I long to learn the things that are, and comprehend their nature,
and know God.
This is, I said, what I desire to hear.
He answered back to me: Hold in thy mind all thou wouldst know,
and I will
Book I. Poemandres, the Shepherd of Men
The Corpus Hermeticum
||The Corpus Hermeticum are the core documents of the Hermetic
tradition. Dating from early in the Christian era, they were
mistakenly dated to a much earlier period by Church officials (and
everyone else) up until the 15th century. Because of this, they were
allowed to survive and we seen as an early precursor to what was to
be Christianity. We know today that they were, in fact, from the
early Christian era, and came out of the turbulent religious seas of
The Corpus Hermeticum - Contents
- Poemandres, the Shepherd of Men
- To Asclepius
- The Sacred Sermon
- The Cup or Monad
- Though Unmanifest God Is Most Manifest
- In God Alone Is Good And Elsewhere Nowhere
- The Greatest Ill Among Men is Ignorance of God
- That No One of Existing Things doth Perish,
but Men in Error Speak
of Their Changes as Destructions and as Deaths
- On Thought and Sense
- The Key
- Mind Unto Hermes
- About the Common Mind
- The Secret Sermon on the Mountain
The Corpus Hermeticum
translated by G.R.S. Mead
An Introduction to the Corpus Hermeticum
by John Michael Greer
The fifteen tractates of the Corpus Hermeticum, along with the
Perfect Sermon or Asclepius, are the foundation documents
of the Hermetic tradition. Written by unknown authors in Egypt sometime before
the end of the third century C.E., they were part of a once substantial
literature attributed to the mythic figure of Hermes Trismegistus, a Hellenistic
fusion of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.
This literature came out of the same religious and philosophical ferment that
produced Neoplatonism, Christianity, and the diverse collection of teachings
usually lumped together under the label "Gnosticism": a ferment which had its
roots in the impact of Platonic thought on the older traditions of the
Hellenized East. There are obvious connections and common themes linking each of
these traditions, although each had its own answer to the major questions of the
The treatises we now call the Corpus Hermeticum were collected
into a single volume in Byzantine times, and a copy of this volume survived to
come into the hands of Lorenzo de Medici's agents in the fifteenth century.
Marsilio Ficino, the head of the Florentine Academy, was pulled off the task of
translating the dialogues of Plato in order to put the Corpus
Hermeticum into Latin first. His translation saw print in 1463, and was
reprinted at least twenty-two times over the next century and a half.
The treatises divide up into several groups. The first (CH I), the "Poemandres",
is the account of a revelation given to Hermes Trismegistus by the being
Poemandres or "Man-Shepherd", an expression of the universal Mind. The next
eight (CH II-IX), the "General Sermons", are short dialogues or lectures
discussing various basic points of Hermetic philosophy. There follows the "Key"
(CH X), a summary of the General Sermons, and after this a set of four tractates
- "Mind unto Hermes", "About the Common Mind", "The Secret Sermon on the
Mountain", and the "Letter of Hermes to Asclepius" (CH XI-XIV) - touching on the
more mystical aspects of Hermeticism. The collection is rounded off by the
"Definitions of Asclepius unto King Ammon" (CH XV), which may be composed of
three fragments of longer works.
The Perfect Sermon
The Perfect Sermon or Asclepius, which is also included here,
reached the Renaissance by a different route. It was translated into Latin in
ancient times, reputedly by the same Lucius Apuleius of Madaura whose
comic-serious masterpiece The Golden Ass provides some of the best
surviving evidence on the worship of Isis in the Roman world. Augustine of Hippo
quotes from the old Latin translation at length in his City of God, and copies
remained in circulation in medieval Europe all the way up to the Renaissance.
The original Greek version was lost, although quotations survive in several
The Perfect Sermon is substantially longer than any other surviving work of
ancient Hermetic philosophy. It covers topics which also occur in the Corpus
Hermeticum, but touches on several other issues as well - among them magical
processes for the manufacture of gods and a long and gloomy prophecy of the
decline of Hermetic wisdom and the end of the world.
