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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead

p. 457




Budge, in his Gods of the Egyptians (vol. i. ch. xvi.), tells us that the Great Triad of Memphis consisted of Ptaḥ, Sekhet, and I-em-ḥetep.

Ptaḥ, as we have seen, was the “Sculptor or Engraver,” the Demiurge par excellence. He is called the “Very Great God who came into being in the earliest time”; “Father of fathers, Power of powers”; “Father of beginnings and Creator of the Egg[s] of the Sun and Moon”; “Lord of Maāt [Truth], King of the Two Lands, the God of the Beautiful Face . . . who created His own Image, who fashioned His own Body, who hath established Maāt throughout the Two Lands”; “Ptaḥ the Disk of Heaven, Illuminer of the Two Lands with the Fire of His Two Eyes.” The “Workshop of Ptaḥ” was the World Invisible.

It was Ptaḥ who carried out the commands concerning the creation of the universe issued by Thoth.

The Syzygy or female counterpart of Ptaḥ was Sekhet, “who was at once his sister and wife, and the mother of his son Nefer-Tem, and a sister-form of the Goddess Bast” (op. cit., i. 514). She is called: “Greatly Beloved One of Ptaḥ, Lady of Heaven, Mistress of the Two Lands”; and one of her commonest names is “Nesert,” that is “Flame.”

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It was Thoth (Ṭekh) who, with his Seven Wise Ones, planned the world (ib., 516). But if Ptaḥ is the executive power of Thoth and his Seven Wise Ones, so is Thoth the personification of the Intelligence of Ptaḥ. It is in this way that Sekhet becomes identified with Maāt, the inseparable spouse of Thoth.


The third member of the Memphite Triad is Nefer-Tem, or the “Young Tem.” In the Ritual (Ch. lxxxi., version B) we read the “apology”: “Hail, thou Lotus, thou type of the God Nefer-Tem! I am he who knoweth you, and I know your name among the Gods, the Lords of the Underworld, and I am one of you.” Again, in Ch. clxxiv. 19, Nefer-Tem is compared with “the Lotus at the nostrils of Rā”; also, in Ch. clxxviii. 36, Nefer-Tem has the same title.

In the later texts Nefer-Tem is identified with many Gods, all of them forms of Horus or Thoth (ib., 522).

Here we are in contact with the Ptaḥ-tradition of Memphis which, we have seen, played an important part in the heredity of the cosmogenesis of our “Pœmandres” tractate. In it the simultaneous identification and distinction of Thoth and Ptaḥ and of Maāt and Sekhet are naturally explained, and the Son of these Powers is the Young Tem, identified with the Young Horus or Young Thoth who is to succeed his Father. Are we here on the track of the ancestry of our Tat?

At Heliopolis (Ȧnnu) the Ancient God Tem was equated with Rā. Tem was the Father-God, Lord of Heaven, and Begetter of the Gods (op. cit., i. 92, 93). Usertsen I. rebuilt the sanctuary of Heliopolis about

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[paragraph continues] 2433 B.C., and dedicated it to Rā in the two forms of Horus and Temu (ib., 330).

“Tem was the first living Man-God known to the Egyptians, just as Osiris was the first dead Man-God, and as such was always represented in human form and with a human head. . . .

“Tem was, in fact, to the Egyptians a manifestation of God in human form. . . . It is useless to attempt to assign a date to the period when the Egyptians began to worship God in human form, for we have no material for so doing; the worship of Tem must, however, be of very great antiquity, and the fact that the priests of Rā in the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties united him to their God under the name of Rā-Tem, proves that his worship was wide-spread, and that the God was thought to possess attributes similar to those of Rā” (ib., 349, 350).

In the Trismegistic tradition in which Thoth holds the chief place, the Young Tem would thus represent the Young Thoth who succeeded to his Father when that Father ascended to the Gods.


Moreover the Egyptian texts prove that besides Nefer-Tem still another Son of Ptaḥ was regarded as the third member of the Memphitic Triad. This Son was called I-em-ḥetep (or Imḥotep), whom the Greeks called Imouthēs or Imuth, and equated him with their Asclepius.

The name I-em-ḥetep means “He who cometh in Peace,” and is very appropriate to the God who brought the knowledge of Healing to mankind; but I-em-ḥetep, though specially the God of medicine, was also the God of study and learning in general.

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“As a God of learning he partook of some of the attributes of Thoth, and he was supposed to take the place of this God in the performance of funeral ceremonies, and in superintending the embalming of the dead; in later times he absorbed the duties of Thoth as ‘Scribe of the Gods,’ and the authorship of the words of power which protected the dead from enemies of every kind in the Underworld was ascribed to him” (ib., 522, 523).

In the “Ritual of Embalmment” 1 it is said to the Deceased: “Thy soul uniteth itself to I-em-ḥetep whilst thou art in the funeral valley.”

