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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead

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“The Secret Sermon on the Mountain” is the main title given in all the MSS., with the exception of A; the subsidiary contents-title is evidently derived from the same edition to which we owe the other contents-titles preserved in our Corpus. Reitzenstein (p. 193), however, thinks that the main title has arisen by mistake. What the mistake is he does not tell us; perhaps he means that in our Sermon there is no mention of “On a Mountain,” but rather, as in § 1, if we accept his reading, of “Down a Mountain.” But in this we cannot follow him; for the whole teaching is precisely “On the Mount”—to the top of which Tat has now come. For the “Mountain” was symbolic of stages of inner development, and in § 9 we are told precisely: “This step (the fifth) is Righteousness’ firm seat,”—showing that the Mountain was conceived as an ascent or stair of steps as is so often seen in Egyptian frescoes.


Again, with regard to the title, the term “Secret” (ἀπόκρυφος—apocryphal) is used in its original sense of hidden away, meaning esoteric or not put into circulation, as applied to a logos or sermon, or a collection of logoi or sayings.

A logos in this sense had very much the same meaning for our Ancients as the Sanskrit mahā-vākyam (“great saying”) has to-day for an Indian theosophist who applies the term to the great mystical utterances of the Upaniṣhads; such as: “That art thou” (Tat tvam asi), etc.

In classical antiquity these logoi or logia were

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regarded as words of wisdom, and were the most sacred legacies of the sages to humanity. These oracular utterances were frequently collected together, and even prior to the days of syncretism formed the most sacred “deposits” (διαθῆκαι) of various nations; the same term being subsequently given to the Christian Bible.

Thus Herodotus calls Onomacritus, the first collector of the archaic Orphic Hymns, a “depository of oracles” (διαθέτην χρησμῶν),—the word carrying the meaning of “one who arranges,” corresponding exactly to the term Vyāsa in Sanskrit, the supposed “author” of the Mahābhārata.

Such collections of logoi or logia were then generally called “deposits,” the word also sometimes bearing the meaning of “testaments” as containing the expression of the Divine will or dispensation. The same term is used by Strabo (x. 482) of the Laws of Lycurgus; it was also applied by the Orphics and Pythagoreans to such sacred laws 1; while Ecclesiastical writers subsequently used it in reference to the Canonical Books. 2

The Orphics and Pythagoreans also called these collections “sacred utterances” (ἱεροὶ λόγοι); and even Clement of Alexandria refers to such a saying of Orpheus as “that truly sacred utterance” (τὸν ὄντως ἱερὸν λόγον).

That such collections were kept secret is not surprising; indeed, such must have been the case from time immemorial. But even on the ground of purely Greek and Roman history, we are not without information of collections of oracles carefully guarded as the secret scriptures or bibles of nations.

Cicero 3 speaks of such a bible of the Veii. The Athenians, in the time of the Kings, possessed a similar

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bible of logia 1; and Dinarchus 2 tells us that the safety of the State depended on this secret scripture (ἀπορρήτους διαθῆκας) These occult sayings (ἀπόθεντα ἔπη) are further called by Suidas (s.v.) “withdrawn volumes” (βιβλία ἀνακεχωρηκότα)—that is to say, books withdrawn from public perusal, or, in other words, apocryphal, hidden or secret (ἀπόκρυφα).

And not only was this the case with the ancient writings themselves, but also with the commentaries upon them, and by degrees with everything referring to them, until finally we find Themistius the rhetorician, in the fourth century, speaking of that “mass of Archaic wisdom not open to the public or in general circulation, but scarce and occult.” 3

We have, therefore, translated the term by “secret” as conveying the proper meaning of the epithet in the title, and not by “apocryphal,” a word that nowadays connotes the judgment of a theological canon.


1. In the first paragraph Tat definitely refers to three Stages of Probation, before he is deemed fit to hear the Sermon on Rebirth.

(i) First there is the General or Preliminary Instruction contained in a collection of discourses called the General Sermons (Γενικοὶ Λόγοι).

