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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead



The redactor of our Corpus must have taken this sermon from some collection of “Those to Tat,” for it begins “καὶ τόνδε σοι τὸν λόγον.” One other sermon at least, then, must have preceded it; but whether it was our C. H., iv. (v.), “The Cup,” or the lost C. H. (ii.), “The General Sermon,” it is impossible to say.

The sermon bears no title proper, and the enunciation of the subject, which stands in its place, is derived from the second sentence of the treatise itself, and has plainly been superscribed by some later Byzantine editor.


The opening paragraphs of this fine tractate are very difficult to render into English in any way that can preserve the subtle shades of meaning of the Greek. As this subtle word-play has been entirely missed by all previous translators, I have made a rough attempt to preserve it by using the somewhat clumsy term “manifest.” The word-play in Greek may be seen

p. 107

from the following list of the original terms taken in the order of their occurrence: ἀφανές, φανερώτατον, ἐμφανές, φαινόμενον, ἐφάνη, ἀφανές, φανῆναι, φανερά, ἀφανής, φανερῶν, φανεροῦται, φαντασίᾳ, φαντασιῶν, φαντασία, ἀφαντασίαστος καὶ ἀφανής, φαντασιῶν, φαίνεται, φανῆναι. These all occur in § 1 and the first two lines of § 2.

I have translated φαντασία by “thinking-manifest,” seeing that it is the power by which an object is made apparent or manifest. The doctrine is the same as that of the Vedānta philosophy, the Māyā of the Vedāntavādins. Māyā is generally translated “illusion,” but this is not a good equivalent, for it comes from the root ma, to make or measure. The Logos is called in the Vedānta, Māyin (masc.), the Maker, Measurer, or Creator, and His Power, or Shakti, is Māyā (fem.). It is the Power of the Divine Thought, and so far from being illusion in any ordinary sense of the word, is very real for us, and is only non-real as compared to the Logos Himself, the One Reality in the highest philosophical sense of the term.

The idea is magnificently summed up for us in a logos of Phōsilampēs, 1 quoted by the redactor of the Untitled Apocalypse of the Codex Brucianus, which runs as follows:

“Through Him is that-which-really-is and that-which-really-is-not, through which the Hidden-which-really-is and the Manifest-which-really-is-not exists.”

Also compare Hippolytus’ summary of the “Simonian” Gnosis:

“Of this Twofold Nature he calls the one side the Hidden and the other the Manifest, saying that the concealed [parts] of the Fire are hidden in the manifest, and the manifest produced by the concealed. . . .

p. 108

“And the manifest side of the Fire has all things in itself which a man can perceive of things visible, or which he unconsciously fails to perceive. Whereas the hidden side is everything that we can conceive as intelligible, . . . or which a man fails to conceive.” 1

2. “The Lord begrudgeth not Himself to any thing.” Compare this with C. H., iv. (v.) 3: “Not that He grudgeth any, for grudging cometh not from Him”; and compare both with the saying of Plato in the Timæus (29 E):

“He was Good, and to the Good there can never at any time be any grudging of aught.”


10. With the soul-satisfying pantheism of § 10 we may with interest compare the address to the Logos in The Martyrdom of Peter, which still retains many Gnostic elements.

“Thou that art to be understood by spirit alone! Thou art my father, Thou my mother, Thou my brother, Thou my friend, Thou my servant, Thou my master. Thou art the all, and all is in Thee. Yea, all that is, is Thou; and there is nothing else that is but Thee alone!” 2


The treatise ends with one of the most magnificent Hymns to God ever written in any language—a hymn which some foolish copyist has spoilt by tagging on to it the gloss of a reader noted on the margin of the MS. from which our scribe copied.

p. 109

With the sentence: “All are in Thee, all are from Thee,” compare the Naassene Hymn (quoted in Hippolytus’ Introduction, in “The Myth of Man”):

“‘From Thee’ is Father, and ‘Through Thee,’ Mother,—the two Immortal Names, Parents of Æons, O Thou who hast the Heaven for Thy City, O Man of Mighty Names!”


107:1 Perhaps a by-name of Basilides; see F. F. F., p. 554.

108:1 Hipp., Philos., vi. 9; see my Simon Magus (London, 1892), p. 13.

108:2 Lipsius (R. A.) and Bonnet (M.), Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha (Leipzig, 1891), i. 98.

Next: VI. (VII.) In God Alone is Good and Elsewhere Nowhere