There is little to be said about this powerful appeal to cease from the drunkenness of physical sensations and to awaken to the Light.
Reitzenstein (p. 194) calls it a “Prophetenpredigt” and says that nowhere in the MSS. is it ascribed to Hermes; by which he can only mean that it bears no other superscription than the descriptive sentence which heads it.
The style and spirit remind us not so much of C. H., iii. (iv.), as Reitzenstein (p. 206, 1) suggests, as of the interpolated or superadded passages in the “Pœmandres” treatise (§ 27):
“O ye people, earthborn folk, ye who have given yourselves to drunkenness, and sleep, and ignorance, be sober now, cease from your surfeit, cease to be glamoured by irrational sleep!”
Did this sentence give rise to our little sermon; or is the sentence a summary of the preaching? Or do both sentence and sermon come from a common stock?
The last hypothesis seems to be the most satisfactory choice; and we may compare what would appear to be a familiar figure of speech among such communities with logion 3 of the First Oxyrhynchus Fragment:
“Jesus saith: I stood in the midst of the world (τοῦ κόσμου), and in the flesh did I appear unto them; and I found all men drunken, and none found I athirst among them; and my soul grieveth over the souls of
men, because they are blind in their heart and see not . . .”
Can we fill up the missing word from our sermon?
“But sober all they gaze with their hearts eyes on Him who willeth to be seen.”
The missing word seems, therefore, to be “God.”
The Gospel that is preached is the Beauty of the Gnosis,—“the Beauty of the Truth and Good that dwells therein”; just as in C. H., i. 27:
“And I began to preach to men the Beauty of Devotion and of the Gnosis.”
The tempest-tossed on the Sea of Ignorance are to make for the Harbour of Salvation—evidently some great organization devoted to the holy life; therein they must seek for one who knows, who can take them by the hand and lead them unto the Gates of the Gnosis.
This suggests that the organization consisted of a general body, within which were grades of instruction; the many were striving for illumination, some few had reached it.