(ii) Next is the Stage where Tat becomes the Suppliant of Hermes, a stage characterized by Conversation or Dialogue (διαλεχθῆναι); that is to say, Tat was allowed to ask questions. This is further

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symbolically described by a phrase, ἐπὶ τῆς τοῦ ὄρους μεταβάσεως, which is difficult to translate, but which seems to mean either Passing up, or Wending up, the Mountain, or Wending over the Mountain. That is to say, that Hermes was gradually leading Tat to the top of the Mountain, in plain words, as far as his normal intellect could carry him; the Top of the Mountain representing the highest point of unaided mental faculty.

This stage was, I believe, represented by the collection of Sermons to Tat, or Dialogues with Tat, known as the Διεξοδικοὶ Λόγοι—a term somewhat difficult to translate precisely.

The fundamental meaning of διέξοδος is a “way through and out,” a “pathway” or “passage,” or “means of escape.” It thus comes to mean the course of a narrative, or a detailed narrative, exposition, discussion. Hence also a “passage” of Scripture. As set over against γενικὸς (General), therefore, διεξοδικὸς would mean Detailed or Expository; but at the same time it would to the Greek ear suggest the meaning of the Means of Escape or the Way out of Ignorance.

(iii) The third Stage is that of Moral and Mental Purification. “Wherefore I got me ready and made the thought (τὸ φρόνημα) in me a stranger to the world-illusion” (τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ἀπάτης)—the Error that in § 7 sums up the first six vices, and is in § 9 driven out by Truth.

Stage ii. may have been technically known as that of the Suppliant, though, of course, of this we cannot be sure. In any case the term must be considered in close connection with Philo’s treatise On the Contemplative Life, which, as Conybeare tells us, most probably formed Book IV. of Philo’s voluminous work, or rather apology, De Legatione. The alternative title of this

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work was The Suppliants. By “Suppliant” Philo tells us he means “one who has fled to God and taken refuge with Him.” 1

Here, however, the term is used in a narrower sense, as adapted to the personal relationship of disciple to master, who, during the time of probation, stands to him as the representative of God. The master is his spiritual father, the image of God the Father. 2


As to the symbolic use of the term Mountain, I need hardly remind my readers that it was perhaps the most common figure employed in the apocalypses of the time. Instances come immediately crowding into the mind, such as the “Mount of Galilee” in the Askew and Bruce Gnostic Codices, on which all the great initiations and rites are performed by the Risen Lord; or the Mount Tabor 3 of The Gospel according to the Hebrews, “My Mother the Holy Spirit took me by one of the hairs of the head and carried me unto Mount Tabor”; or in the Acts of John, where the Vision of the Spiritual Crucifixion is shown to John on the Mount; or in The Gospel of Eve, where the Vision of the Great and Little Man is seen on the Mount; or in The Shepherd of Hermas, where the Angel of Repentance bears off Hermas to the Mount of Arcadia, etc. In every case the Mountain is no physical mountain, but the height of contemplation, an interior state of spiritual consciousness.

Stage iii., again, is of interest because of the terms in

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which it is described; they may be compared with the same teaching in the Behnesa logos:

Jesus saith: “Except ye fast to the world, ye shall in nowise find the Kingdom of God.”

Again, in Tat’s prayer for the consummation of his probation: “And now do thou fill up the things that fall short in me” (τὰ ὑστερήματα ἀναπλήρωσον), it should be noticed that we have the well-known technical terms of the Christianized Gnosis, the Plērōma and Hysterēma, or Fullness and Insufficiency.


The time has come for Tat to receive, through his master, the touch of the true Mind-consciousness, the Christ is to be born in his heart, the light of the Plērōma is to shine into his inmost being. It is to be a New Birth, a Regeneration (παλιγγένεσις), or Re-birth (ἀναγέννησις), in the sense of being born from Above (ἄνωθεν).

Compare John iii. 3: “Amen, Amen, I say unto thee; Except a man be born from Above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” And also 7: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye (pl.) must be born from Above,”—where the comment on a prior saying, “Ye must be born from Above,” formally unsuited to the scheme of a dialogue between Jeschu and Rabbi Nakdimon, reveals the work of the Haggadist.

