Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

II

The Perfect Sermon

p. 306

p. 307

THE PERFECT SERMON

OR THE ASCLEPIUS

(Text: The Greek original is lost, and only a Latin version remains to us. I use the text of Hildebrand (G. F.), L. Apuleii Opera Omnia ex Fide Optimorum Codicum (Leipzig, 1842), Pars II., pp. 279-334; but have very occasionally preferred the text in Patrizzi’s Nova de Universis Philosophia (Venice, 1593), or of the Bipontine edition of Appuleius, Lucii Apuleji Madaurensis Platonici Philosophi Opera (Biponti, 1788), pp. 285-325.)


I

1. 1 [I. M. 2] [Trismegistus.] God, O Asclepius, hath brought thee unto us that thou mayest hear a Godly sermon, 3 a sermon such as well may seem of all the previous ones we’ve [either] uttered, or with which we’ve been inspired by the Divine, more Godly than the piety of [ordinary] faith.


p. 308

If thou with eye of intellect 1 shalt see this Word 2 thou shalt in thy whole mind be filled quite full of all things good.

If that, indeed, the “many” be the “good,” and not the “one,” in which are “all.” Indeed the difference between the two is found in their agreement,—“All” is of “One” 3 or “One” is “All.” So closely bound is each to other, that neither can be parted from its mate.

But this with diligent attention shalt thou learn from out the sermon that shall follow [this].

But do thou, O Asclepius, go forth a moment and call in the one who is to hear. 4

(And when he had come in, Asclepius proposed that Ammon too should be allowed to come. Thereon Thrice-greatest said:)

[Tris.] There is no cause why Ammon should be kept away from us. For we remember how we have ourselves set down in writing many things to his address, 5 as though unto a son most dear and most beloved, of physics many things, of ethics [too] as many as could be.

It is, however, with thy name I will inscribe this treatise.


p. 309

But call, I prithee, no one else but Ammon, lest a most pious sermon on a so great theme be spoilt by the admission of the multitude.

For ’tis the mark of an unpious mind to publish to the knowledge of the crowd a tractate brimming o’er with the full Greatness of Divinity.

(When Ammon too had come within the holy place, and when the sacred group of four was now complete with piety and with God’s goodly presence—to them, sunk in fit silence reverently, their souls and minds pendent on Hermes’ lips, thus Love 1 Divine began to speak.)


II

1. [Tris.] The soul of every man, O [my] Asclepius, is deathless; yet not all in like fashion, but some in one way or [one] time, some in another.

Asc. Is not, then, O Thrice-greatest one, each soul of one [and the same] quality?

Tris. How quickly hast thou fallen, O Asclepius, from reason’s true sobriety!

Did not I say that “All” is “One,” and “One” is “All,” 2 in as much as all things have


p. 310

been in the Creator before they were created. Nor is He called unfitly “All,” in that His members are the “All.”

Therefore, in all this argument, see that thou keep in mind Him who is “One”-“All,” or who Himself is maker of the “All.”

2. All things descend from Heaven to Earth, to Water and to Air.

’Tis Fire alone, in that it is borne upwards, giveth life; that which [is carried] downwards [is] subservient to Fire.

Further, whatever doth descend from the above, begetteth; what floweth upwards, nourisheth.

’Tis Earth alone, in that it resteth on itself, that is Receiver of all things, and [also] the Restorer of all genera that it receives.

This Whole, 1 therefore, as thou rememberest, 2 in that it is of all,—in other words, all things, embraced by nature under “Soul” and “World,” 3 are in [perpetual] flux, so varied by the multiform equality of all their forms, that countless kinds of well-distinguished qualities may be discerned, yet with this bond of union, that all should seem as One, and from “One” “All.” 4


p. 311

III

1. That, then, from which the whole Cosmos is formed, consisteth of Four Elements—Fire, Water, Earth, and Air; Cosmos [itself is] one, [its] Soul [is] one, and God is one.

Now lend to me the whole of thee, 1—all that thou can’st in mind, all that thou skill’st in penetration.

For that the Reason 2 of Divinity may not be known except by an intention of the senses like to it. 3

’Tis 4 likest to the torrent’s flood, down-dashing headlong from above with all-devouring tide; so that it comes about, that by the swiftness of its speed it is too quick for our attention, not only for the hearers, but also for the very teachers. 5

Footnotes

307:1 I have added numbers to the paragraphs for greater convenience of reference.

307:2 Ménard has divided the treatise into fifteen parts, which I have thus distinguished; the numbering of the chapters are those usually found.

307:3 Or, a sermon about the Gods.

308:1 Intelligens.

308:2 Reason or sermon or logos; cf. iii. and below: “For that the Reason,” etc.

308:3 But ii. 1, referring again to this idea, has the reading: “‘All’ is ‘One.’” Cf. C. H., xvi. 3; and also xx. 2 below.

308:4 This, as we shall see later on, is Tat. See xxxii. below.

308:5 Lit. to his name.

309:1 Cupido; without doubt Erōs in the lost original; cf. xxi. 1 below; and Frag. xviii.

309:2 This, as we have already noted, is a variant of the reading in i., where we find “omnia unius esse” (“all” is of “one”) and not “omnia unum esse” (“all” is “one”).

310:1 Sc. the Cosmos.

310:2 Presumably from some previous sermon.

310:3 That is, Cosmos.

310:4 The Latin of this paragraph is very obscure.

311:1 Cf. C. H., xi. (xii.) 15: “Give thou thyself to Me, My Hermes, for a little while.”

311:2 Ratio—that is, Logos.

311:3 Lit. divine—that is, by a concentration like to the singleness of the Godhead.

311:4 That is, “This Reason is.”

311:5 “Quo efficitur ut intentionem nostram . . . celeri velocitate praetereat.” Compare with this the description of the instruction of the Therapeuts in Philo’s famous tractate, De Vita Contemplativa, 901 P., 483 M.—Conybeare’s text, p. 117 (Oxford; 1895): “For when in giving an interpretation, one continues to speak rapidly without pausing for breath, the mind of the hearers is left behind, unable to keep up the pace”—ὁ τῶν ἀκροωμένων νοῦς συνομαρτεῖν ἀδυντῶν ὑστερίζει.

