Thrice-Greatest Hermes, Vol. 3, by G.R.S. Mead, , at sacred-texts.com
Before we proceed to append our concluding remarks, it will be as well to set down some attempt at classifying our extant sermons and fragments. Unfortunately, however, this cannot be done in any scientific manner, owing to the fact that the literature, even were it fully before us, would be found to be too chaotic. Indeed, even with our fragmentary information concerning it, we are acquainted with no less than four unrelated Corpora—those that lay before Lactantius, Cyril, and Stobæus, and our own imperfect Corpus of Byzantine tradition. There must also have been other Corpora or collections, as, for instance, the books that Jamblichus used, not to mention the ancient body of MSS. which lay before Petosiris and Nechepso.
First and foremost, standing in a class by itself, must be placed:
C. H. i.—“The Pœmandres.”
This is the fundamental Gospel of the School, the Self-instruction of the Hermes-or Master-grade.
With it, as based upon it in general type, though not in form, must be taken:
C. H. xi. (xii.).—“Mind unto Hermes.”
This is of later date, but still it must have been comparatively early, for it introduces the Æon-doctrine, which must be early, and is the esoteric instruction on the doctrines laid down in C. H. iv. (v.)—“The Cup”—which was perhaps regarded as the most important sermon after “The Pœmandres.”
Of the lost early literature we can get no clear indication; it may, however, be mentioned that the “Sayings of Agathodaimon” referred to in the Tat Sermon, C. H. xii. (xiii.), probably belonged to the most archaic deposit of the Trismegistic literature, and may be compared with the “Sayings of Ammon” mentioned by Justin Martyr. These belonged, presumably, originally solely to the Hermes-grade.
With the same type as the conclusion of the “Pœmandres” in its present form, that is to say with a later development, we must classify:
C. H. iii. (iv.).—“The Sacred Sermon”; and
C. H. vii. (viii).—“Whither stumble ye.”
Here also, for lack of a more satisfactory heading, we must place:
Ex. xxii.—“An Apophthegm of Hermes.”
Ex. xxiv.—“A Hymn of the Gods.”
Frag. xxvi.—From “The Inner Door.”
Frag. xxvii—“For Our Mind saith.”
The last being probably from one of the oldest deposits of the literature.
The next most convenient heading for classification is that under which we can place the greatest number of pieces, namely:
We know that the Tat-instruction was divided into
[paragraph continues] (a) “The General Sermons,” of which C. H. x. (xi.)—“The Key”—is said to be the epitome or rather summation; and (b) “The Expository Sermons,” of which C. H. xiii. (xiv.)—“The Secret Sermon on the Mountain”—was the consummation.
It is, of course, not certain whether the Tat Sermons were divided simply into these two classes, for though we are certain in a number of instances that we are dealing with an extract from an Expository Sermon, we are often in doubt when the heading is only “From the Sermon,” or “Sermons to Tat,” how to classify it. We do not know how many General Sermons there may have been, or whether they were divided into Books as were the Expository Sermons and the “To Asclepius,” at anyrate in the Corpus of Cyril. For convenience of classification, however, we may consider, though perfectly arbitrarily, that all the sermons and fragments which cannot fall under the heading of “Expository” may be treated as “General.”
The General Sermons
C. H. (ii.).—“The General Sermon.” 1
C. H. viii (ix.).—“That No One of Existing Things do Perish.”
Ex. x.—“Concerning the Rule of Providence.” 2
Ex. xi.—“Of Justice.” 3
Ex. xx.—“The Power of Choice.”
Fragg. vi and vii.
C. H. x. (xi.).—“The Key.”
This last is stated to be the epitome or summation of “The General Sermons.” It is addressed to both Asclepius and Tat, and is to be taken in connection with “The Perfect Sermon.”
The Expository Sermons
Of these there were in the Corpus of Cyril three Books—to the First of which are assigned:
Fragg. xx. (?), xxii., xxiii., xxiv.
