the things he loveth, hateth thee, and through the things
he hateth, bears thee malice.
3. Such is
the hateful cloak thou wearest - that throttles thee [and holds
thee] down to it, in order that thou may'st not gaze above, and
having seen the Beauty of the Truth, and Good that dwells therein,
detest the bad of it; having found out the plot that it hath
schemed against thee, by making void of sense those seeming things
which men think senses.
it hath with mass of matter blocked them up and crammed them
full of loathsome lust, so that thou may'st not hear about the
things that thou should'st hear, nor see the things thou should'st
That No One of Existing Things doth Perish, but Men in Error
Speak of Their Changes as Destructions and as Deaths
on the text: The idea of cyclic change central to CH III, "The
Sacred Sermon", also takes center stage here. A current
of ancient speculation grounded in astrology held that as the
planets returned after vast cycles of time to the same positions,
so all events on earth would repeat themselves precisely into
eternity in the future - and had done so from eternity in the
past. The technical term for this recurrence, apocatastasis,
is the word Mead translates as "restoration" in the
beginning of section 4.
footnotes this tractate as "obscure" and "faulty"
in places, and his translation of the beginning of section 3
is conjectural. - JMG
Concerning Soul and Body, son, we now must speak; in what way
Soul is deathless, and whence comes the activity in composing
and dissolving Body.
no death for aught of things [that are]; the thought this word
conveys, is either void of fact, or [simply] by the knocking
off a syllable what is called "death", doth stand for
is of destruction, and nothing in the Cosmos is destroyed. For
if Cosmos is second God, a life <or living creature> that
cannot die, it cannot be that any part of this immortal life
should die. All things in Cosmos are parts of Cosmos, and most
of all is man, the rational animal.
2. For truly
first of all, eternal and transcending birth, is God the universals'
Maker. Second is he "after His image", Cosmos, brought
into being by Him, sustained and fed by Him, made deathless,
as by his own Sire, living for aye, as ever free from death.
which ever-liveth, differs from the Eternal; for He hath not
been brought to being by another, and even if He have been brought
to being, He hath not been brought to being by Himself, but ever
is brought into being.
For the Eternal,
in that It is eternal, is the all. The Father is Himself eternal
of Himself, but Cosmos hath become eternal and immortal by the
3. And of
the matter stored beneath it <i.e., beneath the cosmos>,
the Father made of it a universal body, and packing it together
made it spherical - wrapping it round the life - [a sphere] which
is immortal in itself, and that doth make materiality eternal.
But He, the
Father, full-filled with His ideas, did sow the lives <or
living creatures> into the sphere, and shut them in as in
a cave, willing to order forth the life with every kind of living.
So He with
deathlessness enclosed the universal body, that matter might
not wish to separate itself from body's composition, and so dissolve
into its own [original] unorder.
son, when it was yet incorporate <i.e., not yet formed into
bodies>, was in unorder. And it doth still retain down here
this [nature of unorder] enveloping the rest of the small lives
<or living creatures> - that increase-and-decrease which
men call death.
4. It is
round earthly lives that this unorder doth exist. For that the
bodies of the heavenly ones preserve one order allotted to them
by the Father as their rule; and it is by the restoration of
each one [of them] this order is preserved indissolute.
of bodies on the earth is thus their composition, whereas their
dissolution restores them to those bodies which can never be
dissolved, that is to say, which know no death. Privation, thus,
of sense is brought about, not loss of bodies.
5. Now the
third life - Man, after the image of the Cosmos made, [and] having
mind, after the Father's will, beyond all earthly lives - not
only doth have feeling with the second God <i.e., the Cosmos>,
but also hath conception of the first; for of the one 'tis sensible
as of a body, while of the other it conceives as bodiless and
the Good Mind.
then this life not perish?
son! and understand what God, what Cosmos [is], what is a life
that cannot die, and what a life subject to dissolution.
the Cosmos is by God and in God; but Man by Cosmos and in Cosmos.
and limit and the constitution of all things is God.
Thought and Sense
on the text: This somewhat diffuse essay covers a series of topics,
starting with (and to some extent from) the concept that the
set of perceptions we call "thoughts" and the set we
call "sensory perceptions" are not significantly different
from each other. The implications of this idea play a significant
role in later Hermetic thought, particularly in the areas of
magic and the Art of Memory; in this tractate, though, the issues
involved are barely touched, and the argument wanders into moral
dualisms and the equally important, but distinct, idea that the
Cosmos is itself a divine creative power.
10, in which understanding is held up as the source and precondition
of belief, should probably be seen as part of the same ancient
debate on the roles of faith and reason that gave rise to Tertullian's
famous credo quia absurdum ("I believe because it is absurd").
1. I gave
the Perfect Sermon (Logos) yesterday, Asclepius; today I think
it right, as sequel thereunto, to go through point by point the
Sermon about Sense.
and thought do seem to differ, in that the former has to do with
matter, the latter has to do with substance. But unto me both
seem to be at-one and not to differ - in men I mean. In other
lives <or living creatures> sense is at-oned with Nature,
but in men thought.
doth differ just as much from thought as God doth from divinity.
For that divinity by God doth come to be, and by mind thought,
the sister of the word (logos) and instruments of one another.
For neither doth the word (logos) find utterance without thought,
nor is thought manifested without word.
2. So sense
and thought both flow together into man, as though they were
entwined with one another. For neither without sensing can one
think, nor without thinking sense.
But it is
possible [they say] to think a thing apart from sense, as those
who fancy sights in dreams. But unto me it seems that both of
these activities occur in dream-sight, and sense doth pass out
of the sleeping to the waking state.
For man is
separated into soul and body, and only when the two sides of
his sense agree together, does utterance of its thought conceived
by mind take place.
3. For it
is mind that doth conceive all thoughts - good thoughts when
it receives the seeds from God, their contraries when [it receiveth
them] from the daimonials; no part of Cosmos being free of daimon,
who stealthily doth creep into the daimon who's illumined by
God's light <i.e., the human soul>, and sow in him the
seed of its own energy.
conceives the seed thus sown, adultery, murder, parricide, [and]
sacrilege, impiety, [and] strangling, casting down precipices,
and all such other deeds as are the work of evil daimons.
4. The seeds
of God, 'tis true, are few, but vast and fair, and good - virtue
and self-control, devotion. Devotion is God-gnosis; and he who
knoweth God, being filled with all good things, thinks godly
thoughts and not thoughts like the many [think].
cause they who Gnostic are, please not the many, nor the many
them. They are thought mad and laughted at; they're hated and
despised, and sometimes even put to death.
For we did
say that bad must needs dwell on earth, where 'tis in its own
place. Its place is earth, and not Cosmos, as some will sometimes
say with impious tongue.
But he who
is a devotee of God, will bear with all - once he has sensed
the Gnosis. For such an one all things, e'en though they be for
others bad, are for him good; deliberately he doth refer them
all unto the Gnosis. And, thing most marvelous, 'tis he alone
who maketh bad things good.
5. But I
return once more to the Discourse (Logos) on Sense. That sense
doth share with thought in man, doth constitute him man. But
'tis not [every] man, as I have said, who benefits by thought;
for this man is material, that other one substantial.
For the material
man, as I have said, [consorting] with the bad, doth have his
seed of thought from daimons; while the substantial men [consorting]
with the Good, are saved by God.
Now God is
Maker of all things, and in His making, He maketh all [at last]
like to Himself; but they, while they're becoming good by exercise
of their activity, are unproductive things.
It is the
working of the Cosmic Course that maketh their becomings what
they are, befouling some of them with bad and others of them
making clean with good.
too, Asclepius, possesseth sense-and-thought peculiar to itself,
not like that of man; 'tis not so manifold, but as it were a
better and a simpler one.
6. The single
sense-and-thought of Cosmos is to make all things, and make them
back into itself again, as Organ of the Will of God, so organized
that it, receiving all the seeds into itself from God, and keeping
them within itself, may make all manifest, and [then] dissolving
them, make them all new again; and thus, like a Good Gardener
of Life, things that have been dissolved, it taketh to itself,
and giveth them renewal once again.
no thing to which it gives not life; but taking all unto itself
it makes them live, and is at the same time the Place of Life
and its Creator.
