Sacred Texts  Gnosticism and Hermetica  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Thrice-Greatest Hermes, Vol. 3, by G.R.S. Mead, [1906], at

p. 125



(Patrizzi (p. 32b) runs this on to the last without a break.

Text: Stob., Phys., ili. 45, under heading: “In the Same”; G. pp. 420-427; M. i. 299-304; W. i. 407-414.

Ménard; Livre III., No. ii. of “Fragment,” etc., as above, pp. 201-208.)

39. Now if thou wouldst, O son of mighty soul, know aught beside, ask on!

And Horus said: O mother of great honour, I would know how royal souls are born?

And Isis said: Son Horus, the distinction which marks out the royal souls is somewhat of this kind.

Four regions are there in the universe which fall beneath a law and leadership which cannot be transgressed—Heaven, and the Æther, and the Air, and the most holy Earth.

Above in Heaven, son, the Gods do dwell, o’er whom with all the rest doth rule the Architect of all; and in the Æther [dwell] the Stars, o’er whom the mighty Light-giver the Sun holds sway; but

p. 126

in the Air [live] only souls, 1 o’er whom doth rule the Moon; and on the Earth [do dwell] men and the rest of living things, o’er whom he who doth happen to be king holds sway.

40. The Gods engender, son, the kings it has deserved, to rule [the race] that lives on Earth. The rulers are the emanations of the king, of whom the nearer to him is more royal than the rest; for that the Sun, in that ’tis nearer than the Moon to God, is far more vast and potent, to whom the Moon comes second both in rank and power.

The king, then, is the last of all the other Gods, but first of men; and so long as he is upon the Earth, he is divorced from his true godship, but hath something that doth distinguish him from men and which is like to God.

The soul which is sent down to dwell in him, is from that space which is above those regions whence [the souls] descend to other men. Down from that space the souls are sent to rule for those two reasons, son.

41. They who have run a noble, blameless race throughout the cycle of their lives, and are about to be changed into Gods, [are born as kings,] in order that by exercise of kingship they may train themselves to use the power the Gods enjoy; while certain souls who are already Gods, but

p. 127

have in some slight way infringed the rule of life which God inspired, are born as kings, in order that they may not, in being clothed in bodies, undergo the punishment of loss of dignity as well as nature, and that they may not, when they are enfleshed, have the same lot as other men, but have when bound what they enjoyed when free.

42. The differences which are, however, in the dispositions shown by those who play the part of kings, are not determined by distinguishing their souls, for these are all divine, but by the constitution of the angels and the daimons who attend on them. For that such souls as these descending for such purposes do not come down without a guard and escort; for Justice up above knows how to give to each what is its due estate e’en though they be made exiles from their country ever fair.

When, then, my son, the angels and the daimons who bring down the soul are of a warlike kind, it has to keep firm hold of their proclivities, forgetting its own proper deeds, but all the more remembering the doings of the other host attached to it.

When they are peaceful, then the soul as well doth order its own course in peace.

When they love justice, then it too defends the right.

p. 128

When they are music-lovers, then it also sings.

And when they are truth-lovers, then it also doth philosophize.

For as it were out of necessity these souls keep a firm hold of the proclivities of those that bring them here; for they are falling down to man’s estate, forgetting their own nature, and the farther they depart from it, the more they have in memory the disposition of those [powers] which shut them [into bodies].

43. Well hast thou, mother, all explained, said Horus. But noble souls,—how they are born, thou hast not told me yet.

As on the Earth, son Horus, there are states which differ one from other, so also is it in the case of souls. For they have regions whence they start; and that which starts from a more glorious place, hath nobler birth than one which doth not so. For just as among men the free is thought more noble than the slave—(for that which is superior in souls and of a ruling nature of necessity subjects what is inferior)—so also, son, . . . . 1

*     *     *     *     *

44. And how are male and female souls produced?

Souls, Horus, son, are of the self-same nature

p. 129

in themselves, in that they are from one and the same place where the Creator modelled them; nor male nor female are they. Sex is a thing of bodies, not of souls.

That which brings it about that some of them are stouter, some more delicate, is, son, that [cosmic] “air” in which all things are made. “Air” for the soul is nothing but the body which envelopes it, an element which is composed of earth and water, air and fire. 1

As, then, the composition of the female ones has more of wet and cold, but less of dry and warm, accordingly the soul which is shut in a plasm of this kind, becomes relaxed and delicate, just as the contrary is found to be in case of males.

For in their case there’s more of dry and warm, and less of cold and wet; wherefore the souls in bodies such as these are sturdy and more active.

45. And how do souls become intelligent, O mother mine?

And Isis answered:

The organ of the sight, my son, is swathed in wrappings. When these are dense and thick, the eye is dim; but when they’re thin and light, then is the sight most keen. So is it also for the soul. For it as well has envelopes incorporal appropriate to it, just as it is itself incorporal.

p. 130

[paragraph continues] These envelopes are “airs” which are in us. When these are light and thin and clear, then is the soul intelligent; but, on the contrary, when they are dense and thick and turbid, then [the soul], as in bad weather, sees not at distance but only things which lie about its feet.

46. And Horus said:

What is the reason, mother, that the men outside our holiest land are not so wise of mind as our compatriots?

And Isis said:

The Earth lies in the middle of the universe upon her back, like to a human being, with eyes turned up to heaven, and portioned out into as many regions as there are limbs in man.

She turns her eyes to Heaven as though to her own Sire, 1 that with his changes she may also bring about her own.

She hath her head set to the south of all, right shoulder to south-east, left shoulder to south-west; her feet below the Bear, right foot beneath its tail, left under its head; her thighs beneath those that succeed the Bear; her waist beneath the middle [Stars].

47. A sign of this is that men in the south, who dwell upon her head, are fine about the head and have good hair.

p. 131

Those in the east are ready for a fight and archer folk—for this pertains to the right hand.

Those in the west are steadier and for the most part fight with the left hand, and what is done by others with the right, they for their part attribute to the left.

Those underneath the Bear excel in feet and have especially good legs.

Those who come after them a little way, about the zone which is our present Italy and Greece, they all have well-made thighs and backs. . . .

Moreover, all these [northern] parts being whiter than the rest bear whiter men upon them.

But since the holiest land of our forebears lies in the midst of Earth, and that the midst of a man’s body serves as the precinct of the heart alone, and heart’s the spot from which the soul doth start, the men of it not only have no less the other things which all the rest possess, but as a special thing are gifted with intelligence beyond all men and filled with wisdom, in that they are begotten and brought up above her heart.

48. Further, my son, the south being the receiver of the clouds which mass themselves together from the atmosphere . . . 1

p. 132

For instance, it is just because there is this concentration of them in the south, that it is said our river doth flow thence, upon the breaking up of the frost there.

For whensoe’er a cloud 1 descends, it turns the air about it into mist, and sends it downward in a kind of fog; and fog or mist is an impediment not only to the eyes, but also to the mind.

Whereas the east, O Horus, great in glory, in that ’tis thrown into confusion and made overhot by the continual risings of the sun, and in like fashion too, the west, its opposite, in that it suffers the same things through its descents, 2 afford the men born in them no conditions for clear observation. And Boreas with his concordant cold, together with their bodies doth congeal the minds of men as well.

Whereas the centre of all these being pure and undisturbed, foreknows both for itself and all that are in it. For, free from trouble, ever it brings forth, adorns and educates, and only with such weapons wars [on men], and wins the victory, and with consummate skill, like a good

p. 133

satrap, 1 bestows the fruit of its own victory upon the vanquished.

49. This too expound, O lady, mother mine! For what cause is it that when men still keep alive in long disease, their rational part—their very reason and their very soul—at times becomes disabled?

And Isis answer made:

Of living things, my son, some are made friends with fire, and some with water, some with air, and some with earth, and some with two or three of these, and some with all.

And, on the contrary, again some are made enemies of fire, and some of water, some of earth, and some of air, and some of two of them, and some of three, and some of all.

For instance, son, the locust and all flies flee fire; the eagle and the hawk and all high-flying birds flee water; fish, air and earth; the snake avoids the open air. Whereas snakes and all creeping things love earth; all swimming things [love] water; winged things, air, of which they are the citizens; while those that fly still higher [love] the fire and have their habitat near it. Not that some of the animals as well do not love fire; for instance salamanders, for they even have their homes in it. It is because one or

p. 134

another of the elements doth form their bodies outer envelope.

50. Each soul, accordingly, while it is in its body is weighted and constricted by these four. Moreover it is natural it also should be pleased with some of them and pained with others.

For this cause, then, it doth not reach the height of its prosperity; still, as it is divine by nature, e’en while [wrapped up] in them, it struggles and it thinks, though not such thoughts as it would think were it set free from being bound in bodies.

Moreover if these [frames] are swept with storm and stress, or of disease or fear, then is the soul itself tossed on the waves, as man 1 upon the deep with nothing steady under him.


126:1 MS. A adds “of daimones.”

128:1 A lacuna, unfortunately, here occurs in the text, and must be of some extent, for the way of both of these souls is not given.

129:1 Cf. 45 below.

130:1 Cf. P. S. A., xxiv. 1.

131:1 Something has evidently fallen out here, as the sentence is nowhere completed.

132:1 Reading νεφέλη for νεφέλῃ. The text is very faulty.

132:2 These ideas of course spring from the conception of a flat earth and moving sun. The sun was thus thought to be nearer the earth at its rising and setting, and consequently those at the extremes of east and west were thought to be in danger of being burnt up by its heat.

133:1 Some historical allusion may perhaps be suspected in this term; but I can find nothing appropriate to suggest.

134:1 For ἄνθρωπος Meineke reads ἀνθέρικος (“asphodel”), and compares Callimachus, H. in Del., 193: παλιρροίῃ ἐπινήχεται ἀνθέρικος ὤς. But I see no necessity for this strained “emendation.”

Next: Commentary