The Significance of the Hermetic Writings
The Corpus Hermeticum landed like a well-aimed bomb amid the
philosophical systems of late medieval Europe. Quotations from the Hermetic
literature in the Church Fathers (who were never shy of leaning on pagan sources
to prove a point) accepted a traditional chronology which dated "Hermes
Trismegistus," as a historical figure, to the time of Moses. As a result, the
Hermetic tractates' borrowings from Jewish scripture and Platonic philosophy
were seen, in the Renaissance, as evidence that the Corpus Hermeticum had
anticipated and influenced both. The Hermetic philosophy was seen as a
primordial wisdom tradition, identified with the "Wisdom of the Egyptians"
mentioned in Exodus and lauded in Platonic dialogues such as the
Timaeus. It thus served as a useful club in the hands of intellectual rebels
who sought to break the stranglehold of Aristotelian scholasticism on the
universities at this time.
It also provided one of the most important weapons to another major rebellion
of the age - the attempt to reestablish magic as a socially acceptable spiritual
path in the Christian West. Another body of literature attributed to Hermes
Trismegistus was made up of astrological, alchemical and magical texts. If, as
the scholars of the Renaissance believed, Hermes was a historical person who had
written all these things, and if Church Fathers had quoted his philosophical
works with approval, and if those same works could be shown to be wholly in
keeping with some definitions of Christianity, then the whole structure of
magical Hermeticism could be given a second-hand legitimacy in a Christian
This didn't work, of course; the radical redefinition of Western Christianity
that took place in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation hardened doctrinal
barriers to the point that people were being burned in the sixteenth century for
practices that were considered evidences of devoutness in the fourteenth. The
attempt, though, made the language and concepts of the Hermetic tractates
central to much of post-medieval magic in the West.
The translation of the Corpus Hermeticum and Perfect Sermon
given here is that of G.R.S. Mead (1863-1933), originally published as Vol. 2 of
his Thrice Greatest Hermes (London, 1906). Mead was a close associate of
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder and moving spirit of the Theosophical
Society, and most of his considerable scholarly output was brought out under
Theosophical auspices. The result, predictably, was that most of that output has
effectively been blacklisted in academic circles ever since.
This is unfortunate, for Mead's translations of the Hermetic literature were
until quite recently the best available in English. (They are still the best in
the public domain; thus their use here.) The Everard translation of 1650, which
is still in print, reflects the state of scholarship at the time it was made -
which is only a criticism because a few things have been learned since then! The
Walter Scott translation - despite the cover blurb on the recent Shambhala
reprint, this is not the Sir Walter Scott of Ivanhoe fame - while more
recent than Mead's, is a product of the "New Criticism" of the first half of
this century, and garbles the text severely; scholars of Hermeticism of the
caliber of Dame Frances Yates have labeled the Scott translation worthless. By
contrast, a comparison of Mead's version to the excellent modern translation by
Brian Copenhaver, or to the translations of CH I (Poemandres) and VII (The
Greatest Ill Among Men is Ignorance of God) given in Bentley Layton's The
Gnostic Scriptures, shows Mead as a capable translator, with a
usually solid grasp of the meaning of these sometimes obscure texts.
There is admittedly one problem with Mead's translation: the aesthetics of
the English text. Mead hoped, as he mentioned at the beginning of Thrice
Greatest Hermes, to "render...these beautiful theosophic treatises
into an English that might, perhaps, be thought in some small way worthy of the
Greek originals." Unfortunately for this ambition, he was writing at a time when
the last remnants of the florid and pompous Victorian style were fighting it out
with the more straightforward colloquial prose that became the style of the new
century. Caught in this tangle like so many writers of the time, Mead wanted to
write in the grand style but apparently didn't know how. The result is a
sometimes bizarre mishmash in which turn-of-the-century slang stands cheek by
jowl with overblown phrases in King James Bible diction, and in which mishandled
archaicisms, inverted word order, and poetic contractions render the text less
than graceful - and occasionally less than readable. Seen from a late twentieth
century sensibility, the result verges on unintentional self-parody in places:
for example, where Mead uses the Scots contraction "ta'en" (for "taken"),
apparently for sheer poetic color, calling up an image of Hermes Trismegistus in
kilt and sporran.
