Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2
CORPUS HERMETICUM XIV. (XV.)
[A LETTER] OF THRICE-GREATEST HERMES TO ASCLEPIUS
UNTO ASCLEPIUS GOOD HEALTH OF SOUL! 1
(Text: P. 128-134; Pat. 49, 50.)
1. Since in thy absence my son Tat desired to learn the nature of the things that are, and would not let me hold it over, as [natural to] a younger son fresh come to gnosis of the [teachings] on each single point,—I was compelled to tell [him] more, in order that the contemplation 2 [of them] might be the easier for him to follow.
I would, then, choosing out the chiefest heads of what was said, write them in brief to thee, explaining them more mystic-ly, 1 as unto one of greater age and one well versed in Nature.
2. If all things manifest have been and are being made, and made things are not made by their own selves but by another; [if] made things are the many,—nay more, are all things manifest and all things different and not alike; and things that are being made are being made by other [than themselves];—there is some one who makes these things; and He cannot be made, but is more ancient than the things that can.
For things that can be made, I say, are made by other [than themselves]; but of the things that owe their being to their being made, it is impossible that anything should be more ancient than them all, save only That which is not able to be made.
3. So He is both Supreme, and One, and Only, the truly wise in all, as having naught more ancient [than Himself].
For He doth rule o’er both the number, size and difference of things that are being made, and o’er the continuity of their making [too].
Again, things makeable are seeable; but He cannot be seen.
For for this cause He maketh,—that He may not be able to be seen.
He, therefore, ever maketh 1; and therefore can He ne’er be seen.
To comprehend Him thus is meet; and comprehending, [it is meet] to marvel; and marvelling, to count oneself as blessed, as having learnt to know one’s Sire.
4. For what is sweeter than one’s own true Sire? Who, then, is He; and how shall we learn how to know Him?
Is it not right to dedicate to Him alone the name of God, or that of Maker, or of Father, or rather [all] the three;—God for His Power, and Maker for His Energy, and Father for His Good?
Now Power doth differ from the things which are being made; while Energy consisteth in all things being made.
Wherefore we ought to put away verbosity and foolish talk, and understand these two—the made and Maker. For that of them there is no middle [term]; there is no third.
5. Wherefore in all that thou conceivest, in all thou nearest, these two recall to mind; and think all things are they, reckoning as doubtful naught, nor of the things above, nor of the things below, neither of things divine, nor things
that suffer change or things that are in obscuration. 1
For all things are [these] twain, Maker and made, and ’tis impossible that one should be without the other; for neither is it possible that “Maker” should exist without the “made,” for each of them is one and the same thing.
Wherefore ’tis no more possible for one from other to be parted, than self from self.
6. Now if the Maker is naught else but That which makes, Alone, Simple, Uncompound, it needs must do this [making] to Itself,—to Which its Maker’s making is “its being made.” 2
And as to all that’s being made,—it cannot be
[paragraph continues] [so made] by being made by its own self; but it must needs be made by being made by other. Without the “Maker” “made” is neither made nor is; for that the one without the other doth lose its proper nature by deprivation of that other.
If, 1 then, all things have been admitted to be two,—the “that which is being made” and “that which makes,”—[all then] are one in union of these,—the “that which leadeth” and the “that which followeth.”
The making God is “that which leadeth”; the “that which is being made,” whatever it be, the “that which followeth.”
7. And do not thou be chary of things made because of their variety, from fear of attribution of a low estate and lack of glory unto God.
For that His Glory’s one,—to make all things; and this is as it were God’s Body, the making [of them]. 2
But by the Maker’s self naught is there thought or bad or base.
These things are passions which accompany the making process, as rust doth brass and filth doth body; but neither doth the brass-smith
make the rust, nor the begetters of the body filth, nor God [make] evil.
It is continuance in the state of being made 1 that makes them lose, as though it were, their bloom; and ’tis because of this God hath made change, as though it were the making clean of genesis.
8. Is it, then, possible for one and the same painter man to make both heaven, and gods, and earth, and sea, and men, and all the animals, and lifeless things, and trees, and yet impossible for God to make all things?
What monstraus lack of understanding; what want of knowledge as to God! 1
For such the strangest lot of all do suffer; for though they say they worship piously and sing the praise of God, yet by their not ascribing unto Him the making of all things, they know not God; and, added unto this not-knowing, they’re guilty even of the worst impiety to Him—passions to Him attributing, or arrogance, or impotency.
For if He doth not make all things, from arrogance He doth not make, or not being able,—which is impiety [to think].
9. One Passion hath God only—Good; and He who’s Good, is neither arrogant nor impotent.
For this is God—the Good, which hath all power of making all.
And all that can be made is made by God,—that is, by [Him who is] the Good and who can make all things. 1
But would’st thou learn how He doth make, and how things made are made, thou may’st do so.
10. Behold a very fair and most resemblant image—a husbandman casting the seed into the ground; here wheat, there barley, and there [again] some other of the seeds!
Behold one and the same man planting the vine, the apple, and [all] other trees!
In just the selfsame way doth God sow Immortality in Heaven, and Change on Earth, and Life and Motion in the universe.
These are not many, but few and easy to be numbered; for four in all are they,—and God Himself and Genesis, in whom are all that are.
257:1 εὖ φρονεῖν. I do not know the exact meaning of this expression. Everard translates “to be truly wise”; Parthey, “recte sapere” following Patrizzi; Ménard, “sagesse”; Chambers, “to be rightly wise.” I would suggest that εὖ φρονεῖν was the form used among these disciples of the Inner Way for the usual χαίρειν. Instead of wishing one another happiness, they wished each other wisdom, good thought, right thinking, good health of soul.
258:1 That is to say, more fully and profoundly, as to one more advanced in the mystic science.
259:1 Cf. C. H., xvi. 18.
260:1 τῶν ἐν μυχῷ. I do not know what is the exact meaning of this expression. Everard translates “things that are in darkness or secret”; Parthey, “quæ sunt in abdito”; Ménard, “dans les profondeurs”; Chambers, “those in secrecy.” I suggest that the technical term μυχός, signifying generally a shut-in or locked-up place (conclave, as Damascius translates it), is to be referred, along the line of Platonic and Pythagorean tradition, to Pherecydes. Porphyry (De Antro Nymph., C. 31) tells us that the synonyms “μυχοί (chambers?), recesses (or pits), caverns, doors, gates” were used by Pherecydes as symbolical expressions to signify “the geneses and apogeneses of souls,” whatever these terms may mean exactly. The “birth” and “decease” of a soul, in this connection, presumably mean its coming into the world of genesis out of the womb of the World-soul, and its reception back again into the bosom of the great Mother. If this be so, our text would seem to indicate that things are in two states,—in a state of change (that is, in the active condition), and again in a passive condition, in the state which Indian philosophers call laya or pralaya. See for the μυχοί of Pherecydes Sturz’s Pherecydis Fragmenta, pp. 43 ff. (Leipzig, 1824).
260:2 Or genesis.
261:1 From here to the end of the sermon, with the exception of the final sentences of § 7 and § 10, and the third sentence of § 9, and with a few very slight verbal variants, is quoted by Cyril, Contra Julianum, ii. 64 (Migne, col. 598 D).
261:2 Cf. C. H., xvi. 18.
262:1 Or genesis.
263:1 This sentence, which appears to be very tautological, is omitted by Cyril.