7. Now bodies
matter [-made] are in diversity. Some are of earth, of water
some, some are of air, and some of fire.
are all composed; some are more [composite], and some are simpler.
The heavier ones are more [composed], the lighter less so.
It is the
speed of Cosmos' Course that works the manifoldness of the kinds
of births. For being a most swift Breath, it doth bestow their
qualities on bodies together with the One Pleroma - that of Life.
8. God, then,
is Sire of Cosmos; Cosmos, of all in Cosmos. And Cosmos is God's
Son; but things in Cosmos are by Cosmos.
hath it been called Cosmos [Order]; for that it orders all with
their diversity of birth, with its not leaving aught without
its life, with the unweariedness of its activity, the speed of
its necessity, the composition of its elements, and order of
then, of necessity and propriety should have the name of Order.
then, of all lives doth come into them from without, inbreathed
by what contains [them all]; whereas Cosmos receives them once
for all together with its coming into being, and keeps them as
a gift from God.
9. But God
is not, as some suppose, beyond the reach of sense-and-thought.
It is through superstition men thus impiously speak.
For all the
things that are, Asclepius, all are in God, are brought by God
to be, and do depend on Him - both things that act through bodies,
and things that through soul-substance make [other things] to
move, and things that make things live by means of spirit, and
things that take unto themselves the things that are worn out.
so; nay, I would rather say, He doth not have these things; but
I speak forth the truth, He is them all Himself. He doth not
get them from without, but gives them out [from Him].
This is God's
sense-and-thought, ever to move all things. And never time shall
be when e'en a whit of things that are shall cease; and when
I say "a whit of things that are", I mean a whit of
God. For thigs that are, God hath; nor aught [is there] without
Him, nor [is] He without aught.
things should seem to thee, Asclepius, if thou dost understand
them, true; but if thou dost not understand, things not to be
is to believe, to not believe is not to understand.
My word (logos)
doth go before [thee] to the truth. But mighty is the mind, and
when it hath been led by word up to a certain point, it hath
the power to come before [thee] to the truth.
thought o'er all these things, and found them consonant with
those which have already been translated by the reason, it hath
[e'en now] believed, and found its rest in that Fair Faith.
then, who by God['s good aid] do understand the things that have
been said [by us] above, they're credible; but unto those who
understand them not, incredible.
Let so much,
then, suffice on thought-and-sense.
<This longer tractate presents itself explicitly as a summary
or abridgement of the General Sermons (CH II-IX), and discusses
the Hermetic view of knowledge and its role in the lives and
afterlives of human beings. The attentive reader will notice
certain contradictions between the afterlife-teachings of this
and previous tractates.
the central concepts of The Key, and of Hermetic
thought generally, is the distinction between ordinary discursive
knowledge which can be expressed in words (in Greek, episteme,
which Mead translates somewhat clumsily as "science")
and transcendent, unitive knowledge which cannot be communicated
(in Greek, gnosis, which Mead simply and sensibly leaves
untranslated). The same distinction can be found in many systems
of mystical thought. Unlike most of these, though, the Hermetic
teachings place value on both.
without much experience in the jargon of Classical philosophy
will want to remember that "hylic" means "material",
"passible" means "subject to outside forces or
to suffering", and "intelligible" means "belonging
to the realm of the Mind", and "motion"includes
all kinds of change. The special implications of "good"
in Greek thought - of self-sufficiency and desirability - should
also be kept in mind.
irony of the Zen moment early in section 9, when Hermes - in
the middle of this very substantial lecture - defines the good
and pious man as "he who doth not say much or lend his ear
to much" and thus rules out both himself and his audience,
seems to have been lost on subsequent commentators. - JMG>
My yesterday's discourse (logos) I did devote to thee, Asclepius,
and so 'tis [only] right I should devote toafy's to Tat; and
this the more because 'tis the abridgement of the General Sermons
(Logoi) which he has had addressed to him.
Father and the Good", then, Tat, hath the same nature, or
more exactly, energy.
is a predicate of growth, and used of things that change, both
mobile and immobile, that is to say, both human and divine, each
one of which He willeth into being.
consists in something else, as we have shown in treating of the
rest, both things divine and human things; which thing we ought
to have in mind when treating of the Good.
energy is then His Will; further His essence is to will the being
of all things. For what is "God and Father and the Good"
but the "to be" of all that are not yet? Nay, subsistence
self of everything that is; this, then, is God, this Father,
this the Good; to Him is added naught of all the rest.
the Cosmos, that is to say the Sun, is also sire himself to them
that share in him; yet so far is he not the cause of good unto
the lives, he is not even of their living.
So that e'en
if he be a sire, he is entirely so by compulsion of the Good's
Good-will, apart from which nor being nor becoming could e'er
the parent is the children's cause, both on the father's and
the mother's side, only by sharing in the Good's desire [that
doth pour] through the Sun. It is the Good which doeth the creating.
a power can be possessed by no one else than Him alone who taketh
naught, but wills all things to be; I will not, Tat, say "makes".
the maker is defective for long periods (in which he sometimes
makes, and sometimes doth not make) both in the quality and in
the quantity [of what he makes]; in that he sometimes maketh
them so many and such like, and sometimes the reverse.
and Father and the Good" is [cause] for all to be. So are
at least these things for those who can see.
4. For It
doth will to be, and It is both Itself and most of all by reason
of Itself. Indeed, all other things beside are just bacause of
It; for the distinctive feature of the Good is "that it
should be known". Such is the Good, O Tat.
hast, O father, filled us so full of this so good and fairest
sight, that thereby my mind's eye hath now become for me almost
a thing to worship.
the vision of the Good doth not, like the sun's beam, firelike
blaze on the eyes and make them close; nay, on the contrary,
it shineth forth and maketh to increase the seeing of the eye,
as far as e'er a man hath the capacity to hold the inflow of
the radiance that the mind alone can see.
does it come more swiftly down to us, but it does us no harm,
and is instinct with all immortal life.
5. They who
are able to drink in a somewhat more than others of this Sight,
ofttimes from out the body fall asleep in this fairest Spectacle,
as was the case with Uranus and Cronus, our forebears. may this
be out lot too, O father mine!
may it be, my son! But as it is, we are not yet strung to the
Vision, and not as yet have we the power our mind's eye to unfold
and gaze upon the Beauty of the Good - Beauty that naught can
e'er corrupt or any comprehend.
then wilt thou upon It gaze when thou canst say no word concerning
It. For Gnosis of the Good is holy silence and a giving holiday
to every sense.
6. For neither
can he who perceiveth It, perceive aught else; nor he who gazeth
on It, gaze on aught else; nor hear aught else, nor stir his
body any way. Staying his body's every sense and every motion
he stayeth still.
then all round his mond, It shines through his whole soul, and
draws it out of body, transforming all of him to essence.
For it is
possible, my son, that a man's soul should be made like to God,
e'en while it still is in a body, if it doth contemplate the
Beauty of the Good.
7. Tat: Made
like to God? What dost thou, father, mean?
every soul apart are transformations, son.
meanest thou? Apart?
thou not, in the General Sermons, hear that from one Soul - the
All-soul - come all these souls which are made to revovlve in
all the cosmos, as though divided off?
souls, then, it is that there are many changes, some to a happier
lot and some to [just] the contrary of this.
that were creeping things change into things that in the water
dwell, the souls of water things change to earth-dwellers, those
that live on earth change to things with wings, and souls that
live in air change to men, while human souls reach the first
step of deathlessness changed into daimones.
And so they
circle to the choir of the Inerrant Gods; for of the Gods there
are two choirs, the one Inerrant, and the other Errant. And this
is the most perfect glory of the soul.
8. But if
a soul on entering the body of a man persisteth in its vice,
it neither tasteth deathlessness nor shareth in the Good; but
speeding back again it turns into the path that leads to creeping
things. This is the sentence of the vicious soul.
And the soul's
vice is ignorance. For that the soul who hath no knowledge of
the things that are, or knowledge of their nature, or of Good,
is blinded by the body's passions and tossed about.
soul, not knowing what she is, becomes the slave of bodies of
strange form in sorry plight, bearing the body as a load; not
as the ruler, but the ruled. This [ignorance] is the soul's vice.
