Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2


[IX. M.] And 1 since our sermon treats of the relationship and intercourse 2 of men and Gods,—learn, Asclepius, the power and strength of man!

[Our] Lord and Father, or what is Highest God,—as He’s Creator of the Gods in Heaven, so man’s the maker of the gods who, in the temples, suffer man’s approach, and who not only have light poured on them, but who send forth [their] light [on all]; not only does a man go forward towards the God[s], but also he confirms the Gods [on earth]. 3

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Art thou surprised, Asclepius; nay is it not that even thou dost not believe?

2. Asc. I am amazed, Thrice-greatest one; but willingly I give assent to [all] thy words. I judge that man most blest who hath attained so great felicity.

Tris. And rightly so; [for] he deserves our wonder, in that he is the greatest of them all.

As for the genus of the Gods in Heaven,—’tis plain from the commixture 1 of them all, that it has been made pregnant from the fairest part of nature, 2 and that the only signs [by which they are discerned] are, as it were, before all else their heads. 3

3. Whereas the species of the gods which humankind constructs is fashioned out of either nature,—out of that nature which is more ancient and far more divine, and out of that which is in men; that is, out of the stuff of which they have been made and are configured, not only in their heads alone, but also in each limb and their whole frame.

And 4 so mankind, in imaging Divinity, stays

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mindful of the nature and the source of its own self.

So that, just as [our] Sire and Lord did make the Gods æonian, that they might be like Him; so hath mankind configured its own gods according to the likeness of the look of its own self. 1


1. Asc. Thou dost not mean their statues, dost thou, O Thrice-greatest one?


Tris. [I mean their] statues, O Asclepius,—dost thou not see how much thou even, doubtest?—statues, ensouled with sense, and filled with spirit, which work such mighty and such [strange] results,—statues which can foresee what is to come, and which perchance can prophesy, foretelling things by dreams and many other ways,—[statues] that take their strength away from men, or cure their sorrow, if they do so deserve.

Dost thou not know, Asclepius, that Egypt is the image of the Heaven 2; or, what is truer still, the transference, or the descent, of all that are in governance or exercise in Heaven? And if more truly [still] it must be said,—this land of ours is Shrine of all the World.

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2. Further, in that ’tis fitting that the prudent should know all before, it is not right ye should be ignorant of this.

The time will come when Egypt will appear to have in vain served the Divinity with pious mind and constant worship 1; and all its holy cult will fall to nothingness and be in vain.

For that Divinity is now about to hasten back from Earth to Heaven, and Egypt shall be left; and Earth, which was the seat of pious cults, shall be bereft and widowed of the presence of the Gods.

And foreigners shall fill this region and this land; and there shall be not only the neglect of pious cults, but—what is still more painful,—as though enacted by the laws, a penalty shall be decreed against the practice of [our] pious cults and worship of the Gods—[entire] proscription of them.

3. Then shall this holiest land, seat of [our] shrines and temples, be choked with tombs and corpses. 2

O Egypt, Egypt, of thy pious cults tales only will remain, as far beyond belief for thy own sons [as for the rest of men]; words only will be left cut on thy stones, thy pious deeds recounting!

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And Egypt will be made the home of Scyth 1 or Indian, or some one like to them,—that is a foreign neighbour. 2

Ay, for the Godly company 3 shall mount again to Heaven, and their forsaken worshippers shall all die out; and Egypt, thus bereft of God and man, shall be abandoned.

4. And now I speak to thee, O River, holiest [Stream]! I tell thee what will be. With bloody torrents shalt thou overflow thy banks. Not only shall thy streams divine be stained with blood; but they shall all flow over [with the same].

The tale of tombs shall far exceed the [number of the] quick; and the surviving remnant shall be Egyptians in their tongue alone, but in their actions foreigners.


1. Why dost thou weep, Asclepius? Nay, more than this, by far more wretched,—Egypt herself shall be impelled and stained with greater ills.

For she, the Holy [Land], and once deservedly

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the most beloved by God, by reason of her pious service of the Gods on earth,—she, the sole colony 1 of holiness, and teacher of religion [on the earth], shall be the type of all that is most barbarous.

And then, out of our loathing for mankind, the World will seem no more deserving of our wonder and our praise.

All this good thing, 2—than which there has been fairer naught that can be seen, nor is there anything, nor will there [ever] be,—will be in jeopardy.

2. And it will prove a burden unto men; and on account of this they will despise and cease to love this Cosmos as a whole,—the changeless work of God; the glorious construction of the Good, comprised of multifold variety of forms; the engine of God’s Will, supporting His own work ungrudgingly; the multitudinous whole massed in a unity of all, that should be reverenced, praised and loved,—by them at least who have the eyes to see.

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For Darkness will be set before the Light, and Death will be thought preferable to Life. No one will raise his eyes to Heaven; the pious man will be considered mad, the impious a sage; the frenzied held as strong, the worst as best.

3. For soul, and all concerning it,—whereby it doth presume that either it hath been born deathless, or that it will attain to deathlessness, according to the argument I have set forth for you,—[all this] will be considered not only food for sport, 1 but even vanity.

Nay, [if ye will] believe me, the penalty of death shall be decreed to him who shall devote himself to the Religion of the Mind.

New statutes shall come into force, a novel law; naught [that is] sacred, nothing pious, naught that is worthy of the Heaven, or Gods in Heaven, shall [e’er] be heard, or [even] mentally believed.

4. The sorrowful departure of the Gods from men takes place; bad angels 2 only stay, who mingled with humanity will lay their hands on them, and drive the wretched folk to every ill of recklessness,—to wars, and robberies, deceits,

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and all those things that are opposed to the soul’s nature. 1

Then shall the Earth no longer hold together; the Sea no longer shall be sailed upon; nor shall the Heaven continue with the Courses of the Stars, nor the Star-course in Heaven.

The voice of every God 2 shall cease in the [Great] Silence that no one can break; the fruits of Earth shall rot; nay, Earth no longer shall bring forth; and Air itself shall faint in that sad listlessness.


