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Thrice Greatest Hermes, Volume 1 by G. R. S. Mead - Read online

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1. The Remains Of The Trismegistic Literature

2. The History Of The Evolution Of Opinion

3. Thoth The Master Of Wisdom

4. The Popular Theurgic Hermes-Cult In The Greek Magic Papyri

5. The Main Source Of The Trismegistic Literature According To Manetho, High Priest Of Egypt

6. An Egyptian Prototype Of The Main Features Of The Poemandres’ Cosmogony

7. The Myth Of Man In The Mysteries

8. Philo Of Alexandria And The Hellenistic Theology



Address To Klea Concerning Gnosis And The Search For Truth

The Art Of Knowing And Of Divinising

The True Initiates Of Isis

Why The Priests Are Shaven And Wear Linen

Of The Refraining From Flesh And Salt And Superfluities

On The Drinking Of Wine

On Fish Taboos

The Onion And Pig Taboos

The Kings, The Riddles Of The Priests, And The Meaning Of Amoun

Of The Greek Disciples Of Egyptians And Of Pythagoras And His Symbols

Advice To Klea Concerning The Hidden Meaning Of The Myths

The Mystery-Myth

The Under-Meaning A Reflexion Of A Certain Reason

Concerning The Tombs Of Osiris

Concerning The Theory Of Evemerus

The Theory Of The Daimones

Concerning Sarapis

Concerning Typhon

The Theory Of The Physicists

Concerning Osiris And Dionysus

The Theory Of The Physicists Resumed

The Theory Of The Mathematici

The Theory Of The Dualists

The Proper Reason According To Plutarch

The Symbolism Of The Sistrum

The True “Logos,” Again, According To Plutarch

Against The Weather And Vegetation God Theories

Concerning The Worship Of Animals, And Totemism

Concerning The Sacred Robes

Concerning Incense


10. “Hermas” And “Hermes”

11. Concerning The Aeon-Doctrine

12. The Seven Zones And Their Characteristics

13. Plato: Concerning Metempsychosis

14. The Vision Of Er

15. Concerning The Crater Or Cup

16. The Disciples Of Thrice-Greatest Hermes


These volumes, complete in themselves as a series of studies in a definite body of tradition, are intended to serve ultimately as a small contribution to the preparation of the way leading towards a solution of the vast problems involved in the scientific study of the Origins of the Christian Faith. They might thus perhaps be described as the preparation of materials to serve for the historic, mythic, and mystic consideration of the Origins of Christianity,—where the term “mythic” is used in its true sense of inner, typical, sacred and “logic,” as opposed to the external processioning of physical events known as “historic,” and where the term “mystic” is used as that which pertains to initiation and the mysteries.

The serious consideration of the matter contained in these pages will, I hope, enable the attentive reader to outline in his mind, however vaguely, some small portion of the environment of infant Christianity, and allow him to move a few steps round the cradle of Christendom.

Though the material that we have collected, has, as to its externals, been tested, as far as our hands are capable of the work, by the methods of scholarship and criticism, it has nevertheless at the same time been allowed ungrudgingly to show itself the outward expression of a truly vital endeavour of immense interest and value to all who are disposed to make friends with it. For along this ray of the Trismegistic tradition we may allow ourselves to be drawn backwards in time towards the holy of holies of the Wisdom of Ancient Egypt. The sympathetic study of this material may well prove an initiatory process towards an understanding of that Archaic Gnosis.

And, therefore, though these volumes are intended to show those competent to judge that all has been set forth in decency according to approved methods of modern research, they are also designed for those who are not qualified to give an opinion on such matters, but who are able to feel and think with the writers of these beautiful tractates.

The following abbreviations have been used for economy of space:

C. H. = Corpus Hermeticum.

D. J. L. = Mead (G. R. S.), Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.? An Enquiry into the Talmud Jesus Stories, the Toldoth Jeschu, and Some Curious Statements of Epiphanius: being a Contribution to the Study of Christian Origins (London, 1903).

F. F. F. = Mead (G. R. S.), Fragments of a Faith Forgotten. Some Short Sketches among the Gnostics, mainly of the First Two Centuries: a Contribution to the Study of Christian Origins based on the most recently recovered Materials (London, 1900; 2nd ed. 1906).

G. = Gaisford (T.), Joannis Stobæi Florilegium (Oxford, 1822), 4 vols.; Io. Stob. Ec. Phys. et Ethic. Libri Duo (Oxford, 1850), 2 vols.

H. = Hense (O.), I. Stob. Anth. Lib. Tert. (Berlin, 1894), 1 vol., incomplete.

K. K. = “The Virgin of the World” (Κόρη Κόσμου).

M. = Meineke (A.), Joh. Stob. Flor. (Leipzig, 1855, 1856), 3 vols.; Joh. Stob. Ec. Phys. et Ethic. Lib. Duo (Leipzig, 1860), 2 vols.

P. = Parthey (G.), Hermetis Trismegisti Pœmander ad Fidem Codicum Manu Scriptorum recognovit (Berlin, 1854).

Pat. = Patrizzi (F.), Nova de Universis Philosophia (Venice, 1593).

P. S. A. = “The Perfect Sermon, or Asclepius.”

R. = Reitzenstein (R.), Poimandres: Studien zur griechisch-ägyptischen und früchristlichen Literatur (Leipzig, 1904). Ri. = Richter (M. C. E.), Philonis Judæi Opera Omnia, in Bibliotheca Sacra Patrum Ecclesiæ Græcorum (Leipzig, 1828-1830), 8 vols.

S. I. H. = “The Sermon of Isis to Horus.”

W. = Wachsmuth (C.), Io. Stob. Anthologii Lib. Duo Priores . . . Ec. Phys. et Ethic. (Berlin, 1884), 2 vols.

G. R. S. M.

Chelsea, 1906.


Was he one or many, merging
Name and fame in one,
Like a stream, to which, converging,
Many streamlets run?

Who shall call his dreams fallacious?
Who has searched or sought
All the unexplored and spacious
Universe of thought?

Who in his own skill confiding,
Shall with rule and line
Mark the border-land dividing
Human and divine?

Trismegistus! Three times greatest!
How thy name sublime
Has descended to this latest
Progeny of time!

Longfellow, Hermes Trismegistus.[1]

1. The Remains Of The Trismegistic Literature


Little did I think when, years ago, I began to translate some of the Trismegistic tractates, that the undertaking would finally grow into these volumes. My sole object then was to render the more important of these beautiful theosophic treatises into an English that might, perhaps, be thought in some small way worthy of the Greek originals. I was then more attracted by the sermons themselves than by the manifold problems to which they gave rise; I found greater pleasure in the spiritual atmosphere they created, than in the critical considerations which insistently imposed themselves upon my mind, as I strove to realise their importance for the history of the development of religious ideas in the Western world.

And now, too, when I take pen in hand to grapple with the difficulties of “introduction” for those who will be good enough to follow my all-insufficient labours, it is to the tractates themselves that I turn again and again for refreshment in the task; and every time I turn to them I am persuaded that the best of them are worthy of all the labour a man can bestow upon them.

Though it is true that the form of these volumes, with their Prolegomena and Commentaries and numerous notes, is that of a technical treatise, it has nevertheless been my aim to make them throughout accessible to the general reader, even to the man of one language who, though no scholar himself, may yet be deeply interested in such studies. These volumes must, therefore, naturally fall short of the precision enjoyed by the works of technical specialists which are filled with direct quotations from a number of ancient and modern tongues; on the other hand, they have the advantage of appealing to a larger public, while at the same time the specialist is given every indication for controlling the statements and translations.

Nor should the general reader be deterred by an introductory volume under the imposing sub-title of Prolegomena, imagining that these chapters are necessarily of a dull, critical nature, for the subjects dealt with are of immense interest in themselves (at least they seem so to me), and are supplementary to the Trismegistic sermons, frequently adding material of a like nature to that in our tractates.

Some of these Prolegomena have grown out of the Commentaries, for I found that occasionally subjects lent themselves to such lengthy digressions that they could be removed to the Prolegomena to the great advantage of the Commentary. The arrangement of the material thus accumulated, however, has proved a very difficult task, and I have been able to preserve but little logical sequence in the chapters; but this is owing mainly to the fact that the extant Trismegistic literature itself is preserved to us in a most chaotic fashion, and I as yet see no means of inducing any sure order into this chaos.


To distinguish our writings both from the Egyptian “Books of Thoth” and the Hermes Prayers of the popular Egyptian cult, as found in the Greek Magic Papyri, and also from the later Hermetic Alchemical literature, I have adopted the term Trismegistic literature in place of the usual designation Hermetic.

Of this Greek Trismegistic literature proper, much is lost; that which remains to us, of which I have endeavoured to gather together every fragment and scrap, falls under five heads:

A. The Corpus Hermeticum.
B. The Perfect Sermon, or the Asclepius.
C. Excerpts by Stobæus.
D. References and Fragments in the Fathers.
E. References and Fragments in the Philosophers.

A. The Corpus Hermeticum includes what has, previous to Reitzenstein,[2] been known as the “Poimandres”[3] collection of fourteen Sermons and the “Definitions of Asclepius.”

B. The Perfect Sermon, or the Asclepius, is no longer extant in Greek, but only in an Old Latin version.

C. There are twenty-seven Excerpts, from otherwise lost Sermons, by John Stobæus, a Pagan scholar of the end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century, who was an immense reader and made a most valuable collection of extracts from Greek authors, though studiously avoiding every Christian writer. Some of these Excerpts are of great length, especially those from the Sermon entitled “The Virgin of the World”; these twenty-seven Excerpts are exclusive of extracts from Sermons still preserved in our Corpus.

D. From the Church Fathers we obtain many references and twenty-five short Fragments, otherwise unknown to us, and considerably widening our acquaintance with the scope of the literature.

E. From Zosimus and Fulgentius we obtain three Fragments, and from the former and Iamblichus, and Julian the Emperor-Philosopher, we obtain a number of valuable references.

Such are what at first sight may appear to be the comparatively scanty remains of what was once an exceedingly abundant literature. But when we remember that this literature was largely reserved and kept secret, we cannot but congratulate ourselves that so much has been preserved; indeed, as we shall see later on, but for the lucky chance of a Hermetic apologist selecting some of the sermons to exemplify the loyal nature of the Trismegistic teaching with respect to kings and rulers, we should be without any Hermetic Corpus at all, and dependent solely on our extracts and fragments.

But even with our Hermetic Corpus before us we should never forget that we have only a fraction of the Trismegistic literature—the flotsam and jetsam, so to say, of a once most noble vessel that sailed the seas of human endeavour, and was an ark of refuge to many a pious and cultured soul.

References to lost writings of the School will meet us abundantly in the course of our studies, and some attempt will be made later on to form a notion of the main types of the literature.

As for the rest of the so-called Hermetic works, medico-mathematical, astrological and medico-astrological, and alchemical, and for a list of the many inventions attributed to the Thrice-greatest—inventions as numerous as, and almost identical with, those attributed to Orpheus by fond posterity along the line of “pure” Hellenic tradition—I would refer the student to the Bibliotheca Græca of Joannes Albertus Fabricius.[4]

For the Alchemical and Mediæval literature the two magnificent works of Berthelot (M. P. E.) are indispensable—namely, Collection des anciens Alchimistes grecs (Paris, 1888), and La Chimie au Moyen Âge (Paris, 1893).

In close connection with the development of this form of “Hermetic” tradition must be taken the Hermes writings and traditions among the Arabs. See Beausobre’s Histoire Critique de Manichée et du Manichéisme (Amsterdam, 1734), i. 326; also Fleischer (H. L.), Hermes Trismegislus an die menschliche Seele, Arabisch und Deutsch (Leipzig, 1870); Bardenhewer (O.), Hermetis Trismegisti qui apud Arabes fertur de Castigatione Animæ Liber (Bonn, 1873); and especially R. Pietschmann, the pupil of Georg Ebers, who devotes the fourth part of his treatise, entitled Hermes Trismegistus nach ägyptischen und orientalischen Überlieferungen (Leipzig, 1875), to a consideration of the Hermes tradition, “Bei Syrern und Araben.”

Reitzenstein treats very briefly of the development of this later Hermetic literature on pp. 188-200 of his Poimandres.[5]


From the fragmentary nature of the remains of the Trismegistic literature that have come down to us, it will be at once seen that a critical text of them is a complicated undertaking; for, apart from the Corpus, the texts have to be collected from the works of many authors. This, however, has never yet been done in any critical fashion; so that a translator has first of all to find the best existing critical texts of these authors from which to make his version. This, I hope, I have succeeded in doing; but even so, numerous obscurities still remain in the texts of the excerpts, fragments, and quotations, and it is highly desirable that some scholar specially acquainted with our literature should collect all these together in one volume, and work over the labours of specialists on the texts of Stobæus and the Fathers, with the added equipment of his own special knowledge.

Even the text of our Corpus is still without a thoroughly critical edition; for though Reitzenstein has done this work most admirably for C. H., i., xiii. (xiv.), and (xvi.)-(xviii.), basing himself on five MSS. and the printed texts of the earlier editions, he has not thought fit to give us a complete text.

A list of the then known MSS. is given in Harles’ edition of Fabricius’ Bibliotheca Græca (pp. 51, 52); while Parthey gives notes on the only two MSS. he used in his edition of fourteen of the Sermons of our Corpus. It is, however, generally believed that there may be other MSS. hidden away in Continental libraries.

All prior work on the MSS., however, is entirely superseded by Reitzenstein in his illuminating “History of the Text” (pp. 319-327), in which we have the whole matter set forth with the thoroughness that characterises the best German scholarship.

From him we learn that we owe the preservation of our Hermetic Corpus to a single MS. that was found in the eleventh century in a sad condition. Whole quires and single leaves were missing, both at the beginning (after ch. i.) and the end (after ch. xvi.); even in the remaining pages, especially in the last third, the writing was in a number of places no longer legible.

In this condition the MS. came into the hands of Michael Psellus, the great reviver of Platonic studies at Byzantium, probably at the time when his orthodoxy was being called into question. Psellus thought he would put these writings into circulation again, but at the same time guard himself against the suspicion that their contents corresponded with his own conclusions. This accounts for the peculiar scholion to C. H., i. 18, which seems at first pure monkish denunciation of Pœmandres as the Devil in disguise to lead men from the truth, while the conclusion of it betrays so deep an interest in the contents that it must have been more than purely philological.

And that such an interest was aroused in the following centuries at Byzantium, may be concluded from the fact that the last three chapters, which directly justify polytheism or rather Heathendom, were omitted in a portion of the MSS., and only that part of the Corpus received a wider circulation which corresponded with what might be regarded at first sight as a Neoplatonism assimilated to Christianity. The text was reproduced with thoughtless exactitude, so that though its tradition is extraordinarily bad, it is uniform, and we can recover with certainty the copy of Psellus from the texts of the fourteenth century.

These Trismegistic Sermons obtained a larger field of operation with the growth of Humanism in the West. Georgius Gemistus Pletho, in the latter part of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth century, brought Neoplatonism from Byzantium into Italy as a kind of religion and made a deep impression on Cosimo Medici; and Marsiglio Ficino, who was early selected by the latter as the head of the future Academy, must have made his Latin translation of our Corpus, which appeared in 1463, to serve as the first groundwork of this undertaking. Cosimo had the Greek text brought from Bulgaria (Macedonia) by a monk, Fra Lionardo of Pistoja, and it is still in the Medicean Library.

It was not, however, till the middle of the sixteenth century that the Greek text was printed; and meantime, with the great interest taken in these writings by the Humanists, a large number of MSS. arose which sought to make the text more understandable or more elegant; such MSS. are of no value for the tradition of the text.


We will now proceed to give some account of the texts and translations of the Trismegistic writings, a bibliographical labour which the general reader will most probably skip, but which the real student will appreciate at its proper value.[6]

The best account of the texts and translations up to 1790 is that of Harles, who has entirely rewritten the account of Fabricius (op. cit., pp. 52 ff.).[7]

The editio princeps was not a text but a Latin translation by Marsiglio Ficino (Marsilius Ficinus), published in quarto in 1471.[8] Both the name of the publisher and place of publication are lacking, but the British Museum catalogue inserts them in parenthesis as “G. de Lisa, Treviso,” presumably on the authority of Harles. This translation consisted of the so-called “Pœmandres,” in fourteen chapters, that is to say fourteen treatises, under the general title, Mercurii Trismegisti Liber de Potestate et Sapientia Dei (or The Book of Mercury Trismegist concerning the Power and Wisdom of God). The enormous popularity of this work is seen by the fact of the very numerous editions (for a book of that time) through which it ran. No less than twenty-two editions have appeared, the first eight of them in the short space of a quarter of a century.[9]

In 1548 there appeared an Italian translation of Ficinus’ Latin version of the “Pœmandres” collection, entitled Il Pimandro di Mercurio Trismegisto, done into Florentine by Tommaso Benci, printed at Florence in 12mo. A second edition was printed at Florence in 1549 in 8vo, with numerous improvements by Paitoni.

The first Greek text was printed at Paris, in 1554, by Adr. Turnebus; it included the “Pœmandres” and “The Definitions of Asclepius,” to which the Latin version of Ficino was appended. The title is, Mercurii Trismegisti Pœmander seu de Potestate ac Sapientia Divina: Aesculapii Definitiones ad Ammonem Regem; the Greek was edited by P. Angelo da Barga (Angelus Vergecius).

In 1557 appeared the first French translation by Gabriel du Preau, at Paris, with a lengthy title, Deux Livres de Mercure Trismegiste Hermés tres ancien Theologien, et excellant Philozophe. L’un de la puissance et sapience de Dieu. L’autre de la volonte de Dieu. Auecq’un Dialogue de Loys Lazarel, poete Chrestien, intitulé le Bassin d’Hermés.

This seems to be simply a translation of an edition of Ficinus’ Latin version published at Paris by Henr. Stephanus in 1505, to which a certain worthy, Loys Lazarel, who further rejoiced in the agnomen of Septempedanus, appended a lucubration of his own of absolutely no value,[10] for the title of Estienne’s edition runs: Pimander Mercurii Liber de Sapientia et Potestate Dei. Asclepius, ejusdem Mercurii Liber de Voluntate Divina. Item Crater Hermetis a Lazarelo Septempedano.

In 1574 Franciscus Flussas Candalle reprinted at Bourdeaux, in 4to, Turnebus’ Greek text, which he emended, with the help of the younger Scaliger and other Humanists, together with a Latin translation, under the title, Mercurii Trismegisti Pimander sive Pœmander. This text is still of critical service to-day.

This he followed with a French translation, printed in 1579, also at Bourdeaux in folio, and bearing the title, Le Pimandre de Mercure Trismegiste de la Philosophie Chrestienne, Cognoissance du Verb Divin, et de l’Excellence des Œuvres de Dieu. This we are assured is translated “de l’exemplaire Grec, avec collation de très-amples commentaires,[11] all of which is followed by the full name and titles of Flussas, to wit, “François Monsieur de Foix, de la famille de Candalle, Captal de Buchs, etc., Evesque d’Ayre, etc.,” the whole being dedicated to “Marguerite de France, Roine de Navarre.”

Twelve years later Franciscus Patricius (Cardinal Francesco Patrizzi) printed an edition of the text of the Sermons of the Corpus, of “The Asclepius,” and also of most of the Extracts and of some of the Fragments; he, however, has arranged them all in a quite arbitrary fashion, and has as arbitrarily altered the text, which generally followed that of Turnebus and Candalle, in innumerable places. To this he appended a Latin translation, in which he emended the versions of Ficino and de Foix, as he tells us, in no less than 1040 places. These were included in his Nova de Universis Philosophia, printed at Ferrara, in folio, 1591, and again at Venice by R. Meiettus, in 1593, as an appendix to his Nov. de Un. Phil., now increased to fifty books.

This Latin translation of Patrizzi was printed apart, together with the Chaldæan Oracles, at Hamburg in 12mo, also, in 1593, under the title Magia Philosophica. The latter edition bears the subscription on the title-page, “jam nunc primum ex Biblioteca Ranzoviana è tenebris eruta,” which Harles explains as a reprint by plain Henr. Ranzou, who is, however, described in the volume itself as “produx.” It seems to have been again reprinted at Hamburg in 1594 in 8vo.

Meantime the Carmelite, Hannibal Rossellus,[12] had been laboriously engaged for many years on an edition of the “Pœmandres” with most elaborate commentaries. This was printed at Cracow by Lazarus, in six volumes in folio, from 1585 to 1590. Rossel treats of philosophy, theology, the Pope, the scriptures, and all disciplines in his immanibus commentariis, inepte as some say, while others bestow on him great praise. His title is Pymander Mercurii Trismegisti. This was reprinted with the text and translation of de Foix in folio at Cologne in 1630, under the title Divinus Pimander Hermetis Mercurii Trismegisti.

Hitherto nothing had been done in England, but in 1611 an edition of Ficinus’ translation was printed in London. This was followed by what purports to be a translation of the “Pœmandres” from Arabic,[13] “by that learned Divine, Doctor Everard,” as the title-page sets forth. It was printed in London in 1650 in 8vo, with a preface by “J. F.,” and bears the title The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, in xvii. Books. Translated formerly out of the Arabick into Greek [!] and thence into Latin, and Dutch, and now out of the Original into English. There was a second edition of Everard’s version printed at London in 1657, in 12mo. There are also reprints of the 1650 edition by Fryar of Bath, with an introduction by Hargrave Jennings, in 1884;[14] by P. B. Randolph, Toledo, Ohio, 1889; and by the Theosophical Publishing Society, in the Collectanea Hermetica, edited by W. Wynn Westcott, in 1893.

To what Dutch translation Everard refers I cannot discover, for the only one known to me is that printed at Amsterdam in 1652 in 12mo. It is a translation of Patrizzi’s text, and bears the title, Sestien Boecken van den Hermes Trismegistus. . . . uyt het Griecx ghebracht . . . met eene . . . Voorede uyt het Latijn von F. Patricius in de welcke hij bewijst dat desen . . . Philosoph heeft gebleoyt voor Moyses, etc. Harles says nothing of this edition, but speaks of one printed at Amsterdam in 1643 in 4to, by Nicholas van Rauenstein, but I can find no other trace of it.

The first German translation was by a certain Alethophilus, and was printed at Hamburg in 1706 (8vo) under the title Hermetis Trismegisti Erkäntnüss der Natur, etc., containing seventeen pieces; this was reprinted at Stuttgart in 1855, in a curious collection by J. Schieble, entitled Kleiner Wunder-Schauplatz.[15] The title reads Hermetis Trismegisti Einleitung in’s höchste Wissen von Erkentniss der Natur und der darin sich offenbarenden grossen Grottes, with an appendix concerning the person of Hermes, etc.

But why Schieble should have reprinted Alethophilus’ translation is not clear, when in 1781 a new translation into German, with critical notes and valuable suggestions for emending the text, had appeared by Dieterich Tiedemann (Berlin and Stettin, in 8vo), entitled Hermes Trismegists Pœmander, oder von der göttlichen Macht und Weisheit, a rare book which, already in 1827, Baumgarten-Crusius[16] laments as almost unfindable in the republic of letters, and of which the British Museum possesses no copy.[17]

It is remarkable that of a work which exhausted so many editions in translation and was evidently received with such great enthusiasm, there have been so few editions of the text, and that for two centuries and a quarter[18] no attempt was made to collate the different MSS. and editions, until in 1854 Gustav Parthey printed a critical text of the fourteen pieces of “Pœmandres,” at Berlin, under the title Hermetis Trismegisti Pœmander, to which he appended a Latin translation based on the original version of Ficino successively revised by de Foix and Patrizzi. Parthey’s promise to edit reliqua Hermetis scripta has not been fulfilled, and no one else has so far attempted this most necessary task.

Reitzenstein’s (p. 322) opinion of Parthey’s text, however, is very unfavourable. In the first place, Parthey took Patrizzi’s arbitrary alterations as a true tradition of the text; in the second, he himself saw neither of the MSS. on which he says he relies. The first of these was very carelessly copied for him and carelessly used by him; while the second, which was copied by D. Hamm, is very corrupt owing to very numerous “corrections” and interpolations by a later hand—all of which Parthey has adopted as ancient readings. His text, therefore, concludes Reitzenstein, is doubly falsified—a very discouraging judgment for lovers of accuracy.

In 1866 there appeared at Paris, in 8vo, a complete translation in French of the Trismegistic treatises and fragments by Louis Ménard, entitled Hermès Trismégiste, preceded by an interesting study on the origin of the Hermetic books, of which a second edition was printed in 1867. This is beyond question the most sympathetic version that we at present possess.

Everard’s version of the “Pœmandres” being reprinted in 1884 by Fryar of Bath, the rest of the treatises were retranslated by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland from Ménard’s French version (including his notes), and appeared in 1885 (in 4to), published by Fryar, but bearing a publisher’s name in India, under the general title The Hermetic Works: The Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus. Meantime, in 1882, J. D. Chambers had published (at Edinburgh, in 8vo) a crabbed and slavishly literal translation of the “Pœmandres,” together with the Excerpts from Stobæus and the Notices of Hermes in the Fathers, with an introductory Preface, under the title, The Theological and Philosophical Works of Hermes Trismegistus, Christian Neoplatonist. Indeed, the loose and erroneous version of Everard is far more comprehensible than this fantastically literal translation.

For the last six years I have myself been publishing, in the pages of The Theosophical Review, translations of the Trismegistic Sermons and also a few of the studies now included in these Prolegomena; all of the former, however, have been now carefully revised, and the latter have for the most part been greatly enlarged and improved.

Finally, in 1904, E. Reitzenstein of Strassburg published at Leipzig his illuminating study, Poimandres, in which he gives the critical text of C. H., i., xiii. (xiv.), (xvi.)-(xviii.), based on five MSS. and the best early printed editions, with all that minute care, knowledge of palæography, and enthusiasm for philology which characterises the best textual-critical work of modern scholarship. Why, however, Reitzenstein has not done the same good service for the whole of the Corpus as he has done for the selected sermons, is a mystery. He is the very man for the task, and the service he could render would be highly appreciated by many.

So much, then, for the existing partial texts and translations of the extant Trismegistic literature. Of the translations with which I am acquainted,[19] Everard’s (1650), the favourite in England, because of its dignified English, is full of errors, mistranslations, and obscurities; it is hopeless to try to understand “Hermes” from this version. Chambers’s translation (1882, from the text of Parthey) is so slavishly literal that it ceases to be English in many places, in others goes wide of the sense, and, in general, is exasperating. Ménard’s French translation (1866, also from Parthey’s text) is elegant and sympathetic, but very free in many places; in fact, not infrequently quite emancipated from the text. The most literally accurate translation is Parthey’s Latin version (based on the Latin translation of Ficino, as emended by Candalle and Patrizzi); but even in such literal rendering he is at fault at times, while in general no one can fully understand the Latin without the Greek. To translate “Hermes” requires not only a good knowledge of Greek, but also a knowledge of that Gnosis which he has not infrequently so admirably handed on to us.

2. The History Of The Evolution Of Opinion


We have now to consider the following interesting points:

The early Church Fathers in general accepted the Trismegistic writings as exceedingly ancient and authoritative, and in their apologetic writings quote them in support of the main general positions of Christianity.

In the revival of learning, for upwards of a century and a half, all the Humanists welcomed them with open arms as a most valuable adjunct to Christianity, and as being in accord with its doctrines; so much so that they laboured to substitute Trismegistus for Aristotle in the schools.

During the last two centuries and a half, however, a body of opinion was gradually evolved, infinitesimal in its beginnings but finally well-nigh shutting out every other view, that these writings were Neoplatonic forgeries and plagiarisms of Christianity.

Finally, with the dawn of the twentieth century, the subject has been rescued from the hands of opinion, and has begun to be established on the firm ground of historical and critical research, opening up problems of the greatest interest and importance for the history of Christian origins and their connection with Hellenistic theology and theosophy, and throwing a brilliant light on the development of Gnosticism.

The first point will be brought out in detail in the volume in which a translation of all the passages and references to Thrice-greatest Hermes in the writings of the Church Fathers will be given; while the last will be made abundantly apparent, we hope, in the general course of our studies. The second and third points will now demand our immediate attention, especially the third, for we have endeavoured with great labour to become acquainted with all the “arguments” which have tended to build up this opinion; and unless we have to change all our ideas as to the time-frame of so-called Neoplatonism, we are entirely unconvinced; for we find that it has been evolved from unsupported assertions, and that not one single work exists which ventures in any satisfactory fashion to argue the question (most writers merely reasserting or echoing prior opinions), or in which the statements made may not as easily prove the priority of the Trismegistic school to the Neoplatonic as the reverse.

We will then proceed to give some account of this chaos of contradictory opinions, picking out the most salient points.


That the early scholars of the revival of learning were all unanimously delighted with the Trismegistic writings, is manifest from the bibliography we have already given, and that they should follow the judgment of the ancient Fathers in the matter is but natural to expect; for them not only were the books prior to Christianity, but they were ever assured that Hermes had been a really existent personality, like any of the Biblical worthies, such as Enoch and Noah (as was unquestionably believed in those days), and further, that he was prior to, or a contemporary of, Moses.[20]

Thus in the editio princeps of Ficino we read: “Whoever thou art who readest these things, whether grammarian, or rhetorician, or philosopher, or theologian, know thou that I am Hermes the Thrice-greatest, at whom wondered first the Egyptians and the other nations, and subsequently the ancient Christian theologians, in utter stupefaction at my doctrine rare of things divine.”

The opinion of Ficino, that the “writer” of the “Pœmandres” tractates was one who had a knowledge both of Egyptian and Greek, is of interest as being that of a man uncontaminated by the infinite doubts with which the atmosphere of modern criticism is filled, and thus able to get a clean contact with his subject.

Of the same mind were Loys Lazarel and du Preau, the first French translator; while the Italian Cardinal Patrizzi appends to his labours the following beautiful words (attributed by some to Chalcidius[21]), which he puts in the mouth of Hermes:

“Till now, my son, I, banished from my home, have lived expatriate in exile. Now safe and sound I seek my home once more. And when but yet a little while I shall have left thee, freed from these bonds of body, see that thou dost not mourn me as one dead. For I return to that supreme and happy state to which the universe’s citizens will come when in the after-state. For there the Only God is supreme lord, and He will fill His citizens with wondrous joy, compared to which the state down here which is regarded by the multitude as life, should rather be called death.”[22]

Patrizzi believed that Hermes was contemporary with Moses, basing himself upon the opinion of Eusebius in his Chronicum,[23] and thought that it would be to the greatest advantage of the Christian world, if such admirable and pious philosophy as was contained in the Trismegistic writings were substituted in the public schools for Aristotle, whom he regarded as overflowing with impiety.


And that such opinions were the only ones as late as 1630, is evident from the favour still shown to the voluminous commentaries of de Foix and Rossel. Nevertheless some fifty years previously, a hardy pioneer of scepticism had sturdily attacked the validity of the then universal Hermes tradition on one point at least—and that a fundamental one. For Patrizzi (p. 1a) declares that a certain Jo. Goropius Becanus was the first after so many centuries to dare to say that Hermes (as a single individual) never existed! But the worthy Goropius, who appears to have flourished about 1580, judging by an antiquarian treatise of his on the race and language of the “Cimbri or Germani” published at Amsterdam, had no followers as yet in a belief that is now universally accepted by all critical scholarship. But this has to do with the Hermes-saga and not directly with the question of the Trismegistic works, and so we may omit for the present any reference to the host of contradictory opinions on “Hermes” which are found in all the writers to whom we are referring, and none of which, prior to the decipherment of the hieroglyphics, are of any particular value.


It was about the middle of the seventeenth century that the theory of plagiarism and forgery was started. Ursin (Joh. Henr. Ursinus), a pastor of the Evangelical Church at Ratisbon, published at Nürnberg in 1661, a work, in the second part of which he treated of “Hermes Trismegistus and his Writings,”[24] and endeavoured to show that they were wholesale plagiarisms from Christianity, but his arguments were subjected to a severe criticism by Brucker some hundred years later.[25]

This extreme view of Ursin was subsequently modified into the subsidiary opinions that the Trismegistic works were composed by a half-Christian (semi-christiano) or interpolated by Christian overworking.

The most distinguished name among the early holders of the former opinion is that of Isaac Casaubon,[26] who dates these writings at the beginning of the second century; Casaubon’s opinions, however, were promptly refuted by Cudworth in his famous work The True Intellectual System of the Universe, the first edition of which was printed at London, in folio, 1678.[27] Cudworth would have it, however, that Casaubon was right as far as the treatises entitled “The Shepherd of Men” and “The Secret Sermon on the Mountain” are concerned, and that these treatises were counterfeited by Christians since the time of Iamblichus—a very curious position to assume, since a number of the treatises themselves look back to this very “Shepherd” as the original document of the whole “Pœmandres” cycle.

But, indeed, so far we have no arguments, no really critical investigation,[28] so that we need not detain the reader among these warring opinions, on which the cap was set by the violent outburst of Colberg in defence of orthodoxy against the Alchemists, Rosicrucians, Quakers, Anabaptists, Quietists, etc., of which fanatici, as he calls them, Hermes, he declares, was the Patriarch.[29]


One might almost believe that Colberg was an incarnation of a Church Father continuing his ancient polemic against heresy; in any case the whole question of heresy was now revived, and the eighteenth and nineteenth century criticism of the Trismegistic works almost invariably starts with this prejudice in mind and seeks (almost without exception) to father the Trismegistic writings on Neoplatonism, which it regards as the most powerful opponent of orthodoxy from the third century onwards. Harles (1790) gives the references to all the main factors in the evolution of this opinion during the eighteenth century;[30] but the only argument that the century produced—indeed, the only argument that has ever been adduced—is that the doctrines of the Trismegistic writings are clearly Platonic, and that too of that type of mystical Platonism which was especially the characteristic of the teaching of Iamblichus at the end of the third century A.D., and which is generally called Neoplatonism; therefore, these writings were forged by the Neoplatonists to prop up dying Paganism against the ever more and more vigorous Christianity. We admit the premisses, but we absolutely deny the conclusion. But before pointing out the weakness of this conclusion of apologetic scholarship, we must deal with the literature on the subject in the last century. The eighteenth century produced no arguments in support of this conclusion beyond the main premisses which we have admitted.[31] Has the nineteenth century produced any others so as to justify the position taken up by the echoes of opinion in all the popular encyclopædias with regard to these most valuable and beautiful treatises?[32]

If our encyclopædias deign to rest their assertions on authority, they refer us to Fabricius (Harles) and Baumgarten-Crusius. We have already seen that Harles will not help us much; will the latter authority throw any more light on the subject? We are afraid not; for, instead of a bulky volume, we have before us a thin academical exercise of only 19 pp.,[33] in which the author puts forward the bare opinion that these books were invented by Porphyry and his school, and this mainly because he thinks that Orelli[34] had proved the year before that the Cosmogony of Sanchoniathon was invented by the “Platonici.” Moreover, was not Porphyry an enemy of Christ, for did he not write XV. Books against the Christians? All of which can scarcely be dignified with the name of argument, far less with that of proof.


The same may be said of the short academical thesis of Hilgers,[35] who first shows the weakness of Möhler’s strange opinion[36] that the author was a Christian who pretended to be a Pagan and inserted “errors” on purpose. Hilgers finally ends up with the lame conclusion that Christian doctrine was known to the author of the “Pœmandres” cycle, especially the Gospel of “John” and Letters of Paul; but how it is possible to conjecture anything besides, he does not know. Of the possibility of the priority of the “Pœmandres” to the writings of “John” and Paul, Hilgers does not seem to dream; nevertheless this is as logical a deduction as the one he draws from the points of contact between the two groups of literature. But Hilgers has got an axe of his own to grind, and a very blunt one at that; he thinks that “The Shepherd of Men” was written at the same time as “The Shepherd of Hermas,” that simple product of what is called the sub-apostolic age—a document held in great respect by the early outer communities of General Christianity, and used for purposes of edification. Our “Shepherd,” Hilgers thinks, was written in opposition to the Hermas document, but he can do nothing but point to the similarity of name as a proof of his hypothesis. This topsyturvy opinion we shall seek to reverse in a subsequent chapter on “‘Hermes’ and ‘Hermas.’”

As to the author of our “Shepherd,” Hilgers thinks he has shown that “he was not a follower of the doctrines of the Christ, but of the so-called Neoplatonists, and among these especially of Philo Judæus”; in fact he seems, says Hilgers, to have been a Therapeut.[37]


Here we have the first appearance of another tendency; the more attention is bestowed upon the Trismegistic writings, the more it is apparent that they cannot be ascribed to Neoplatonism, if, as generally held, Neoplatonism begins with Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, and Porphyry in the third century. Therefore, in this subject, and in this subject alone, we find a tendency in later writers to push back the Neoplatonists so as to include Philo Judæus, who flourished in the first half of the first century! On these lines we should soon get Neo-platonism back to Plato and Pythagoras, and so be forced to drop the “Neo” and return to the old honoured name of simple “Platonici.”

But already by this time in Germany the theory of Neoplatonic Syncretismus to prop up sinking Heathendom against rising Christianity had become crystallised, as may be seen from the article on “Hermes, Hermetische Schriften” in Pauly’s famous Real Encyclopädie der classischen Alterthumswissenshaft (Stuttgart, 1844), where this position is assumed from the start.

Parthey, however, in 1854, in his preface, ventures on no such opinion, but expresses a belief that we may even yet discover in Egypt a demotic text of the “Pœmandres,” which shows that he considered the original to have been written in Egyptian, and therefore not by a Neoplatonist.


In France, moreover, the Egyptian paternity of the Trismegistic writings, and that too on very sensible lines, was asserted about the same time, namely, in 1858, by Artaud in his article on “Hermès Trismégiste,” in Hoeffer’s Nouvelle Biographie Générale, published at Paris by Messrs Firmin Didot. Artaud writes:

“In the mystic sense Thoth or the Egyptian Hermes was the symbol of the Divine Mind; he was the incarnated Thought, the living Word—the primitive type of the Logos of Plato and the Word of the Christians. . . .

“We have heard Champollion, the younger, giving expression to the formal opinion that the books of Hermes Trismegistus really contained the ancient Egyptian doctrine of which traces can be discovered from the hieroglyphics which cover the monuments of Egypt. Moreover, if these fragments themselves are examined, we find in them a theology sufficiently in accord with the doctrines set forth by Plato in his Timaeus—doctrines which are entirely apart from those of the other schools of Greece, and which were therefore held to have been derived by Plato from the temples of Egypt, when he went thither to hold converse with its priests.”[38]

Artaud is also of the opinion that these Trismegistic treatises are translations from the Egyptian.


Nowadays, with our improved knowledge of Egyptology, this hypothesis has to be stated in far more careful terms before it can find acceptance among the learned; nevertheless it was evidently the conviction of Dévéria, who in a work of which he only succeeded in writing the first two pages, proposed to comment on the entire text of the Trismegistic Books from the point of view of an Egyptologist. For these Books, he declared, offered an almost complete exposition of the esoteric philosophy of ancient Egypt.[39]

But by far the most sympathetic and really intelligent account of the subject is that of Ménard,[40] who gives us a pleasant respite from the chorus of the German Neoplatonic syncretism theory. And though we do not by any means agree with all that he writes, it will be a relief to let in a breath of fresh air upon the general stuffiness of our present summary of opinions.

The fragments of the Trismegistic literature which have reached us are the sole surviving remains of that “Egyptian philosophy” which arose from the congress of the religious doctrines of Egypt with the philosophical doctrines of Greece. In other words, what the works of Philo were to the sacred literature of the Jews, the Hermaica were to the Egyptian sacred writings. Legend and myth were allegorised and philosophised and replaced by vision and instruction. But who were the authors of this theosophic method? This question is of the greatest interest to us, for it is one of the factors in the solution of the problem of the literary evolution of Christianity, seeing that there are intimate points of contact of ideas between several of the Hermetic documents and certain Jewish and Christian writings, especially the opening verses of Genesis, the treatises of Philo, the fourth Gospel (especially the Prologue), and beyond all the writings of the great Gnostic doctors Basilides and Valentinus.

Such and similar considerations lead Ménard to glance at the environment of infant Christianity and the various phenomena connected with its growth, and this he does from the point of view of an enlightened independent historical scholar.

“Christianity,” he writes, “did not fall like a thunderbolt into the midst of a surprised and startled world. It had its period of incubation, and while it was engaged in evolving the positive form of its dogmas, the problems of which it was seeking the solution were the subject of thought in Greece, Asia, and Egypt. Similar ideas were in the air and shaped themselves into all sorts of propositions.

“The multiplicity of sects which have arisen in our own times under the name of socialism, can give but a faint idea of the marvellous intellectual chemistry which had established its principal laboratory at Alexandria. Humanity had set in the arena mighty philosophical and moral problems: the origin of evil, the destiny of the soul, its fall and redemption; the prize to be given was the government of the conscience. The Christian solution[41] won, and caused the rest to be forgotten, sunk for the most part in the shipwreck of the past. Let us then, when we come across a scrap of the flotsam and jetsam, recognise in it the work of a beaten competitor and not of a plagiarist. Indeed, the triumph of Christianity was prepared by those very men who thought themselves its rivals, but who were only its forerunners. The title suits them, though many were contemporaries of the Christian era, while others were a little later; for the succession of a religion only dates from the day when it is accepted by the nations, just as the reign of a claimant to the throne dates from his victory” (pp. ix., x.).

Ménard distinguishes three principal groups in the Trismegistic treatises, which he assigns to Jewish, Greek, and Egyptian influences. In them also he finds a link between Philo and the Gnostics.

“Between the first Gnostic sects and the Hellenic Jews represented by Philo, a link is missing; this can be found in several of the Hermetic works, especially ‘The Shepherd of Men’ and ‘The Sermon on the Mountain.’ In them also will perhaps be found the reason of the differences, so often remarked upon, between the first three Gospels and the fourth” (p. xliv.).

Next, the direction in which that “link” is to be looked for is more clearly shown, though here Ménard is, I think, too precise when writing:

“It seems certain that ‘The Shepherd’ came from that school of Therapeuts of Egypt, who have been often erroneously confounded with the Essenians of Syria and Palestine” (p. lvi).

But “instead of the physical discipline of the Essenians, who, according to Philo, practised manual labour, put the product of their toil into the common fund, and reduced philosophy to ethics, and ethics to charity, the ‘monasteries’ of the Therapeuts contributed to Christian propaganda a far more Hellenised population, trained in abstract speculations and mystic allegories. From these tendencies, combined with the dogma of the incarnation, arose the Gnostic sects. ‘The Shepherd’ should be earlier than these schools” (p. lviii.).

