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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead

2. [VI. M.] The Lord of the Eternity 3 is the first God; the second’s Cosmos; man is the third. 4

God is the Maker of the Cosmos and of all the things therein; at the same time He ruleth 5 all, with man himself, [who is] the ruler of the compound thing 6; the whole of which man taking on himself, doth make of it the proper care of his own love, in order that the two of them, himself and Cosmos, may be an ornament each unto other; so that from this divine compost of man, “World” seems most fitly called “Cosmos” 7 in Greek.

3. He knows himself; he knows the World as

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well. 1 So that he recollects, indeed, what is convenient to his own parts. He calls to mind what he must use, that they may be of service to himself; giving the greatest praise and thanks to God, His Image 2 reverencing,—not ignorant that he is, too, God’s image the second [one]; for that there are two images of God—Cosmos and man. 3

4. So that it comes to pass that, since man’s is a single structure,—in that part [of him] which doth consist of Soul, and Sense, of Spirit, and of Reason, he’s divine; so that he seems to have the power to mount from as it were the higher elements into the Heaven.

But in his cosmic part, which is composed of fire, and water, and of air, he stayeth mortal on the Earth,—lest he should leave all things committed to his care forsaken and bereft.

Thus human kind is made in one part deathless, and in the other part subject to death while in a body.


1. Now of that dual nature,—that is to say of man,—there is a chief capacity. [And that is] piety, which goodness follows after.

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[And] this [capacity] then, and then only, seems to be perfected, if it be fortified with virtue of despising all desires for alien things.

For alien from every part of kinship with the Gods 1 are all things on the Earth, whatever are possessed from bodily desires,—to which we rightly give the name “possessions,” in that they are not born with us, but later on begin to be possessed by us; wherefore we call them by the name possessions. 2

2. All such things, then, are alien from man,—even his body. So that we can despise not only what we long for, but also that from which the vice of longing comes to us.

For just as far as the increase of reason leads our 3 soul, so far one should be man; in order that by contemplating the divine, one should look down upon, and disregard the mortal part, which hath been joined to him, through the necessity of helping on the lower 4 world.

3. For that, in order that a man should be complete in either part, observe that he hath

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been composed of elements of either part in sets of four;—with hands, and feet, both of them pairs, and with the other 1 members of his body, by means of which he may do service to the lower (that is to say the terrene) world.

And to these parts [are added other] four;—of sense, and soul, of memory, and foresight, by means of which he may become acquainted with the rest of things divine, and judge of them.

Hence it is brought about that man investigates the differences and qualities, effects and quantities of things, with critical research; yet, as he is held back with the too heavy weight of body’s imperfection, he cannot properly descry the causes of the nature of [all] things which [really] are the true ones.

4. Man, then, being thus created and composed, and to such ministry and service set by Highest God,—man, by his keeping suitably the world in proper order, [and] by his piously adoring God, in both becomingly and suitably obeying God’s Good Will,—[man being] such as this, with what reward think’st thou he should be recompensed?

If that, indeed,—since Cosmos is God’s work,—he who preserves and adds on to its beauty

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by his love, joins his own work unto God’s Will; when he with toil and care doth fashion out the species 1 (which He hath made [already] with His Divine Intent), with help of his own body;—with what reward think’st thou he should be recompensed, unless it be with that with which our forebears 2 have been blest?

5. That this may be the pleasure of God’s Love, such is our prayer for you, devoted ones.

In other words, may He, when ye have served your time, and have put off the world’s restraint, and freed yourselves from deathly bonds, restore you pure and holy to the nature of your higher self, 3 that is of the Divine!


1. Asc. Rightly and truly, O Thrice-greatest one, thou speakest. This is the prize for those who piously subordinate their lives to God and live to help the world.

Tris. [To those], however, who have lived in other fashion impiously,—[to them] both is return to Heaven denied, and there’s appointed them migration into other bodies 4 unworthy of a holy soul and base; so that, as this discourse

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of ours will show, 1 souls in their life on earth run risk of losing hope of future immortality.

2. But [all of this] doth seem to some beyond belief; a tale to others; to others [yet again], perchance, a subject for their mirth. 2

For in this life in body, it is a pleasant thing—the pleasure that one gets from one’s possessions. 3 ’Tis for this cause that spite, in envy of its [hope of] immortality, doth clap the soul in prison, 4 as they say, and keep it down, so that it stays in that part of itself in which it’s mortal, nor suffers it to know the part of its divinity.