1. This, when it comes, shall be the World’s old age, impiety,—irregularity, and lack of rationality in all good things.

And when these things all come to pass, Asclepius,—then He, [our] Lord and Sire, God First in power, and Ruler of the One God [Visible], 3 in check of crime, and calling error back from the corruption of all things unto good manners and to deeds spontaneous with His Will (that is to say God’s Goodness),—ending all ill, by either washing it away with water-flood, or burning it away with fire, or by the means of pestilent diseases, spread

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throughout all hostile lands,—God will recall the Cosmos to its ancient form 1; so that the World itself shall seem meet to be worshipped and admired; and God, the Maker and Restorer of so vast a work, be sung by the humanity who shall be then, with ceaseless heraldings of praise and [hymns of] blessing.

2. For this [Re-] birth of Cosmos is the making new 2 of all good things, and the most holy and most pious bringing-back again of Nature’s self, by means of a set course of time,—of Nature, which was without beginning, and which is without an end. For that God’s Will hath no beginning; and, in that ’tis the same and as it is, it is without an end.


Asc. Because God’s Nature’s the Determination 3 of the Will. Determination is the Highest Good; is it not so, Thrice-greatest one?

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3. Tris. Asclepius, Will is Determination’s child; nay, willing in itself comes from the Will.

Not that He willeth aught desiring it; for that He is the Fullness of all things, and wills what things He has.

He thus wills all good things, and has all that He wills. Nay, rather, He doth think and will all good.

This, then, is God; the World of Good’s His Image.


1. Asc. [Is Cosmos] good, Thrice-greatest one?


Tris. [’Tis] good, 1 as I will teach thee, O Asclepius.

For just as God is the Apportioner and Steward of good things to all the species, or [more correctly] genera, which are in Cosmos,—that is to say, of Sense, 2 and Soul, and Life,—so Cosmos is the giver and bestower of all things which seem unto [us] mortals good;—that is to say, the alternation of its parts, of seasonable fruits, birth, growth, maturity, and things like these.

And for this cause God doth transcend the height of highest Heaven, extending everywhere, and doth behold all things on every side.

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2. Beyond the Heaven starless Space doth stretch, stranger to every thing possessed of body.

The Dispensator who’s between the Heaven and Earth, is Ruler of the Space which we call Zeus [Above].

The Earth and Sea is ruled by Zeus Below 1; he is the Nourisher of mortal lives, and of fruit-bearing [trees].

It is by reason of the powers of all of these 2 that fruits, and trees, and earth, grow green.

The powers and energies of [all] the other [Gods] will be distributed through all the things that are.

3. Yea, they who rule the earth shall be distributed [through all the lands], and [finally] be gathered in a state, 3—at top of Egypt’s upper part, 4—which shall be founded towards the setting sun, and to which all the mortal race shall speed.


Asc. But now, just at this moment, where are they, Thrice-greatest one?


Tris. They’re gathered in a very large

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community, 1 upon the Libyan Hill. 2 And now enough concerning this hath been declared.


349:1 This sentence and the first half of the next, down to “suffer man’s approach,” is quoted word for word in Latin by Augustine, De Civitate Dei, xxiii.

349:2 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 22.

349:3 The Latin translation of this paragraph seems confused.

350:1 This is, apparently, the “star stuff” of which their bodies are made.

350:2 De mundissima parte naturæ esse prægnatum—whatever that means; but cf. p. 348, n. 1.

350:3 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 10, 11.

350:4 This sentence, together with the first five sentences of the next chapter, down to the words “and constant worship,” are quoted in Latin with two or three slight verbal variants by Augustine, De Civitate Dei, xxiii.

351:1 Cf. xxxvii. 2 below.

351:2 Cf. Comment, on K. K., 46-48.

352:1 Augustine’s quotation ends here.

352:2 Sepulchrorum erit mortuorumque plenissima. This sentence is quoted verbatim by Augustine, De Civitate Dei, xxvi.

353:1 Compare Colossians iii. 11: “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”

353:2 Vicina barbaria; lit. a neighbouring foreign country. Compare this with the previous note. It is strange the two, Scyth and barbarian, coming twice together.

353:3 Divinitas.

354:1 Deductio the technical term for leading out a colony from the metropolis or mother city. Compare Philo, De Vita Contemplativa, P. 892, M. 474 (Conybeare, p. 58): “In Egypt there are crowds of them [the Therapeuts] in every province, or nome as they call it, and especially at Alexandria. For they who are in every way the most highly advanced, lead out a colony (ἀποικίαν στέλλονται), as it were to the Therapeutic father-land”; and also the numerous parallel passages cited by Conybeare from Philo’s other writings.

354:2 Sc. the Cosmos.

355:1 Cf. xii. 2 above.

355:2 Nocentes angeli,—usually daimones in our tractates; still, as Lactantius (D. I., ii. 15) says that Hermes calls the daimones “evil angels” (ἀγγέλους πονηροὺς), he most probably took it from the Greek original of our sermon.

356:1 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 21.

356:2 Omnis vox divina; or, perhaps, the “whole Word of God.”

356:3 That is, Cosmos.

357:1 The above passage is cited in the original Greek by Lactantius (D. I., vii. 8) as from the “Perfect Sermon” of Hermes. As we might expect from what had been already said on this subject, it differs from our Latin translation, and runs as follows:

“Now when these things shall be as I have said, Asclepius, then will [our] Lord and Sire, the God and Maker of the First and the One God, look down on what is done, and making firm His Will, that is the Good, against disorder,—recalling error, and cleaning out the bad, either by washing it away with water-flood, or burning it away with swiftest fire, or forcibly expelling it with war and famine,—will bring again His Cosmos to its former state, and so achieve its Restoration.”

357:2 Cf. C. H., iii. (iv.) 1.

357:3 Consilium = βουλή.

358:1 This seems a formal contradiction of C. H., x. (xi.) 10, but is not really so.

358:2 Meaning higher sense, presumably; reading sensus for sensibus.

359:1 Jupiter Plutonius. Ménard suggests “Zeus souterrain (Sarapis?)”; the original was probably Zeus Aidoneus.

359:2 It is not clear who “these” are; perhaps all that have so far been mentioned, but this does not seem satisfactory. Doubtless the Latin translation is, as usual, at fault.

359:3 Or city.

359:4 In summo Ægypti initio.

360:1 Civitate.