The "poetic" word order is probably the most serious barrier to readability;
it's a good rule, whenever the translation seems to descend into gibberish, to
try shuffling the words of the sentence in question. It may also be worth noting
that Mead consistently uses "for that" in place of "because" and "aught" in
place of "any", and leaves out the word "the" more or less at random.
Finally, comments in (parentheses) and in [square brackets] are in Mead's
original; those in <angle brackets> are my own additions.
I. Poemandres, the Shepherd of Men
<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 of God.
<The seven 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.
Methought 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?
He saith: I am Man-Shepherd (Poemandres), Mind of all-masterhood; I know what
thou desirest and I'm with thee everywhere.
3. [And] 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 hear.
He answered 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.
And then 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.
[And] after that an outcry inarticulate came forth from it, as though it were
a Voice of Fire.
5. [Thereon] 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.
The Air, 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.
But Earth-and-Water 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?
Nay; that shall I know, said I.
That Light, 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
What then? - say I.
Know that 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.
Thanks be to Thee, I said.
So, understand 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.
But when 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
And when 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 of souls.
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.
10. Straightway 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.
11. Then 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.
And from 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.
Changing 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.
And after 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
And when 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.
And Nature 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.
Though deathless and possessed of sway o'er all, yet doth he suffer as a
mortal doth, subject to Fate.
Thus though 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 sleep].
16. Thereon [I say: Teach on], O Mind of me, for I myself as well am amorous
of the Word (Logos).
The Shepherd said: This is the mystery kept hid until this day.
Nature embraced 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
Thereon [I said]: O Shepherd, ..., for now I'm filled with great desire and
long to hear; do not run off.
The Shepherd 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
And Man from Light and Life changed into soul and mind - from Life to soul,
from Light to mind.
And thus 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
The period 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):
"Increase 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."
19. When 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.
20. What is the so great fault, said I, the ignorant commit, that they should
be deprived of deathlessness?
Thou seem'st, 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.
21. Right 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.
Thou sayest 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
But tell 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]."
22. Have not all men then Mind?
Thou sayest well, O thou, thus speaking. I, Mind, myself am present with holy
men and good, the pure and merciful, men who live piously.
[To such] 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.
24. Well 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 me].
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 the
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.
They who 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.
And then 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
Why shouldst 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?
27. This 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 Vision.
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:
Ye earth-born 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.
And when 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.
All this 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.
31. Holy art Thou, O God, the universals' Father.
Holy art Thou, O God, whose Will perfects itself by means of its own Powers.
Holy art Thou, O God, who willeth to be known and art known by Thine own.
Holy art Thou,who didst by Word (Logos) make to consist the things that are.
Holy art Thou, of whom All-nature hath been made an image.
Holy art Thou, whose Form Nature hath never made.
Holy art Thou, more powerful than all power.
Holy art Thou, transcending all pre-eminence.
Holy Thou art, Thou better than all praise.
Accept my 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
32. Give 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.
For this 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].
II. To Asclepius
<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.
<The 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>
1. Hermes: All that is moved, Asclepius, is it not moved in something and by
H: And must not that in which it's moved be greater than the moved?
A: It must.
H: Mover, again, has greater power than moved?
A: It has, of course.
H: The nature, furthermore, of that in which it's moved must be quite other
from the nature of the moved?
A: It must completely.
2. H: Is not, again, this cosmos vast, [so vast] that than it there exists no
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 a body.
H: And one that's moved?
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?
A: Something, 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?
H: Space, 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 ingenerable.
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 space].
Further, 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.
7. Hence, 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 not be.
The Bears up there <i.e., Ursa Major and Minor>, which neither set nor rise,
think'st thou they rest or move?
A: They move, Thrice-greatest one.
H: And what their motion, my Asclepius?
A: Motion 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 thereby.
A: Thou hast, Thrice-greatest one, adduced a most clear instance.
H: All motion, then, is caused in station and by station.
