Index  Previous  Next 

The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 3

by G.R.S. Mead

p. 65



(Patrizzi (p. 40) runs this on to the preceding without a break.

Text: Stob., Phys., xxxv. 7, under heading: “Of Hermes from the [Sermons] to Ammon”; G. pp. 291, 292; M. i. 203, 204; W. i. 289, 290.

Ménard, Livre IV., No. iv. of “Fragments of the Books of Hermes to Ammon,” pp. 261, 262.)

1. That which is moved is moved according to the operation of the motion that doth move the all.

For that the Nature of the all supplies the all with motion,—one [motion being] the [one] according to its 1 Power, the other that according to [its] Operation. 2

The former doth extend itself throughout the whole of Cosmos, and holdeth it together from within; the latter doth extend itself [around it], and encompasseth it from without. And these go everywhere together through all things.

p. 66

Now the [Productive] Nature 1 of all things supplies the things produced with [power of re-] production, sowing the seeds of its own self, [and] having its becomings 2 by means of moving matter.

2. And Matter being moved was heated and did turn to Fire and Water,—the one [being] strong and active, and the other passive.

And Fire opposed by Water was dried up by it, and did become Earth borne on Water.

And when it 3 was excessively dried up, 4 a vapour rose from out the three,—from Water, Earth and Fire,—and became Air.

The [Four] came into congress, [then,] according to the reason of the Harmony, 5—hot with cold, [and] dry with moist.

And from the union 6 of these [four] is spirit born, and seed proportionate to the surrounding Spirit.

This [spirit] falling in the womb does not remain inactive in the seed, but being active it transforms the seed, and [this] being [thus] transformed, develops growth and size.

p. 67

And as it grows in size, it draws unto itself a copy of a model, 1 and is modelled.

3. And on the model is the form supported,—by means of which that which is represented by an image is so represented.

Now, since the spirit in the womb had not the motion that maintaineth life, but that which causeth fermentation 2 [only], the Harmony composed the latter as the receptacle 3 of rational life. 4

This [life] is indivisible and changeless; it never changes from its changelessness.

It 5 ruleth the conception of the thing within the womb, by means of numbers, delivereth it, and bringeth it into the outer air.

The Soul 6 dwells very near to it 7;—not owing to some common property, but under the constraint of Fate; for that it has no love to be with body. 8

Wherefore, [the Harmony 9] according unto Fate doth furnish to the thing that’s born [its] 10

p. 68

rational motion, and the intellectual essence of the life itself.

For that [this 1] doth insinuate itself into the spirit, and set it moving with the motion of the life. 2


Patrizzi is evidently at fault in running this on to Ex. xiv. without a break. The subject again is not so much “Of Soul” as “Of Conception and Birth,” but as the general exposition falls in very well with the nature of the subjects treated in Exx. xiv. and xvi., we may keep the same general title, though we may be quite certain that it was not that of the original.

The exposition in § 2 is reminiscent of an apocalyptic style, and seems to be a Greek overworking of Egyptian ideas; for though the details are different and the precise meaning difficult to disentangle, the general point of view may be compared with the embryonic stages of incarnation given in the Pistis Sophia (pp. 344 ff.).


“Then the Rulers summon the workmen of their æons, to the number of three hundred and sixty-five, and hand over to them the soul and the counterfeit of the spirit bound together, the one to the other, the counterfeit of the spirit being outside the soul, and the

p. 69

compound of the power within the soul being inside both, that they may hold together.

“(345) And the Rulers give commandment to the workmen, saying: ‘This is the type which ye shall set in the body of the matter of the world. Set ye the compound of the power which is in the soul within all of them, that they may hold together, for it is their support, and outside the soul place the counterfeit of the spirit.’ This is the order which they have given to their workmen, that they may set the antitypes in bodies.

“Following this plan the workmen of the Rulers bring the power, the soul and the counterfeit of the spirit, and pour them all three into the world, passing through the world of the Rulers of the Midst.