9. But on
the other hand the virtue of the soul is Gnosis. For he who knows,
he good and pious is, and still while on the earth divine.
who is such an one, O father mine?
who doth not say much or lend his ear to much. For he who spendeth
time in arguing and hearing arguments, doth shadow-fight. For
"God, the Father and the Good", is not to be obtained
by speech or hearing.
And yet though
this is so, there are in all the beings senses, in that they
cannot without senses be.
is far different from sense. For sense is brought about by that
which hath the mastery o'er us, while Gnosis is the end <i.e.,
goal> of science, and science is God's gift.
10. All science
is incorporeal, the instrument it uses being the mind, just as
the mind employs the body.
come into bodies, [I mean] both things that are cognizable by
mond alone and things material. For all things must consist out
of antithesis and contrariety; and this can otherwise not be.
then is this material God of whom thou speakest?
is beautiful, but is not good - for that it is material and freely
passible; and though it is the first of all things passible,
yet is it in the second rank of being and wanting in itself.
it never hath itself its birth in time, but ever is, yet is its
being in becoming, becoming for all time the genesis of qualities
and quantities; for it is mobile and all material motion's genesis.
11. It is
intelligible rest that moves material motion in this way, since
Cosmos is a sphere - that is to say, a head. And naught of head
above's material, as naught of feet below's intelligible, but
itself is moved in a sphere-like way - that is to say, as head
should move, is mind.
that are united to the "tissue" of this "head"
(in which is soul) are in their nature free from death - just
as when body hath been made in soul, are things that hath more
soul than body.
things which are at greater distance from this "tissue"
- there, where are things which have a greater share of body
than of soul - are by their nature subject unto death.
however, is a life; so that the universe consists of both the
hylic and of the intelligible.
the Cosmos is the first of living things, while man is second
after it, though first of things subject to death.
the same ensouling power in him as all the rest of living things;
yet is he not only not good, but even evil, for that he's subject
the Cosmos also is not good in that it suffers motion, it is
not evil, in that it is not subject to death. But man, in that
he's subject both to motion and to death, is evil.
13. Now then
the principles of man are this-wise vehicled: mind in the reason
(logos), the reason in the soul, soul in the spirit <or, rather,
vital spirits>, and spirit in the body.
[body] by means of veins and arteries and blood, bestows upon
the living creature motion, and as it were doth bear it in a
cause some do think the soul is blood, in that they do mistake
its nature, not knowing that [at death] it is iteh spirit that
must first withdraw into the soul, whereon the blood congeals
and veins and arteries are emptied, and then the living creature
<or life> is withdrawn; and this is body's death.
14. Now from
one Source all things depend; while Source [dependeth] from the
One and Only [One]. Source is, moreover, moved to become Source
again; whereas the One standeth perpetually and is not moved.
are they: "God, the Father and the Good", Cosmos and
contain Cosmos; Cosmos [containeth] man. Cosmos is e'er God's
Son, man as it were Cosmos' child.
15. Not that,
however, God ignoreth man; nay, right well doth He know him,
and willeth to be known.
This is the
sole salvation for a man - God's Gnosis. This is the Way Up to
By Him alone
the soul becometh good, not whiles is good, whiles evil, but
[good] out of necessity.
dost thou mean, Thrice-greatest one?
an infant's soul, my son, that is not yet cut off, because its
body is still small and not as yet come unto its full bulk.
thing of beauty altogether is [such a soul] to see, not yet befouled
by body's passions, still all but hanging from the Cosmic Soul!
the body grows in bulk and draweth down the soul into its mass,
then doth the soul cut off itself and bring upon itself forgetfulness,
and no more shareth in the Beautiful and the Good. And this forgetfulness
16. It is
the same for them who go out from the body.
the soul withdraws into itself, the spirit doth contract itself
within the blood, and the soul within the spirit. And then the
mind, stripped of its wrappings, and naturally divine, taking
unto itself a fiery body, doth traverse every space, after abandoning
the soul unto its judgement and whatever chastisement it hath
dost thou, father, mean by this? The mind is parted from soul
and soul from spirit? Whereas thou said'st the soul was the mind's
vesture, and the soul's the spirit.
The hearer, son, should think with him who speaks and breathe
with him; nay, he should have a hearing subtler than the voice
of him who speaks.
It is, son,
in a body made of earth that this arrangement of the vestures
comes to pass. For in a body made of earth it is impossible the
mind should take its seat itself by its own self in nakedness.
is it possible on the one hand the earthly body should contain
so much immortality, nor on the other that so great a virtue
should endure a body passible in such close contact with it.
It taketh, then, the soul for as it were an envelope.
itself, being too and thing divine, doth use the spirit as its
envelope, while spirit doth pervade the living creature.
then the mind doth free itself from the earth-body, it straightway
putteth on its proper robe of fire, with which it could not dwell
in an earth-body.
doth not bear fire; for it is all set in a blaze even by a small
spark. And for this cause is water poured around earth, to be
a guard and wall, to keep the blazing of the fire away.
the swiftest thing of all divine outthinkings, and swifter than
all elements, hath for its body fire.
being builder doth use the fire as tool for the construction
of all things - the Mind of all [for the construction] of all
things, but that of man only for things on earth.
its fire the mind on earth cannot make things divine, for it
is human in its dispensation.
19. The soul
in man, however - not every soul, but one that pious is - is
a daimonic something and divine.
a soul when from the body freed, if it have fought the fight
of piety - the fight of piety is to know God and to do wrong
to no man - such a soul becomes entirely mind.
impious soul remains in its own essence, chastised by its own
self, and seeking for an earthly body where to enter, if only
it be human.
no other body can contain a human soul; nor is it right that
any human soul should fall into the body of a thing that doth
possess no reason. For that the law of God is this: to guard
the human soul from such tremendous outrage.
How father, then, is a man's soul chastised?
greater chastisement of any human soul can there be, son, than
lack of piety? What fire has so fierce a flame as lack of piety?
What ravenous beast so mauls the body as lack of piety the very
not see what hosts of ills the impious soul doth bear?
and screams: I burn; I am ablaze; I know not what to cry or do;
ah, wretched me, I am devoured by all the ills that compass me
about; alack, poor me, I neither see nor hear!
the cries wrung from a soul chastised; not, as the many think,
and thou, son, dost suppose, that a [man's] soul, passing from
body, is changed into a beast.
Such is a
very grave mistake, for that the way a soul doth suffer chastisement
mind becomes a daimon, the law requires that it should take a
fiery body to execute the services of God; and entering in the
soul most impious it scourgeth it with whips made of its sins.
the impious soul, scourged with its sins, is plunged in murders,
outrage, blasphemy, in violence of all kinds, and all the other
things whereby mankind is wronged.
But on the
pious soul the mind doth mount and guide it to the Gnosis' Light.
And such a soul doth never tire in songs of praise [to God] and
pouring blessing on all men, and doing good in word and deed
to all, in imitation of its Sire.
my son, thou shouldst give praise to God and pray that thou mayst
have thy mind Good Mind. It is, then, to a better state the soul
doth pass; it cannot to a worse.
is an intercourse of souls; those of the gods have intercourse
with those of men, and those of men with souls of creatures which
possess no reason.
further, have in charge the lower; the gods look after men, men
after animals irrational, while God hath charge of all; for He
is higher than them all and all are less than He.
subject, then, to God, man to the Cosmos, and irrationals to
man. But God is o'er them all, and God contains them all.
to use a figure, are His energies; the Cosmos's are natures,
the arts and sciences are man's.
act through the Cosmos, thence through the nature-rays of Cosmos
upon man; the nature-rays [act] through the elements, man [acteth]
through the sciences and arts.
is the dispensation of the universe, depending from the nature
of the One, pervading [all things] through the Mind, than which
is naught diviner nor of greater energy; and naught a greater
means for the at-oning men to gods and gods to men.
is the Good Daimon. Blessed the soul that is most filled with
Him, and wretched is the soul that's empty of the Mind.
what dost thou mean, again?
think then, son, that every soul hath the Good [Mind]? For 'tis
of Him we speak, not of the mind in service of which we were
just speaking, the mind sent down for [the soul's] chastisement.