The motion, 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 incorporeal.
'Tis not 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 inanimate?
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 the mover.
Thou seest, 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
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?
H: Alack, 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 air body?
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".
Further, 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 be hollow 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
H: The bodiless, Asclepius.
A: What, 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.
A: What, 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.
16. Though, 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 as
The rest 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].
The Good is he who gives all things and naught receives. God, then, doth give
all things and receive naught. God, then, is Good, and Good is God.
17. The other name of God is Father, again because He is the that-which-maketh-all.
The part of father is to make.
Wherefore 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
And this 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.
Wherefore, Asclepius, let not your sympathies be with the man who hath no
child, but rather pity his mishap, knowing what punishment abides for him.
Let all that has been said then, be to thee, Asclepius, an introduction to
the gnosis of the nature of all things.
III. The Sacred Sermon
<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.
Darkness that knew no bounds was in Abyss, and Water [too] and subtle Breath
intelligent; these were by Power of God in Chaos.
Then Holy 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.
And Heaven 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
And they 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.
4. [Thus] there begins their living and their growing wise, according to the
fate appointed by the revolution of the Cyclic Gods, and their deceasing for
And there shall be memorials mighty of their handiworks upon the earth,
leaving dim trace behind when cycles are renewed.
For every 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.
For that whereas the Godhead is Nature's ever-making-new-again the cosmic
mixture, Nature herself is also co-established in that Godhead.
IV. The Cup or Monad
<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
<Mead 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>
1. Hermes: 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.
This Body 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
3. Reason (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.
Tat: Why 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:
Baptize thyself 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".
But they 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
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
But they 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 One.
6. This is, O Tat, the Gnosis of the Mind, Vision of things Divine;
God-knowledge is it, for the Cup is God's.
T: Father, I, too, would be baptized.
H: Unless 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.
T: Father, 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'
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
Thou see'st, 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 God.
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.
9. Therefore 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].
`Tis very 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].
Appearances delight us, whereas things which appear not make their believing
Now evils are the more apparent things, whereas the Good can never show
Itself unto the eyes, for It hath neither form nor figure.
Therefore 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:
The Oneness 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.
The Oneness then being Source, containeth every number, but is contained by
none; engendereth every number, but is engendered by no other one.
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.
And now, 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.
V. Though Unmanifest God Is Most Manifest
<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.
Now were 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.
Being Himself 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 manifest.
Now "thinking-manifest" 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 manifest.
Do thou, 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.
If, then, 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
Thou hast 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 sun's 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 like 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 its extent?
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?
For, Tat, 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.
5. Would 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]!
Most blessed 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 of order.
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.
Who [then] 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
7. Behold 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!
Nay, rather 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 Himself.
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.
Naught is 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.
Who, then, may sing Thee praise of Thee, or [praise] to Thee?
Whither, again, am I to turn my eyes to sing Thy praise; above, below,
There is no way, no place [is there] about Thee, nor any other thing of
things that are.
All [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
For what, 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
How, further, shall I hymn Thee? As being of myself? As having something of
mine own? As being other?
For that Thou art whatever I may be; Thou art whatever I may do; Thou art
whatever I may speak.
For Thou 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.
For that the subtler part of matter is the air, of air the soul, of soul the
mind, and of mind God.
VI. In God Alone Is Good And Elsewhere Nowhere
<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
<The 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>
1. Good, 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
For just 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
For things 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.
Wherefore in genesis the Good can never be, but only be in the ingenerate.
But seeing 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.
3. Whereas 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.
It cannot, 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.
So then, 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 thoughts.
And greatest ill of all, Asclepius, is that each of these things that have
been said above, is thought down here to be the greatest good.
And what 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
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.
The excellencies 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.
There is 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 Himself.
As, then, 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.
Seek'st thou 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.
Such are 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.
VII. The Greatest Ill Among Men is Ignorance of God
<A good solid diatribe in colorful language. One easily imagines it being
delivered at the Hermetic equivalent of a tent revival meeting. - JMG>
1. Whither 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?
Stay ye, be sober, gaze upwards with the [true] eyes of the heart! And if ye
cannot all, yet ye at least who can!