So also in 1 Pet. i. 22, 23: “Having made your souls holy by hearkening to the Truth 1 . . . being Re-born (ἀναγεγεννημένοι) not from the seed of destruction, but from the Seed that cannot be destroyed, through the Word 2 (Logos) of God, who lives and endures.” 3

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These passages from the New Testament Scriptures are not, of course, cited to show any dependence of our Hermetic authors on the New Testament writers; but simply to show how they mutually explain one another. For indeed the doctrine of the New Birth and of the Sacred Marriage was beyond all else the crowning mystery of the Spiritual Way for all the mystic schools of the time. 1


2. The secret that Tat would learn is the Mystery of the Birth from the Virgin Womb—the Birth of Man, the Great Mystery of Regeneration. Many illustrations of the meaning of this pivot-doctrine of the Christian teaching might be quoted from Gnostic writings, but it will be sufficient to remind the reader of what the Jewish Commentator in the Naassene Document (§ 28) has written in contrasting the Great Mysteries (or the heavenly ones) with the Little Mysteries (those of fleshly generation). Speaking of the Mysteries of Regeneration, he writes:

“For this is the Gate of Heaven, and this is the House of God, where the Good God dwells alone; into which no impure [man] shall come, but it is kept under guard for the spiritual alone,—where when they come, they must cast away their garments, and all become bridegrooms, obtaining their true manhood, through the Virginal Spirit. For this is the Virgin big with child, conceiving and bearing a Son.”

And to this the Christian Commentator adds:—“not psychic, not fleshly, but a blessed Æon of Æons.”

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The Jewish Commentator uses the language of Philo, who, as we have shown, centred his ideas round the conception of the Sacred Marriage and the Virginal Spirit.

So, too, does our treatise. The Womb is Silence, the silence of contemplation, the image of the Great Silence the Mother of the Æons in many a Christianized Gnostic System; the Matter is Wisdom; the Æon’s coming to consciousness in man is the Birth of Man the Son of God; and the Seed is the Good or Logos sown by the Will of the Father. This is the Birth of the Christ in man, the Great Mystery that awaits us when we have made ourselves strangers to the world-illusion.

Is this Son then, asks Tat, other than God? No, answers Hermes; it is the Mystery of Sameness, not of Difference; it is the Plērōma, not the Insufficiency,—“All in all, out of all powers composed,” the Common Fruit of the Plērōma, as the Valentinians would have expressed it.


It is a Race, not an individual; it is We and no longer I. 1 This is the Race of the Logos; the Self-taught Race of Philo; or, as Hermes says: “This Race, my son, is never taught, but when He willeth it, its memory is restored by God.”

This is the ἀνάμνησις of Pythagoras and Plato,—the regaining of the consciousness of the Divine State; it must be self-perceived. And so Philo tells us:

“But as for the Race of Devotees who are taught ever more and more to see, let them strive for the intuition of That-which-is; let them transcend the sun which men perceive [and gaze upon the Light beyond, the

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[paragraph continues] True Sun or Logos], nor ever leave this rank which leads to Perfect Blessedness. Now they who betake themselves to the [Divine] Service, [do so] not because of any custom, or some one’s advice or appeal, but are carried away by Heavenly Love.” 1

They are of the Race of Elxai, the Hidden Power or Holy Spirit, the Spouse of Iexai, the Hidden Lord or Logos. 2


3. Hermes cannot teach to Tat this Birth in words, even as Isis is not permitted to declare it openly to Horus (K. K., 36):

“I may not tell the story of this Birth; for it is not permitted to describe the origin of thy descent, O Horus, son of mighty power, lest afterward the Way-of-Birth of the immortal Gods should be known unto men”—that is, the Mystery of the Birth of Horus.

Hermes can only guide Tat towards the realisation of the Blessed Sight, by putting himself into that sublime state of consciousness, so that Tat, so to speak, bathes, or is baptized in, his master’s spiritual presence, the Cup of the Mind. This, as we have seen already from several treatises, was the way of transmission of the Power of the powers, the true Laying-on of Hands.

Hermes describes the change that takes place in himself when he passes into the higher spiritual consciousness. He seems to “pass through himself”—to “involve” himself, as it is said somewhere in the Mahābhārata of the Ṛiṣhis—“into a Body that can never die,” that is, into a, or rather the, Essential or Cosmic Body, 3 that embraces the cosmos within it. The

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way to do this is not taught, for it cannot be understood from any sensible experience, the outer physical form of the adept remaining as it was before. It is an inner change. The Birth of a Christ is the striking of a new keynote; everything remains apparently as it was before, but all things receive a new interpretation.