As to “The Sermon on the Mountain,” “it can be placed, in order of ideas and date, between ‘The Shepherd’ and the first Gnostic schools; it should be a little earlier than the founders of Gnosticism, Basilides, and Valentinus” (p. lxv.).

If Gnosticism be taken with Ménard to mean the Christianised theosophy of Basilides and Valentinus from the first quarter of the second century onwards, the oldest Trismegistic treatises are demonstrably earlier, for their Gnosticism is plainly a far simpler form; in fact, so much more simple that, if we could proceed on so crude an hypothesis as that of a straight-lined evolution, we should be forced to find room for intermediate forms of Gnosticism between them and the Basilidian and the Valentinian Gnosis. And of this Ménard seems to be partly conscious when writing: “We can follow in the Hermetic books the destiny of this Judæo-Egyptian Gnosis, which, during the first century, existed side by side with Christianity without allowing itself to be absorbed by it, passing insensibly from the Jewish school of Philo to the Greek school of Plotinus” (p. lxvii.).

Ménard here used the term Christianity for that tendency which afterwards was called Catholic or General Christianity, the body to which these very same Gnostics gave the principal dogmas of its subsequent theology.

But if the Gnostics were Therapeuts, and the Trismegistic writers Therapeuts, why should Ménard call them Jews, as he appears to do in his interesting question, “Where are the Jewish Therapeuts at the end of the second century?” Certainly Philo laboured to give his readers the impression that the Therapeuts were principally Jews, perhaps to win respect for his compatriots in his apology for his nation; but the Therapeuts were, evidently, on his own showing, drawn from all the nations and scattered abroad in very numerous communities, though many Jews were doubtless in their ranks—indeed, Philo probably knew little about their communities other than the Mareotic. If, then, the term “Therapeut” will explain some of the phenomena presented by these writings, the combination “Jewish Therapeuts” will certainly not do so. The very answer of Ménard himself to his question shows that even these Mareotic Therapeuts could not have been orthodox Jews, for the French scholar proceeds to surmise not only that, “some, converted to Christianity, became monks or Gnostics of the Basilidian or Valentinian school,” but that “others more and more assimilated themselves to Paganism.”

And by “Paganism” our author says he does not mean “polytheism,” for “at this period all admitted into the divine order of things a well-defined hierarchy with a supreme God at the head; only for some this supreme Deity was in the world, for others outside it” (p. lxxiv.).

Ménard’s introduction meets with the general approval of Reitzenstein (p. 1), who characterises it as feinsinnige, and agrees that he has rightly appreciated many of the factors, especially from the theological side; he, however (p. 116, n. 2), dissents, and rightly dissents, from Ménard as to any direct Jewish influence on the Trismegistic literature, and refuses to admit that the “Pœmandres” can in any way be characterised as a Jewish-Gnostic writing.

But the sensible views of Ménard were impotent to check the crystallisation of the German theory, which was practically repeated by Zeller,[42] and once more by Pietschmann in his learned essay,[43] based in part on A. G. Hoffmann’s article “Hermes” in Ersch and Grüber’s Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste.[44]

An exception to this tendency, however, is to be found in the opinion of Aall;[45] who, though he adduces no proof, would on general grounds place the composition of the Hermetic literature (though whether or not by this he means our extant Trismegistic sermons is not clear) as far back as the second century B.C., and would see in it an offshoot from the same stem which later on supplied the ground-conceptions of the Johannine theology.[46]


In England, as we have seen, the subject, like so many others of a similar nature, has been almost entirely neglected, but with the encyclopædic activity of the past generation we find it touched upon, and in the usual encyclopædic fashion. The German position is assumed, without one word of proof or reference to any, as an “acquired fact of science”! The “last effort of expiring Heathendom” theory is trotted out with complacency and with that impressive air of official knowledge which makes the pronouncements of the family physician a law unto all its members, from baby to father—until the specialist is called in. And unfortunately these ex cathedrâ encyclopædic pronouncements are all the general reader will ever hear. This is the case with all those three indifferent articles in our current dictionaries of reference.[47] We are assured that, “as all are generally agreed,” the writings are Neoplatonic, and this without any qualification or definition of the term, and that too in dictionaries where the term “Neoplatonic,” in articles on the subject, is applied solely to the “Chain” from Ammonius Saccas and Plotinus onwards. The presumption is plain that by Neoplatonic forgeries we are to understand a date of at earliest from the middle of the third century onwards.


And this although Justin Martyr (cir. 150 A.D.) bestows emphatic praise on these very same writings and classes their writer, “Hermes,” among the “most ancient philosophers,” a point which the German theorists and their English copiers have all discreetly shirked, but which, together with other considerations, has forced Chambers, in the preface to his translation (London, 1882), to give quite a new meaning to the term Neoplatonist, which he uses of Hermes in his title,[48] and to declare that our Hermes is entitled “to be considered the real founder of Neoplatonism.”[49] Chambers would still, in spite of Justin’s clear testimony, wedge in the earliest deposit of Trismegistic literature immediately between the time of composition of the new canonical books and Justin, and devotes nearly all his notes to fishing out every verse of the New Testament he can which bears the slightest resemblance to the Trismegistic text.[50] But if we closely compare these so-called parallels, we are compelled to acknowledge that if there be any plagiarism it is not on the side of Hermes; nay, more, it is as plain as it can be that there is no verbal plagiarism at all, and that the similarity of ideas therefore pertains to quite another problem, for the distinctive dogmas of Common Christianity are entirely wanting; there is not a single word breathed of the historical Jesus, not a syllable concerning the nativity, the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension or coming of Christ to judgment, as Chambers admits.


Let us now turn to the pronouncements of German encyclopædism on the subject. F. A. Brockhaus’ Conversations-Lexikon (Leipzig, 1884) does but repeat the old hypothesis. The Trismegistic writings are “the last monuments of Heathendom”; the writer, however, grudgingly takes in the date of Justin Martyr in the sentence, “presumably the majority of these writings belong to the second century,” but not a word is breathed of how this conclusion is arrived at.

A most valuable article, in fact far and away the very best that has yet been done, containing innumerable references to all the articles in the most recent transactions of learned societies and to the papers in scientific periodicals, is that of Chr. Scherer on “Hermes,” in W. H. Roscher’s Auführliches Lexikon der griechischen u. römischen Mythologie (Leipzig, 1884, etc.). Unfortunately this article deals solely with the Hermes of the Greeks, while for “Hermes Trismegistos” we are referred to “Thoth,” an article which has not yet appeared. This brings our summary of opinions down to the close of the last century; we have probably omitted reference to some minor opinions, for no up-to-date bibliography exists on the subject, but we doubt that any work of importance has escaped our notice.


The most recent work done in England on the subject, in the present century, is an article by Frank Granger,[51] who, in spite of some useful criticisms and suggestions on some points, is nevertheless in the main reactionary, and contends for a Christian origin of our most important tractates. The scope of his enquiry may be seen from his preliminary statement when he writes:

“We shall have little difficulty in showing, as against Zeller, that the book [? our Corpus, or the first Sermon only] is in the main homogeneous and of Christian origin. Not only so, our discussion will bring us into contact with the later Greek culture as it developed amid Egyptian surroundings, and will raise several problems of considerable importance. Among other things we shall have to trace the way in which Hermes passes over into Christian tradition, and how the Greek representations of Hermes furnished Christian art with one of its earliest motives.[52] We shall further find in it a bridge by which we may pass over from Greek philosophy and science to modes of thought which are properly Christian. And yet the writer retains so much of the antique spirit that he can hardly be mistaken for an apologist of Paganism.”

When, however, Granger attempts to prove his case, he breaks down utterly, being able to point to little besides the popular phrase “increase and multiply.” Towards the end of his enquiry, however, he sees that the traditional values of many factors will have to be altered by a study of our literature, as, for instance, when he writes:

“The traditional estimate of Gnosticism, then, requires to be reconsidered, in the light of the Poemandres. It belongs to a time when religious definitions were still in the making—a time, therefore, when the limits of free discussion were not yet straitly drawn. Hence the various permutations of religious belief which we find in Irenæus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, would not be admitted by their exponents to be in conflict with the Christian faith, but would rather be regarded as exhibiting new and fruitful applications of principles common to all. Ecclesiastical opinion ultimately settled down in one direction rather than another. But until this process was complete, each living system of belief might count upon a possible victory,[53] and so, among others, the system which may be traced in the Poemandres. And the Poemandres is so far from being a merely heretical production, that its relation to orthodox belief may fairly be indicated by saying that it answers to the earlier intellectual position of Clement of Alexandria.”[54]

We should say rather that the difficulties in which our essayist is evidently involved by his hypothesis of Christian origin, would be considerably lessened by accepting the evidence on all hands which a more extended study of the Trismegistic and allied literatures affords, and by treating what he refers to as Gnosticism without qualification as the Christianised Gnosis, and not as Gnosticised Christianity.

We thus find Granger compelled, in keeping with the above, to guess the date of the “Pœmandres” as towards the end of the second century; but even so, he feels dissatisfied with himself, for he has to add: “Nor does this date preclude us from finding occasional traces of even earlier material.”

However we may dissent from Granger’s conclusions as to the “Pœmandres,” we agree with him in the importance he ascribes to the Gospel according to the Egyptians, in connection with which he writes[55]:

“It is instructive to note that Salome, who plays so prominent a part in the Gospel according to the Egyptians, is the mother of St John,[56] and that the same Gnostic circles in which this gospel is current were also those in which we hear for the first time of the Fourth Gospel. That is to say, the Fourth Gospel comes to us from the hands of the Alexandrine Gnostics. The system of Valentinus is really a somewhat fanciful commentary upon the opening chapters of St John’s Gospel.[57] Heracleon, the first great commentator[58] upon St John, was both a Gnostic and at the same time was really the master of Origen, and through him helped to determine the development of the orthodox theology. Now, the key to the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel is to be found in the Gnostic ideas which underlie the Poemandres, ideas to which Heracleon furnishes the clue. But the commentators have refused the help which the Gnostics could give, and the Fourth Gospel has been consistently misunderstood owing to the exaggerated stress which has been laid upon the doctrine of the λόγος.”

I am not quite clear what the last sentence is intended to mean. Too great stress cannot be laid upon the doctrine of the Logos, for it is, as we shall show, the fundamental concept of Hellenistic theology; but too great stress can and has been laid upon the illegitimate claim that the Proem of the Fourth Gospel embodies a peculiarly Christian doctrine.

Moreover, if the Fourth Gospel emerges in Alexandrine circles and is so essentially Gnostic, how can it be ascribed, as Granger appears to ascribe it, to “St John”? A very different conclusion seems to follow from Granger’s premisses.

The conclusion of the most recent study by English scholarship on our “Pœmandres” is as follows:

“The Poemandres, then, is a very striking exponent of the religious and philosophical ideas amid which Alexandrine theology arose. On the one hand it is in touch with Greek mythology and science; on the other, with Jewish and Christian literature. The author is more sober than most of his Gnostic contemporaries; he is a more consistent reasoner than Clement.”[59]

But if, as we shall show, the date of the “Pœmandres” must be pushed back demonstrably at least a hundred years, and if, as is exceedingly probable, it must go back still further, the whole problem is changed, and the relationship of all the factors alters proportionately.


But in the present century, by the publication of Reitzenstein’s Poimandres, the whole subject has been placed on a different footing and brought into a clearer light. Reitzenstein attacks the problem of the Trismegistic writings from an entirely objective, historical, philological, and literary standpoint. Being entirely emancipated from any theological preconceptions, he is always careful to point out that his conclusions are based solely on critical research in the domain of philology proper; he cannot, however, refrain at times from adding (somewhat slily) that these results are of the deepest interest to the theologian—indeed, we might say highly embarrassing if the theologian happens to be a traditionalist.

The general scope of Reitzenstein’s essay may be gathered from his sub-title, “Studies in Greek-Egyptian and Early Christian Literature.” Our Trismegistic writings form part of a large number of Greek written texts, the remains of a once exceedingly extensive Hellenistic theological literature; and by Hellenistic theology is meant the blending of Greek and Oriental religious thought and experience. This Hellenistic theology was most strongly influenced by Egyptian conceptions and traditions. The Egyptian religion is known to have spread itself over the Hellenistic world, and every scholar will at once recall to mind how many Greek writers have treated expressly of the Egyptian religion, and how many passages in Greek literature refer to Egyptian beliefs, as compared with the very few which treat of Babylonian, Persian, or even Syrian.

Nevertheless, the remains of this Hellenistic theological literature have never been treated as a whole from the point of view of philology; the cause of this has been the entire disregard of the subject by Christian theologians, coupled with the grotesque grounds on which the consideration of the Hellenistic-Egyptian religion is usually set aside—one famous theologian lately going so far as to assert that the Egyptian worship was despised on all sides, both by Jews and Greeks, as the lowest depth of human superstition.

As then Egypt had a provably dominant position in Hellenistic literature, so also must she have had in some sort a correspondingly strong influence on Hellenistic culture, and consequently on the development of Hellenistic religious experience. The evidence of this is afforded by the Early Christian literature.

We have, therefore, here in these Greek-Egyptian and Early Christian documents the possibility of methodical work, seeing that it is a question of the comparative study of two contemporaneous literatures; moreover, the language and typology of the Christian literature is bound to betray traces of the general Hellenistic theology of the time (pp. v., vi.).

The study of Reitzenstein is thus a consideration of our Trismegistic literature as a whole, and the analysis and comparison of two of the most typical sermons with other Hellenistic documents and with Early Christian writings.

This he does with praiseworthy and painstaking industry, with great acumen and admirable scholarly equipment; but his work is of no service to any but scholars, and that, too, to scholars who are specialists. It is a work bristling with technicalities of every description, and crammed with untranslated texts. Indeed, Reitzenstein belongs to that school of philological purists who think it a loss of dignity to translate anything; this is a very convenient convention, and I myself have often wished that I could have availed myself of it when face to face with innumerable difficulties of translation.

Reitzenstein, then, translates nothing, but busies himself with texts and the higher criticism of the subject. He, however, does not give us the text of our literature as a whole, or even of the Corpus Hermeticum, but only of four chapters and the fragments of a fifth. Moreover, the results of his investigations are very difficult to summarise; indeed, he nowhere summarises them himself in any certain fashion, his chapters being on the whole of the nature of studies in the Trismegistic literature rather than a complete exposition.

Nevertheless these studies are, beyond comparison, the most important and suggestive work that has yet been done on the subject; and as I shall avail myself of his labours on so many occasions in the sequel, I cannot refrain from acknowledging here the special debt of gratitude which all lovers of our sermons must feel to him, for compelling the attention of scholars to the first importance of the Trismegistic literature in the domain of the history of the development of religious thought in the first centuries.

The general scope of his studies will be seen from the titles of the main chapters:—I. Age of the “Poimandres”; by “Poimandres” R. means C. H., i. only. II. Analysis of the “Poimandres”; III. Fundamental Conception of the “Poimandres”; IV. “Poimandres” and the Egyptian Apocalyptic Literature; V. Expansion of the Hermetic Literature; VI. The Hermetic Corpus; VII. The Later “Poimandres” Document (The Prophet-Initiation).

The theory of plagiarism from Christianity must for ever be abandoned. The whole literature is based on the “Pœmandres” as its original gospel, and the original form of this scripture must be placed at least prior to the second century A.D. How much earlier it goes back we cannot at present say with any exactitude; before the beginning of the second century is the terminus ad quem—that is to say it cannot possibly be later than this; to seek, therefore, for traditional Christian thoughts in this document is henceforth deprived of any prospect of success (p. 36).

Reitzenstein tells us (p. 2) that these writings in the first place interested him solely through their literary form, but that this interest became deepened as he gradually learned to value them as important records of that powerful religious movement which, like a flood, overflowed the West from the East, and, after preparing the way for Christianity, subsequently bore it along with it; the best and surest evidence of this religious revival is to be found in the literary form of Hellenistic theology.

This in itself is of interest enough and to spare; and at a time when every scrap of contemporary literature is being so eagerly scanned for the smallest side-light it can throw on the environment and development of Christian origins, it is amazing that the Trismegistic writings should have been hitherto so studiously neglected.


But there is another and still more profoundly interesting side of the subject which we cannot expect to find treated in a purely philological, technical, and critical treatise. The more one studies the best of these mystical sermons, casting aside all prejudice, and trying to feel and think with the writers, the nearer one is conscious of approaching the threshold of what may well be believed to have been the true Adytum of the best in the mystery-traditions of antiquity. Innumerable are the hints of the greatnesses and immensities lying beyond that threshold—among other precious things the vision of the key to Egypt’s wisdom, the interpretation of apocalypsis by the light of the sun-clear epopteia of the intelligible cosmos.

Such greatnesses and such mysteries have a power and beauty which the most disreputable tradition of the texts through unknowing hands cannot wholly disguise, and they are still recognisable, even though thus clad in the rags of their once fair garments, by those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

But to return to the points we raised in the opening of this chapter.


If we now re-state the problems we are considering in the interrogative form, we shall have to find answers to the following questions:

Why did the early Church Fathers accept the Trismegistic writings as exceedingly ancient and authoritative, and in their apologetic writings quote them in support of the main impersonal dogmas of Christianity?

Why, in the revival of learning, for upwards of a century and a half did all the Humanists welcome them with open arms as a most valuable adjunct to Christianity, and as being in accord with its main doctrines, so much so that they laboured to substitute Trismegistus for Aristotle in the schools?

Finally, why during the last two centuries and a half has a body of opinion been gradually evolved, infinitesimal in its beginnings, but well-nigh shutting out every other view, that these writings are Neoplatonic forgeries?

The answers to these questions are simple:—The Church Fathers appealed to the authority of antiquity and to a tradition that had never been called in question, in order to show that they taught nothing fundamentally new—that, in brief, they taught on main points what Hermes had taught. They lived in days too proximate to that tradition to have ventured on bringing any charge of plagiarism and forgery against it without exposing themselves to a crushing rejoinder from men who were still the hearers of its “living voice” and possessors of its “written word.”

The scholars of the Renaissance naturally followed the unvarying tradition of antiquity, confirmed by the Fathers of the Church.

Gradually, however, it was perceived that, if the old tradition were accepted, the fundamental originality of general Christian doctrines—that is to say, the philosophical basis of the Faith, as apart from the historical dogmas peculiar to it—could no longer be maintained. It, therefore, became imperatively necessary to discredit the ancient tradition by every possible means. With what success this policy has been attended we have already seen; we have also reviewed this growth of opinion, and shown its baseless character and the straits to which its defenders have been put.

From the clouds of this obscurantism the sun of Thrice-greatest Hermes and the radiance of his Gnosis have once more shone forth in the skies of humanistic enquiry and unprejudiced research. He is no longer to be called bastard, and plagiarist, and thief of other people’s property, but must be regarded as a genuine teacher of men, handing on his own, and giving freely of his substance to all who will receive the gift.

3. Thoth The Master Of Wisdom


The present chapter will be devoted to a brief consideration of the nature, powers, and attributes of the divine personification Thoth (Teḥuti), the Master of Wisdom and Truth, on the ground of pure Egyptian tradition. As I have unfortunately no sufficient knowledge of Egyptian, I am not in a position to control by the texts the information which will be set before the reader; it will, however, be derived from the works of specialists, and mainly from the most recent study on the subject, the two sumptuous volumes of Dr E. A. Wallis Budge, the keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities in the British Museum.

First of all, however, let us see what the German scholar Pietschmann has had to say on Thoth in his monograph specially devoted to Thrice-greatest Hermes according to Egyptian, Greek, and Oriental traditions.[60]

The first part of Pietschmann’s treatise, in which he seems to be content, as far as his own taste and feeling are concerned, to trace the original of the grandiose concept of the Thrice-greatest to the naïve conception of an “ibis-headed moon-god,” is devoted to the consideration of what he calls the god Teχ-Ṭeḥuti among the Egyptians. Why Pietschmann should have chosen this double form of the name for his sub-title is not very clear. The variants appear to be Teḥ, Teḥu, Teḥut, and Teḥuti—of which it would seem that the Greek form Thoth is an attempt to transliterate Teḥut. There are, however, it may be remarked, no less than eighteen variants of the name found in Greek and Latin. I should thus myself be inclined to use the form Teḥut if it were permissible; but of this I am not quite sure, as the weak-sounding though undoubtedly more common form Teḥuti, is usually employed by scholars. As, however, Teḥuti, to my ears at any rate, is not a very dignified sounding cognomen, I shall use the Greek form Thoth as being the more familiar to English readers.


Horapollo tells us that the ibis was the symbol of Thoth as the “master of the heart and reason in all men,”[61] though why this was so must remain hidden in the mystery of the “sacred animals,” which has not yet to my knowledge been in any way explained.

And as Thoth, the Logos, was in the hearts of all, so was he the heart of the world whose life directed and permeated all things.[62]

Thus the temple, as the dwelling of the God, was regarded as a model of the world, and its building as a copy of the world-building. And just as Thoth had ordained measure, number, and order in the universe, so was he the master-architect of temple-building and of all the mystic monuments. Thus, as the ordering world-mind, a text addresses Thoth as follows:

 “Thou art the great, the only God, the Soul of the Becoming.”[63]

To aid him in the world Thoth has a spouse, or syzygy, Nehe-māut. She is, among the Gnostics, the Sophia-aspect of the Logos. She is presumably the Nature of our Trismegistic treatises. Together Thoth and Nehe-māut are the initiators of all order, rule, and law in the universe.

Thus Thoth is especially the representative of the Spirit, the Inner Reason of all things; he is the Protector of all earthly laws, and every regulation of human society.[64] Says a text:

“His law is firmly established, like that of Thoth.”[65]

As representative of the Reason immanent in the world, Thoth is the mediator through whom the world is brought into manifestation. He is the Tongue of Rā, the Herald of the Will of Rā,[66] and the Lord of Sacred Speech.[67]

“What emanates from the opening of his mouth, that cometh to pass; he speaks, and it is his command; he is the Source of Speech, the Vehicle of Knowledge, the Revealer of the Hidden.”[68]

Thoth is thus the God of writing and all the arts and sciences. On a monument of Seti I. he is called “Scribe of the nine Gods.” He writes “the truth of the nine Gods,” and is called “Scribe of the King of Gods and men.”

Hence he is naturally inventor of the hieroglyphics, and patron and protector of all temple-archives and libraries, and of all scribes. At the entrance of one of the halls of the Memnonium at Thebes, the famous “Library of Osymandias,” called “The great House of Life,” we find Thoth as “Lord in the Hall of Books.”[69]

In the Ebers papyrus we read: “His guide is Thoth, who bestows on him the gifts of his speech, who makes the books, and illumines those who are learned therein, and the physicians who follow him, that they may work cures.”

We shall see that one of the classes of priests was devoted to the healing of the body, just as another was devoted to the healing of the soul.

These books are also called “The Great Gnoses of Thoth.”[70] Thoth was thus God of medicine, but not so much by drugs as by means of mesmeric methods and certain “magic formulæ.” Thus he is addressed as “Thoth, Lord of Heaven, who givest all life, all health.”[71]


Moreover, Thoth was also Lord of Rebirth:[72] “Thou hast given life in the Land of the Living; Thou hast made them live in the Region of Flames; Thou hast given respect of thy counsels in the breasts and in the hearts of men—mortals, intelligences, creatures of light.”

The Land of the Living was the Invisible World, a glorious Land of Light and Life for the seers of ancient Egypt. Mortals, Intelligences, Creatures of Light, were, says Pietschmann, the “three grades of the Egyptian mysteries.”[73] These grades were, one may assume from our treatises: (1) Mortals—probationary pupils who were instructed in the doctrine, but who had not yet realised the inner vision; (2) Intelligences—those who had done so and had become “men,” that is to say who had received the “Mind”; (3) Beings (or Sons) of Light—those who had become one with the Light, that is to say those who had reached the nirvāṇic consciousness.

So much for what Pietschmann can be made to tell us of Thoth as Wisdom-God among the Egyptians.


To the information in Pietschmann may be added that which is given by Reitzenstein in the second of his two important studies, Zwei religionsgeschichtliche Fragen nach ungedruckten Texten der Strassburger Bibliothek (Strassburg, 1901). This second study deals with “Creation-myths and the Logos-doctrine,” the special Creation-myths treated of being found in a hitherto unpublished Greek text, which hands on purely Egyptian ideas in Greek dress and with Greek god-names, and which is of great interest and importance for the general subject of which our present studies form part.

The writer of this cosmogonical fragment was a priest or prophet of Hermes, and Hermes plays the most important part in the creation-story. Reitzenstein then proceeds to show that in the oldest Egyptian cosmogony the cosmos is brought into being through the Divine Word, which Thoth, who seems to have originally been equated with the Sun-god, speaks forth. This gives him the opportunity of setting down the attributes ascribed to Thoth in Egypt in pre-Greek times.[74] As, however, the same ground is covered more fully by Budge, we will now turn to his Gods of the Egyptians, or Studies in Egyptian Mythology (London, 1904), vol. i. pp. 400 ff., and lay under contribution the chapter entitled “Thoth (Teḥuti) and Maāt, and the other Goddesses who were associated with him,” as the most recent work on the subject by a specialist in Egyptological studies, whose opinions, it is true, may doubtless on many points be called into question by other specialists, but whose data must be accepted by the layman as based on prolonged first-hand study of the original texts. In using the material supplied by Dr Budge, however, I shall venture on setting it forth as it appears to me—that is to say, with the ideas awakened in my own mind by the study of his facts.


In the Hymns to Rā in the Ritual or Book of the Dead, and in works of a similar nature, we find that Thoth and Maāt stand one on either side of the Great God in his Boat, and that their existence was believed to be coeval with his own. Maāt is thus seen to be the feminine counterpart, syzygy or shakti, of Thoth, and her name is associated with the idea of Truth and Righteousness—that which is right, true, real, genuine, upright, righteous, just, steadfast, unalterable.


From the inscriptions of the later dynastic period, moreover, we learn that Thoth was called “Lord of Khemennu (Hermopolis), Self-created, to whom none hath given birth, God One.” He is the great Measurer, the Logos, “He who reckons in Heaven, the Counter of the Stars, the Enumerator of the Earth and of what is therein, and the Measurer of the Earth.”

He is the “Heart of Rā which cometh forth in the form of the God Thoth.”

As Lord of Hermopolis, where was his chief shrine, and of his temples in other cities, he was called “Lord of Divine Words,” “Lord of Maāt,” “Judge of the two Combatant Gods”—that is, of Horus and Set. Among other titles we find him called “Twice-great,” and “Thrice-great.” “From this last,” says Budge, “were derived the epithets ‘Trismegistus’ and ‘Termaximus’ of the classical writers.” We, however, doubt if this is so, and prefer the explanation of Griffith, as we shall see later on.

In addition to these deific titles, which identify him with the Logos in the highest meaning of the term, he was also regarded as the Inventor and God of all arts and sciences; he was “Lord of Books,” “Scribe of the Gods,” and “Mighty in speech”—that is to say, “his words took effect,” says Budge; his was the power of the “Spoken Word,” the Word whose language is action and realisation. He was said to be the author of many of the so-called “funeral works” by means of which the “deceased” gained everlasting life. These books were, however, rather in their origin sermons of initiation for living men, setting forth the “death unto sin and the new birth unto righteousness.” Thus in the Book of the Dead he plays a part to which are assigned powers greater than those of Osiris or even of Rā himself.


He is usually depicted in human form with the head of an ibis, or sometimes as an ibis; but why he is so symbolised remains a mystery even unto this day. It is also of little purpose to set down the emblems he carries, or the various crowns he wears, without some notion of what these hidden symbols of a lost wisdom may purport. The meanings of these sacred signs were clear enough, we may believe, to those who were initiated into the “Language of the Word”; to them they revealed the mystery, while for the profane they veiled and still veil their true significance.

Teḥuti, the Egyptian name of Thoth, it has been suggested, is to be derived from teḥu, the supposed oldest name of the ibis in Egypt; the termination ti thus signifying that he who was thus called possessed the powers and qualities of the ibis.

But if this is the true derivation, seeing that Teḥuti in his highest aspect is a synonym for the Logos of our system at the very least, I would suggest that we should rather exalt the “ibis” to the heavens than drag down the sublime concept of that Logos to considerations connected with a degenerate fowl of earth, and believe that the Egyptians chose it in wisdom rather than folly, as being some far-off reflection of a certain Great Bird of the Cosmic Depths, a member of that circle of Sacred Animals of which the now conventional Signs of the Zodiac are but faint sky-glyphs.

But the derivation of the name Teḥuti which seems to have been favoured by the Egyptians themselves was from tekh, which usually means a “weight,” but is also found as the name of Thoth himself. Now the determinative for the word tekh is the sign for the “heart”; moreover, Horapollo (i. 36) tells us that when the Egyptians wish to write “heart” they draw an ibis, adding, “for this bird was dedicated to Hermes (Thoth) as Lord of all Knowledge and Understanding.” Is it possible, however, that in this Horapollo was either mistaken or has said less than he knew; and that the Egyptians once wrote simply “heart” for Thoth, who presided over the “weighing of the heart,” but subsequently, in their love of mystery, and owing to the name-play, substituted the bird tekh or teknu, which we know closely resembled the ibis, for the more sacred symbol?

The now commonest name for Thoth, however, is Egy. hab, Copt, hibōi, Gk. ibis; and it is the white ibis (Abû Hannes) which is the Ibis religiosa, so say Liddell and Scott. Another of the commonest symbolic forms of Thoth is the dog-headed ape. Thus among birds he is glyphed as the ibis, among animals as the cynocephalus. The main apparent reason for this, as we shall see later on, is because the ibis was regarded as the wisest of birds, and the ape of animals.[75]

In the Judgment Scene of the Book of the Dead the dog-headed ape (Āān) is seated on the top of the beam of the Balance in which the heart of the deceased is weighed; his duty apparently is to watch the pointer and tell his master Thoth when the beam is level. Brugsch has suggested that this ape is a form of Thoth as God of “equilibrium,” and that it elsewhere symbolises the equinoxes; but this does not explain the ape. Thoth is indeed, as we have seen, the Balancer—“Judge of the two Combatant Gods,”[76] Horus and Set; he it is who stands at the meeting of the Two Ways, at the junction of Order and Chaos; but this by no means explains the puzzling cynocephalus. It was in one sense presumably connected with a certain state of consciousness, a reflection of the true Mind, just as were the lion and the eagle (or hawk); it “mimicked” that Mind better than the rest of the “animals.”

Horapollo (i. 16), basing himself on some Hellenistic sources, tells us that the Egyptians symbolised the equinoxes by a sitting cynocephalus. One of the reasons which he gives for this is delightfully “Physiologic”; he tells us that at the equinoxes once every two hours, or twelve times a day, the cynocephalus micturates.[77] From this as from so many of such tales we learn what the “sacred animal” did in heaven, rather than what the physical ape performed on earth. (Cf. R. 265, n. 3.)


“The principal seat of the Thoth-cult was Khemennu, or Hermopolis, a city famous in Egyptian mythology as the place containing the “high ground on which Rā rested when he rose for the first time.”

Dare I here speculate that in this we have the mountain of our “Secret Sermon on the Mountain,” and that it was in the Thoth mystery-tradition of Hermopolis that the candidates for initiation were taught to ascend the mountain of their own inner natures, on the top of which the Spiritual Sun would rise and rest upon their heads “for the first time,” as Isis says in our “Virgin of the World” treatise?


At Khemennu[78] Thoth was regarded as the head of a Company of Eight—four pairs of divinities or divine powers, each a syzygy of male and female powers, positive and negative, active and passive, the oldest example of the Gnostic Ogdoad.

This was long ago the view of Brugsch, and it is now strongly supported by Budge, on the evidence of the texts, as against the opinion of Maspero, who would make the Hermopolitan a copy of the Heliopolitan Paut, or Company, which included Osiris and Isis. Budge, however, squarely declares that “the four pairs of gods of Hermopolis belong to a far older conception of the theogony than that of the company of gods of Heliopolis.”

If this judgment is well founded, we have here a most interesting parallel in the Osirian type of our Trismegistic literature, in which Osiris and Isis look to Hermes (Thoth) as their teacher, as being far older and wiser than themselves.

The great struggle between Light and Darkness, of the God of Light and the God of Darkness, goes back to the earliest Egyptian tradition, and the fights of Rā and Āpep, Ḥeru-Behuṭet and Set, and Horus, son of Isis, and Set, are “in reality only different versions of one and the same story, though belonging to different periods.” The Horus and Set version is apparently the most recent. The names of the Light God and Dark God thus change, but what does not change is the name of the Arbiter, the Mediator, “whose duty it was to prevent either God from gaining a decisive victory, and from destroying one another.” This Balancer was Thoth, who had to keep the opposites in equilibrium.


The name of the Temple of Thoth at Khemennu, or the City of Eight, was Ḥet Ȧbtit, or “House of the Net”—a very curious expression. From Ch. cliii. of the Ritual, however, we learn that there was a mysterious Net which, as Budge says, “was supposed to exist in the Under World and that the deceased regarded it with horror and detestation. Every part of it—its poles, and ropes, and weights, and small cords, and hooks—had names which he was obliged to learn if he wished to escape from it, and make use of it to catch food for himself, instead of being caught by ‘those who laid snares.’”

Interpreting this from the mystical standpoint of the doctrine of Rebirth, or the rising from the dead—that is to say, of the spiritual resurrection of those who had died to the darkness of their lower natures and had become alive to the light of the spiritual life, and this too while alive in the body and not after the death of this physical frame—I would venture to suggest that this Net was the symbol of a certain condition of the inner nature which shut in the man into the limitations of the conventional life of the world, and shut him off from the memory of his true self. The poles, ropes, weights, small cords, and hooks were symbols of the anatomy and physiology, so to say, of the invisible “body” or “carapace” or “egg” or “envelope” of the soul. The normal man was emeshed in this engine of Fate; the man who received the Mind inverted this Net, so to speak, transmuted and transformed it, so that he could catch food for himself. “Come ye after me and I will make you fishers of men.” The food with which the “Christ” nourishes his “body” is supplied by men.

Thus in a prayer in this chapter of the Ritual we read: “Hail, thou ‘God who lookest behind thee,’[79] thou ‘God who hast gained the mastery over thine heart,’[80] I go a-fishing with the cordage [? net] of the ‘Uniter of the earth,’ and of him that maketh a way through the earth.[81] Hail ye Fishers who have given birth to your own fathers,[82] who lay snares with your nets, and who go round about in the chambers of the waters, take ye not me in the net wherewith ye ensnare the helpless fiends, and rope me not in with the rope wherewith ye roped in the abominable fiends of earth, which had a frame which reached unto heaven, and weighted parts that rested upon earth.”[83]

And in another chapter (cxxxiii.) the little man says to the Great Man within him: “Lift thyself up, O thou Rā, who dwellest in this divine shrine; draw thou unto thyself the winds, inhale the North wind, and swallow thou the beqesu of thy net on the day wherein thou breathest Maāt.”

“On the day wherein thou breathest Maāt” suggests the inbreathing or inspiration of Truth and Righteousness, the Holy Ghost, or Holy Breath or Life, the Spouse of the Ordering Mind or Logos. The winds are presumably the four great cosmic currents of the Divine Breath, the North wind being the “down-breath” of the Great Sphere.

The term beqesu has not yet been deciphered (can it mean knots?); but the swallowing of the Net seems to suggest the transformation of it, inwardly digesting of it, in such a fashion that the lower is set free and becomes one with the higher.

And that this idea of a net is very ancient, especially in its macrocosmic significance, is evidenced by the parallel of the Assyrian and Babylonian versions of the great fight between the Sun-god Marduk and the Chaotic Mother Tiamat and her titanic and daimonic powers of disordered motion and instability—both Egyptian and Babylonian traditions probably being derived from some primitive common source.

“He (Marduk) set lightning in front of him, with burning fire he filled his body. He made a net to enclose the inward parts of Tiamat, the Four Winds he set so that nothing of her might escape; the South wind and the North wind, and the East wind and the West wind, he brought near to the net which his father Anu had given him.”[84]

Now in the Hymns of the popular Hermes-cult found in the Greek Magic Papyri, one of the most favourite forms of address to Hermes is “O thou of the four winds.” Moreover, we may compare with the rope with which the Fishers “rope the abominable fiends of earth,” the passage of Athenagoras to which we have already referred, and in which he tells us concerning the Mysteries that the mythos ran that Zeus, after dismembering his father, and taking the kingdom, pursued his mother Rhea who refused his nuptials. “But she having assumed a serpent form, he also assumed the same form, and having bound her with what is called the ‘Noose of Hercules’ (τῷ καλουμένῳ Ἡρακλειωτικῷ ἄμματι), was joined with her. And the symbol of this transformation is the Rod of Hermes.”

Here again it is the symbolic Caduceus that represents the equilibrium between the opposed forces; it is the power of Thoth that binds and loosens; he holds the keys of heaven and hell, of life and death. It is further quite evident that Athenagoras is referring to a Hellenistic form of the Mysteries, in which the influence of Egypt is dominant. The “Noose of Hercules” is thus presumably the “Noose of Ptah.” Now Ptah is the creator and generator, and his “Noose” or “Tie” is probably the Ankh-tie or symbol of life, the familiar crux ansata, of which the older form is a twisted rope, probably representing the binding together of male and female life in generation. Ptah is also the God of Fire, and we should not forget that it is Hephaistos in Greek myth who catches Aphrodite and Ares in a Net which he has cunningly contrived—at which the gods laughed in High Olympus.

In the list of titles of the numerous works belonging to the cycle of Orphic literature, one is called The Veil (Πέπλος) and another The Net (Δίκτυον).[85]

In the Panathenæa the famous Peplum, Veil, Web, or Robe of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, was borne aloft like the sail of a galley; but this was the symbol only of the Mysteries. Mystically it signified the Veil of the Universe, studded with stars, the many-coloured Veil of Nature,[86] the famous Veil or Robe of Isis, that no “mortal” or “dead man” has raised, for that Veil was the spiritual nature of the man himself, and to raise it he had to transcend the limits of individuality, break the bonds of death, and so become consciously immortal.

Eschenbach[87] is thus quite correct when, in another of its aspects, he refers this Veil to the famous Net of Vulcan. Moreover Aristotle, quoting the Orphic writings, speaks of the “living creature born in the webs of the Net”;[88] while Photius tells us that the book of Dionysius Ægeensis, entitled Netting, or Concerning Nets (Δικτυακά), treated of the generation of mortals.[89] And Plato himself likens the intertwining of the nerves, veins, and arteries to the “network of a basket” or a bird-cage.[90]

All of which, I think, shows that Thoth’s Temple of the Net must have had some more profound significance in its name than that it was a building in which “the emblem of a net, or perhaps a net itself, was venerated,” as Budge lamely surmises.


But to resume. We have seen that Thoth was considered to be the “heart” and “tongue” of Rā the Supreme—that is, not only the reason and mental powers of the god Rā, and the means whereby they were translated into speech, but rather the Controller of the life and Instrument of the utterance of the Supreme Will; He was the Logos in the fullest sense of that mysterious name, the Creative Word. He it is who utters the “words” whereby the Will of the Supreme is carried into effect, and his utterance is that of Necessity and Law; his “words” are not the words of feeble human speech, but the compelling orders of the Creative Will.

“He spoke the words which resulted in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and he taught Isis the words which enabled her to revivify the dead body of Osiris, in suchwise that Osiris could beget a child by her; and he gave her the formulæ which brought back her son Horus to life after he had been stung to death by a scorpion.”

All of which, I believe, refers microcosmically to the mystery of the resurrection from the dead, by the power of the Logos. “Osiris” must die before he can be raised, and beget a son, who is himself, by immaculate conception within his own spiritual nature. “Horus” must be poisoned to death by the scorpion of “Typhon” before he can be raised by the baptism of the pure waters of Life.


Thoth’s “knowledge and powers of calculation measured out the heavens and planned the earth, and everything which is in them; his will and power kept the forces in heaven and earth in equilibrium; it was his skill in celestial mathematics which made proper use of the laws (maāt) upon which the foundation and maintenance of the universe rested; it was he who directed the motions of the heavenly bodies and their times and seasons; and without his words the gods, whose existence depended upon them, could not have kept their place among the followers of Rā”—but would presumably have disappeared into another universe.

Thoth is the Judge of the dead, the Recorder and Balancer of all “words,” the Recording Angel; for the testing of the soul in the Balance of the Hall of Osiris is called the “weighing of words” and not of “actions.” But these “words” were not the words a man uttered, nor even the “reasons” he thought he had for his deeds, but the innermost intentions of his soul, the ways of the will of his being.

This doctrine of “words” as expressions of will, however, had, in addition to its moral significance, a magical application. “The whole efficacy of prayer appears to have depended upon the manner and tone of voice in which the words were spoken.”

It was Thoth who taught these words-of-power and how to utter them; he was the Master of what the Hindus would call mantra-vidyā, or the science of invocation or sacred chanting. These mantrāḥ were held in ancient Egypt, as they were and are to-day in India, and elsewhere among knowers of such matters, of special efficacy in affecting the “bodies” and conditions of that fluid nature which exists midway between the comparative solidity of normal physical nature and the fixed nature of the mind.

These “words” were connected with vital “breath” and the knowing use of it; that is to say, they were only really efficacious when the spoken words of physical sound corresponded naturally in their vowels and consonants, or their fluid and fixed elements, with the permutations and combinations of the inner elements of Nature; they then and only then were maā or true or authentic or real—that is to say, they were “words-of -power” in that they compelled matter to shape itself according to true cosmic notions.

Thus in a book called The Book of Breathings, it is said: “Thoth, the most mighty God, the Lord of Khemennu, cometh to thee, and he writeth for thee The Book of Breathings with his own fingers.[91] Thus thy soul shall breathe for ever and ever, and thy form shall be endowed with life upon earth, and thou shalt be made a God, along with the souls of the Gods, and they shall be the heart of Rā [for thee], and thy members shall be the members of the Great God.”


In the Ritual we learn of the services which Thoth performs for “Osiris,” that is for the Osirified, for he repeats them for every man who has been acquitted in the Judgment. Of three striking passages quoted by Budge, we will give the following as the most comprehensible, and therefore the seemingly most important for us. It is to be found in Ch. clxxxiii. and runs as follows, in the words placed in the mouth of the one who is being resurrected into an Osiris.

