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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead

2. [VII. M.] And now let us begin to treat of Spirit and such things.

There was first God and Matter, 3 which we in Greek 4 believe [to be] the Cosmos; and Spirit was with Cosmos, or Spirit was in Cosmos, but not in like way as in God 5; nor were there

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things [as yet] from which the Cosmos [comes to birth] in God.

They were not; just for the very reason that they were not, but were as yet in that [condition] whence they have had their birth. 1

For those things only are not called ingenerable which have not yet been born, but [also] those which lack the fertilizing power of generating, so that from them naught can be born.

And so whatever things there are that have in them the power of generating,—these two are generable, [that is to say,] from which birth can take place, though they be born from their own selves [alone]. For there’s no question that from those born from themselves birth can with ease take place, since from them all are born.

3. God, then, the everlasting, God the eternal, nor can be born, nor could He have been born. That 2 is, That was, That shall be ever. This, therefore, is God’s Nature—all from itself [alone].

But Matter 3 (or the Nature of the Cosmos) 4 and Spirit, although they do not seem to be things born from any source, 5 yet in themselves

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possess the power of generation and of generating,—the nature of fecundity.

For the beginning 1 [truly] is in [just that] quality of nature which possesses in itself the power and matter both of conception and of birth. 2 This, 3 then, without conception of another, is generable of its own self.


1. But, on the other hand, [whereas] those things which only have the power of bringing forth by blending with another nature, are thus to be distinguished, this Space of Cosmos, 4 with those that are in it, seems not to have been born, in that [the Cosmos] has in it undoubtedly all Nature’s potency. 5

By “Space” I mean that in which are all things. For all these things could not have been had Space not been, to hold them all. Since for all things that there have been, must be provided Space.

For neither could the qualities nor quantities, nor the positions, nor [yet] the operations, be distinguished of those things which are no where.

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2. So then the Cosmos, also, though not born, still has in it the births 1 of all; in that, indeed, it doth afford for all of them most fecund wombs for their conception.

It, therefore, is the sum of [all that] quality of Matter which hath creative potency, although it hath not been [itself] created.

And, seeing that [this] quality of Matter is in its nature [simple] productiveness; so the same [source] produces bad as well [as good].


1. I have not, therefore, O Asclepius and Ammon, said what many say, that God could not excise and banish evil from the Scheme 2 of Things;—to whom no answer need at all be given. Yet for your sakes I will continue what I have begun, and give a reason.

They say that God ought to have freed the World from bad in every way; for so much is it 3 in the World, that it doth seem to be as though it were one of its limbs.

This was foreseen by Highest God and [due] provision made, as much as ever could have been in reason made, then when He thought it proper to endow the minds of men with sense, 4 and science and intelligence.

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2. For it is by these things alone whereby we stand above the rest of animals, that we are able to avoid the snares and crimes of ill.

For he who shall on sight have turned from them, before he hath become immeshed in them,—he is a man protected by divine intelligence and [godly] prudence.

For that the ground-work of [true] science doth consist of the top-stones of virtue.

3. It is by Spirit that all things are governed in the Cosmos, and made quick,—Spirit made subject to the Will of Highest God, as though it were an engine or machine.

So far, then, [only] let Him be by us conceived,—as Him who is conceivable by mind alone, who is called Highest God, the Ruler and Director of God Sensible, 1—of Him who in Himself includes all Space, all Substance, and all Matter, of things producing and begetting, and all whatever is, however great it be.


1. It is by Spirit that all species in the Cosmos are [or] moved or ruled,—each one according to its proper nature given it by God.

Matter, 2 or Cosmos, on the other hand, is that which holds all things,—the field of motion, 3 and

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the that which crowds together 1 all; of which God is the Ruler, distributing unto all cosmic things all that is requisite to each.

It is with Spirit that He fills all things, according to the quality of each one’s nature.

2. [Now,] seeing that the hollow roundness 2 of the Cosmos is borne round into the fashion of a sphere; by reason of its [very] quality or form, it never can be altogether visible unto itself.