No physical sight, even of the greatest intensity, can penetrate the Veil of this Mystery.

“Thou seest me with eyes, my son; but what I am thou dost not understand.”

With this compare the marvellous Ritual of Initiation in The Acts of John:

“Who I am thou shalt know when I depart. 1 What I am seen to be, that am I not; but what I am, thou shalt see when thou comest.” 2

None but those who have reached the Christ-state can know it; no teaching will avail to explain its manner and its mysteries. It must be realized.


4. But Tat, who has “made himself ready,” is becoming quickened by the power of his master. His spiritual senses are being born; already he is losing touch with the physical; he no longer sees himself. But this is not enough; he must not only be able to lose consciousness of his physical body, and see and hear as though with the mind alone, but he must “invert” himself, pass right through himself, and no longer see things as without him, but all things as within him.

All this is a New Creation to be accomplished in the man himself. The Author or Genesiurge of Re-birth, as

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contrasted with the Maker or Demiurge of Birth, is the One Man, the Logos, the Energic Reason and Will of God; the one is the Creator of the Immortal Body, the other is the Maker of the mortal frame.


5. The reading of the next sentence is faulty, and it is impossible to extract the correct meaning. The “Greatness” (τὸ μέγεθος) and “distinctive form” (χαρακτήρ) are terms familiar enough to us in Christian Gnostic writings. 1 Greatness connotes the same idea as Æon; “character” or “distinctive form” or “rank” is generally the impression from a typical original, and here stands for the form by which a man is recognised.

6. Hermes then proceeds to describe the nature of this Greatness or Æon, or Sameness, manifested in difference. It is, alchemically speaking, the One Element, which can only be comprehended by one Born in God—that is, by a God.

7. The way of this Birth is then described as a de-energizing, or throwing out of work of the body’s senses, with a corresponding energizing of the One Sense, the Æonic Consciousness; or as a purging out of

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the tendencies of the lower nature, and replacing them by the energies of the Divine Powers.

This is the Mystery of Repentance (μετανοῖα), not a change of mind only, but a change throughout the whole nature; all things in the man turn towards God.

The forces or energies of the soul have no direction in themselves; it is the will of man that can turn them “downwards” or “upwards,” so that they become vices or virtues.


8., But not only does Hermes set forth a formal exposition of this Repentance in terms of the conquest and driving out of the Horde of Vices by the Company of Virtues, but at the same time he performs an efficacious theurgic rite of invocation whereby he enables Tat to realize the instruction in immediate experience.

The Virtues that Hermes invokes are not abstractions, but definite substantial powers; they are, in fact, the “filling up” of Tat’s “insufficiency”; in other words, they are what the Christian Gnostics would have called the Æons of the Plērōma.

Behind all there is a definite scheme of numbering. There is a Twelve and a Ten and a Seven and a Three and a One.

The Torments of the Darkness are the Twelve; they are not torments in themselves, but only for him who is in Error. They are Twelve yet are they one, for though they are “pantomorph” or “omniform,” yet are they of one nature; the Twelve are thus conditioned by the main irrational “types of life,” or animal natures,—the so-called zodiac.

These divisions are not, however, fundamental, they are solely for man’s delusion or error; in action they

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are one—that is, they keep man in Error or Ignorance. Thus they can be regarded as one, or two, or three, or four, or six; and so combined and recombined.

Twelve, then, is the nature of the “animal soul” in man—the number of his going-forth into externality. This out-going is arrested when man repents, and turns himself to return, to go within; the cosmogonical is transformed by the soteriological; the “enformation according to substance” gives place to the “enformation according to gnosis.” As Ignorance characterized the Twelve, so does Gnosis characterize the Ten, the Perfect Number or Number of Perfection.

The Going-forth was that of the multiplication of species—Twelve (3 × 4 or 2 × 6); the Return is Ten, that is the Seven and the Three; and Seven is addition (3 + 4) and not multiplication.

Multiplication seems here to mean the generation, by two parents, of things of the same kind and power; while addition signifies the intensification of the same nature to a higher power.

