<This short text gives
an unusually lucid overview of the foundations of Hermetic thought. The stress
on rejection of the body and its pleasures, and on the division of humanity into
those with Mind and those without, are reminiscent of some of the so-called
"Gnostic" writings of the same period. The idea that the division is a matter of
choice, on the other hand, is a pleasant variation on the almost Calvinist
flavor of writings such as the Apocalypse of Adam.
<Mead speculates that the imagery of the Cup in this text may have a
distant connection, by way of unorthodox ideas about Communion, with the legends
of the Holy Grail. - JMG>
1. Hermes: With Reason (Logos), not with hands, did the World-maker make the
universal World; so that thou shouldst think of him as everywhere and
ever-being, the Author of all things, and One and Only, who by His Will all
beings hath created.
This Body of Him is a thing no man can touch, or see, or measure, a body
inextensible, like to no other frame. 'Tis neither Fire nor Water, Air nor
Breath; yet all of them come from it. Now being Good he willed to consecrate
this [Body] to Himself alone, and set its Earth in order and adorn it.
2. So down [to Earth] He sent the Cosmos of this Frame Divine - man, a life
that cannot die, and yet a life that dies. And o'er [all other] lives and over
Cosmos [too], did man excel by reason of the Reason (Logos) and the Mind. For
contemplator of God's works did man become; he marvelled and did strive to know
3. Reason (Logos) indeed, O Tat, among all men hath He distributed, but Mind
not yet; not that He grudgeth any, for grudging cometh not from Him, but hath
its place below, within the souls of men who have no Mind.
Tat: Why then did God, O father, not on all bestow a share of Mind?
H: He willed, my son, to have it set up in the midst for souls, just as it
were a prize.
4. T: And where hath He set it up?
H: He filled a mighty Cup with it, and sent it down, joining a Herald [to
it], to whom He gave command to make this proclamation to the hearts of men:
Baptize thyself with this Cup's baptism, what heart can do so, thou that hast
faith thou canst ascend to him that hath sent down the Cup, thou that dost know
for what thoudidst come into being!
As many then as understood the Herald's tidings and doused themselves in
Mind, became partakers in the Gnosis; and when they had "received the Mind" they
were made "perfect men".
But they who do not understand the tidings, these, since they possess the aid
of Reason [only] and not Mind, are ignorant wherefor they have come into being
5. The senses of such men are like irrational creatures'; and as their
[whole] make-up is in their feelings and their impulses, they fail in all
appreciation of <lit.: "they do not wonder at"> those things which really
are worth contemplation. These center all their thought upon the pleasures of
the body and its appetites, in the belief that for its sake man hath come into
But they who have received some portion of God's gift, these, Tat, if we
judge by their deeds, have from Death's bonds won their release; for they
embrace in their own Mind all things, things on the earth, things in the heaven,
and things above the heaven - if there be aught. And having raised themselves so
far they sight the Good; and having sighted it, they look upon their sojourn
here as a mischance; and in disdain of all, both things in body and the
bodiless, they speed their way unto that One and Only One.
6. This is, O Tat, the Gnosis of the Mind, Vision of things Divine;
God-knowledge is it, for the Cup is God's.
T: Father, I, too, would be baptized.
H: Unless thou first shall hate thy Body, son, thou canst not love thy Self.
But if thou lov'st thy Self thou shalt have Mind, and having Mind thou shalt
share in the Gnosis.
T: Father, what dost thou mean?
H: It is not possible, my son, to give thyself to both - I mean to things
that perish and to things divine. For seeing that existing things are twain,
Body and Bodiless, in which the perishing and the divine are understood, the man
who hath the will to choose is left the choice of one or the other; for it can
never be the twain should meet. And in those souls to whom the choice is left,
the waning of the one causes the other's growth to show itself.
7. Now the choosing of the Better not only proves a lot most fair for him who
makes the choice, seeing it makes the man a God, but also shows his piety to
God. Whereas the [choosing] of the Worse, although it doth destroy the "man", it
doth only disturb God's harmony to this extent, that as processions pass by in
the middle of the way, without being able to do anything but take the road from
others, so do such men move in procession through the world led by their bodies'
8. This being so, O Tat, what comes from God hath been and will be ours; but
that which is dependent on ourselves, let this press onward and have no delay,
for 'tis not God, 'tis we who are the cause of evil things, preferring them to
Thou see'st, son, how many are the bodies through which we have to pass, how
many are the choirs of daimones, how vast the system of the star-courses
[through which our Path doth lie], to hasten to the One and Only God.
For to the Good there is no other shore; It hath no bounds; It is without an
end; and for Itself It is without beginning, too, though unto us it seemeth to
have one - the Gnosis.
9. Therefore to It Gnosis is no beginning; rather is it [that Gnosis doth
afford] to us the first beginning of its being known.
Let us lay hold, therefore, of the beginning. and quickly speed through all
[we have to pass].
`Tis very hard, to leave the things we have grown used to, which meet our
gaze on every side, and turn ourselves back to the Old Old [Path].
Appearances delight us, whereas things which appear not make their believing
Now evils are the more apparent things, whereas the Good can never show
Itself unto the eyes, for It hath neither form nor figure.
Therefore the Good is like Itself alone, and unlike all things else; or
impossible that That which hath no body should make Itself apparent to a body.
10. The "Like's" superiority to the "Unlike" and the
unto the "Like" consists in this:
The Oneness being Source and Root of all, is in all things as Root and
Source. Without [this] Source is naught; whereas the Source [Itself] is from
naught but itself, since it is Source of all the rest. It is Itself Its Source,
since It may have no other Source.
The Oneness then being Source, containeth every number, but is contained by
none; engendereth every number, but is engendered by no other one.
11. Now all that is engendered is imperfect, it is divisible, to increase
subject and to decrease; but with the Perfect [One] none of these things doth
hold. Now that which is increasable increases from the Oneness, but succumbs
through its own feebleness when it no longer can contain the One.
And now, O Tat, God's Image hath been sketched for thee, as far as it can be;
and if thou wilt attentively dwell on it and observe it with thine heart's eyes,
believe me, son, thou'lt find the Path that leads above; nay, that Image shall
become thy Guide itself, because the Sight [Divine] hath this peculiar [charm],
it holdeth fast and draweth unto it those who succeed in opening their eyes,
just as, they say, the magnet [draweth] iron.