360:2 In monte Libyco; lit. on a (or the) Libycan, or Libyan or African Hill or Mount. Compare with this xxxvii. below.

4. [X. M.] But now the question as to deathlessness or as to death must be discussed.

The expectation and the fear of death torture the multitude, who do not know True Reason.

Now death is brought about by dissolution of the body, wearied out with toil, and of the number, when complete, by which the body’s members are arranged into a single engine for the purposes of life. The body dies, when it no longer can support the life-powers 3 of a man.

This, then, is death,—the body’s dissolution, and the disappearance of corporeal sense. 4

As to this death anxiety is needless. But there’s another [death] which no man can

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escape, 1 but which the ignorance and unbelief of man think little of.


5. Asc. What is it, O Thrice-greatest one, that men know nothing of, or disbelieve that it can be?


Tris. So, lend thy ear, Asclepius!


1. When, [then,] the soul’s departure from the body shall take place,—then shall the judgment and the weighing of its merit pass into its highest daimon’s power. 2

And when he sees it pious is and just,—he suffers it to rest in spots appropriate to it.

But if he find it soiled with stains of evil deeds, and fouled with vice,—he drives it from Above into the Depths, and hands it o’er to warring hurricanes and vortices of Air, of Fire, and Water. 3

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2. ’Twixt Heaven and Earth, upon the waves of Cosmos, is it dragged in contrary directions, for ever racked with ceaseless pains 1; so that in this its deathless nature doth afflict the soul, in that because of its unceasing sense, it hath the yoke of ceaseless torture set upon its neck.

Know, then, that we should dread, and be

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afraid, and [ever] be upon our guard, lest we should be entangled in these [toils].

For those who do not now believe, will after their misdeeds be driven to believe, by facts not words, by actual sufferings of punishment and not by threats.

3. Asc. The faults of men are not, then, punished, O Thrice-greatest one, by law of man alone?

Tris. In the first place, Asclepius, all things on Earth must die.

Further, those things which live by reason of a body, and which do cease from living by reason of the same,—all these, according to the merits of this life, or its demerits, find due [rewards or] punishments.

[And as to punishments] they’re all the more severe, if in their life [their misdeeds] chance to have been hidden, till their death. 1 For [then] they will be made full conscious of all things by the divinity, just as they are, according to the shades of punishment allotted to their crimes.

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1. Asc. And these deserve [still] greater punishments, Thrice-greatest one?

Tris. [Assuredly;] for those condemned by laws of man do lose their life by violence, so that [all] men may see they have not yielded up their soul to pay the debt of nature, but have received the penalty of their deserts.

Upon the other hand, the righteous man finds his defence in serving God and deepest piety. For God doth guard such men from every ill. 1

2. Yea, He who is the Sire of all, [our] Lord, and who alone is all, doth love to show Himself to all.

It is not by the place where he may be, nor by the quality which he may have, nor by the greatness which he may possess, but by the mind’s intelligence alone, that He doth shed His light on man,—[on him] who shakes the clouds of Error from his soul, and sights the brilliancy of Truth, 2 mingling himself with the All-sense of the Divine Intelligence; through love 3 of which he wins his freedom from that part of him o’er which Death rules, and has the

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seed of the assurance of his future Deathlessness implanted in him.

3. This, then, is how the good will differ from the bad. Each several one will shine in piety, in sanctity, in prudence, in worship, and in service of [our] God, and see True Reason, as though [he looked at it] with [corporal] eyes; and each will by the confidence of his belief excel all other men, as by its light the Sun the other stars. 1

For that it is not so much by the greatness of his light as by his holiness and his divinity, the Sun himself lights up the other stars. 2

Yea, [my] Asclepius, thou should’st regard him as the second God, 3 ruling all things, and giving light to all things living in the Cosmos, whether ensouled or unensouled.

For if the Cosmos is a living thing, and if it has been, and it is, and will be ever-living,—naught in the Cosmos is subject to death.

For of an ever-living thing, it is [the same] of every part which is; [that is,] that ’tis [as ever-living] as it is [itself]; and in the World itself [which is] for everyone, and at the self-same time an ever-living thing of life,—in it there is no place for death. 4

5. And so he 5 should be the full store of

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life and deathlessness; if that it needs must be that he should live for ever.

And so the Sun, just as the Cosmos, lasts for aye. So is he, too, for ever ruler of [all] vital powers, or of [our] whole vitality; he is their ruler, or the one who gives them out.

God, then, is the eternal ruler of all living things, or vital functions, that are in the World. He is the everlasting giver-forth of Life itself. 1

Once for all [time] He hath bestowed Life on all vital powers; He further doth preserve them by a law that lasts for evermore, as I will [now] explain.


1. For in the very Life of the Eternity 2 is Cosmos moved; and in the very Everlastingness 3 of Life [itself] is Cosmic Space. 4

On which account it 5 shall not stop at any time, nor shall it be destroyed; for that its very self is palisaded 6 round about, and bound together as it were, by Living’s Sempiternity.

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Cosmos is [thus] Life-giver unto all that are in it, and is the Space of all that are in governance beneath the Sun.

The motion of the Cosmos in itself consisteth of a two-fold energy. ’Tis vivified itself from the without by the Eternity, 1 and vivifies all things that are within, making all different, by numbers and by times, fixed and appointed [for them].

2. Now Time’s distinguished on the Earth by quality of air, by variation of its heat and cold; in Heaven by the returnings of the stars to the same spots, the revolution of their course in Time.

And while the Cosmos is the home 2 of Time, 3 it is kept green [itself] by reason of Time’s course and motion.

Time, on the other hand, is kept by regulation. Order and Time effect renewal of all things which are in Cosmos by means of alternation.


360:3 Vitalia.

360:4 This passage is quoted in the original Greek by Stobæus, Florilegium, cxx. 27 (G. iii. 464; M. iv. 105, 106; Pat. 45, under title “Death”), under the heading “Of Hermes from the [Sermons] to Asclepius.” It runs as follows:

“Now must we speak of death. For death affrights the many as the greatest of all ills, in ignorance of fact. Death is the dissolution of the toiling frame. For when the ‘number’ of the body’s joints becomes complete,—the basis of the body’s jointing being number,—that body dies; [that is,] when it no longer can support the man. And this is death,—the body’s dissolution and the disappearance of corporeal sense.”