Ex. ii. and Fragg. iii., xi., xii., xv. 1
To be assigned to “The Expository Sermons” in general without any clearer indications:
Exx. iii. (?).—“Of Truth.” 2
Ex. iv. 3
Exx. v., vi., vii., viii., ix. 4
Ex. i.—“Of Piety and True Philosophy.” 5
From the Corpus Hermeticum we may conjecturally assign the following to this class:
C. H. iv. (v.).—“The Cup.” 6
C. H. v. (vi.).—“Though Manifest.”
C. H. vii. (viii.).—“About the Common Mind.” 7
Finally, the whole course of these “Expository Sermons” is consummated by what we may call “The Initiation of Tat”:
C. H. xiii. (xiv.).—“The Secret Sermon on the Mountain.”
We next pass on to what Cyril calls the “To Asclepius,” of which, as of “The Expository Sermons, there were in his Corpus at least Three Books.
In our Corpus Hermeticum the following are assigned to Asclepius:
C. H. ii. (iii.). “An Introduction to the Gnosis of the Nature of All Things.”
C. H. vi. (vii.).—“In God Alone is Good.”
C. H. ix. (x.).—“About Sense.” 1
C. H. xiv. (xv.).—“A Letter to Asclepius.” 2
From the “To Asclepius” in Cyrils collection we have:
Frag. xxv. (?).
And definitely from the Third “To Asclepius”:
In this Third Book it is probable that “The Perfect Sermon” was included in Cyrils Corpus. This sermon, which is the longest we possess, was evidently originally addressed to Asclepius alone, for its alternative title is par excellence “The Asclepius,” and my conjecture that the introduction of the “holy three”—Asclepius, Tat and Ammon—is due to a later editor, is amply borne out by all the evidence. We may thus well conclude our list with:
“The Perfect Sermon.”
For the fragments of the lost Greek original of this important tractate, see Lactantius:
Fragg. v., viii., ix., x.
This Sermon is to be taken in close connection with “The Key” which sums up “The General Sermons” to Tat.
Stobæus ascribes eight of his extracts to a Book or Books of his collection entitled “To Ammon.” These excerpts, however, would seem to be more appropriately classified under “Sermons to Tat.” As, however, Johannes distinctly so describes them, we will append them here.
Exx. xii, xiii.
Exx. xiv.-xix.—“Of Soul,” i.-vi.
Exx. xvi.-xix. follow one another in the text of the Excerpts by Stobæus; as Ex. xviii., however, refers to “The General Sermons,” it therefore would make us suppose that either we are here dealing with “The Expository Sermons” to Tat, or that the Ammon-grade had already had communicated to them “The General Sermons.”
The above are the four types of Trismegistic Sermons
proper, and we next turn to the writings of the Disciples of Hermes.
It is remarkable that Asclepius, the most learned of the Three, writes his treatises and letters, not to philosophers or priests, or students, nor yet to his younger brother Tat—but invariably to the King or to Kings. He invariably writes to “Ammon”; and the once existing literature of this class was a very rich one, if we can believe the writer or redactor of C. H. (xvi.). The fragments that remain, however, are by no means numerous, and include:
C. H. (xvi.).—“The Definitions of Asclepius.” 1
Frag. iv.—Probably from the lost ending of above.
C. H. (xvii.).—“Of Asclepius to the King.” 2
Ex. xxi. (?)—which may, perhaps, be more correctly headed “Of Asclepius to the King” instead of with Stobæus “Of Isis to Horus.”
To neither Tat nor Ammon are tractates assigned; for when Tat is perfected he becomes in his turn Hermes, and so writes as Hermes, while Ammon is the man of action and affairs who does not teach. May we further from these phenomena conclude that “Asclepius” was the man who was skilled in theory and intellectual grasp, but was not capable of direct illumination as was Tat?
The next class of literature falls under the heading:
Whether or not the forms of this literature which we possess are contemporaneous with or later than
the Tat and Asclepius Sermons, we cannot say; but in any case they are based on ancient types—the “Books of Isis to Horus.” To this type we assign:
Ex. xxi.—“Of Isis to Horus.”
Though, as we have suggested above, this is an error of Johannes, and should be rather “Of Asclepius to the King.”
Ex. xxiii.—“From Aphrodite.”
Where Aphrodite probably equates with Isis.
Exx. xxv., xxvi.—“The Virgin of the World.”
Ex. xxvii.—“From the Sermon of Isis to Horus.”
The remaining class of literature is connected with the name of Osiris as the Disciple of Agathodaimon, the Thrice-greatest, and may be headed as:
Our fragments are all taken from Cyrils Corpus, and are referred to by him under the heading “To Asclepius.” We have, however, not included them under this heading in our tentative classification, because they are plainly not addressed to Asclepius, but belong to a quite different form of literature, most probably throwing back to an ancient type of the same nature as the “Books of Isis.” To this class are to be assigned:
Fragg. xiii., xiv., xix., xxi.