2. [II. M.] Heaven, then, God Sensible, is the

p. 312

director of all bodies; bodies’ increasings and decreasings are ruled by Sun and Moon.

But He who is the Ruler of the Heaven, and of its Soul as well, and of all things within the Cosmos,—He is God, who is the Maker of all things.

For from all those that have been said above, 1 o’er which the same God rules, there floweth forth a flood of all things streaming through the Cosmos and the Soul, of every class and kind, throughout the Nature of [all] things.

The Cosmos hath, moreover, been prepared by God as the receptacle of forms of every kind. 2

Forth-thinking Nature by these kinds of things, He hath extended Cosmos unto Heaven by means of the Four Elements,—all to give pleasure to the eye of God.

IV

1. And all dependent from Above 3 are subdivided into species in the fashion 4 which I am to tell.

p. 313

The genera of all things company with their own species; so that the genus is a class in its entirety, the species is part of a genus.

The genus of the Gods will, therefore, make the species of the Gods out of itself.

In like way, too, the genus of the daimons, and of men, likewise of birds, and of all [animals] the Cosmos doth contain within itself, brings into being species like itself.

There is besides a genus other than the animal,—a genus, or indeed a soul, in that it’s not without sensation,—in consequence of which it both finds happiness in suitable conditions, and pines and spoils in adverse ones;—I mean [the class] of all things on the earth which owe their life to the sound state of roots and shoots, of which the various kinds are scattered through the length and breadth of Earth.

2. The Heaven itself is full of God. The genera we have just mentioned, therefore, occupy up to the spaces of all things whose species are immortal.

For that a species is part of a genus,—as man, for instance, of mankind,—and that a part must follow its own class’s quality.

From which it comes to pass that though all genera are deathless, all species are not so.

The genus of Divinity is in itself and in its species 1 [also] deathless.

p. 314

As for the genera of other things,—as to their genus, they [too] are everlasting; [for] though [the genus] perish in its species, yet it persists through its fecundity in being born. And for this cause its species are beneath the sway of death; so that man mortal is, mankind immortal.

V

1. And yet the species of all genera are interblended with all genera; some 1 which have previously been made, some which are made from these.

The latter, then, which are being made,—either by Gods, or daimons, or by men,—are species all most closely like to their own several genera.

For that it is impossible that bodies should be formed without the will of God; or species be configured without the help of daimons; or animals be taught and trained without the help of men. 2

2. Whoever of the daimons, then, transcending their own genus, are, by chance, united with a species, 3 by reason of the neighbourhood of any species of the Godlike class,—these are considered like to Gods. 4

p. 315

Whereas those species of the daimons which continue in the quality of their own class,—these love men’s rational nature [and occupy themselves with men], and are called daimons proper.

Likewise is it the case with men, or more so even. Diverse and multiform, the species of mankind. And coming in itself from the association spoken of above, it of necessity doth bring about a multitude of combinations of all other species and almost of all things.

3. Wherefore doth man draw nigh unto the Gods, if he have joined himself unto the Gods with Godlike piety by reason of his mind, whereby he is joined to the Gods; and [nigh] unto the daimons, in that he is joined unto them [as well].

Whereas those men who are contented with the mediocrity of their own class, and the remaining species of mankind, will be like those unto the species of whose class they’ve joined themselves. 1

Footnotes

312:1 This seems to refer to the Elements.

312:2 Omniformium specierum.

312:3 Omnia autem desuper pendentia. Compare with this the famous Psalm of Valentius, “All things depending from Spirit I see”—πάντα κρεμάμενα πνεύματι βλέπω—Hippolytus, Philos., vi. 37. For revised text see Hilgenfeld’s (A.) Ketzergeschichte, p. 304 (Leipzig, 1884), and for a translation, my Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, p. 307 (London; 1900). See also end of xix. 4 below, and C. H., xvi. 17.

312:4 Genere.

313:1 That is, the Gods.

314:1 Sc. species.

314:2 Cf. C. H., xvi. 18, for the hierarchy of Gods and daimones; and for the “intercourse of souls,” C. H., x. (xi.) 22.

314:3 That is, one of the immortal species, or a God.

314:4 That is, they become Gods.

315:1 A suggestion of man’s attraction to the various species of the animal nature.

VI

1. [III. M.] It is for reasons such as these, Asclepius, man is a mighty wonder,—an animal meet for our worship and for our respect.

p. 316

For he doth pass into God’s Nature, 1 as though himself were God. This genus [also] knows the genus of the daimons, as though man knew he had a [common] origin with them. He thinketh little of the part of human nature in him, from confidence in the divineness of [his] other part.

How much more happy is the blend of human nature [than of all the rest]! Joined to the Gods by his cognate divinity, a man looks down upon the part of him by means of which he’s common with the Earth.

The rest of things to which he knows he’s kin, by [reason of] the heavenly order [in him], he binds unto himself with bonds of love; and thus he turns his gaze to Heaven.

2. So, then, [man] hath his place in the more blessed station of the Midst; so that he loves [all] those below himself, and in his turn is loved by those above.

He tills the Earth. He mingles with the Elements by reason of the swiftness of his mind. He plunges into the Sea’s depths by means of its 2 profundity. He puts his values on all things.

Heaven seems not too high for him; for it is

p. 317

measured by the wisdom of his mind as though it were quite near.

No darkness of the Air obstructs the penetration of his mind. No density of Earth impedes his work. No depth of Water blunts his sight. 1

[Though still] the same [yet] is he all, and everywhere is he the same.

3. Of all these genera, those [species] which are animal have [many] roots, which stretch from the above below, 2 whereas those which are stationary 3—these from [one] living root send forth a wood of branching greenery up from below into the upper parts.

Moreover, some of them are nourished with a two-fold form of food, while others with a single form.

Twain are the forms of food—for soul and body, of which [all] animals consist. Their soul is nourished by the ever-restless motion of the World 4; their bodies have their growth from

p. 318

foods [drawn] from the water and the earth of the inferior world. 1

Spirit, 2 with which they 3 all are filled, being interblended with the rest, 4 doth make them live; sense being added, and also reason in the case of man—which hath been given to man alone as a fifth part out of the æther.

Of all the living things 5 [God] doth adorn, extend, exalt, the sense of man alone unto the understanding of the Reason of Divinity. 6

But since I am impressed to speak concerning Sense, I will a little further on set forth for you the sermon on this [point]; for that it is most holy, and [most] mighty, not less than in the Reason of Divinity itself.