24. For soul
without the mind "can neither speak nor act". For oftentimes
the mind doth leave the soul, and at that time the soul neither
sees nor understands, but is just like a thing that hath no reason.
Such is the power of mind.
it not endure a sluggish soul, but leaveth such a soul tied to
the body and bound tight down by it. Such soul, my son, doth
not have Mind; and therefore such an one should not be called
a man. For that man is a thing-of-life <or animal> divine;
man is not measured with the rest of lives of things upon the
earth, but with the lives above in heaven, who are called gods.
if we must boldly speak the truth, the true "man" is
e'en higher than the gods, or at the [very] least the gods and
men are very whit in power each with the other equal.
25. For no
one of the gods in heaven shall come down to the earth, o'er-stepping
heaven's limit; whereas man doth mount up to heaven and measure
it; he knows what things of it are high, what things are low,
and learns precisely all things else besides. And greater thing
than all; without e'en quitting earth, he doth ascend above.
So vast a sweep doth he possess of ecstasy.
cause can a man dare say that man on earth is god subject to
death, while god in heaven is man from death immune.
the dispensation of all things is brought about by means of there,
the twain - Cosmos and Man - but by the One.
on the text: This complex text is written as a revelation from
the divine Mind - the "Man-Shepherd" of CH I - to Hermes,
concerning the nature of God and the universe. Difficult enough
in its own right, it has been made rather more so by some of
Mead's most opaque prose. I have tried to insert clarifications
where these are most needed.
notes on terminology may also be useful. The term Aeon here,
as in many of the so-called "Gnostic" writings, refers
to the timeless and spaceless realm of ideal being. The word
cosmos means both "order" and "beauty" -
the same root appears in the word "cosmetic". Additionally,
the words genesis and becoming in the translation are the same
word in the Greek original.
the word "inactive" in square brackets near the beginning
of section 13 is Mead's, intended to fill a lacuna in the text.
The more usual conjecture, as he comments, is "apart from
God". - JMG
Master this sermon (logos), then, Thrice-greatest Hermes, and
bear in mind the spoken words; and as it hath come unto Me to
speak, I will no more delay.
many men say many things, and these diverse, about the All and
Good, I have not learned the truth. Make it, then, clear to me,
O Master mine! For I can trust the explanation of these things,
which comes from Thee alone.
Hear [then], My son, how standeth God and All.
Cosmos; Time; Becoming.
Aeon; Aeon, Cosmos; Cosmos, Time; and Time, Becoming <or Genesis>.
- the Beautiful, Wisdom, Blessedness - is <the> essence,
as it were, of God; of Aeon, <the essence is> Sameness;
of Cosmos, Order; of Time, Change; and of Becoming, Life and
of God are Mind and Soul; of Aeon, lastingness and deathlessness;
of Cosmos, restoration and the opposite thereof; of Time, increase
and decrease; and of Becoming, quality.
then, in God; Cosmos, in Aeon; in Cosmos; Time; in Time, Becoming.
firm round God; Cosmos is moved in Aeon; Time hath its limits
<or is accomplished> in the Cosmos; Becoming doth become
3. The source,
therfore, of all is God; their essence, Aeon; their matter, Cosmos.
is Aeon; Aeon's work is Cosmos - which never hath become, yet
ever doth become by Aeon.
will Cosmos never be destroyed, for Aeon's indestructible; nor
doth a whit of things in Cosmos perish, for Cosmos is enwrapped
by Aeon round on every side.
God's Wisdom - what is that?
Good and Beautiful, and Blessedness, and Virtue's all, and Aeon.
ordereth [Cosmos], imparting deathlessness and lastingness to
4. For its
beginning doth depend on Aeon, as Aeon doth on God.
<or Becoming> and Time, in Heaven and upon the Earth, are
of two natures.
they are unchangeable and indestructible, but on the Earth they're
subject unto change and to destruction.
the Aeon's soul is God; the Cosmos' soul is Aeon; the Earth's
And God <is>
in Mind; and Mind, in Soul; and Soul, in Matter; and all of them
But all this
Body, in which are all the bodies, is full of Soul; and Soul
is full of Mind, and Mind of God.
Soul> fills it <i.e., the Body of the Cosmos> from within,
and from without encircles it, making the All to live.
this vast and perfect Life [encircles] Cosmos; within, it fills
[it with] all lives; above, in Heaven, continuing in sameness;
below, on Earth, changing becoming.
5. And Aeon
doth preserve this [Cosmos], or by Necessity, or by Foreknowledge,
or by Nature, or by whatever else a man supposes or shall suppose.
And all is this - God energizing.
of God is Power that naught can e'er surpass, a Power with which
no one can make comparison of any human thing at all, or any
O Hermes, never think that aught of things above or things below
is like to God, for thou wilt fall from truth. For naught is
like to That which hath no like, and is Alone and One.
And do not
ever think that any other can possibly possess His power; for
what apart from Him is there of life, and deathlessness and change
of quality? For what else should He make?
inactive, since all things [then] would lack activity; for all
are full of God.
in the Cosmos anywhere, nor in aught else, is there inaction.
For that "inaction" is a name that cannot be applied
to either what doth make or what is made.
6. But all
things must be made; both ever made, and also in accordance with
the influence of every space.
For He who
makes, is in them all; not stablished in some one of them, nor
making one thing only, but making all.
Power, He energizeth in the things He makes and is not independent
of them - although the things He makes are subject to Him.
through Me upon the Cosmos that's now subject to thy sight; regard
its Beauty carefully - Body in pure perfection, though one than
which there's no more ancient one, ever in prime of life, and
ever-young, nay, rather, in even fuller and yet fuller prime!
again, the seven subject Worlds; ordered by Aeon's order, and
with their varied course full-filling Aeon!
all things [are] full of light, and nowhere [is there] fire;
for 'tis the love and the blending of the contraries and the
dissimilars that doth give birth to light down shining by the
energy of God, the Father of all good, the Leader of all order,
and Ruler of the seven world-orderings!
the Moon, forerunner of them all, the instrument of nature, and
the transmuter of its lower matter!
the Earth set in the midst of All, foundation of the Cosmos Beautiful,
feeder and nurse of things on Earth!
the multitude of deathless lives, how great it is, and that of
lives subject to death; and midway, between both, immortal [lives]
and mortal, [see thou] the circling Moon.
8. And all
are full of soul, and all are moved by it, each in its proper
way; some round the Heaven, others around the Earth; [see] how
the right [move] not unto the left, nor yet the left unto the
right; nor the above below, nor the below above.
all there are subject unto Genesis, My dearest Hermes, thou hast
no longer need to learn of Me. For that they bodies are, have
souls, and they are moved.
impossible for them to come together into one without some one
to bring them [all] together. It must, then, be that such a one
as this must be some one who's wholly One.
9. For as
the many motions of them [all] are different, and as their bodies
are not like, yet has one speed been ordered for them all, it
is impossible that there should be two or more makers for them.
one single order is not kept among "the many"; but
rivalry will follow of the weaker with the stronger, and they
And if the
maker of the lives that suffer change and death, should be another
<from the maker of the immortals>, he would desire to make
the deathless ones as well; just as the maker of the deathless
ones, [to make the lives] that suffer death.
if there be two - if matter's one, and Soul is one, in whose
hands would there be the distribution for the making? Again,
if both of them have some of it, in whose hands may be the greater
10. But thus
conceive it, then; that every living body doth consist of soul
and matter, whether [that body be] of an immortal, or a mortal,
or an irrational [life].
all living bodies are ensouled; whereas, upon the other hand,
those that live not, are matter by itself.
And, in like
fashion, Soul when in its self is, after its own maker, cause
of life; but the cause of all life is He who makes the things
that cannot die.
then, is it that, first, lives subject to death are other than
the deathless ones? And, next, how is it that Life which knows
no death, and maketh deathlessness, doth not make animals immortal?