This form may be perhaps more appropriately taken with the “Sayings of Agathodaimon” and the “Sayings of Ammon” as Agathodaimon; both of which pertain to the oldest types of the Trismegistic literature.
Finally, we add the appendix to our Corpus written by a Pœmandrist rhetor and apologist:
C. H. (xviii.).—“The Encomium of Kings.”
[paragraph continues] This may be taken with the quotation from the editor of Cyrils Corpus of XV. Books.
And so we come to the end of our tentative classification; with the full conviction, however, that as no one at the time when the literature was extant in a number of Corpora and collections of all sorts attempted to classify it, so now that we have only the flotsam and jetsam of this once abundantly rich cargo before us, no inventory can be made that is of the slightest scientific value, and we can at best offer the reader a few sorted heaps of disjecta membra of varying dates.
We now approach the conclusion of our task, but with the feeling that the whole matter should be put aside for years before any attempt be made to set down any judgments of value. We are as yet too much involved in a maze of details to be able to extricate ourselves into the clear space in which we can walk at ease round the labyrinth and view it from a general and detached point of view.
Nevertheless, we will endeavour to set down some general impressions of our experiences in the labyrinth—of the many windings we have had to traverse, and the many places with no way out into which we have been led by following the paths of history and criticism; out of which there has been time and again no egress, even when holding fast to the thread of light woven out of the illuminating rays of the doctrines of the tradition.
It is indeed a difficult task to stand with the feet of the mind set firm on the surface of objectivity, and with the head and heart of it in the heights and depths of the subjective and unmanifest. And yet this almost superhuman task is the Great Work set before every scholar of the Gnosis—the man who would think truly
and judge justly, viewing the matter from all standpoints, and appraising it from without and within, from above and below, endeavouring to unite centre and circumference in a blended intuitional sense that transcends our divided senses and intellect.
The Trismegistic literature is scripture, and to its understanding we must bring all and every faculty that the best minds of to-day are bringing to bear upon the special scripture which each one may believe to be the most precious legacy from the Past to the Present.
Now the application of what is called “criticism” to scripture is the wielding of a two-edged sword; this sword is not only two-edged, but it is fiery. If it is rightly used, it will disperse the hosts of error and hew a path into the Paradise of Truth; but if it is wrongly used, it will react on the daring soul that attempts to grasp it, and he will find in it the flaming brand in the hands of the Angel-Warden that keeps him from the Gate of Heaven.
Criticism, which is regarded with such fear and trembling by some, and is sneered at and despised by others, is the sword that the Christ has brought on earth in these latter days. There is now war in the members of the faithful, war within them, such war as they cannot escape, if God has given them a mind with which to reason. Every man of intelligence who loves his own special scripture, is keenly aware of the war within his members—head against heart and heart against head, form against substance and substance against form. This is keenly felt by those who love their own special Bible; but how few can enter into the feelings of another who loves with equal fervour some other Bible? Who can be really fair to any other mans religion? And by this we do not mean an absolutely lifeless indifference, in which the head
alone is concerned—for there are not a few men of this type who deal with the comparative science of religion—but a lively sympathy that knows that the other mans religion is the highest thing on earth for him, and the light-giving revelation of Gods Wisdom.
In treating of the “Religion of the Mind,” of the Gnosis of Thrice-greatest Hermes, I have endeavoured to enter into it as I conceive the Disciples of that Way entered into it, with love and reverence. I would do the same with any other of the Great Religions of Humanity (and have done so in some cases), if I desired fervently, all prejudices and predilections apart, I will not say, to understand it—for what mortal mind can grasp the Divine Revelation in any of its Great Forms?—but to share, however imperfectly, in its illumination. Now, this attitude of mind and love of God and man is strongly deprecated by those who fear to stand accused of lack of loyalty to their own particular form of that Great Form of Faith which God has given for their guidance. The one object of their enquiries into other Great Forms of Faith is to “prove” that their own small form of the Great Form to which they give allegiance, is the end of all ends, and the highest of all heights, and that the other countless forms are of the Enemy of their God. My God, or rather God, for He is the Father of all, has no enemies; He has many sons, all brethren, and loves them equally even though they refuse to believe Him. There is but one Religion, its Great Forms are many, the forms of these Forms are innumerable, as many as are the individual minds and hearts of men, and the many hearts and minds of individual man.