VII

1. But now I’ll finish for you what I have begun. For I was speaking at the start of union with the Gods, by which men only 7 consciously enjoy 8 the Gods’ regard,—I mean whatever men have won such rapture that they have obtained a share of that Divine Sense of intelligence which

p. 319

is the most 1 Divine of Senses, found in God and in man’s reason.

Asc. Are not the senses of all men, Thrice-greatest one, the same?

Tris. Nay, [my] Asclepius, all have not won true reason 2; but wildly rushing in pursuit of [reason’s] counterfeit, 3 they never see the thing itself, and are deceived. And this breeds evil in their minds, and [thus] transforms the best of animals into the nature of a beast and manners of the brutes.

2. But as to Sense and all things similar, I will set forth the whole discourse when [I explain] concerning Spirit.

For man is the sole animal that is twofold. One part of him is simple: the [man] “essential,” 4 as say the Greeks, but which we call the “form of the Divine Similitude.”

He also is fourfold: that which the Greeks call “hylic,” 5 [but] which we call “cosmic”; of which is made the corporal part, in which is vestured what we just have said is the divine in man, 6—in which the godhead of the Mind alone,

p. 320

together with its kin, that is the Pure Mind’s senses, findeth home and rest, its self with its own self, as though shut in the body’s walls.

Footnotes

316:1 This contradicts somewhat the more careful wording of C. H., x. (xi.) 1, where the term Energy is preferred.

316:2 Sc. the mind’s.

317:1 Cf. C. H., xi. (xii.) 19.

317:2 Compare with this the symbolism of the “fire-tree” and the “rootage” of the æons, in the “Simonian” system of the Gnōsis, taken by Hippolytus from the document entitled The Great Announcement (Hipp., Philos., vi. 9 and 18). Also the common figure of the Ashvattha tree of Indo-Aryan mythology; for instance, in the Kaṭhopaniṣhad, II. vi. 1: “The old, old tree that sees no morrow’s dawn, [stands] roots up, branches down” (see Mead and Chaṭṭopādhyāya’s Upaniṣhads, i. 74—London; 1896). Ashvatthaḥ = a-shvaḥ-tha, that is, “which stands not till to-morrow.” The idea is that the world-tree (saṁsāravṛikṣha) never lasts till to-morrow, for all things are perpetually changing.

317:3 Lit. non-animal.

317:4 Or Cosmos.

318:1 Cf. xi. 2.

318:2 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 13, and Commentary thereon.

318:3 That is, animal bodies.

318:4 Presumably the rest of the Earth elements.

318:5 Lit. animals.

318:6 Lit. the Divine Reason, Ratio, or Logos.

318:7 Sc. of the animals. Cf. xviii. 1 below.

318:8 Per-fruuntur. Cf., for the idea, xxii. 1 below.

319:1 Lit. more.

319:2 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 23, 24; iv. (v.) 3; and ix. 3 below.

319:3 Lit. image.

319:4 The Greek term οὐσιώδης is here retained. Cf. viii. 2 below.

319:5 The Greek ὑλικὸν being retained in the Latin.

319:6 Cf. C. H., xvi. 15.

3. [IV. M.] Asc. What, then, Thrice-greatest one, has caused it that man should be planted in the world, and should not pass his life in highest happiness in that part [of the universe] where there is God?

[Tris.] Rightly thou questionest, O [my] Asclepius! And we pray God that He bestow on us the power of setting forth this reason; since everything depends upon His Will, and specially those things that are set forth about the Highest Whole, the Reason that’s the object of our present argument. Hear, then, Asclepius!

VIII

1. The Lord and Maker of all things, whom we call rightly God, when from Himself He made the second [God], the Visible and Sensible, 1—I call him Sensible not that He hath sensation in Himself (for as to this, whether or no He have himself sensation, we will some other time declare), but that He is the object of the senses of those who see;—when, then, He made Him first, but second to Himself, and that He seemed

p. 321

to Him [most] fair, as one filled to the full with goodness of all things, He fell in love with Him as being part of His Divinity. 1

2. Accordingly, in that He was so mighty and so fair, He willed that some one else should have the power to contemplate the One He had made from Himself. And thereon He made man,—the imitator of His Reason and His Love. 2

The Will of God is in itself complete accomplishment; inasmuch as together with His having willed, in one and the same time He hath brought it to full accomplishment.

And so, when He perceived that the “essential” 3 [man] could not be lover 4 of all things, unless He clothed him in a cosmic carapace, He shut him in within a house of body,—and ordered it that all [men] should be so,—from either nature making him a single blend and fair-proportioned mixture.

p. 322

3. Therefore hath He made man of soul and body,—that is, of an eternal and a mortal nature; so that an animal thus blended can content his dual origin,—admire and worship things in heaven, and cultivate and govern things on earth. 1

By mortal things 2 I do not mean the water or the earth [themselves], for these are two of the [immortal] elements that nature hath made subject unto men,—but [either] things that are by men, or [that are] in or from them 3; such as the cultivation of the earth itself, pastures, [and] buildings, harbours, voyagings, intercommunications, mutual services, which are the firmest bonds of men between themselves and that part of the Cosmos which consists [indeed] of water and of earth, [but is] the Cosmos’ terrene part,—which is preserved by knowledge and the use of arts and sciences; without which [things] God willeth not Cosmos should be complete. 4

p. 323

In that necessity doth follow what seems good to God; performance waits upon His will.

Nor is it credible that that which once hath pleased Him, will become unpleasing unto God; since He hath known both what will be, and what will please Him, long before.

Footnotes

320:1 Sc. the Logos as Cosmos. Cf. xxxi. 1 below.

321:1 The Greek original of this passage is quoted by Lactantius, Div. Institt., iv. 6, and runs as follows in Fritzsche’s (O. F.) text (Leipzig, 1842):

“The Lord and Maker of all things (whom ’tis our custom to call God) when He had made the second God, the Visible and Sensible,—I call him Sensible not that He hath sensation in Himself (for as to this, whether or no He have himself sensation, we will some other time enquire), but that He is object of senses and of mind;—when, then, He’d made Him first, and One and Only, He seemed to Him most fair, and filled quite full of all things good. At Him He marvelled, and loved Him altogether as His Son.” With the last words, cf. Plat., Tim., 37 D.