The Ten is “that which giveth birth to souls”—that is, human souls; and not only human souls, but, in its consummation, to divine souls.

It may, perhaps, be of interest here to set down simple lists of the vices and virtues as given in our treatise, and to append to them the list of vices in C. H., i. 24 and 26.

1. Not-knowing.

1. Gnosis.

2. Grief.

2. Joy.

3. Intemperance.

3. Self-control.

4. Concupiscence.

4. Continence.

5. Unrighteousness.

5. Righteousness.

6. Avarice.

6. Sharing-with-all.

7. Error.

7. Truth.

8. Envy.

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9. Guile.

8. The Good.

10. Anger.

9. Life.

11. Rashness.

10. Light.

12. Malice.


1. Growth and Waning.

First Zone.

2. Device of Evils.

Second Zone.

3. Guile of the Desires.

Third Zone.

4. Arrogance.

Fourth Zone.

5. Daring and Rashness.

Fifth Zone.

6. Getting Wealth.

Sixth Zone.

7. Falsehood.

Seventh Zone.


8. Those-that-are.


9. The Powers in a band.


10. The Father.


It is at once seen that the first seven virtues are arranged so as to be the direct antitheses of the first seven vices. The root of the Twelve is Ignorance; indeed, all the Twelve are permutations of Ignorance. They seem to be twelve, whereas they are but one in nature; again, not only are they twelve, but manifold (§ 12).

Thus, for instance, Rashness and Wrath or Anger are but one, and so of the rest; the permutations are infinite. This may be seen from the septenary classification in “The Shepherd” treatise, where we have: Guile of the Desires (3), a combination of Guile (9) and Desire or Concupiscence (4); Device of Evils (2), a combination of Guile (9) and Malice (12); Unholy Daring and Rashness (5), a combination of Unrighteousness (5) and Rashness (11); Getting Wealth by evil means (6), a combination of Guile (9) and Avarice (6). So also just as Anger (10) and Rashness (11) are one, so are Envy (8) and Avarice (6) but aspects of the same

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thing; and so again Intemperance (3) and Concupiscence or Desire (4), Grief (2) and Ignorance (1), etc.

All are summed up in Ignorance, or Error, just as the seven virtues are summed up in Gnosis or Truth. 1 And just as Ignorance is the source of vice, so is Knowledge or Gnosis the beginning of Truth. Gnosis is not the end but the beginning of the Path, the end of it is God or the Good.

The difference between the “Pœmandres” arrangement and the categories of our treatise is conditioned by the fact that in the former the process of transformation in the case of a good man after death is described, whereas in the latter the Way of Rebirth in a living man is set forth.

That the Virtues (and Vices, therefore) were categorized according to the fundamental numbers of the Gnosis may be seen in most systems of Christian Gnostic æonology; indeed, it was a common plan of the general Gnostic theosophy of the time. In our treatise we have set forth the manner of the immediate practical ethical realization of what might be taken by a superficial student of Gnostic æonology as an empty schematology of purely metaphysical abstractions. 2 These things, however, meant everything to the Gnostic; they were fullnesses—no abstractions, but transcendent realities.

So also in the Shepherd of Hermas (Vis. iii. 8, 7), just as in our treatise, we are presented with the Vision of a Band of seven Women, each the mother of the next, seven Virtues, called: Faith, Continence, Simplicity, Freedom-from-malice, Seriousness, Gnosis (ἐπιστήμη), Love.

And not only do we have the Seven, but also the

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[paragraph continues] Twelve, twelve Maidens (Sim. xv. 1-3): Faith, Continence, Power, Long-suffering, Simplicity, Freedom-from-malice, Chastity, Joyfulness, Truth, Understanding, Concord, Love.

To these are opposed twelve Women in dark robes: Infidelity, Incontinence, Disobedience, Error, Grief, Depravity, Wantonness, Quickness-to-wrath, Falsehood, Folly, Slander, Hate.

Zosimus also speaks of the Twelve Fates (Μοῖραι) of Death, and associates them with the Passions. 1

But, indeed, the subject is infinite, for it is the consummation of all right endeavour and all true progress in humanity. We must, then, leave it for the present, to avoid running to too great length in these comments. Sufficient for the moment to point to the fact that the Ten is not only the Wedding Garment of Purity, but also the Robe of Power or Glory. In its consummation also it is the Garment of the Christ, the One Robe without seam throughout, for the Ten contains the One, and the One contains the Ten.


