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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead

p. 304

p. 305


The Perfect Sermon

p. 306

p. 307



(Text: The Greek original is lost, and only a Latin version remains to us. I use the text of Hildebrand (G. F.), L. Apuleii Opera Omnia ex Fide Optimorum Codicum (Leipzig, 1842), Pars II., pp. 279-334; but have very occasionally preferred the text in Patrizzi’s Nova de Universis Philosophia (Venice, 1593), or of the Bipontine edition of Appuleius, Lucii Apuleji Madaurensis Platonici Philosophi Opera (Biponti, 1788), pp. 285-325.)


1. 1 [I. M. 2] [Trismegistus.] God, O Asclepius, hath brought thee unto us that thou mayest hear a Godly sermon, 3 a sermon such as well may seem of all the previous ones we’ve [either] uttered, or with which we’ve been inspired by the Divine, more Godly than the piety of [ordinary] faith.

p. 308

If thou with eye of intellect 1 shalt see this Word 2 thou shalt in thy whole mind be filled quite full of all things good.

If that, indeed, the “many” be the “good,” and not the “one,” in which are “all.” Indeed the difference between the two is found in their agreement,—“All” is of “One” 3 or “One” is “All.” So closely bound is each to other, that neither can be parted from its mate.

But this with diligent attention shalt thou learn from out the sermon that shall follow [this].

But do thou, O Asclepius, go forth a moment and call in the one who is to hear. 4

(And when he had come in, Asclepius proposed that Ammon too should be allowed to come. Thereon Thrice-greatest said:)

[Tris.] There is no cause why Ammon should be kept away from us. For we remember how we have ourselves set down in writing many things to his address, 5 as though unto a son most dear and most beloved, of physics many things, of ethics [too] as many as could be.

It is, however, with thy name I will inscribe this treatise.

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But call, I prithee, no one else but Ammon, lest a most pious sermon on a so great theme be spoilt by the admission of the multitude.

For ’tis the mark of an unpious mind to publish to the knowledge of the crowd a tractate brimming o’er with the full Greatness of Divinity.

(When Ammon too had come within the holy place, and when the sacred group of four was now complete with piety and with God’s goodly presence—to them, sunk in fit silence reverently, their souls and minds pendent on Hermes’ lips, thus Love 1 Divine began to speak.)


1. [Tris.] The soul of every man, O [my] Asclepius, is deathless; yet not all in like fashion, but some in one way or [one] time, some in another.

Asc. Is not, then, O Thrice-greatest one, each soul of one [and the same] quality?

Tris. How quickly hast thou fallen, O Asclepius, from reason’s true sobriety!

Did not I say that “All” is “One,” and “One” is “All,” 2 in as much as all things have

p. 310

been in the Creator before they were created. Nor is He called unfitly “All,” in that His members are the “All.”

Therefore, in all this argument, see that thou keep in mind Him who is “One”-“All,” or who Himself is maker of the “All.”

2. All things descend from Heaven to Earth, to Water and to Air.

’Tis Fire alone, in that it is borne upwards, giveth life; that which [is carried] downwards [is] subservient to Fire.

Further, whatever doth descend from the above, begetteth; what floweth upwards, nourisheth.

’Tis Earth alone, in that it resteth on itself, that is Receiver of all things, and [also] the Restorer of all genera that it receives.

This Whole, 1 therefore, as thou rememberest, 2 in that it is of all,—in other words, all things, embraced by nature under “Soul” and “World,” 3 are in [perpetual] flux, so varied by the multiform equality of all their forms, that countless kinds of well-distinguished qualities may be discerned, yet with this bond of union, that all should seem as One, and from “One” “All.” 4

p. 311


1. That, then, from which the whole Cosmos is formed, consisteth of Four Elements—Fire, Water, Earth, and Air; Cosmos [itself is] one, [its] Soul [is] one, and God is one.

Now lend to me the whole of thee, 1—all that thou can’st in mind, all that thou skill’st in penetration.

For that the Reason 2 of Divinity may not be known except by an intention of the senses like to it. 3

’Tis 4 likest to the torrent’s flood, down-dashing headlong from above with all-devouring tide; so that it comes about, that by the swiftness of its speed it is too quick for our attention, not only for the hearers, but also for the very teachers. 5


307:1 I have added numbers to the paragraphs for greater convenience of reference.

307:2 Ménard has divided the treatise into fifteen parts, which I have thus distinguished; the numbering of the chapters are those usually found.

307:3 Or, a sermon about the Gods.

308:1 Intelligens.

308:2 Reason or sermon or logos; cf. iii. and below: “For that the Reason,” etc.

308:3 But ii. 1, referring again to this idea, has the reading: “‘All’ is ‘One.’” Cf. C. H., xvi. 3; and also xx. 2 below.

308:4 This, as we shall see later on, is Tat. See xxxii. below.

308:5 Lit. to his name.

309:1 Cupido; without doubt Erōs in the lost original; cf. xxi. 1 below; and Frag. xviii.

309:2 This, as we have already noted, is a variant of the reading in i., where we find “omnia unius esse” (“all” is of “one”) and not “omnia unum esse” (“all” is “one”).

310:1 Sc. the Cosmos.

310:2 Presumably from some previous sermon.

310:3 That is, Cosmos.

310:4 The Latin of this paragraph is very obscure.

311:1 Cf. C. H., xi. (xii.) 15: “Give thou thyself to Me, My Hermes, for a little while.”

311:2 Ratio—that is, Logos.

311:3 Lit. divine—that is, by a concentration like to the singleness of the Godhead.

311:4 That is, “This Reason is.”

311:5Quo efficitur ut intentionem nostram . . . celeri velocitate praetereat.” Compare with this the description of the instruction of the Therapeuts in Philo’s famous tractate, De Vita Contemplativa, 901 P., 483 M.—Conybeare’s text, p. 117 (Oxford; 1895): “For when in giving an interpretation, one continues to speak rapidly without pausing for breath, the mind of the hearers is left behind, unable to keep up the pace”—ὁ τῶν ἀκροωμένων νοῦς συνομαρτεῖν ἀδυντῶν ὑστερίζει.

Next: Part II