For that 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' gates.
Where shines 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
No ear can hear Him, nor can eye see Him, nor tongue speak of Him, but [only]
mind and heart.
But first 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.
For that 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 see.
VIII. That No One of Existing Things doth Perish, but Men in Error Speak of
Their Changes as Destructions and as Deaths
<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.
<Mead footnotes this tractate as "obscure" and "faulty" in places, and his
translation of the beginning of section 3 is conjectural. - JMG>
1. [Hermes:] Concerning Soul and Body, son, we now must speak; in what way
Soul is deathless, and whence comes the activity in composing and dissolving
For there's 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 "deathless".
For death 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.
Now that 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 Father.
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
For matter, 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
The "restoration" 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.
Tat: Doth then this life not perish?
Hermes: Hush, son! and understand what God, what Cosmos [is], what is a life
that cannot die, and what a life subject to dissolution.
Yea, understand the Cosmos is by God and in God; but Man by Cosmos and in
The source and limit and the constitution of all things is God.
IX. On Thought and Sense
<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.
<Section 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"). - JMG>
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.
Now 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.
Now mind 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
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.
And mind 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].
For this 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
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
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.
For Cosmos, 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
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.
There is 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.
But they 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.
And properly 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 its creatures.
The same, then, of necessity and propriety should have the name of Order.
The sense-and-thought, 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.
And rightly 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.
10. These things should seem to thee, Asclepius, if thou dost understand
them, true; but if thou dost not understand, things not to be believed.
To understand 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.
And having 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.
To those, 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
Let so much, then, suffice on thought-and-sense.
X. The Key
<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
<One of 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.
<Readers 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.
<The delightful 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. -
1. Hermes: 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.
"God, Father and the Good", then, Tat, hath the same nature, or more exactly,
For nature 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.
But energy 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.
2. God's 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.
And though 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 be.
3. Again, 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.
And such 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".
For that 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.
But "God 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,
Tat: Thou 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
For that 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.
Not only 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
Hermes: Yea, 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.
For only 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.
And shining 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?
Hermes: Of every soul apart are transformations, son.
Tat: What meanest thou? Apart?
Hermes: Didst 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?
Of these souls, then, it is that there are many changes, some to a happier
lot and some to [just] the contrary of this.
Thus some 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.
This wretched 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.
Tat: But who is such an one, O father mine?
Hermes: He 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.
But Gnosis 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.
Both then 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.
Tat: Who then is this material God of whom thou speakest?
Hermes: Cosmos 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.
And though 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 all material.
And head itself is moved in a sphere-like way - that is to say, as head
should move, is mind.
All then 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.
Whereas those 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.
The whole, however, is a life; so that the universe consists of both the
hylic and of the intelligible.
12. Again, the Cosmos is the first of living things, while man is second
after it, though first of things subject to death.
Man hath 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 unto death.
For though 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.
Spirit pervading [body] by means of veins and arteries and blood, bestows
upon the living creature motion, and as it were doth bear it in a way.
For this 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.
Three then are they: "God, the Father and the Good", Cosmos and man.
God doth 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.
Tat: What dost thou mean, Thrice-greatest one?
Hermes: Behold 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.
Hermes: A 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!
But when 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 becometh vice.
16. It is the same for them who go out from the body.
For when 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 deserved.
Tat: What 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.
17. Hermes: 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
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.
For neither 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
And soul itself, being too and thing divine, doth use the spirit as its
envelope, while spirit doth pervade the living creature.
18. When 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
For earth 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.
But mind, the swiftest thing of all divine outthinkings, and swifter than all
elements, hath for its body fire.
For mind 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.
Stript of 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.
And such 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.
Whereas the 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.
For that 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
20. Tat: How father, then, is a man's soul chastised?
Hermes: What 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 soul?
Dost thou not see what hosts of ills the impious soul doth bear?
It shrieks 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!
Such are 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
Such is a very grave mistake, for that the way a soul doth suffer
chastisement is this:
21. When 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.
And then 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.