321:2 Diligentiæ.

321:3 The Greek οὐσιώδης being again, as in vii. 2, retained in the Latin. Cf. C. H., i. 15 and ix. (x.) 5.

321:4 Diligentem.

322:1 This sentence is also quoted by Lactantius (Div. Institt., vii. 13) in the original Greek, which reads:

“From the two natures, the deathless and the mortal, He made one nature,—that of man, one and the selfsame thing. And having made the selfsame [man] both somehow deathless and also somehow mortal, He brought him [forth], and set him up betwixt the godlike and immortal nature and the mortal; that seeing all he might wonder at all.”

322:2 That is, the “things on earth.”

322:3 That is, the two elements mentioned.

322:4 The above paragraph seems to have been very imperfectly translated into Latin.

IX

1. [V. M.] But, O Asclepius, I see that thou with swift desire of mind art in a hurry to be told how man can have a love and worship of the Heaven, or of the things that are therein. Hear, then, Asclepius!

The love of God and Heaven, together with all them that are therein, is one perpetual act of worship. 1

No other thing ensouled, of Gods or animals, can do this thing, save man alone. 2 ’Tis in the admiration, adoration, [and] the praise of men, and [in their] acts of worship, that Heaven and Heaven’s hosts find their delight.

2. Nor is it without cause the Muses’ choir hath been sent down by Highest Deity unto the host of men; in order that, forsooth, the terrene world should not seem too uncultured, had it lacked the charm of measures, but rather that with songs and praise of men accompanied with

p. 324

music, 1 He might be lauded,—He who alone is all, or is the Sire of all; and so not even on the earths, 2 should there have been an absence of the sweetness of the harmony of heavenly praise.

3. Some, then, though they be very few, endowed with the Pure Mind, 3 have been entrusted with the sacred charge of contemplating Heaven.

Whereas those men who, from the two-fold blending of their nature, have not as yet withdrawn their inner reason from their body’s mass, 4 these are appointed for the study of the elements, and [all] that is below them.

4. Thus man’s an animal; yet not indeed less potent in that he’s partly mortal, but rather doth he seem to be all the more fit and efficacious for reaching Certain Reason, since he has had mortality bestowed on him as well.

For it is plain he could not have sustained the strain of both, unless he had been formed out of both natures, 5 so that he could possess the powers of cultivating Earthly things and loving Heaven.

p. 325

X

1. The Reason of a thesis such as this, O [my] Asclepius, I would that thou should’st grasp, not only with the keen attention of thy soul, but also with its living power 1 [as well].

For ’tis a Reason that most men cannot believe; the Perfect and the True are to be grasped by the more holy minds. 2 Hence, then, will I begin.

Footnotes

323:1 Una est obsequiorum frequentatio. Cf. Ex. i. 3.

323:2 Cf. C. H., xvi. 11: “The duty of mankind is to give worship.”

324:1 Musicatis; or perhaps “Muse-inspired”; a word which, like so many others, occurs only in the Latin of this treatise.

324:2 In terris, pl.

324:3 Cf. vii. 1 and 2 above.

324:4 The reading is “interiorem intelligentiam mole corporis resederunt,” of which I can make nothing; resederunt is evidently an error.

324:5 There is here a “double” in the text, which the editor has not removed.

325:1 Vivacitate. Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 17; and xix. 1 below.

325:2 Cf. C. H., ix. (x.) 10.

2. [VI. M.] The Lord of the Eternity 3 is the first God; the second’s Cosmos; man is the third. 4

God is the Maker of the Cosmos and of all the things therein; at the same time He ruleth 5 all, with man himself, [who is] the ruler of the compound thing 6; the whole of which man taking on himself, doth make of it the proper care of his own love, in order that the two of them, himself and Cosmos, may be an ornament each unto other; so that from this divine compost of man, “World” seems most fitly called “Cosmos” 7 in Greek.

3. He knows himself; he knows the World as

p. 326

well. 1 So that he recollects, indeed, what is convenient to his own parts. He calls to mind what he must use, that they may be of service to himself; giving the greatest praise and thanks to God, His Image 2 reverencing,—not ignorant that he is, too, God’s image the second [one]; for that there are two images of God—Cosmos and man. 3

4. So that it comes to pass that, since man’s is a single structure,—in that part [of him] which doth consist of Soul, and Sense, of Spirit, and of Reason, he’s divine; so that he seems to have the power to mount from as it were the higher elements into the Heaven.

But in his cosmic part, which is composed of fire, and water, and of air, he stayeth mortal on the Earth,—lest he should leave all things committed to his care forsaken and bereft.

Thus human kind is made in one part deathless, and in the other part subject to death while in a body.

XI

1. Now of that dual nature,—that is to say of man,—there is a chief capacity. [And that is] piety, which goodness follows after.

p. 327

[And] this [capacity] then, and then only, seems to be perfected, if it be fortified with virtue of despising all desires for alien things.

For alien from every part of kinship with the Gods 1 are all things on the Earth, whatever are possessed from bodily desires,—to which we rightly give the name “possessions,” in that they are not born with us, but later on begin to be possessed by us; wherefore we call them by the name possessions. 2

2. All such things, then, are alien from man,—even his body. So that we can despise not only what we long for, but also that from which the vice of longing comes to us.

For just as far as the increase of reason leads our 3 soul, so far one should be man; in order that by contemplating the divine, one should look down upon, and disregard the mortal part, which hath been joined to him, through the necessity of helping on the lower 4 world.

3. For that, in order that a man should be complete in either part, observe that he hath

p. 328

been composed of elements of either part in sets of four;—with hands, and feet, both of them pairs, and with the other 1 members of his body, by means of which he may do service to the lower (that is to say the terrene) world.

And to these parts [are added other] four;—of sense, and soul, of memory, and foresight, by means of which he may become acquainted with the rest of things divine, and judge of them.

Hence it is brought about that man investigates the differences and qualities, effects and quantities of things, with critical research; yet, as he is held back with the too heavy weight of body’s imperfection, he cannot properly descry the causes of the nature of [all] things which [really] are the true ones.

