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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 3

by G.R.S. Mead

p. 30



(Title (first half) from Patrizzi (p. 45b), followed by “To the Same Tat.”

Text: Stob., Phys., xxxv. 8, under the curious heading: “Of Hermes—From the [Sermons] to Ammon to Tat”; where “to Tat” is evidently a marginal correction for an erroneous “to Ammon.” G. pp. 292-294; M. i. 204, 205; W. i. 290-292.

Ménard, Livre IV., No. iii. of “Fragments from the Books of Hermes to his Son Tat,” pp. 238, 239.)

1. [Her.] The Lord and Demiurge of all eternal bodies, Tat, when He had made them once for all, made them no more, nor doth He make them [now].

Committing them unto themselves, and co-uniting them with one another, He let them go, in want of naught, as everlasting things.

If they have want of any, it will be want of one another and not of any increase to their number from without, in that they are immortal.

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For that it needs must be that bodies made by Him should have their nature of this kind.

2. Our Demiurge, 1 however, who is [himself already] in a body, 2 hath made us,—he makes for ever, and will [ever] make, bodies corruptible and under sway of death.

For ’twere not law that he should imitate the Maker of himself,—all the more so as ’tis impossible.

For that the latter did create from the first essence which is bodiless; the former made as from the bodying 3 brought into existence [by his Lord].

3. It follows, then, according to right reason, that while those bodies, since they are brought into existence from incorporal essence, are free from death, ours are corruptible and under sway of death,—in that our matter is composed of bodies, 4 as may be seen from their being weak and needing much assistance.

For how would it be possible our bodies’ continuity should last, unless it had some nutriment imported [into it] from similar elements, and [so] renewed our bodies day by day?

For that we have a stream of earth, and water,

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fire, and air, flowing into us, which renovates our bodies, and keeps our tent 1 together.

We are too weak to bear the motions [of our frames], enduring them not even for one single day.

For know, [my] son, that if our bodies did not rest at night, we should not last a single day.

4. Wherefore, our Maker, being good, and with foreknowledge of all things, in order that the animal may last, hath given sleep, the greatest [calm 2] of the fatigue of motion, and hath appointed equal time to each, or rather more, for rest.

Ponder well, son, the mightiest energy of sleep,—the opposite to the soul’s [energy], but not inferior to it.

For that just as the soul is motion’s energy, so bodies also cannot live without [the help of] sleep.

For ’tis the relaxation and the recreation of the jointed limbs; it also operates within,

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converting into body the fresh supply of matter that flows in, apportioning to each its proper [kind],—the water to the blood, the earth to bones and marrow, the air to nerves and veins, the fire to sight. 1

Wherefore the body, too, feels keen delight in sleep, for it is sleep that brings this [feeling of] delight into activity.


Patrizzi’s title is by no means descriptive of the main contents of the excerpt, which is evidently from the Sermons of Hermes to Tat, and from the same collection of these from which Stobæus has taken the previous two extracts,—that is, presumably, the Expository Sermons.


31:1 That is, the Demiurge of our bodies, which are not everlasting.

31:2 The Sun, perhaps; cf. C. H., xvi. 18; and Ex., iii. 6 and iv. 2; and Lact., D. I., iv. 6.

31:3 σωματώσεως,—cf. Ex. viii. 5.

31:4 Sc. the elements.

32:1 σκῆνος,—used by Plato (ap. Clem. Alex., 703), and the Pythagoreans (Timæus Locr., 100 A, 101, C, E), and the Later Platonists, for the body as the tabernacle of the soul. See especially the response of the Oracle at Delphi, when consulted concerning the state of the soul of Plotinus after death, as quoted by Porphyry in his Life of Plotinus: “But now since thou hast struck thy tent, and left the tomb of thy angelic soul” (see my “Lives of the Later Platonists” in The Theosophical Review (July, 1896), xviii. 372. Cf. Ex. iii. 1 and 5; and C. H., xiii. (xiv.) 12 and 15.

32:2 Added by Heeren to complete the sense.

33:1 Cf. C. H., xvi. 7, note.

Next: Excerpt VIII. Of Energy and Feeling