13. The result of this Potent Invocation of the Powers,—that is to say, the realization of the full meaning of the sacred rite which consummates itself in the consciousness of Hermes, and so communicates itself in some measure to Tat, 2—is that Tat begins to “see”; “I see the All, I see myself in Mind.”

“In heaven am I, in earth, in water, air; I am in animals, in plants; I’m in the womb, before the womb, after the womb,—I’m everywhere” (§ 11).

Compare this with C. H., xi. (xii.) 22, where Hermes is himself being taught by Mind:

“Collect into thyself all senses of all creatures,—of

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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.”

This is, as we have seen, a pure Egyptian formula, and connotes the opening of the “cosmic consciousness.”

This consciousness, whatever else it may be, is a transcending of our three-dimensional limitation of consciousness,—that of the “body’s view-point,—a thing three ways in space extended.”


The mystery of this New Birth in consciousness is to be kept secret; therefore Hermes has not commented on it, presumably in the Expository Sermons; moreover, it must even now be kept secret (§ 22), and therefore is the treatise a Secret Sermon. The reason for this is given both here and in § 22: “That we may not be thought to be calumniators” (διάβολοι), by the Many or Unknowing. What may be the precise meaning of this phrase I do not know, and can only speculate.

Those who had reached the full grade of Hermes are to keep silence on their “virtue” or power (§ 22); they were never to boast of their Gnosis. If they did, it would only bring the Gnosis into contempt; for they would still appear as ordinary men, would probably often say and do things, when they were not in the higher state of consciousness, which fell below the standard of their high ideals, and so they would be slanderers or calumniators of the Gnosis before the world.

14. The New Birth is further characterized as the Essential Birth (ἡ οὐσιώδης γένεσις); it was the birth of

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the Essential Man, the God, Son of the One, to which other treatises refer. 1


15. Tat now desires to hear the Praise-giving of the Powers, which only those can sing who have reached the stage called Eighth, or the Ogdoad; this is the state above the Harmony or the Hebdomad of Fate (C. H., i. 26). The man is now free and no longer a slave. It is the power of prophetic hymnody, for the man now hears the True Harmony of things and is above the Concatenation of Difference; it is the state “that keeps the soul in tune.” He who has reached this height can ever sing in tune; it is the state of the Hearer of the Eternal Praise-giving, and those who reach it can express it infinitely, each in his own fashion.

The idea of the Ogdoad is represented in many a Christian Gnostic system, especially in the Valentinian tradition, which has many Egyptian elements in it.

So we read in the Excerpts from Theodotus appended to the writings of Clement of Alexandria:

“Him whom the Mother 2 brings to birth, she leadeth unto Death and to the world; but him whom Christ brings to rebirth, He changeth into Life, unto the Ogdoad.” 3

Many were the names given to the Ogdoad by the Christian Gnostics,—such as the Jerusalem Above, Wisdom, the Land flowing with milk and honey, the Holy Spirit, the Land of the Lord, the Mesotes.

These terms were, however, with the exception of the last, Jewish synonyms; the term Ogdoad itself

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was in all probability Egyptian. Thus in one of the Magic Papyri we read:

“Having known the power of the book, thou shalt hide it, my son. For in it there is stored the Authentic Name, which is the Name Ogdoad,—He who doth order and doth regulate all things.” 1


16. The Hymn that follows is to be kept secret—that is to say, it is to be taken by Tat as an example of the form of prayer he is now to use in his private devotions, and is therefore probably intended to replace some other form of prayer which he had hitherto been using, as was the custom in such communities.