The oldest shrine of the God was situated close to Memphis, and was called the “Temple of I-em-ḥetep, the Son of Ptaḥ,” which the Greeks called the Asclēpieion.

Under Ptolemy IV., Philopator (222-205 B.C.), a temple was built to I-em-ḥetep on the Island of Philæ, and from the hieroglyphic inscriptions we learn that the God was called: “Great One, Son of Ptaḥ, the Creative God, made by Thenen, begotten by him and beloved by him, the God of divine forms in the temples, who giveth life to all men, the Mighty One of wonders, the Maker of times [?], who cometh unto him that calleth upon him wheresoever he may be, who giveth sons to the childless, the wisest and most learned one, the image and likeness of Thoth the Wise.” 2

Imḥotep-Asclepius was thus the “image and likeness of Thoth the Wise,” even as Nefer-Tem was

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[paragraph continues] Young Thoth. Here we have precisely the distinction drawn between Asclepius and Tat in our Trismegistic literature; Asclepius was trained in all philosophy, Tat was young and as yet untrained.

“I-em-ḥetep,” concludes Budge, “was the God who sent sleep to those who were suffering and in pain, and those who were afflicted with any kind of disease formed his special charge; he was the Good Physician both of Gods and men, and he healed the bodies of mortals during life, and superintended the arrangements for the preservation of the same after death. . . . He was certainly the God of physicians and of all those who were occupied with the mingled science of medicine and magic; and when we remember that several of the first Kings of the Early Empire are declared by Manetho, whose statements have been supported by the evidence of the papyri, to have written, i.e. caused to be edited, works on medicine, it is clear that the God of medicine was in Memphis as old as the archaic period” (ib., 524).

So much for the more important information that Budge has to offer us on the subject of Asclepius-Imuth from the side of pure Egyptian tradition—if we can use such a phrase of that tradition as strained through the sieve of almost purely physical interpretation. 1


And now let us turn to Reitzenstein and his instructive Dissertation, “Hermes u. Schüler” (pp. 117 ff.).

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Unquestionably the most general form of sermon found in the remains of our Trismegistic literature is that of instruction to Tat the “Son” of Hermes, who is “Father” and Initiator. Of these instructions two Corpora existed, namely, “The General Sermons” and “The Expository Sermons.”

The name Tat is, of course, a variant of Thoth (Teḥut); but whereas Hermes himself is always in such sermons characterised as Thrice-greatest, Tat has not yet reached to this grade of mastership; he is still “Young.”

The name “Tat” occurs in one of the prayers in the Magic Papyri, part of which is undecipherable, and can only be translated by following the conjecture of Reitzenstein (p. 117, n. 6).

“Show thyself unto me in thy prophetic power O God of mighty mind, Thrice-great Hermes! Let him who rules the four regions of the Heavens and the four foundations of the Earth appear. Be present unto me O thou in Heaven, be present unto me thou from the Egg. . . . Speak, the Two Gods also are round thee,—the one God is called Thāth and the other Haf.” 1

Spiegelberg equates Haf with Ḥpj, the “Genius of the Dead” who appears coupled with Thoth in a Coptic Magic Papyrus of the second century A.D., 2 where Isis speaks of “my father Ape-Thoth.” This thus seems to identify Haf with Anubis—that is, Harmanup or Horus as Anubis. And Anubis, as Hermes-Tat, was considered in Egyptian tradition to be a composer of sacred scripture. 3

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The prayer just cited appears to put us into contact with the atmosphere of some inner mysteries of spiritual instruction. The God or Spiritual Master contains in himself his disciple, or a duad or triad of disciples; the relationship of Master and disciple is of the most intimate nature; not only is it of that of father to son, but of mother to child—for the disciple is born in the womb of the Master Presence. The disciple is as it were his ka.

Thus for the Egyptians, as Sethe and others have pointed out, the wise priest, that is a priest truly initiated into the Wisdom, was regarded as an incarnation of Thoth, and such an one after the death of his body was worshipped as Thoth.

And so we find at Medinet Habu the remains of a shrine, erected in the time of Ptolemy IX. (Euergetes II.)—146-117 BC.—to a certain High Priest of Memphis, Teos, who is called “Teos the Ibis,” 1 that is Thoth, and so identified with Thoth himself.

What we learn from the general tradition of this belief in the “incarnation” of Thoth into the perfected disciple of Wisdom, and the ascription of sacred literature to similar though not identical God-names to that of Thoth himself, is that there was on the one

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hand a firm belief in the unity of the Thoth-tradition, and on the other a necessary division of the sacred literature into older and later periods. The Thoth of the older period was regarded as a God, the Thoth of more recent times as a God-man. 1 And so we find Plato in the famous passage of the Philebus, 18 B, uncertain whether to speak of Thoth as God or man.