“I have come unto thee, O son of Nut, Osiris, Prince of everlastingness; I am in the following of God Thoth, and I have rejoiced at everything which he hath done for thee. He hath brought unto thee sweet air for thy nose, and life and strength for thy beautiful face, and the North wind which cometh forth from Tem for thy nostrils. . . . He hath made God Shu to shine upon thy body; he hath illumined thy path with rays of splendour; he hath destroyed for thee [all] the evil defects which belong to thy members by the magical power of the words of his utterance. He hath made the two Horus brethren to be at peace for thee;[92] he hath destroyed the storm wind and the hurricane; he hath made the Two Combatants to be gracious unto thee, and the two lands[93] to be at peace before thee; he hath put away the wrath which was in their hearts, and each hath become reconciled unto his brother.”


Budge then proceeds to give the attributes of Thoth as connected with time-periods and the instruments of time, the sun and moon. As Ȧāh-Teḥuti, he is the Measurer and Regulator of times and seasons, and is clearly not the Moon-god simply—though Budge says that he clearly is—for Thoth as Ȧāh is the “Great Lord, the Lord of Heaven, the King of the Gods”; he is the “Maker of Eternity and Creator of Everlastingness.” He is, therefore, not only the Æon, but its creator; and that is something vastly different from the Moon-god.


On p. 401 our authority has already told us that one of the titles of Thoth is “Thrice-great,” and that the Greeks derived the honorific title Trismegistus from this; but on p. 415 he adds: “The title given to him in some inscriptions, ‘three times great, great’ [that is, greatest], from which the Greeks derived their appellation of the god ὁ τρισμέγιστος, or ‘ter maximus,’ has not yet been satisfactorily explained, and at present the exact meaning which the Egyptians assigned to it is unknown.”

If this title is found in the texts, it will settle a point of long controversy, for it has been strenuously denied that it ever occurs in the hieroglyphics; unfortunately, however, Dr Budge gives us no references. To the above sentence our distinguished Egyptologist appends a note to the effect that a number of valuable facts on the subject have been collected by Pietschmann in the book we have already made known to our readers. We have, however, not been able to find any valuable facts in Pietschmann which are in any way an elucidation of the term Thrice-greatest; but to this point we will return in another chapter.


The peculiar supremacy ascribed to Thoth by the Egyptians, however, has been amply demonstrated, and, as the great authority to whom we are so deeply indebted, says in his concluding words: “It is quite clear that Thoth held in their minds a position which was quite different from that of any other god, and that the attributes which they ascribed to him were unlike the greater number of those of any member of their companies of gods. The character of Thoth is a lofty and a beautiful conception, and is, perhaps, the highest idea of deity ever fashioned in the Egyptian mind, which, as we have already seen, was somewhat prone to dwell on the material side of divine matters. Thoth, however, as the personification of the Mind of God, and as the all-pervading, and governing, and directing power of heaven and earth, forms a feature of the Egyptian religion which is as sublime as the belief in the resurrection of the dead in a spiritual body, and as the doctrine of everlasting life.”

Thoth is then the Logos of God, who in his relation to mankind becomes the Supreme Master of Wisdom,[94] the Mind of all masterhood.

We will now turn to one whose views are considered heterodox by conservative and unimaginative critics,[95] who confine themselves solely to externals, and to the lowest and most physical meanings of the hieroglyphics—to one who has, I believe, come nearer to the truth than any of his critics, and whose labours are most highly appreciated by all lovers of Egyptian mystic lore.


The last work of W. Marsham Adams[96] deserves the closest attention of every theosophical student. Not, however, that we think the author’s views with regard to a number of points of detail, and especially with regard to the make-up of the Great Pyramid, are to be accepted in any but the most provisional manner, for as yet we in all probability do not know what the full contents of that pyramid are, only a portion of them being known to us according to some seers. The chief merit of the book before us is the intuitional grasp of its author on the general nature of the mystery-cultus, as derived from the texts, and especially those of the Ritual or the so-called Book of the Dead, as Lepsius named it, setting a bad fashion which is not yet out of fashion. The Egyptian priests themselves, according to our author, called it The Book of the Master of the Secret House, the Secret House being, according to Adams, the Great Pyramid, otherwise called the “Light.”


In his Preface the author gives us clearly to understand that he regards the Wisdom of Egypt as forming the main background of some of the principal teachings of Early Christianity; and that this view is strongly confirmed by a careful study of the Trismegistic literature and its sources, will be made apparent in the course of our own labours. But before we proceed to quote from the former Fellow of New College, Oxford, whose recent death is regretted by all lovers of Egypt’s Wisdom, we must enter a protest.

Mr Adams has severely handicapped his work; indeed, he has destroyed nine-tenths of its value for scholars, by neglecting to append the necessary references to the texts which he cites. Such an omission is suicidal, and, indeed, it would be impossible for us to quote Mr Adams were it not that our Trismegistic literature permits us—we might almost say compels us—to take his view of the spiritual nature of the inner tradition of Egyptian Wisdom. Not, however, by any means that our author has traversed the same ground; he has not even mentioned the name of the Thrice-greatest one, and seems to have been ignorant of our treatises. Mr Adams claims to have arrived at his conclusions solely from the Egyptian texts themselves, and to have been confirmed in his ideas by personal inspection of the monuments. In fact, he considers it a waste of time to pay attention to anything written in Greek about Egyptian ideas, and speaks of “the distortion and misrepresentation wherein those ideas were involved, when filtered through the highly imaginative but singularly unobservant intellect of Greece.”[97] Thus we have a writer attacking the same problem from a totally different standpoint—for we ourselves regard the Greek tradition of the Egyptian Gnosis as a most valuable adjunct to our means of knowledge of the Mind of Egypt—and yet reaching very similar conclusions.


The Holy Land of those who had gone out from the body, watered by the Celestial Nile, the River of Heaven, of which the earthly river was a symbol and parallel, was divided into three regions, or states: (1) Rusta, the Territory of Initiation; (2) Aahlu, the Territory of Illumination; and (3) Amenti, the Place of Union with the Unseen Father.[98]

“In the religion of Egypt, the deepest and most fascinating mystery of antiquity, the visible creation, was conceived as the counterpart of the unseen world.[99] And the substance consisted not of a mere vague belief in the life beyond the grave, but in tracing out the Path whereby the Just, when the portal of the tomb is lifted up,[100] passes through the successive stages of Initiation, of Illumination, and of Perfection, necessary to fit him for an endless union with Light, the Great Creator.”[101]

Thus we are told that at a certain point in Aahlu, the Territory of Illumination, the Osirified, the purified soul, has achieved the “Passage of the Sun”—that is to say, has passed beyond the mortal mind-plane; he opens the Gates of the Celestial Nile and receives the Atf-crown of Illumination, “fashioned after the form of the Zodiacal light, the glory of the supreme heaven.” This is presumably the “crown of lives” referred to in our sermons, which he receives in the sphere called “Eight,” and with which he goes to the Father.

The Guide and Conductor through all these grades was Thoth the Eternal Wisdom;[102] and we are told that:


“Thoth the Divine Wisdom, clothes the spirit of the Justified[103] a million times in a garment of true linen,[104] of that substance, that is to say, which by its purity and its brilliancy reminds us of the mantles, woven out of rays of light, wherewith the sun enwraps the earth afresh each day as she rotates before him; just as the soul of man is invested with new radiance each time that he turns to the presence of his Creator.” Again, “in the harmonious proportion of the universe,” the Egyptians saw “the Eternal Wisdom, Thoth, ‘the Mind and Will of God.’”[105]

We have seen that Pietschmann considers the original of Thoth, the God of Wisdom, to be nothing more than the ibis-headed moon-god, thus intentionally deriving the origin of the Great Initiator from what he considers to be the crude beginnings of primitive ideas. But Thoth was the Great Reckoner, the Recorder of the Balance of Justice, the Teller of the Kārmic Scales. Now the mortal time-recorder for the Egyptians was the moon, “for if we consider the motion of the moon relatively to the sun, we shall find that the time that it takes in covering a space equal to its own disc is just an hour. . . . Now, that measure of the ‘Hour’ was peculiarly sacred in Egypt; each of the twenty-four which elapse during a single rotation of the earth being consecrated to its own particular deity, twelve of light and twelve of darkness. ‘Explain the God in the hour,’ is the demand made of the adept in the Ritual when standing in the Hall of Truth. And that God in the hour, we learn, was Thoth, the ‘Lord of the Moon and the Reckoner of the Universe.’”[106]

Again, with regard to the moon-phases, the first day of the lunar month was called “the conception of the moon,” the second its “birth,” and so on step by step till it was full. Now the time of all lower initiations was the full moon. Thus “in the lunar representations on the walls of the temple of Denderah we have fourteen steps leading up to the fifteenth or highest, whereon was enthroned Thoth, the Lord of the Moon.”[107]

For some such reasons was Thoth called Lord of the Moon, not that the moon gave birth to the idea of Thoth. We must not seek for the origin of the Wisdom-tradition in its lower symbols. For in the inscription on the coffin of Ankhnes-Ra-Neferab—that is of her “whose life was the Sacred Heart of Ra”—we read: “Thy name is the Moon, the Heart of Silence, the Lord of the Unseen World”[108]—of the space “as far as the moon,” or the “sublunary region,” as the old books say, the first after-death state, where souls are purified from earthly stains.


The end set before the neophyte was illumination, and the whole cult and discipline and doctrines insisted on this one way to Wisdom. The religion of Egypt was essentially the Religion of the Light.

But “most characteristic of all was the omnipotent and all-dominating sense of the fatherhood of God, producing the familiar and in some respects even joyous aspect which the Egyptians imparted to the idea of death.” And “to the sense which the priests at least possessed, both of the divine personality and of their own ultimate union with the personal deity [the Logos], far more probably than to any artificial pretension to a supposed exclusiveness, may be ascribed the mystery enshrouding their religion.”[109]

And as Light was the Father of the Religion of Illumination, so was Life, his consort or syzygy, the Mother of the Religion of Joy. “Life was the centre, the circumference, the totality of Good. Life was the sceptre in the hand of Amen; life was the richest ‘gift of Osiris.’ ‘Be not ungrateful to thy Creator,’ says the sage Ptah-Hotep, in what is perhaps the oldest document in existence, ‘for he has given thee life.’ ‘I am the Fount of Light,’ says the Creator in the Ritual. ‘I pierce the Darkness. I make clear the Path for all; the Lord of Joy.’”[110] Or again, as the postulant prays to the setting sun: “O height of Love, thou openest the double gate of the Horizon.”[111]

Here we have the full doctrine of the Light and Life which is the keynote of our treatises. Again, the doctrine of the endless turning of the spheres, which “end where they begin,” in the words of “The Shepherd,” is shown in the great fourth year festival of Hep-Tep or “Completion-Beginning,” when “the revolution and the rotation of our planet were simultaneously completed and begun afresh.”[112]


That the ancient temples of initiation in Egypt were models of the Sophia Above, or of the “Heavenly Jerusalem,” to use a Jewish Gnostic term, or, in other words, of the Type of the world-building, we may well believe. Thus it is with interest that we read the remarks of Adams on the temple of Denderah (or Annu), rebuilt several times according to the ancient plans, and an important centre of the mystery-cultus. The temple was dedicated to Hat-Hor, whose ancient title was the Virgin-Mother.

“In the centre of the temple is the Hall of the Altar, with entrances opening east and west; and beyond it lies the great hall of the temple entitled the Hall of the Child in his Cradle, from whence access is obtained to the secret and sealed shrine entered once a year by the high priest, on the night of mid-summer.”[113]

There were also various other halls and chambers each having a distinctive name, “bearing reference, for the most part, to the Mysteries of the light and of a divine Birth.” We have such names as: Hall of the Golden Rays, Chamber of Gold, Chamber of Birth, Dwelling of the Golden One, Chamber of Flames.

Now as the famous planisphere of Denderah—a wall-painting transferred bodily from the temple to Paris, early in the last century—“contains the northern and southern points, we are enabled to correlate the parts of that picture with the various parts of the temple, and thereby to discover a striking correspondence between the different parts of the inscription and the titles of the chambers and halls occupying relative positions.”[114]

Thus we have in the planisphere corresponding to the halls and chambers such names as: Horus, the Entrance of the Golden Heavens, the Golden Heaven of Isis, Horizon of Light, Palace Chamber of Supreme Light, Heavenly Flame of Burning Gold. “And as the chief hall of the temple was the Hall of the Child in his Cradle, so the chief representation on the planisphere is the holy Mother with the divine Child in her arms.”


Now the great mystery of Egypt was the second birth, the “Birth of Horus.” In “The Virgin of the World,” a long fragment of the lost Trismegistic treatise, “The Sacred Book,” preserved by Stobæus, Isis says to Horus: I will not tell of this birth; I must not, mighty Horus, reveal the origin of thy race, lest men should in the future know the generation of the Gods. Of the nature of this rebirth we are familiar from our treatises. But in spite of such clear indications the mystery of the Golden Horus has not yet been revealed.

In another passage from the same book Isis declares that the sovereignty or kingship of philosophy is in the hands of Harnebeschenis. This transliterated Egyptian name is given by Pietschmann[115] as originally either Hor neb en χennu (Horus the Lord of Xennu), or as Hor nub en χennu (the Golden Horus of Xennu). His hieroglyph was the golden hawk, who flies nearest the sun, and gazes upon it with unwinking eyes, a fit symbol for the new-born, the “man” illuminate.

Indeed, says Adams, “throughout the sacred writings of Egypt, there is no doctrine of which more frequent mention is made than that of a divine birth.”[116]

In what circle of ideas to place the Birth of Horus the theosophical student may perhaps glean by reversing the stages given in the following interesting passage of our author:

“In the Teaching of Egypt, around the radiant being, which in its regenerate life could assimilate itself to the glory of the Godhead, was formed the ‘khaibit,’ or luminous atmosphere, consisting of a series of ethereal envelopes, at once shading and diffusing its flaming lustre, as the earth’s atmosphere shades and diffuses the solar rays. And at each successive transformation (Ritual, lxxvii-lxxxvii.) it descended nearer to the moral [? normal] conditions of humanity. From the form of the golden hawk, the semblance of the absolute divine substance of the one eternal self-existent being, it passes to the ‘Lord of Time,’ the image of the Creator, since with the creation time began. Presently it assumes the form of a lily, the vignette in the Ritual representing the head of Osiris enshrined in that flower; the Godhead manifested in the flesh coming forth from immaculate purity. ‘I am the pure lily,’ we read, ‘coming forth from the lily of light. I am the source of illumination and the channel of the breath of immortal beauty. I bring the messages; Horus accomplishes them.’ Later the soul passes into the form of the uræus, ‘the soul of the earth.’ . . . And finally it assumes the semblance of a crocodile; becoming subject, that is, to the passions of humanity. For the human passions, being part of the nature wherein man was originally created, are not intrinsically evil but only become evil when insubordinate to the soul.”[117]


And not only was the Deity worshipped as the Source of Light and Life, but also as the Fount of Love. “I am the Fount of Joy,” says the Creator in the Ritual, and when the Atf-crown of illumination is set upon the head of the triumphant candidate after accomplishing the “Passage of the Sun,” as referred to above, the hymn proclaims that “north and south of that crown is Love.”[118] Into this Love the catechumen was initiated from the Secret Scroll, whose name is thus given in one of the copies: “This Book is the Greatest of Mysteries. Do not let the eye of anyone look upon it—that were an abomination. ‘The Book of the Master of the Secret House’ is its name.”[119]

The whole conception of the doctrine exposed in its chapters is instruction in Light and Life.

But are we to suppose that the majority were really instructed in this wisdom?—for we find it customary to wrap up some chapters of this Secret Scroll with almost every mummy. By no means. It seems to me that there are at least three phases in the use of this scripture, and in the process of degeneration from knowledge to superstition which can be so clearly traced in the history of Egypt. First there was the real instruction, followed by initiation while living; secondly, there was the recitation of the instruction over the uninitiated dead to aid the soul of the departed in the middle passage; and thirdly, there was the burying a chapter or series of chapters of the Book of the Master as a talisman to protect the defunct, when in far later times the true meaning of the words written in the sacred characters had been lost, though they were still “superstitiously” regarded as magical “words of power.”

The recitation of some of the chapters over the dead body of the uninitiated, however, is not to be set down as a useless “superstition,” but was a very efficacious form of “prayers for the dead.” After a man’s decease he was in conscious contact with the unseen world, even though he may have been sceptical of its existence, or at any rate unfit to be taught its real nature, prior to his decease. But after the soul was freed from the prison of the body, even the uninitiated was in a condition to be instructed on the nature of the path he then perforce must travel. But as he could not even then properly pronounce the “words” of the sacred tongue, the initiated priest recited or chanted the passages.


“For the doctrine contained in those mystic writings was nothing else than an account of the Path pursued by the Just when, the bonds of the flesh being loosed, he passed through stage after stage of spiritual growth—the Entrance on Light, the Instruction in Wisdom, the Second Birth of the Soul, the Instruction in the Well of Life, the Ordeal of Fire, and the Justification in Judgment; until, illumined in the secret Truth and adorned with the jewels of Immortality, he became indissolubly united with Him whose name, says the Egyptian Ritual, is Light, Great Creator.”[120]

It should, however, be remembered that this must not be taken in its absolute sense even for the initiate, much less for the uninitiated. For even in the mystic schools themselves, as we may see from our treatises, there were three modes in which knowledge could be communicated—“By simple instruction, by distant vision, or by personal participation.”[121] For indeed there were many phases of being, many steps of the great ladder, each in ever greater fullness embracing the stages mentioned, each a reflection or copy of a higher phase.

Thus, for example, “the solemn address, described in the Sai-an-Sinsin, of the ‘Gods in the House of Osiris,’ followed by the response of the ‘Gods in the House of Glory’—the joyous song of the holy departed who stand victorious before the judgment-seat, echoed triumphantly by the inner chorus of their beloved who have gone before them into the fullness of life”[122]—must be taken as indicative of several stages. Such, for instance, as the normal union of the man’s consciousness with that of his higher ego, after exhausting his spiritual aspirations in the intermediate heaven-world—this is the joining the “those-that-are” of “The Shepherd” treatise, in other words, the harvest of those past lives of his that are worthy of immortality; or again the still higher union of the initiated with the “pure mind”; or again the still sublimer union of the Master with the nirvāṇic consciousness; and so on perchance to still greater Glories.

Thus we are told that the new twice-born, on his initiation, “clothed in power and crowned with light, traverses the abodes or scenes of his former weakness, there to discern, by his own enlightened perception, how it is ‘Osiris who satisfies the balance of Him who rules the heavens’; to exert in its supernal freedom his creative will, now the lord, not the slave of the senses; and to rejoice in the just suffering which wrought his Illumination and Mastery.”[123]

But higher and still higher he has yet to soar beyond earth and planets and even beyond the sun, “across the awful chasms of the unfathomable depths to far-off Sothis, the Land of Eternal Dawn, to the Ante-chamber of the Infinite Morning.”[124]


Many other passages of great beauty and deep interest could we quote from the pages of Marsham Adams’ illuminative study, but enough has been said for our purpose. The Wisdom of Egypt was the main source of our treatises without a doubt. Even if only one-hundredth part of what our author writes were the truth, our case would be established; and if Egypt did not teach this Wisdom, then we must perforce bow down before Mr Adams as the inventor of one of the most grandiose religions of the universe. But the student of inner nature knows that it is not an invention, and though, if he be a scholar at the same time, he cannot but regret that Mr Adams has omitted his references, he must leave the critics to one or other of the horns of the dilemma; they must either declare that our author has invented it all and pay homage to what in that case would be his sublime genius, or admit that the ancient texts themselves have inspired Mr Adams with these ideas. And if this be a foretaste of what Egypt has preserved for us, what may not the future reveal to continued study and sympathetic interpretation!

4. The Popular Theurgic Hermes-Cult In The Greek Magic Papyri


That at one period the “Religion of Hermes” was not only widely spread, but practically supreme, in popular Hellenistic circles, may be seen from a study of the texts of the numerous magic papyri which have been preserved, and made accessible to us by the industry of such immensely laborious scholars as Leemans, Dieterich, Wessely, and Kenyon.

The Greek Hermes prayers, as with many others of a similar nature, are manifestly overworkings of more ancient types, and, as we might expect, are of a strongly syncretistic nature. In them we can distinguish in popular forms, based on the ancient traditions of Egyptian magic, most interesting shadows of the philosophic and theosophic ideas which our Trismegistic literature has set forth for us in the clear light of dignified simplicity.

But just as we now know that the once so-called “Gnostic,” Abraxas and Abraxoid amulets, gems, and rings pertained to the general popular magical religion and had nothing to do with the Gnosis proper, so we may be sure that the circles of high mysticism, who refused to offer to God even so pure a sacrifice as the burnt offering of incense, and deemed naught worthy of Him, short of the “prayers and praises of the mind,” had nothing directly to do with the popular Hermes prayers, least of all with the invocatory rites of popular theurgy, and phylactery or amulet consecration.

Nevertheless, there is much of interest for us in these invocations, and much that can throw side-lights on the higher teaching and practice which transformed all external rites into the discipline of inner spiritual experience.

The following prayers, which, as far as I know, have not been previously translated, are rendered from the most recently revised texts of Reitzenstein, who has omitted the magic names, and emended the previous editions. I cannot but think, however, that these texts might be submitted to a more searching analysis than has yet been accorded them. They seem to present somewhat similar phenomena to the recensions of the Book of the Dead; that is to say, fragments of material from the tradition of a greater past have been adapted and overworked for the needs of a lesser age. Indeed, the whole effort of the Trismegistic schools seems to have been to restore the memory of that greater past; it had been forgotten, and its dim record had become a superstition instead of a living faith, a degenerate magic instead of a potent theurgy. The theurgy of our prayers is that of dwarfs; the theurgy of the past was believed to have been that of giants.


[Revised text, R. 15-18; Leemans (C.), Papyri Græc. Mus. Ant. Pub. Lug. Bat. (Leyden, 1885), II. 141, 14 ff., and V. 27, 27 ff.; Dieterich (A.), Abraxas (Leipzig, 1891), 195, 4 ff.; and Jahrbücher f. class. Phil., Suppl. XVI. 808 ff. (Papyrus Mag. Mus. Lug. Bat.).]

1. Come unto me, O thou of the four winds,[126] almighty one,[127] who breathest spirit into men to give them life;

2. Whose name is hidden, and beyond the power of men to speak;[128] no prophet [even] can pronounce it; yea, even daimons, when they hear thy name, are fearful!

3. O thou, whose tireless eyes are sun and moon,[129]—[eyes] that shine in the pupils[130] of the eyes of men!

4. O thou, who hast the heaven for head, æther for body, [and] earth for feet, and for the water round thee ocean’s deep![131] Thou the Good Daimon art, who art the sire of all things good, and nurse of the whole world.[132]

5. Thy everlasting revelling-place[133] is set above.

6. Thine the good emanations[134] of the stars,—those daimons, fortunes, and those fates by whom are given wealth, good blend [of nature],[135] and good children, good fortune, and good burial. For thou art lord of life,—

7. Thou who art king of heavens and earth and all that dwell in them;

8. Whose Righteousness is never put away; whose Muses hymn thy glorious name; whom the eight Wardens guard,—thou the possessor of the Truth[136] pure of all lie!

9. Thy Name and Spirit rest upon the good.[137]

10. O mayst thou come into my mind and heart for all the length of my life’s days, and bring unto accomplishment all things my soul desires!

11. For thou art I, and I am thou.[138] Whate’er I speak, may it for ever be; for that I have thy Name[139] to guard me in my heart.[140]

12. And every serpent[141] roused shall have no power o’er me, nor shall I be opposed by any spirit, or daimonial power, or any plague, or any of the evils in the Unseen World;[142] for that I have thy Name within my soul.

13. Thee I invoke; come unto me, Good, altogether good, [come] to the good,[143]—thou whom no magic can enchant, no magic can control,[144] who givest me good health, security,[145] good store, good fame, victory, [and] strength, and cheerful countenance![146]

14. Cast down the eyes of all who are against me, and give me grace on all my deeds![147]


[Revised and restored text, stripped of later overworkings, R. 20, 21. Wessely (C.), Denkschriften der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, “Neue griechische Zauberpapyri” (Vienna, 1893), vol. xlii. p. 55; Kenyon (F. G.), Greek Papyri in the British Museum (London, 1893), i. 116.]

1. Come unto me, Lord Hermes, even as into women’s wombs [come] babes![148]

2. Come unto me, Lord Hermes, who dost collect the food of gods and men![149]

3. Lord Hermes, come to me, and give me grace,  [and] food, [and] victory, [and] health and happiness, and cheerful countenance,[150] beauty and powers in sight of all!

4. I know thy Name that shineth forth in heaven; I know thy forms[151] as well; I know thy tree;[152] I know thy wood[153] as well.

5. I know thee, Hermes, who thou art, and whence thou art, and what thy city is.

6. I know thy names in the Egyptian tongue,[154] and thy true name as it is written on the holy tablet in the holy place at Hermes’ city, where thou dost have thy birth.

7. I know thee, Hermes, and thou [knowest] me; [and] I am thou, and thou art I.[155]

8. Come unto me; fulfil all that I crave; be favourable to me together with good fortune and the blessing of the Good.[156]


[Revised and restored text, R. 21. It is worked in with the preceding, but is of later date.]

1. Come unto me, Lord Hermes, O thou of many names, who know’st the secrets hidden both beneath the poles [of heaven] and underneath the earth!

2. Come unto me, Lord Hermes, thou benefactor, who doest good to all the world!

3. Give ear to me, [and] give me grace with all that are on earth; open for me the hands of all that give like thee;[157] [and] make them give me what their hands contain!

4. Even as Horus,[158] if e’er he called on thee, O greatest of all gods, in every trial, in every space, ’gainst gods, and men, and daimones, and things that live in water and on earth,—had grace and riches with gods, and men, and every living thing beneath the earth;—so let me, too, who call on thee! So give me grace, form, beauty!

6. Hear me, O Hermes, doer of good deeds, thou the inventor of [all] incantations,[159] speak me good words![160]

7. Hear me, O Hermes, for I have done all things [that I should do] for thy black dog-ape,[161] lord of the nether ones!

8. O, soften all [towards me], and give me might [and] form,[162] and let them give me gold, and silver [too], and food of every kind continually.

9. Preserve me evermore for the eternity from spells, deceits, and witchery of every kind, from evil tongues, from every check and every enmity of gods and men!

10. Give unto me grace, victory, success, and satisfaction!

11. For thou art I, and I am thou; thy Name is mine, and mine is thine; for that I am thy likeness.[163]

12. Whatever shall befall me in this year, or month, or day, or hour,—it shall befall the Mighty God, whose symbol is upon the holy vessel’s prow.[164]


[Revised text, R. 22. Leemans, op. cit., II. 103, 7; Dieterich, op. cit., 189.]

1. Thee I invoke alone, thou who alone in all the world imposest order upon gods and men,[165] who dost transform thyself in holy forms,[166] making to be from things that are not, and from the things that are making the not to be.

2. O holy Thoth,[167] the true sight of whose face none of the gods endures!

3. Make me to be in every creature’s name[168]—wolf, dog, [or] lion, fire, tree, [or] vulture,[169] wall,[170] [or] water,[171] or what thou will’st, for thou art able [so to do].


[Revised text R. 22, 23. Leemans, ibid., II. 87, 24; Dieterich, ibid., 176, 1.]

1. Thee I invoke who hast created all, who dost transcend the whole, the self-begotten God, who seest all and hearest all, but who art seen by none.

2. For thou didst give the sun his glory and all might, the moon her increase and her decrease, and [unto both] their ordained course. Though thou didst not diminish aught the [powers of] darkness, the still more ancient [than the sun and moon], thou mad’st them equal [with it].[172]

3. For when thou didst shine forth, Cosmos came into being, and light appeared, and all things were dispensed through thee; wherefore they all are under thee.

4. O thou, whose actual form none of the gods can see, who dost transform thyself into them all in visions [that men see], O thou Eternity of the eternity.[173]

5. Thee I invoke, O Lord, that thy true form may manifest to me, for that I am in servitude below thy world,[174] slave to thy angel and unto thy fear.[175]

6. Through thee the pole and earth are fixed.

7. Thee I invoke, O Lord, e’en as the gods whom thou hast made to shine, that they may have their power.

The above prayers afford us some striking examples of the popular Hellenistic form of the Hermes religion,[176]  in its theurgic phase. In it Hermes is regarded as the Mind[177] or Logos. The Mind is invoked to enter the mind and heart (I. 10).[178] With the shining out of the Mind, the Spiritual or Intelligible Light shines forth in the world and man (v. 3). The Mind is thus the guide of souls.[179] He is also identified with the Good Daimon (of whom Chnuphis or Horus are variants), with the Great Ocean, the Heaven-Space or Celestial Nile, the Great Green, the Light, the Æon.

In connection with the above invocations Reitzenstein gives the text of a very interesting ritual of lower theurgy, or rite of the sacred flame, which he characterises by the term “mystery of lychnomancy or lamp-magic.” This is the lower side of such high vision as is referred to in “The Shepherd of Men” treatise and in the rite described in the following passage of the Pistis Sophia, 272, 373:

“Jesus said unto his disciples: Come unto me! And they came unto him. He turned to the four quarters of the world, and spake the Great Name over their heads, and blessed them, and breathed on their eyes.

“Jesus said unto them: Look, see what ye may see!

“And lifting up their eyes they saw a great Light, exceeding vast, which no dweller on earth could describe.

“He said to them again: Gaze into the Light, and see what ye may see!

“They said: We see fire and water, and wine and blood.”


[Revised text, R. 25-27. Wessely, op. cit., “Griechische zauberpapyrus von Paris und London” (Vienna, 1888), 68, 930 ff.]

(aInvocation to the Light[180]

1. I invoke thee, O God, the living one,[181] who dost show forth thy splendour in the fire, thou unseen Father of the Light![182] Pour forth thy strength; awake thy daimon, and come down into this fire; inspire it with [thy] holy spirit; show me thy might, and let the house of the almighty God, which is within this light, be opened for me! Let there be light,— [thy] breadth-depth-length-height-ray;[183] and let the Lord, the [God] within, shine forth!

(bA Stronger Form to be used if the Flame dies down

2. I adjure thee, O Light, holy ray, breadth-depth-length-height-ray, by the holy names which I have uttered,[184] and am now about to speak . . . abide with me in this same hour, until I have besought thy God, and learnt about the things that I desire!

(cThe Theagogy or Invocation of the God proper

3. Thee I invoke, thou mightiest God and Master . . . thou who enlightenest all and pour’st thy rays by means of thine own power on all the world, O God of gods!

4. O Word (Logos) that orderest night and day, who guid’st the ship,[185] and hold’st the helm, thou dragon-slayer,[186] Good Holy Daimon . . . !

5. To whom the East and West give praise as thou dost rise and set, thou who art blest by all the gods, angels, and daimones!

6. Come, show thyself to me, O God of gods . . . !

7. Enter, make manifest thyself to me, O Lord; for I invoke as the three apes invoke thee—who symbol-wise name forth thy holy Name.

8. In thy ape-form[187] enter, appear to me, O Lord; for I name forth thy mightiest names!

9. O thou who hast thy throne about the height of cosmos,[188] and judgest all, encircled with the sphere of Surety and Truth![189]

10. Enter, appear to me, O Lord, for that I was before the fire and snow, and shall be after [them];

11. I am the one who has been born from heaven.[190]

12. Enter, appear to me, O Lord of mighty names, whom all have in their hearts,[191] who dost burst open rocks,[192] and mak’st the names of gods to move!

13. Enter, appear to me, O Lord, who hast thy power and strength in tire, who hast thy throne within the seven poles.[193]

14. And on thy head a golden crown, and in thy hand a staff . . .[194] by which thou sendest forth the gods!

15. Enter, O Lord, and give me answer with thy holy voice, that I may clearly hear and truthfully about this thing!

(dA Stronger Form of Adjuration if (cfails

16. He doth enjoin thee, He the great living God, who is for the eternities of the eternities, the shaker and the thunderer, who doth create each soul and every birth. Enter, appear to me, O Lord, joyous, benignant, gentle, glorious, free from all wrath; for I adjure thee by the Lord [of all]!

(eThe Greeting when the Presence of the God is manifested

17. Hail Lord, O God of gods, thou benefactor . . . ! Hail to thy glories[195] ever more, O Lord!

(fThe Farewell to the God

18. I give thee thanks, O Lord. Depart, O Lord, to thine own heavens, thine own realms, and thine own course, preserving me in health, free from all harm, free from all fear of any ka,[196] free from all stripes, and all dismay, hearkening to me for all the days of [all] my life!

(gThe Farewell to the Flame

19. Depart, O holy ray; depart, O fair and holy light of highest God!

In connection with the above, we may also take the following ritual-prayer used in the consecration of an amulet ring.


[Revised text, R. 28, 29. Wessely, ibid., 84, 1598 ff.]

1. Thee I invoke, O greatest God, Lord everlasting, thou world-ruler, above the world, beneath the world, mighty sea-ruler;

2. Who shinest forth at dawn, out from the East rising for all the world, and setting in the West!

3. Come unto me, thou who dost rise from the four winds, joyous Good Daimon, for whom the heaven is thy revelling-place![197]

4. I call upon thy holy, mighty, hidden names which thou dost joy to hear.

5. When thou dost shine the earth doth sprout afresh, the trees bear fruit when thou dost laugh, the animals bring forth when thou dost turn to them.

6. Give glory, honour, grace, fortune and power . . . !

7. Thee I invoke, the great in heaven . . . , O dazzling Sun, who shed’st thy beams on all the world!

8. Thou art the mighty serpent, the chief of all the gods,[198] O thou who dost possess Egypt’s beginning,[199] and the end of all the world!

9. Thou art the [God] who saileth o’er the ocean; thou art the [God] who doth come into sight each day.

10. O thou who art above the world, and art beneath the world, O mighty ruler of the sea, give ear unto my voice this day, this night, these holy hours [of thine], and through this amulet let that be done for which I consecrate it!

5. The Main Source Of The Trismegistic Literature According To Manetho, High Priest Of Egypt


The more intimate contact of Greek thought and philosophy with Egyptian lore and mystic tradition began immediately with the brilliant era of the Lagides, who gradually made Alexandria the intellectual and religious, philosophic and scientific, centre of the Hellenistic world.

Thoth-Hermes, as we have seen, had been for the Egyptians from the earliest times the teacher of all ancient and hidden wisdom; he was par excellence the writer of all sacred scripture and the scribe of the gods. We should then naturally expect that his dominating influence would play a leading part in the new development; and this, indeed, is amply demonstrated by the evidence of the religious art of the time, which presents us with specimens of statues of the Greek type of Hermes, bearing at the same time either the feather of truth (the special symbol of Maāt) on the head, or the papyrus-roll in the hand[200]—both symbols of Thoth in his dual character as revealer and scribe.

Of the complex nature of the mystic and apocalyptic literature that thus came into existence we have very distinct testimony.[201] In keeping with its Egyptian prototype it was all cast in a theological and theosophical mould, whether it treated of physics, or medicine, or astrology. Thus we learn that Pamphilus, the grammarian,[202] was intimately acquainted with a Greek-Egyptian literature dealing with “sacred plants” and their virtues as determined by the influences of the thirty-six Decans; this lore, he tells us, was derived from the “Books ascribed to the Egyptian Hermes.”[203]


Of still greater interest are the Greek fragments of Petosiris and Nechepso which have come down to us.[204] These Greek fragments are to be dated at least before the end of the second century B.C.,[205] and afford us striking parallels with our extant Trismegistic literature.

In them we find the Prophet Petosiris represented as the teacher and counsellor of King Nechepso, as Asclepius of Ammon in one type of our literature; while it is Hermes who reveals the secret wisdom to two younger gods, Asclepius and Anubis, as in our sermons he does to Asclepius and Tat.

As to Petosiris himself, Suidas (s.v.) tells us that he was an Egyptian philosopher who wrote on comparative Greek and Egyptian theology, making selections from the “Holy Books,” and treating of astrology and the Egyptian Mysteries. Moreover, Proclus[206] tells us that Petosiris had an intimate knowledge of every order of the Gods and Angels, and refers to a hieratic formula of theurgic invocation to the greatest of the goddesses (Necessity), for inducing the vision of this Power, and the ritual of the manner of addressing her when she appeared, as handed on by the same Petosiris.

The mystical nature of this literature is still more clearly shown in what Vettius Valens[207] tells us of Nechepso, who surpassed the Ammon of our literature and attained to direct knowledge of the Inner Way.

Vettius, in the first half of the first century A.D., laments that he did not live in those days of initiate kings and rulers and sages who occupied themselves with the Sacred Science, when the clear Æther spake face to face with them without disguise, or holding back aught, in answer to their deep scrutiny of holy things. In those days so great was their love of the holy mysteries, so high their virtue, that they left the earth below them, and in their deathless souls became “heaven-walkers”[208] and knowers of things divine.

Vettius then quotes from a Greek apocalyptic treatise of Nechepso, where the King tells us that he had remained in contemplation all night gazing into the æther; and so in ecstasy he had left his body,[209] and had then heard a heavenly Voice[210] addressing him. This Voice was not merely a sound, but appeared as a substantial presence, who guided Nechepso on his way through the heaven-space.

It is, moreover, exceedingly probable that the magnificent spectacle of the star-spheres[211] to which Vettius refers, speaking of it as “the most transcendent and most blessed vision (θεωρία) of all,” was taken directly from the same source.

With this we may compare the wish of Trismegistus that Tat might get him the wings of the soul and enjoy that fair sight,[212] and the seeing of it by Hermes himself through the Mind.[213]

All of which proves the existence of books in Greek in middle Ptolemaic times treating in the same manner of identical subjects with those contained in our Trismegistic literature.


When, then, the sovereignty of Egypt passed into the hands of the Diadochi of Alexander, and the Ptolemies made Alexandria the centre of learning in the Greek world, by the foundation of the ever-famous Museum and Library and Schools in their capital, there arose an extraordinary enthusiasm for translating, paraphrasing, and summarising into Greek of the old scriptures and records of the nations. The most famous name of such translators and compilers and comparative theologians is that of Manetho,[214] who introduced the treasures of Egyptian mysticism, theology, mythology, history, and chronology to the Grecian world. Moreover, seeing that the veracity and reliability of Manetho as a historian is with every day more and more accepted as we become better acquainted with the monuments, he seems to have done his work loyally enough.

Manetho was contemporary with the first two Ptolemies; that is to say, he lived in the last years of the fourth and the first half of the third century B.C. He was a priest of Heliopolis (On),[215] and was thoroughly trained in all Greek culture[216] as well as being most learned in the ancient Wisdom of Egypt.[217] Manetho not only wrote on historical subjects, but also on the mystic philosophy and religion of his country, and it is from his books in all probability that Plutarch and others drew their information on things Egyptian. Manetho derived his information from the hieroglyphic inscriptions in the temples[218] and from the rest of the priestly records; but unfortunately his books are almost entirely lost, and we only possess fragments quoted by later writers.


One of these quotations is of great importance for our present enquiry. It is preserved by Georgius Syncellus,[219] and is stated to be taken from a work of Manetho called Sothis[220] a work that has otherwise entirely disappeared. The passage with the introductory sentence of the monk Syncellus runs as follows:

“It is proposed then to make a few extracts concerning the Egyptian dynasties from the Books of Manetho. [This Manetho,] being high priest of the Heathen temples in Egypt, based his replies [to King Ptolemy] on the monuments[221] which lay in the Seriadic country. [These monuments,] he tells us, were engraved in the sacred language and in the characters of the sacred writing by Thoth, the first Hermes; after the flood they were translated from the sacred language into the then common tongue,[222] but [still written] in hieroglyphic characters, and stored away in books by the Good Daimon’s son and the second Hermes, father of Tat—in the inner chambers of the temples of Egypt.

‘“In the Book of Sothis Manetho addresses King Philadelphus, the second Ptolemy, personally, writing as follows word for word:

“‘The Letter of Manetho, the Sebennyte, to Ptolemy Philadelphus.

“‘To the great King Ptolemy Philadelphus, the venerable: I, Manetho, high priest and scribe of the holy fanes in Egypt, citizen of Heliopolis but by birth a Sebennyte,[223] to my master Ptolemy send greeting.

 “‘We[224] must make calculations concerning all the points which you may wish us to examine into, to answer your questions[225] concerning what will happen to the world. According to your commands, the sacred books, written by our forefather Thrice-greatest Hermes, which I study, shall be shown to you. My lord and king, farewell.’”


Here we have a verbal quotation from a document purporting to be written prior to 250 B.C. It is evidently one of a number of letters exchanged between Manetho and Ptolemy II. Ptolemy has heard of the past according to the records of Egypt; can the priests tell him anything of the future? They can, replies Manetho; but it will be necessary to make a number of calculations. Ptolemy has also expressed a strong desire to see the documents from which Manetho derived his information, and the high priest promises to let him see them.

These books are ascribed to Hermes, the Thrice-greatest, and this is the first time that the title is used in extant Greek literature. This Hermes was the second, the father of Tat, we are told elsewhere by Manetho, and son of the Good Spirit (Agathodaimon), who was the first Hermes. Here we have the precise grading of the degrees in our treatises: (i.) The Shepherd of Men, or The Mind; (ii.) Thrice-greatest; (iii.) Tat. This refers to the ever-present distinction of pupil and master, and the Master of masters.

If, however, we seek for historical allusions, we may perhaps be permitted to conclude that the first Hermes, that is to say the first priesthood among the Egyptians, used a sacred language, or in other words a language which in the time of the second Hermes, or second priesthood, was no longer spoken. It was presumably archaic Egyptian. The two successions of priests and prophets were separated by a “flood.” This “flood” was presumably connected with, if not the origin of, the flood of which Solon heard from the priest of Saïs, which happened some nine thousand years before his time, and of which we have considerable information given us in the Timæus and Critias of Plato.[226] The Good Angel is the same as the Mind, as we learn from the Trismegistic literature, and was regarded as the father of Hermes Trismegistus. This seems to be a figurative way of saying that the archaic civilisation of Egypt before the flood, which presumably swept over the country when the Atlantic Island went down, was regarded as one of great excellence. It was the time of the Gods or Divine Kings or Demi-Gods, whose wisdom was handed on in mystic tradition, or revived into some semblance of its former greatness, by the lesser descendants of that race who returned from exile, or reincarnated on earth, to take charge of the new populations who had gradually returned to the lower Nile plains after the flood had subsided.