4. Man, then, being thus created and composed, and to such ministry and service set by Highest God,—man, by his keeping suitably the world in proper order, [and] by his piously adoring God, in both becomingly and suitably obeying God’s Good Will,—[man being] such as this, with what reward think’st thou he should be recompensed?

If that, indeed,—since Cosmos is God’s work,—he who preserves and adds on to its beauty

p. 329

by his love, joins his own work unto God’s Will; when he with toil and care doth fashion out the species 1 (which He hath made [already] with His Divine Intent), with help of his own body;—with what reward think’st thou he should be recompensed, unless it be with that with which our forebears 2 have been blest?

5. That this may be the pleasure of God’s Love, such is our prayer for you, devoted ones.

In other words, may He, when ye have served your time, and have put off the world’s restraint, and freed yourselves from deathly bonds, restore you pure and holy to the nature of your higher self, 3 that is of the Divine!

XII

1. Asc. Rightly and truly, O Thrice-greatest one, thou speakest. This is the prize for those who piously subordinate their lives to God and live to help the world.

Tris. [To those], however, who have lived in other fashion impiously,—[to them] both is return to Heaven denied, and there’s appointed them migration into other bodies 4 unworthy of a holy soul and base; so that, as this discourse

p. 330

of ours will show, 1 souls in their life on earth run risk of losing hope of future immortality.

2. But [all of this] doth seem to some beyond belief; a tale to others; to others [yet again], perchance, a subject for their mirth. 2

For in this life in body, it is a pleasant thing—the pleasure that one gets from one’s possessions. 3 ’Tis for this cause that spite, in envy of its [hope of] immortality, doth clap the soul in prison, 4 as they say, and keep it down, so that it stays in that part of itself in which it’s mortal, nor suffers it to know the part of its divinity.

3. For I will tell thee, as though it were prophetic-ly, 5 that no one after us 6 shall have the Single Love, the Love of wisdom-loving, 7 which consists in Gnosis of Divinity alone,—[the practice of] perpetual contemplation and of holy piety. For that the many do confound philosophy with multifarious reasoning. 8

p. 331

Asc. Why is it, then, the many make philosophy so hard to grasp; or wherefore is it they confound this thing with multifarious reasoning?

XIII

1. Tris. ’Tis in this way, Asclepius;—by mixing it, by means of subtle expositions, with divers sciences not easy to be grasped,—such as arithmetic, and music, and geometry.

But Pure Philosophy, which doth depend on godly piety alone, should only so far occupy itself with other arts, that it may [know how to] appreciate the working out in numbers of the fore-appointed stations of the stars when they return, and of the course of their procession.

Let her, moreover, know how to appreciate the Earth’s dimensions, its qualities and quantities, the Water’s depths, the strength of Fire, and the effects and nature of all these. [And so] let her give worship and give praise unto the Art and Mind of God.

2. As for [true] Music,—to know this is naught else than to have knowledge of the order of all things, and whatsoe’er God’s Reason hath decreed.

For that the order of each several thing when set together in one [key] for all, by means of skilful reason, will make, as ’twere,

p. 332

the sweetest and the truest harmony with God’s [own] Song. 1

XIV

1. Asc. Who, therefore, will the men be after us 2?

Tris. They will be led astray by sophists’ cleverness, and turned from True Philosophy,—the Pure and Holy [Love].

For that to worship God with single mind and soul, and reverence the things that He hath made, and to give thanks unto His Will, which is the only thing quite full of Good,—this is Philosophy unsullied by the soul’s rough curiousness.

But of this subject let what has been said so far suffice.

Footnotes

325:3 That is, the Æon. Cf. xxx. 1 below.

325:4 Cf. Ex. i. 8.

325:5 Reading gubernat for gubernando.

325:6 That is, the compost, or “cosmic” part of himself, apparently, of v. 2.

325:7 The original Greek κόσμος is here retained in the Latin; it means “order, adornment, ornament,” as well as “world.”

326:1 The idea is that man is a microcosm; he is, as to his bodies, “cosmic” (“mundanus homo”), for his vehicles are made of the elements; he is thus in these an image or seed (microcosm) of the universe, the macrocosm.

326:2 Sc. Cosmos. Cf. xxxi. 1 below.

326:3 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 25, last sentence.

327:1 Ab omnibus divinæ cognationis partibus.

327:2 This seems somewhat tautological. The first clause runs: “quæcunque terrena corporali cupiditate possidentur; quæ merito possessionem nomine nuncupantur.” This Latin word-play seems almost to suggest that we are dealing with an embellishment of the translator; it may, however, have stood in the original. Cf. xii. 2 below.

327:3 Lit. my.

327:4 Reading inferioris for interioris, as immediately below in § 3. Cf. vi. 3, last sentence.

328:1 This seems very loose indeed; the text or the Latin translation is probably at fault, unless the “other members” are supposed to be grouped in sets of double pairs.

329:1 Singular—that is, the species in the Cosmos, according to the type in the Divine Mind.

329:2 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 5; Lact., D. I., i. 11; and xxxvii. 3 below.

329:3 Lit. part.

329:4 In corporalia . . . migratio.

330:1 The Latin here does not construe.

330:2 Cf. C. H., i. 29; also xxv. 3 below.

330:3 Cf. xi. 1 above.

330:4 Obtorto . . . collo.

330:5 Ego enim tibi quasi prædivinans dixero. Notice the dixero,—the “prophetic” tense, if we may be permitted to coin a term to characterize this use, which reminds us so strongly of the “Sibylline” literature and the allied prophetic centonism of the time.

330:6 Cf. Ex. ix. 8, and xiv. 1 below.

330:7 Lit. philosophy. Cf. in Philo, D. V. C., the “Heavenly Love” with which the Therapeuts were “afire with God.” Cf. xiv. 1, and Ex. i. 3.

330:8 Cf. C. H., xvi. 2.

332:1 Cf. “Heaven’s harmonious song” in xxviii. 11 below.

332:2 Cf. xii. 3 above, and notes.

2. [VII. M.] And now let us begin to treat of Spirit and such things.

There was first God and Matter, 3 which we in Greek 4 believe [to be] the Cosmos; and Spirit was with Cosmos, or Spirit was in Cosmos, but not in like way as in God 5; nor were there

p. 333

things [as yet] from which the Cosmos [comes to birth] in God.

