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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 3

by G.R.S. Mead

p. 55



(Title in Patrizzi (p. 38), “Of Fate,” simply; followed by “From the [Sermons] to Tat.”

Text: Stob., Phys., iv. 8, under heading: “Of Hermes to his Son”; G. pp. 61, 62; M. i. 42, 43; W. i. 73, 74.

Ménard, Livre IV., No. vii. of “Fragments from the Books of Hermes to his Son Tat,” pp. 248, 249.)

1. [Tat.] Rightly, O father, hast thou told me all; now further, [pray,] recall unto my mind what are the things that Providence doth rule, and what the things ruled by Necessity, and in like fashion also [those] under Fate.

[Her.] I said there were in us, O Tat, three species of incorporals.

The first’s a thing the mind alone can grasp 1; it thus is colourless, figureless, massless, 2 proceeding out of the First Essence in itself, sensed by the mind alone. 3

And there are also, [secondly,] in us, opposed

p. 56

to this, 1 configurings, 2—of which this serves as the receptacle. 3

But what has once been set in motion by the Primal 4 Essence for some [set] purpose of the Reason (Logos), and that has been conceived 5 [by it], straightway doth change into another form of motion; this is the image of the Demiurgic Thought. 6

2. And there is [also] a third species of incorporals, which doth eventuate round bodies,—space, time, [and] motion, figure, surface, 7 size, [and] species.

Of these there are two [sets of] differences.

The first [lies] in the quality pertaining specially unto themselves; the second [set is] of the body.

The special qualities are figure, colour, species, space, time, movement.

[The differences] peculiar to body are figure

p. 57

configured, and colour coloured; there’s also form conformed, surface and size. 1

The latter with the former have no part.

3. The Intelligible Essence, then, in company with God, 2 has power o’er its own self, and [power] to keep 3 another, in that it keeps itself, since Essence in itself is not under Necessity.

But when ’tis left by God, it takes unto itself the corporal nature; its choice of it being ruled by Providence,—that is, its choosing of the world. 4

All the irrational is moved to-wards some reason.

Reason [comes] under Providence; unreason [falls] under Necessity; the things that happen in the corporal [fall] under Fate.

Such is the Sermon on the rule of Providence, Necessity and Fate.


I have taken the title from the concluding words, which are evidently the end of the sermon. Stobæus thus seems to have reproduced the whole of this little tractate, which should be read in connection with Exx. xi., xii. and xiii. C. H., xii. (xiii.) 6 (see Commentary), seems to presuppose this sermon.


55:1 Or an intelligible something.

55:2 Or bodiless.

55:3 That is, the intelligible essence.

56:1 Sc. of opposite nature to the first incorporal, as negative to positive, say.

56:2 σχηματότητες—that is, the “somethings” more subtle or ideal than figures or shapes,—types, or prototypes, or paradigms of some kind.

56:3 That is, plays the part of matter, “womb,” or “nurse” to these.

56:4 Lit. intelligible.

56:5 Or received.

56:6 Or Mind. Heeren (as also all editors subsequent to him) thinks that something has here fallen out of the text, because he finds no second incorporal specifically mentioned; but the duality of the demiurgic thought, active and passive, creative and conceptive, will do very well for the second.

56:7 Or appearance.

57:1 The distinction seems to be between colour, form, etc., “in itself,” and differentiated colours, forms, etc.

57:2 πρὸς τῷ θεῷ γενομένη.

57:3 Or save, preserve.

57:4 This sentence seems to be corrupt.

Next: Excerpt XI. Of Justice