22. Wherefore, 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.
Further there 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
The higher, 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.
Cosmos is subject, then, to God, man to the Cosmos, and irrationals to man.
But God is o'er them all, and God contains them all.
God's rays, to use a figure, are His energies; the Cosmos's are natures, the
arts and sciences are man's.
The energies 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.
23. This 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.
He, [Mind,] is the Good Daimon. Blessed the soul that is most filled with
Him, and wretched is the soul that's empty of the Mind.
Tat: Father, what dost thou mean, again?
Hermes: Dost 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
Yet doth 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.
Nay more, 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
For this cause can a man dare say that man on earth is god subject to death,
while god in heaven is man from death immune.
Wherefore the dispensation of all things is brought about by means of there,
the twain - Cosmos and Man - but by the One.
XI. Mind Unto Hermes
<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.
<Some 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
<Finally, 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>
1. Mind: 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
Hermes: As 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.
2. Mind: Hear [then], My son, how standeth God and All.
God; Aeon; Cosmos; Time; Becoming.
God maketh Aeon; Aeon, Cosmos; Cosmos, Time; and Time, Becoming <or Genesis>.
The Good - 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 Death.
The energies 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.
Aeon is, then, in God; Cosmos, in Aeon; in Cosmos; Time; in Time, Becoming.
Aeon stands firm round God; Cosmos is moved in Aeon; Time hath its limits <or
is accomplished> in the Cosmos; Becoming doth become in Time.
3. The source, therfore, of all is God; their essence, Aeon; their matter,
God's power is Aeon; Aeon's work is Cosmos - which never hath become, yet
ever doth become by Aeon.
Therefore 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
Hermes: But God's Wisdom - what is that?
Mind: The Good and Beautiful, and Blessedness, and Virtue's all, and Aeon.
Aeon, then, ordereth [Cosmos], imparting deathlessness and lastingness to
4. For its beginning doth depend on Aeon, as Aeon doth on God.
Now Genesis <or Becoming> and Time, in Heaven and upon the Earth, are of two
In Heaven they are unchangeable and indestructible, but on the Earth they're
subject unto change and to destruction.
Further, the Aeon's soul is God; the Cosmos' soul is Aeon; the Earth's soul,
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.
It <i.e., Soul> fills it <i.e., the Body of the Cosmos> from within, and from
without encircles it, making the All to live.
Without, this vast and perfect Life [encircles] Cosmos; within, it fills [it
with] all lives; above, in Heaven, continuing in sameness; below, on Earth,
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.
The Energy 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 thing divine.
Wherefore, 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?
God's not inactive, since all things [then] would lack activity; for all are
full of God.
But neither 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.
For being Power, He energizeth in the things He makes and is not independent
of them - although the things He makes are subject to Him.
Now gaze 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!
7. Behold, again, the seven subject Worlds; ordered by Aeon's order, and with
their varied course full-filling Aeon!
[See how] 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!
[Behold] the Moon, forerunner of them all, the instrument of nature, and the
transmuter of its lower matter!
[Look at] the Earth set in the midst of All, foundation of the Cosmos
Beautiful, feeder and nurse of things on Earth!
And contemplate 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
And that 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
But 'tis 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.
For that one single order is not kept among "the many"; but rivalry will
follow of the weaker with the stronger, and they will strive.
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
But come! 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 part?
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
For that 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.
Hermes: How, 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?
11. Mind: 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.
Hermes: But who is He?
Mind: Who 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.
It would 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?
For thou 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.
Give thou 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.
For that 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
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 by God.
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.
15. Aeon, moreover, is God's image; Cosmos [is] Aeon's; the Sun, of Cosmos;
and Man, [the image] of the Sun.
The people 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.
These are 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
What, then, say we He is? - that we may not bring round our sermon (logos)
into doubt; for naught that mind conceives of God is doubtful.
He, then, 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 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.
Now things lie one way in the bodiless, another way in being made manifest.
Think, [then,] 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 them all.
19. And, 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.
20. Behold what power, what swiftness, thou dost have! And canst thou do all
of these things, and God not [do them]?