They were not; just for the very reason that they were not, but were as yet in that [condition] whence they have had their birth. 1

For those things only are not called ingenerable which have not yet been born, but [also] those which lack the fertilizing power of generating, so that from them naught can be born.

And so whatever things there are that have in them the power of generating,—these two are generable, [that is to say,] from which birth can take place, though they be born from their own selves [alone]. For there’s no question that from those born from themselves birth can with ease take place, since from them all are born.

3. God, then, the everlasting, God the eternal, nor can be born, nor could He have been born. That 2 is, That was, That shall be ever. This, therefore, is God’s Nature—all from itself [alone].

But Matter 3 (or the Nature of the Cosmos) 4 and Spirit, although they do not seem to be things born from any source, 5 yet in themselves

p. 334

possess the power of generation and of generating,—the nature of fecundity.

For the beginning 1 [truly] is in [just that] quality of nature which possesses in itself the power and matter both of conception and of birth. 2 This, 3 then, without conception of another, is generable of its own self.

XV

1. But, on the other hand, [whereas] those things which only have the power of bringing forth by blending with another nature, are thus to be distinguished, this Space of Cosmos, 4 with those that are in it, seems not to have been born, in that [the Cosmos] has in it undoubtedly all Nature’s potency. 5

By “Space” I mean that in which are all things. For all these things could not have been had Space not been, to hold them all. Since for all things that there have been, must be provided Space.

For neither could the qualities nor quantities, nor the positions, nor [yet] the operations, be distinguished of those things which are no where.

p. 335

2. So then the Cosmos, also, though not born, still has in it the births 1 of all; in that, indeed, it doth afford for all of them most fecund wombs for their conception.

It, therefore, is the sum of [all that] quality of Matter which hath creative potency, although it hath not been [itself] created.

And, seeing that [this] quality of Matter is in its nature [simple] productiveness; so the same [source] produces bad as well [as good].

XVI

1. I have not, therefore, O Asclepius and Ammon, said what many say, that God could not excise and banish evil from the Scheme 2 of Things;—to whom no answer need at all be given. Yet for your sakes I will continue what I have begun, and give a reason.

They say that God ought to have freed the World from bad in every way; for so much is it 3 in the World, that it doth seem to be as though it were one of its limbs.

This was foreseen by Highest God and [due] provision made, as much as ever could have been in reason made, then when He thought it proper to endow the minds of men with sense, 4 and science and intelligence.

p. 336

2. For it is by these things alone whereby we stand above the rest of animals, that we are able to avoid the snares and crimes of ill.

For he who shall on sight have turned from them, before he hath become immeshed in them,—he is a man protected by divine intelligence and [godly] prudence.

For that the ground-work of [true] science doth consist of the top-stones of virtue.

3. It is by Spirit that all things are governed in the Cosmos, and made quick,—Spirit made subject to the Will of Highest God, as though it were an engine or machine.

So far, then, [only] let Him be by us conceived,—as Him who is conceivable by mind alone, who is called Highest God, the Ruler and Director of God Sensible, 1—of Him who in Himself includes all Space, all Substance, and all Matter, of things producing and begetting, and all whatever is, however great it be.

XVII

1. It is by Spirit that all species in the Cosmos are [or] moved or ruled,—each one according to its proper nature given it by God.

Matter, 2 or Cosmos, on the other hand, is that which holds all things,—the field of motion, 3 and

p. 337

the that which crowds together 1 all; of which God is the Ruler, distributing unto all cosmic things all that is requisite to each.

It is with Spirit that He fills all things, according to the quality of each one’s nature.

2. [Now,] seeing that the hollow roundness 2 of the Cosmos is borne round into the fashion of a sphere; by reason of its [very] quality or form, it never can be altogether visible unto itself.

So that, however high a place in it thou shouldest choose for looking down below, thou could’st not see from it what is at bottom, because in many places it confronts [the senses], and so is thought to have the quality [of being visible throughout]. 3

For it is solely owing to the forms of species, with images of which it seems insculpted, that it is thought [to be] as though ’twere visible [throughout]; but as a fact ’tis ever to itself invisible.

3. Wherefore, its bottom, or its [lowest] part, if [such a] place there be within a sphere, is called in Greek a-eidēs 4; since that eidein 5 in

p. 338

[paragraph continues] Greek means “seeing,”—which “being-seen” the sphere’s beginning 1 lacks.

Hence, too, the species have the name eideai, 2 since they’re of form we cannot see.

Therefore, in that they are deprived of “being-seen,” in Greek they are called Hades; in that they are at bottom 3 of the sphere, they’re called in Latin Inferi.

These, then, are principal and prior, 4 and, as it were, the sources and the heads of all the things which are in them, 5 through them, or from them.

XVIII

1. Asc. All things, then, in themselves (as thou, Thrice-greatest one, dost say) are cosmic [principles] (as I should say) of all the species which are in them, [or] as it were, the sum and substance of each one of them. 6

Tris. So Cosmos, then, doth nourish bodies; the Spirit, souls; the [Higher] Sense (with which Celestial Gift mankind alone is blest) 7 doth feed the mind.

p. 339

And [these are] not all men, but [they are] few, whose minds are of such quality that they can be receptive of so great a blessing.

2. For as the World’s illumined by the Sun, so is the mind of man illumined by that Light; nay, in [still] fuller measure.

For whatsoever thing the Sun doth shine upon, it is anon, by interjection of the Earth or Moon, or by the intervention of the night, robbed of its light.

But once the [Higher] Sense hath been commingled with the soul of man, there is at-onement from the happy union of the blending of their natures; so that minds of this kind are never more held fast in errors of the darkness.

Wherefore, with reason have they said the [Higher] Senses are the souls of Gods; to which I add: not of all Gods, but of the great ones [only]; nay, even of the principles of these.

Footnotes

332:3 The Greek ὕλη is here retained by the translator.

332:4 Græce.

332:5 The Latin translation is confused. The original seems to have stated that Spirit and Cosmos (or Matter) were as yet one, or Spirit-Matter.

333:1 That is, presumably, they were in potentiality.

333:2 Hoc.

333:3 Again ὕλη in the Latin text.

333:4 Cf. “Matter or Cosmos” of xvii. 2.

333:5 Principio, “beginning” the same word as that used in the Vulgate translation of the Proem of the fourth Gospel.

334:1 Initium.