First, that there is some one who does these things, is clear;
and, next, that He is also One, is very manifest. For, also,
Soul is one, and Life is one, and Matter one.
who is He?
may it other be than the One God? Whom else should it beseem
to put Soul into lives but God alone? One, then, is God.
indeed be most ridiculous, if when thou dost confess the Cosmos
to be one, Sun one, Moon one, and Godhead one, thou shouldst
wish God Himself to be some one or other of a number!
12. All things,
therefore, He makes, in many [ways]. And what great thing is
it for God to make life, soul, and deathlessness, and change,
when thou [thyself] dost do so many things?
dost see, and speak, and hear, and smell, and taste, and touch,
and walk, and think, and breathe. And it is not one man who smells,
another one who walks, another one who thinks, and [yet] another
one who breathes. But one is he who doth all these.
And yet no
one of these could be apart from God. For just as, should thou
cease from these, thou wouldst no longer be a living thing, so
also, should God cease from them (a thing not law to say), no
longer is He God.
13. For if
it hath been shown that no thing can [inactive] be, how much
less God? For if there's aught he doth not make (if it be law
to say), He is imperfect. But if He is not only not inactive,
but perfect [God], then He doth make all things.
thyself to Me, My Hermes, for a little while, and thou shalt
understand more easily how that God's work is one, in order that
all things may be - that are being made, or once have been, or
that are going to be made. And this is, My beloved, Life; this
is the Beautiful; this is the Good; this, God.
14. And if
thou wouldst in practice understand [this work], behold what
taketh place with thee desiring to beget. Yet this is not like
unto that, for He doth not enjoy.
indeed He hath no other one to share in what He works, for working
by Himself, He ever is at work, Himself being what He doth. For
did He separate Himself from it, all things would [then] collapse,
and all must die, Life ceasing.
But if all
things are lives, and also Life is one; then, one is God. And,
furthermore, if all are lives, both those in Heaven and those
on Earth, and One Life in them all is made to be by God, and
God is it <i.e., God is the One Life> - then, all are made
Life is the
making-one of Mind and Soul; accordingly Death is not the destruction
of those that are at-oned, but the dissolving of their union.
moreover, is God's image; Cosmos [is] Aeon's; the Sun, of Cosmos;
and Man, [the image] of the Sun.
call change death, because the body is dissolved, and life, when
it's dissolved, withdraws to the unmanifest. But in this sermon
(logos), Hermes, My beloved, as thou dost hear, I say the Cosmos
also suffers change - for that a part of it each day is made
to be in the unmanifest - yet it is ne'er dissolved.
the passions of the Cosmos - revolvings and concealments; revolving
is conversion and concealment renovation.
16. The Cosmos
is all-formed - not having forms external to itself, but changing
them itself within itself. Since, then, Cosmos is made to be
all-formed, what may its maker be? For that, on the one hand,
He should not be void of all form; and, on the other hand, if
He's all-formed, He will be like the Cosmos. Whereas, again,
has He a single form, He will thereby be less than Cosmos.
say we He is? - that we may not bring round our sermon (logos)
into doubt; for naught that mind conceives of God is doubtful.
hath one idea, which is His own alone, which doth not fall beneath
the sight, being bodiless, and [yet] by means of bodies manifesteth
all [ideas]. And marvel not that there's a bodiless idea.
17. For it
is like the form of reason (logos) and mountain-tops in pictures.
For they appear to stand out strongly from the rest, but really
are quite smooth and flat.
And now consider
what is said more boldly, but more truly!
Just as man
cannot live apart from Life, so neither can God live without
[His] doing good. For this is as it were the life and motion
as it were of God - to move all things and make them live.
18. Now some
of the things said should bear a sense peculiar to themselves.
So understand, for instance, what I'm going to say.
All are in
God, [but] not as lying in a place. For place is both a body
and immovable, and things that lie do not have motion.
lie one way in the bodiless, another way in being made manifest.
of Him who doth contain them all; and think, that than the bodiless
naught is more comprehensive, or swifter, or more potent, but
it is the most comprehensive, the swiftest, and most potent of
thus, think from thyself, and bid thy soul go unto any land,
and there more quickly than thy bidding will it be. And bid it
journey oceanwards; and there, again, immediately 'twill be,
not as if passing on from place to place, but as if being there.
And bid it
also mount to heaven; and it will need no wings, not will aught
hinder it, nor fire of sun, nor auther, nor vortex-swirl, nor
bodies of the other stars; but, cutting through them all, it
will soar up to the last Body [of them all]. And shouldst thou
will to break through this as well, and contemplate what is beyond
- if there be aught beyond the Cosmos; it is permitted thee.
what power, what swiftness, thou dost have! And canst thou do
all of these things, and God not [do them]?
this way know God; as having all things in Himself as thoughts,
the whole Cosmos itself.
thou dost not make thyself like unto God, thou canst not know
Him. For like is knowable unto like [alone].
thyself to grow to the same stature as the Greatness which transcends
all measure; leap forth from every body; transcend all time;
become Eternity <literally, Aeon>; and [thus] shalt thou
nothing is impossible unto thyself, think thyself deathless and
able to know all - all arts, all sciences, the way of every life.
lofty than all height, and lower than all depth. Collect into
thyself all senses of [all] creatures - of fire, [and] water,
dry and moist. Think that thou art at the same time in every
place - in earth, in sea, in sky; not yet begotten, in the womb,
young, old, [and] dead, in after-death conditions.
And if thou
knowest all these things at once - times, places, doings, qualities,
and quantities; thou canst know God.
21. But if
thou lockest up thy soul within thy body, and dost debase it,
saying: I nothing know; I nothing can; I fear the sea; I cannot
scale the sky; I know not who I was, who I shall be - what is
there [then] between [thy] God and thee?
canst know naught of things beautiful and good so long as thou
dost love thy body and art bad.
bad there is, is not to know God's Good; but to be able to know
[Good], and will, and hope, is a Straight Way, the Good's own
[Path], both leading there and easy.
If thou but
settest thy foot thereon, 'twill meet thee everywhere, 'twill
everywhere be seen, both where and when thou dost expect it not
- waking, sleeping, sailing, journeying, by night, by day, speaking,
[and] saying naught. For there is naught that is not image of
Is God unseen?
Who is more manifest than He? For this one reason hath He made
all things, that through them all thou mayest see Him.
This is the
Good of God, this [is] His Virtue - that He may be manifest through
unseen, even of things that are without a body. Mind sees itself
in thinking, God in making.
So far these
things have been made manifest to thee, Thrice-greatest one!
Reflect on all the rest in the same way with thyself, and thou
shalt not be led astray.
The Common Mind
on the text: The "common mind" discussed in this dialogue
is the same Mind which appears as a divine power in other parts
of the Hermetic literature. It is identical, as well, with the
"Good Daimon" whose words are quoted at several points
here and elsewhere.
The Greek word logos - which means both "word" and
"reason", among other things - is central to much of
the argument, and it's unfortunate that English has no way to
express the same complex of meanings. The praise of reason in
parts 13-14 is also, and equally, a praise of human language,
and this sort of double meaning plays a part elsewhere in this
and other parts of the Hermetic literature. - JMG
The Mind, O Tat, is of God's very essence - (if such a thing
as essence of God there be) - and what that is, it and it only
The Mind, then, is not separated off from God's essentiality,
but is united to it, as light to sun.
This Mind in men is God, and for this cause some of mankind are
gods, and their humanity is nigh unto divinity.
For the Good Daimon said: "Gods are immortal men, and men
are mortal gods."
2. But in
irrational lives Mind is their nature. For where is Soul, there
too is Mind; just as where Life, there is there also Soul.
But in irrational lives their soul is life devoid of mind; for
Mind is the in-worker of the souls of men for good - He works
on them for their own good.
In lives irrational He doth co-operate with each one's nature;
but in the souls of men He counteracteth them.
For every soul, when it becomes embodied, is instantly depraved
by pleasure and by pain.
For in a compound body, just like juices, pain and pleasure seethe,
and into them the soul, on entering in, is plunged.
3. O'er whatsoever
souls the Mind doth, then, preside, to these it showeth its own
light, by acting counter to their prepossessions, just as a good
physician doth upon the body prepossessed by sickness, pain inflict,
burning or lancing it for sake of health.