Thus we have three epochs of tradition of the Egyptian mystery-cultus: (i.) The first Thoth or Agathodaimon, the original tradition preserved in the sacred language and character in the stone monuments of the Seriadic land, presumably the Egypt prior to the Atlantic flood; (ii.) the second Thoth, the Thrice-greatest, the mystery-school after the period of the great inundation, whose records and doctrines were preserved not only in inscriptions but also in MSS., still written in the sacred character, but in the Egyptian tongue as it was spoken after the people reoccupied the country; and (iii.) Tat, the priesthood of Manetho’s day, and presumably of some centuries prior to his time, who spoke a yet later form of Egyptian, and from whose demotic translations further translations or paraphrases were made in Greek.


This natural line of descent of the fundamental doctrines in the tradition of the Trismegistic literature, however, is scouted by encyclopædism, which would have our sermons to be Neoplatonic forgeries, though on what slender grounds it bases its view we have already seen. It will now be interesting to see how the testimony of Manetho is disposed of. Our encyclopædias tell us that the book Sothis is obviously a late forgery; parrot-like they repeat this statement; but nowhere in them do we find a single word of proof brought forward. Let us then see whether any scholars have dealt with the problem outside of encyclopædism. Very little work has been done on the subject. The fullest summary of the position is given by C. Müller.[227] Müller bases his assertion on Böckh,[228] and Böckh on Letronne.[229]

The arguments are as follows: (i.) That the term “venerable” (σεβαστός) is not used prior to the time of the Roman emperors; (ii.) that Egypt knows no flood; (iii.) that the ancient mythology of Egypt knows no first and second Hermes; (iv.) that Egypt has no Seriadic land; (v.) that the term “Trismegistus” is of late use.


Let us take these arguments in order and examine them, bearing in mind, however, that the whole question has been prejudiced from the start, and that encyclopædism, in order to maintain its hypothesis of the spuriousness of our Trismegistic writings, is bound to argue the spuriousness of Manetho’s Sothis. The categorical statements of Manetho are exceedingly distressing to the former hypothesis; in fact, they give it the lie direct. As to the arguments, then:

(i.) The term σεβαστός is in later times equated with “Augustus,” the honorific title of the Roman emperors. Therefore, it is argued, it could not have been used prior to their times. But why not? The king to an Egyptian was divine—every inscription proves it—and the term “venerable” was in early times always applied to the Gods. Why not then apply it to the “Great King”? Indeed, what could be more natural than to do so?

(ii.) We have already shown that, according to Plato, Egypt knew most accurately of a Flood; Plato further tells us that Solon got his information from the priests of Saïs, who told him that all the records were preserved in the temple of Neïth.

It is not here the place to discuss the Atlanticum of Plato and the long history of opinion connected with it, for that would require a volume in itself. I have, however, acquainted myself with all the arguments for and against the authenticity of at least the germ of this tradition, and with the problems of comparative mythology and folklore involved in it, and also with the recent literature of the subject which seeks to corroborate the main conceptions of Plato by the researches of seership. All this, taken in conjunction with the general subject of the “myths” of Plato, and the latest views on this subject, has convinced me that the greatest of Greek philosophers did not jest when, his dialectic having gone as far as it could, he sought refuge in the mystery-traditions for corroboration of those intuitions which his unaided intellect could not demonstrate.

It can of course be argued that every reference to a flood in Egyptian Hellenistic literature is but a repetition of what the incredulous must regard as Plato’s brilliant romance; but in this connection, as in many others, it is equally arguable that all such references—Plato’s included—are derivable from one and the same source—namely, Egypt herself.

And, indeed, on 9th November 1904, at a meeting of the Society of Biblical Archæology, a paper by Professor Naville was read by Mr F. Legge on “A Mention of a Flood in the Book of the Dead.” The flood in question is that described in the Leyden version as Ch. clxxv.[230]

(iii.) Cicero (106-44 B.C.) speaks of five Mercurii, the last two of whom were Egyptian.[231] One was the “son of Father Nile,” whose name the Egyptians considered it impiety to pronounce—and for whom, presumably, they substituted the term Agathodaimon; and the second was the later Thoyth, the-founder of Hermopolis.[232] Cicero could hardly have invented this; it must have been a commonplace of his day, most probably derived in the first instance from the writings of Manetho, from which generally the Greeks, and those imbued with Greek culture, derived all their information about Egypt.

And, indeed, Reitzenstein (p. 139), though he refers the information given by Syncellus to a Pseudo-Manetho (without a word of explanation, however), admits that the genealogy of Hermes there given is in its main features old.[233]


(iv.) The statement that Egypt knew no Seriadic land or country seems to be a confident assertion, but the following considerations may perhaps throw a different light on the matter.

In the astronomical science of the Egyptians the most conspicuous solar system near our own, represented in the heavens by the brilliant Sirius, was of supreme interest. Cycles of immense importance were determined by it, and it entered into the highest mysticism of Egyptian initiation. Sirius was, as it were, the guardian star of Egypt. Now ancient Egypt was a sacred land, laid out in its nomes or provinces according to the heavens, having centres in its body corresponding to the centres or ganglia of the heavens. As the Hindus had a Heavenly Ganges (Ākāsha-Gangā) and an earthly Ganges, so had the heavens a Celestial Nile, and Egypt a physical Nile, the life-giver of the land. The yearly inundation, which meant and means everything for ancient and modern Khem, was observed with great minuteness, and recorded with immense pains, the basis of its cycle being the Sothiac or Siriadic; Sirius (Seirios) being called in Greek transliteration Sothis and Seth (Eg. Sepṭ). What more natural name, then, to give to the country than the Seriadic Land?

The Nile records in ancient times were self-registered by pyramids, obelisks, and temples, and in later times nearly all monuments were built according to the type of the masonic instruments of the Egyptian astrogeological science. This science has been studied in our own times by an Egyptian, and the results of his researches have been printed “for private circulation,” and a copy of them is to be found in the British Museum. In his Preface the author writes as follows:[234]

“The astrogeological science gave birth to a monumental system, by means of which the fruits of the accumulated observations and experience of the human race have been preserved, outliving writings, inscriptions, traditions, and nationalities. The principal monuments had imparted to them the essential property of being autochronous landmarks of a geochronological nature. Many of them recorded, hydromathematically, the knowledge in astronomy, in geography, and in the dimension and figure of the earth obtained in their respective epochs. They were Siriadic monuments, because their magistral lines were projected to the scale of the revolutions of the cycles of the star Surios (sic) in terms of the standard astrogeological cubit.”

Doubtless our author flogs his theory too severely, as all such writers do; but nilometry and the rest was certainly one of the most important branches of the priestly science.


But before we deal with the last objection urged against the authenticity of Manetho’s Sothis, we will add a few words more concerning these Seriadic monuments known in antiquity as the Stelae of Hermes or of Seth, and erroneously spoken of in Latin and English as the “Columns” or “Pillars” of Hermes.

The general reader may perhaps be puzzled at the variety of spelling of the name of the star, but he should recollect that the difficulties of transliteration from one language to another are always great, and especially so when the two languages belong to different families. Thus we find the variants of Teḥuti, the Egyptian name of Hermes, transliterated in no less than nineteen various forms in Greek and two in Latin—such as Thoyth, Thath, Tat, etc.[235] Similarly we find the name of the famous Indian lawgiver transliterated into English as Manu, Menu, Menoo, etc.

With regard to these “Mercurii Columnæ,” it was the common tradition, as we have already pointed out, that Pythagoras, Plato, and others got their wisdom from these columns, that is to say, monuments.[236] The historian Ammianus Marcellinus,[237] the friend of the Emperor Julian, has preserved for us a peculiarity of the construction of some of these pyramids or temples which is of interest. The passage to which we refer runs as follows:

“There are certain underground galleries and passages full of windings, which, it is said, the adepts in the ancient rites (knowing that the flood was coming, and fearing that the memory of the sacred ceremonies would be obliterated) constructed in various places, distributed in the interior [of the buildings], which were mined out with great labour. And levelling the walls,[238] they engraved on them numerous kinds of birds and animals, and countless varieties [of creatures] of another world, which they called hieroglyphic characters.”[239]

We are thus told of another peculiarity of some of the Seriadic monuments, and of the “Books preserved from the Flood” of which there were so many traditions. These are the records to which Sanchuniathon and Manetho make reference.


The Egyptian account is straightforward enough; but when Josephus, following the traditional practice of his race in exploiting the myths of more ancient nations for the purpose of building up Jewish history—for the Mosaic Books supply innumerable examples of the working-up of elements which the Jews found in the records of older nations—runs away with the idea that Seth (the Egyptian Sirius) was the Biblical patriarch Seth, the Jewish “antiquarian” enters on a path of romance and not of history. ’Tis thus he uses the Egyptian Seriadic tradition for his own purposes:

“All of these [the Sons of Seth] being of good disposition, dwelt happily together in the same country free from quarrels, without any misfortune happening to the end of their lives. The [great] subject of their studies was that wisdom which deals with the heavenly bodies and their orderly arrangement. In order that their discoveries should not be lost to mankind and perish before they became known (for Adam had foretold that there would be an alternate disappearance of all things[240] by the force of fire and owing to the strength and mass of water)—they made two monuments,[241] one of brick and the other of stone, and on each of them engraved their discoveries. In order that if it should happen that the brick one should be done away with by the heavy downpour,[242] the stone one might survive and let men know what was inscribed upon it, at the same time informing them that a brick one had also been made by them. And it remains even to the present day in the Siriad land.”[243]

This passage is of great interest not only as affording a very good example of the method of inventing Jewish “antiquities,” but also as permitting us to recover the outlines of the original Egyptian account which Josephus purloined and adapted. The Sons of Seth were the initiates of the archaic priesthood of the First Hermes. Adam has been substituted for the First Man, in the sense of our “Shepherd” tradition; and the two kinds of monuments (which Josephus seems to regard as two single structures and not as relating to two classes of buildings) may refer to the brick structures and temples of that age, and to specially constructed and more lasting monuments of stone—perhaps rock-cut temples, or the most ancient pyramids. I have also asked myself the question as to whether there may not be some clue concealed in this “brick monument” reference to the puzzling statement in the Babylonian Talmud[244] that Jesus set up a “brick-bat” and worshipped it. Jesus is said in the Talmud Jeschu Stories to have “learned magic in Egypt,” and the magical wisdom of ancient Egypt is here said to have been recorded on monuments of brick.[245]

Reitzenstein (p. 183), after pointing to the similarity of tradition as to the Seriadic Land contained in Josephus, and in what he characterises as Pseudo-Manetho,[246] adds the interesting information that the Seriadic Land is borne witness to by an inscription as being the home and native land of Isis; indeed, the Goddess herself is given the name of Neilotis or Seirias; she is the fertile earth and is Egypt.[247]

To continue, then, with the consideration of the arguments urged against the authenticity of Manetho’s Sothis. With regard to objection (iv.), we have given very good reasons for concluding that so far from Egypt “knowing no Seriadic land,” Egypt was the Seriadic Land par excellence, and the Books of Hermes were the direct descendants of the archaic stone monuments of that land. And further, we have shown that our Trismegistic writings are a step or two further down in the same line of descent. The whole hangs together logically and naturally.

We have thus removed four of the five props which support the hypothesis of forgery with regard to the Sothis document. Let us now see whether the remaining prop will bear the weight of the structure.


(v.) We are told that the term “Trismegistus” is of late use. This assertion is based entirely on the hypothesis that all our extant Trismegistic writings are Neoplatonic forgeries of the third or at best the second century, before which time the name Thrice-greatest was never heard of. The term Trismegistus must go as far back as the earliest of these writings, at any rate, and where we must place that we shall see at the end of our investigations.

That the peculiar designation Trismegistus was known in the first century even among the Romans, however, is evident from the famous Latin epigrammatist Martial (v. 24), who in singing the praise of one Hermes, a famous gladiator, brings his pæan to a climax with the line:

Hermes omnia solus et ter unus.[248]

A verse which an anonymous translator in 1695 freely renders as:

Hermes engrosses all men’s gifts in one,
And Trismegistus’ name deserves alone.

Such a popular reference shows that the name Trismegistus was a household word, and argues for many years of use before the days of Martial (A.D. 43-104?). But have we no other evidence?

In the trilingual inscription (hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek) on the famous Rosetta Stone, which sings the praises of Ptolemy Epiphanes (210-181 B.C.), Hermes is called the “Great-and-Great.”[249] Letronne renders this deux fois grand;[250] and in his notes[251] says that the term “Trismegistus” was not known at this date, thus contemptuously waving aside Manetho’s Sothis. Had it been known, he says, it would undoubtedly have been used instead of the feebler expression “great-and-great.”[252] But why undoubtedly? Let us enquire a little further into the matter. The Egyptian reduplicated form of this attribute of Hermes, ȧā ȧā, the “great-great,” is frequently elsewhere found with a prefixed sign which may be transliterated ur.[253] So that if the more simple form is translated by “great, great,” the intensive form would naturally be rendered “great, great, great,” or “three times great.” But we have to deal with the form “thrice-greatest,” a superlative intensive. We have many examples of adjectives intensified with the particle τρίς in Greek,[254]  but no early instances of their superlatives; therefore, what? Apparently that the term “Trismegistus” is a late invention.

But may we not legitimately suppose, in the absence of further information, that when the Egyptian had intensified his reduplicated form he had come to an end of his resources—it was the highest term of greatness that he could get out of his language? Not so when he used Greek. He could go a step further in the more plastic Hellenic tongue. Why, then, did he not use “thrice-greatest” instead of “great-and-great” on the Rosetta Stone?

Because he was translating ȧā ȧā and not its intensified form. But why did he not use the intensified form in the demotic inscription? Well, “whys” are endless; but may we not suppose that, as Ptolemy was being praised for his justice, which he is said to have exercised “as Hermes the great-and-great,” the reduplicated form was sufficient for this attribute of the idealised priesthood, while the still more honorific title was reserved for Hermes as the personified Wisdom? Or, again, may it not have been politic to refrain from adjectives which would have dimmed the greatness of Ptolemy?


So I wrote in November 1899, when the major part of this chapter was first published in The Theosophical Review. Shortly afterwards, however, I came across an entirely new clue. In his Stories of the High Priests of Memphis: the Sethon of Herodotus and the Demotic Tales of Khamuas (Oxford, 1900), F. Ll. Griffiths presents us with the translation of an exceedingly interesting demotic text, found on the verso of two Greek documents, the contents of which prove them to be official land-registers of the seventh year of Claudius (A.D. 46-47). There is also “strong evidence for attributing the demotic text to some time within thirty years from that date” (p. 41). So much for the copy of the original; but what of its contents? As they belong to the most important cycle of folk-tates of Egypt, it is to be assumed that their form and substance is old.

In this papyrus we are told that on an occasion of great need when the Pharaoh of Egypt was being overcome at a distance by the sorceries of the Ethiopian enchanters, he was saved, and the magic of the Black Ones sent back upon them, by a certain Hor, son of Pa-neshe, most learned in the Books. Before his great trial of strength with the Ethiopian spells, we read of this Hor that:

“He entered the temple of Khmûn; he made his offerings and his libations before Thoth, the Eight-times-great, the Lord of Khmûn, the Great God” (p. 58).

To this Griffiths appends the following note:

“‘Thoth, eight times great’; the remains of the signs indicate this reading. The title, which here appears for the first time in Egyptian literature, is the equivalent of τρισμέγιστος [thrice-greatest], a late epithet first used about the date of this MS.[255] ὁ is μέγας [great], which we may represent algebraically by a; ὁ ὁ (2a), a common title of Thoth in late hieroglyphic, is μέγας καὶ μέγας [great and great] on the Rosetta Stone, but probably represents μέγιστος [greatest], and 8ὁ is therefore τρισμέγιστος [thrice-greatest], i.e. (2a)³. The famous epithet of Hermes which has puzzled commentators thus displays its mathematical formation. 6ὁ = 3(2a) would not fill the lacuna on the papyrus, nor would it give the obviously intended reference to the name of Thoth’s city, ‘the Eighth,’ and the mythological interpretation of that name.”

The mythological interpretation of that name, namely Khmun (Khemen-nw), which Budge transliterates Khemennu, Griffiths says is “the eighth city,” i.e. “the eighth in Upper Egypt going up the river.”[256]

We are loth to deprive any one of a so fair adaptation to environment in the evolution of purely physical interpretation; but we are afraid that our readers will have already learned for themselves that Khemennu was the City of the Eight, the City of the Ogdoad, and will expect some less mundane explanation of the name; not that we altogether object to Khemennu being the “Eighth City up the River,” if that river is interpreted as the Celestial Nile on which the soul of the initiated sailed in the solar boat.

Reitzenstein then is wrong in supposing (p. 117, n. 6) that Griffiths connects the honorific title Trismegistus with the eight cynocephali who form the paut of Thoth; but we may do so.

The nature of this symbolic Ogdoad is most clearly seen in the inscription of Dêr-el-Bahari, of the time of the Twenty-second Dynasty which Maspero has lately published.[257]

In it the Osirified says to the Supreme:

“I am One who becomes Two; I am Two who becomes Four; I am Four who becomes Eight; I am the One after that.”

So also in the first Hermes Prayer, quoted in a preceding chapter, addressed to Hermes as Agathodaimon, Thoth is he “whom the Eight Wardens guard.”

These Eight, we may perhaps be permitted to speculate, were generated Two from One, ȧā ȧā, Greatest; Four from Two, Twice-greatest; Eight from Four, Thrice-greatest.

Such a combination would specially commend itself to men trained in Pythagorean mathematical symbols, as were doubtless many who took part in compiling the Egyptian Hellenistic theosophical literature.

I, therefore, conclude that the honorific title Thrice-greatest can very well go back to early Ptolemaic times; and therefore, as far as I can see, the authenticity of Manetho’s Sothis stands unimpugned as far as any arguments so far brought against it are concerned. I therefore regard the quotation of Syncellus as a most valuable piece of information in tracing the genesis of the Trismegistic literature. Whether or not any of our extant sermons can be placed among these earlier forms of this literature will be discussed later on.


That, however, literature of a similar nature existed in early and middle Ptolemaic times we have already seen from the material adduced at the beginning of this chapter; we may therefore fitly conclude it by pointing out that in later Ptolemaic times, and down to the first century A.D., we find in the same literature specimens of cosmogenesis closely resembling the main elements of the world-formation given in our “Shepherd” treatise.

An excellent example is that of the fragmentary cosmogonical poem, the text of which Reitzenstein has printed in his Zwei religionsgesch. Fragen, to which we have already referred. This poem Reitzenstein (p. 92) dates as belonging to the first century B.C., though it may probably be earlier; it declares itself to be of the Hermes tradition, both in its statement about itself and also in the fact that it is Hermes, the Beloved Son of Zeus, who is the Logos-Creator of the cosmos, and also the progenitor or “father” of the prophet-poet who writes the vision.


But not only did the tradition of Egyptian Hermes dominate the Greek forms of cosmogony which emanated from Alexandria and spread through the Hellenic world, but it also imposed itself upon the forms of cosmogony and the history-writing of other nations; the most striking example of this is to be found in the Phœnician Histories of Philo Byblius, who lived in the second half of the first century A.D.

The fragments of this work are of great interest to our present enquiry, as they tend to show that both Egypt and Phœnicia, the two most sacred nations, derived their cosmogonical knowledge and mystery-traditions from the same source; that source being traced to the most archaic Books of Thoth.

This is all, no doubt, an overwriting of Phœnician records in the light of Egyptian tradition; Philo, however, would have us regard his work as a Greek translation or paraphrase of a compilation made by an ancient and learned Phœnician priest, Sanchuniathon, based immediately upon archaic Phœnician records by one who was also learned in the oral tradition of his own mysteries.

The initial question as to whether Philo had a genuine Phœnician document before him or not, need not occupy us here, save in the most superficial fashion, as we are at present interested in the Egyptian elements of his account solely, and not in disentangling the native Phœnician substratum.

It must, however, in fairness be said that though the Byblian prefaces his account with an introduction and intersperses it with occasional remarks, all this is transparently his own, and is clearly distinguishable from what have every appearance of being translated passages.


The general theory, however, since the time of Orelli[258] has been that Philo forged the whole of this cosmogony and history. On the contrary, it was made considerable use of by Porphyry in his criticism of Christianity, and Eusebius[259] quotes the passages used by Porphyry.[260] The whole work of Philo, moreover, is claimed to be recovered by Wagenfeld, who has elaborately defended its genuineness.[261] There indeed seems no reason to accept the forgery-hypothesis, which apparently rests on an even flimsier basis than the forgery-theory of the Trismegistic writings. The work, on the contrary, considered as a specimen of Phœnician story strongly influenced by Egyptian tradition, is a most interesting document for understanding the ancient Semitic mystery-tradition as distinguished from Jewish adaptations of general Semitic legend—in other words, the distinction of Semitismus and Israëlitismus. Porphyry was not only a Semite himself but also a good critic, and not likely to base his arguments on a forgery; nor would Philo have ventured to put forward a forgery when there were thousands of learned and fanatical Jews who would have been only too glad to expose it.

Philo tells us that the Phœnician public traditions being chaotic, “Sanchuniathon, a man of great learning and a busy searcher [after knowledge], who especially desired to know the first principles from which all things are derived, most carefully examined the Books of Taaut, for he knew that Taaut was the first of all under the sun who discovered the use of letters and the writing of records. So he started from him, making him as it were his foundation—from him the Logos whom the Egyptians called Thōuth, the Alexandrians Thōth,[262] but whom the Greeks have turned into Hermes.”[263]


This evidently means that the source of Sanchuniathon’s information as to the mystic beginning of things was derived from the Books of Thoth, and that this was so may be seen from the following passage:

“He supposes the beginning of all things to consist of a Dark Mist of a spiritual nature, or as it were a Breath of dark mist, and of a turbid Chaos black as Erebus;[264] that these were boundless, and for many an age[265] remained without a bound. ‘But when,’ he[266] says, ‘the Spirit fell in love with his own principles,[267] and they were interblended, that interweaving was called Love;[268] and this Love was the origin of the creation of all things. But [Chaos] did not know its own creation.[269] From its embrace with Spirit Mōt was born.[270] From her [Mōt, the Great Mother] it was that every seed of the creation came, the birth of all the cosmic bodies.

“‘[First of all] there were [Great] Lives[271] devoid of sensation, and out of these came subsequently [Great] Lives possessed of intelligence.[272] The latter were called Zophasemin (that is to say, “Overseers of the Heavens”). The latter were fashioned in the form of eggs, and shone forth as Mōt, the Sun and Moon, the Stars and the great Planetary Spheres.

“‘Now as the [original] nebula began to lighten, through its heat mists and clouds of sea and earth[273] were produced, and gigantic downpours and torrents of the waters in the firmaments. Even after they were separated,[274] they were still carried from their proper places by the heat of the sun, and all the [watery and earthy elements] met together again in the nebula one with the other, and dashed together, amid thunder and lightning; and over the crash of the thunderings the [Great] Rational Lives before-mentioned watched,[275] while on the land and sea male and female cowered at their echo and were dismayed.’

“After this our author proceeds to say: ‘These things we found written in the Cosmogony of Taaut, and in his commentaries, based on his researches and the evidences which his intelligence saw and discovered, and so enlightened us.’”[276]

There are many other points of interest in Philo’s translation, but we need not elaborate them here. One point, however, must not be omitted, because of its importance with regard to the Hermes-Æsculapius tradition, an important factor in the Trismegistic writings.

 “And Cronus [Ammon] going to the land of the South gave the whole of Egypt to the God Taaut to be his kingdom. All these things were first recorded by the Seven Sons of Sydyk, the Cabiri, and their eighth brother, Asclepius, as it was commanded them by the God Taaut.”[277]

Æsculapius is here at once identified with the cult of the “Great Gods” (כבר, KBR, Kabirim), who were, according to the old Semitic tradition, the Sons of King Sydyk (? Melchizedec). The whole subject of the very ancient mysteries of these Great Gods is one of immense interest, but we must not be tempted to follow this alluring bye-path.[278] Enough has been said to show that both Sanchuniathon and the writer of “The Shepherd” drew their accounts of cosmogony from the same sources, namely, the “Books of Thoth,” or, in other words, the Egyptian mystery-tradition.

6. An Egyptian Prototype Of The Main Features Of The Poemandres’ Cosmogony


One has only to read through the remains of the Trismegistic literature preserved to us to assure himself that the whole of it looked back to the Pœmandres instruction as the most primitive form of the tradition in the language of Greece. The extant form of our “Pœmandres” sermon is clearly not the most primitive form; but whatever that form was, it must have contained the cosmological part.

Now, if we regard this cosmogenesis as a purely literary compilation, the task of the higher criticism will be to try to sift out the various elements in it, and if possible to trace them to their sources.

But before making any attempt of this nature, it will be as well to consider the nature of the literary art of our document. It purports itself to be an apocalypse, or rather the record of an apocalyptic vision, and not a purely literary compilation from already existing literary sources. It declares itself to be the work of a seer and prophet and not of a scribe or commentator; it claims to be an inspired document, a scripture, and not the work of a schoolman.

Of this class of writing we have very many examples in other scriptures, and it will be as well to consider briefly the nature of such documents. In the original form of apocalypses we do not as a rule find that prior formal literary material is used—that is to say, we do not find that previously existing written sources are incorporated; what we do find is that in almost every case the seer uses the forms and terms of previously existing ideas to express what he sees. These forms and terms are found in already existing written and oral traditions, and the prophetical writer is compelled to use the thought-language of his own mind and of that of his age to express himself. This, however, does not negate the possibility of his having seen a true vision, of his having been inspired.

It is evident that whoever wrote the “Pœmandres” must have been saturated with the religious, mystical, philosophic, and scientific thought of his age, clothed in the forms of the thought-language of his day; and it is also clear that whatever “newness” there may have been in him, was owing to the nature of the “touch” of inspiration he had received. This striking of a new keynote, as it were, in his inner nature, enabled him to regroup and reconstruct the previous ideas he had imbibed from his studies.


Now as far as our cosmogenesis is concerned, it has not yet been found possible to trace the exact verbal forms of its elements to any precise literary sources, but it has been found possible to point to written sources which contain similar ideas; and not only so, but with regard to the main features of it, a distinct prototype has been found in Egypt itself. This discovery is due to Reitzenstein (pp. 59 ff.),and the prototype is to be found in an Egyptian inscription in the British Museum, which was first read correctly and interpreted by Dr J. H. Breasted.[279] Before using it, however, Reitzenstein got his colleague Professor Spiegelberg to go through it; and again when Maspero, in reviewing[280] Breasted’s work, had further confirmed the view of it which Reitzenstein had in his mind, Spiegelberg again revised certain points in the translation owing to Maspero’s suggestions.

The inscription itself is dated about the eighth century B.C., but it states that it is the reproduction of a then old written text from the temple of Ptah at Memphis.

The chief content has to do with the Osiris-myth, but into this is inserted the distinctive Ptah-doctrine. Ptah is supposed by some to have originally been simply the god of handicraft, seeing that he is equated by the Greek interpreters of god-names with Hephaistos. He was, however, rather the Demiurgus, for in very early times he is found in the closest connection with the Gods of Heaven and Gods of Light, and is conceived as the Dispenser of all life.

In our text Ptah is brought into the closest relations with the Supreme Deity (Atum). This “God the Father” emanates from himself eight deities (the Ogdoad). Each one of these is Ptah with a distinctive epithet. To the fourth[281] of them, “Ptah the Great,” a theological system is attached, which, though not entirely ignoring the former presentation, is but loosely interwoven with it.

Before, however, Reitzenstein proceeds to deal with this, he gives Professor Spiegelberg’s translation of a Prayer to Ptah, of the time of Ramses III. (c. 1233 B.C.), from the Papyrus Harris (I. 44, 3 ff.), in order to make clearer the circle of ideas into which we shall be introduced. This Prayer is as follows:


“Hail to thee! Thou art great, thou art old, Tatenen,[282] Father of the gods,
God ancient from the beginning;
Who fashioned men,
Who made the gods,
Who began with the creation as the first creator,
Who created for all who came after him,
Who made the heaven; as his heart[283] he created it;
Who hanged it up,
As God Shu raised himself;[284]
Who founded the earth of thy own power,
Who circled in the primal water of the Great Green,[285]
Who created the invisible world, which brings the dead bodies to rest;

Who let Rā come to make them glad,
As Prince of Eternity,
Lord of Eternity,
Lord of Life;
Who fills the lungs with air,
Who gives breath to every nostril,
Who vivifies all beings with his gifts.
Length of life, fortune, and fate are subject unto him
They live by that which goeth forth out of his mouth.[286]
Who made contentment for all the gods,
In his form of ancient primal water;[287]
Lord of Eternity, to whom Eternity is subject,
Breath of Life for all beings.”

There are other hymns of an exactly similar nature in which other gods are praised, especially Thoth and Horus. And now to turn to our inscription, and to that part of the text assigned to the fourth of the Forms of Manifestation, or Aspects or Persons, of Ptah.


l. 52. Ptah the Great is the heart and tongue of the god-circle.[288]

§ 1, l. 53. (Two gods)[289] are they, the one as heart, the other as tongue, emanations of Atum. Exceeding great is Ptah; if he . . . then are their ka’s in this heart and tongue [of his].

l. 54. When Horus arose in him (Atum) as Ptah, and when Thoth arose in him as Ptah, the power of heart and tongue came into being through him. (It is Atum) who brings forth his being out of every body and out of every mouth of all the gods. All men, all quadrupeds, all creeping things live through his thinking and uttering whatsoever he will.

§ 2, l. 55. His god-circle is before him; he is teeth [and] lips, vessels [and] hands. Atum (is in his) god-circle; Atum is in his vessels, in his hands; the god-circle is also teeth and lips in that mouth which hath uttered the name of everything, and out of which Shu and Tefnut have proceeded.[290]

l. 56. Then the god-circle organised the seeing of the eye, the hearing of the ear, the smelling of the nose, wherewith they made the desire of the heart to arise. And this [heart] it is which accomplishes every desire, but it is the tongue which repeats[291] what the heart desires.

§ 3. He (Ptah) gives existence[292] unto all gods, to Atum and his god-circle, for every god-word[293] comes into existence through the desire of the heart and the command of the tongue.

l. 57. He makes the ka . . . ; he makes all nourishment and all offerings[294] with this word; he makes what is loved and what is hated. He gives life to the pious, death to the impious. He makes every fabric, and every fabrication.

l. 58. The doing of the arms, the going of the feet, the movement of all limbs, is accomplished by the utterance of the word, because of the desire of the heart, [the word] which comes from the tongue and effects the whole of all things. So arises the teaching: Atum has made the gods to become Ptah Tatenen[295] so soon as the gods come into existence. All things proceed from him: sacrifice and food as well as oblation and all fair things.

§ 4, l. 59. He is Thoth the Wise, whose power is greater than that of the other gods. He (Thoth) at-oned himself with Ptah, after he had brought forth all things and all god-words; [296] after that he had fashioned the gods, had made the cities, settled the nomes, established the gods in their shrines,

l. 60. When he had ordained their sacrifices, founded their shrines, and had made statues of [? for] their bodies for their contentment.

§ 5. If the gods enter into their body, so is he (Ptah) in every wood, in every jewel, in every metal.[297] All things thrive after him if they [the gods] are there. To him all gods and their ka’s make oblation, uniting and binding themselves together [for him who is] Lord of the Two Lands.[298]

With these words the special theological system attached to the fourth person of Ptah is concluded, and the text returns to the Osiris-myth.


From this most interesting inscription copied from an ancient written document, we learn in the first place that in Egypt already, a good thousand years before the date of our “Pœmandres,” we have what the critical mind would call a distinct specimen of syncretism; namely, an attempt to combine three God-myths, or traditions, into a single system. These, if we persist in taking a purely traditional view, are: (i.) The Hermopolitan myth of Thoth as the Logos-Demiurge, who also in it frequently appears as an aspect of the Supreme; (ii.) The doctrine of the Ptah-priests of Memphis, according to which Ptah as the Primal Deity creates himself and all gods and men, and fashions the world; and (iii.) The Heliopolitan theology, in which Atum as the first of an ennead of gods unites his eight fellow-gods in himself and is the Primal God and Primal Basis of all things.

In all this the scribe or prophet has employed very early conceptions: on the one hand, that the plurality of gods are but “members” of a One and Only God; and on the other, that a sharply-defined and in some respect special God is similar to another more-general God in some particular attribute of his. Thus Atum is really the Primal God; but the God-circle, his “Body” (or Pleroma), consists of Eight different Forms of Ptah. Atum has emanated them; he is therefore “he who himself creates himself”; but equally so has Ptah created Atum and himself. The most important Member of this universal Ptah-Being or Cosmic God is Ptah the Great, who is Heart and Tongue—the former as Horus, the latter as Thoth. Thoth proceeds into manifestation as Tongue or Word to accomplish the cosmic purpose; but the Word is only the thought which has proceeded, or in a certain fashion emanated, out of the Person. Thoth and Horus are inseparably united with Ptah.

Reitzenstein thinks that the occasion for introducing the whole of this system into an exposition which otherwise deals with the Osiris-myth, was afforded by the parts played by Horus and Thoth in that myth. But it is evidently in itself a special system in which Thoth was the One God, the Word by whom all things were made.

All of this must be quite manifest to any careful reader, and therefore there is no reason for its further elaboration. But though we have recovered one specimen of this kind of syncretism only, it is not to be supposed that it was unusual; indeed, it was a necessity in Egypt, where, beyond all other lands, the idea of a number of divinities united in one, each showing forth in separation some attribute dominantly, but in union possessing simultaneously the attributes of all the others, was the only key possible to a state of affairs where a plurality of gods existed side by side with the doctrines of the One and the All.


Nevertheless, our inscription is not only of general use, but of special use for an elucidation of the main elements in the “Pœmandres” cosmogony. Any attempt to translate the ideas of the Atum-Ptah-Thoth combination into Greek could have resulted in no other nomenclature than θέος (God)—δημιουργὸς or δημιουργὸς νοῦς (Demiurge or Demiurgic Mind)—νοῦς and λόγος (Mind and Word), as is the case in our treatise.

This argument is all the stronger if we reflect that if Thoth, after the ordering of the cosmos, at-oned himself again with Ptah, then he must have completed this ordering which was emanated from Ptah. It is thus that the writer has brought to clear expression the conception that the Word is the Proceeding Thought of Ptah, and that both are inseparably united with one another.

So, too, we find in the “Pœmandres” that the Logos, after the completion of the cosmic ordering, returns to the Demiurgic Mind and is at-oned with him.

This similarity of fundamental conception cannot be due to chance, and we must therefore conclude that a doctrine essentially corresponding with the theology of our inscription is the main source of the “Pœmandres” cosmogony. This fairly establishes the main content of our cosmogony on an Egyptian ground.

If to this we add the general Egyptian belief that a man’s soul, after being “purified” in the after-death state, goes back to God, to live for the eternity as a god with the gods,[299] then we have established the chief part of the “Pœmandres” treatise as the Hellenised doctrine of the Egyptian priests—the mystery-tradition.

With all of this agrees the thought that the God as Mind dwells in the pious, as we learn from the Hermes Prayers. So also it is Ptah in our inscription who gives life to the pious and death to the impious. In very early accounts we find Ptah, the Mind, is the imparter of the gnosis for the gods—that is, as a Greek would say, he was the inventor of philosophy, as indeed Diogenes Laërtius tells us (Proœm. 1): “The Egyptians declare that Hephaistos was the source of philosophy, the presidents of which are priests and prophets.” Ptah, the Mind, reveals himself to his own and gives them good counsel; “Ptah hath spoken to thee,” Suidas tells us (s.v.), was a Greek-Egyptian saying, which is best elucidated by the Stele of Intef, which tells us that the people say of the heart of Intef: “It is an oracle of the god which is in every body.”[300]

All of this and much more of a like nature make it indubitably clear that the fundamental conceptions of the “Pœmandres” are Egyptian, and that the theory of Neoplatonic forgery must be for ever abandoned; so that even the dreams of Dévéria are nearer the truth than the confident assertions of many a great name in scholarship.


But what, says Reitzenstein (p. 69), is not Egyptian, is the doctrine of the Man, the Heavenly Man, the Son of God, who descends and becomes a slave of the Fate-Sphere; the Man who, though originally endowed with all power, descends into weakness and bondage, and has to win his own freedom and regain his original state.

This doctrine seems to have been in its origin part and parcel of the Chaldæan mystery-tradition; but it was widely spread in Hellenistic circles, and had analogies in all the great mystery-traditions, as we shall now proceed to see, and chiefly by the analysis of what has hitherto been regarded as one of the most chaotic and puzzling documents of Gnosticism.

7. The Myth Of Man In The Mysteries


“But All-Father Mind, being Life and Light, did bring forth Man (Ἄνθρωπον) co-equal to Himself.”[301]

So runs the opening paragraph of what we may call the soteriological part of the “Pœmandres” treatise of our Trismegistic literature. This Man or Anthrōpos is the Spiritual Prototype of humanity and of every individual man, and is a technical term found in a number of the early Christianised Gnostic systems.

For instance, in a system some outlines of which are preserved in the polemical Refutation of Irenæus,[302] and which the Bishop of Lyons seems to associate with an Ophite tradition, while Theodoret[303] ascribes it to the Sethians, we are told that in the Unutterable Depth were two Great Lights,—the First Man, or Father, and His Son, the Second Man; and also the Holy Spirit, the First Woman, or Mother of all living.

In this tradition, moreover, the Son of the Mother—the chief Formative Power of the seven Demiurgic Potencies of the sensible cosmos—is called Ialdabaōth (? the Child of the Egg), who boasts himself to be supreme. But his mother, Wisdom, reproves his pride, saying unto him: “Lie not, Ialdabaōth, for above thee is the Father of All, First Man, and Man Son of Man.”[304]


But the main source of our information on this Anthrōpos tradition, in its Christianised Gnostic form, is to be found in Hippolytus’ Philosophumena; or, Refutation of all Heresies.

In 1842, Minoïdes Mynas, a learned Greek, sent on a literary mission by the French Government, discovered in one of the monasteries on Mount Athos the only MS. (generally ascribed to the fourteenth century) which we possess of this extremely valuable work. It was originally in ten books, but, unfortunately, the first three and the beginning of the fourth are missing from our MS. The first book, however, was already known, though previously erroneously ascribed to Origen, and was accordingly prefixed to the text of the editio princeps of our work by Emmanuel Miller (Oxford, 1851).

The missing Books II. and III. dealt respectively with the doctrines and mysteries of the Egyptians and with those of the Chaldæans. Hippolytus (Proœm.) boasts that he has divulged all their mysteries, as well as the secrets of those Christian mystics whom he stigmatises as heretics, and to whom he devotes Books V.-IX.

It is a curious fact that it is precisely those Books wherein this divulging of the Mysteries was attempted, which should be missing; not only have they disappeared, but in the Epitome at the beginning of Book X. the summary of their contents is also omitted. This seems almost to point to a deliberate removal of just that information which would be of priceless value to us to-day, not only for the general history of the evolution of religious ideas, but also for filling in an important part of the background of the environment of infant Christianity.

Why, then, were these books cut out? Were the subsequent Christian Orthodox deterred by religious scruples, or were they afraid to circulate this information? Hippolytus himself seems to have had no such hesitation; he is ever delightedly boasting that he is giving away to the multitude the most sacred secrets of others; it seems to have been his special métier to cry aloud on the house-tops what had been whispered in their secret chambers. It was for him a delicious triumph over “error” to boast, “I have your secret documents, and I am going to publish them!”

Why, then, should those who came after him hesitate? Surely they were like-minded with Hippolytus, and would have been as delighted as himself in humbling the pride of the hated Mystery-institutions in the dust? Can it possibly be that they saw far more clearly than he did that quite other deductions might be drawn from his “startling revelations”?


That far other deductions could be drawn from the Mystery-rites and Mystery-myths was at anyrate the view of a tradition of early Jewish and Christian mystics whom Hippolytus calls Naassenes. The claim of these Gnostics was practically that Christianity, or rather the Good News of the Christ, was precisely the consummation of the inner doctrine of the Mystery-institutions of all the nations; the end of them all was the revelation of the Mystery of Man.

It is further to be noticed that these Naassenes, “who call themselves Gnostics” (v. 2), are the very first school of Christian “heresy” with which Hippolytus deals; he puts them in the forefront of his Refutation, as being, presumably, in his opinion, the oldest, or, at anyrate, as representing the most ancient form of Christian “heresy.”

Although the name Naassene (Ναασσηνοί) is derived from the Hebrew Naḥash (Serpent), Hippolytus does not call them Ophites; indeed, he reserves the latter name to a body to which he also gives (viii. 20) the name Caïnites and Nochaïtæ (Νοχαϊταί)—? Nachaïtæ, again, from Nachash[305]—and considers them of not sufficient importance for further mention.

These Naassenes possessed many secret books or apocrypha—that is, books kept back from general circulation—and also regarded as authoritative the following scriptures: The Gospel of Perfection, The Gospel of Eve, The Questions of Mary,[306] Concerning the Offspring of Mary, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel according to Thomas, and The Gospel according to the Egyptians. All of which points somewhat to an Alexandrian or Egyptian circle.


One of their secret MSS. had fallen into the hands of Hippolytus. It is in the Bishop of Portus’ quotations from this document that Reitzenstein (pp. 81 ff.) seeks to discover what he calls the “Hellenistic Myth of the God Anthrōpos.” His theory is that, by eliminating the Christian citations and thoughts of the Naassene writer, we are face to face with a purely Heathen document.

The reproduction of their views, as given by Hippolytus,[307] falls according to Reitzenstein into three divisions.

(i.) The first begins with the explanation of the name “Naassene” (S. 131, 1; C. 139, 1[308]), and, after giving a few brief headings, ends (S. 134, 8; C. 141, 2) with the statement that the writer of the MS. said they had their tradition from James, the Brother of the Lord, who had delivered it to Mariamnē.

(iii.) The third begins (S. 170, 64; C. 178, 1) with another explanation of the name. In both of these parts are found remains of hymns from some liturgical collection.

(ii.) Between i. and ii. lies a longer exposition in which Hippolytus tries to show that the Naassene doctrines are taken from the Mysteries, culminating in the assertion that the Naassenes, as a matter of fact, were nothing else than sectaries of the Mysteries of the Mother of the Gods, in proof of which he quotes at length from a secret document of their school.