And here I would set forth my present all-insufficient notion of the Great Form of Religion known as Christianity, for there will doubtless be some who read these volumes who will accuse me of I know not what attitude other than that of their own to that Faith.
My faith in the Master of Christendom is unbounded; I dare not limit it or qualify it—for that Master is for me the Mind of all master-hood, Pœmandres Himself. For how can any small mind of man dare to limit the Illimitable, the Mystery of all mysteries, that enfolded Jesus the Christ, and Gautama the Buddha, and Zoroaster the Mage, and Lao-tze the Sage, and Orpheus the Bard, and Pythagoras the Philosopher, and Hermes the Gnostic, and all and every Master and Master of masters? Do I detract from the transcendency of Jesus the Christ, when I mention His Brethren, all Sons of God? I do not, for the Sons of God are not separate and apart, set over one against the other; they are all one Sonship of the Father, and these apparent differences must be left to those who think themselves wise enough to judge between them—instructed enough to know the within of the matter as well as the without, which in no case has come down to us in any but the most fragmentary and erroneous tradition. I do not know; I dare not judge those who are Judges of the quick and dead. And so I leave this audacity to those who would forget the logos of their Saviour: “Judge not.”
If, nevertheless, I am still judged as a “calumniator” by some, it is but natural injustice and quite understandable. There is, however, no real Injustice in the universe, and he who would be Justified and rise again with Osiris, must balance mortal seeming justice and injustice to reach the true equilibrium, and so be free of mortal opinion, and stand in the Hall of Truth. It is to the bar of this Judgment Hall that all men in
the last resort appeal, whether they be born Christian or Mahommedan, Brāhman or Jew, Buddhist or Taoist, Zoroastrian or Pagan—or whether they be born to a manner of faith that is none of these, or to an ideal of faith that includes them all.
Christianity is the Faith of the Western World—the Faith most suited to it in nature and in form. He who gave that Faith, gave in fullest abundance through many sources; and the greatest sign of His authority, of His authentia, was the throwing open of some part of the age-long secret mystery-teaching to the many without distinction of age, sex, class, caste, colour, or nation, or of instruction. The inner doors of the Temple were thrown wide open to the Amme-ha-aretz; but the innermost door still remained closed, for it is a door that is not man-made—it opens into the within of things, and not into some inner court of formal instruction. That door still remained naturally closed to the unworthy and unknowing; but no Scribe or Pharisee of the established order of things could any longer keep the key thereof in his selfish hands. The key was given to all, but given still mystically, for it is hidden in the inner nature of each son of man, and if he seek not in himself, searching into the depths of his own nature, he will never find it. That key is the opener of the Gate of the Gnosis, the complement and syzygy and spouse of Faith; the virile husband of the woman-side of the Christ-Religion.
In the early days that Gnosis was given in greatest fullness; Faith there was, Faith in mighty abundance, but there was also Gnosis; and it was because of this Gnosis of not a few that the Faith of the many was so intense. But over these mysterious days, and the inner in-working of the Mystery, a veil has been drawn to hide the holy operations from profane eyes
[paragraph continues] So that to-day, these many centuries after, the foolish of the Faith deny there was ever a Gnosis; just as their still more foolish predecessors persecuted the Gnostics of Christ and howled them down as Antichrists and First-born Sons of Satan. The natural veil was thus drawn over the too bright light of the Sacred Marriage when Heaven had kissed the Earth once more.
So great, then, is my faith in the authentia of the Master, so great my assurance of the wisdom of His Gnosis. If this be thought “calumny” of His transcendency, then we are judged “calumniators” with Hermes, a Knower of the Mystery, and so complimented immeasurably beyond our deserts.
And now let us turn to the Religion of the Mind, which is also the Religion of the Heart—for is not Thoth Lord of the heart of man?
In the first place we have endeavoured faithfully to investigate every statement or suggestion that can be thought to be indicative of date, and we have not succeeded in any single instance in fixing a precise date for any sermon or fragment. What, however, we have been able to do, is to clear the ground of many false opinions, and to show the insecurity, if not the absurdity, of any attempt at precision. Every hypothesis of precision of date, when that hypothesis has favoured a late date for any sermon, has broken down. Whenever there has been a clearer indication, as, for instance, in the case of the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Pœmandres of Hermes, it has thrown the time-period backwards and not forwards.