The directness and the sturdy vigour of the Greek original has clearly lost much in the rhetorical paraphrasing of the Latin translator.

361:1 Necessaria.

361:2 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 21.

361:3 The substance of these two sentences is contained in a “quotation” from the Greek by J. Laurentius Lydus, De Mensibus, iv. 149 (Wünsch, 167, 15): “According to the Egyptian Hermes who, in what is called ‘The Perfect Sermon,’ says as follows: ‘But such souls as transgress the norm of piety, when they do leave their body, are handed over to the daimones and carried downwards through the air, cast forth as from a sling into the zones of fire and hail, which poets call Pyriphlegethon and Tartarus.’” That this is a “quotation,” however, I doubt very much, for if we compare it with D. M., iv. 31 (W. 90, 24), which very faintly echoes the teaching of our chaps, iv., v., xxvii., we shall find that Tartarus and Pyriphlegethon are entirely due to Laurentius himself. The passage runs as follows:

“For the Egyptian Hermes, in his Sermon called Perfect, says that the Avenging of the daimones, being present in matter itself, chastise the human part [of us] according as it has deserved; while the Purifying ones confined to the air purify the souls after death that are trying to soar aloft, [conducting them] round the haily and fiery zones of the air, which the poets and Plato himself in the Phædo call Tartarus and Pyriphlegethon; while the Saving ones again, stationed in the lunar space, save the souls.” Cf. Ex. ix. 6.

362:1 Ménard here quotes a couple of lines from Empedocles (c. 494-434 B.C.), cited by Plutarch, but without giving any reference. They are from the famous passage beginning ἔστιν ἀνάγκης χρῆμα κ.τ.λ. (369-382), of which the following is Fairbanks’ translation. See Fairbanks (A.), The First Philosophers of Greece (London, 1898), p. 205:

“There is an utterance of Necessity, an ancient decree of the Gods, eternal, sealed fast with broad oaths: Whenever any one defiles his body sinfully with bloody gore or perjures himself in regard to wrongdoing,—one of those spirits who are heir to long life (δαίμων οἵτε μακραίωνες λελάχασι βιοῖο),—thrice ten thousand seasons shall he wander apart from the blessed, being born meanwhile in all sorts of mortal forms (φυόμενον παντοῖα διὰ χρόνου εἴδεα θνητῶν) changing one bitter path of life for another. For mighty Air pursues him Seaward, and Sea spews him forth on the threshold of Earth, and Earth casts him into the rays of the unwearied Sun, and Sun into the eddies of Air: one receives him from the other, and all hate him. One of these now am I too, a fugitive from the gods and a wanderer, at the mercy of raging Strife.”

363:1 Cf. the Vision of Thespesius (Aridæus) in Plutarch, De Sera Numinis Vindicta: “Thus he had to see that the shades of notorious criminals who had been punished in earth-life were not so hardly dealt with . . . ; whereas those who had passed their lives in undetected vice, under cloak and show of virtue, were hemmed in by the retributory agents, and forced with labour and pain to turn their souls inside out.”

364:1 Compare the Fragment quoted in Greek by Lactantius, D. I., ii. 15, and by Cyril, C. J., iv. 130.

364:2 Cf. xiii. (xiv.) 7-9, Comment.

364:3 Cf. xii. 3 above.

365:1 Astris.

365:2 Stellas.

365:3 Cf. C. H., xvi. 5. ff.

365:4 The text of this paragraph is very corrupt.

365:5 That is, the Sun.

366:1 See Comment on C. H., xvi. 17.

366:2 Æternitatis, doubtless αἰῶνος in the original Greek,—that is, the Æon; cf. x. 2 above. For the general Æon-doctrine, see chap, xi. in the Prolegomena, and xxxii. 1 below.

366:3 Æternitate; Æon again.

366:4 Lit. the Space of Cosmos; cf. xv. 1 above.

366:5 Sc. Cosmos.

366:6 Circumvallatus et quasi constrictus. Compare with this the idea of the Horos or Boundary in the æonology of “Them of Valentinus,” as set forth by Hippolytus (Philosophumena, vi. 31):

“Moreover that the formlessness of the Abortion should finally never again make itself visible to the perfect Æons, the Father Himself also sent forth the additional emanation of a single Æon, the Cross [or Stock, τὸν σταυρόν], which being created great, as [the creature] of the great and perfect Father, and emanated to be the Guard and Wall of protection [lit. Paling or Stockade—χαράκωμα, the Roman vallum] of the Æons, constitutes the Boundary (ὅρος) of the Plērōma, holding the thirty Æons together within itself. For these [thirty] are they which form the divine creation.” See F. F. F., p. 342.

367:1 That is, the Æon.

367:2 Receptaculum.

367:3 Cf. C. H., xi. (xii.) 2.

3. [XI. M.] All things, then, being thus,

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there’s nothing stable, nothing fixed, nothing immoveable, of things that are being born, in Heaven or on the Earth.

Immoveable 1 [is] God alone, and rightly [He] alone; for He Himself is in Himself, and by Himself, and round Himself, completely full and perfect.

He is His own immoveable stability. Nor by the pressure of some other one can He be moved, nor in the space [of anyone].

4. For in Him are all [spaces], and He Himself alone is in them all; unless someone should venture to assert that God’s own motion’s in Eternity 2; nay, rather, it is just Immoveable Eternity itself, back into which the motion of all times is funded, and out of which the motion of all times takes its beginning.


1. God, then, hath [ever] been unchanging, 3 and ever, in like fashion, with Himself hath the Eternity consisted,—having within itself Cosmos ingenerate, which we correctly call [God] Sensible. 4

Of that [transcendent] Deity this Image 5 hath been made,—Cosmos the imitator of Eternity.

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Time, further, hath the strength and nature of its own stability, in spite of its being in perpetual motion,—from its necessity of [ever] from itself reverting to itself.

2. And so, although Eternity is stable, motionless, and fixed, still, seeing that the movement of [this] Time (which is subject to motion) is ever being recalled into Eternity,—and for that reason Time’s mobility is circular,—it comes to pass that the Eternity itself, although in its own self, is motionless, [yet] on account of Time, in which it is—(and it is in it),—it seems to be in movement as all motion.