In the known oldest references to the Thoth-Hermes literature, there has so far not been discovered anything that suggests the existence of a distinction between Hermes [Thoth] and Tat [Thoth]; but the absence of references proves little. Already, however, Nechepso and Petosiris, in the second century B.C., make Hermes the teacher of the younger God-disciples Anubis and Asclepius; in which connection it is of interest to note the following passage from a horoscope for the first year of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, 2 set up by the priests of Hermes at Thebes—the Greek of which is very faulty and evidently written by “Barbari”:

“After enquiry based on many books, handed down to us by the wise Ancients, the Chaldæans,—both Petosiris,and especially King Necheus [sic; i.e. Nechepso], in as much as they also took counsel of our Lord Hermes and of Asclepius, that is of Imouthēs, son of Hephēstus. . . .” 3

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From this we learn that in the second century A.D. the writings of Petosiris and Nechepso, together with the “Chaldæan Books,” still formed part of the Temple Library at Thebes; moreover, that Petosiris and Nechepso, in the second century B.C., based themselves on these Books as well as on Books ascribed to both Hermes and Asclepius. Moreover, from the Fragments of Nechepso 1 we learn that he had before him a sermon of Asclepius called Moirogenesis, concerning the Genesis of Fate, and also Dialogues in which Hermes instructs Asclepius and Anubis concerning the mysteries of astrology. These Trismegistic works must thus be dated prior to the beginning of the second century B.C.

Sethe, in his essay on Asclepius-Imhotep, has endeavoured to show that this Imuth was originally a man, and that divine honours were first paid to him in the reign of Amāsis (Amōsis—Ȧāḥ-mes), about 1700 B.C.


Manetho, however, tells us another story, when he writes of a certain king of the Third Dynasty (B.C. 3700): “Toso[r]thrus reigned twenty-nine years. He is called Asclepius by the Egyptians, for his medical knowledge. He built a house of hewn stones, and greatly patronised literature.” 2

Tosothrus is Tcheser or Tcheser-sa (Dośer), the second king of the Third Dynasty from Memphis. The “house of hewn stones” which he built, received remarkable confirmation from the excavations which were carried out by the Prussian General Minutoli in 1819, 3 in the Step-Pyramid of Ṣaḳḳāra. This temple,

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says Budge (op. cit., i. 219) “is certainly the oldest of all the large buildings which have successfully resisted the action of wind and weather, and destruction by the hand of man.”

In the Inscription of the Seven Famine Years, 1 moreover, belonging in its present form to the later Ptolemaic period, but a copy of a far more ancient record, we read, in Sethe’s restored Greek text:

“Tosothrus, in whose days (lived) Imouthēs. He was considered by the Egyptians to be Asclepius because of his knowledge of the healing art; he discovered the art of building with hewn stones, and, moreover, occupied himself with literature.”

We thus learn that long before Manetho’s time there was an Asclepian literature, and not only did this deal with medicine but also with scripture in general and with “masonry.”


That Asclepius was specially occupied with the sacred building-art, may be seen from Sethe’s study, whose industry has discovered a book on Temple-building ascribed to Imuth, a “Book that came from Heaven northwards from Memphis.” It was according to this Book that Ptolemy X. (Soter II.) and Ptolemy XI. (Alexander I.) enlarged the building of their ancestors at Edfu, “in agreement with the writing concerning the plans of the Temple of Horus, which the chief prelector of the priests, Imhotp, the son of Ptaḥ, had written.”

There were also certain very ancient Sermons (or Songs) of Imhotp, and a saying from one of these

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[paragraph continues] Sermons, the “Song from the House of King Intf,” is given by Sethe as follows:

“I have heard the words of Imhotp and Hardadaf; they are still much spoken of, but where are their abodes?”

Perhaps this explains the statement in S. H. I. (Stob., Ec., i. 49; W. p. 467, 4) that Asclepius-Imuth was the inventor of poetry. Imuth was to the Egyptians what Orpheus, Linus or Musæus was to the Greeks.

And so Reitzenstein (p. 121) concludes that the tradition of the old Egyptian and Hellenistic literature is unbroken. In Hellenistic times this view of the Divine Son of Ptaḥ of Memphis and of his chief Shrine at Memphis spread widely, and his cult was extended to Thebes and even to Philæ. At Thebes he appears united with the Theban Thoth and his younger likeness or image Amenhotep—the twin-brother of Imhotep (Asclepius) Son of Hapu, who is said to have lived as a man under King Amenophis III. (Ȧmen-ḥetep), 1450 B.C., and who tells us himself how he became acquainted with the “Book of God” and saw in vision the “Pre-eminence of Thoth.” 1

The chief Temple of Asclepius at Memphis was still honoured in later times, and even in the days of Jerome its priesthood was renowned for its occult wisdom. 2