What has been proved, and amply proved, however, is that our literature goes back in an unbroken tradition of type and form and content to the earliest Ptolemaic
times. The earliest forms of this literature are lost, but clear records of its nature remain. Of the extant literature there are specimens of varying date, though how they should be ordered is by no means clear; what, however, is clear is that some of our documents are at least contemporaneous with the earliest writings of Christianity.
In the “Prolegomena” we have established an unbroken line of tradition in which Gnosis and Mystery-teaching have been handed down through pre-Christian, Pagan and Jewish, and through Christian hands. We have further shown that the Gnosis of our Trismegistic documents is a simpler form than that of the great doctors of the Christianised Gnosis, Basilides and Valentinus, who flourished in the first quarter of the second century. The earlier of our sermons, therefore, represent one of the main streams, perhaps the main stream, of the Unchristianised Gnosis. We have further shown that, together with many other schools, both our Pœmandrists and the writers of the New Testament documents use a common theological or theosophical nomenclature, and have a common body of ideas.
What is clear from all this is that there is no plagiarism, no deliberate copying, no logoklopia of other mens secrets, though there was the freest drawing on a common fund. The condition of affairs and the nature of the problems involved are such, that any theory of plagiarism at once becomes a two-edged sword; he who says that Trismegisticism copied from Christianity, can at once have his argument reversed into the form that Christianity copied from Trismegisticism.
As to date, then, we are dealing with a period when there was as yet no divorcement between Gnosis and Faith even in Christianity itself, and therefore the
canons of judgment erected in later times by ecclesiastical self-limitation cannot be made to apply.
The view of General Christianity, gradually narrowed down by the Church Fathers into dogmatic Nicene Christianity, looked to one tradition only as the schoolmaster of the Faith—the tradition of Israel as the God-favoured Folk. Nevertheless it was the fair Greek tongue and the Greek method of thought that were used in evolving this special dispensation into a world-cult for the many.
The Trismegistic tradition laboured under no such limitation; its sympathies were more catholic. It is true that its main source was in Egypt, but it embraced with whole-hearted affection the wisdom of Hellas and the genius of Greece which were developed under Divine Providence to teach the Western Nations the glory and beauty of the mind. At the same time its sympathies were not divorced from the tradition of the Hebrews, though it refused to set them apart from the rest of humanity, and looked rather to the great river of wisdom in the Books of the Chaldæans, Persians, Medes, and Parthians, than to the single stream shut off in the Books of Israel. The spirit of our Trismegistic writings is the same as that which inspired the Pagan and Jewish and Christian Gnostic scribes of the Naassene Document, all of whom believed that there was but one Mystery which all the mystery-institutions of the world attempted to adumbrate.
If, then, we were to say for the sake of convenience that our Trismegistic writings enshrine the Wisdom of Egypt in Greek tradition, we should not divorce that Wisdom from the Wisdom of the Chaldæans and the rest. The Wisdom was one, the forms were many; and both
[paragraph continues] Egypt and Chaldæa looked back to an Archaic Gnosis that was the common mother of their most ancient forms of Mystery-teaching.
And if we say that this Wisdom. has come down to us in Greek tradition, we should ever remember that this Græcising or philosophising has to do with the form and not with the substance. For whence did Thales and Pythagoras and Plato draw the inspiration for their philosophy or love of wisdom; was it not from Egypt? At anyrate so say the Greeks themselves without a single dissentient voice. And can we think that the Greeks, who were always so proud of their own achievements and boasted their own genius so loudly, would have given the palm of wisdom to Egypt had they not been compelled by overwhelming evidence to do so? But this does not mean that we are to deprive Hellas of her just laurels. Hellas was the mother of philosophy in the sense of systematic thinking and the development of the analytic reason. This is her great virtue and honour; independent research, and the piercing analysis of the intellect and the beauty of clear thinking in excellent expression, were her gifts to the Western world. It was she beyond the other nations that created for herself a subtler vehicle of thought for the manifestation of the powers of mental analysis. That, however, is not necessarily in itself wisdom, but the perfecting of an instrument whereby wisdom, if it be attained by other means, may be the more clearly expressed for those in whom the analytic faculties are being developed.