So that it comes to pass, that both Eternity’s stability becometh moved, and Time’s mobility becometh stable.

So may we ever hold that God Himself is moved into Himself by [ever-] same transcendency of motion. 1

For that stability is in His vastness motion motionless; for by His vastness is [His] law exempt from change. 2

3. That, then, which so transcends, which is not subject unto sense, [which is] beyond all bounds, [and which] cannot be grasped,—That

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transcends all appraisement; That cannot be supported, nor borne up, nor can it be tracked out. 1

For where, and when, and whence, and how, and what, He is,—is known to none. 2 For He’s borne up by [His] supreme stability, and His stability is in Himself [alone],—whether [this mystery] be God, or the Eternity, or both, or one in other, or both in either.

4. And for this cause, just as Eternity transcends the bounds of Time; so Time [itself], in that it cannot have bounds set to it by number, or by change, or by the period of the revolution of some second [kind of Time],—is of the nature of Eternity.

Both, then, seem boundless, both eternal. And so stability, though naturally fixed, yet seeing that it can sustain the things that are in motion,—because of all the good it does by reason of its firmness, deservedly doth hold the chiefest place.


1. The principals of all that are, are, therefore, God and Æon. 3

The Cosmos, on the other hand, in that ’tis moveable, is not a principal. 4

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For its mobility exceeds its own stability by treating the immoveable fixation as the law of everlasting movement.

The Whole Sense, 1 then, of the Divinity, though like [to Him] in its own self immoveable, doth set itself in motion within its own stability.

’Tis holy, incorruptible, and everlasting, and if there can be any better attribute to give to it, [’tis its],—Eternity of God supreme, in Truth itself subsisting, the Fullness of all things, of Sense, and of the whole of Science, consisting, so to say, with God. 2

2. The Cosmic Sense is the container 3 of all sensibles, [all] species, and [all] sciences.

The human [higher sense consists] in the retentiveness of memory, in that it can recall all things that it hath done.

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For only just as far as the man-animal has the divinity of Sense 1 descended; in that God hath not willed the highest Sense divine should be commingled with the rest of animals; lest it should blush for shame 2 on being mingled with the other lives.

For whatsoever be the quality, or the extent, of the intelligence of a man’s Sense, the whole of it consists in power of recollecting what is past.

It is through his retentiveness of memory, that man’s been made the ruler of the earth.

3. Now the intelligence of Nature 3 can be won by quality of Cosmic Sense,—from all the things in Cosmos which sense can perceive.

Concerning [this] Eternity, which is the second [one],—the Sense of this we get from out the senses’ Cosmos, and we discern its quality [by the same means].

But the intelligence of Quality [itself], the “Whatness” of the Sense of God Supreme, is Truth alone,—of which [pure] Truth not even the most tenuous sketch, or [faintest] shade, in Cosmos is discerned.

For where is aught [of it] discerned by measurement of times,—wherein are seen untruths, and births [-and-deaths], and errors?

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4. Thou seest, then, Asclepius, on what we are [already] founded, with what we occupy ourselves, and after what we dare to strive.

But unto Thee, O God most high, I give my thanks, in that Thou hast enlightened me with Light to see Divinity!

And ye, O Tat, Asclepius and Ammon, in silence hide the mysteries divine within the secret places of your hearts, 1 and breathe no word of their concealment 2!

5. Now in our case the intellect doth differ from the sense in this,—that by the mind’s extension intellect can reach to the intelligence and the discernment of the quality of Cosmic Sense.

The Intellect of Cosmos, on the other hand, extends to the Eternity and to the Gnosis of the Gods who are above itself. 3

And thus it comes to pass for men, that we perceive the things in Heaven, as it were through a mist, as far as the condition of the human sense allows.

’Tis true that the extension [of the mind] which we possess for the survey of such transcendent things, is very narrow [still]; but [it

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will be] most ample when it shall perceive with the felicity of [true] self-consciousness.


368:1 That is, changeless.

368:2 That is, again, in the Æon.

368:3 Stabilis.

368:4 Cf. viii. 1 above.

368:5 Cf. x. 3 above.

369:1 Eadem immobilitate. The whole is an endeavour to at-one the “Platonic” root-opposites “same” (ταὐτόν) and “other” (θάτερον)—the “Self” and the “not-Self,” sat-asat, ātmānātman, of the Upaniṣhads.

369:2 Lit. motionless.

370:1 Cf. C. H., xiii. (xiv.) 6; also xxxiv. 3 below.

370:2 Compare the Hymn in C. H., v. (vi.) 10, 11.

370:3 Or Eternity.

370:4 Lit. does not hold the chief place.

371:1 Cf. 3 below.

371:2 Consistens, ut ita dixerim, cum deo. Is there possibly here underlying the Latin consistens cum deo the expanded form of the peculiar and elliptical πρὸς τὸν θεὸν of the Proem to the Fourth Gospel (the apud deum of the Vulgate)? This was explained by the Gnostic Ptolemy, somewhere about the middle of the second century, as “at-one-ment with God,” in his exegesis of the opening words, which he glosses as: “The at-one-ment with each other, together with their at-one-ment with the Father” (ἡ πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἄμα καὶ ἡ πρὸς τὸν πατέρα ἕνωσις). So that the first verse of the Proem would run: “In the Beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was (one) with God; yea, the Logos was God. He was in the Beginning (one) with God”—? consistens cum deo. See Irenæus, Ref. Om. Hær., I. viii. 5—Stieren (Leipzig; 1853), i. 102; also F. F. F., p. 388.

371:3 Or receptacle.

372:1 That is, the divine or higher sense, connected with memory in its beginnings and with the Platonic “reminiscence” (the Pythagorean mathēsis) in its maturity.

372:2 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 19.

372:3 That is, Cosmos.

373:1 Lit. breasts.

373:2 Cf. C. H., xiii. (xiv.) 22.

373:3 The super-cosmic Gods, or beings of the Intelligible Cosmos; the Æons of the Gnostics.


1. [XII. M.] Now on the subject of a “Void,” 1—which seems to almost all a thing of vast importance,—I hold the following view.