Then, in this way know God; as having all things in Himself as thoughts, the
whole Cosmos itself.
If, then, thou dost not make thyself like unto God, thou canst not know Him.
For like is knowable unto like [alone].
Make, [then,] 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 know God.
Conceiving nothing is impossible unto thyself, think thyself deathless and
able to know all - all arts, all sciences, the way of every life.
Become more 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
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
For thou canst know naught of things beautiful and good so long as thou dost
love thy body and art bad.
The greatest 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 the Good.
22. Hermes: Is God unseen?
Mind: Hush! 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
For naught's 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
XII. About The Common Mind
<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
<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>
1. Hermes: 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 knows precisely.
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
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 and executioner.
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
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 as unreasoning.
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
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 murder.
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 from vice.
8. Wherefore 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
Tat: Yea, [words] divinely spoken, father mine, truly and helpfully. But further
still explain me this.
10. Thou 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
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
Incorporeals are further moved by Mind, and movement's <i.e., movement is>
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
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.
12. Tat: 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 Ones.
13. Tat: Why, father mine! - do not the other lives make use of speech (logos)?
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, speech differs.
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
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.
15. Whereas in all the rest of composed bodies, of each there is a certain
number; for without number structure cannot be, or composition, or
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]
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 takes place.
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!
17. Tat: 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 all things?
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
18. Know, 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.
19. Whatever 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 with Him.
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 tree.
Wherefore doth man lay claim to know things past, things present and to come.
20. Observe 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 Good?
And there are naught of things that have become, or are becoming, in which God
22. Tat: 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 bad.
XIII. The Secret Sermon on the Mountain
<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.
<The "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.
<The 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.
Further, 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".
Wherefore I got me ready and made the thought in me a stranger to the
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.
2. Hermes: Wisdom that understands in silence [such is the matter and the
womb from out which Man is born], and the True Good the seed.
Tat: Who is the sower, father? For I am altogether at a loss.
Hermes: It is the Will of God, my son.
Tat: And 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?
Hermes: All in all, out of all powers composed.
Tat: Thou tellest me a riddle, father, and dost not speak as father unto son.
Hermes: This 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
Keep it not, father, back from me. I am a true-born son; explain to me the
manner of Rebirth.
Hermes: What 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
Thou seest 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.
Hermes: I would, my son, that thou hadst e'en passed right through thyself,
as they who dream in sleep yet sleepless.
Tat: Tell me this too! Who is the author of Rebirth?
Hermes: The 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 form.
Hermes: Even 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 thing.
6. Tat: What then is true, Thrice-greatest One?
Hermes: That 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 up.
Hermes: Thus 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 God?
7. Tat: I am incapable of this, O father, then?
Hermes: Nay, 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
Tat: I have tormentors then in me, O father?
Hermes: Ay, no few, my son; nay, fearful ones and manifold.
Tat: I do not know them, father.
Hermes: Torment 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.
These are 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.
Henceforth rejoice, O son, for by the Powers of God thou art being purified
for the articulation of the Reason (Logos).
Gnosis of God hath come to us, and when this comes, my son, Not-knowing is
Gnosis of 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 away!
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
Power sixth 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
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
And now no more doth any torment of the Darkness venture nigh, but vanquished
[all] have fled with whirring wings.
10. Thou 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.
Who then 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.
11. Tat: 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
In Heaven 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!
But further 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,
12. Hermes: 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.
According 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.
For, son, 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.
13. Tat: Father, I see the All, I see myself in Mind.
Hermes: This 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.
14. Tat: Tell me, O father: This Body which is made up of the Powers, is it
at any time dissolved?
Hermes: Hush, [son]! Speak not of things impossible, else wilt thou sin and
thy Mind's eye be quenched.
The natural body which our sense perceives is far removed from this essential
The first must be dissolved, the last can never be; the first must die, the
last death cannot touch.
Dost thou not know thou hast been born a God, Son of the One, even as I
15. Tat: 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
Hermes: Just as the Shepherd did foretell [I should], my son, [when I came
to] the Eight.