Our interest in these quotations, however, is very different from that of Hippolytus, for, as Reitzenstein has now shown, it is manifest on inspection that the Christian quotations and thoughts in this document violently disrupt its underlying continuity, and that they are for the most part easily removable without damage to the sense.

With regard to the Old Testament quotations it is not always so easy to disentangle them from the Hellenistic source, much less from the New Testament quotations; the phenomena, however, presented by them are of such a nature that, in my opinion, there is ample evidence before us that there was a Jewish working-over of the matter before it came into the hands of the Christian overwriter. Reitzenstein, however, does not venture so far.

Even, then, if we were content with Reitzenstein’s analysis only, it is quite clear that the quotations from the Old Testament formed no part of the original; and that we have, therefore, before us what was once a purely Heathen text, with Gnostic Christian scholia, or rather overworked by a Christian Gnostic. The original Pagan text had, accordingly, been cut up by the Naassene overwriter before ever it came into the hands of Hippolytus.

Now, as the Christianised text must have been for some time in private circulation before it reached the library of the Bishop of Portus[309]—even if we make no allowance for a Jewish Hellenistic stratum of overwriting, still seeing that Hippolytus’ own view was that, in the Naassene MS., he had before him a basic document of those whom he regarded as the earliest Christian “heretics”—it is quite evident that if we were to place the date of the original Hellenistic source in the first century, we should not be doing violence even to the ecclesiastical traditional absurdity that Gnosticism first sullied the orthodox purity of the Church only in the reign of Trajan (96-117 A.D.). But we will return to the question of date later on.

As the whole matter is not only one of considerable interest for the student of our treatises, but also of the greatest importance for the student of the history of Gnosticism, I shall give a translation of Hippolytus’ introductory and concluding sections, as well as of the intermediate section which specially concerns us, so that the reader may have a view of the whole medley as it comes to us from the hands of the heresy-hunting bishop.

I shall, moreover, proceed a stage further in the analysis of the material of Hippolytus than Reitzenstein has done, and hope, when the evidence has been laid before the reader, to win his assent to what appears to me to be the natural sifting out of the various elements, with resultant phenomena which are of the greatest importance for the history of Gnosticism, and, therefore, of the evolution of Christian dogmatics, and which lead to conclusions that are far too serious to be treated in the short space of a single chapter of our present essay.

In the following analysis H. stands for Hippolytus; C. for the Christian Gnostic final overwriter, the “Naassene” whose MS. lay before H.; J. for the Naassene Jewish mystic who preceded C. and overworked the original; S. for the original Heathen Hellenistic Source.

As H. and C. are of secondary importance for our immediate enquiry, though of themselves of the greatest value and interest, I shall print them in smaller type. J. I shall print in the same type as S., as nearer in contact with S. than C., and as being sometimes more difficult to detach from S. than from C.

The reader, to have the text of Hippolytus before him, must neglect all the critical indications and read straight on.

With these brief preliminary indications we will, then, present the reader with a translation of the first section, or introductory part,[310] of Hippolytus’ exposure or exposition of the Naassene doctrines, begging him to remember throughout that it is a portrait painted by the hand of one of their bitterest foes.


H. The priests and chiefs of [this] doctrine[311] were first of all those who were called Naasseni—so named in Hebrew, [in which] “serpent” is called naas.[312] But subsequently they called themselves Gnostics, pretending that they alone knew the Depths.

From these many separated themselves and [so] turned the school, which was originally a single one, into numerous sects, setting forth the same ideas in various doctrinal forms, as our argument will show as it advances.

These [Naassenes] honour as the Logos (Reason) of all universals[313] Man, and Son of Man. This Man is male-female, and is called by them Adamas.[314] And they have many intricate[315] hymns in his honour. These hymns—to dispose of them briefly—run somewhat as follows:

J. ‘“From Thee’ [is] Father, and ‘Through Thee’[316] Mother—the two Immortal Names,[317] Parents of Æons, O Thou who hast the Heaven for Thy City, O Man of Mighty Names.”[318]

H. And they divide him into three, like Gēryōnēs;[319] for, they say, he has a mental, psychic, and choïc [aspect];[320] and they think that the Gnosis of[321] this [Man] is the beginning of the possibility of knowing God, saying:

J. The beginning of Perfection [is] the Gnosis of Man, but the Gnosis of God is perfected Perfection.[322]

H. All these, he says[323]—mental, psychic, and earthy—descended together into one man—Jesus, born of Mary.

And these three Men, he says, spake each from their own special essences to their own special folk.

For of the universal principles there are three kinds [or races]—the angelic, psychic, and earthy; and three churches—angelic, psychic, and earthy named the Elect, Called, and Bound.

These are the chief heads from a very large number of doctrines,[324] which, he says, James, the Brother of the Lord, handed on to Mariamnē.[325]

But in order that we may put an end to the lying accounts of these impious [heretics] concerning Mariamnē, and James, and the Saviour Himself,[326] let us come to the Initiations from which they get this myth—if you like [to call it so]—to the non-Grecian and Grecian [Initiations]; and let us see how, by combining together the secret Mysteries of all the Gentiles which must not be spoken of, and by telling lies about the Christ, they take in those who do not know that these things are the Orgies of the Gentiles.

Now, since the foundation of their system is Man Adamas, and they say it has been written of him, “Who shall declare his generation?”[327]—learn how they have taken the undiscoverable and contradictory generation of Man and plastered it on the Christ.


(1) S. “Earth (say the Greeks[328]) first brought forth Man—bearing a fair gift, desiring to be mother not of plants without feeling, nor of brutes without reason, but of a tamed God-loving life.

“Difficult is it (H. he says[329]) to discover whether it was among the Bœotians that Alalkomeneus rose from the Kephisian Lake as first of men; or whether it was the Idæan Kurētes, race divine, or the Phrygian Korybantes, whom Helios saw first sprouting forth tree-like; or whether Arkadia brought forth Pelasgos [first], older than the Moon; or Eleusis Diaulos, dweller in Raria; or Lēmnos Kabeiros, fair child of ineffable orgies;[330] or whether Pallēnē Phlegræan Alkyoneus, eldest of Giants.

“The Libyans say that Garamas,[331] rising from parched plains, first picked sweet date of Zeus; while Neilos, making fat the mud of Egypt to this day (H. he says), breeds living things, and renders from damp heat things clothed in flesh.”[332]

The Assyrians say it was with them Ōannēs, the Fish-eater; while the Chaldæans [say that it was] Adam.

(2) J. And this Adam they [the Chaldæans] say was the man that Earth produced—a body only, and that he lay breathless, motionless, immovable, like a statue, being an image of that Man Above—

H. —of whom they sing, and brought into existence by the many Powers,[333] concerning which there is much detailed teaching.

J. In order, then, that the Great Man from Above—

C. From whom, as is said, every fatherhood has its name on earth or in the heavens.[334]

J. —might be completely brought low, there was given unto him[335] Soul also, in order that through the Soul the enclosed plasm of the Great, Most-fair, and Perfect Man might suffer and be chastened.

H. For thus they call Him. They seek to discover then further what is the Soul, and whence, and of what nature, that by entering into man and moving him, it should enslave and chasten the plasm of the Perfect Man; but they seek this also not from the Scriptures, but from the Mysteries.

(3) S. And they[336] say that Soul is very difficult to discover, and hard to understand; for it never remains of the same appearance, or form, or in the same state, so that one can describe it by a general type,[337] or comprehend it by an essential quality.

H. These variegated metamorphoses they[338] have laid down in the Gospel, superscribed “According to the Egyptians.”[339]

S. They are accordingly in doubt—

H. —like all the rest of the Gentiles—

J. —whether it [sc. the Soul] is from the Pre-existing [One], or from the Self-begotten, or from the Streaming Chaos.[340]

H. And first of all, in considering the triple division of Man, they fly for help to the Initiations of the Assyrians; for the Assyrians were the first to consider the Soul triple and [yet] one.

(4) S. Now every nature (H. he says) yearns after Soul—one in one way and another in another.

For Soul is cause of all in Genesis. All things that are sustained and grow (H. he says) need Soul. Indeed, no sustenance (H. he says) or growth is possible without the presence of Soul.

Nay, even stones (H. he says) are ensouled;[341] for they have the power of increase [or growth]; and growth could not take place without sustenance; for it is by addition that things which increase grow; and addition is the sustenance of that which is sustained.[342]

(5) Now the Assyrians call this [Mystery] Adōnis (or Endymiōn). And whenever it is called Adōnis (H. he says), it is Aphroditē who is in love with and desires Soul so-called.

H. And Aphroditē is Genesis according to them.[343]

But when Persephonē (that is, Korē) is in love with Adōnis, Soul becomes subject to Death, separated from Aphrodite (that is, from Genesis).

But if Selēnē is impassioned of Endymiōn, and is in love with [formal] beauty,[344] it is the Nature of the higher [spaces[345]] (H. he says) which desires Soul.

(6 [346]) But if (H. he says) the Mother of the Gods emasculate Attis—she, too, regarding him as the object of her love—it is the Blessed Nature Above of the supercosmic and æonian [spaces] which calls back the masculine power of Soul to herself.[347]

H. For Man, he says, is male-female. According, then, to this theory of theirs, the intercourse between man and woman is exhibited as most mischievous, and is forbidden according to their teaching.

J. For Attis (H. he says) is emasculated—that is, [Soul is separated] from the earthy parts of the creation [tending] downwards, and ascends in quest of the Æonian Essence Above—

C. —where (H. he says) is “neither male nor female,”[348] but a new creature, a new man, who is male-female.

H. What they call “Above” I will explain when I come to the proper place. And they say that this theory is supported not simply by [the myth] of Rhea, but also, to put it briefly, by universal creation.

Nay, they make out that this is [even] what was said by the Word (Logos):[349]

C. “For the invisible[350] things of Him [God]—namely, His Eternal[351] Power and Godhead—are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by His things that are made; so that they [men] are without excuse. Because that, though knowing God, they glorified Him not as God, nor did they give [Him] thanks, but their non-understanding heart was made foolish.[352]

 “Professing themselves to be wise, they convicted themselves of folly, and changed the Glory of the Incorruptible God into the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and creeping things.[353] . . .[354]

“Wherefore also God gave them up to passions of dishonour; for both their females did change their natural use to that which is against nature—

H. And what the natural use is, according to them, we will say later on.

C. —“and likewise also their males, leaving the natural use of the female, burned in their lust for one another, males with males working unseemliness[355]

H. And “unseemliness,” according to them, is the First and Blessed Formless Essence, the Cause of all forms for things enformed.[356]

C. —“and receiving in themselves the recompense of their Error which was meet.”

H. For in these words which Paul spake is contained, they say, the whole of their hidden and ineffable Mystery of the Blessed Bliss.

For what is promised by the [rite of the] bath[357] is nothing else, according to them, than the introduction into Unfading Bliss of him who, according to them, is washed with Living Water, and anointed with the Chrism that no tongue can declare.[358]

 (7) And they say that not only the Mysteries of the Assyrians and Phrygians substantiate this teaching (logos) concerning the Blessed Nature, which is at once hidden and manifest [but also those of the Egyptians[359]].

C.[360] [The Nature] which (H. he says) is the Kingdom of the Heavens sought for within man—

H. —concerning which [Nature] they hand on a distinct tradition in the Gospel entitled According to Thomas, saying as follows:

C. “He who seeketh shall find me in children from the age of seven years[361]; for in them at the fourteenth year[362] [lit. æon] I hidden am made manifest.”

H. But this is not Christ’s Saying but that of Hippocrates:

“A boy of seven years [is] half a father.”[363]

Hence as they place the Original Nature of the universals in the Original Seed, having learned the Hippocratian dictum that a child of seven is half a father, they say at fourteen years, according to Thomas, it is manifested. This[364] is their ineffable and mysterious Logos.[365]

(8[366]) S. (H.—At anyrate they say that) the Egyptians—who are the most ancient of men after the Phrygians, who at the same time were confessedly the first to communicate to mankind the Mystery-rites and Orgies of all the Gods, and to declare their Forms and Energies—have the mysteries of Isis, holy, venerable, and not to be disclosed to the uninitiated.

H. And these are nothing else than the robbing of the member of Osiris, and its being sought for by the seven-robed and black-mantled[367] [Goddess].

And (they [the Egyptians] say) Osiris is Water.[368] And Seven-robed Nature—

H. —having round her, nay, robing herself in seven ætheric vestures—for thus they[369] allegorically designate the planet-stars, calling [their spheres] ætheric vestures—

S. —being metamorphosed, as ever-changing Genesis, by the Ineffable and Uncopiable and Incomprehensible and Formless, is shown forth as creation.

J. And this is what (H. he says) is said in the Scripture:

“Seven times the Just shall fall and rise again.”[370]

For these “fallings” (H. he says) are the changes of the stars,[371] set in motion by the Mover of all things.

(9) S. Accordingly they[372] declare concerning the Essence of the Seed which is the cause of all things in Genesis, that it is none of these things, but that it begets and makes all generated things, saying:

“I become what I will, and am what I am.”[373]

Therefore (H. he says) That which moves all is unmoved; for It remains what It is, making all things, and becomes no one of the things produced.

(H. He says that) This is the Only Good—

C. And concerning this was spoken what was said by the Saviour:

“Why callest thou me Good? One is Good[374]—my Father in the Heavens, who maketh His sun to rise on righteous and unrighteous, and sendeth rain on saints and sinners.”[375]

H. And who are the saints on whom He sendeth rain and the sinners on whom He also sendeth rain—this also he tells subsequently with the rest.

S. —and (H. that) This is the Great, Hidden, and Unknown Mystery of the Egyptians, Hidden and [yet] Revealed.

For there is no temple (H. he says) before the entrance of which the Hidden [Mystery] does not stand naked, pointing from below above, and crowned with all its fruits of generation.

(10) And (H. they say) it stands so symbolised not only in the most sacred temples before the statues, but also set up for general knowledge—

C. —as it were “a light not under the bushel, but” set “on the candlestick”[376]—a preaching “heralded forth on the house-tops.”[377]

S. —on all the roads and in all the streets, and alongside the very houses as a boundary and limit of the dwelling; (H. that) This is the God spoken of by all, for they call Him Bringer-of-good, not knowing what they say.

H. And this mystery [-symbol] the Greeks got from the Egyptians, and have it [even] to this day.

At anyrate, he says, we see the “Hermes”[378] honoured by them in this form.

(11) S. And the Cyllenians, treating [this symbol] with special honour, [regard it as the] Logos.[379]

For (H. he says) Hermes is [the] Logos, who, as being the Interpreter and Fabricator of all things that have been and are and shall be, was honoured by them under the symbolism of this figure, namely an ithyphallus.

And that he (H. that is Hermes, so symbolised) is Conductor and Reconductor of souls,[380] and Cause of souls, has not escaped the notice of the poets (H. of the Gentiles), when saying:

“But Cyllenian Hermes summoned forth the souls
Of men mindful”[381]

—not the “suitors” of Penelope (H. he says), hapless wights! but of those who are roused from sleep, and have their memory restored to them—

“From what honour and [how great] degree of blessedness.”[382]

J. That is, from the Blessed Man Above—

H. —or Original Man, or Adamas, as they[383] think—

J. —they[384] have been thus brought down into the plasm of clay, in order that they may be enslaved to the Demiurge of this creation, Esaldaios[385]

H. —a fiery God, fourth in number, for thus they call the Demiurge and Father of this special cosmos.[386]

 (13) S. “And he[387] holds a rod in his hands,
Beautiful, golden; and with it he spell-binds the eyes of men,
Whomsoever he would, and wakes them again too from sleep.”[388]

This (H. he says) is He who alone hath the power of life and death.[389]

J. Concerning Him it is written: “Thou shalt shepherd them with a rod of iron.”[390]

But the poet (H. he says), wishing to embellish the incomprehensibility of the Blessed Nature of the Logos, bestowed upon Him a golden instead of an iron rod.

S. “He spell-binds the eyes” of the dead (H. he says), and “wakes them again too from sleep”—those who are waked from sleep and become “mindful.”[391]

C. Concerning them the Scripture saith: “Awake thou that sleepest, and rise, and Christ will give thee light."[392]

This is the Christ, the Son of Man (H. he says), expressed in all who are born from the Logos, whom no expression can express.

S. This (H. he says) is the Great Ineffable Mystery of the Eleusinia: “Hye Kye.”[393]

J. And that (H. he says) all things have been put under Him, this too has been said: “Into all the earth hath gone forth their sound.”[394]

(14) S. And “Hermes leads them, moving his rod, and they follow, squeaking”[395]—the souls in a cluster, as the poet hath shown in the following image:

“But as when bats into some awesome cave’s recess
Fly squeaking—should one from out the cluster fall
Down from the rock, they cling to one another.”[396]

J. The “rock” (H. he says) means Adamas. This (H. he says) is the “corner-stone”—

C. —“that hath become the head of the corner.”[397] For in the “Head” is the expressive Brain[398] of the Essence, from which [Brain] “every fatherhood”[399] has its expression—

J. —which “I insert in the foundation of Zion.”[400]

[By this] (H. he says) he[401] means, allegorically, the plasm of man. For the Adamas who is “inserted” is [the inner man, and the “foundations of Zion” are[402]] the “teeth”—the “fence of the teeth,” as Homer says—the Wall and Palisade[403] in which is the inner man, fallen into it from the Primal Man, the Adamas Above—[the Stone] “cut without hands”[404] cutting it, and brought down into the plasm of forgetfulness, the earthy, clayey [plasm].

(15) S. And (H. he says that) they followed Him squeaking[405]—the souls, the Logos.

“Thus they went squeaking together; and he led them on,
Hermes, the guileless, down the dark ways.”[406]

That is, (H. he says) [He led them] into the eternal lands free from all guile. For where (H. he says) went they?

(16) “They passed by the streams of Ocean, and by the White Rock,
By the Gates of the Sun, and the People of Dreams.”[407]

For He (H. he says) is Ocean—“birth-causing of gods and birth-causing of men”[408]—flowing and ebbing for ever, now up and now down.

J. When Ocean flows down (H. he says), it is the birth-causing of men; and when [it flows] up, towards the Wall and Palisade, and the “White Rock,” it is the birth-causing of gods.

This (H. he says) is what is written:

“‘I have said ye are Gods and all Sons of the Highest’[409]—if ye hasten to flee from Egypt and get you beyond the Red Sea into the Desert”; that is, from the intercourse below to the Jerusalem Above, who is the Mother of the Living.[410] “But if ye turn back again into Egypt”—that is, to the intercourse below—“‘ye shall die like men.’”[411]

For (H. he says) all the generation below is subject to death, but the [birth] begotten above is superior to death.

C. For from water alone—that is, spirit—is begotten the spiritual [man], not the fleshly; the lower [man] is fleshly. That is (H. he says) what is written: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.”[412]

H. This is their[413] spiritual birth.

J. This (H. he says) is the Great Jordan, which, flowing downwards and preventing the sons of Israel from going forth out of Egypt, or from the intercourse below—

H. —for Egypt is the body, according to them—

J. —was turned back by Jesus[414] and made to flow upwards.

H. Following after these and such like [follies], these most wonderful “Gnostics,” discoverers of a new grammatical art, imagine that their prophet Homer showed forth these things arcanely; and, introducing those who are not initiated into the Sacred Scriptures into such notions, they make a mock of them.

And they say that he who says that all things are from One, is in error, [but] he who says they are from Three is right, and will furnish proof of the first principles [of things].[415]

J. For one (H. he says) is the Blessed Nature of the Blessed Man Above, Adamas; and one is the [Nature] Below, which is subject to Death; and one is the Race without a king[416] which is born Above—where (H. he says) is Mariam the sought-for, and Jothōr the great sage, and Sepphōra the seeing, and Moses whose begetting is not in Egypt—for sons were born to him in Madiam.[417]

S. And this (H. he says) also did not escape the notice of the poets: “All things were threefold divided, and each received his share of honour.”[418]

C. For the Greatnesses (H. he says) needs must be spoken, but so spoken by all everywhere, “that hearing they may not hear, and seeing they may not see.”[419]

J. For unless (H. he says) the Greatnesses[420] were spoken, the cosmos would not be able to hold together. These are the Three More-than-mighty Words (Logoi): Kaulakau, Saulasau, Zeēsar;—Kaulakau, the [Logos] Above, Adamas; Saulasau, the [Logos] Below; Zeēsar, the Jordan flowing upwards.[421]

(17[422]) S. He (H. he says) is the male-female Man in all, whom the ignorant call three-bodied Gēryonēs—Earth-flow-er, as though flowing from the earth;[423] while the Greek [theologi] generally call Him the “Heavenly Horn of Mēn,”[424] because He has mixed and mingled[425] all things with all.

C. For “all things (H. he says) were made through Him, and without Him no one thing was made that was made. In Him is Life.”[426]

This (H. he says) is “Life,” the ineffable Race of perfect men, which was unknown to former generations.

And the “nothing”[427] which hath been made “without Him,” is the special cosmos;[428] for the latter hath been made without Him by the third and fourth [? Ruler].[429]

J. This[430] (H. he says) is the drinking-vessel—the Cup in which “the King drinketh and divineth.”[431]

This (H. he says) was found hidden in the “fair seed” of Benjamin.

(18) S. The Greeks also speak of it (H. he says) with inspired tongue, as follows:

“Bring water, bring [me] wine, boy!
Give me to drink, and sink me in slumber![432]
My Cup tells me of what race I must be born,
[Speaking with silence unspeaking].”[433]

C. This (H. he says) would be sufficient alone if men would understand—the Cup of Anacreon speaking forth speechlessly the Ineffable Mystery.

J. For (H. he says) Anacreon’s Cup is speechless—in as much as it tells him (says Anacreon) with speechless sound of what Race he must be born—

C. —that is, spiritual, not carnal—

J. —if he hear the Hidden Mystery in Silence.

C. And this is the Water at those Fair Nuptials which Jesus turned and made Wine.

“This (H. he says) is the great and true beginning of the signs which Jesus wrought in Cana of Galilee, and made manifest His Kingship [or Kingdom] of the Heavens.”[434]

This (H. he says) is the Kingship [or Kingdom] of the Heavens within us,[435] stored up as a Treasure,[436] as “Leaven hid in three measures of Flour.”[437]

 (19[438]) S. This is (H. he says) the Great Ineffable Mystery of the Samothracians,—

C. —which it is lawful for the perfect alone to know—[that is] (H. he says) for us.

J. For the Samothracians, in the Mysteries which are solemnised among them, explicitly hand on the tradition that this Adam is the Man Original.

S. Moreover,[439] in the initiation temple of the Samothracians stand two statues of naked men, with both hands raised to heaven and ithyphallic, like the statue of Hermes in Cyllene.[440]

J. The statues aforesaid are images of the Man Original.[441]

C. And [also] of the regenerated[442] spiritual [man], in all things of like substance with that Man.

This (H. he says) is what was spoken by the Saviour:

“If ye do not drink My Blood and eat My Flesh, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens.[443]

“But even if ye drink (H. he says) the Cup which I drink,[444] where I go, there ye cannot come.”[445]

For He knew (H. he says) of which nature each of His disciples is, and that it needs must be that each of them should go to his own nature.

For from the twelve tribes (H. he says) He chose twelve disciples, and through them He spake to every tribe.[446]

On this account (H. he says) all have not heard the preachings of the twelve disciples; and even if they hear, they cannot receive them. For the [preachings] which are not according to their nature are contrary to it.

(20) S. This [Man] (H. he says) the Thracians who dwell round Haimos call Korybas,[447] and the Phrygians in like manner with the Thracians; for taking the source of His descent from the Head Above[448]

J. —and from the expressive Brain[449]

S. —and passing through all the sources of all things beneath—how and in what manner He descends we do not understand.

J. This is (H. he says) what was spoken:

“His Voice we heard, but His Form we have not seen.”[450]

For (H. he says) the Voice of Him, when He hath been delegated and expressed, is heard, but the Form that descended from Above, from the Inexpressible [Man]—what it is, no one knows. It is in the earthy plasm, but no one has knowledge of it.

This [Man] (H. he says) is He who “inhabiteth the Flood,”[451] according to the Psalter, who cries and calls from “many waters.”[452]

The “many waters” (H. he says) are the manifold genesis of men subject to death, from which He shouts and calls to the Inexpressible Man, saying:

“Save my [? Thy] alone-begotten from the lions.”[453]

To this [Man] (H. he says) it hath been spoken:

“Thou art my Son, O Israel,[454] fear not; should’st thou pass through rivers, they shall not engulph thee; should’st thou pass through fire, it shall not consume thee.”[455]

By “rivers” (H. he says) he[456] means the Moist Essence of Genesis, and by “fire” the impulse and desire towards Genesis.

And: “Thou art mine; fear not.”[457]

And again he[458] says:

“If a mother forget her children so as not to take pity on them or give them suck, [then] I too will forget you”[459]—saith Adamas (H. he says) to his own men.

“Nay, even if a woman shall forget them, I will not forget you. Upon my hands have I graven you.”[460]

And concerning His Ascent—

C. —that is, his regeneration in order that he may be born spiritual, not fleshly.

J. —the Scripture saith (H. he says):

“Lift up the gates, ye who are rulers of you, and be ye lift up ye everlasting gates, and the King of Glory shall come in.”[461]

This is a wonder of wonders.

“For who (H. he says) is this King of Glory?[462] A worm[463] and no man, the scorn of men, and the contempt of the people.[464] He is the King of Glory, the Mighty in War.”[465]

By “War” he[466] means the “[war] in the body,” for the plasm is compounded of warring elements, as it is written (H. he says):

“Remember the war that is [warred] in the body.”[467]

This (H. he says) is the Entrance, and this is the Gate, which Jacob saw, when he journeyed into Mesopotamia.[468]

C. Which is the passing from childhood to puberty and manhood; that is, it was made known to him who journeyed into Mesopotamia.

J. And Meso-potamia (H. he says) is the Stream of Great Ocean flowing from the middle of the Perfect Man.

And he[469] marvelled at the Heavenly Gate, saying:

“How terrible [is] this place! This is naught else than the House of God; yea, this [is] the Gate of Heaven.”[470]

C. On this account (H. he says) Jesus saith:

“I am the True Door.”[471]

J. And he[472] who says these things is (H. he says) the [one] from the Inexpressible Man, expressed from Above—

C. —as the perfect man. The not-perfect man, therefore, cannot be saved unless he be regenerated passing through this Gate.

(21) S. This same [Man] (H. he says) the Phrygians call also Papa;[473] for He calmed[474] all things which, prior to His own manifestation, were in disorderly and inharmonious movement.

For the name Papa (H. he says) is [the] Sound-of-all-things-together in Heaven, and on Earth, and beneath the Earth, saying: “Calm, calm”[475] the discord of the cosmos.

C. And: Make “peace for them that are far”—that is, the material and earthy—“and peace for them that are near”[476]—that is, the spiritual and knowing and perfect men.

(22) S. The Phrygians call Him also Dead—when buried in the body as though in a tomb or sepulchre.

C. This (H. he says) is what is said:

“Ye are whited sepulchres, filled (H. he says) within with bones of the dead,[477] for Man, the Living [One][478] is not in you.”

And again He says:

“The dead shall leap forth from their graves”[479]

—that is, from their earthy bodies, regenerated spiritual, not fleshly.

This (H. he says) is the Resurrection which takes place through the Gate of the Heavens, through which all those who do not pass (H. he says) remain Dead.

S. The same Phrygians again call this very same [Man], after the transformation, God [or a God].[480]

C. For he becomes (H. he says) God when, rising from the Dead, through such a Gate, he shall pass into Heaven.

This is the Gate (H. he says) which Paul, the Apostle, knew, setting it ajar in a mystery, and saying that he was caught up by an angel and came to the second, nay the third heaven, into Paradise itself, and saw what he saw, and heard ineffable words, which it is not lawful for man to utter.[481]

These (H. he says) are the Mysteries, ineffable [yet] spoken of by all,—

“—which [also we speak, yet] not in words taught of human wisdom, but in [words] taught of Spirit, comparing things spiritual with spiritual things. But the psychic man receiveth not the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness unto him.”[482]

And these (H. he says) are the Ineffable Mysteries of the Spirit which we alone know.

Concerning these (H. he says) the Saviour said:

“No one is able to come to Me, unless my Heavenly Father draw him.”[483]

For it is exceedingly difficult (H. he says) to receive and accept this Great Ineffable Mystery.

And again (H. he says) the Saviour said:

“Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord! shall enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens, but he who doeth the Will of My Father who is in the Heavens”[484]

—which [Will] they must do, and not hear only, to enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens.

And again He said (H. he says):

“The tax-gatherers and harlots go before you into the Kingdom of the Heavens.”[485]

For by “tax-gatherers” (τελῶναι) are meant (H. he says) those who receive the consummations[486] (τέλη) of the universal [principles]; and we (H. he says) are the “tax-gatherers”[487] [upon whom the consummations of the æons have come”[488]].

For the “consummations” (H. he says) are the Seeds disseminated into the cosmos from the Inexpressible [Man], by means of which the whole cosmos is consummated; for by means of these also it began to be.

And this (H. he says) is what is said:

“The Sower went forth to sow. And some [Seeds] fell by the way-side, and were trodden under foot; and others on stony places, and they sprang up (H. he says), but because they had no depth, they withered and died.

“Others (H. he says) fell on the fair and good ground, and brought forth fruit—one a hundred, another sixty, and another thirty.

“He who hath (H. he says) ears to hear, let him hear!”[489]

That is (H. he says), no one has been a hearer of these Mysteries, save only the gnostic, perfect [man].

This (H. he says) is the “fair and good ground” of which Moses saith:

“I will bring you into a fair and good land, into a land flowing with milk and honey.”[490]

This (H. he says) is the “honey and milk” by tasting which the perfect [men] become free from all rule,[491] and share in the Fullness.

This (H. he says) is the Fullness whereby all things that are generated both are and are full-filled from the Ingenerable [Man].

 (23) S. This same [Man] is called by the Phrygians Unfruitful.

C. For He is unfruitful as long as He is fleshly and works the work of the flesh.

This (H. he says) is what is said:

“Every tree that beareth not good fruit, is cut down and cast into the fire.”[492]

For these “fruits” (H. he says) are the logic,[493] living men only who pass through the third Gate.[494]

J. At anyrate they[495] say:

“If ye have eaten dead things and made living ones, what will ye make if ye eat living things?”[496]

And by “living things” they mean logoi and minds and men—the “pearls” of that Inexpressible [Man] cast into the plasm below.[497]

C. This is what He saith (H. he says):

“Cast not the holy thing to the dogs nor the pearls to the swine.”[498]

H. For they say that the work of swine is the intercourse of man with woman.

(24[499]) S. This same [Man] (H. he says) the Phrygians also call Ai-polos;[500] not because (H. he says) He feeds she-goats and he-goats, as the (C.—psychics[501]) interpret the name, but because (H. he says) He is Aei-polos—that is, “Always-turning” (Aei-polōn),[502] revolving and driving round the whole cosmos in [its] revolution; for polein is to “turn” and change things.

Hence (H. he says) all call the two centres[503] of heaven poles. And the poet also (H. he says) when he says: “Hither there comes and there goes (pōleitai) Old Man of the Sea, whose words are e’er true—Egypt’s undying Prōteus.”[504]

[By pōleitai] he does not mean “he is put on sale,”[505] but “he turns about” [or comes and goes] there,—as though it were, [he spins] and goes round.

And the cities in which we live, in that we turn about and circulate in them, are called poleis.

Thus (H. he says) the Phrygians call Aipolos this [Man] who turns all things at all times all ways, and changes them into things kin.

(25) The Phrygians, moreover (H. he says), call Him Fruitful.

J. For (H. he says):

“Many more are the children of the desolate [woman] than of her who hath her husband.”[506]

C. That is, the regenerated, deathless, and ever-continuing [children] are many, although few are they [thus] generated; but the fleshly (H. he says) all perish, though many are they [thus] generated.

C. For this cause (H. he says):

“Rachel bewailed her children, and would not (H. he says) be comforted weeping over them; for she knew (H. he says) that they are not.”[507]

J. And Jeremiah also laments the Jerusalem Below—not the city in Phœnicia,[508] but the generation below—which is subject to destruction.

C. For Jeremiah also (H. he says) knew the perfect man, regenerated from water and spirit, not fleshly.

J. At anyrate the same Jeremiah said:

“He is man, and who shall know him?”[509]

C. Thus (H. he says) the knowledge of the perfect man is deep and hard to comprehend.

J. For “The beginning of Perfection (H. he says) is Gnosis of man, but Gnosis of God is perfect Perfection.”[510]

(26) S. And the Phrygians (H. he says) call Him also “Plucked Green Wheat-ear”; and after the Phrygians the Athenians [so designate Him], when, in the secret rites at Eleusis, they show those who receive in silence the final initiation there into the Great—

C. —and marvellous and most perfect—

S. —Epoptic Mystery, a plucked wheat-ear.[511]

And this Wheat-ear is also with the Athenians the Light-giver[512]

C. —perfect [and] mighty—

J. —from the Inexpressible—

S. —as the hierophant himself—not emasculated like the “Attis,”[513] but made eunuch with hemlock juice—

C. —and divorced from all fleshly generation—

S. —in the night, at Eleusis, solemnising the Great Ineffable Mysteries, when the bright light streams forth,[514] shouts and cries aloud, saying:

“[Our] Lady hath brought forth a Holy Son: Brimō [hath given birth] to Brimos”—

—that is, the Strong to the Strong.

(27) J. And “[Our] Lady” (H. he says) is the Genesis—

C. —the Spiritual, Heavenly [Genesis]—

J. —Above. And the Strong is he who is thus generated.

For it is the Mystery called “Eleusis” and “Anaktoreion”;—“Eleusis,” because we—

C. —the spiritual—

J. —come[515] from Above, streaming down from Adamas, for eleus-esthai (H. he says) is “to come”; and “Anaktoreion” [from anag-esthai, “leading back,” that is[516]] from “returning”[517] Above.[518]

This [Return] (H. he says) is that of which those who are initiated into the great Mysteries of the Eleusinia speak.

(28) S. And the law is that after they have been initiated into the Little Mysteries, they should be further initiated into the Great.

“For greater deaths do greater lots obtain.”[519]

The Little (H. he says) are the Mysteries of Persephonē Below; concerning which Mysteries and the way leading there and—

C. —being broad and wide,—

—taking [men] to Persephonē, the poet also speaks:

“Beneath this there is another path death-cold,
Hollow and clayey. But this[520] is best to lead
To grove delightsome of far-honoured Aphroditē.”[521]

These[522] are (H. he says) the Little Mysteries—

C. —those of the fleshly generation—

S. —and after men have been initiated into them, they should cease for a little, and become initiated in the Great—

C. —heavenly [Mysteries].

S. For they to whom the “deaths” in them[523] are appointed, “receive greater lots.”

J. For this [Mystery] (H. he says) is the Gate of Heaven, and this is the House of God, where the Good God dwells alone; into which [House] (H. he says) no impure [man] shall come—

C. —no psychic, no fleshly [man]—

J. —but it is kept under watch for the spiritual alone; where when they come, they must cast away their garments, and all become bridegrooms, obtaining their true manhood[524] through the Virginal Spirit.

For this (H. he says) is the Virgin big with child, conceiving and bearing a Son[525]

C. —not psychic, not fleshly, but a blessed Æon of Æons.[526]

Concerning these [Mysteries] (H. he says) the Saviour hath explicitly said that:

“Narrow and strait is the Way that leadeth to Life, and few are they who enter it; but broad and wide [is] the Way that leadeth to Destruction, and many are they who journey thereby.”[527]

S.[528] Moreover, also, the Phrygians say that the Father of wholes[529] is Amygdalos[530]

J. —no [ordinary] tree[531] (H. he says); but that He is that Amygdalos the Pre-existing, who having in Himself the Perfect Fruit, as it were, throbbing[532] and moving in [His] Depth, He tore asunder[533] His Womb, and gave birth to His own Son[534]

C. —the Invisible, Unnameable, and Ineffable [One] of whom we tell.[535]

S. For “amyxai[536] is, as it were, “to break” and “cut open”; just as (H. he says) in the case of inflamed bodies and those which have some internal tumour, when physicians lance them, they speak of “amychas.[537]

Thus (H. he says) the Phrygians call him Amygdalos.

C. From whom proceeded and was born the Invisible—

“Through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made.”[538]

(30) S. The Phrygians also say that that which is generated from Him is Syriktēs.[539]

J. For that which is generated is Spirit in harmony.[540]

C. For “God (H. he says) is Spirit.”[541]

Wherefore He says:

“Neither in this mountain do the true worshippers worship, nor in Jerusalem, but in Spirit.”[542]

For the worship of the perfect [men] (H. he says) is spiritual, not fleshly.

J. And “Spirit” (H. he says) is there where both Father and Son are named, generated there from Him[543] and the Father.

S. He[544] (H. he says) is the Many-named, Myriad-eyed, Incomprehensible, whom every nature desires, some one way, some another.

J. This (H. he says) is the Word[545] of God, which is:

“The Word of Announcement of the Great Power. Wherefore It shall be sealed, and hidden, and concealed, stored in the Habitation, where the Root of the Universals has its foundation—

“Of Æons, Powers, Intelligences, Gods, Angels, Spirits Delegate, Existing Non-existences, Generated Ingenerables, Comprehensible Incomprehensibles,—Years, Months, Days, Hours,—of [the] Boundless Point, from which the most minute begins to increase by parts.[546]

“For (H. he says) the Point which is nothing and is composed of nothing, though partless, will become by means of its own Thought a Greatness[547] beyond our own comprehension.”

C. This [Point] (H. he says) is the Kingdom of the Heavens, the “grain of mustard seed,”[548] the partless point, the first existing for the body; which no one (H. he says) knows save the spiritual [men] alone.

J. This (H. he says) is what is said:

“They are neither words nor languages whereby their[549] sounds are heard.”[550]

H. These things, [then,] which are said and done by all men, they thus interpret off-hand to their peculiar theory (νοῦν), pretending that they are all done with a spiritual meaning.

For which cause also they[551] say that the performers in the theatres—they, too, neither say nor do anything without Design.[552]

S. For example (H. he says), when the people assemble in the theatres, and a man comes on the stage, clad in a robe different from all others, with lute[553] in hand on which he plays, and thus chants the Great Mysteries, not knowing what he says:[554]

“Whether blest Child of Kronos,
or of Zeus, or of Great Rhea,—
Hail, Attis, thou mournful song[555] of Rhea!

Assyrians call thee thrice-longed-for Adōnis;
all Egypt [calls thee] Osiris;
the Wisdom of Hellas [names thee] Mēn’s Heavenly Horn;
the Samothracians [call thee] august Adama;
the Hæmonians, Korybas;
the Phrygians [name thee] Papa sometimes,
at times again Dead, or God,[556] or Unfruitful,
or Aipolos, or Green Reaped[557] Wheat-ear,
or the Fruitful that Amygdalos brought forth,
Man, Piper . . . Attis!”

H. He [S.] says that this is the Attis of many forms of whom they [NN., in H.’s opinion] sing as follows:

S. “Of Attis will I sing, of Rhea’s [Belovèd];—
not with the boomings[558] of bells,
nor with the deep-toned[559] pipe of Idæan Kurētes;
but I will blend my song with Phoebus’ music of the lyre.
Evoï! Evan!—for [thou art] Pan, [thou] Bacchus [art],
and Shepherd of bright stars!”


H. For these and suchlike reasons these [Naassenes] frequent what are called the Mysteries of the Great Mother, believing that they obtain the clearest view of the Universal Mystery from the things done in them.

For they have nothing beyond the [mysteries] therein enacted except that they are not emasculated. Their sole “accomplishment,” [however,] is the business of the Eunuch, for they most severely and vigilantly enjoin to abstain, as though emasculated, from intercourse with women. And the rest of their business, as we have stated at length, they carry out just like the Eunuchs.

And they honour nothing else but “Naas,”[560] being called Naasseni. And Naas is the Serpent—

J.[561]—from whom (H. he says) are all those [things] called naous[562] under heaven, from naas.

To that Naas alone every shrine and every rite of initiation and every mystery (H. he says) is dedicated; and, in general, no initiation can be found under heaven in which a naos does not play a part, and [also] the Naas in it, from which it has got the name of naos.

(H. Moreover, they say that) the Serpent is the Moist Essence—

H. —just as [did] also Thales the Milesian[563]

J. —and (H. that) naught at all of existing things, immortal or mortal, animate or inanimate, can hold together without Him.

[And they say] (H. that) all things are subject to Him, and (H. that) He is Good, and has all things in Him as in “the horn of the one-horned bull”;[564] so that He distributes beauty and bloom to all that exist according to each one’s nature and peculiarity, as though permeating all, just as [the River] “proceeding forth out of Eden and dividing itself into four sources.”[565]

H. And they say that Eden is His Brain, as though it were bound and constricted in its surrounding vestures like heavens; while Paradise they consider to be the Man as far as His Head only.

This River, then, coming forth out of Eden (H. that is, from His Brain), is divided into four streams.

And the name of the first river is called Pheisōn. “This is that which encircles all the land of Evilat, there where is the gold, and the gold of that land is fair; there too is the ruby and the green stone.”[566]

This (H. he says) is His Eye—by its dignity and colours bearing witness to what is said.

The name of the second river is Geōn. “This is that which encircles all the land of Æthiopia.”[567]

This (H. he says) is [His organ of] Hearing; for it is labyrinth-like.

And the name of the third is Tigris. “This is that which flows the opposite way to the Assyrians.”[568]

This (H. he says) is [His organ of] Smell, for the current of it is very rapid; and it “flows the opposite way to the Assyrians,” because after the breath is breathed out, on breathing in again, the breath that is drawn in from without, from the air, comes in more rapidly, and with greater force. For this (H. he says) is the nature of respiration.

“And the fourth river [is] Euphratēs.”[569]

This (H. they say) [is] the mouth, through which by the utterance of prayer and entrance of food, the (? C.—spiritual, perfect) man is rejoiced, and nourished and expressed.[570]

This [River] (H. he says) is the Water above the Firmament.[571]

C. Concerning which (H. he says) the Saviour hath said:

“If thou hadst known Who it is Who asketh, thou wouldst have asked from Him [in return], and He would have given thee to drink of Living Water bubbling [forth].”[572]

J. To this Water (H. he says) every nature comes, each selecting its own essence, and from this Water there comes to each nature what is proper [to it] (H. he says), more surely than iron to magnet,[573] and gold to the bone[574] of the sea-hawk, and chaff to amber.