In just the selfsame way the Mind inflicteth pain on the soul,
to rescue it from pleasure, whence comes its every ill.
The great ill of the soul is godlessness; then followeth fancy
for all evil things and nothing good.
So, then, Mind counteracting it doth work good on the soul, as
the physician health upon the body.
4. But whatsoever
human souls have not the Mind as pilot, they share in the same
fate as souls of lives irrational.
For [Mind] becomes co-worker with them, giving full play to the
desires toward which [such souls] are borne - [desires] that
from the rush of lust strain after the irrational; [so that such
human souls,] just like irrational animals, cease not irrationally
to rage and lust, nor are they ever satiate of ills.
For passions and irrational desires are ills exceeding great;
and over these God hath set up the Mind to play the part of judge
5. Tat: In
that case, father mine, the teaching (logos) as to Fate, which
previously thou didst explain to me, risks to be overset.
For that if it be absolutely fated for a man to fornicate, or
commit sacrilege, or do some other evil deed, why is he punished
- when he hath done the deed from Fate's necessity?
Hermes: All works, my son, are Fate's; and without Fate naught
of things corporal - or <i.e., either> good, or ill - can
come to pass.
But it is fated, too, that he who doeth ill, shall suffer. And
for this cause he doth it - that he may suffer what he suffereth,
because he did it.
6. But for
the moment, [Tat,] let be the teaching as to vice and Fate, for
we have spoken of these things in other [of our sermons]; but
now our teaching (logos) is about the Mind: - what Mind can do,
and how it is [so] different - in men being such and such, and
in irrational lives [so] changed; and [then] again that in irrational
lives it is not of a beneficial nature, while that in men it
quencheth out the wrathful and the lustful elements.
Of men, again, we must class some as led by reason, and others
7. But all
men are subject to Fate, and genesis and change, for these are
the beginning and the end of Fate.
And though all men do suffer fated things, those led by reason
(those whom we said Mind doth guide) do not endure <a>
like suffering with the rest; but, since they've freed themselves
from viciousness, not being bad, they do not suffer bad.
Tat: How meanest thou again, my father? Is not the fornicator
bad; the murderer bad; and [so with] all the rest?
Hermes: [I meant not that;] but that the Mind-led man, my son,
though not a fornicator, will suffer just as though he had committed
fornication, and though he be no murderer, as though he had committed
The quality of change he can no more escape than that of genesis.
But it is possible for one who hath the Mind, to free himself
I've ever heard, my son, Good Daimon also say - (and had He set
it down in written words, He would have greatly helped the race
of men; for He alone, my son, doth truly, as the Firstborn God,
gazing on all things, give voice to words (logoi) divine) - yea,
once I heard Him say:
"All things are one, and most of all the bodies which the
mind alone perceives. Our life is owing to [God's] Energy and
Power and Aeon. His Mind is good, so is His Soul as well. And
this being so, intelligible things know naught of separation.
So, then, Mind, being Ruler of all things, and being Soul of
God, can do whate'er it wills."
9. So do
thou understand, and carry back this word (logos) unto the question
thou didst ask before - I mean about Mind's Fate.
For if thou dost with accuracy, son, eliminate [all] captious
arguments (logoi), thou wilt discover that of very truth the
Mind, the Soul of God, doth rule o'er all - o'er Fate, and Law,
and all things else; and nothing is impossible to it - neither
o'er Fate to set a human soul, nor under Fate to set [a soul]
neglectful of what comes to pass. Let this so far suffice from
the Good Daimon's most good [words].
Tat: Yea, [words] divinely spoken, father mine, truly and helpfully.
But further still explain me this.
said'st that Mind in lives irrational worked in them as [their]
nature, co-working with their impulses.
But impulses of lives irrational, as I do think, are passions.
Now if the Mind co-worketh with [these] impulses, and if the
impulses of [lives] irrational be passions, then is Mind also
passion, taking its color from the passions.
Hermes: Well put, my son! Thou questionest right nobly, and it
is just that I as well should answer [nobly].
11. All things
incorporeal when in a body are subject unto passion, and in the
proper sense they are [themselves] all passions.
For every thing that moves itself is incorporeal; while every
thing that's moved is body.
Incorporeals are further moved by Mind, and movement's <i.e.,
movement is> passion.
Both, then, are subject unto passion - both mover and the moved,
the former being ruler and the latter ruled.
But when a man hath freed himself from body, then is he also
freed from passion.
But, more precisely, son, naught is impassible, but all are passible.
Yet passion differeth from passibility; for that the one is active,
while the other's passive.
Incorporeals moreover act upon themselves, for either they are
motionless or they are moved; but whichsoe'er it be, it's passion.
But bodies are invaribly acted on, and therefore they are passible.
Do not, then, let terms trouble thee; action and passion are
both the selfsame thing. To use the fairer sounding term, however,
does no harm.
Most clearly hast thou, father mine, set forth the teaching (logos).
Hermes: Consider this as well, my son; that these two things
God hath bestowed on man beyond all mortal lives - both mind
and speech (logos) equal to immortality. He hath the mind for
knowing God and uttered speech (logos) for eulogy of Him.
And if one useth these for what he ought, he'll differ not a
whit from the immortals. Nay, rather, on departing from the body,
he will be guided by the twain unto the Choir of Gods and Blessed
Why, father mine! - do not the other lives make use of speech
Hermes: Nay, son; but <i.e., only> use of voice; speech
is far different from voice. For speech is general among all
men, while voice doth differ in each class of living thing.
Tat: But with men also, father mine, according to each race,
Hermes: Yea, son, but man is one; so also speech is one and is
interpreted, and it is found the same in Egypt, and in Persia,
and in Greece.
Thou seemest, son, to be in ignorance of Reason's (Logos) worth
and greatness. For that the Blessed God, Good Daimon, hath declared:
"Soul is in Body, Mind in Soul; but Reason (Logos) is in
Mind, and Mind in God; and God is Father of [all] these."
14. The Reason,
then, is the Mind's image, and Mind God's [image]; while Body
is [the image] of the Form; and Form [the image] of the Soul.
The subtlest part of Matter is, then, Air <or vital spirit>;
of Air, Soul; of Soul, Mind; and of Mind, God.
And God surroundeth all and permeateth all; while Mind Surroundeth
Soul, Soul Air, Air Matter.
Necessity and Providence and Nature are instruments of Cosmos
and of Matter's ordering; while of intelligible things each is
Essence, and Sameness is their Essence.
But of the bodies of the Cosmos each is many; for through possessiong
Sameness, [these] composed bodies, though they do change from
one into another of themselves, do natheless keep the incorruption
of their Sameness.
in all the rest of composed bodies, of each there is a certain
number; for without number structure cannot be, or composition,
Now it is units that give birth to number and increase it, and,
being decomposed, are taken back again into themselves.
Matter is one; and this whole Cosmos - the mighty God and image
of the mightier One, both with Him unified, and the conserver
of the Will and Order of the Father - is filled full of Life.
Naught is there in it throughout the whole of Aeon, the Father's
[everlasting] Re-establishment - nor of the whole, nor of the
parts - which doth not live.
For not a single thing that's dead, hath been, or is, or shall
be in [this] Cosmos.
For that the Father willed it should have Life as long as it
should be. Wherefore it needs must be a God.
16. How then,
O son, could there be in the God, the image of the Father, in
the plenitude of Life - dead things?
For that death is corruption, and corruption destruction.
How then could any part of that which knoweth no corruption be
corrupted, or any whit of him the God destroyed?
Tat: Do they not, then, my father, die - the lives in it, that
are its parts?
Hermes: Hush, son! - led into error by the term in use for what
They do not die, my son, but are dissolved as compound bodies.
Now dissolution is not death, but dissolution of a compound;
it is dissolved not so that it may be destroyed, but that it
may become renewed.
For what is the activity of life? Is it not motion? What then
in Cosmos is there that hath no motion? Naught is there, son!
Doth not Earth even, father, seem to thee to have no motion?
Hermes: Nay, son; but rather that she is the only thing which,
though in very rapid motion, is also stable.
For how would it not be a thing to laugh at, that the Nurse of
all should have no motion, when she engenders and brings forth
For 'tis impossible that without motion one who doth engender,
should do so.