3. For I will tell thee, as though it were prophetic-ly, 5 that no one after us 6 shall have the Single Love, the Love of wisdom-loving, 7 which consists in Gnosis of Divinity alone,—[the practice of] perpetual contemplation and of holy piety. For that the many do confound philosophy with multifarious reasoning. 8

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Asc. Why is it, then, the many make philosophy so hard to grasp; or wherefore is it they confound this thing with multifarious reasoning?


1. Tris. ’Tis in this way, Asclepius;—by mixing it, by means of subtle expositions, with divers sciences not easy to be grasped,—such as arithmetic, and music, and geometry.

But Pure Philosophy, which doth depend on godly piety alone, should only so far occupy itself with other arts, that it may [know how to] appreciate the working out in numbers of the fore-appointed stations of the stars when they return, and of the course of their procession.

Let her, moreover, know how to appreciate the Earth’s dimensions, its qualities and quantities, the Water’s depths, the strength of Fire, and the effects and nature of all these. [And so] let her give worship and give praise unto the Art and Mind of God.

2. As for [true] Music,—to know this is naught else than to have knowledge of the order of all things, and whatsoe’er God’s Reason hath decreed.

For that the order of each several thing when set together in one [key] for all, by means of skilful reason, will make, as ’twere,

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the sweetest and the truest harmony with God’s [own] Song. 1


1. Asc. Who, therefore, will the men be after us 2?

Tris. They will be led astray by sophists’ cleverness, and turned from True Philosophy,—the Pure and Holy [Love].

For that to worship God with single mind and soul, and reverence the things that He hath made, and to give thanks unto His Will, which is the only thing quite full of Good,—this is Philosophy unsullied by the soul’s rough curiousness.

But of this subject let what has been said so far suffice.


325:3 That is, the Æon. Cf. xxx. 1 below.

325:4 Cf. Ex. i. 8.

325:5 Reading gubernat for gubernando.

325:6 That is, the compost, or “cosmic” part of himself, apparently, of v. 2.

325:7 The original Greek κόσμος is here retained in the Latin; it means “order, adornment, ornament,” as well as “world.”

326:1 The idea is that man is a microcosm; he is, as to his bodies, “cosmic” (“mundanus homo”), for his vehicles are made of the elements; he is thus in these an image or seed (microcosm) of the universe, the macrocosm.

326:2 Sc. Cosmos. Cf. xxxi. 1 below.

326:3 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 25, last sentence.

327:1 Ab omnibus divinæ cognationis partibus.

327:2 This seems somewhat tautological. The first clause runs: “quæcunque terrena corporali cupiditate possidentur; quæ merito possessionem nomine nuncupantur.” This Latin word-play seems almost to suggest that we are dealing with an embellishment of the translator; it may, however, have stood in the original. Cf. xii. 2 below.

327:3 Lit. my.

327:4 Reading inferioris for interioris, as immediately below in § 3. Cf. vi. 3, last sentence.

328:1 This seems very loose indeed; the text or the Latin translation is probably at fault, unless the “other members” are supposed to be grouped in sets of double pairs.

329:1 Singular—that is, the species in the Cosmos, according to the type in the Divine Mind.

329:2 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 5; Lact., D. I., i. 11; and xxxvii. 3 below.

329:3 Lit. part.

329:4 In corporalia . . . migratio.

330:1 The Latin here does not construe.

330:2 Cf. C. H., i. 29; also xxv. 3 below.

330:3 Cf. xi. 1 above.

330:4 Obtorto . . . collo.

330:5 Ego enim tibi quasi prædivinans dixero. Notice the dixero,—the “prophetic” tense, if we may be permitted to coin a term to characterize this use, which reminds us so strongly of the “Sibylline” literature and the allied prophetic centonism of the time.

330:6 Cf. Ex. ix. 8, and xiv. 1 below.

330:7 Lit. philosophy. Cf. in Philo, D. V. C., the “Heavenly Love” with which the Therapeuts were “afire with God.” Cf. xiv. 1, and Ex. i. 3.

330:8 Cf. C. H., xvi. 2.

332:1 Cf. “Heaven’s harmonious song” in xxviii. 11 below.

332:2 Cf. xii. 3 above, and notes.

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