C. And if any man (H. he says) is “blind from birth,”[575] and hath not seen “the True Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,”[576]—let him see again through us, and let him see as it were through—

J.[577] —Paradise, planted with Trees and all kinds of seeds, the Water flowing amid all the Trees and Seeds, and [then] shall he see that from one and the same Water the Olive selects and draws Oil, and the Vine Wine, and each of the rest of the Trees according to its kind.

But (H. he says) that Man is of no honour in the World, though of great honour [in Heaven, betrayed] [578] by those who know not to those who know Him not, being accounted “as a drop from a cask.”[579]

But we (H. he says)—

C. —are the spiritual [men] who—

J. —choose for ourselves from—

C. —the Living Water—

J. —the Euphrates, that flows through the midst of Babylon, what is proper [to each of us]—journeying through the True Gate—

C. —which is Jesus the Blessed.

And of all men we alone are Christians,[580] accomplishing the Mystery at the third Gate—

J. —and being anointed with the Ineffable Chrism from the Horn,[581] like David [was], not from the flask[582] of clay, like Saul—

C. —who was fellow-citizen with an evil dæmon of fleshly desire.

H. These things, then, we have set down as a few out of many. For innumerable are the attempts of their folly, silly and crazy. But since we have, to the best of our ability, exposed their unknowable Gnosis, it seems best to set down the following also.

This is a Psalm which they have improvised; by means of which they fancy they thus sing the praises of all the mysteries of their Error.[583]

J.[584] “First [was there] Mind the Generative[585] Law of All;[586]
Second to the Firstborn was Liquid Chaos;
Third Soul through toil received the Law.
Wherefore, with a deer’s[587] form surrounding her,
She labours at her task beneath Death’s rule.
Now, holding sway,[588] she sees the Light;
And now, cast into piteous plight, she weeps;
Now she weeps, and now rejoices;
Now she weeps, and now is judged;
Now is judged, and now she dieth;
Now is born, with no way out for her; in misery
She enters in her wandering the labyrinth of ills.
(? C.—And Jesus[589] said): O Father, see!
[Behold] the struggle still of ills on earth!

Far from Thy Breath[590] away she[591] wanders!
She seeks to flee the bitter Chaos,[592]
And knows not how she shall pass through.
Wherefore, send me, O Father!
Seals in my hands, I will descend;
Through Æons universal will I make a Path;
Through Mysteries all I’ll open up a Way!
And Forms of Gods will I display;[593]
The secrets of the Holy Path I will hand on,
And call them Gnosis.”[594]


All this may have seemed, quite naturally, contemptible foolishness to the theological prejudices of our worthy Church Father; but it is difficult for me, even in the twentieth century, not to recognise the beauty of this fine Mystic Hymn, and I hope it may be equally difficult for at least some of my readers.

But to return to the consideration of our much overwritten Source.

This Source is plainly a commentary, or elaborate paraphrase, of the Recitation Ode, “Whether, blest Child of Kronos,” which comes at the end (§ 30) and not, as we should expect, at the beginning, and has probably been displaced by Hippolytus. It is an exegetical commentary written from the standpoint of the Anthrōpos-theory of the Mysteries (? originally Chaldæan), the Man-doctrine.

This commentary seems for the most part to run on so connectedly, that we can almost persuade ourselves that we have most of it before us, the lacunæ being practically insignificant. Paragraphs 6 and 7 S., however, are plainly misplaced, and §§ 17 and 18 S. also as evidently break the connection.[595]


The writer is transparently a man learned in the various Mystery-rites, and his information is of the greatest possible importance for a study of this exceedingly obscure subject from an historical standpoint.

With § 8 S., and the Egyptian Mystery-doctrine, we come to what is of peculiar interest for our present Trismegistic studies. Osiris is the Heavenly Man, the Logos; not only so, but in straitest connection with this tradition we have an exposition of the Hermes-doctrine, set forth by a system of allegorical interpretations of the Bible of Hellas—the Poems of the Homeric cycle. Here we have the evident syncrasia Thoth = Osiris = Hermes, a Hermes of the “Greek Wisdom,” as the Recitation Ode phrases it, and a doctrine which H., basing himself on the commentator (§ 10), squarely asserts the Greeks got from Egypt.

Nor is it without importance for us that in closest connection with Hermes there follow the apparently misplaced sections 17 and 18, dealing with the “Heavenly Horn,” or drinking-horn, of the Greek Wisdom, and the “Cup” of Anacreon; with which we may compare the Crater, Mixing-bowl or Cup, in which, according to Plato’s Timæus, the Creator mingled and mixed the elements and souls, and also the spiritual Cup of the Mind in our Trismegistic treatise, “The Crater or Monas,” C. H., iv. (v.).

But above all things is it astonishing that we should find the commentator in S. quoting (§ 9) a logos from a document which, as we have shown in the note appended to the passage, is in every probability a Trismegistic treatise of the Pœmandres type.


This commentary S. was worked over by a Jewish Hellenistic mystic J., whose general ideas and method of exegesis are exactly paralleled by those of Philo. In my opinion, he was a contemporary of that period and a member of one of those communities whom Philo classes generally as Therapeut. He was, moreover, not a worshipper of the serpent, but a worshipper of that Glorious Reality symbolised as the Serpent of Wisdom, and this connects him with initiation into Egypto-Chaldæan or Chaldæo-Egyptian Mysteries. These he finds set forth allegorically in the prophetical scriptures of his race. His quotations from the LXX. show him to be, like Philo, an Alexandrian Hellenistic Jew; the LXX. was his Targum.

J. again was overwritten by C., a Christian Gnostic, no enemy of either J. or S., but one who claimed that he and his were the true realisers of all that had gone before; he is somewhat boastful, but yet recognises that the Christ-doctrine is not an innovation but a consummation. The phenomena presented by the New Testament quotations of C. are, in my opinion, of extraordinary interest, especially his quotations from or parallels with the Fourth Gospel. His quotations from or parallels with the Synoptics are almost of the same nature as those of Justin; he is rather dealing with “Memoirs of the Apostles” than with verbatim quotations from our stereotyped Gospels. His parallels with the Fourth Gospel also seem to me to open up the question as to whether or no he is in touch with “Sources” of that “Johannine” document.

On top of all our strata and deposits, we have—to continue the metaphor of excavation, and if it be not thought somewhat uncharitable—the refutatory rubbish of Hippolytus, which need no longer detain us here.

I would, therefore, suggest that C. is to be placed somewhere about the middle of the second century A.D.; J. is contemporary with Philo—say the first quarter of the first century A.D.; the Pagan commentator of S. is prior to J.—say somewhere in the last half of the first century B.C.; while the Recitation Ode is still earlier, and can therefore be placed anywhere in the early Hellenistic period, the termini being thus 300-50 B.C.[596]

And if the redactor or commentator in S. is to be placed somewhere in the last half of the first century B.C. (and this is, of course, taking only the minimum of liberty), then the Pœmandres type of our literature, which J. quotes as scripture, must, in its original Greek form, be placed back of that—say at least in the first half of the first century B.C., as a moderate estimate.[597] If those dates are not proved, I am at anyrate fairly confident they cannot be disproved.


That, moreover, the Anthrōpos-doctrine, to the spirit of which the whole commentary of our S. exegete is accommodated, was also fundamental with the adherents of the Trismegistic tradition, may be clearly seen from the interesting passage (which we give in the Fragments at the end of the third Volume) of Zosimus, a member of what Reitzenstein calls the Pœmandres Community, who flourished somewhere at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century A.D.[598]

The sources of Zosimus for the Anthrōpos-doctrine, he tells us, are, in addition to the Books of Hermes, certain translations into Greek and Egyptian of books containing traditions (mystery-traditions, presumably) of the Chaldæans, Parthians, Medes, and Hebrews on the subject. This statement is of the very first importance for the history of Gnosticism as well as for appreciating certain elements in Trismegisticism. Though the indication of this literature is vague, it nevertheless mentions four factors as involved in the Hebrew tradition; the Gnostic Hebrews, as we should expect, were handing on elements from Chaldæan, Parthian, and Median traditions. Translations of these books were to be found scattered throughout Egypt, and especially in the great library at Alexandria.

There is, in my opinion, no necessity precisely, with Reitzenstein (p. 106, n. 6), to designate these books the “Ptolemaic Books,” and so to associate them with a notice found in the apocryphal “Eighth Book of Moses,” where, together with that of the Archangelic Book of Moses, there is mention of the Fifth Book of the “Ptolemaic Books,” described as a book of multifarious wisdom under the title “One and All,” and containing the account of the “Genesis of Fire and Darkness.”[599]

Another source of Zosimus was the Pinax of Bitos or Bitys, of whom we shall treat in considering the information of Jamblichus.

From all of these indications we are assured that there was already in the first centuries B.C. a well-developed Hellenistic doctrine of the descent of man from the Man Above, and of his return to that heavenly state by his mastery of the powers of the cosmos.


This date is further confirmed by the testimony of Philo (c. 30 B.C.-45 A.D.).

For, quoting the verse: “We are all sons of One Man,”[600] he addresses those who are “companions of wisdom and knowledge” as those who are “Sons of one and the same Father—no mortal father, but an immortal Sire, the Man of God, who being the Reason (Logos) of the Eternal, is of necessity himself eternal.”[601]

And again, a little further on:

“And if a man should not as yet have the good fortune to be worthy to be called Son of God, let him strive manfully to set himself in order[602] according to His First-born Reason (Logos), the Oldest Angel, who is as though it were the Angel-chief of many names; for he is called Dominion, and Name of God, and Reason, and Man-after-His-Likeness, and Seeing Israel.

“And for this reason I was induced a little before to praise the principles of those who say: ‘We are all sons of One Man.’ For even if we have not yet become fit to be judged Sons of God, we may at any rate be Sons of His Eternal Likeness, His Most Holy Reason (Logos); for Reason, the Eldest of all Angels, is God’s Likeness [or Image].”[603]

Thus Philo gives us additional proof, if more were needed, for the full Anthrōpos-doctrine was evidently fundamental in his circle—that is to say, in the thought-atmosphere of the Hellenistic theology, or the religio-philosophy, or theosophy, of his day, the beginning of the first century A.D.

This date alone is sufficient for our purpose; but it is not too bold a statement even to say that the Man-Mystery was a fundamental concept of the brilliant period of the Hellenistic syncretism which succeeded to the founding of Alexandria—the period of the expansion of Hellas beyond her national borders; in other words, her birth into the greater world.

It is enough to know that the Mystery was hidden and yet revealed in the shadow-garments of Chaldæan, Babylonian, Magian, Phœnician, Hebrew, Egyptian, Phrygian, Thracian, and Greek mystery-traditions. It was, in brief, fundamental in all such wisdom-shows, and necessarily so, for it was the Christ-Mystery.

8. Philo Of Alexandria And The Hellenistic Theology


Seeing that a study of the Trismegistic literature is essentially a study in Hellenistic theology, no introduction to this literature would be adequate which did not insist upon the utility of a careful review of the writings of Philo, the famous Jewish Hellenist of Alexandria, and which did not point to the innumerable parallels which are traceable between the basic principles of the Jewish philosopher-mystic and the main ideas embodied in our tractates. To do this, however, in detail would require a volume, and as we are restricted to the narrow confines of a chapter, nothing but a few general outlines can be sketched in, the major part of our space being reserved for a consideration of what Philo has to say of the Logos, or Divine Reason of things, the central idea of his cosmos.

In perusing the voluminous writings[604] of our witness, the chief point on which we would insist at the very outset, is that we are not studying a novel system devised by a single mind, we are not even face to face with a new departure in method, but that the writings of our Alexandrian[605] came at the end of a line of predecessors; true that Philo is now, owing to the preservation of his writings, by far the most distinguished of such writers, but he follows in their steps. His method of allegorical interpretation is no new invention,[606] least of all is his theology.

In brief, Philo is first and foremost an “apologist”; his writings are a defence of the Jewish myths and prophetic utterances, interpreted allegorically, in terms not of Hellenic philosophy proper, but rather of Hellenistic theology, that is, of philosophy theologised, or of theology philosophised; in other words, in the language of the current cultured Alexandrian religio-philosophy of his day.

As Edersheim, in his admirable article,[607] says, speaking of this blend of the faith of the synagogue with the thinking of Greece: “It can scarcely be said that in the issue the substance and spirit were derived from Judaism, the form from Greece. Rather does it often seem as if the substance had been Greek and only the form Hebrew.”

But here Edersheim seems to be not sufficiently alive to the fact that the “Greek thinking” was already in Hellenistic circles strongly theologised and firmly wedded to the ideas of apocalypsis and revelation. How, indeed, could it have been otherwise in Egypt, in the face of the testimony of our present work?

Philo, then, does but follow the custom among the cultured of his day when he treats the stories of the patriarchs as myths, and the literally intractable narratives as the substance of an ethical mythology. It was the method of the religio-philosophy of the time, which found in allegorical interpretation the “antidote of impiety,” and by its means unveiled the supposed under-meaning (ὑπνόια) of the myths.

The importance of Philo, then, lies not so much in his originality, as in the fact that he hands on much that had been evolved before him; for, as Edersheim says, and as is clear to any careful student of the Philonean tractates: “His own writings do not give the impression of originality. Besides, he repeatedly refers to the allegorical interpretation of others, as well as to canons of allegorism apparently generally recognised. He also enumerates differing allegorical interpretations of the same subjects. All this affords evidence of the existence of a school of Hellenist [Hellenistic, rather] interpretation” (p. 362).

But this does not hold good only for the interpretation of “the myths of Israel” by Hellenistic Jews; it holds good of the whole cultured religious world of the time, and pre-eminently of the Hellenistic schools of every kind in Egypt. In brief, Philo’s philosophy was often already philosophised myth before he ingeniously brought it into play for the interpretation of Hebrew story.

In short, the tractates of Philo and our Trismegistic sermons have both a common background—Hellenistic theology or theosophy. Both use a common language.

Philo, of course, like the rest of his contemporaries, had no idea of criticism in the modern sense; he was a thorough-going apologist of the Old Covenant documents. These were for him in their entirety the inerrant oracles of God Himself; nay, he even went to the extent of believing the apologetic Greek version to be literally inspired.[608]

Nevertheless he was, as a thinker, confronted with the same kind of difficulties as face us to-day with immeasurably greater distinctness. The ideas of God, of the world-order, and of the nature of man, were so far advanced in his day beyond the frequently crude and repugnant representations found in the ancient scriptures of his people, that he found it impossible to claim for them on their surface-value the transcendency of the last word of wisdom from God to man, at anyrate among the cultured to whom he addressed himself. These difficulties he accordingly sought to remove by an allegorical interpretation, whereby he read into them the views of the highest philosophical and religious environment of his time.

Having no idea of the philosophy of history, or of the history of religion, or of the canons of literary criticism, as we now understand these things, he never stopped to enquire whether the writers of the ancient documents intended their narratives to be taken as myths embodying an esoteric meaning; much less did he ask himself, as we ask ourselves to-day, whether these writers had not in all probability frequently written up the myths of other nations into a history of their own patriarchs and other worthies; on the contrary, he relieved them of all responsibility, and entirely eliminated the natural human element, by his theory of prophecy, which assumed that they had acted as impersonal, passive instruments of the Divine inspiration.

But even Philo, when he came to work it out, could not maintain this absolutism of inspiration, and so we find him elsewhere unable to ascribe a consistent level of inspiration to his “Moses,” who of course, in Philo’s belief, wrote the Pentateuch from the first to the last word. Thus we find him even in the “Five Fifths” making a threefold classification of inspiration: (i.) The Sacred Oracles “spoken directly of God by His interpreter the prophet”; (ii.) Those prophetically delivered “in the form of question and answer”; and (iii) Those “proceeding from Moses himself while in some state of inspiration and under the influence of the deity.”[609]

But what is most pleasant is to find that Philo admitted the great philosophers of Greece into his holy assembly, and though he gives the pre-eminence to Moses, yet it is, as it were, to a first among equals—a wide-minded tolerance that was speedily forgotten in the bitter theological strife that subsequently broke forth.


But what makes the writings of our Alexandrian so immensely important for us is, that the final decade of his life is contemporary with the coming into manifestation of Christianity in the Græco-Roman world owing to the energetic propaganda of Paul.

Philo was born somewhere between 30 and 20 B.C., and died about 45 A.D. There is, of course, not a single word in his voluminous writings that can in any way be construed into a reference to Christianity as traditionally understood; but the language of Philo, if not precisely the diction of the writers of the New Testament documents, has innumerable points of resemblance with their terminology; for the language of Hellenistic theology is largely, so to speak, the common tongue of both, while the similarity of many of their ideas is astonishing.

Philo, moreover, was by no means an obscure member of the community to which he belonged; on the contrary, he was a most distinguished ornament of the enormous Jewish colony of Alexandria, which occupied no less than two out of the five wards of the city.[610] His brother, Alexander, was the head of the largest banking firm of the capital of Egypt, which was also the intellectual and commercial centre of the Græco-Roman world. Indeed, Alexander may be said to have been the Rothschild of the time. The operations of the firm embraced the contracting of loans for the Imperial House, while the banker himself was a personal friend of the Emperor, and his sons intermarried with the family of the Jewish King Agrippa.

Philo, himself, though he would have preferred the solitude of the contemplative life, took an active part in the social life of the great capital; and, at the time of the greatest distress of his compatriots in the city, when they were overwhelmed by a violent outbreak of anti-semitism, their lives in danger, their houses plundered, and their ancient privileges confiscated, it was the aged Philo who was chosen as spokesman of the embassy to Caius Caligula (A.D. 40).

Here, then, we have a man in just the position to know what was going on in the world of philosophy, of letters, and religion, and not only at Alexandria, but also wherever Jewish enterprise—which had then, as it now has, the main commerce of the world in its hands—pushed itself. The news of the world came to Alexandria, and the mercantile marine was largely owned by Hebrews.

Philo is, therefore, the very witness we should choose of all others to question as to his views on the ideas we find in our Trismegistic tractates, and this we may now proceed to do without any further preliminaries.


Speaking of those who follow the contemplative life,[611] Philo writes:

“Now this natural class of men [lit. race] is to be found in many parts of the inhabited world; for both the Grecian and non-Grecian world must needs share in the perfect Good.”[612]

In Egypt, he tells us, there were crowds of them in every province, and they were very numerous indeed about Alexandria. Concerning such men Philo tells us elsewhere:

“All those, whether among Greeks or non-Greeks, who are practisers of wisdom (ἀσκηταὶ σοφίας), living a blameless and irreproachable life, determined on doing injury to none, and on not retaliating if injury be done them,” avoid the strife of ordinary life, “in their enthusiasm for a life of peace free from contention.”

Thus are they “most excellent contemplators of nature (θεωροὶ τῆς φύσεως) and all things therein; they scrutinise earth and sea, and air and heaven, and the natures therein, their minds responding to the orderly motion of moon and sun, and the choir of all the other stars, both variable and fixed. They have their bodies, indeed, planted on earth below; but for their souls, they have made them wings, so that they speed through æther (αἰθεροβατοῦντες), and gaze on every side upon the powers above, as though they were the true world-citizens, most excellent, who dwell in cosmos as their city; such citizens as Wisdom hath as her associates, inscribed upon the roll of Virtue, who hath in charge the supervising of the common weal. . . .

“Such men, though [in comparison] but few in number, keep alive the covered spark of Wisdom secretly, throughout the cities [of the world], in order that Virtue may not be absolutely quenched and vanish from our human kind.”[613]

Again, elsewhere, speaking of those who are good and wise, he says:

“The whole of this company (θίασος) have voluntarily deprived themselves of the possession of aught in abundance, thinking little of things dear to the flesh. Now athletes are men whose bodies are well cared for and full of vigour, men who make strong the fort, their body, against their soul; whereas the [athletes] of  [this] discipline, pale, wasted, and, as it were, reduced to skeletons, sacrifice even the muscles of their bodies to the powers of their own souls, dissolving, if the truth be told, into one form—that of the soul, and by their mind becoming free from body.

“The earthly element is, therefore, naturally dissolved and washed away, when the whole mind in its entirety resolves to make itself well-pleasing unto God. This race is rare, however, and found with difficulty; still it is not impossible it should exist.”[614]

And in another passage, when referring to the small number of the “prudent and righteous and gracious,” Philo says:

“But the ‘few,’ though rare [to meet with], are yet not non-existent. Both Greece and Barbary [that is, non-Greek lands] bear witness [to them].

“For in the former there nourished those who are pre-eminently and truly called the Seven Sages—though others, both before and after them, in every probability reached the [same] height—whose memory, in spite of their antiquity, has not evanished through the length of time, while that of those of far more recent date has been obliterated by the tide of the neglect of their contemporaries.

“While in non-Grecian lands, in which the most revered and ancient in such words and deeds [have nourished], are very crowded companies of men of worth and virtue; among the Persians, for example, the [caste] of Magi, who by their careful scrutiny of nature’s works for purpose of the gnosis of the truth, in quiet silence, and by means of [mystic] images of piercing clarity (τρανωτέραις ἐμφάσεσιν) are made initiate into the mysteries of godlike virtues, and in their turn initiate [those who come after them]; in India the [caste] of the Gymnosophists, who, in addition to their study of the lore of nature, toil in [the fields of] morals, and [so] make their whole life a practical example of [their] virtue.

“Nor are Palestine and Syria, in which no small portion of the populous nation of the Jews dwell, unfruitful in worth and virtue. Certain of them are called Essenes, in number upwards of 4000, according to my estimate.”[615]

Philo then proceeds to give an account of these famous mystics.

In Egypt itself, however, he selects out of the many communities of the Therapeutæ and Therapeutrides (which the Old Latin Version renders Cultores et Cultrices pietatis)[616] only one special group, with which he was presumably personally familiar and which was largely Jewish. Of this order (σύστημα)[617] Philo gives us a most graphic account, both of their settlement and mode of life. By means of this intensely interesting sketch of the Contemplative or Theoretic Life, and by the parallel passages from the rest of Philo’s works which Conybeare has so industriously marshalled in his “Testimonia,” we are introduced into the environment and atmosphere of these Theoretics, and find ourselves in just such circumstances as would condition the genesis of our Trismegistic literature.

The whole of Philo’s expositions revolve round the idea that the truly philosophic life is an initiation into the Divine Mysteries; for him the whole tradition of Wisdom is necessarily a mystery-tradition. Thus he tells us of his own special Therapeut community, south of Alexandria:

“In every cottage there is a sacred chamber,[618] which is called semneion and monastērion[619] in which, in solitude, they are initiated into the mysteries of the solemn life.”[620]

With this it will be of interest to compare Matt, vi. 6: “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in the Hidden; and thy Father who seeth in the Hidden, shall reward thee.”

It is said that among the “Pharisees” there was a praying-room in every house.

We may also compare with the above reference to the Mysteries Luke xii. 2 = Matt. x. 26, from a “source” which promised the revelation of all mysteries, following on the famous logos also quoted in Mark iv. 22 and Luke viii. 17:

“For there is nothing veiled which shall not be revealed, and hidden which shall not be made known.” “Therefore, whatsoever ye (M., I) have spoken in darkness, shall be heard in the light, and what ye have spoken (M., heard) in the ear in the closets, shall be heralded forth on the house-tops.”

Both Evangelists have evidently adapted their “source” to their own purposes, but the main sense of the original form is not difficult to recover.

It is further of interest to compare with the first clause of the above passages the new-found logos:

“Jesus saith, Everything that is not before thy face and that which is hidden from thee, shall be revealed to thee. For there is nothing hidden that shall not be made manifest, nor buried that shall not be raised.”[621]

But there are other and more general mysteries referred to in Philo; for, in speaking of the command that the unholy man who is a speaker of evil against divine things, should be removed from the most holy places and punished, our initiated philosopher bursts forth:

“Drive forth, drive forth, ye of the closed lips, and ye revealers[622] of the divine mysteries,[623] the promiscuous and rabble crowd of the defiled—souls unamenable to purification, and hard to wash clean, who wear ears that cannot be closed, and tongues that cannot be kept within the doors [of their lips]—organs that they ever keep ready for their own most grievous mischance, hearing all things and things not law [to hear].”[624]

Of these “ineffable mysteries,”[625] he elsewhere says, in explaining that the wives of the patriarchs stand allegorically as types of virtues:

“But in order that we may describe the conception and birth-throes of the Virtues, let bigots[626] stop their ears, or else let them depart. For that we give a higher teaching of the mysteries divine, to mystæ who are worthy of the holiest rites [of all].

“And these are they who, free from arrogance, practise real and truly genuine piety, free from display of any kind. But unto them who are afflicted with incorrigible ill—the vanity of words, close-sticking unto names, and empty show of manners, who measure purity and holiness by no other rule [than this]—[for them] we will not play the part of hierophant.”[627]

Touching on the mystery of the Virgin-birth, to which we will refer later on, Philo continues:

“These things receive into your souls, ye mystæ, ye whose ears are purified, as truly sacred mysteries, and see that ye speak not of them to any who may be without initiation, but storing them away within your hearts, guard well your treasure-house; not as a treasury in which gold and silver are laid up, things that do perish, but as the pick and prize of all possessions—the knowledge of the Cause [of all] and Virtue, and of the third, the child of both.”[628]

Now the “Divine Spirit” (θεῖον πνεῦμα), says Philo, does not remain among the many, though it may dwell with them for a short time.

“It is [ever] present with only one class of men—with those who, having stripped themselves of all the things in genesis, even to the innermost veil and garment of opinion, come unto God with minds unclothed and naked.

“And so Moses, having fixed his tent outside the camp—that is, the whole of the body[629]—that is to say, having made firm his mind, so that it does not move, begins to worship God; and, entering into the darkness, the unseen land, abideth there, being initiated into the most holy mysteries. And he becomes, not only a mystēs, but also a hierophant of revelations,[630] and teacher of divine things, which he will indicate to those who have had their ears made pure.

“With such kind of men, then, the Divine Spirit is ever present, guiding their every way aright.”[631]

Referring to the ritual sacrifices of a heifer and two rams, Philo declares that the slaying of the second ram, and the symbolic rite of sprinkling certain portions of the bodies of the priests with its blood, was ordained “for the highest perfectioning of the consecrated by means of the purification of chastity[632]—which [ram] he [‘Moses’] called, according to its meaning, the ‘[ram] of perfectioning,’ since they [the priests] were about to act as hierophants of mysteries appropriate to the servants (θεραπευταῖς) and ministers of God.”[633]

So also Philo’s language about the Therapeuts proper, and not the allegorically interpreted temple-sacrificers, is that of the Mysteries, when he writes:

“Now they who betake themselves to this service (θεραπείαν) [of God do so], not because of any custom, or on some one’s advice and appeal, but carried away with heavenly love, like those initiated into the Bacchic or Corybantic Mysteries, they are a-fire with God until they see the object of their love.”[634]

These Mysteries were, of course, not to be revealed except to the worthy. Therefore he says:

“Nor because thou hast a tongue and mouth and organ of speech, shouldst thou tell forth all, even things that may not be spoken.”[635]

And in the last section of the same treatise he writes:

“Wherefore I think that [all] those who are not utterly without [proper] instruction, would prefer to be made blind than to see things not proper [to be seen], to be made deaf than to hear harmful words, and to have their tongue cut out, to prevent them divulging aught of the ineffable Mysteries. . . . Nay, it is even better to make oneself eunuch than to rush madly into unlawful unions.”[636]

With which we may usefully compare Matt. v. 29: “If thy right eye offend thee, cut it out and cast it from thee”; and Matt. xix. 12: “There are some who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens; he that can receive it, let him receive it.” Both passages are found in the first Gospel only.

For the comprehension of virtue man requires the reason only; but for the doing of ill, the evil man requires the organs of the body, says our mystic dualist; “for how will he be able to divulge the Mysteries, if he have no organ of speech?”[637]

This continual harping on the divulging of the Mysteries, shows that Philo considered it the greatest of all enormities; we might almost think that he had in view some movement that was divulging part of the mystery-tradition to the untrained populace.

Elsewhere, speaking of those “who draw nigh unto God, abandoning the life of death, and sharing in immortality,” he tells us these are the “Naked”—(that is, “naked” of the trammels of the flesh)—who sacrifice all to God. And he adds that only these “are permitted to see the ineffable Mysteries of God, who are able to cloak them and guard them” from the unworthy.[638]

With regard to these Mysteries, they were, as we might expect, divided into the Lesser and the Greater—in the former of which the neophytes “worked on the untamed and savage passions, as though they were softening the [dough[639] of their] food with reason (logos).”

The manner of preparing this divine food, so that it becomes the bread of life, was a mystery.[640]

One of the doctrines revealed in these Lesser Mysteries was plainly that of the Trinity; for, commenting on Gen. xviii. 2: “And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him”—Philo writes:

“‘He lifted up his eyes,’ not the eyes of his body, for God cannot be seen by the senses, but by the soul [alone]; for at a fitting time He is discovered by the eyes of wisdom.

“Now the power of sight of the souls of the many and unrighteous is ever shut in, since it lies dead in deep sleep, and can never respond and be made awake to the things of nature and the types and ideas within her. But the spiritual eyes of the wise man are awake, and behold them; nay, they are sleeplessly alert, ever watchful from desire of seeing.

“Wherefore it is well said in the plural, that he raised not one eye, but all the eyes that are in the soul, so that one would have said that he was altogether all eye. Having, then, become the eye, he begins to see the holy and divine vision of the Lord, in such a fashion that the one vision appeared as a trinity, and the trinity as a unity.”[641]

Elsewhere, referring to the same story, and to the words of Abraham to Sarah “to hasten and knead three measures of fine meal, and to make cakes upon the hearth,”[642] Philo expounds the mystery at length as follows. It refers to that experience of the inner life:

“When God, accompanied by His two highest Potencies, Dominion (ἀρχή) and Goodness, making One [with Himself] in the midst, produces in the seeing soul a triple presentation, of which [three persons] each transcends all measure; for God transcendeth all delineation, and equally transcendent are His Potencies, but He [Himself] doth measure all.

“Accordingly, His Goodness is the measure of things good, and His Dominion is the measure of things subject, while He Himself is chief of all, both corporeal and incorporeal.[643]

“Wherefore also these Potencies, receiving the Reason (Logos) of His rules and ordinances, measure out all things below them. And, therefore, it is right that these three measures should, as it were, be mingled and blended together in the soul, in order that, being persuaded that He is Highest God, who transcendeth His Potencies, both making Himself manifest without them, and also causing Himself to be seen in them, it [the soul] may receive His impressions (χαρακτῆρας), and powers, and blessings, and [so] becoming initiate into the perfect secrets, may not lightly disclose the divine Mysteries, but, treasuring them up, and keeping sure silence, guard them in secret.

“For it is written: ‘Make [them] secret,’—for the sacred sermon (λόγον) of initiation (μύστην) about the Ingenerable and about His Potencies ought to be kept secret, since it is not within the power of every man to guard the sacred trust (παρακαταθήκην) of the divine revelations (ὀργίων).”[644]


But the chief of all the mysteries for Philo was, apparently, the Sacred Marriage, the mystic union of the soul, as female, with God, as male (Deo nubere). In this connection he refers to Gen. iv. 1:

“And Adam knew his wife. And she conceived and bare Cain. And she said: I have gotten a man by means of the Lord. And He caused her also to bring forth Abel his brother.”[645]

We are, of course, not concerned with the legitimacy or consistency of Philo’s allegorising system, whereby he sought to invoke the authority of his national scriptures in support of his chosen doctrines; but we are deeply concerned with these doctrines themselves, as being the favourite dogmas of his circle and of similar circles of allied mystics of the time.

His views on the subject are clearly indicated, for he tells us in the same passage that he is speaking of a secret of initiation, not of the conception and parturition of women, but of Virtues—that is, of the virtuous soul. Accordingly he continues in § 13:

“But it is not lawful for Virtues, in giving birth to their many perfections, to have part or lot in a mortal husband. And yet they will never bring forth of themselves, without conceiving their offspring of another.

“Who, then, is He who soweth in them their glorious [progeny], if not the Father of all universal things—the God beyond all genesis, who yet is Sire of everything that is? For, for Himself, God doth create no single thing, in that He stands in need of naught; but for the man who prays to have them [He creates] all things.”

And then, bringing forward Sarah, Leah, Rebecca, and Sepphora, as examples of the Virtues who lived with the great prophets of his race, Philo declares that “Sarah” conceived, when God looked upon her while she was in solitary contemplation, and so she brought forth for him who eagerly longed to attain to wisdom—namely, for him who is called “Abraham.”

And so also in the case of “Leah,” it is said “God opened her womb,” which is the part played by a husband; and so she brought forth for him who underwent the pains of labour for the sake of the Beautiful—namely, for him who is called “Jacob”; “so that Virtue received the divine seed from the Cause [of all], while she brought forth for that one of her lovers who was preferred above all other suitors.”

So also when the “all-wise,” he who is called “Isaac,” went as a suppliant to God, his Virtue, “Rebecca,” that is Steadfastness, became pregnant in consequence of his supplication.

Whereas “Moses,” without any supplication or prayer, attained to the winged and sublime Virtue “Sepphora,” and found her with child by no mortal husband.[646]

Moreover, in § 14, in referring to Jeremiah, Philo writes:

“For I, having been initiated into the Great Mysteries by Moses, the friend of God, nevertheless when I set eyes upon Jeremiah, the prophet, and learned that he is not only a mystes, but also an adept hierophant, I did not hesitate to go to him as his disciple.

“And he, in that in much [he says] he is inspired by God, uttered a certain oracle [as] from the Face of God, who said unto the Virtue of Perfect Peace: ‘Hast thou not called Me as ’twere House and Father and Husband of thy virginity?’[647]—suggesting in the clearest [possible] fashion that God is both Home, the incorporeal land of incorporeal ideas, and Father of all things, in that He did create them, and Husband of Wisdom, sowing for the race of mankind the seed of blessedness into good virgin soil.

“For it is fitting God should converse with an undefiled, an untouched and pure nature, with her who is in very truth the Virgin, in fashion very different from ours.

“For the congress of men for the procreation of children makes virgins women. But when God begins to associate with the soul, He brings it to pass that she who was formerly woman becomes virgin again. For banishing the foreign and degenerate and non-virile desires, by which it was made womanish, He substitutes for them native and noble and pure virtues. . . .

“But it is perhaps possible that even a virgin soul may be polluted by intemperate passions, and so dishonoured.

“Wherefore the oracle hath been careful to say that God is husband not of ‘a virgin’—for a virgin is subject to change and death—but of ‘virginity’ [that is of] the idea which is ever according to the same [principles], and in the same mode.

“For whereas things that have qualities, have with their nature received both birth and dissolution, the [archetypal] potencies which mould them have obtained a lot transcending dissolution.

“Wherefore is it not fitting that God, who is beyond all generation and all change, should sow [in us] the ideal seeds of the immortal virgin Virtues, and not those of the woman who changes the form of her virginity?”[648]

But, indeed, as Conybeare says:

“The words, virgin, virginity, ever-virginal, occur on every other page of Philo. It is indeed Philo who first[649] formulated the idea of the Word or ideal ordering principle of the Cosmos being born of an ever-virgin soul, which conceives, because God the Father sows into her His intelligible rays and divine seed, so begetting His only well-beloved son, the Cosmos.”[650]

Thus, speaking of the impure soul, Philo writes:

“For when she is a multitude of passions and filled with vices, her children swarming over her—pleasures, appetites, folly, intemperance, unrighteousness, injustice—she is weak and sick, and lies at death’s door, dying; but when she becomes sterile, and ceases to bring them forth or even casts them from her, forthwith, from the change, she becometh a chaste virgin, and, receiving the Divine Seed, she fashions and engenders marvellous excellencies that nature prizeth highly—prudence, courage, temperance, justice, holiness, piety, and the rest of the virtues and good dispositions.”[651]

So also, speaking of the Therapeutrides, he writes:

“Their longing is not for mortal children, but for a deathless progeny, which the soul that is in love with God can alone bring forth, when the Father hath sown into it the spiritual light-beams, by means of which it shall be able to contemplate (θεωρεῖν) the laws of wisdom.”[652]

And as to the progeny of such virgin-mothers, Philo elsewhere instances the birth of “Isaac”—“which could not refer to any man,” but is “a synonym of Joy, the best of the blessed states of the soul—Laughter, the spiritually conceived (ἐνδιάθετος)[653] Son of God, Who bestoweth him as a comfort and means of good cheer on souls of perfect peace.”[654]

And a little later on he adds:

“And Wisdom, who, after the fashion of a mother, brings forth the self-taught Race, declares that God is the sower of it.”[655]

And yet, again, elsewhere, speaking of this spiritual progeny, Philo writes:

“But all the Servants of God (Therapeuts), who are lawfully begotten, shall fulfill the law of [their] nature, which commands them to be parents. For the men shall be fathers of many sons, and the women mothers of numerous children.”[656]

So also, in the case of the birth of Joseph, when his mother, Rachael, says to Jacob: “Give me children!”—“the Supplanter, disclosing his proper nature, will reply: ‘Thou hast wandered into deep error. For I am not in God’s place, who alone is able to open the wombs of souls, and sow in them virtues, and make them pregnant and mothers of good things.’”[657]

So too, again, in connection with the birth of Isaac, referring to the exultant cry of Sarah: “The Lord hath made me Laughter; for whosoever heareth, rejoiceth with me”[658]—Philo bursts forth:

“Open, then, wide your ears, ye mystæ, and receive the most holy mysteries. ‘Laughter’ is Joy, and ‘hath made’ is the same as ‘hath begotten’; so that what is said hath the following meaning: ‘The Lord hath begotten Isaac’—for He is Father of the perfect nature, sowing in the soul and generating blessedness.”[659]

That all of this was a matter of vital moment for Philo himself, may be seen from what we must regard as an intensely interesting autobiographical passage, in which our philosopher, speaking of the happy childbirth of Wisdom, writes:

“For some she judges entirely worthy of living with her, while others seem as yet too young to support such admirable and wise house-sharing; these latter she hath permitted to solemnise the preliminary initiatory rites of marriage, holding out hopes of its [future] consummation.

“‘Sarah’ then, the Virtue who is mistress of my soul, hath brought forth, but hath not brought forth for me—for that I could not, because I was too young, receive [into my soul] her offspring—wisdom, and righteousness, and piety—because of the brood of bastard brats which empty opinions had borne me.

“For the feeding of these last, the constant care and incessant anxiety concerning them, have forced me to take no thought for the legitimate children who are the true citizens.

“It is well, therefore, to pray Virtue not only to bear children, who even without praying brings her fair progeny to birth, but also to bear sons for us, so that we may be blessed with a share in her seed and offspring.

“For she is wont to bear to God alone, with thankfulness repaying unto Him the first-fruits of the things she hath received, [to Him] who, Moses says, ‘hath opened’ her ever-virgin ‘womb.’”[660]

But, indeed, Philo is never wearied of reiterating this sublime doctrine, which for him was the consummation of the mysteries of the holy life. Thus, then, again he sets it forth as follows:

“We should, accordingly, understand that the True Reason (Logos) of nature has the potency of both father and husband for different purposes—of a husband, when he casts the seed of virtues into the soul as into a good field; of a father, in that it is his nature to beget good counsels, and fair and virtuous deeds, and when he hath begotten them, he nourisheth them with those refreshing doctrines which discipline and wisdom furnish.

“And the intelligence is likened at one time to a virgin, at another to a wife, or a widow, or one who has not yet a husband.

“[It is likened] to a virgin, when the intelligence keeps itself chaste and uncorrupted from pleasures and appetites, and griefs and fears, the passions which assault it; and then the father who begot it, assumes the leadership thereof.

“And when she (intelligence) lives as a comely wife with comely Reason (Logos), that is with virtuous Reason, this self-same Reason himself undertakes the care of her, sowing, like a husband, the most excellent concepts in her.

“But whenever the soul is bereft of her children of prudence, and of her marriage with Right Reason, widowed of her most fair possessions, and left desolate of Wisdom, through choosing a blameworthy life—then, let her suffer the pains she hath decreed against herself, with no wise Reason to play physician to her transgressions, either as husband and consort, or as father and begetter.”[661]

Referring to Jacob’s dream of the white, and spotted, and ring-straked, and speckled kine, Philo tells us that this, too, must be taken as an allegory of souls. The first class of souls, he says, are “white.”

“The meaning is that when the soul receives the Divine Seed, the first-born births are spotlessly white, like unto light of utmost purity, to radiance of the greatest brilliance, as though it were the shadowless ray of the sun’s beams from a cloudless sky at noon.”[662]

With this it is of service to compare the Vision of Hades seen by Thespesius (Aridæus), and related by Plutarch. Thespesius’ guide in the Unseen World draws his attention to the “colours” and “markings” of the souls as follows:

“Observe the colours of the souls of every shade and sort: that greasy, brown-grey is the pigment of sordidness and selfishness; that blood-red, inflamed shade is a sign of a savage and venomous nature; wherever blue-grey is, from such a nature incontinence in pleasure is not easily eradicated; innate malignity, mingled with envy, causes that livid discoloration, in the same way as cuttle-fish eject their sepia.

“Now it is in earth-life that the vice of the soul (being acted upon by the passions, and re-acting upon the body) produces these discolorations; while the purification and correction here have for their object the removal of these blemishes, so that the soul may become entirely ray-like and of uniform colour.”[663]

Again, in giving the allegorical meaning of the primitive-culture story of Tamar,[664] Philo not only interprets it by the canon of the Sacred Marriage, but also introduces other details from the Mysteries. Thus he writes:

“For being a widow she was commanded to sit in the House of the Father, the Saviour; for whose sake for ever abandoning the congress and association with mortal [things], she is bereft and widowed from [all] human pleasures, and receives the Divine quickening, and, full-filled with the Seeds of virtue, conceives, and is in travail with fair deeds. And when she brings them forth, she carries off the trophies from her adversaries, and is inscribed as victor, receiving as a symbol the palm of victory.”[665]

And every stage of this divine conception is but the shadow of the great mystery of cosmic creation, which Philo sums up as follows:

“We shall, however, be quite correct in saying that the Demiurge who made all this universe, is also at the same time Father of what has been brought into existence; while its Mother is the Wisdom of Him who hath made it—with whom God united, though not as man [with woman], and implanted the power of genesis. And she, receiving the Seed of God, brought forth with perfect labour His only beloved Son, whom all may perceive[666]—this Cosmos.”[667]


The idea of God found in Philo is that of the more enlightened theology of his time. God is That which transcends all things and all ideas. It would, of course, be a far too lengthy study to marshal the very numerous passages in which our philosopher sets forth his view on Deity; and so we shall select only two passages simply to give the reader who may not be acquainted with the works of the famous Alexandrian, some notion of the transcendency of his conception. For, as he writes:

“What wonder is it if That-which-[really]-is transcends the comprehension of man, when even the mind which is in each of us, is beyond our power of knowing? Who hath ever beheld the essence of the soul?”[668]

This Mystery of Deity was, of necessity, in itself ineffable; but in conception, it was regarded under two aspects—the active and the passive causative principles.