“The Rulers of the Midst also inspect the counterfeit of the spirit and also the destiny. The latter, whose name is the destiny, leadeth on a man until it hath him killed by the death which is destined for him. This the Rulers of the Great Fate have bound to the soul.

“And the workmen of the Sphere bind the soul with the power, with the counterfeit of the spirit and with the destiny. And the whole is divided so as to form two parts, to surround the man and also the woman in the world, in whom the sign hath been set for them to be sent unto them. (346) And they give one part to the man and the other to the woman in the food of the world, either in the aery, or watery, or etheric substance which they imbibe. . . .

“Now, therefore, when the workmen of the Rulers have cast one part into the woman and the other into the man in the manner which I have just related, even though [the pair] be removed to a great distance from one another, the workmen compel them secretly to be

p. 70

united together in the union of the world. Then the counterfeit of the spirit which is in the male cometh unto the part [of itself] which hath been sent into the world in the matter of the body [of the man], and sacrificeth it and casteth it into the womb of the woman, a deposit of the seed of iniquity. And forthwith the three hundred and sixty-five workmen of the Rulers enter into her, to take up their abode in her. The workmen of the two parts are all there together.

“(347) And the workmen check the blood that cometh from all the nourishment that the woman eateth or drinketh, and keep it in the womb of the woman for forty days. And after forty days, they work the blood [that cometh] from the essence of all the nourishment, and work it together carefully in the woman’s womb.

“After forty days they spend another thirty days in building its members in the likeness of the body of a man; each buildeth a member. I will tell you of the decans who thus build [the body] . . . when I explain the emanation of the plērōma.

“Afterwards, when the workmen have completed the body entirely with all its members in seventy days, they summon into the body which they have builded, first the counterfeit of the spirit, next they summon the soul within those, and finally they summon the compound of the power within the soul, and the destiny they place outside all, for it is not blended with them, but followeth after and accompanieth them.”

(An elaborate account of the “sealing” of the members of the plasm is then given.)

“And when the number of the months of the child’s conception is full, the babe is born, the compound of the power being small in it, the soul being small in it, and the counterfeit of the spirit being small in it;

p. 71

whereas the destiny, being vast, is not mingled with the body, according to the regulation of the three (350), but followeth after the soul, the body and the counterfeit of the spirit, until the soul passeth from the body according to the type of death whereby he shall die according to what hath been decreed unto him by the Rulers of the Great Fate.”


65:1 Sc. Nature’s.

65:2 Or energy.

66:1 φύσις simply; but as there is a play in the original on the words φύσις, φύουσα, φυήν, and φυομένοις, I have tried to retain it in translation by a series of allied words.

66:2 γενέσεις.

66:3 Sc. Fire.

66:4 περιξηραινομένου.

66:5 Or law of Harmony,—κατὰ τὸν τῆς ἁρμονίας λόγον.

66:6 Lit. “breathing with one breath,”—ἐκ τῆς συμπνοίας—a wordplay on πνεῦμα (spirit). For “spirit,” cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 13, Comment., and Exx. xix. 3; iv. 2.

67:1 Or image of a figure,—εἴδωλον . . . σχήματος.

67:2 τὴν δὲ βραστικήν.

67:3 Or vehicle,—ὑποδοχήν.

67:4 τῦς διανοητικῆς ζωῆς,—of the purposive rational life, otherwise called the Harmony.

67:5 Sc. the Harmony.

67:6 Reading ψυχὴ for ψυχῇ.

67:7 The new-born babe.

67:8 Compare Plutarch, Frag., v. 9 (ed. Didot): “For you should know the intercourse and the conjunction of the soul with body is contrary to nature.”

67:9 It is not easy to disentangle the subjects of some of the above clauses.

67:10 Sc. the thing’s.

68:1 Sc. the rational movement.

68:2 ζωτικῶς,—this may perhaps have some reference to the circle of lives, or the zodiac.

Next: Excerpt XVI. Of Soul, III.