That thou should ask if the fourth part <or element> is
not inert, is most ridiculous; for the body which doth have no
motion, gives sign of nothing but inertia.
therefore, generally, my son, that all that is in Cosmos is being
moved for increase or for decrease.
Now that which is kept moving, also lives; but there is no necessity
that that which lives, should be all same.
For being simultaneous, the Cosmos, as a whole, is not subject
to change, my son, but all its parts are subject unto it; yet
naught [of it] is subject to corruption, or destroyed.
It is the terms employed that confuse men. For 'tis not genesis
that constituteth life, but 'tis sensation; it is not change
that constituteth death, but 'tis forgetfulness.
Since, then, these things are so, they are immortal all - Matter,
[and] Life, [and] Spirit, Mind [and] Soul, of which whatever
liveth, is composed.
then doth live, oweth its immortality unto the Mind, and most
of all doth man, he who is both recipient of God, and co-essential
For with this life alone doth God consort; by visions in the
night, by tokens in the day, and by all things doth He foretell
the future unto him - by birds, by inward parts, by wind, by
Wherefore doth man lay claim to know things past, things present
and to come.
this too, my son; that each one of the other lives inhabiteth
one portion of the Cosmos - aquatic creatures water, terrene
earth, and aery creatures air; while man doth use all these -
earth, water air [and] fire; he seeth Heaven, too, and doth contact
it with [his] sense.
But God surroundeth all, and permeateth all, for He is energy
and power; and it is nothing difficult, my son, to conceive God.
21. But if
thou wouldst Him also contemplate, behold the ordering of the
Cosmos, and [see] the orderly behavior of its ordering <this
is a play on the word "cosmos", which means "order,
arrangement">; behold thou the Necessity of things made
manifest, and [see] the Providence of things become and things
becoming; behold how Matter is all-full of Life; [behold] this
so great God in movement, with all the good and noble [ones]
- gods, daimones and men!
Tat: But these are purely energies, O father mine!
Hermes: If, then, they're purely energies, my son - by whom,
then, are they energized except by God?
Or art thou ignorant, that just as Heaven, Earth, Water, Air,
are parts of Cosmos, in just the selfsame way God's parts are
Life and Immortality, [and] Energy, and Spirit, and Necessity,
and Providence, and Nature, Soul, and Mind, and the Duration
<that is, Aeon or Eternity> of all these that is called
And there are naught of things that have become, or are becoming,
in which God is not.
Is He in Matter, father, then?
Hermes: Matter, my son, is separate from God, in order that thou
may'st attribute to it the quality of space. But what thing else
than mass think'st thou it is, if it's not energized? Whereas
if it be energized, by whom is it made so? For energies, we said,
are parts of God.
By whom are, then, all lives enlivened? By whom are things immortal
made immortal? By whom changed things made changeable?
And whether thou dost speak of Matter, of Body, or of Essence,
know that these too are energies of God; and that materiality
is Matter's energy, that corporeality is Bodies' energy, and
that essentiality doth constituteth the energy of Essence; and
this is God - the All.
23. And in
the All is naught that is not God. Wherefore nor <i.e., neither>
size, nor space, nor quality, nor form, nor time, surroundeth
God; for He is All, and All surroundeth all, and permeateth all.
Unto this Reason (Logos), son, thy adoration and thy worship
pay. There is one way alone to worship God; [it is] not to be
The Secret Sermon on the Mountain
on the text: This dialogue is in many ways the culmination of
the whole Corpus, summing up the theory of the Hermetic system
at the same time as it provides an intriguing glimpse at the
practice. The focus of the dialogue is the experience of Rebirth,
which involves the replacement of twelve Tormentors within the
self by ten divine Powers, leading to the awakening of knowledge
of the self and God.
"Secret Hymnody" (sections 17-20) is presented as a
litany for worship, to be performed twice each day, at sunrise
and sunset. It's interesting to note that while the sunrise worship
is performed facing east, the sunset worship is done to the south;
Egyptian tradition from Pharaonic times onward saw the west as
the direction of death.
usual difficulties with the multiple meanings of the Greek word
logos appear in the translation, compounded by Mead's awkward
style. Additionally, one of Mead's few evasions can be found
in section 12, where he relates the twelve Tormentors to the
"twelve types-of-life". This should more simply, and
more accurately, have been translated as "the twelve signs
of the Zodiac". The Theosophical distaste for astrology
may well have been involved here. - JMG
1. Tat: [Now]
in the General Sermons, father, thou didst speak in riddles most
unclear, conversing on Divinity; and when thou saidst no man
could e'er be saved before Rebirth, thy meaning thou didst hide.
when I became thy Suppliant, in Wending up the Mount, after thou
hadst conversed with me, and when I longed to learn the Sermon
(Logos) on Rebirth (for this beyond all other things is just
the thing I know not), thou saidst, that thou wouldst give it
me - "when thou shalt have become a stranger to the world".
I got me ready and made the thought in me a stranger to the world-illusion.
And now do
thou fill up the things that fall short in me with what thou
saidst would give me the tradition of Rebirth, setting it forth
in speech or in the secret way.
I know not,
O Thrice-greatest one, from out what matter and what womb Man
comes to birth, or of what seed.
Wisdom that understands in silence [such is the matter and the
womb from out which Man is born], and the True Good the seed.
is the sower, father? For I am altogether at a loss.
is the Will of God, my son.
of what kind is he that is begotten, father? For I have no share
of that essence in me, which doth transcend the senses. The one
that is begot will be another one from God, God's Son?
in all, out of all powers composed.
tellest me a riddle, father, and dost not speak as father unto
Race, my son, is never taught; but when He willeth it, its memory
is restored by God.
3. Tat: Thou
sayest things impossible, O father, things that are forced. Hence
answers would I have direct unto these things. Am I a son strange
to my father's race?
Keep it not,
father, back from me. I am a true-born son; explain to me the
manner of Rebirth.
may I say, my son? I can but tell thee this. Whene'er I see within
myself the Simple Vision brought to birth out of God's mercy,
I have passed through myself into a Body that can never die.
And now i am not as I was before; but I am born in Mind.
The way to
do this is not taught, and it cannot be seen by the compounded
element by means of which thou seest.
Yea, I have
had my former composed form dismembered for me. I am no longer
touched, but I have touch; I have dimension too; and [yet] am
I a stranger to them now.
me with eyes, my son; but what I am thou dost not understand
[even] with fullest strain of body and of sight.
4. Tat: Into
fierce frenzy and mind-fury hast thou plunged me, father, for
now no longer do I see myself.
would, my son, that thou hadst e'en passed right through thyself,
as they who dream in sleep yet sleepless.
me this too! Who is the author of Rebirth?
Son of God, the One Man, by God's Will.
5. Tat: Now
hast thou brought me, father, unto pure stupefaction. Arrested
from the senses which I had before,...<lacuna in original
text>; for [now] I see thy Greatness identical with thy distinctive
in this thou art untrue; the mortal form doth change with every
day. 'Tis turned by time to growth and waning, as being an untrue
6. Tat: What
then is true, Thrice-greatest One?
which is never troubled, son, which cannot be defined; that which
no color hath, nor any figure, which is not turned, which hath
no garment, which giveth light; that which is comprehensible
unto itself [alone], which doth not suffer change; that which
no body can contain.
Tat: In very
truth I lose my reason, father. Just when I thought to be made
wise by thee, I find the senses of this mind of mine blocked
is it, son: That which is upward borne like fire, yet is borne
down like earth, that which is moist like water, yet blows like
air, how shalt thou this perceive with sense - the that which
is not solid nor yet moist, which naught can bind or loose, of
which in power and energy alone can man have any notion - and
even then it wants a man who can perceive the Way of Birth in
7. Tat: I
am incapable of this, O father, then?
God forbid, my son! Withdraw into thyself, and it will come;
will, and it comes to pass; throw out of work the body's senses,
and thy Divinity shall come to birth; purge from thyself the
brutish torments - things of matter.
Tat: I have
tormentors then in me, O father?
no few, my son; nay, fearful ones and manifold.