“The Active Principle, the Mind of the universals, is absolutely pure, and absolutely free from all admixture; It transcendeth Virtue; It transcendeth Wisdom; nay, It transcendeth even the Good Itself and the Beautiful Itself.

“The Passive Principle is of itself soulless and motionless, but when It is set in motion, and enformed and ensouled by the Mind, It is transformed into the most perfect of all works—namely, this Cosmos.”[669]

This Passive Principle is generally taken by commentators to denote Matter; but if so, it must be equated with Wisdom, which we have just seen was regarded by Philo as the Mother of the Cosmos.

But beyond all else Philo is useful to us in recording the views of contemporary Hellenistic theology concerning the concept of the Logos, the Mystery of the Heavenly Man. the Son of God. Even as this word of mystic meaning comes forward in almost every tractate and fragment of our Trismegistic literature, so in Philo is it the dominant idea in a host of passages.

It should, however, never be forgotten that Philo is but handing on a doctrine; he is inventing nothing. His testimony, therefore, is of the greatest possible value for our present study, and deserves the closest attention. We shall accordingly devote the rest of this chapter exclusively to this subject, and marshal the evidence, if not in Philo’s own words, at anyrate in as exact a translation of them as we can give; for although much has been written on the matter, we know no work in which the simple expedient of letting Philo speak for himself has been attempted.


The Logos, then, is pre-eminently the Son of God, for Philo writes:

“Moreover God, as Shepherd and King, leads [and rules] with law and justice the nature of the heaven, the periods of sun and moon, the changes and harmonious progressions of the other stars—deputing [for the task] His own Right Reason (Logos), His Firstborn Son, to take charge of the sacred flock, as though he were the Great King’s viceroy.”[670]

Of this Heavenly Man, who was evidently for Philo the Celestial Messiah of God, he elsewhere writes:

“Moreover, I have heard one of the companions of Moses uttering some such word (logos) as this: ‘Behold Man whose name is East,’[671]—a very strange appellation, if you imagine the man composed of body and soul to be meant; but if you take him for that Incorporeal Man in no way differing from the Divine Image, you will admit that the giving him the name of East exactly hits the mark.

“For the Father of things that are hath made him rise as His Eldest Son, whom elsewhere He hath called His First-born, and who, when he hath been begotten, imitating the ways of his Sire, and contemplating His archetypal patterns, fashions the species [of things].”[672]

Here we notice first of all Philo’s graphic manner (a commonplace of the time) of quoting Ezekiel as though he were still alive, and he had heard him speak; and, in the second place, that the First-born Son is symbolically represented as the Sun rising in the East.


That, moreover, the Logos is the Son of God, he explains at length in another passage, when writing of the true High Priest:

“But we say that the High Priest is not a man, but the Divine Reason (Logos), who has no part or lot in any transgressions, not only voluntary errors, but also involuntary ones. For, says Moses, he cannot be defiled either ‘on account of his father,’ the Mind, nor ‘on account of his mother,’[673] the [higher] Sense—in that, as I think, it is his good fortune to have incorruptible and perfectly pure parents,—God for father, who is as well Father of all things, and for mother Wisdom, through whom all things came into genesis; and because ‘his head hath been anointed with oil,’—I mean his ruling principle[674] shineth with ray-like brilliance, so that he is deemed fit for robing in his vestures.

“Now the Most Ancient Reason (Logos) of That-which-is is vestured with the Cosmos as his robe;—for he wrappeth himself in Earth and Water, Air and Fire, and what comes from them; the partial soul [doth clothe itself] in body; the wise man’s mind in virtues.

“And ‘he shall not take the mitre from off his head,’ [signifies] he shall not lay aside the royal diadem, the symbol of his admirable rule, which, however, is not that of an autocrat-emperor, but of a viceroy.

“Nor ‘will he rend his garments,’—for the Reason (Logos) of That-which-is, being the bond of all things, as hath been said, both holds together all the parts, and binds them, and does not suffer them to be dissolved or separated.”[675]

In another passage Philo treats of the same subject still more plainly from the point of view of the Mysteries, writing as follows:

“For there are, as it seems, two temples of God;—the one is this Cosmos, in which there is also the High Priest, His First-born Divine Reason (Logos); the other is the rational soul, whose [High] Priest is the True Man, a sensible copy of whom is he who rightly performs the prayers and sacrifices of his Father, who is ordained to wear the robe, the duplicate of the universal heaven, in order that the cosmos may work together with man, and man with the universe.”[676]


The Cosmic Logos is not the sensible cosmos, but the Mind thereof. This Philo explains at length.

“It is then clear, that He who is the generator of things generated, and the artificer of things fashioned, and the governor of things governed, must needs be absolutely wise. He is in truth the father, and artificer, and governor of all in both the heaven and cosmos.

“Now things to come are hidden in the shade of future time, sometimes at short, and sometimes at long distances. But God is the artificer of time as well. For He is father of its father; and time’s father is the cosmos, which manifests its motion as the genesis of time; so that time holds to God the place of grandson.

“For that this cosmos[677] is the Younger Son of God, in that it is perceptible to sense. The Son who’s older than this one, He hath declared to be no one [perceivable by sense], for that he is conceivable by mind alone. But having judged him worthy of the elder’s rights, He hath determined that he should remain with Him alone.

“This [cosmos], then, the Younger Son, the sensible, being set a-moving, has caused time’s nature to appear and disappear; so that there nothing is which future is with God, who has the very bounds of time subject to Him. For ’tis not time, but time’s archetype and paradigm, Eternity (or Æon), which is His life. But in Eternity naught’s past, and naught is future, but all is present only.”[678]


The Logos, then, is not God absolute, but the Son of God par excellence, and as such is sometimes referred to as “second,” and once even as the “second God.” Thus Philo writes:

“But the most universal [of all things] is God, and second the Reason (Logos) of God.”[679]

In his treatise entitled Questions and Answers, however, we read:

“But why does He say as though [He were speaking] about another God, ‘in the image of God I made “man”,’[680] but not in His own image?

“Most excellently and wisely is the oracle prophetically delivered. For it was not possible that anything subject to death should be imaged after the supremest God who is the Father of the universes, but after the second God who is His Reason (Logos).

“For it was necessary that the rational impress in the soul of man should be stamped [on it] by the Divine Reason (Logos), since God, who is prior even to His own Reason, transcendeth every rational nature; [so that] it was not lawful that aught generable should be made like unto Him who is beyond the Reason, and established in the most excellent and the most singular Idea [of all].”[681]

From this passage we see that though it is true Philo calls the Logos the “second God,” he does not depart from his fundamental monotheism, for the Logos is not an entity apart from God, but the Reason of God. Nevertheless, this solitary phrase of Philo’s is almost invariably trotted out in the forefront of all enquiry into Philo’s Logos-doctrine, in order that the difference between this phrase and the wording of the Proem to the Fourth Gospel may be insisted on as strongly as possible for controversial apologetical purposes.

That, however, Philo is a strict monotheist may be seen from the following passage, in which he is commenting on the words of Gen. xxxi. 13: “I am the God who was seen by thee in the place of God”[682]—where, apparently, two Gods are referred to.

“What, then, should we say? The true God is one; they who are called gods, by a misuse of the term, are many. On which account the Holy Word[683] has, on the present occasion, indicated the true [God] by means of the article, saying: ‘I am the God’; but the [one so named] by misuse of the term, without the article, saying: ‘who was seen by thee in the place,’ not of the God, but only ‘of God.’ And what he (Moses) here calls ‘God’ is His Most Ancient Word (Logos).”[684]


This Logos, moreover, is Life and Light. For, speaking of Intelligible or Incorporeal “Spirit” and “Light,” Philo writes:

“The former he [‘Moses’] called the Breath of God, because it is the most life-giving thing [in the universe], and God is the cause of life; and the latter the Light [of God], because it is by far the most beautiful thing [in the universe].

“For by so much more glorious and more brilliant is the intelligible [Light] than the visible, as, methinks, the sun is than darkness, and day than night, and the mind, which is the guide of the whole soul, than the sensible means of discernment, and the eyes than the body.

“And he calls the invisible and intelligible Divine Reason (Logos) the Image of God. And of this [Image] the image [in its turn] is that intelligible light, which has been created as the image of the Divine Reason who interprets it [that is, Light’s] creation.

“[This Light] is the [One] Star, beyond [all] heavens, the Source of the Stars that are visible to the senses, which it would not be beside the mark to call All-brilliancy, and from which the sun and moon and the rest of the stars, both errant and fixed, draw their light, each according to its power.”[685]

The necessity and reason of forming some such concept of the Logos is that man cannot bear the utter transcendency of God in His absoluteness. And applying this idea further to theophanies in human form, Philo writes:

“For just as those who are unable to look at the sun itself look upon its reflected rays as the sun, and the [light-] changes round the moon, as the moon itself, so also do men regard the Image of God, His Angel, Reason (Logos), as Himself.”[686]


Such Divine Vision is the object of the contemplative life, for:

“It is the special gift of those who dedicate themselves to the service (θεραπευόντων) of That-which-is . . . to ascend by means of their rational faculties to the height of the æther, setting before themselves ‘Moses’—the Race that is the friend of God,[687] as the leader of the way.

“For then they will behold ‘the place that is clear,’[688] on which the immovable and unchangeable God hath set His feet, and the [regions] beneath His feet, as it were a work of sapphire stone, and as it might be the form of the firmament of heaven, the sensible cosmos, which he [‘Moses’] symbolises by these things.

“For it is seemly that those who have founded a brotherhood for the sake of wisdom, should long to see Him; and if they cannot do this, to behold at least His Image, Most Holy Reason (Logos),[689] and after him also the most perfect work in [all] things sensible, [namely] this cosmos.

“For the work of philosophy is naught else than the striving clearly to see these things.”[690]


And later on, in the same treatise (§ 28), Philo writes still more interestingly and instructively as follows:

“But they who have attained unto wisdom, are, as they should be, called Sons of the One God, as Moses admits when he says: ‘Ye are the Sons of the Lord God,’[691] and ‘God who begat thee,’[692] and ‘Is not He Himself thy father?’[693] . . .

“And if a man should not as yet have the good fortune to be worthy to be called a Son of God, let him strive manfully to set himself in order according to His First-born Reason (Logos), the Oldest Angel, who is as though it were the Angel-chief, of many names; for he is called Dominion,[694] and Name of God, and Reason, and the Man-after-the-likeness, and Seeing Israel.

“And for this reason I was induced a little before to praise the principles of them who say: ‘We are all Sons of One Man.’[695] For even if we have not yet become fit to be judged Sons of God, we may at anyrate be Sons of His Eternal Likeness, His Most Holy Reason; for Reason, the Eldest [of all Angels], is God’s Likeness [or Image].”[696]

And so also we read elsewhere:

“But the Reason (Logos) is God’s Likeness, by whom [sc. Reason] the whole Cosmos was fashioned.”[697]

This Divine Reason of things, then, was the means by which the Cosmos came into existence. And so we find Philo writing:

“But if anyone should wish to make use of naked terms, he might say that the intelligible order of things[698] is nothing else than the Reason (Logos) of God perpetually creating the [sensible] world-order.


“For the Intelligible City is nothing else but the reasoning of the Architect determining in His Mind to found a city perceivable by the senses after [the model of] the City which the mind alone can perceive.

“This is the doctrine of Moses and not [only] mine. At any rate in describing the genesis of man he expressly agrees that he [man] was fashioned in the image of God. And if this is the case with the part—the image of the Image—it is plainly also the case with the whole Form, that is the whole of this sensible cosmos, which is a [far] greater imitation of the Divine Image than the human image is.

“It is plain, moreover, that the Archetypal Seal, which we call Cosmos which is perceptible only to the intellect, must itself be the Archetypal Pattern,[699] the Idea of ideas, the Reason (Logos) of God.”[700]

And elsewhere also he writes:

“Passing, then, from details, behold the grandest House or City, namely, this cosmos. Thou shalt find that the cause of it is God, by whom it came into existence. The matter of it is the four elements, out of which it has been composed. The instrument by means of which it has been built, is the Reason (Logos) of God. And the object of its building is the Goodness of the Creator.”[701]

And again:


“Now the Reason (Logos) is the Likeness of God, by which the whole cosmos was made.”[702]

And still more clearly:

“But God’s Shadow is His Reason (Logos), which using, as it were an instrument, He made the cosmos. And this Shadow is as it were the Archetypal Model of all else. For that as God is the Original of His Image, which he [‘Moses’] now calls [His] Shadow, so, [in its turn] that Image is the model of all else, as he [‘Moses’] showed when, at the beginning of the law-giving, he said: ‘And God made man according to the Image of God,’[703]—this Likeness being imaged according to God, and man being imaged according to this Likeness, which received the power of its Original.”[704]

Moreover, the Divine Reason, as an instrument, is regarded as the means of separation and division:

“So God, having sharpened His Reason (Logos), the Divider of all things, cut off both the formless and undifferentiated essence of all things, and the four elements of cosmos which had been separated out of it,[705] and the animals and plants which had been compacted by means of these.”[706]

With this we may compare the following passage from The Acts of John, where we read of the Logos:

“But what it is in truth, as conceived of in itself, and as spoken of to thee,[707]—it is the marking-off [or delimitation] of all things, the firm necessity of those things that are fixed and were unsettled, the Harmony of Wisdom.”[708]

But to return to the concept of the Logos as symbolised by the idea of a City; speaking of the six “cities of refuge,” Philo allegorises them as follows:

“Is not, then, the most ancient and most secure and best Mother-city, and not merely City, the Divine Reason (Logos), to which it is of the greatest service to flee first?

“The other five, as though they were colonies [from it], are the Powers of the Speaker [of this Word (Logos)], of which the chief is the Creative [Potency], according to which He who creates by Reason [or Word], fashioned the cosmos. The second is the Sovereign [Potency], according to which He who created, ruleth that which is brought into existence. The third is the Merciful [Potency], by means of which the Artist hath compassion and hath mercy on His own work. The fourth is the Legislative Providence, by means of which He doth forbid the things that may not be. . . .”[709]

Philo then regards these “cities” as symbolising the refuges to which the various kinds of erring souls should flee to find comfort. If the Divine Reason, and the Creative and Sovereign (Kingly) Powers are too far off for the comprehension of the sinner’s ignorance, then he should flee to other goals at a shorter distance, the “cities” of the Necessary Powers, namely, the Powers of Mercy and of the Law, which latter are twofold, Enjoining and Forbidding, the latter again of which is referred to vaguely, at the end of the chapter, as the “averting of evils” without further definition.

Moreover, Philo continues, there are symbols of these five Potencies mentioned in the Scriptures:

“[The symbols] of Command and Prohibition are the [two tables of the] laws in the ark; of the Merciful Potency, the top of the ark, which he [‘Moses’] calls the Mercy-seat; of the Creative and Sovereign [Potencies], the winged Cherubim, who are set over it.

“But the Divine Reason (Logos) above them did not take any visible shape, inasmuch as no sensible object answers to it, for it is the very Likeness of God, the Eldest of all beings, one and all, which are cognisable by mind alone, the nearest to the [One and] Only One-that-is, without a space of any kind between, copied inerrantly.

“For it is said: ‘I will speak to thee from above the Mercy-seat, from between the two Cherubim.’[710]

“So that he who drives the Chariot[711] of the Powers is the Word (Logos), and He who is borne in the Chariot is He who speaks [the Word], giving commandment to the Driver for the right driving of the universe.”[712]


Again, speaking of God as the True Shepherd of the universe and all things therein, the elements and all therein, the sun, moon, and planets, the stars and heavens, Philo writes:

“[He placed] at the head His own True Reason (Logos), His First-born Son, who shall succeed unto the care of this sacred flock, as though he were the lieutenant of the Great King.”[713]

The Divine Reason of things, moreover, is regarded as the Plērōma or Fullness of all powers,—ideal space, and ideal time, if such terms can be permitted. The Logos is the Æon or Eternity proper. And so Philo speaks of:

“The Divine Reason (Logos) whom God Himself hath full-filled entirely and throughout with incorporeal powers.”[714]


This Supreme Logos, then, is filled full of powers—words, logoi, in their turn, energies of God. As Philo writes:

“For God not disdaining to descend into the sensible world, sends forth as His apostles His own ‘words’ (logoi) to give succour to those who love virtue; and they act as physicians and expel the diseases of the soul.”[715]

These “words” or “reasons” are men’s angels; they are the “light-sparks” or “rays” in the heart—of which we hear so much in “Gnostic” and allied literature—all from the Father-Sun, the Light of God, or Logos proper, which Philo calls “the Light of the invisible and supremest Deity that rays and shines transcendently on every side.”


“When this Light shineth into the mind, the secondary beams of the ‘words’ (logoi) set [or are hidden].”[716]

In treating of the allegorical Ladder set up from earth to heaven, Philo first gives what he considers to be its cosmic correspondences and then applies the figure to the little world of man:

“The ladder (κλῖμαξ), then, symbolically spoken of, is in the cosmos somewhat of the nature I have suggested. But if we turn our attention to it in man, we shall find it is the soul; the foot of which is as it were its earthly part—namely, sensation, while its head is as it were its heavenly part—the purest mind.

“Up and down through all of it the ‘words’ (logoi) go incessantly; whenever they ascend, drawing it up together with them, divorcing it from its mortal nature, and revealing the sight of those things which alone are worth the seeing; not that when they descend they cast it down, for neither God nor yet God’s Word (Logos) is cause of any loss.

“But they accompany them[717] [in their descent] for love of man and pity of our race, to succour, and give help, that they, by breathing into them their saving breaths, may bring the soul to life, tossed as it is upon the body [’s waves] as on a river [’s bosom].

“It is the God and Governor of the universe alone who doth, transcending sound and sight, walk ’mid the minds of them who have been throughly purified. For them there is an oracle, which the sage prophesied, in which is said: ‘I will walk amid you; and I will be your God.’[718]

“But in the minds of them who are still being washed, and have not yet had throughly cleansed the life that is befouled and stained with bodies’ grossness, it is the angels, the ‘words’ (logoi) divine, making them bright for Virtue’s eyes.”[719]

This Light of God is, as has repeatedly been said before, the Divine Reason of things.

“‘For the Lord is my Light and my Saviour,’[720] as is sung in the Hymns;—[He is] not only Light, but the Archetype of every other light; nay rather more ancient and sublime than the Archetypal Model [of all things], in that this [latter] is His Word (Logos). For the [Universal] Model is His all-full[721] Word, the Light, while He Himself is like to naught of things created.”[722]


This Word, or Logos, is further symbolised among phenomena as the sun. The Spiritual Sun is the Divine Reason—“the intelligible Model of the [sun] that moves in heaven.”

“For the Word (Logos) of God, when it enters into our earthly constitution, succours and aids those who are Virtue’s kinsmen, and those that are favourably disposed to her, affording them a perfect place of refuge and salvation, and shedding on their foes[723] destruction and ruin past repair.”[724]

The Logos is thus naturally the panacea of all ills.

“For the Word (Logos) is, as it were, the saving medicine for all the wounds and passions of the soul, which [Word], the lawgiver declares, we should restore ‘before the sun’s going down’[725]—that is, before the most brilliant rays of God, supremest and most manifest, go down [or set]—[rays] which through His pity for our race He has sent forth from [His high] Heaven into the mind of man.

“For whilst that Light most Godlike abideth in the soul, we shall restore the ‘word’ (logos) that hath been given to us in pledge, as though it were a garment, that it may be to him who doth receive it, the special property of man—[a garment] both to cover up the shame[726] of life, and to enjoy the gift of God and have respite in quietude, by reason of the present help of such a counsellor, and of a shielder such as will never leave the rank in which he hath been stationed.”[727]

From all of which it seems that Philo is drawing a distinction between the Pure Light of the Logos and the reflection of that Light in the reason of man, for he goes on to say:

“Indeed we have prolonged this long excursus for no other reason than to explain that the trained mind, moved by irregular motions to productiveness and its contrary, and, as it were, continually ascending and descending [the ladder]—when it is productive and raised into the height, then is it bathed in radiance of the archetypal immaterial rays of the Logic[728] Source of God who bringeth all unto perfection; and when it doth descend and is barren, it is illumined by their images, the ‘words’ (logoi) immortal, whom it is custom to call angels.”[729]


And a little later on Philo proceeds to speak of those who are disciples or pupils of the Holy Word or Divine Reason.

“These are they who are truly men, lovers of temperance, and orderliness, and modesty,”—whose life he proceeds further to describe in similar terms to those he uses of the Therapeuts.

Such a life, he concludes, “is adapted not for those who are called men, but for those who are truly so.”[730]

For those, then, who consciously set their feet upon the ladder of true manhood, there is a Way up even to Deity Itself, for Philo writes:

“Stability, and sure foundation, and eternally abiding in the same, changeless and immovable, is, in the first place, a characteristic of That-which-is; and, in the second, [a characteristic] of the Reason (Logos) of That-which-is—which Reason He hath called his Covenant; in the third, of the wise man; and in the fourth, of him who goeth forward [towards wisdom].”[731]

How, then, continues Philo, can the wicked mind think that it can stand alone—“when it is swept hither and thither by the eddies of passion, which carry the body forth to burial as a corpse?”

And a little later on he proceeds to tell us that Eden must be taken to stand for the Wisdom of God.

“And the Divine Reason (Logos) floweth down like a river, from Wisdom, as from a source, that it may irrigate and water the heavenly shoots and plants of Virtue-lovers, that grow upon the sacred Mountain of the Gods,[732] as though it were a paradise.


“And this Holy Reason is divided into four sources—I mean it is separated into four virtues—each of which is a queen. For its being divided into sources[733] does not bear any resemblance to division of space, but rather to a sovereignty,[734] in order that, having pointed to the virtues, as its boundaries, he [‘Moses’] may immediately display the wise man, who makes use of these virtues, as king, elected to kingship, not by the show of men’s hands, but by choice of that Nature [namely, Virtue] which alone is truly free, and genuine, and above all bribes. . . .

“Accordingly, one of the companions of Moses, likening this Word (Logos) to a river, says in the Hymns: ‘The river of God was filled with water.’[735]

“Now it is absurd that any of the rivers flowing on earth should be so called; but, as it seems, he [the psalmist] clearly signifies the Divine Reason (Logos), full of the flood of Wisdom, having no part of itself bereft or empty [thereof], but rather, as has been said, being entirely diffused throughout the universe, and [again] raised up to the height [thereof], by reason of the perpetual and continuous [circling] course of that eternally flowing fountain.

“There is also the following song-verse: ‘The rapid flow of the river maketh glad the city of God.’[736]


“What kind of city? For what is now the holy city,[737] in which is the holy temple, was founded at a distance from sea and rivers; so that it is clear that [the writer] intends to represent by means of an under-meaning something different from the surface-sense.

“For indeed the stream of the Divine Reason (Logos) continually flowing on with rapidity and regularity, diffuses all things through all and maketh them glad.

“And in one sense he calls cosmos the City of God, inasmuch as, receiving the whole cup[738] of the Divine draught it . . .,[739] and, being made joyous, it shouteth with a joy that can never be taken away or quenched for the eternity.

“But in another sense [he uses it of] the soul of the wise man, in which God is said to walk as in a city, for ‘I will walk in you and I will be your God.’[740]

“And for the happy soul that stretches forth its own reasoning[741] as a most holy drinking vessel[742]—who is it that poureth forth the sacred measures of true joy, if not the cup-bearer of God, the [Divine] Reason (Logos), who is master of the feast?—he who differs not from the draught, but is himself unmingled delight, and sweetness, forthpouring, good-cheer, the immortal philtre of all joy and of contentment,—if we may use the words of poetry.

“But the City of God the Hebrews call Jerusalem, which by interpretation signifies the ‘Sight of Peace.’ Wherefore seek not the City of That-which-is in regions of the earth—for ’tis not made of stocks and stones; but [seek it] in the soul that doth not war, but offers unto them of the keen sight a life of contemplation and of peace.”[743]

This, then, is how Philo understands the New Jerusalem (or Ogdoad), so familiar to us from the writings of the “Gnostic” schools, beyond which was the Plērōma or Treasure of Light. For elsewhere he writes:

“He will offer a fair and fitting prayer, as Moses did, that God may open for us His Treasure, yea [His] Reason (Logos) sublime, and pregnant with lights divine, which he [‘Moses’] has called Heaven.”[744]

These “lights” are “reasons” (logoi), for a little further on he says:

“Thou seest that the soul is not nourished with things earthly and contemptible, but by the reasons God rains down from His sublime and pure nature, which he [‘Moses’] calls Heaven.”[745]


And a little further on, referring to the allegorical “manna,” or heavenly food, “the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat” (Ex. xvi. 13), he writes:

“Dost thou not see the food of the soul, what it is? It is the Continuing Reason (Logos) of God, like unto dew, encircling the whole of it [the soul] on all sides, and suffering no part of it to be without its share of it [the Logos].

“But this Reason is not apparent everywhere, but [only] in the man who is destitute of passions and vices; yea, subtle is it for the mind to distinguish, or to be distinguished by the mind, exceedingly translucent and pure for sight to see.

“It is, moreover, as it were, a coriander seed.[746] For agriculturalists declare that the seed of the coriander can be divided and dissected infinitely, and that every single part and section [thereof], when sown, comes up just as the whole seed. Such also is the Reason (Logos) of God, profitable in its entirety and in every part, however small it be.”[747]

And he adds a little further on:

“This is the teaching of the hierophant and prophet, Moses, who will say: ‘This is the bread, the food which God hath given to the soul,’[748] that He hath given [us] for meat and drink, His own Word,[749] His own Reason,[750] for this [Reason] is the bread which He hath given us to eat; this is the Word.”[751]


Philo also likens the Divine Reason to the pupil of the eye—a figure that will meet us later in considering the meaning of the Κόρη Κόσμου (“Virgin of the World”) treatise—for he writes:

“May not [this Reason] be also likened to the pupil of the eye? For just as the eye’s pupil, though the smallest part [of it], does yet behold all of the zones of things existing—the boundless sea, and vastness of the air, and all of the whole heaven which the sun doth bound from east to west,—so is the sight of the Divine Reason the keenest sight of all, so that it can behold all things; by which [men] shall behold things worthy to be seen beyond white [light][752] itself.

“For what could be more bright or more far-seeing than Reason Divine, by shining in which the other [lights] drive out all mist and darkness, striving to blend themselves with the soul’s light.”[753]


And again, in a passage of intense interest we read:

“For He nourisheth us with His Reason (Logos)—the most general [of all things]. . . . And the Reason of God is above the whole cosmos; it is the most ancient and most general of all the things that are.

“This Reason the ‘fathers’[754] knew not,—not [our] true [eternal] fathers, but those hoary in time, who say: ‘Let us take a leader, and let us return unto’—the passions of—‘Egypt.’[755]

“Therefore let God announce His [good] tidings to the soul in an image: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word[756] that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,’[757]—that is, he shall be nourished by the whole of Reason (Logos) and by [every] part of it. For ‘mouth’ is a symbol of the [whole] Logos, and ‘word’ is its part.”[758]

These “fathers,” then, are those of the lower nature, and not our true spiritual parents; it is these “fathers” that we are to abandon.

Compare with this Matt. x. 37: “He who loveth father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me”; and the far more striking form of the tradition in Luke xiv. 26: “If any man cometh unto Me, and doth not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea and his own soul also, he cannot be My disciple.”

In the Gnostic gospel, known as the Pistis Sophia (341), the mystic meaning of these parents is given at length, as signifying the rulers of the lower nature, and the Master is made to say: “For this cause have I said unto you aforetime, ‘He who shall not leave father and mother to follow after Me is not worthy of Me.’ What I said then was, ‘Ye shall leave your parents the rulers, that ye may be children of the First Everlasting Mystery.’”

But the most arresting point is that Matt. iv. 4, in the story of the Temptation, quotes precisely the same words of the LXX. text of Deut. viii. 3 which Philo does, beginning where he does and finishing where he does, both omitting the final and tautological “shall man live”—a very curious coincidence. Luke iv. 4 preserves only the first half of the sentence; but it evidently lay in exactly the same form in which Philo uses it before the first and third Evangelists in their second or “Logia” source. It was, then, presumably a frequently quoted text.


The Divine Reason is further figured as a true “Person,” the Mediator between God and man. Thus Philo writes:

“And on His angel-ruling and most ancient Reason (Logos), the Father who created all, hath bestowed a special gift—that standing between them as a Boundary,[759] he may distinguish creature from Creator.

“He [the Reason] ever is himself the suppliant unto the Incorruptible on mortal kind’s behalf in its distress, and is the King’s ambassador to subject nature.

“And he exulteth in his gift, and doth majesticly insist thereon, declaring: ‘Yea, have I stood between the Lord and you,’[760]—not increate as God, nor yet create as ye, but in the midst between the [two] extremes, hostage to both: to Him who hath created him, for pledge that the creature never will remove itself entirely [from Him], nor make revolt, choosing disorder in order’s place; and to the thing created for good hope that God, the Merciful, will never disregard the work of His own hands. ‘For I will herald forth the news of peace to the creation from Him who knows how to make wars to cease, from God the Everlasting Peacekeeper.’”[761]

In considering what is claimed to be the elaborate symbolism of the sacred vestments of the High Priest, and the nature of this symbolical office, Philo declares that the twelve stones upon the breast of the High Priest, in four rows of three each, are a symbol of the Divine Reason (Logos), which holds together and regulates the universe; this breastplate, then, is the logion or sacred oracle of God.

“For it was necessary that he who was consecrated to the Father of the cosmos, should have [His] Son, the most perfect in virtue, as intercessor,[762] both for the forgiveness[763] of sins, and for the abundant supply of the most unstinted blessings.

“It probably also imparts the preliminary teaching to the Servant of God,[764] that if he cannot be worthy of Him who made the cosmos, he should nevertheless without ceasing strive to be worthy of that cosmos; for when he has [once] been clothed with its likeness,[765] he is bound forthwith, by carrying about the image of the model[766] in his head, of his own self to change himself as though it were from man into the nature of the cosmos, and, if we ought to say so[767]—nay, he who speaks on truth ought to speak truth!—be [himself] a little cosmos.”[768]


With these most instructive indications we may compare the intensely interesting passage of Plotinus in his essay “On Intelligible Beauty,” where he gives his yoga-system, so to speak. It is perhaps the most important passage that has come down to us from the coryphæus of Later Platonism, giving, as it does, in every probability, the method of the school whereby ecstasis was attained.

“Let us, then, form a mental image of this cosmos with each of its parts remaining what it is, and yet interpenetrating one another, [imagining] them all together into one as much as we possibly can,—so that whatsoever one comes first into the mind as the ‘one’ (as for instance the outer sphere), there immediately follows also the sight of the semblance of the sun, and together with it that of the other stars,[769] and the earth, and sea, and all things living, as though in [one] transparent sphere,—in fine, as though all things could be seen in it.

“Let there, then, be in the soul some semblance of a sphere of light [transparent], having all things in it, whether moving or still, or some of them moving and others still.

“And, holding this [sphere] in the mind, conceive in thy self another [sphere], removing [from it all idea of] mass; take from it also [the idea of] space, and the phantom of matter in thy mind; and do not try to image another sphere [merely] less in bulk than the former.

“Then invoking God who hath made [that true sphere] of which thou holdest the phantom [in thy mind], pray that He may come.

“And may He come with his own cosmos,[770] with all the Gods therein—He being one and all, and each one all, united into one, yet different in their powers, and yet, in that one [power] of multitude all one.

“Nay, rather the One God is all [the Gods] for that He falleth not short [of Himself] though all of them are [from Him]; [and] they are all together, yet each again apart in [some kind of] an unextended state, possessing no form perceptible to sense.

“For, otherwise, one would be in one place, another in another, and [each] be ‘each,’ and not ‘all’ in itself, without parts other from the others and [other] from itself.

“Nor is each whole a power divided and proportioned according to a measurement of parts; but this [whole] is the all, all power, extending infinitely and infinitely powerful;—nay, so vast is that [divine world-order[771]], that even its ‘parts’ are infinite.”[772]


But to return to Philo. The rational soul or mind of man is potentially the Intelligible Cosmos or Logos; thus he writes:

“The great Moses did not call the species of the rational soul by a name resembling any one of the things created, but he called it the image of the Divine and Invisible, deeming it a true [image] brought into being and impressed with the soul of God, of which the Signet is the Eternal Reason (Logos).”[773]

All of which the disciplined soul shall realise in himself. Of such a man Abraham is a type, for:

“Abandoning mortal things, he ‘is added to the people of God,’[774] plucking the fruit of immortality, having become equal to the angels. For the angels are the host of God, incorporeal and happy souls.”

The angels are the “people” of God; but there is a still higher degree of union, whereby a man becomes one of the “Race” or “Kin” of God. This “Race” is an intimate union of all them who are “kin to Him”; they become one. For this Race “is one, the highest one, but ‘people’ is the name of many.”

“As many, then, as have advanced in discipline and instruction, and been perfected [therein], have their lot among this ‘many.’

“But they who have passed beyond these introductory exercises, becoming natural Disciples of God, receiving wisdom free from all toil, migrate to this incorruptible and perfect Race, receiving a lot superior to their former lives in genesis.”[775]

And that the mind is immortal may be shown allegorically from the death of Moses, who, says Philo, migrated “by means of the Word (Logos) of the Cause,[776] by whom the whole cosmos was created.”

This is said “in order that thou mayest learn that God regards the wise man as of equal honour with the cosmos; for it is by means of the same Reason (Logos) that He hath made the universe, and bringeth back the perfect man from earthly things unto Himself again.”[777]

But enough of Philo for the moment. Sufficient has been given to let the reader hear the Alexandrian speak for himself on the central idea of his cosmos. Much else could be added—indeed, volumes could be written on the subject—for it gives us one of the most important backgrounds of Christian origins, and without a thorough knowledge of Hellenistic theology it is impossible in any way to get our values of many things correctly.



In the chapter on Philo we attempted to set before the reader some outlines of the central doctrine of Hellenistic theology—the sublime concept of the Logos—as envisaged by a learned Jew of the Diaspora, steeped in Hellenism, and living in the capital of Egypt and the centre of the intellectual life of Greater Greece.

In the present chapter we shall endeavour to give the reader a further insight into this master-idea from another standpoint, and shall reproduce the views of a learned Greek, who, while remaining on the ground of Hellenic traditions proper, turns his eyes to Egypt, and reads what part of its mysterious message he can decipher, in Greek modes of thought.

Plutarch, of Chæroneia in Bœotia, nourished in the second half of the first century A.D., and so follows immediately on Philo and on Paul; like Philo, however, he knows nothing of the Christians, though like the Alexandrian he treats of precisely those problems and questions which were and are of pre-eminent interest for Christians.

Plutarch chooses as his theme the myth and mysteries of Osiris and Isis. He gives the myth in its main outlines, and introduces us into the general religious atmosphere of the Egyptian belief of what we may, perhaps, be allowed to call “Demotic” times. But he does far more than this. Initiated himself into the Osiriaca, of which there was apparently a thiasos at Delphi, though on the one hand he possesses more knowledge of formal details than he feels himself permitted to disclose, on the other hand he is aware that the “true initiate of Isis” is one who goes far beyond any formal reception of the symbolic mysteries; the true initiate must of his own initiative for ever keep searching and probing more deeply into the intimate reason of things, as adumbrated by the “things said and done” in the sacred rites (iii. 3).

For this task Plutarch is well equipped, not only by his wide knowledge of the philosophy and theology and science of his day, but also by the fact that he held a high office at Delphi in the service of Apollo and also in connection with the Dionysiac rites. He was almost certainly a hierophant, and no merely formal one at that.

Plutarch accordingly gives a most instructive exposition, which should enable us, if only we are content to put ourselves in his place, and condescend to think in the terms of the thought of his day, to review the ancient struggle between physical reason and formal theology which was then in full conflict—a conflict that has been renewed on a vastly extended scale for the last few centuries, and which is still being fought to a finish or honourable truce in our own day.

Our initiated philosopher is on the side neither of atheism or pure physicism, nor on that of superstition, as he understood those terms in his day; he takes a middle ground, and seeks final refuge in the fair vision of the Logos; and that, too, in all humility, for he knows well that whatever he can say is at best but a dim reflection of the glory of the Highest, as indeed he expressly tells us when writing:

“Nor can the souls of men here on the earth, swathed as they are in bodies and enwrapped in passions, commune with God, except so far as they can reach some dun sort of a dream of Him with the perception of a mind trained in philosophy” (lxxiii. 2).

We accordingly find Plutarch discussing the various theories of his day which professed to explain the mythological and theological enigmas of the ancients, with special reference to the Osiris myth.

He discusses the theory of Evemerus, that the gods were nothing but ancient kings and worthies, and dismisses it as no really satisfactory explanation (xxiii.).

He then proceeds to consider the theory that these things refer to the doings of daimones,—which he thinks a decided improvement on that of Evemerus (xxv.).

Thence he passes to the theories of the Physicists or natural phenomenalists (xxxii.), and of the Mathematici—that is to say, the Pythagorean speculations as to the celestial spheres, and their harmonies (xli.).

In each of these three latter theories he thinks there is some truth; still each by itself is insufficient; they must be combined (xlv.), and even then it is not enough.

He next considers the question of first principles, and discusses the theories of the One, the Two, and the Many; again finding something to be said for each view, and yet adopting none of them as all-sufficient.

But of all attempted interpretations he finds the least satisfactory to be that of those who are content to limit the hermeneutics of the mystery-myths simply to the operations of ploughing and sowing. With this “vegetation god” theory he has little patience, and stigmatises its professors as that “dull crowd” (lxv.). And here, perhaps, some of us may think that Plutarch is not out of date even in the twentieth century of grace, and his arguments might be recommended to the consideration of those anthropologists who are just now with such complacency running to death what Mr Andrew Lang humourously calls the “Covent Garden” theory.

Further on, dealing as he does with the puzzling question of Egyptian “animal worship,” Plutarch is brought face to face with many problems of “taboo” and “totemism,” and he is not without interest in what he says on these subjects (lxxii. f.), and in the theories of utilitarianism and symbolism which he adduces (lxxiv.).

Finally, he gives us his view of the rationale of the custom of incense-burning (lxxix.), which should be of some concern to many in present-day Christian communities.

But the whole of this complex of custom and rites, puzzling and self-contradictory as they may appear, and the whole of the riddles and veiled enigmas of Egyptian priestly tradition, are, Plutarch believes, resolvable into transparent simplicity by a proper understanding of the true nature of man and of his relation to Divine Nature, that Wisdom who is the eternal and inseparable spouse of Divine Reason, the Logos.

It would perhaps have been simpler for some of my readers—it certainly would have been shorter—had I condensed what Plutarch has to say; but my desire is rather to let this student of the comparative theology of his day speak for himself, and not to give my own views; for I still believe, in spite of the superior formal education of the twentieth century, that we cannot normally know more about the ancient mysteries and their inner purport than the best minds who were initiated into them while they still flourished.

For not only are we without the precise data which these ancients possessed, but also the phase of thought through which we have recently been passing, and in which we mostly still are, is not one which can sympathetically tolerate those very considerations which, in my opinion, provide the most fertile ground of explanation of the true inwardness of what was best in those mystery-traditions.

Moreover, I have thought it of service to give a full version of this treatise of Plutarch’s from a decent critical text,[778] for the only translation in English read by me is by no means a careful piece of work,[779] and manifestly rendered from a very imperfect text; also, the language of Plutarch in some passages appears to me to be deserving of more careful handling than has as yet been accorded it, for a number of sentences seem to have been purposely phrased so as to be capable of conveying a double meaning.

Finally, with regard to his own interpretation, I would suggest that Plutarch, as was natural to a Greek, has more insisted on intellectual modes of thought than perhaps an Egyptian priest would have been inclined to do; for it seems probable that to the Egyptian mind the chief interest would lie in the possibility of the realisation of immediate contact with the Mystery in all those modes which are not so much intellectual as sensible; in other words, it would be by making himself a vehicle of the Great Breath in his body rather than a mirror of the Mystery in his mind, that the son of the Nile Land would seek for union.

It is, moreover, of interest to find that Plutarch addresses his treatise to a lady. For though we have extant several moral tractates addressed to wives—such as Porphyry’s Letter to Marcella, and Plutarch’s Consolation to his own wife, Timoxena—it is rare to find philosophical treatises addressed to women, and nowadays many women are once more interested in such “philosophy.”

Plutarch wrote his essay at Delphi (lxviii. 6), and addressed it to Klea, a lady who held a distinguished position among the Delphic priestesses, and who had herself been initiated into the Osiriac Mysteries—her very name Klea being, perhaps, her mystery-name (xxxv.). The treatise is, therefore, addressed to one who was prepared to read into it more than appears on the surface.

It should also be remembered that in all probability the main source of Plutarch’s information was the now lost treatise of Manetho on the Egyptian Religion, and in this connection it is of interest to record Granger’s opinion, who, in referring to Plutarch’s De Iside et Osiride, says:

“First he deals with those opinions which identify the Egyptian gods with natural objects—Osiris with the Nile, Isis with the land, and so on. Then he considers the interpretations of those who identify the gods with the sun and moon, etc. (ch. lxi.). These speculations summarise for us, at first or second hand, some of the Hermetic books current in Plutarch’s time.”[780]

Address To Klea Concerning Gnosis And The Search For Truth

I. 1.[781] While all who have mind, O Klea, should ask for all their blessings from the Gods—let us, by pursuing after them, pray to obtain from them those [blessings] of gnosis[782] concerning them, as far as ’tis within the reach of men; in that there’s nothing greater for a man to get, nor more majestic for a God to give, than Truth.

2. Of other things their God gives men what they require, whereas of mind and wisdom He gives a share[783] to them—since He [Himself] possesses these and uses [them].

For the Divine is neither blest through silver and through gold, nor strong through thunderings and lightnings, but [blest and strong] by gnosis and by wisdom.