Of the Cult of Æsculapius in Greece and of the widespread influence of this ideal there is little need to remind the student of the comparative history of religions; we cannot, however, refrain from appending a paragraph

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from a remarkable address recently delivered by the Rev. J. Estlin Carpenter to the students of Manchester College, Oxford, 1 in which he says:

“Pass beyond the limits of Israel and its hopes, and you enter a world of religious phenomena, so varied as to be practically inexhaustible, and all the patient labour of the last thirty years has only begun to exhibit to us its contents. At every turn you are confronted with beliefs resembling those which pervade our New Testament, so that Prof. Cheyne has recently attempted in a very remarkable little volume, Bible Problems, to trace archæologically the roots of four great doctrines associated with the person of Jesus—the Virgin Birth, the Descent into Hades, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. The inscriptions reveal to you the very language of Christianity in the making. The hymns and liturgies of other faiths derive their strength from similar ideas, and express similar aspirations. Does Jesus, according to the Gospels, give sight to the blind, and call the dead back to life? So does Æsculapius. He, too, is wondrously born; he, too, is in danger in his infancy. He, too, heals the sick and raises the dead, till Zeus, jealous of this infringement of his prerogatives, smites him with his thunderbolt, and translates him to the world above. But from his heavenly seat he continues to exercise his healing power. His worship spreads all through Greece. After a great plague in Rome, in 291 B.C., it is planted on a sacred island in the Tiber. In the first century of our era you may follow it all round the Eastern Mediterranean. In Greece alone Pausanias mentions sixty-three Asklepieia. There were others in Asia Minor, Egypt, Sicily; nearly two hundred being still traceable. They were both

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sanctuaries and medical schools. A number of inscriptions relate details of cures, or consecrate the ex-votos, which are still dedicated at Loretto or Lourdes. The temple by the Tiber won special fame in the reign of Antoninus Pius, for the restoration of the sight of a blind man. Æsculapius himself bears the titles ‘king’ and θεὸς σωτήρ, ‘divine saviour.’ He was even σωτὴρ τῶν ὅλων, ‘saviour of the universe.’ In his cosmic significance he was thus identified-with Zeus himself, and on earth he was felt to be ‘most loving to man’ (cp. Tit. iii. 4). Harnack, in one of the fascinating chapters of his Expansion of Christianity, has traced the action of these influences on later Christianity conceived as a religion of healing or salvation, medicine alike of body and of mind. It must be enough now to remind you that the god was believed to reveal himself to those who sought his aid, and Origen affirms that a great multitude, both of Greeks and barbarians, acknowledge that they ‘have frequently seen, and still see, no mere phantom, but Æsculapius himself, healing and doing good, and foretelling the future.’”

But to pass on to the Trismegistic Asclepius.


Asclepius comes forward in our literature as the type of a disciple of Trismegistus already trained in philosophy. This prior training must presumably be referred to the Ptah-tradition—Ptah being himself a God of Revelation, that is of teaching by means of apocalypsis, and Asclepius being originally his “son” and “priest.” But not only was Ptah a God of apocalypsis generally, but also a God of medicine, as he must needs have been for his son to have learned his wisdom from him.

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[paragraph continues] This view is brought out in a Hellenistic text which reads as follows:

“A Remedy from the shrines of Hephæstus [Ptah] at Memphis interpreted by the decision and owing to the philanthropy, they say, of Thrice-greatest Hermes; for he decided that it should be published with a view to man’s saving. It was found on a golden tablet written in Egyptian characters.” 1

The tradition of the date when Asclepius was admitted to the Trismegistic discipline is given in K. K., 3 (Stob., Ec., i. 49; W. p. 387, 1). After the ascension of Hermes, we are told:

“To him succeeded Tat, who was at once his son and heir unto these knowledges; and not long afterwards Asclepius-Imuth, according to the will of Ptah who is Hephæstus.”

What precise historical worth this tradition may contain, it is impossible to say; all we can suppose is that there was at some early date a union of two schools of mystic discipline belonging respectively to the Thebaic and Memphitic traditions. This union may have been somewhat analogous to that of the disciples of John the Baptist and of Jesus. What is clear, however, from our Trismegistic writings, is that there is no doubt whatever in the writer’s mind that the Trismegistic tradition is in possession of the higher wisdom; and, indeed, C. H., xiii. (xiv.) distinctly allows us to conclude that though. Tat was younger, in so far as he had not the technical training of the Asclepius-grade, it is nevertheless Tat, when he reaches “manhood,” and not Asclepius, who succeeds to the mastership of the School.

Nevertheless we find a number of Trismegistic writings, presupposed especially in “The Definitions of

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[paragraph continues] Asclepius” and in “The Perfect Sermon,” in which both Tat and Asclepius share in a common instruction—Asclepius appearing as the older and riper scholar.