334:2 This seems to make it clear that the idea “Cosmos” is regarded under the dual concept of Spirit-Matter.

334:3 Sc. Primal Nature, or Spirit-Matter.

334:4 Cf. xxx. 1, and xxxiv. 1 below.

334:5 The Latin construction is very faulty.

335:1 Naturas.

335:2 Lit. nature.

335:3 Sc. evil or bad.

335:4 Presumably meaning the higher sense.

336:1 That is, Cosmos.

336:2 Again ὕλη.

336:3 Agitatio.

337:1 Frequentatio.

337:2 Cava rotunditas—that is, presumably, concavity.

337:3 Propter quod multis locis instat, qualitatemque habere creditur. The Latin translation is evidently faulty. Ménard omits the sentence entirely, as he so often does when there is difficulty.

337:4 Ἀ-ειδής—that is, “Invisible”; that is, Hades (Ἀιδὴς or Ἅδης).

337:5 εἰδεῖν—? ἰδεῖν.

338:1 Primum spheræ; the top or bottom presumably, or periphery, of the world-sphere.

338:2 εἰδέαι—? ἰδέαι—that is, forms, species,—but also used of the highest species, viewed as “ideas.”

338:3 Sc. at the centre.

338:4 Or principles and priorities (antiquiora).

338:5 Sc. the “ideas.”

338:6 The Latin text is hopeless.

338:7 Cf. vii. i.

XIX

1. [VIII. M.] Asc. What dost thou call, Thrice-greatest one, the heads of things, or sources of beginnings?

Tris. Great are the mysteries which I reveal to thee, divine the secrets I disclose; and so I

p. 340

make beginning of this thing 1 with prayers for Heaven’s favour.

The hierarchies 2 of Gods are numerous; and of them all one class is called the Noumenal, 3 the other [class] the Sensible. 4

The former are called Noumenal, not for the reason that they’re thought to lie beyond our 5 senses; for these are just the Gods we sense more truly than the ones we call the visible,—just as our argument will prove, and thou, if thou attend, wilt be made fit to see.

For that a lofty reasoning, and much more one that is too godlike for the mental grasp of [average] men, if that the speaker’s words are not received 6 with more attentive service of the ears,—will fly and flow beyond them; or rather will flow back [again], and mingle with the streams of its own source. 7

2. There are, then, [certain] Gods who are the principals 8 of all the species.

p. 341

Next there come those whose essence 1 is their principal. These are the Sensible, each similar to its own dual source, 2 who by their sensibility 3 affect all things,—the one part through the other part [in each] making to shine the proper work of every single one.

Of Heaven,—or of whatsoe’er it be that is embraced within the term,—the essence-chief 4 is Zeus; for ’tis through Heaven that Zeus gives life to all.

Sun’s essence-chief is light; for the good gift of light is poured on us through the Sun’s disk.

3. The “Thirty-six,” who have the name of Horoscopes, 5 are in the [self] same space as the Fixed Stars; of these the essence-chief, or prince, is he whom they call Pantomorph, or Omniform, 6 who fashioneth the various forms for various species.

The “Seven” who are called spheres, have essence-chiefs, that is, [have each] their proper rulers, whom they call [all together] Fortune and Heimarmenē, 7 whereby all things are changed

p. 342

by nature’s law; perpetual stability being varied with incessant motion. 1

The Air, moreover, is the engine, or machine, through which all things are made—(there is, however, an essence-chief of this, a second [Air])—mortal from mortal things and things like these. 2

4. These hierarchies of Gods, then, being thus and [in this way] related, 3 from bottom unto top, are [also] thus connected with each other, and tend towards themselves; so mortal things are bound to mortal, things sensible to sensible.

The whole of [this grand scale of] Rulership, however, seems to Him [who is] the Highest Lord, either to be not many things, or rather [to be] one.

For that from One all things depending, 4 and flowing down from it,—when they are seen as

p. 343

separate, they’re thought to be as many as they possibly can be; but in their union it is one [thing], or rather two, from which all things are made;—that is, from Matter, by means of which the other things are made, and by the Will of Him, by nod of whom they’re brought to pass.

XX

1. Asc. Is this again the reason, O Thrice-greatest one?

Tris. It is, Asclepius. For God’s the Father or the Lord of all, or whatsoever else may be the name by which He’s named more holily and piously by men,—which should be set apart among ourselves for sake of our intelligence.

For if we contemplate this so transcendent God, we shall not make Him definite by any of these names.

For if a [spoken] word 1 is this:—a sound proceeding from the air, when struck by breath, 2 denoting the whole will, perchance, of man, or else the [higher] sense, which by good chance a man perceives by means of mind, when out of [all his] senses, 3—a name the stuff of which,

p. 344

made of a syllable or two, has so been limited and pondered, that it might serve in man as necessary link between the voice and ear;—thus [must] the Name of God in full consist of Sense, and Spirit, and of Air, and of all things in them, or through, or with them. 1

2. Indeed, I have no hope that the Creator of the whole of Greatness, the Father and the Lord of all the things [that are], could ever have one name, even although it should be made up of a multitude—He who cannot be named, or rather He who can be called by every name.

For He, indeed, is One and All 2; so that it needs must be that all things should be called by the same name as His, or He Himself called by the names of all.

3. He, then, alone, yet all-complete in the fertility of either sex, ever with child of His own Will, doth ever bring to birth whatever He hath willed to procreate.

His Will is the All-goodness, which also is the Goodness of all things, born from the nature of His own Divinity,—in order that all things may be, just as they all have been, and that henceforth the nature of being born from their own selves may be sufficient to all things that will be born.

p. 345

Let this, then, be the reason given thee, Asclepius, wherefore and how all things are made of either sex.

XXI

1. Asc. Thou speak’st of God, then, O Thrice-greatest one?

Tris. Not only God, Asclepius, but all things living and inanimate. For ’tis impossible that any of the things that are should be unfruitful.

For if fecundity should be removed from all the things that are, it could not be that they should be for ever what they are. I mean that Nature, 1 Sense, and Cosmos, have in themselves the power of being born, 2 and of preserving all things that are born.

For either sex is full of procreation; and of each one there is a union, or,—what’s more true,—a unity incomprehensible; which you may rightly call Erōs 3 or Aphroditē, or both [names].