Wisdom transcends this mode of mind; for ratiocination is not ecstasis, the practical intelligence is not the contemplative mind. Nor is mind, using it as contrasted with the other faculties and energies and
powers in man, the only or even the highest thing in man. This Secret of the Sphinx Egypt had possessed for millennia; so that her priests could say to Solon: “You Greeks are all children”—for the intellect in Greece was young, though destined to grow into a giant; whereas the hoary Gnosis of the heart of man was prior to the æons, and will continue when the æons shall cease.
That Gnosis of Man still awaits decipherment in Egypt; it is hidden in her glyphs and symbols and holy signs. But that Gnosis will never yield its secret to those who persist in interpreting these symbols of the Language of the Gods into their lower forms, forms intended for children and not for men. And indeed our Trismegistic sermons, if they should teach us nothing else, can at least assure us of this, for their writers were still ear to mouth with the Living Voice of that once Great Church of Wisdom. Our Pœmandrists knew what the mystery-tradition inculcated; they knew, for they had been within the holy shrines.
At anyrate for my part I prefer to believe their view of the matter, than to listen to the contemptuous patronage of modern conceit bred of complete ignorance of the manifold natures and powers and energies in man.
Indeed the whole of this theosophy of Egypt, as indeed of the theosophy of all climes and times, was intended to lead a man up the stairway of perfectioning, to the portals of the first true natural initiation, whereby he becomes superman, or, as Hermes would say, at last and in truth “man” and not a “procession of Fate.” Beyond that stage are many others too sublime for us in any way to understand; and it is just because
of their sublimity that we do not understand and so we “interpret” things of the height into the lowest notions and opinions of the most limited things of sense. For beyond the superman stage comes the Christ, and then—but who shall speak of that which transcends even perfected master-hood?
And by initiation, in this sense, we do not mean probationary forms of drama and of instruction, “of things said and done,” but a natural thing and process, all that which the Christ of Christendom has laboured to inculcate with so much wisdom even in the blurred record that has come down to us. To this initiation a man may come without a physical guide or the help of any tradition of formal ceremony. Nevertheless, he would indeed be foolish who should say that the greater mystery-institutions which have been established by wise teachers and the Providence of God, have been or are of no effect.
On the contrary, the disciple of wisdom will study every record of such institutions accessible to him, and ponder on their marvellous multiplicity, and marvel at the infinite modes devised to play the pedagogue, that so man may be brought unto his God. Nevertheless, if he has not the love and wit to study such things, he should not despair, for is he not already in the Outer Court of the Temple, if he would but lift up his eyes to see the mysteries of the universe that surround him on every side?
We all are babes in the Womb of the Great Mother; how long we continue as babes, as embryos, remains for each of us to decide. For in this Birth the Mother alone cannot bear all the pains of labour; we too must help and strive and struggle and dare to breathe within her holy Womb, so as to accustom our dead lungs to expand, before the Great Birth can be accomplished, and we can at length walk forth into the Inner
[paragraph continues] World erect upon our feet and draw in at every pore and in every atom its pure air without fear. But this Inner World is no thin shadow of the outer world, as it may appear to us in the dark night of our present ignorance; it is the Inner Cosmos, not the inner earth. Rapts and visions may let us see some mysteries of the inner earth, but not the mysteries of Earth, much less the Divine Mysteries of Cosmos.
Nor is there any need to label these things with precise terms, for now even the most experienced in such vision can know but in part; whereas then we shall know the Fullness, face to face, without a parable. But knowing this, who shall tell the Mystery, who can tell the Mystery—for is not the whole of Nature telling us this Mystery now at every moment with infinite voices from infinite mouths, and yet we hear nothing? For is not the whole creation designed with this one purpose to tell every son of man that he is of Light and Life and only happens to be out of them, as Hermes says?
But it is very possible that some who have done me the honour of reading to the end, will say: “This man is a dreamer, an ecstatic; we have no use for such in the hard world of rigid facts that confront us in our everyday life!”