Naught is, naught could have been, naught ever will be void.

For all the members of the Cosmos are completely full; so that Cosmos itself is full and [quite] complete with bodies, diverse in quality and form, possessing each its proper kind and size.

And of these bodies—one’s greater than another, or another’s less than is another, by difference of strength and size.

Of course, the stronger of them are more easily perceived, just as the larger [are]. The lesser ones, however, or the more minute, can scarcely be perceived, or not at all—those which we know are things [at all] by sense of touch alone.

Whence many come to think they are not bodies, and that there are void spaces,—which is impossible.

2. So also [for the Space] which is called

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[paragraph continues] Extra-cosmic,—if there be any (which I do not believe),—[then] is it filled by Him with things Intelligible, that is things of like nature with His own Divinity; just as this Cosmos which is called the Sensible, is fully filled with bodies and with animals, consonant with its proper nature and its quality;—[bodies] the proper shape of which we do not all behold, but [see] some large beyond their proper measure, some very small; either because of the great space which lies between [them and ourselves], or else because our sight is dull; so that they seem to us to be minute, or by the multitude are thought not to exist at all, because of their too great tenuity.

I mean the daimones, who, I believe, have their abode with us, and heroes, who abide between the purest part of air above us and the earth,—where it is ever cloudless, and no [movement from the] motion of a single star [disturbs the peace].

3. Because of this, Asclepius, thou shalt call nothing void; unless thou wilt declare of what that’s void, which thou dost say is void;—for instance, void of fire, of water, or things like to these.

For if it should fall out, that it should seem that anything is able to be void of things like these,—though that which seemeth void be little

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or be big, it still cannot be void of spirit and of air.


1. In like way must we also talk concerning “Space,” 1—a term which by itself is void of “sense.” 2

For Space seems what it is from that of which it is [the space]. For if the qualifying 3 word is cut away, the sense is maimed.

Wherefore we shall [more] rightly say the space of water, space of fire, or [space] of things like these.

For as it is impossible that aught be void; so is Space also in itself not possible to be distinguished what it is.

For if you postulate a space without that [thing] of which it is [the space], it will appear to be void space,—which I do not believe exists in Cosmos.

2. If nothing, then, is void, so also Space by its own self does not show what it is unless you add to it lengths, breadths [and depths],—just as you add the proper marks 4 unto men’s bodies.

These things, then, being thus, Asclepius, and ye who are with [him],—know the Intelligible

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[paragraph continues] Cosmos (that is, [the one] which is discerned by contemplation of the mind alone) is bodiless; nor can aught corporal be mingled with its nature,—[by corporal I mean] what can be known by quality, by quantity, and numbers. For there is nothing of this kind in that.

3. This Cosmos, then, which is called Sensible, is the receptacle of all things sensible,—of species, qualities, or bodies.

But not a single one of these can quicken without God. For God is all, and by Him [are] all things, and all [are] of His Will.

For that He is all Goodness, Fitness, Wisdom, unchangeable,—that can be sensed and understood by His own self alone.

Without Him naught hath been, nor is, nor will be.

4. For all things are from Him, in Him, and through Him,—both multitudinous qualities, and mighty quantities, and magnitudes exceeding every means of measurement, and species of all forms;—which things, if thou should’st understand, Asclepius, thou wilt give thanks to God.

And if thou should’st observe it 1 as a whole, thou wilt be taught, by means of the True Reason, that Cosmos in itself is knowable to sense, 2 and that all things in it are wrapped

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as in a vesture by that Higher Cosmos 1 [spoken of above].


1. Now every single class of living thing, 2 Asclepius, of whatsoever kind, or it be mortal or be rational, whether it be endowed with soul, or be without one, just as each has its class, 3 so does each several [class] have images of its own class.

And though each separate class of animal has in it every form of its own class, still in the selfsame [kind of] form the units differ from each other.

And so although the class of men is of one kind, so that a man can be distinguished by his [general] look, still individual men within the sameness of their [common] form do differ from each other.

2. For the idea 4 which is divine, is bodiless, and is whatever is grasped by the mind.

So that although these two, 5 from which the general form and body are derived, are bodiless, it is impossible that any single form should be produced exactly like another,—because the

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moments of the hours and points of inclination [when they’re born] are different.

But they are changed as many times as there are moments in the hour of that revolving Circle in which abides that God whom we have called All-formed. 1

3. The species, 2 then, persists, as frequently producing from itself as many images, and as diverse, as there are moments in the Cosmic Revolution, 3—a Cosmos which doth [ever] change in revolution. But the idea 4 [itself] is neither changed nor turned.

So are the forms of every single genus permanent, [and yet] dissimilar in the same [general] form.


1. Asc. And does the Cosmos have a species, O Thrice-greatest one?

Tris. Dost not thou see, Asclepius, that all has been explained to thee as though to one asleep?

For what is Cosmos, or of what doth it consist, if not of all things born?

This, 5 then, you may assert of heaven, and

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earth, and elements. For though the other things possess more frequent change of species, [still even] heaven, [by its] becoming moist, or dry, or cold, or hot, or clear, or dull, [all] in one kind 1 of heaven,—these [too] are frequent changes into species. 2

2. Earth hath, moreover, always many changes in its species;—both when she brings forth fruits, and when she also nourishes her bringings-forth with the return of all the fruits; the diverse qualities and quantities of air, its stoppings and its flowings 3; and before all the qualities of trees, of flowers, and berries, of scents, of savours—species.

Fire [also] brings about most numerous conversions, and divine. For these are all-formed images of Sun and Moon 4; they’re, as it were, like our own mirrors, which with their emulous resplendence give us back the likenesses of our own images.


374:1 Cf. C. H., xi. (xii.).

376:1 Cf. xv. 1 above.

376:2 Intellectu caret.

376:3 Principale,—lit. principal.

376:4 Signa; characteristics, presumably.

377:1 Sc. the Cosmos.

377:2 Sensibilem; probably referring to the sensus par excellence; that is, the higher or cosmic sense.

378:1 That is, the Intelligible Cosmos; presumably the Æon.

378:2 Animalium.

378:3 Genus.

378:4 Species; meaning here apparently the genus or class.