2. This, then, is truer than all truth, and plainer than what the mind [’s eye] perceives;—that from that Universal God of Universal Nature all other things for evermore have found, and had bestowed on them, the mystery of

p. 346

bringing forth; in which there is innate the sweetest Charity, [and] Joy, [and] Merriment, Longing, and Love Divine.

We might have had to tell the mighty power and the compulsion of this mystery, if it had not been able to be known by every one from personal experience, by observation of himself.

3. For if thou should’st regard that supreme [point] of time when . . . 1 the one nature doth pour forth the young into the other one, and when the other greedily absorbs [it] from the first, and hides it [ever] deeper [in itself]; then, at that time, out of their common congress, females attain the nature of the males, males weary grow with female listlessness.

And so the consummation of this mystery, so sweet and requisite, is wrought in secret; lest, owing to the vulgar jests of ignorance, the deity of either sex should be compelled to blush at natural congress,—and much more still, if it should be subjected to the sight of impious folk.

XXII

1. The pious are not numerous, however; nay, they are very few, so that they may be counted even in the world. 2

Whence it doth come about, that in the many

p. 347

bad inheres, through defect of the Gnosis and Discernment of the things that are.

For that it is from the intelligence of Godlike Reason, 1 by which all things are ordered, there come to birth contempt and remedy of vice throughout the world.

But when unknowingness and ignorance persist, all vicious things wax strong, and plague the soul with wounds incurable; so that, infected with them, and invitiated, it swells up, as though it were with poisons,—except for those who know the Discipline of souls and highest Cure of intellect.

2. So, then, although it may do good to few alone, ’tis proper to develope and explain this thesis:—wherefore Divinity hath deigned to share His science and intelligence with men alone. Give ear, accordingly!

When God, [our] Sire and Lord, made man, after the Gods, out of an equal mixture of a less pure cosmic part and a divine,—it [naturally] came to pass the imperfections 2 of the cosmic part remained commingled with [our] frames, and other ones 3 [as well], by reason of the food and sustenance we have out of necessity in common with all lives 4; by reason of which

p. 348

things it needs must be that the desires, and passions, and other vices, of the mind should occupy the souls of human kind.

3. As for the Gods, in as much as they had been made of Nature’s fairest 1 part, and have no need of the supports of reason and of discipline, 2—although, indeed, their deathlessness, the very strength of being ever of one single age, stands in this case for prudence and for science, still, for the sake of reason’s unity, instead of science and of intellect (so that the Gods should not be strange to these),—He, by His everlasting law, decreed for them an order, 3 circumscribed by the necessity of law.

While as for man, He doth distinguish him from all the other animals by reason and by discipline alone; by means of which men can remove and separate their bodies’ vices,—He helping them to hope and effort after deathlessness.

4. In fine, He hath made man both good and able to share in immortal life,—out of two natures, [one] mortal, [one] divine.

And just because he is thus fashioned by the Will of God, it is appointed that man should be superior both to the Gods, who have been made

p. 349

of an immortal nature only, and also to all mortal things.

It is because of this that man, being joined unto the Gods by kinsmanship, doth reverence them with piety and holy mind; while, on their side, the Gods with pious sympathy regard and guard all things of men.

XXIII

1. But this can only be averred of a few men endowed with pious minds. Still, of the rest, the vicious folk, we ought to say no word, for fear a very sacred sermon should be spoiled by thinking of them.

Footnotes

340:1 Initium facio; or perhaps perform the sacred rite, or give initiation.

340:2 Genera.

340:3 Intelligibilis (= οἱ νοητοί); lit. that which can be known by intellect (alone).

340:4 Sensibilis (= οἱ αἰσθητοί); lit. that which can be known by the senses.

340:5 That is, the “Sense” of those who have reached the “Trismegistic” grade, though of course beyond the range of the normal senses.

340:6 The text is faulty.

340:7 Cf. x. 1 above; and C. H., x. (xi.) 17.

340:8 Principes.

341:1 The Greek original οὐσία being retained.

341:2 That is, presumably, essence and sensibility.

341:3 That is, presumably, their power of affecting the senses.

341:4 The Greek οὐσιάρχης is retained in the Latin.

341:5 Horoscopi (= ὡροσκόποι); generally called Decans; cf. Ex. ix., where the Decans are explained.

341:6 Παντόμορφον vel omniformem; see xxxv. below; also C. H., xi. (xii.) 16, Comment.

341:7 That is, Fate, εἱμαρμένη.

342:1 Quoted in the original Greek by Ioan. Laurentius Lydus, De Mensibus, iv. 7; Wünsch (Leipzig, 1898), p. 70, 22; as follows: “And Hermes is witness in his [book], called ‘The Perfect Sermon,’ when saying: ‘They that are called the Seven Spheres have a Source that is called Fortune or Fate, which changes all things and suffers them not to remain in the same [conditions].’” The quotation is continued without a break; the rest of it, however, corresponds to nothing in our context, but is somewhat similar to ch. xxxix. 1, 2.

342:2 That is, the region of things subject to death. The text is faulty. Cf. with this “engine” the “cylinder” of the K. K. Fragments (10).

342:3 Ab imo ad summum se admoventibus; for admoventibus compare “genus admotum superis,” Silius Italicus, viii. 295.

342:4 Cf. iv. 1 above, and the note.

343:1 Vox (= name), presumably λόγος in the original; a play on “word” and “reason,” but also referring to the mysterious “name” of a person.

343:2 Spiritu, or spirit.

343:3 Ex sensibus = presumably, in ecstasis.

344:1 The text of this paragraph is very unsatisfactory.

344:2 Cf. i. 1 above.

345:1 Here, presumably, meaning hyle.

345:2 Naturam again.

345:3 Cf. 1, 2, above.

346:1 Quo ex crebro attritu prurimus ut . . . .

346:2 Cf. Ex. i. 16.

347:1 Cf. vii. 1 above.

347:2 Vitia; lit. vices.

347:3 Sc. imperfections.

347:4 Lit. animals.

348:1 Mundissima—that is, most cosmic, or “adorned.”

348:2 Or science.

348:3 Ordinem—that is, Cosmos. Compare this also with the idea of the Gnostic Horos which “surrounds” the Plērōma.


The Perfect Sermon continued - XXIII - XLI

Thrice Greatest Hermes Vol. 2

Main Library