So that, however high a place in it thou shouldest choose for looking down below, thou could’st not see from it what is at bottom, because in many places it confronts [the senses], and so is thought to have the quality [of being visible throughout]. 3

For it is solely owing to the forms of species, with images of which it seems insculpted, that it is thought [to be] as though ’twere visible [throughout]; but as a fact ’tis ever to itself invisible.

3. Wherefore, its bottom, or its [lowest] part, if [such a] place there be within a sphere, is called in Greek a-eidēs 4; since that eidein 5 in

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[paragraph continues] Greek means “seeing,”—which “being-seen” the sphere’s beginning 1 lacks.

Hence, too, the species have the name eideai2 since they’re of form we cannot see.

Therefore, in that they are deprived of “being-seen,” in Greek they are called Hades; in that they are at bottom 3 of the sphere, they’re called in Latin Inferi.

These, then, are principal and prior, 4 and, as it were, the sources and the heads of all the things which are in them, 5 through them, or from them.


1. Asc. All things, then, in themselves (as thou, Thrice-greatest one, dost say) are cosmic [principles] (as I should say) of all the species which are in them, [or] as it were, the sum and substance of each one of them. 6

Tris. So Cosmos, then, doth nourish bodies; the Spirit, souls; the [Higher] Sense (with which Celestial Gift mankind alone is blest) 7 doth feed the mind.

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And [these are] not all men, but [they are] few, whose minds are of such quality that they can be receptive of so great a blessing.

2. For as the World’s illumined by the Sun, so is the mind of man illumined by that Light; nay, in [still] fuller measure.

For whatsoever thing the Sun doth shine upon, it is anon, by interjection of the Earth or Moon, or by the intervention of the night, robbed of its light.

But once the [Higher] Sense hath been commingled with the soul of man, there is at-onement from the happy union of the blending of their natures; so that minds of this kind are never more held fast in errors of the darkness.

Wherefore, with reason have they said the [Higher] Senses are the souls of Gods; to which I add: not of all Gods, but of the great ones [only]; nay, even of the principles of these.


332:3 The Greek ὕλη is here retained by the translator.

332:4 Græce.

332:5 The Latin translation is confused. The original seems to have stated that Spirit and Cosmos (or Matter) were as yet one, or Spirit-Matter.

333:1 That is, presumably, they were in potentiality.

333:2 Hoc.

333:3 Again ὕλη in the Latin text.

333:4 Cf. “Matter or Cosmos” of xvii. 2.

333:5 Principio, “beginning” the same word as that used in the Vulgate translation of the Proem of the fourth Gospel.

334:1 Initium.

334:2 This seems to make it clear that the idea “Cosmos” is regarded under the dual concept of Spirit-Matter.

334:3 Sc. Primal Nature, or Spirit-Matter.

334:4 Cf. xxx. 1, and xxxiv. 1 below.

334:5 The Latin construction is very faulty.

335:1 Naturas.

335:2 Lit. nature.

335:3 Sc. evil or bad.

335:4 Presumably meaning the higher sense.

336:1 That is, Cosmos.

336:2 Again ὕλη.

336:3 Agitatio.

337:1 Frequentatio.

337:2 Cava rotunditas—that is, presumably, concavity.

337:3 Propter quod multis locis instat, qualitatemque habere creditur. The Latin translation is evidently faulty. Ménard omits the sentence entirely, as he so often does when there is difficulty.

337:4 Ἀ-ειδής—that is, “Invisible”; that is, Hades (Ἀιδὴς or Ἅδης).

337:5 εἰδεῖν—? ἰδεῖν.

338:1 Primum spheræ; the top or bottom presumably, or periphery, of the world-sphere.

338:2 εἰδέαι—? ἰδέαι—that is, forms, species,—but also used of the highest species, viewed as “ideas.”

338:3 Sc. at the centre.

338:4 Or principles and priorities (antiquiora).

338:5 Sc. the “ideas.”

338:6 The Latin text is hopeless.

338:7 Cf. vii. i.

Next: Part VIII