The instruction to use it at sunset and sunrise, in the open air, reminds us of the appended passages to “The Shepherd” treatise, where we read (§ 29):

“And when even was come and all sun’s beams began to set, I bade them all give thanks to God.” 2

Compare also what Philo tells us of the Therapeuts:

“Twice a day, at dawn and even, they are accustomed to offer up prayers; as the sun rises praying for the sunshine, the real Sunshine, that their minds may be filled with Heavenly Light, and as it sets praying that their soul, completely lightened of the lust of the senses and sensations, may withdraw to its own Congregation and Council-chamber, there to track out Truth.” 3

So also Apollonius of Tyana is said to have prayed and meditated three times a day: at daybreak (Phil., V. A., vi. 10, 18; vii. 31), at mid-day (vii. 10), and at

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sundown (viii. 13); and with regard to “keeping silence on their virtue,” we are told of the Later Pythagoreans, of whom he was so conspicuous an example:

“In particular they kept the rule of silence regarding the Divine Service [that is, the Gnosis]. For they heard within them many Divine and unspeakable things on which it would have been difficult for them to keep silence, had they not first learned that it was just this Silence which spoke to them” (i. 1). 1

And so the Hymn has to be heard in silence; all earthly sounds must be stilled for the Heavenly Harmony to be heard.

17. It is to be noticed that in four out of the five MSS. the title “Secret Hymnody” is followed by the indication “Logos IV.”

Reitzenstein (p. 345, n. 21) thinks that the three prior “Logoi” were:

I. “Holy art Thou, O God”—C. H., i. 31, 32.

II. “The Glory of all things is God”—C. H., iii. (iv.).

III. “Whither stumble ye, sots?”—C. H., vii. (viii.).

The latter two, however, are not hymns; the only other hymn in our Corpus being:

“Who then may sing Thee praise of Thee?”—C. H., v. (vi.) 10, 11.

Our Hymn is a Hymn to the Sun, it is true, but to the Spiritual Sun, not the physical orb of day. It is to the Eye of Mind that these orisons are addressed—to the All-seeing Light.

Nor is this Eulogy a formal Te Deum, but a potent theurgic Praise-giving. All nature is to thrill with the joy of this thankfulness.

Most beautiful is this Song of Praise, all of it, but we would specially call attention to the words:

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“Thy Reason sings through me Thy praises. Take back through me the All into Thy Reason—my reasonable oblation 1! From Thee Thy Will; to Thee the All!”

The Outbreathing of the Universe through the Reason or Logos 2 is the manifestation or realisation of the Will of God. The Logos is Son, Will is Mother and God Father.

The Inbreathing of the Universe is through Man (“Thy Man thus cries to Thee,” § 20): “Take back through Me the All.” This is accomplished in the first instance by the sacrifice of the reason, of man’s small limited reason, to the Great Reason of things.

And yet the All, the Universe itself, is not something other than God; it is all God.

From Thee Thy Will”; Thou art the Source of all. “To Thee the All”; Thou art the End of all, the Desirable One, The Good.

Compare with this the Hymn in the Jewish deposit of the Naassene Document:

From Thee is Father, and Through Thee Mother,—the two Immortal Names, Parents of Æons, O Thou who hast the Heaven for thy City, O Man of Mighty Names!”

Also notice: “The All that is in us, O Life, preserve; O Light, illumine it; O God, in-spirit it!” And compare it with § 12, where we are told: “While Life and Light are unified there, where the One hath being from the Spirit.”

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The Prayer is for the Baptism of Light—Illumination by the Gnosis 1; this was the Dowsing in the Mind of “The Cup” treatise, even as true Baptism in primitive Christianity was called Illumination or φωτισμός.


21. Tat now feels himself impelled to utter praises himself. He says what he feels. His master has given him the impulse, has made the conditions for him whereby he is conceived as a Child of God, a Prophet. But as yet he is not grown into the stature of a true Seer. His higher nature has received the germ, but this must have time to develop, and only gradually will its power descend into his lower mind.

At present his thankfulness is poured forth to his master, who has performed the theurgic rite of initiation (“All things have been perfected”) for him.

But Hermes restrains him; it is not to the master that his thanks are due, but to God. And if he cannot as yet give thanks direct to God, then let him send those thanks—“acceptable oblations”—to God “Through the Word.”

And that this was and is the practice of universal Christendom requires no pointing out;—the most striking parallel to the wording of our treatise being 1 Pet. ii. 5: “Spiritual oblations acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Tat has now passed from the rank of Hearer to that of Knower; he is now a true Gnostic: “Thou hast become a Knower of thyself, and of our Sire.”