Well dost thou haste to "strike thy tent" <i.e., be free from the physical
body>, for thou hast been made pure.
The Shepherd, 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.
16. Tat: Father, I wish to hear; I long to know these things.
Hermes: Be 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.
Wherefore this is not taught, but is kept hid in silence.
Thus then, 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 wind.
Now, son, be still!
The Secret Hymnody
17. Let every nature of the World receive the utterance of my hymn!
Open thou Earth! Let every bolt of the Abyss be drawn for me. Stir not, ye
I am about to hymn creation's Lord, both All and One.
Ye Heavens 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
Let us together all give praise to Him, sublime above the Heavens, of every
'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!
O blessed Gnosis, by thee illumined, hymning through thee the Light that mond
alone can see, I joy in Joy of Mind.
Sing with me praises all ye Powers!
Sing praise, 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!
Sing thou, O Good, the Good! O Life and Light, from us to you our praises
Father, I 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!
Thus cry the Powers in me. They sing Thy praise, Thou All; they do Thy Will.
From Thee 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].
20. [For] Thou art God, Thy Man thus cries to Thee through Fire, through Air,
through Earth, through Water, [and] through Spirit, through Thy creatures.
'Tis from 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.
Hermes: Say in the Cosmos that thy mind alone can see, my son.
Tat: Yea, 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.
21. Hermes: But not unheedfully, my son.
Tat: Aye. What I behold in mind, that do I say.
To thee, 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.
Hermes: Send 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.
22. Hermes: 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.
Get your own copy of the Internet
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together to create harmonious human beings. Equally
important, Plato achieves more than a philosophical
dialogue of lasting fame and importance: The Republic is a
literary masterpiece as well, presenting the philosophy
with poetic power, with strikingly memorable images (the
simile of the cave being the best known of Plato's
unforgettable images of the human condition), carrying the
reader along by the wit and intensity of the language. BOX
"Waterfield's is certainly the best translation of
the Republic available. It is accurate and informed by
deep philosophical understanding of the text; unlike other
translations it combines these virtues with an impressive
ability to render Plato into English that is an varied and
expressive as is Plato's Greek."
NOTE: "The Republic" by Plato contains
much more than most critics are able to see...
Roger Bacon's Philosophy of Nature- A Critical Edition, With English Translation, Introduction, and Notes, of De Multiplicatione Specierum and De Speculis Comburentibus
"The name David Lindberg is certainly
not new to the study of medieval science in general or of
medieval optics in particular. . . . But without any doubt
we have in hand now the man's masterwork, a truly
first-rate book, done with consummate skill, complete in
every detail. . . .
"The translations . . . are the best ever for the two
Latin works . . . . And to continue with what may seem to
be an advertising blurb, the notes, which are appended at
the end of the explanations to the translations, are
everything that one could expect from good historical
study. . . .
"This is truly a beautiful book,
carefully wrought to the last detail. Even the printing is
exquisite. The ultimate test, to my way of thinking, for
this kind of book is how parallel the Latin and English
facing pages are. The English translation, in fact, is
never behind the Latin text as one turns the page by more
than half a line. That is perfection itself."
George March, O.F.M., Speculum
Hermetica: The Lost Wisdom of the Pharohs
by Timothy Freke
Religious and philosophic teachings ascribed to the Egyptian sage
(god) Hermes Trismegistus.
This is a book to own and meditate on the
deeper meanings of its contents.
The Hermetica is an ancient Egyptian wisdom,
and not Greek.
Hermes is a Greek god equated to Tehuti: Tehuti (Egyptian)
is the author of the "Hermetica", who is also
called Thoth, or Hermes.
The works of Hermes were collated in the city
of Alexandria in Egypt during the second and third
centuries CE. The main idea in Hermes' teaching is God as
Cosmic Consciousness. Similar ideas seems to me to be in
other mystic outlooks of other religions.
This is a great little book for a person who
has an interest in all religions and spiritual writings
and traditions You can take this book and read just a few
pages a day and ponder its meaning on different chapters.
Over time, your understanding will increase and
More Hermetica related books: