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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead


X. 1. And the most wise of the Greeks also are witnesses—Solon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, and, as some say, Lycurgus as well—through coming to Egypt and associating with her priests.

2. And so they say that Eudoxus was hearer of Chonouphis 3 of Memphis, and Solon of Sonchis of Saïs, and Pythagoras of Œnuphis of Heliopolis.

3. And the last especially, as it appears, being contemplated and contemplating, 4 brought back to the

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memory of his men their 1 symbolic and mysterious [art], containing their dogmas in dark sayings.

4. For most of the Pythagoric messages leave out nothing of what are called the hieroglyphic letters; for instance: “Eat not on what bears two”; 2 “Sit not down on measure”; 3 “Plant not phœnix”; 4 “Stir not fire with knife 5 in house.”

5. And, for myself at least, I think that his men’s calling the monad Apollo, 6 and the dyad Artemis, and the hebdomad Athena, and the first cube 7 Poseidon, also resembles those whose statues preside over the sacred places, and whose dramas are acted [there], yea and [the names] painted 8 [there as well].

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6. For they write the King and Lord, Osiris, 1 with “eye” and “sceptre.” 2 But some interpret the name also as “many-eyed,” since in the Egyptian tongue os means “many,” and iri “eye.”

7. And they write Heaven, as unageing through eternity, 3 with “heart,” [that is] spirit, 4 [rising] from “altar” 5 underneath.

8. And at Thebes there used to be set up hand-less statues of judges, while the [statue] of the chief judge had its eyes tight shut,—seeing that Justice neither gives nor takes gift, and is not worked on.

9. And for the warriors, “scarab” was their seal-emblem;—for the scarab is not female, but all [scarabs] are male, 6 and they engender their seed into matter [or material] which they make into spheres, preparing a field not so much of nourishment 7 as of genesis.


274:3 That is, presumably, Knouph or Knef.

274:4 θαυμασθεὶς καὶ θαυμάσας, passive and active of the verb of θαῦμα, generally translated “wonder,” but meaning radically “look at with awe”; hence contemplate religiously (the art of θεωρία), and hence the Platonic (? Pythagorean) saying: “The beginning of philosophy is wonder.” Compare the variants of the new-found Jesus logos (“Let not him who seeks,” etc.), which preserve both θαμβηθεὶς and θαυμάσας.

275:1 That is, to the men of Greece the art of the Egyptians.

275:2 ἐπὶ δίφρον (= δι-φόρον)—variously translated “off a chair,” “in a chariot,” hence “on a journey.” “That which bears two” is that which either carries two or brings forth two; the logos is thus, perhaps, a warning against falling into duality of any kind, and hence an injunction to contemplate unity.

275:3 The χοῖνιξ was a dry measure, the standard of a man’s (slave’s) daily allowance of corn. Hence, perhaps, in one sense the symbol may mean: “Be not content with your ‘daily bread’ only”; yet any meaning connected with “that which measures” would suit the interpretation, such as, “Best not on measure, but move in the unimmeasurable.”

275:4 φοῖνιξ means a “Phœnician” (as opposed to an Egyptian), a “date palm” (as opposed to a “pine”), and a “phœnix”; in colour this was “purple red,” “purple,” or “crimson.” The phœnix proper rose again from its ashes; its colour was golden. φυτύειν means “plant,” but also “engender,” “beget.”

275:5 μάχαιρα was, in Homeric times, the technical term for the sacred sacrificial knife—the knife that kills and divides the victim’s body, while the fire transmutes and consumes it. There may, perhaps, be some connection between the symbol and the gnomic couplet of Hesiod quoted above (iv. 3); it is, however, generally said to mean, “Do not provoke an angry man,” but this leaves out of consideration the concluding words “in house.”

275:6 Cf. lxxv. 14.

275:7 Presumably the ogdoad or eight.

275:8 Or “written” or “engraved.”

276:1 Eg. Ȧsȧr.

276:2 Generally a “throne” in the hieroglyphs. But for the numerous variants, see Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, ii. 113. Cf. li. 1 below.

276:3 ἀϊδιότητα—lit., form-(or idea-) less-ness; transcending all forms.

276:4 θυμὸν, one of the most primitive terms of Greek psychology—spirit or soul, or more generally life-principle.

276:5 ἐσχάρα, an altar for burnt offerings; here probably symbolising Earth as the syzygy of Heaven.

276:6 It is to be remembered that the “mark” of the warriors was their manliness (ix. 1).

276:7 Matter (ὕλη) being the Nurse, “according to Plato.” The legend was that the scarab beetle deposited its seed into dung which it first made into balls (lxxiv. 5).

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