This makes Reitzenstein (p. 122) suppose that this type of what we may call a company of two disciples was invented by the Hermes priests at Thebes, and that it was later on taken over by the Memphitic Ptah-Asclepius priests and developed in their own interest.

This may be so if we must be compelled to speculate on the dim shades of history which may be recovered from these obscure indications.


Of the Trismegistic writings of Asclepius, Lactantius (D. I., ii. 15, 7) mentions a “Perfect Sermon” to the King (Ammon), 1 and also refers to a rich ancient literature by Asclepius addressed to the same king.

Reitzenstein (p. 123), moreover, says that C. H., (xvii.) presupposes writings addressed to the same King Ammon by Tat; but I gather that the persons of the dialogue are really Asclepius and the King, and not Tat, and that Tat has been substituted for Asclepius by some copyist in error.

However this may be, there was a large literature addressed by Hermes himself to Ammon, as we may see from the distinct statement in P. S. A., i. 2, and also from Stobæus, Exx. xii.-xix. The same tradition is preserved in the presumably later Hermetic treatise, Iatromathematica, which is also addressed to Ammon. 2

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Here, then, we have another type of literature, and that, too, very ancient, in which the wise Priest and Prophet is set over against the King as teacher or discoverer of hidden wisdom. This we have already seen to have been the relationship between the Priest and Prophet Petosiris and King Nechepso. But the type goes still further back to pre-Greek times in Egypt. It was, as we have learned from Plutarch, who probably hands on the information direct from Manetho, a necessity that the King, to be a true King, should be initiated into the wisdom of the Priests.

As we have already seen, Imuth-Asclepius appears in Manetho as an inventor, so also in the charming story put into the mouth of Socrates by Plato in his Phædrus (274 C) about “the famous old God whose name was Theuth,”—Thoth is the inventor par excellence. In this story—which elicits the remark from Phædrus: “Yes, Socrates, you can easily invent tales of Egypt, or of any other country”—Thoth takes his inventions to a certain King Thamus for his approval or disapproval, as to whether or no the Egyptians might be allowed the benefit of them. This Thamus was “King of the whole country of Egypt, and dwelt in that great city of upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the God Himself is called by them Ammon.”

In Hecatæus, also, Osiris, King of Thebes, has all inventions laid before him, and gives special honour to Hermes whose inventions were far and wide renowned. 1

In this connection it is to be noted that in the Theban Thoth-cult, Thoth was regarded as the Representative

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of the King and Light-God Rā (or Ammon). And so we read on the tomb of Seti I.:

“Thou art in my place, my representative. Wherefore are thou moreover called Thoth, Representative of the Light-God Rā.” 1

From these and other indications it is quite possible to conclude that Plato has used an ancient Egyptian logos as the basis of his story, and that this logos at a very early period found an echo in written instructions given by Thoth to the King.

All this took place on purely Egyptian ground, and hence the type of instruction from Thoth-Hermes to Ammon was fairly established in tradition before it was taken over by our Hellenistic Trismegistic writers.


So far, however, I believe, no reference to books written by Imhotep (Asclepius) to Ammon in the pre-Greek period has been discovered. Sethe, 2 however, tells us that a certain Amenhotep who lived as early as the fifteenth century B.C., was a disciple and seer of Thoth. This Amenhotep was famous as a teacher of wisdom and discoverer of magic books; he was probably also renowned for his own writings as well. Gradually this Amenhotep became blended with Imhotep-Asclepius as his twin-brother, and finally in Ptolemaic times received divine honours at Thebes. Here, then, we have the blending in of another tradition, of a writer of books who was a disciple of Thoth, and was gradually confounded with Asclepius-Imuth, son of Ptah. And that there were two Asclepiuses, an older and a later, we are told distinctly by P. S. A., xxxvii. 3.

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Of the Sayings of this Asclepius a Greek porcelain 1 gives us some idea. The first three Sayings, however, are simply taken from the Sayings of the Seven Sages of Greece; the rest may be partially Egyptian. This scrap of evidence, however, is of importance; for already in the third century B.C., Orphic Sayings are known to have been worked up with Egyptian material, and here we have Greek gnomic material blended with an Egyptian Imuth-tradition of Sayings.

Perhaps still more careful research may reward us with further side-lights on the development of this Asclepius-literature prior to the Greek period, and in its earliest Hellenistic forms. As it is, we are left with the impression that the traces which have been already discovered, justify the remarks made by the writer of our Trismegistic “Definitions of Asclepius unto the King” or “The Perfect Sermon of Asclepius unto the King”—C. H., (xvi.)—as based upon a well-established tradition in the School, concerning the change brought about by putting the Egyptian forms of the Asclepian writings, which were of a very mystical nature, into the more precise forms of the Greek tongue.