Compare logos 2 of the latest found Sayings at Oxyrhynchus:

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“(Strive therefore?) to know yourselves, and ye shall know ye are Sons of the (almighty?) Father; (and?) ye shall know that ye are in (the City of God? 1), and ye are (the City? 2).”


235:1 Grotius, ap. Jablonski, ii. 397; Lobeck, Aglaoph., p. 714.

235:2 Euseb., Chron., 99 A.

235:3 De Div., i. 44.

236:1 Herod., v. 90.

236:2 Or. c. Demos., 91, 20.

236:3 Or., IV. 60: “στῖφος ἀρχαιας σοφίας, οὐ κοινῆς οὐδε ἐν μέσῳ κυλινδουμένης ἀλλὰ σπανίου καὶ ἀποθέτου.”

238:1 De Sac. Ab. et C., i. 186, 33.

238:2 See the praise-giving of Tat, § 21.

238:3 “The Mountain of Light,” the traditional scene of the Transfiguration.

239:1 Precisely as did Tat.

239:2 Cf. precisely the same formula in our treatise, § 21.

239:3 That is, of God as Æon and God as Life, which is the union of God as Mind and Logos.

240:1 The antiquity of the ideas connected with this spiritual mystery may be seen from what Reitzenstein (pp. 227 ff.) has to say concerning mystic συνουσία or congress; of it, as perhaps of nothing so much in the world, may it be said corruptio optimi pessima.

241:1 Compare the Song of the Powers in Pistis Sophia (pp. 16, 17), where the “We” alternates with the “I.”

242:1 D. V. C., M. 473, 10; P. 891.

242:2 See D. J. L., pp. 374, 375.

242:3 Cf. R. 52. But compare especially § 6, and C. H., iv. (v.) 1.

243:1 That is, when the Presence is withdrawn,—by contrast.

243:2 Texts and Studies, V. i. 14.

244:1 The term “Greatness,” however, is probably of Egyptian derivation. In the Papyrus Insinger, written somewhere during the last half of the first century B.C. and first half of the first century A.D., according to Spiegelberg, God’s Wisdom and Providence are praised (coll. xxxv., xxxvi.). The superscription of this section runs: “The Four-and-Twentieth Teaching: The Instruction: Learn the Greatness of God, that thou mayest let it come into thine heart” (xxxv. 17); and later on: “He knoweth the Blasphemer who thinketh wickedness, He knoweth the Pious with the Greatness of God in his heart. The tongue, before even it is questioned—its words God knoweth” (xxxvi. 3-5). This is further explained by the sentence: “Thoth is heart and tongue of the Pious; lo! his house is God!” (xxxv. 19). R. 237.

248:1 Cf. P. S. A., xxix. 2.

248:2 The usual way, indeed, in which it is taken.

249:1 Berthelot, 244; R. 214.

249:2 Cf. C. H., i. 7; xi. (ixi.) 6.

251:1 Cf. P. S. A., vii. 2.

251:2 Sc. the Lower Mother, Nature.

251:3 Exx. ex Theodot., § 80 (ed. Dindorf, iii. 453).

252:1 Leyden Papyrus W. S., 139, 45 (Leemans); cf. also ibid., 141, 5; R. 54. For further comments on the Ogdoad, see Commentary on C. H., i. 26.

252:2 Cf. also P. S. A., xli. 1.

252:3 D. V. C., M. ii. 475; P. 893.

253:1 See my Apollonius of Tyana, pp. 123 and 120.

254:1 Cf. 1 Pet. ii. 5: “Ye also as living stones are built up, a spiritual house for holy service, to offer up spiritual oblations acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” And also Rom. xii. 1: “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, to present your bodies as a living oblation, holy, well-pleasing unto God,—your reasonable service.”

254:2 Hesychius in his Lexicon defines Logos as the “Cause of Activity,” or that which underlies action,—ἡ τοῦ δράματος ὑπόθεσις.

255:1 Compare γνῶσις ἁγία, φωτισθεὶς ἀπὸ σοῦ (§ 18); φῶτιζε φώς (§ 19); ἐπιφώτισταί μου ὁ νοῦς (§ 21).

256:1 Sc. the Ogdoad.

256:2 Cf. 1. Pet. ii. 5: “Ye are built up as living stones, a spiritual house for service.”

Next: XIV. (XV.) A Letter to Asclepius