Tat: I do
not know them, father.
the first is this Not-knowing, son; the second one is Grief;
the third, Intemperance; the fourth, Concupiscence; the fifth,
Unrighteousness; the sixth is Avarice; the seventh, Error; the
eighth is Envy; the ninth, Guile; the tenth is Anger; eleventh,
Rashness; the twelfth is Malice.
in number twelve; but under them are many more, my son; and creeping
through the prison of the body they force the man that's placed
therein to suffer in his senses. But they depart (though not
all at once) from him who hath been taken pity on by God; and
this it is which constitutes the manner of Rebirth. And... <lacuna
in the original text> the Reason (Logos).
8. And now,
my son, be still and solemn silence keep! Thus shall the mercy
that flows on us from God not cease.
rejoice, O son, for by the Powers of God thou art being purified
for the articulation of the Reason (Logos).
God hath come to us, and when this comes, my son, Not-knowing
is cast out.
Joy hath come to us, and on its coming, son, Sorrow will flee
away to them who give it room. The Power that follows Joy do
I invoke, thy Self-control. O Power most sweet! Let us most gladly
bid it welcome, son! How with its coming doth it chase Intemperance
9. Now fourth,
on Continence I call, the Power against Desire. <lacuna in
the original text> This step, my son, is Righteousness' firm
seat. For without judgement <other translators read this "without
effort"> see how she hath chased Unrighteousness away.
We are made righteous, son, by the departure of Unrighteousness.
I call to us - that against Avarice, Sharing-with-all.
And now that
Avarice is gone, I call on Truth. And Error flees, and Truth
is with us.
See how [the
measure of] the Good is full, my son, upon Truth's coming. For
Envy is gone from us; and unto Truth is joined the Good as well,
with Life and Light.
And now no
more doth any torment of the Darkness venture nigh, but vanquished
[all] have fled with whirring wings.
knowest [now], my son, the manner of Rebirth. And when the Ten
is come, my son, that driveth out the Twelve, the Birth in understanding
<literally "intellectual birth", noera genesis>
is complete, and by this birth we are made into Gods.
doth by His mercy gain this Birth in God, abandoning the body's
senses, knows himself [to be of Light and Life] and that he doth
consist of these, and [thus] is filled with bliss.
By God made steadfast, father, no longer with the sight my eyes
afford I look on things, but with the energy the Mind doth give
me through the Powers.
am I, in earth, in water, air; I am in animals, in plants; I'm
in the womb, before the womb, after the womb; I'm everywhere!
tell me this: How are the torments of the Darkness, when they
are twelve in number, driven out by the ten Powers? What is the
way of it, Thrice-greatest one?
This dwelling-place through which we have just passed <i.e.,
the human body>, my son, is constituted from the circle of
the twelve types-of-life, this being composed of elements, twelve
in number, but of one nature, an omniform idea. For man's delusion
there are disunions in them, son, while in their action they
are one. Not only can we never part Rashness from Wrath; they
cannot even be distinguished.
to right reason (logos), then, they <the Twelve> naturally
withdraw once and for all, in as much as they are chased out
by no less than ten powers, that is, the Ten.
the Ten is that which giveth birth to souls. And Life and Light
are unified there, where the One hath being from the Spirit.
According then to reason (logos) the One contains the Ten, the
Ten the One.
Father, I see the All, I see myself in Mind.
is, my son, Rebirth - no more to look on things from body's view-point
(a thing three ways in space extended)... <lacuna in text>,
though this Sermon (Logos) on Rebirth, on which I did not comment
- in order that we may not be calumniators of the All unto the
multitude, to whom indeed God Himself doth will we should not.
Tell me, O father: This Body which is made up of the Powers,
is it at any time dissolved?
[son]! Speak not of things impossible, else wilt thou sin and
thy Mind's eye be quenched.
body which our sense perceives is far removed from this essential
must be dissolved, the last can never be; the first must die,
the last death cannot touch.
not know thou hast been born a God, Son of the One, even as I
I would, O father, hear the Praise-giving with hymn which thou
didst say thou heardest then when thou wert at the Eight [the
Ogdoad] of Powers
as the Shepherd did foretell [I should], my son, [when I came
to] the Eight.
thou haste to "strike thy tent" <i.e., be free from
the physical body>, for thou hast been made pure.
Mind of all masterhood, hath not passed on to me more than hath
been written down, for full well did he know that I should of
myself be able to learn all, and hear what I should wish, and
see all things.
He left to
me the making of fair things; wherefore the Powers within me.
e'en as they are in all, break into song.
Father, I wish to hear; I long to know these things.
still, my son; hear the Praise-giving now that keeps [the soul]
in tune, Hymn of Re-birth - a hymn I would not have thought fit
so readily to tell, had'st thou not reached the end of all.
this is not taught, but is kept hid in silence.
my son, stand in a place uncovered to the sky, facing the southern
wind, about the sinking of the setting sun, and make thy worship;
so in like manner too when he doth rise, with face to the east
17. Let every
nature of the World receive the utterance of my hymn!
Earth! Let every bolt of the Abyss be drawn for me. Stir not,
I am about
to hymn creation's Lord, both All and One.
open and ye Winds stay still; [and] let God's deathless Sphere
receive my word (logos)!
For I will
sing the praise of Him who founded all; who fixed the Earth,
and hung up Heaven, and gave command that Ocean should afford
sweet water [to the Earth], to both those parts that are inhabited
and those that are not, for the support and use of every man;
who made the Fire to shine for gods and men for every act.
Let us together
all give praise to Him, sublime above the Heavens, of every nature
'Tis He who
is the Eye of Mind; may He accept the praise of these my Powers!
18. Ye powers
that are within me, hymn the One and All; sing with my Will,
Powers all that are within me!
Gnosis, by thee illumined, hymning through thee the Light that
mond alone can see, I joy in Joy of Mind.
me praises all ye Powers!
my Self-control; sing thou through me, my Righteousness, the
praises of the Righteous; sing thou, my Sharing-all, the praises
of the All; through me sing, Truth, Truth's praises!
O Good, the Good! O Life and Light, from us to you our praises
give Thee thanks, to Thee Thou Energy of all my Powers; I give
Thee thanks, O God, Thou Power of all my Energies!
19. Thy Reason
(Logos) sings through me Thy praises. Take back through me the
All into [Thy] Reason - [my] reasonable oblation!
the Powers in me. They sing Thy praise, Thou All; they do Thy
Thy Will; to Thee the All. Receive from all their reasonable
oblation. The All that is in us, O Life, preserve; O Light<,>
illumine it; O God<,> in-spirit it.
It it Thy
Mind that plays the shepherd to Thy Word, O Thou Creator, Bestower
of the Spirit [upon all].
Thou art God, Thy Man thus cries to Thee through Fire, through
Air, through Earth, through Water, [and] through Spirit, through
Thy Aeon I have found praise-giving; and in thy Will, the object
of my search, have I found rest.
Tat: By thy
good pleasure have I seen this praise-giving being sung, O father;
I have set it in my Cosmos too.
in the Cosmos that thy mind alone can see, my son.
father, in the Cosmos that the mind alone can see; for I have
been made able by thy Hymn, and by thy Praise-giving my mind
hath been illumined. But further I myself as well would from
my natural mind send praise-giving to God.
But not unheedfully, my son.
What I behold in mind, that do I say.
thou Parent of my Bringing into Birth, as unto God I, Tat, send
reasonable offerings. o God and Father, thou art the Lord, thou
art the Mind. Receive from me oblations reasonable as thou would'st
wish; for by thy Will all things have been perfected.
thou oblation, son, acceptable to God, the Sire of all; but add,
my son, too, "through the Word" (Logos).
Tat: I give
thee, father, thanks for showing me to sing such hymns.
Happy am I, my son, that though hast brought the good fruits
forth of Truth, products that cannot die.
And now that
thou hast learnt this lesson from me, make promise to keep silence
on thy virtue, and to no soul, my son, make known the handing
on to thee the manner of Rebirth, that we may not be thought
to be calumniators.
And now we
both of us have given heed sufficiently, both I the speaker and
the hearer thou.
In Mind hast
thou become a Knower of thyself and our [common] Sire.
to * copenhagen qabalah