What, however, is clear in “The Perfect Sermon” of Hermes himself, where he gives instruction to his three disciples, Asclepius, Tat and Ammon, assembled in the “holy place,” is that the history of the matter is of small moment to the writer of that Sermon. He is dealing with the inner and more intimate side of the teaching. Asclepius, Tat and Ammon are for him the sacred triad, forming with the Master himself the “sacred group of four” (P. S. A., i. 2).

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With this we may very well compare the group of three made so familiar to us by the Evangelists—the three who were always with the Master in the most intimate moments of His inner life and exaltation—James, John and Peter.

Now, if the reader will refer to my notes on the last paragraph of Hippolytus’ Introduction to the Naassene document, he will see that Clement of Alexandria expressly asserts that:

“The Lord imparted the Gnosis to James the Just, to John and Peter, after His Resurrection; these delivered it to the rest of the Apostles, and they to the Seventy.”


Here I would suggest that we have a similarity of conception. Asclepius is the main subsequent teacher, even as James is, in Christian tradition; Peter is the organiser, to whom the rulership over the Church is given—he represents the king-power, and may be equated with Ammon; while John is the Beloved even as is Tat.

John understands the spirit of the teaching best of all; James is more learned on the formal side; while Peter is the organiser, and in many an apocryphal story is made to display lack of control and want of understanding.

A most interesting scrap of Johannine tradition will throw some further light on the fact that John succeeded to the spiritual directorship, even as Tat, in our sermons, succeeds to Trismegistus.

This scrap is an addition to John xvii. 26, from a Codex of the Fourth Gospel, preserved in the Archives of the Templars of St John of Jerusalem in Paris: 1

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“Ye have heard what I said unto you: I am not of this world, the Comforter is among you, teach through the Comforter. As the Father has sent Me, even so send I you. Amen, I say unto you, I am not of this world; but John shall be your father, till he shall go with Me into Paradise. And He anointed them with the Holy Spirit.”

So also in an addition to John xix. 26-30, we read:

“He saith to His mother, Weep not; I go to My Father and to Eternal Life. Behold thy son! He will keep My place. Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! Then bowing His head He gave up the Ghost.”

Here then at the Supreme Crisis the Master constitutes John the spiritual Father of the School in His place. So is it with Tat.


The idea of triads and other groups (e.g. of five and seven) united in the Presence of a Master, is familiar to the student of Druidical mysticism. In our “Perfect Sermon” we have such a triad, each disciple distinguished by strongly-marked characteristics; the tuning of these into one harmony, so that, to use another and a familiar simile, the disciples may be as the fingers of one hand, for the Master’s use, is a matter of enormous difficulty. One is characterised by Power, another by Knowledge, and another by Love. All three must sink their individually strongest characteristic in a supreme sacrifice, where all blend together into the Wisdom of the Master. This seems to me to be the inner purport of our “Perfect Sermon,” and whatever may be the history of the evolution of the

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forms of the literature, the eternal fact of the nature of the intimate teaching of the Christ to the Three was known to our writer.


Let us now turn to the type of Trismegistic literature in which Osiris and Isis came forward as disciples; and first of all let us take a glance at the God Chnum, Chnubis, or Chnuphis (Knuphis), whose name occurs in so many of the Abraxas and Abraxoid gems.

Chnum was for Southern Egypt precisely what Ptah of Memphis was for Northern Egypt. He was the Fashioner of men, even as a potter makes pots on a wheel. Chnum was Demiurge and God of the heart. The chief centre of his cult was at Syene and the Island of Elephantine. Here he was regarded as the Father of Osiris. And so we hear of astrological dialogues between Chnum and Osiris, as, for instance, when we are told:

“And all that Kouphis, who is with them [the Egyptians], the Good Daimon, handed on, and his disciple Osiris philosophized.” 1

These writings were grouped with those of Nechepso, and also with our Trismegistic writings. Compare the passage in Firmicus Maternus which runs:

“All things which Mercurius (Hermes) and Chnubis [?] handed on to Æsculapius (Asclepius), which Petosiris discovered and Nechepso.” 2

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The Patristic references to our Trismegistic literature further imform us that Osiris was regarded as the disciple of Agathodaimon, who in them bears the name of Thrice-greatest. 1 There is, however, nothing to show that Hermes himself appears in them as the disciple of Chnubis, as Reitzenstein says (p. 126). The introductory phrase of Lactantius to Frag. xix. runs: “But I [L.] will call to mind the words of Hermes the Thrice-greatest; in the ‘To Asclepius’ he says: ‘Osiris said: How, then, O thou Thrice-greatest, [thou] Good Daimon, did Earth in its entirety appear?’”