But indeed I have little time for dreams and ecstasies in the sense in which my supposed critics would use the words, as any one may see who can realise the labour that has been expended on these volumes, nine-tenths of which are filled with translations and commentaries, criticisms and notes, in which dreams and ecstasies have no part, but only strenuous co-labour of mind and soul and body. And that is just the carrying out of what I hold to be the true doctrine of practical
mysticism, or if objection be taken by the reader to that much ill-used word, of the Great Work of life. It is true that it is almost impossible to talk of these high or deep things except in language that in every expression and in every word is liable to misconstruction. For even when we call them high things, they are not high in space or place, but rather in the sense that they are of greater intensity than the shows and appearances of opinion that form the surfaces or superficialities of our world of normal conditioning.
Spirit in itself is not superior to mind, or mind to soul, or soul to body; each and all must work together according to their proper dignity, nature, and energy, in perfect equilibrium in the perfect man. They are not descending degrees of some one thing, but are mutually in some mysterious way all aspects of one another.
For should we regard them as quantitatively distinguished solely, then we should be looking at them from the point of view of divided body alone; or should we regard them as qualitatively distinguished, then we should be looking at them from the point of view of separated soul alone; or should we regard them as logically distinguished, then we should be regarding them from the standpoint of the formal reason solely; while if we should look at them as wholes monadically and synthetically, we should be regarding them from an abstract and not a vital view-point.
Nevertheless they are all each of other, the same in difference and different in the same. Their source and middle and their end is Man, and Man alone can reach unto the Gnosis of God.
And therefore we may conclude with the daring counsel given unto Hermes by the Mind—a doctrine fit for Men.
“If, then, thou dost not make thyself like unto God, thou canst not know Him. For like is knowable to like alone.
“Make thou thyself to grow to the same stature as the Greatness which transcends all measure; leap forth from every Body; transcend all Time; become Eternity; and then shalt thou know God.
“Conceiving nothing is impossible unto thyself, think thyself deathless and able to know all—all arts, all sciences, the way of every life.
“Become more lofty than all height, and lower than all depth. Collect into thyself all senses of all creatures—of fire and water, dry and moist. Think that thou art at the same time in every place—in earth, in sea, in sky; not yet begotten, in the womb, young, old, and dead, in after-death conditions.
“And if thou knowest all these things at once—times, places, doings, qualities, and quantities; thou canst know God.”
This is the Straight Way, the Goods Own Path, the Ancient Road.
“If thou but settst thy foot thereon, twill meet thee everywhere, twill anywhere be seen, both where and when thou dost expect it not—waking, sleeping, sailing, journeying, by night, by day, speaking, and saying naught. For there is naught that is not image of the Good.”
And so for the present writing we bid farewell to Thrice-greatest Hermes and the teachings of his Mind, the Shepherd of all men—with heart-felt thanks that by the Mercy of God the echo of his voice has come to us across the ages and bidden us once more remember.
311:1 The text has bodily fallen out of our Corpus with one of the quires.
311:2 This seems to be a complete sermon, and to be presupposed in C. H. xii. (xiii.); as also Ex. xi.
311:3 Exx. x.-xiii. probably go here as being part of the “Sermons on Fate to Tat”; but they are assigned otherwise by Stobæus.
312:1 These all seem to go together from the same Sermon or Book, which in the case of Frag. xv. is definitely assigned by Cyril to the “First of the Expository Sermons.” The beginning of the Sermon is given in Lact. xxiv., and a reference in Lact. xiii.
312:2 Seems to be a complete tractate.
312:3 By comparison with Ex. vii.
312:4 Ex. ix. is characterised as “the most authoritative and chiefest of them all,” and therefore came, presumably, at the end of one of the Books of these Sermons.
312:5 A complete tractate, containing heads or summaries of previous sermons, and probably one towards the end of this collection.
312:6 The esoteric counterpart of which is C. H. xi. (xii.).
312:7 These three sermons are too advanced to be classed among “The General Sermons,” and in the case of the last, Tat is a questioner and not a hearer as he indubitably was in the introductory instruction.
313:1 This is said to follow on “The Perfect Sermon,” which was not included in our Corpus among the selections of the Pœmandrist apologist who redacted it.
313:2 This is said by the editor to be an expansion of an instruction already given to Tat, in Asclepius absence, and the doctrine is very similar to that contained in C. H. xi. (xii.)—“Mind unto Hermes.” It also stood in Cyrils (viii.) “To Asclepius.”
315:1 The end is lost.
315:2 A fragment only from the end of the sermon is preserved.