378:5 Apparently the idea and mind.

379:1 Cf. C. H., xi. (xii.) 16; and C. H., xvi. 15; also xix. 3 above, and xxxvi. 2 below.

379:2 That is, apparently, the “divine species,” or idea, the genus.

379:3 Cf. xl. 3 below.

379:4 Species.

379:5 That is, that there are genera embracing many species.

380:1 Specie.

380:2 The construction is here confuted and elliptical.

380:3 This clause seems to be out of place.

380:4 Presumably of the ideal Sun and Moon; for “all-formed,” cf. xxxv. 2 above.


1. [XIII. M.] But 5 now let this suffice about such things; and let us once again return

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to man and reason,—gift divine, from which man has the name of rational animal.

Less to be wondered at are the things said of man,—though they are [still] to be admired. Nay, of all marvels that which wins our wonder [most] is that man has been able to find out the nature of the Gods and bring it into play.

2. Since, then, our earliest progenitors were in great error, 1—seeing they had no rational faith about the Gods, and that they paid no heed unto their cult and holy worship,—they chanced upon an art whereby they made Gods [for themselves]. 2

To this invention they conjoined a power that suited it, [derived] from cosmic nature; and blending these together, since souls they could not make, [they set about] evoking daimons’ souls or those of angels; [and thus] attached them to their sacred images and holy mysteries, so that the statues should, by means of these, possess the powers of doing good and the reverse.

3. For thy forebear, Asclepius, the first discoverer of medicine, to whom there is a temple

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hallowed on Libya’s Mount, 1 hard by the shore of crocodiles, 2 in which his cosmic man 3 reposes, that is to say his body; for that the rest [of him], or better still, the whole (if that a man when wholly [plunged] in consciousness of life, 4 be better), hath gone back home to heaven,—still furnishing, [but] now by his divinity, the sick with all the remedies which he was wont in days gone by to give by art of medicine.

4. Hermes, which is the name of my forebear, whose home is in a place called after him, 5 doth aid and guard all mortal [men] who come to him from every side. 6

As for Osiris’ [spouse]; how many are the blessings that we know Isis bestows when she’s propitious; how many does she injure when she’s wrath!

For that the terrene and the cosmic Gods are

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easily enraged, in that they are created and composed of the two natures.

5. And for this cause it comes to pass that these are called the “sacred animals” by the Egyptians, and that each several state 1 gives service to the souls of those whose souls have been made holy, 2 while they were still alive; so that [the several states] are governed by the laws [of their peculiar sacred animals], and called after their names.

It is because of this, Asclepius, those [animals] which are considered by some states deserving of their worship, in others are thought otherwise; and on account of this the states of the Egyptians wage with each other frequent war.


1. Asc. And of what nature, O Thrice-greatest one, may be the quality of those who are considered terrene Gods?

Tris. It doth consist, Asclepius, of plants, and stones, and spices, which contain the nature of [their own] divinity.

And for this cause they are delighted with repeated sacrifice, with hymns, and lauds, and

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sweetest sounds, tuned to the key of Heaven’s harmonious song. 1

2. So that what is of heavenly nature, 2 being drawn down into the images by means of heavenly use and practices, may be enabled to endure with joy the nature of mankind, and sojourn with it for long periods of time.

Thus is it that man is the maker of the Gods.

3. But do not, O Asclepius, I pray thee, think the doings of the terrene Gods are the result of chance.

The heavenly Gods dwell in the heights of Heaven, each filling up and watching o’er the rank he hath received; whereas these Gods of ours, 3 each in its way,—by looking after certain things, foretelling others by oracles and prophecy, foreseeing others, and duly helping them along,—act as allies of men, as though they were our relatives and friends.


380:5 The first six paragraphs of this chapter are quoted in Latin, with two slight verbal variants, by Augustine, De Civitate Dei, xxiv., xxvi.

381:1 Ménard thinks he can distinguish the hand of a Christian scribe in this sentence, which he translates with great freedom, “qui s’égaraient dans l’incrédulité.” A more careful translation, however, does not seem to favour this hypothesis. Hermes says simply that primitive mankind were ignorant of the Gods, and so in error.

381:2 That is, images. Cf. xxx. above; and C. H., xvii.

382:1 Cf. xxvii. 3 above.

382:2 In monte Libyæ circa littus crocodilorum. Does this refer to a Crocodilopolis (κροκοδείλων πόλις, Ptol., iv. 5, § 65)? And if so, to which of these cities, for there were several? The best known of these is Arsinoë in the Faiyyūm; but there was also another down south, in the Thebaid, on the W. bank of the Nile, lat. 25° 6', of which remains are still visible at Embeshanda, on the verge of the Libyan desert. See Smith’s Dict. of Gk. and Rom. Geography (London, 1878), sub voc.

382:3 Presumably his mummy.

382:4 In sensu vitæ.

382:5 Hermopolis therefore (compare Lact., D. Institt., i. 6); that is to say, Hermopolis Magna (Ἑρμοῦ πόλις μεγάλη), the modern Eshmūn, on the left bank of the Nile, about lat. 27° 4'.

382:6 To get wisdom. Augustine’s quotation ends here.

383:1 Or city. For the animal cult of the Egyptians, see Plutarch, De Is. et Os., lxxii. ff.

383:2 Or consecrated.

384:1 Cf. “God’s song” in xiii. 2 above.

384:2 Namely, the nature of the Gods.

384:3 The terrene Gods; the daimones of C. H., xvi. 14.


1. [XIV. M.] Asc. What part of the economy, 4 Thrice-greatest one, does the Heimarmenē, or Fate, then occupy? For do not the celestial Gods rule over generals 5; the terrene occupy particulars?

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Tris. That which we call Heimarmenē, Asclepius, is the necessity of all things that are born, 1 bound ever to themselves with interlinked enchainments.

This, then, is either the effector of all things, or it is highest God, or what is made the second God by God Himself,—or else the discipline 2 of all things both in heaven and on earth, established by the laws of the Divine.

2. And so these twain, Fate and Necessity, are bound to one another mutually by inseparable cohesion. 3

The former of them, the Heimarmenē, gives birth to the beginnings of all things; Necessity compels the end of [all] depending from these principals.