Here we have a sermon of Hermes quoting from a tradition in which Osiris appears as the disciple of Agathodaimon, who is also called Trismegistus; that is, the Agathodaimon-Osiris Dialogue type was old, and presumably pertained to one of the earliest forms of the Trismegistic literature, probably contemporary with the most ancient Pœmandres type. This type seems to have borne impressions of the form of the “Books of the Chaldæans” type of cosmogenesis, which we have seen to have strongly influenced Petosiris and Nechepso in the early second century B.C.

Agathodaimon is to Osiris as Pœmandres to Hermes.


So also in the early Alchemical literature there is a treatise of Agathodaimon addressed to Osiris, and in it others are presupposed. 2 These Alchemical teachings of the Good Daimon are frequently in close contact with

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our Trismegistic doctrines; moreover, in the same literature, Hermes refers to Agathodaimon and appears to regard himself as his disciple. 1 It thus may be supposed that it was from Chnum that was originally derived the tradition of the Agathodaimonites. So thinks Reitzenstein; but I do not think that we have sufficient evidence as yet for so general a conclusion. The term Agathodaimon is a very general one, it is true, but the whole idea cannot be refunded into Chnum; in fact, Osiris is quite as much Agathodaimon as Chnum, and in C. H., xii. (xiii.), which deals with the General Mind, Good Mind, or Good Daimon, Agathodaimon is taken in the most general sense, and in the three quotations there made by Hermes from the “Sayings of the Good Daimon” (§§ 1, 8, 13), 2 we find that they are in the words of Heracleitus as inspired by the Logos; so that in reality Agathodaimon must be equated with Logos. The origin of Agathodaimon is then not solely Chnum; and Hermes therefore cannot be spoken of as the disciple of Chnubis, unless we can cite texts in which Thoth is so described.

In our Trismegistic literature the teaching is quite simple and distinct; as, for instance, in C. H., x. (xi.) 23: “He [Mind] is the Good Daimon.”

When, however, Reitzenstein (p. 128) declares that the sentence in § 25 of the same sermon, “For this cause can a man dare say that man on earth is God subject to death, while God in heaven is man from death immune,” 3 is a saying belonging to the

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[paragraph continues] Chnuphis-literature, we think he is going beyond the limits of probable conjecture, unless we substitute for Chnuphis the general term Agathodaimon in the sense of Logos.

When again Reitzenstein (p. 129) says that the fragments he has adduced show that Hermes was a later addition in the Agathodaimon-literature, and gradually pushed on one side Osiris the Son of the God of Revelation, we are not convinced that we have correctly recovered the “history”—for in the great Osiris-myth it is Hermes who is always the teacher of wisdom and not Osiris.


Nevertheless that a wide-spread Chnuphis-literature, in the Agathodaimonistic sense, existed prior to the second century B.C., Reitzenstein has shown by a number of interesting quotations (pp. 129-133). In Hellenistic times the worship of Chnuphis as the Primal Deity and God of Revelation was strongly established, and, most interesting of all for us, his symbol was the serpent. The symbol, then, of Agathodaimon as Logos was the Serpent of Wisdom, and we are in contact with the line of tradition of the Gnostic Ophites and Naassenes. And so also in Ptolemaic times we find his syzygy, Isis, also symbolised as a serpent, and both of them frequently as serpents with human heads; they are both “as wise as serpents.” And as Horus was their son, so we find the hawk-headed symbol of that God united with a serpent body. So also we find Agathodaimon, in his sun-aspect, symbolised as a serpent with a lion’s head. 1 He is the Æon.

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In addition to the types of Hermes and his disciples, and Agathodaimon and his disciples, we have also in our Trismegistic literature another type—namely, Isis and her disciples. Isis is the ancient Lady of all wisdom, and Teacher of all magic. In the early Hellenistic period she is substituted for Hermes as Orderer of the cosmos, 1 while Plutarch calls her Lady of the Heart and Tongue even as is Hermes. 2 She “sees” the teaching.

As her disciple, she has in the Stobæan Ex. xxxi. 3 a king, probably King Ammon.

In a Magic Papyrus she even appears as teacher of Asclepius. 4 But the more usual and natural type is that of Isis as teacher of her son Horus, and so we find Lucian speaking of Pythagoras visiting Egypt to learn wisdom of her prophets, and saying that the sage of Samos descended into the adyta and learned the Books of Horus and Isis. 5 To this type of literature belongs our lengthy Stobæan Exx. xxv.-xxvii.

But in all of this Isis owes her wisdom to face to face instruction by the most ancient Hermes, with whom she gets into contact through spiritual vision. All this I have discussed in the Commentaries to Exx. xxv.-xxvii.; the conclusion being that to the mind of the Pœmandrists, no matter how ancient might be any line of tradition, whether of Agathodaimon or Osiris or Isis, the direct teaching of the Mind transcended it.


460:1 See Maspero, op. cit., p. 80. Which of the numerous opp. citt. of Maspero’s this may be is not clear from Budge’s reference.