On these doth Order follow, that is their warp-and-woof, and Time’s arrangement for the perfecting of [all] things. For there is naught without the interblend of Order. 4

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That Cosmos 1 is made perfect in all things; for Cosmos’ self is vehicled 2 in Order, or totally consists of Order.


1. So, then, these three, Fate, [and] Necessity, [and] Order, are most immediately effected by God’s Will, who rules the Cosmos by His Law and by His Holy Reason.

From these, accordingly, all willing or not-willing is altogether foreign, according to God’s Will. 3

They are not moved by wrath nor swayed by favour, but are the instruments of the Eternal Reason’s self-compulsion, which is [the Reason] of Eternity, 4 that never can be turned aside, or changed, or be destroyed.

2. First, then, is Fate, which, as it were, by casting in the seed, supplies the embryo of all that are to be.

Follows Necessity, whereby they all are forcibly compelled unto their end.

Third, Order [comes], preserving warp-and-woof of [all] the things which Fate and [which] Necessity arrange. 5

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This, then, is the Eternity, which neither doth begin nor cease to be, which, fixed by law unchangeable, abides in the unceasing motion of its course.

3. It rises and it sets, by turns, throughout its limbs 1; so that by reason of Time’s changes it often rises with the very limbs with which it [once] had set.

For [its] sphericity,—its law of revolution, 2—is of this nature, that all things are so straitly joined to their own selves, that no one knoweth what is the beginning of their revolution 3; since they appear for ever all to go before and follow after their own selves.

Good and bad issues, 4 [therefore,] are commingled in all cosmic things.


384:4 Rationis; lit. reason.

384:5 Catholicorum.

385:1 Or borne, quæ geruntur.

385:2 Disciplina = ? gnōsis.

385:3 Glutino.

385:4 Cf. J. Laurentius Lydus, De Mensibus, iv. 7 (Wünsch, 70); the rest of the quotation following on what has been already quoted in the note to xix. 3. The Greek is either a very much shortened form or the Latin a very much expanded one, for the former may be translated as follows: “And Fate is also fated Activity (or Energy), or God Himself, or the Order that doth follow that Activity set over all things in the heaven and all things on the earth, together with Necessity. The former (Fate) gives birth to the very beginnings of things, the latter compels the ends also to come into existence. And on them there follow Order and Law, and there is naught that’s orderless.” Cf. Ex. i. 15, and Ex. xi. 1.

386:1 Mundus = cosmos, meaning also order in Greek.

386:2 Gestatur.

386:3 Divinitus.

386:4 That is, the Æon.

386:5 Fate thus seems to be regarded as the Creator, Order as the Preserver, and Necessity as the Destroyer or Regenerator.

387:1 Membra; that is, parts, presumably constellations.

387:2 Cf. xxxv. 3 below.

387:3 Volubilitatis; that is, their turning into themselves; the symbol of which was the serpent swallowing its tail.

387:4 Eventus et fors.

4. [XV. M.] And now it hath been told you on each several point,—as man hath power [to tell], and God hath willed it and permitted it.

This, then, alone remains that we should do,—bless God and give Him praise; and so return to taking thought for body [’s comfort].

For now sufficiently have we been filled with feast of mind by our discourse on sacred things. 5

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1. Now when they came forth from the holy place, 1 they turned their faces towards the south 2 when they began their prayers to God.

For when the sun is setting, should anyone desire to pray to God, he ought to turn him thitherwards 3; so also at the rising of the same, unto that spot which lies beneath the sun. 4

As they were just beginning to recite the prayer, Asclepius did whisper:

[Asc.] Let us suggest to father, Tat,—what he did bid us do, 5—that we should say our prayer to God with added incense and with unguents.

Whom when Thrice-greatest heard, he grew distressed and said:

2. [Tris.] Nay, nay, Asclepius; speak more propitious words! For this is like to profanation of [our] sacred rites,—when thou dost pray to God, to offer incense and the rest.

For naught is there of which He stands in need, in that He is all things, or all are in Him.

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But let us worship, pouring forth our thanks. For this is the best incense in God’s sight,—when thanks are given to Him by men. 1

3. [We give] Thee grace, Thou highest [and] most excellent! For by Thy Grace we have received the so great Light of Thy own Gnosis.

O holy Name, fit [Name] to be adored, O Name unique, by which the Only God 2 is to be blest through worship of [our] Sire,—[of Thee] who deignest to afford to all a Father’s piety, and care, and love, and whatsoever virtue is more sweet [than these], endowing [us] with sense, [and] reason, [and] intelligence;—with sense that we may feel Thee; with reason that we may track Thee out from the appearances of things 3; with means of recognition that we may joy in knowing Thee.

4. Saved by Thy Power divine, let us rejoice that Thou hast shown Thyself to us in all Thy Fullness. Let us rejoice that Thou hast deigned to consecrate us, [still] entombed in bodies, to Eternity.

For this is the sole festival of praise worthy of man,—to know Thy Majesty.

We have known Thee; yea, by the Single Sense of our intelligence, we have perceived

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[paragraph continues] Thy Light supreme,—O Thou true Life of life, O Fecund Womb that giveth birth to every nature!

5. We have known Thee, O Thou completely filled with the Conception from Thyself of Universal Nature!

We have known Thee, O Thou Eternal Constancy!

For in the whole of this our prayer in worship of Thy Good, this favour only of Thy Goodness do we crave;—that Thou wilt keep us constant in our Love of knowing Thee, 1 and let us ne’er be cut off from this kind of Life.

With this desire we [now] betake us to [our] pure and fleshless meal. 2


387:5 Cf. the conclusion of C. H., xvii.

388:1 De adyto; “down from,” literally.

388:2 This is apparently an error for south-west or west.

388:3 That is, to the setting sun or the west. Cf. C. H., xiii. (xiv.) 16, Comment.

388:4 Subsolanus, lying beneath the sun; that is to say, eastern.

388:5 Cf. xxxviii. 1 above.

389:1 For the three preceding paragraphs, see Lact., D. I., vi. 25.

389:2 The Cosmos, presumably, as the One God.

389:3 Suspicionibus; hints, perhaps, and so phenomena.

390:1 Or of Thy Gnosis.

390:2 Cænam.

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