460:2 Cf. Brugsch, Thesaurus, p. 783; Religion, p. 527. Sethe, Imhotep, 1903—so Budge; but, more accurately, Sethe (K.), Untersuchungen zur Geschichte und Altertumskunde Ägyptens, ii. 4 (“Imhotep, der Asklepios der Ägypter”).

461:1 For Asclepius among the Greeks, see Thraemer’s article “Asklepios” in Reseller’s Lex. d. . . . Mythologie (Leipzig, 1884-1900), i. 615-641; also the “Cornell Studies in Classical Philosophy,” No. III., The Cult of Asklepios, by Alice Walton, Ph.D. (Ithaca, N.Y., U.S.A., 1894).

462:1 Wessely, Denkschr. d. K. K. Akad. (1893), p. 38, 11. 550 ff.; Kenyon, Cat. of Gk. Pap., p. 102.

462:2 Griffith, in Zeitschr. f. äg. Sprache (1900), p. 90.

462:3 According to Manetho; see Müller, Manetho Fragm., 4.

463:1 Teephibis. Cf. Catal. Cod. Astral. Græc., i. 167: “Hermes Phibi the Thrice-greatest.” Sethe (op. sup. cit.) would equate this Teephibis with Hermes of Thebes, in connection with the statement of Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I. xxi. 134): “Of those, too, who once lived as men among the Egyptians, but who have been made Gods by human opinion, are Hermes of Thebes and Asclepius of Memphis.” If this is correct, we have our Trismegistus nourishing as Teephibis at the end of the second century B.C. But there seems to my mind to be nothing definite in Sethe’s contention.

464:1 There is also an older and younger Isis in the K. K. extracts, and also in both these and in P. S. A. an older and younger Asclepius.

464:2 R. (p. 119) has “des Kaisers Antonius”; but I know of no Emperor so called. The first years of Antoninus Pius would be 138-139 A.D.

464:3 Pap. du Louvre, 19 bis, Notices et Extraits, xviii. 2, 136.

465:1 Riess, Fr. 25.

465:2 Cory, An. Frags., p. 100. Budge, A History of Egypt (London, 1902), i. 218.

465:3 Reise zum Tempel des Jupiter Ammon, pp. 296 ff.

466:1 A rock inscription found on the cataract island Sehêl. R., p. 129.

467:1 R., p. 124. Cf. Sethe, Ægyptiaca, Festschrift für G. Ebers, pp. 106 ff.

467:2 Ammian. Marc., xxii. 14. 7; Vit, Hil., 21.

468:1 “Christianity in the Light of Historical Science,” in The Examiner (London), Oct. 21, 1905, pp. 668 ff.

470:1 Cod. Antinori 101, fol. 361.

471:1 Probably our C. H. (xvi.).

471:2 Camerarius, Astrologica (Nürnberg, 1537); Hermetis Iatromath., ed. Hoeschel (1597); Ideler, Physici et Medici Græci Minores, i. 387 and 430. Iatromathematici were those who practised medicine in conjunction with astrology, as was done in Egypt (Procl., Paraph. Ptol., p. 24).

472:1 Diodor., I. 15, 16.

473:1 Brugsch, Religion u. Myth. d. alt. Äg., p. 451.

473:2 Op. sup. cit., ibid.

474:1 Published by Wilcken in the “Festschrift für Ebers,” pp. 142 ff.

475:1 Given by Thilo, Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti (Leipzig, 1832), p. 880. Cf. Pick (B.), The Extra-Canonical Life of Christ (New York, 1903), p. 279.

477:1 Cramer, Anecd. Ox., iii. 171, 20.

477:2 Fir. Mat., iv. proœm. 5 (Skutsch and Kroll, p. 196, 21). The “and Chnubis” is the emendation of R. for the unintelligible letters “einhnusuix.”

478:1 Cf. Lactantius Fragg., xiv., xix., xxi., xxii.

478:2 Berthelot, Les Alchimistes grecs, Texte, p. 268.

479:1 Op. cit., pp. 125, 156-263.

479:2 We meet with a similar collection of Sayings, or Summaries of the chief points of teaching, in the Stobæan Ex. i. 7 ff., belonging to the Tat-literature, and also in (C. H., x. (xi.), xiv. (xv.), and (xvi.).

479:3 A very similar phrase occurs in Dio Cassius, Fr. 30; i. 87, ed. Boiss.

480:1 See the Nechepso Fragment 29 (Riess, p. 379).

481:1 R., Zwei relig. Frag., 104 ff.

481:2 De Is. et Os., xlviii.

481:3 With heading: “Of Hermes from the [Sermon] of Isis to Horus.”

481:4 Wessely, Denkschr. d. K. K. Akad. (1893), p. 41, 1. 633.

481:5 Alectruon, 18.