3. And thus most finely of all things which he hath said about the Gods—sounding aloud:

Yea have they both a common source and one [fair] native land;
But Zeus came into being first and he knew more—

hath Homer made pronouncement of the primacy of Zeus as more majestic, in that in gnosis and in wisdom it[784] is older.

4. Nay, I believe that the good fortune of æonian life—the which the God hath gotten for his lot—is that by reason of His gnosis the things in genesis should not entirely die; for when the knowing of existing things and being wise is taken from it, freedom from death is Time—not Life.

The Art Of Knowing And Of Divinising

II. 1. Wherefore the longing for the Godly state is a desire for Truth, and specially the [truth] about the Gods, in so much as it doth embrace reception of the sacred [things]—instruction and research;[785] a work more holy than is all and every purging rite and temple-service, and not least pleasing to that Goddess whom thou servest, in that she is particularly wise and wisdom-loving, seeing her very name doth seem to indicate that knowing and that gnosis[786] is more suitable to her than any other title.

2. For that “Isis” is Greek,[787] and [so is] “Typhōn”—in that he’s foe unto the Goddess, and is “puffed up”[788] through [his] unknowing and deceit, and tears the Holy Reason (Logos) into pieces and makes away with it; the which the Goddess gathers up again and recomposes, and transmits to those perfected in the art of divinising,[789]—which by the means of a continually sober life and by [their] abstinence from many foods and sexual indulgences, tempers intemperate pleasure-love, and doth accustom [them] to undergo, without being broken down, the rigorous tasks of service in the sacred [rites], the end of which is gnosis of the First and Lordly One, the One whom mind alone can know,[790] for whom the Goddess calls on [them] to seek, though He is by her side and one with her.

3. Nay more, the very appellation of the holy [place] doth plainly promise gnosis, that is eidēsis, of That-which-is; for it is named Iseion, as though “of them who shall know”[791] That-which-is, if that with reason (logos) and with purity[792] we enter in the holy [places] of the Goddess.

The True Initiates Of Isis

III. 1. Yet many have set down that she is Hermes’ daughter, and many [that she is] Prometheus’s,—I holding the latter as discoverer of wisdom and foreknowledge, and Hermes of the art of letters and the Muses’ art.

2. Wherefore, in Hermes-city, they call the foremost of the Muses Isis, as well as Righteousness,[793] in that she’s wise,[794] as has been said,[795] and shows[796] the mysteries of the Gods to those who are with truth and justice called the Carriers of the holy [symbols] and Wearers of the holy robes.[797]

3. And these are they who carry the holy reason (logos) about the Gods, purged of all superstition and superfluity, in their soul, as in a chest, and cast robes round it[798]—in secret disclosing such [things] of the opinion[799] about the Gods as are black and shadowy, and such as are clear and bright, just as they are suggested by the [sacred] dress.

4. Wherefore when the initiates of Isis at their “death” are adorned in these [robes], it is a symbol that this Reason (Logos) is with them; and with Him and naught else they go there.[800]

5. For it is not the growing beard and wearing cloak that makes philosophers, O Klea, nor clothing in linen and shaving oneself that makes initiates of Isis; but a true Isiac is one who, when he by law[801] receives them, searches out by reason (logos) the [mysteries] shown and done concerning these Gods, and meditates upon the truth in them.

Why The Priests Are Shaven And Wear Linen

IV. 1. Now, as far as the “many” are concerned, even this commonest and smallest [secret] is hid from them,—namely, why the priests cut off their hair, and wear linen robes; for some do not at all care to know about these things, while others say that they abstain from [the use of] the sheep’s wool, as they do from its flesh, because they hold it sacred, and that they shave their heads through being in mourning, and wear linen things on account of the colour which the flax in flower sends forth, resembling the ætherial radiance[802] that surrounds the cosmos.

2. But the true cause, [the] one of all, is, as Plato says, [because]: “It is not lawful for pure to touch not pure.”[803]

Now, superfluity[804] of nourishment and excretion is nothing chaste or pure; and it is from superfluities that wool and fur and hair and nails spring up and grow.

3. It would, thus, be laughable for them to cut off their own hair in the purifications, shaving themselves, and making smooth their whole body evenly, and [then] put on and wear the [hair] of animals.[805]

4. For indeed we should think that Hesiod, when he says:

Nor from five-branched at fire-blooming of Gods
Cut dry from green with flashing blade[806]— teaches that [men] ought to keep holy day only when pure of such [superfluities], and not at the sacred operations themselves have need of purification and the removal of superfluities.

5. Again, the flax grows out of the deathless earth, and yields a fruit that man may eat, and offers him a smooth pure raiment that does not weigh upon the watcher,[807] but is well joined for every hour,[808] and is the least cone-bearing,[809] as they say,—concerning which things there is another reason (logos).

Of The Refraining From Flesh And Salt And Superfluities

V. 1. And the priests handle so hardly[810] the nature of superfluities, that they not only deprecate the many kinds of pulse, and of meats the sheep-flesh[811] kinds and swine-flesh kinds, as making much superfluity, but also at their times of purification they remove the salts from the grains,[812] having other further reasons as well as the fact that it makes the more thirsty and more hungry sharpen their desire the more.

2. For to argue that salts are not pure owing to the multitude of small lives[813] that are caught[814] and die in them when they solidify themselves, as Aristagoras said,[815] is naïve.

3. They are, moreover, said to water the Apis also from a special well, and by all means to keep him from the Nile,—not that they think His[816] water stained with blood because of the Crocodile,[817] as some think (for nothing is so precious to Egyptians as the Nile), but that the water of Nile’s superfluity[818] on being drunk seems to make fat, nay, rather to make much too much of flesh.

4. And [so] they do not wish the Apis to be so nor yet themselves, but [wish] to wear their bodies on their souls compact and light, and neither to com-press nor op-press them by the mortal part prevailing and its weighing down of the divine.

On The Drinking Of Wine

VI. 1. And as for wine, the servants of the God in Sun-city[819] do not at all bring it into the sacred place, as ’tis not right [for them] to drink by day while He, their Lord and King, looks on.

2. The rest [of them[820]] use it indeed, but sparingly.

They have, however, many times of abstinence at which they drink no wine, but spend them in the search for wisdom, learning and teaching the [truth] about the Gods.

3. The kings used to drink it, though in certain measure according to the sacred writings, as Hecatæus has narrated,[821] for they were priests [as well].

4. They began to drink it, however, only from the time of Psammetichus;[822] but before that they used not to drink wine.

Nor did they make libation of it as a thing dear to the Gods, but as the blood of those who fought against the Gods,[823]—from whom, when they fell and mingled with the earth, they think the vines came, and that because of this wine-drenching makes men to be out of their minds and struck aside,[824] in that, forsooth, they are full-filled with the forefathers of its[825] blood.[826]

5. These things, at any rate Eudoxus says, in Book II. of his Circuit,[827] are thus stated by the priests.

On Fish Taboos

VII. 1. As to sea-fish, all [Egyptians] abstain generally (not from all [fish] but) from some;—as, for example, those of the Oxyrhynchus nome from those caught with a hook, for as they venerate the sharp-snouted fish,[828] they fear that the hook[829] is not pure when “sharp-snout” is caught by it;[830] while those of the Syēnē nome [abstain from] the “devourer,”[831] for that it seems that it appears together with the rising of the Nile, and that it shows their[832] growth to those in joy, seen as a self-sent messenger.

2. Their priests, upon the other hand, abstain from all; and [even] on the ninth of the first month,[833] when every one of the rest of the Egyptians eats a broiled fish before his front door,[834] the priests do not taste it, but burn their fishes to ashes before the doors [of the Temple].[835]

3. And they have two reasons [for this], of which I will later on take up the sacred and extraordinary [one], according with the facts religiously deduced concerning Osiris and Typhon. The evident, the one that’s close at hand, in showing forth the fish as a not necessary and a not unsuperfluous cooked food, bears witness unto Homer, who makes neither the Phæacians of luxurious lives, nor yet the Ithakēsian Island men, use fish, nor yet Odysseus’s Companions[836] in so great a Voyage and on the Sea before they came to the last Strait.[837]

4. And generally [the priests] think that the sea’s from fire and is beyond the boundaries—nor part nor element [of earth], but of another kind, a superfluity cor-rupted and cor-rupting.

The Onion And Pig Taboos

VIII. 1. For nothing reasonless, or [purely] fabulous, or from [mere] superstition, as some suppose, has been incorporated into the foundation of the sacred operations, but some things have moral and needful causes, while others are not without a share in the embellishment of science and physics,—as, for instance, in the case of the onion.

2. [The story] that Diktys,[838] the nursling of Isis,[839] fell into the river and was drowned, in trying to catch the onions with his hands,[840] [is] utterly incredible.

3. The priests, however, keep themselves pure of the onion, and treat it hardly, being [ever] on the watch against it, because it is the only thing whose nature is to be well nourished and to flourish when the moon’s a-wane.

It’s food[841] for neither fast nor feast,—neither for the former in that it makes those feeding[842] on it thirst, while for the latter it makes them weep.

4. And in like manner also they consider the sow an unholy animal, because it seems to be covered especially when the moon is on the wane, while the bodies of those who drink its milk burst forth[843] into leprosy[844] and scabrous roughnesses.

5. And the tale (logos) they tell after once only[845] sacrificing and eating pig at the full-moon—[namely] that Typhon when pursuing pig towards full-moon found the wooden coffin in which the body of Osiris lay dead, and scattered it in pieces[846]—they do not all receive, thinking it is a trifling mis-hearing [of the true tale] like many more.[847]

6. But they say their ancients so protected themselves against softness [of living] and extravagance and agreeable sensations, that they said a slab was set up in the holy place at Thebes with deprecations in-lettered on it against Meinis[848] the King, who first changed the Egyptians from the way of life without riches and without needs and plain.

7. Moreover, Technactis, father of Bocchoris,[849] is said, when marching on the Arabs,[850] when his baggage was delayed,[851] to have used with joy the food nearest at hand, and afterwards to have fallen into deep sleep on a bed of straw,[852] and so embraced frugality; and in consequence of this [he is said] to have execrated the Meinian, and, with the approval of the priests, to have graven his execration on stone.

The Kings, The Riddles Of The Priests, And The Meaning Of Amoun

IX. 1. The kings were appointed from the priests or from the warriors,—the one caste possessing worth and honour through manliness, and the other through wisdom.

2. And he who was appointed from the warriors immediately became [one] of the priests and shared in their philosophy,—which for the most part was hidden in myths and words (logoi), containing dim reflections and transparencies of truth, as, doubtless, they themselves make indirectly plain by fitly setting sphinxes up before the temples, as though their reasoning about the Gods possessed a wisdom wrapped in riddle.[853]

3. Indeed, the seat[854] of Athena (that is Isis, as they think) at Saïs used to have the following inscription on it:

“I am all that has been and is and shall be, and no mortal has ever re-vealed[855] my robe.”[856]

4. Moreover, while the majority think that the proper name of Zeus with the Egyptians is Amoun (which we by a slight change call Ammōn), Manethō, the Sebennyte, considers it His hidden [one], and that His [power of] hiding is made plain by the very articulation of the sound.

5. Hecatæus[857] of Abdēra, however, says that the Egyptians use this word to one another also when they call one to them, for that its sound has got the power of “calling to.”[858]

6. Wherefore when they call to the First God—who they think is the same for every man—as unto the Unmanifest and Hidden, invoking Him to make Him manifest and plain to them, they say “Amoun!”

So great, then, was the care Egyptians took about the wisdom which concerned the mysteries of the Gods.

Of The Greek Disciples Of Egyptians And Of Pythagoras And His Symbols

X. 1. And the most wise of the Greeks also are witnesses—Solon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, and, as some say, Lycurgus as well—through coming to Egypt and associating with her priests.

2. And so they say that Eudoxus was hearer of Chonouphis[859] of Memphis, and Solon of Sonchis of Saïs, and Pythagoras of Œnuphis of Heliopolis.

3. And the last especially, as it appears, being contemplated and contemplating,[860] brought back to the memory of his men their[861] symbolic and mysterious [art], containing their dogmas in dark sayings.

4. For most of the Pythagoric messages leave out nothing of what are called the hieroglyphic letters; for instance: “Eat not on what bears two”;[862] “Sit not down on measure”;[863] “Plant not phœnix”;[864] “Stir not fire with knife[865] in house.”

5. And, for myself at least, I think that his men’s calling the monad Apollo,[866] and the dyad Artemis, and the hebdomad Athena, and the first cube[867] Poseidon, also resembles those whose statues preside over the sacred places, and whose dramas are acted [there], yea and [the names] painted[868] [there as well].

6. For they write the King and Lord, Osiris,[869] with “eye” and “sceptre.”[870] But some interpret the name also as “many-eyed,” since in the Egyptian tongue os means “many,” and iri “eye.”

7. And they write Heaven, as unageing through eternity,[871] with “heart,” [that is] spirit,[872] [rising] from “altar”[873] underneath.

8. And at Thebes there used to be set up hand-less statues of judges, while the [statue] of the chief judge had its eyes tight shut,—seeing that Justice neither gives nor takes gift, and is not worked on.

9. And for the warriors, “scarab” was their seal-emblem;—for the scarab is not female, but all [scarabs] are male,[874] and they engender their seed into matter [or material] which they make into spheres, preparing a field not so much of nourishment[875] as of genesis.

Advice To Klea Concerning The Hidden Meaning Of The Myths

XI. 1. When, therefore, thou hearest the myth-sayings of the Egyptians concerning the Gods—wanderings and dismemberings, and many such passions[876]—thou shouldst remember what has been said above, and think none of these things spoken as they [really] are in state and action.

2. For they do not call Hermes “Dog” as a proper name, but they associate the watching and waking from sleep of the animal,[877] who by knowing and not knowing determines friend from foe (as Plato says[878]), with the most Logos-like of the Gods.

3. Nor do they think that the sun rises as a new-born babe from a lotus, but so they write “sun-rise,” riddling the re-kindling of the sun from moist [elements].[879]

4. Moreover, they called the most crude and awesome King of the Persians (Ōchus) [880]—who killed many and finally cut the throat of Apis and made a hearty meal off him with his friends—“Knife,”[881] and they call him so unto this day in the Catalogue[882] of their kings,—not, of course, signifying his essence by its proper name,[883] but likening the hardness of his mood[884] to an instrument of slaughter.

5. So too shalt thou, if thou hearest and receivest the [mysteries] about the Gods from those who interpret the myth purely and according to the love of wisdom, and if thou doest ever and keepest carefully the customs observed by the priests, and if thou thinkest that thou wilt offer neither sacrifice nor act more pleasing to the Gods than the holding a true view concerning them,—thou shalt escape an ill no less than being-without-the-gods,[885] [that is to say] the fearing-of-the-daimones.[886]

XII. 1. The myth which is told is—in its very shortest possible [elements], after the purely useless and superfluous have been removed—as follows:

The Mystery-Myth

2. They say that when Rhea[887] secretly united with Kronos, Helios on sensing[888] it imprecated her not to bring forth in month or year.[889]

3. That Hermes being in love with the Goddess, came to conjunction [with her]; then playing draughts[890] against Selene,[891] and winning[892] the seventieth of each of the lights, he con-duced from all[893] five days and in-duced them into the three hundred and sixty [days]—which Egyptians call the “now in-duced,”[894] and keep as birthdays of the Gods.[895]

4. [And they say] that on the first Osiris was born, and that a voice fell out[896] together with him on his being brought forth—to wit: “The Lord of all forth comes to light.”

5. But some say that a certain Pamylē,[897] being moistened[898] from the holy [place] of Zeus, heard a voice directing her to proclaim with outcry that “Great King Good-doing Osiris is born”; and that because of this she nursed Osiris, Kronos entrusting him to her, and they keep with mystic rites the Pamylia in his honour, similar to the Phallephoria.[899]

6. And on the second [they say] Arouēris [was born]—whom they call Apollo, and some call Elder Horus.[900]

On the third that Typhon, neither in season nor in place, but breaking through with a blow, leapt forth through her side.[901]

On the fourth that Isis was born in all moist [conditions].

On the fifth Nephthys, whom they name End and Aphroditē, while some [call] her also Victory.

7. And [they say] that Osiris and Arouēris were from Helios, Isis from Hermes, and Typhon and Nephthys from Kronos, and therefore the kings considering the third[902] of the “induced” [days] nefast, used neither to consult nor serve themselves till night.[903]

8. And [they say] that Nephthys was married to Typhon;[904] but Isis and Osiris being in love with each other, united even before they were born, down in the Womb beneath the Darkness.[905]

9. Some, moreover, say that Arouēris thus came to birth, and that he is called Elder Horus by Egyptians, but Apollo by Greeks.

XIII. 1. And [they say] that when Osiris was king, he straightway set free the Egyptians from a life from which they could find no way out and like unto that of wild beasts,[906] both setting fruits before them, and laying down laws, and teaching them to honour the Gods.

2. And that subsequently he went over the whole earth, clearing it,[907] not in the least requiring arms, but drawing the multitude to himself by charming them with persuasion and reason (logos),[908] with song and every art the Muses give;[909] and that for this cause he seems to the Greeks to be the same as Dionysus.[910]

3. And [they say] that while he was away, Typhon attempted no revolution, owing to Isis keeping very careful guard, and having the power[911] in her hands, holding it fast; but that when he [Osiris] came back, he made with art a wile for him, con-juring seventy-two men, and having as co-worker a queen coming out of Æthiopia, whom they call Asō.[912]

4. But that after measuring out for himself in secret the body of Osiris,[913] and having devised, according to the size,[914] a beautiful and extraordinarily ornamented chest,[915] brought it into the banqueting hall.[916]

5. And that when they were delighted at the sight and wondered, Typhon, in sport, promised to give the chest to him who could make himself exactly equal to it by laying himself down in it.[917]

6. And that when all were trying, one after another, since no one fitted, Osiris stepped in and laid himself down.

7. And they who were present running up, dashed on the lid, and, after some [of them] had closed it down with fastenings, and others had poured hot lead over it, they carried it out to the River,[918] and let it go into the Sea by way of the Tanitic[919] mouth, which [they say] Egyptians call even to this day by a hateful and abominable name.

8. These things they say were done on the seventeenth of the month Athur,[920] in which [month] the Sun passes through the Scorpion; it being the eight-and-twentieth year of Osiris’ reign.

9. Some, however, say that he had lived and not reigned so long.[921]

XIV. 1. And as the Pans and Satyrs[922] that inhabit round Chemmis[923] were the first to sense the passion[924] [of Osiris], and give tongue concerning what was being done, [they say] that on this account sudden disturbances and emotions of crowds are even unto this day called “panics.”

2. But when Isis[925] sensed it, she cut off one of her curls, and put on a mourning dress, whence the city to this day bears the name Koptō.[926]

But others think the name signifies privation,[927] for they say that koptein is to de-prive.

3. And [they say] that she, wandering about in every direction, and finding no way out, never approached any one without accosting him; nay, she asked even little children whom she happened to meet, about the chest.

4. And they happened to have seen, and showed the mouth[928] through which the friends of Typhon let the vessel[929] go into the Sea.

5. Because of this [they say] Egyptians believe that little children have prophetic power, and they especially divine from the sounds of their voices, when playing in the holy places and shouting about anything.

6.[930] And [they say] that when [Isis] was aware that Osiris in ignorance had fallen in love and united himself with her sister[931] as with herself, and seeing as proof the honey-clover[932] wreath which he had left behind with Nephthys, she sought for the babe—(for she [N.] exposed it immediately she bore it, through fear of Typhon[933]).

7. And after it was found with toil and trouble—dogs[934] guiding Isis to it it—was reared and became her guard and follower, being called Anubis, and is said to guard the Gods, as their dogs men.

XV. 1. It was from him she got intelligence about the chest:—that after it had been wave-tossed out by the Sea to the Byblos[935] country, the land-wash had gently brought it to rest in a certain heather-bush.”[936]

2. And the heather-bush, in a short time running up into a most beautiful and very large young tree, enfolded, and grew round it,[937] and hid it entirely within itself.

3. And the King,[938] marvelling at the greatness of the tree, after cutting off the branches, and rounding off the trunk that surrounded the coffin without its being seen,[939] set it up as the prop of his roof.

4. And they say that on her hearing of these things by the daimonian spirit of a voice,[940] Isis came to Byblos, and, sitting down at a fountain-head, downcast and weeping, held converse with no one else, but she embraced and showed affection to the maids of the Queen, curling[941] their hair and exhaling from herself on their skin a marvellous fragrance.

5. And when the Queen saw her maids, longing for the ambrosia-smelling hair and skin of the stranger came upon her.

And so when she had been sent for and had become an inmate [of the palace, the Queen] made her nurse of her little one.

6. And the name of the King, they say, was Malkander,[942] while her name according to some was Astarte, according to others Saōsis, and according to others Nemanous,[943]—or whatever is the name for which the Greek equivalent would be Athenaïs.[944]

XVI. 1. And [they say] that instead of giving it[945] the breast, Isis reared the little one by putting her finger[946] into its mouth, and that at night she burnt round[947] the mortal [elements] of its body, and, turning herself into a swallow, flew round the pillar and twittered a dirge; until the Queen, through spying [on her] and crying out[948] when she saw the babe being burnt round, deprived it of its immortality.[949]

2. That when the Goddess revealed herself, she claimed for herself the pillar of the roof; and, taking it down with the greatest care, she cut away the heather-tree from round it, then wrapping this[950] up in fine linen, and pouring the juices of sweet herbs over it,[951] she placed it in the hands of the royal couple; and even unto this day the people of Byblos venerate the wood[952] lying in the holy place of Isis.

3. As for the coffin, she flung herself round it, and kept moaning so long, that the younger of the little ones of the king died away;[953] and, taking the elder with herself, and placing the coffin on a boat, she sailed away.

4. And when the River Phædrus[954] raised too rough a wind[955] just after dawn,[956] waxing wrath, she dried up his stream.

XVII. 1. And [they say] that when first she found solitude and was by herself, she opened the chest, and laying her face on his face, she kissed [him] and shed tears.

2. And that when the little one came up in silence from behind and understood, on sensing it she turned herself about, and passionately gave him an awe-ful look. And the little one could not hold himself up against the awe of her, and died.

3. But some say [it was] not thus, but, as it has been said before,[957] that he fell out[958] into the river.

4. And he has honours owing to the Goddess, for the Manerōs[959] whom Egyptians hymn at their symposia is he.

5. While others relate that the boy was called Palæstinos[960] or Pelousios, and that the city[961] was named after him when it was founded by the Goddess; and that the Manerōs who is hymned was the first to discover the art of the Muses.[962]

6. But some say that it is the name of no one, but a manner of speech for men drinking and feasting,—with the meaning “May such and such things be present in becoming measure!” For the Egyptians on every such occasion shout out this, it being indicated to them by “Manerōs.”

7. Just as, doubtless, also their being shown the image of a dead man carried round in a small wooden coffin, is not a reminder of the Osirian passion, as some suppose; but it is in order to exhort them while filled with wine to make use of things present, in that all will very presently be such [as it], that they bring in an unpleasing after-revel.

XVIII. 1. And [they say] that when Isis had gone a journey to her son Horus, who was being reared at Boutos,[963] and had put away[964] the chest,[965] Typhon, taking his dogs[966] out by night towards the moon, came upon it; and recognising the body, tore it into fourteen pieces, and scattered them abroad.

2. And Isis [they say] on learning this, searched for them in a papyrus skiff (baris) sailing away through the marshes;[967] whence those who sail in papyrus hulls are not injured by the crocodiles, either because they[968] fear or rather revere the Goddess.[969]

3. And it is because of this [they say] that many tombs of Osiris are spoken of in Egypt [970]—through her performing burial rites on meeting with each piece.

4. Some, however, say no; but that making herself images [of them] she distributed these to each city,[971] as though she were giving it the [whole] body, in order that it might have honours from the multitude, and that even if Typhon should get the better of Horus, he might renounce his search for the true tomb when many were spoken of and pointed out.

5. Now, the only one of the parts of Osiris which Isis did not find was that which causes awe; for that it was cast straightway into the River, and the scaly-coat,[972] and the devourer,[973] and the sharp-snout[974] ate it up—which [they say] among fishes are considered specially expiate;[975] and that Isis, making herself a counterfeit instead of it, consecrated the phallus; in honour of which the Egyptians keep festival even to this day.[976]

XIX. 1. Thereafter Osiris, coming to Horus out of the Invisible,[977] worked through him and trained him for the fight.

2. He then put this test question to him: “What does he consider fairest?” And when he said: “Helping father and mother in ill plight,”—he asked a second: “What animal does he think most useful for those who go out to fight?”

3. And when Horus said “Horse,” he marvelled at him, and was quite puzzled why he did not say “Lion” rather than “Horse.”[978]

4. Accordingly Horus said: “‘Lion’ is a needful thing to one requiring help, but ‘Horse’ [can] scatter in pieces the foe in flight and consume him utterly.”[979]

Thus hearing, Osiris rejoiced that Horus was fitly prepared.

5. And it is said that as many were changing over to the side of Horus, Thūēris,[980] Typhon’s concubine, came too; and that a certain serpent pursuing after her was cut in pieces by those round Horus.[981] And to-day on this account they cast down a small rope and cut it in pieces for all to see.[982]

6. The fight lasted for many days, and Horus won. Nevertheless, when Isis received Typhon in bonds, she did not make away with him. Far from it; she unbound him and let him go.

7. Horus, however, did not bear this temperately; but, laying hands on his mother, he drew off the crown from her head. Whereupon Hermes[983] crowned her with a head-dress of cow-horns.

8. And [they say] that also when Typhon got the chance of bringing a bastardy suit against Horus, and Hermes was counsel for the defence, Horus was judged legitimate by the Gods.[984]

And that [afterwards] Typhon was fought under in two other fights.

9. And that Isis brought forth from her union with Osiris after his death[985] Harpocrates[986]—who missed the month and was weak in his limbs from below upwards.[987]

The Under-Meaning A Reflexion Of A Certain Reason

XX. I. These are approximately the chief headings of their myth, after the most ill-omened have been removed,—such as, for instance, the one about the cutting up into pieces of Horus, and the beheading of Isis.

2. That, however, if people suppose and say these things about that Blessed and Incorruptible Nature according to which especially the Divine conceives itself, as though they were actually enacted and really took place, “thou shouldst spit out and cleanse mouth,” according to Æschylus,[988] there is no need to tell thee;[989] for of thyself thou showest displeasure at those who hold illegitimate and barbarous notions about the Gods.

3. But that these things are not at all like lean tales and quite empty figments, such as poets and prose-writers weave and expand as though they were spiders spinning them out of themselves from a source that has no basis in fact, but that they contain certain informations and statements,—thou knowest of thyself.

4. And just as the Mathematici[990] say that “Iris”[991] is the sun’s reflexion many-coloured by the return of its visual impression to the cloud, so the myth down here is a reflexion of a certain reason (logos) that bends its thinking back on other things; as both the sacred offerings suggest by the reflected element of mournfulness and sadness they contain, and also the dispositions of the temples which in one direction open out into side-walks and courts for moving about in, open to the sky and clear of objects, while in the other they have hidden and dark robing-rooms under ground, like places for putting coffins in and burying-spots.

Concerning The Tombs Of Osiris

5. And not least of all does the belief of the Osirians—since the body [of Osiris] is said to be in many places—[suggest this].

6. For they say that both Diochitē is called Polichnē,[992] because it alone has the true one; and [also] that it is at Abydos that the wealthy and powerful of the Egyptians are mostly buried,—their ambition being to have a common place of burial with the body of Osiris; and [again] that it is at Memphis that the Apis is reared as the image of the soul of Osiris, because it is there also that his body lies.

7. And as for the City,[993] some interpret it as “Harbour of Good Things,” but others give it the special meaning of “Tomb of Osiris”; it is, however, the little island one[994] at Philæ [they say] which is in other respects inaccessible and inapproachable by all, and that not even the birds light on it or fish come near it, but at a certain season the priests cross over [to it] and make offerings to the dead, and place wreaths on the monument which is overshadowed by a . . .[995] tree, which is greater in size than any olive.

XXI. 1. Eudoxus, however, [says] that, though many tombs are spoken of in Egypt, the body lies at Būsiris, for that this had been the native city of Osiris; nevertheless Taphosiris requires no further reason [to establish its claim], for the name explains itself—namely, “Burying of Osiris.”

“But I rede of cutting of wood, of rending of linen, and pouring of pourings, because many of the mystery-[meanings] have been mixed up with them.”[996]

2. But the priests say that not only of these Gods, but also of all the other gods also who are not ingenerable and indestructible, the bodies lie buried with them when they[997] have done their work, and have service rendered them, while their souls shine in heaven as stars; and that [of the former] the [soul] of Isis is called Dog by the Greeks, but Sōthis by the Egyptians, while the [soul] of Horus [is called] Ōriōn,[998] and Typhon’s Bear.[999]

3. And [they say] that for the burials of the animals to whom honour is paid, the rest [of the Egyptians] pay the [dues which are] mutually determined; but that those alone who inhabit the Thebaid give nothing, since they believe that no God is subject to death, and that he whom they themselves call Knēph is ingenerable and immortal.

Concerning The Theory Of Evemerus

XXII. 1. Now, since many of such [? tombs] are spoken of and pointed out, those who think these [myths] commemorate the awe-inspiring and mighty works and passions of kings and tyrants who, through surpassing virtue and power, put in a claim for the reputation of divinity, and afterwards experienced reverses of fortune,—employ a very easy means of escape from the [true] reason (logos), and not unworthily transfer the ill-omened [element in them] from Gods to men, and they have the following to help them from the narratives related.

2. For instance, the Egyptians tell us that Hermes had a short-armed[1000] body, that Typhon was red-skinned, Horus white, and Osiris black, as though they were [men] born in the course of nature.

3. Moreover, also, they call Osiris “General” and Kanōbus[1001] “Pilot,”—from whom, they say, the star got its name.

And [they say] that the ship which Greeks call Argō is an image of the bark of Osiris, constellated in his honour, and that it sails not far from Ōriōn and Dog, the former of which Egyptians consider the sacred [boat] of Horus and the latter of Isis.[1002]

XXIII. 1. But I am afraid that this is “moving the immoveable,” and “warring” not only “against many centuries,” according to Simōnidēs,[1003] but “against many nations of men” and races held fast by religious feeling towards these Gods—when people let nothing alone but transfer such mighty names from heaven to earth, and [so] banish and dissolve the sense of worship and faith that has been implanted in nearly all [men] from their first coming into existence, opening up wide entrances for the godless folk,[1004] and reducing the divine [mysteries] to the level of men’s doings, and giving a splendid licence to the charlatanries of Evemerus[1005] the Messenian, who of himself composing the counterpleas of a baseless science of myths unworthy of any credit, flooded the civilised world with sheer atheism, listing off level all those who are looked on as gods into names of generals and admirals and kings, who (he is good enough to say) existed in bygone days, and are recorded in letters of gold at Panchōn,[1006]—which [records] neither any non-Greek nor any Greek has ever come across, but Evemerus alone, when he went his voyage to the Panchoans and Triphyllians, who never have been nor are anywhere on earth.

XXIV. 1. And yet mighty deeds of Semiramis are sung of among Assyrians, and mighty [deeds] of Sesōstris in Egypt. And Phrygians even unto this day call splendid and marvellous doings “manic,” owing to the fact that Manes, one of their bygone kings, proved himself a good and strong man among them—the one whom some call Mazdes.[1007] Cyrus led Persians and Alexander Macedonians, conquering to almost the ends of the earth; still they have the name and memory of good kings [only].

2. “And if some elated by vast boastfulness,” as Plato says,[1008] “concomitant with youth and ignorance, through having their souls inflamed with pride,” have accepted titles like gods and dedications of temples, their glory has flourished for a short time [only], and afterwards they have incurred the penalty of vanity and imposture coupled with impiety and indecency:[1009]

Death coming swift on them, like smoke they rose and fell.[1010]

And now like runaway [slaves] that can be lawfully taken, torn from the temples and altars, they have naught but their tombs and graves.

3. Wherefore Antigonus the Elder, when a certain Hermodotus, in his poems, proclaimed him “Son of the Sun and God,” remarked: “My night-stool boy has not so exalted an opinion of me.”

And with reason also did Lysippus, the sculptor, blame Apelles, the painter, for putting a thunderbolt in Alexander’s hand when painting his portrait; whereas he himself gave him a spear-head,—from which not even time itself shall take away the glory, for it is true and really his.

The Theory Of The Daimones

XXV.[1011] 1. They, therefore, [do] better who believe that the things related about Typhon and Osiris and Isis are passions neither of gods nor of men, but of mighty daimones, who—as Plato and Pythagoras and Xenocrates and Chrysippus say, following the theologers of bygone days—have been born more manful than men, far surpassing us in the strength of their nature, yet not having the divine unmixed and pure, but proportioned with the nature of soul and sense of body, susceptible of pleasure and pain and all the passions, which as innate to such metamorphoses trouble some [of them] more and others less.

2. For the Gigantic and Titanic [Passions] sung of among the Greeks, and certain lawless deeds of Kronos and antagonisms of Pythōn against Apollo, and fleeings of Dionysus, and wanderings of Demeter, in no way fall behind the Osiric and Typhonic [Passions], and others which all may hear unrestrainedly spoken of in myth.

And all these things which, under the veil of mystic sacred rites and perfectionings, are carefully kept from being spoken of to, or being allowed to be seen by, the multitude, have a similar reason (logos).[1012]

XXVI. 1. Moreover, we hear Homer also on every occasion calling the good variously “godlike” and “equal to gods,” and as “having directions[1013] from gods”; whereas he employs epithets connected with the daimones to both worthy and unworthy in common:

Draw nigh them daimonian! Why so fearest the Argives?[1014]

And again:

But when indeed for the fourth time he charged, a daimon’s equal.[1015]


O thou daimonian! what so great ills do Priam now
And Priam’s sons to thee, that thou dost hotly rage
Troy’s well-built town to rase?[1016]

—as though the daimones possessed a mixed and an unbalanced nature and propensity.

2. For which reason Plato[1017] refers unto the God upon Olympus’ height things “right” and “odd,”[1018] and to the daimones those that respond to these.[1019]

3. Moreover, Xenocrates[1020] thinks that the nefast days, and all the holy days on which are strikings or beatings or fastings or blasphemies or foul language, have nothing to do with honours paid to gods or to beneficent daimones; but that there are natures in the circumambient,[1021] mighty and powerful indeed, but difficult to turn and sullen, who take pleasure in such things, and when they get them turn to nothing worse.

4. The beneficent and good ones, again, Hesiod also calls “holy daimones” and “guardians of men”—“wealth-givers and possessors of this sovereign prerogative.”[1022]

5. Plato[1023] again gives to this race the name of hermeneutic and of diaconic[1024] ’twixt Gods and men, speeding up thitherwards men’s vows and prayers, and bringing thence prophetic answers hitherwards and gifts of [all] good things.

6. Whereas Empedocles[1025] says that the daimones have to amend whatever faults they make, or discords they may strike:

“For æther’s rush doth chase them seawards; sea spews them on land’s flat; and earth into the beams of tireless sun; and he casts [them again] into the swirls of æther. One takes them from another, and all abhor [them]”[1026]—until after being thus chastened and purified they regain their natural place and rank.

XXVII. 1. Born from the self-same womb as these and things like them, they say, are the legends about Typhon: how that he wrought dire deeds through envy and ill-will, and after throwing all things into confusion and filling the whole earth and sea as well with ills, he afterwards did make amends.

2. But the sister-wife[1027] of Osiris who upheld his honour, after she had quenched and laid to rest Typhon’s frenzy and fury, did not allow forgetfulness and silence to overtake the struggles and trials he had endured, and her own wanderings and many [deeds] of wisdom, and many [feats] of manliness; but intermingling with the most chaste perfectionings images and under-meanings and copies of the passion she then endured, she hallowed at one and the same time a lesson of religion and a consolation to men and women placed in like circumstances.

3. And she and Osiris, being changed through virtue from good daimones into gods[1028]—as [were] subsequently Heracles and Dionysus—possess the dignities of gods and daimones at one and the same time, fitly combined everywhere indeed but with the greatest power among those above earth and under earth.

Concerning Sarapis

4. For they say that Sarapis is no other than Pluto, and Isis Persephassa, as Archemachus of Eubœa has said,[1029] and Heracleides of Pontus, when he supposes that the seat of the oracle at Canopus is Pluto’s.

XXVIII. 1. And Ptolemy the Saviour[1030] saw in a dream the gigantic statue of Pluto—though he had not previously seen or known what form it was—ordering him to bring it to Alexandria.

2. And when he did not know and had no idea where [the statue] was set up even after he had described his vision to his friends, there was found a man, a great traveller, by name Sōsibius, who said he had seen at Sinope just such a colossus as the King seemed to have seen.

3. He [Ptolemy] accordingly sent Sōtelēs and Dionysius, who, after expending much time and pains, not, however, without the help of God’s providence, removed it secretly and brought it away.

4. And when it had been brought [to Alexandria] and set up publicly, the assistants of Timotheus, the interpreter, and of Manethōs, the Sebennyte, coming to the conclusion that it was a statue of Pluto—judging by its cerberus and huge serpent—convinced Ptolemy that it was that of no other of the Gods than Sarapis; for it did not come from Sinopē with this designation, but after it had been brought to Alexandria it received the Egyptian name for Pluto, namely, Sarapis.

5. And yet people sink into the opinion of Heracleitus the physicist, when he says: “Hades[1031] and Dionysus are the same, for whomsoever they rage and riot.”

For those who postulate that Hades means the body, because the soul is as it were deranged and drunken in it, put forward a [too] meagre interpretation.

6. But [it is] better to identify Osiris with Dionysus, and Sarapis[1032] with Osiris, so designated after he had changed his nature.[1033] Wherefore “Sarapis” is common to all,[1034] just as, you know, those who share in the sacred rites know that “Osiris” is.

XXIX. 1. For it is not worth while paying attention to the Phrygian writings, in which Isis is said to have been the daughter of Charops,[1035] son of Heracles, and Typhon [son] of Æacus,[1036] [also] son of Heracles.

2. Nor [is it worth while] refraining from disregarding Phylarchus,[1037] when he writes that “it was Dionysus who first brought two oxen from India to Egypt, of which the name of one was Apis, and of the other Osiris; and Sarapis is the name of Him who orders [or adorns] the universe from sairein [‘sweep,’ ‘clean’], which some say [means] ‘beautifying’ and ‘adorning’”;—for these [remarks] of Phylarchus are absurd.

3. But still more so are those of them who say that Sarapis is not a god, but that the coffin of Apis[1038] is thus named, and that certain brazen gates at Memphis, called “Gates of Oblivion and Wailing,” open with a deep mournful sound, when they bury Apis, and that therefore at every sounding of brass[1039] we are plunged into oblivion.

4. More moderate are they who claim that the simultaneous motion of the universe is thus called [sc. Sarapis], from seuesthai and sousthai [1040] [“speed”].

5. But the majority of the priests say that “Osiris” and “Apis” have been woven together into the same [name], explaining and teaching that we should look on the Apis as an en-formed image of the soul of Osiris.

6. If, however, the name of Sarapis is Egyptian, I for my part think it denotes “Good Cheer” and “Delight,”—finding a proof in the fact that Egyptians call the feast “Delights”—Sairei.

And, indeed, Plato says that Hades has been so called as being “sweet”[1041] and gentle to those with him.

7. And with Egyptians both many other of their names are logoi,[1042] and they call subterrene space, to which they think the souls depart after death, Amenthē—the name signifying “the [space] which takes and gives.”[1043]

8. But whether this, too, is one of the names that left Hellas long ago and have been brought back again,[1044] we will examine later on; for the present, let us continue with the remaining [points] of the belief we have in hand.

Concerning Typhon

XXX. 1. Osiris and Isis have, then, changed from good daimones into gods. While as for the dimmed and shattered power of Typhon, though it is at the last gasp and in its final death-throes, they still appease and soothe it with certain feasts of offerings.

2. Yet, again, every now and then at certain festivals they humiliate it dreadfully and treat it most despitefully,—even to rolling red-skinned men in the mud, and driving an ass over a precipice (as the Koptos folk), because Typhon was born with his skin red and ass-like. While the Busiris folk and Lycopolitans do not use trumpets at all, as they sound like an ass [braying].

3. And generally they think that the ass is not clean, but a daimonic animal, on account of its resemblance to that [god]; and making round-cakes for feasts of offerings on both the month of Paÿni and that of Phaōphi,[1045] they stamp on them an “ass tied.”[1046]

4. And on the Feast of Offerings of the Sun, they pass the word to the worshippers not to wear on the body things made of gold nor to give food to an ass.[1047]

5. The Pythagorics also seem to consider Typhon a daimonic power; for they say that Typhon was produced on the six-and-fiftieth even measure; and again that the [power [1048]] of the equilateral triangle is that of Hades and Dionysus and Ares; that of the square is that of Rhea and Aphroditē and Demeter and Hestia (that is, Hera); that of the dodecagon, that of Zeus; and that of the fifty-six angled [regular polygon], that of Typhon—as Eudoxus relates.[1049]

XXXI. 1. And, as Egyptians believe that Typhon was born red-skinned,[1050] they offer in sacrifice even the red ones of the oxen [only] after making the scrutiny so close, that if [the beast] has even a single hair black or white, they consider it ought not to be offered; for if it were sacrificed, it would not be an acceptable offering to the gods, but the contrary, [as are] all those animals which have seized on the souls of impure and unrighteous men in the course of their transformation into bodies other [than human].

2. Wherefore after uttering imprecations on the head of the victim,[1051] and cutting off its head, they used to cast it into the river in olden days, but nowadays they give it to strangers.

3. But as to the one that is to be sacrificed, those of the priests who are called Sealers, set a mark upon it—the seal (as Kastōr [1052] relates) having the impression of a man forced down on one knee with his hands drawn round behind him, and a sword sticking in his throat.[1053]

4. And they think that the ass also has the distinction of its resemblance [to Typhon], as has been said, owing to its aversion to being taught and to its wantonness, no less than on account of its skin.[1054]

5. For which cause also since they especially detested Ōchus[1055] of [all] the Persian kings as being blood-polluted and abominable, they gave him the nickname of “Ass.”

But he, with the retort: “This Ass, however, will make a fine feast off your Ox”—slaughtered the Apis, as Deinōn has told us.[1056]

6. Those, however, who say that Typhon’s flight from the fight on an ass lasted seven days, and that after reaching a place of safety he begat sons—Hierosolymus and Judæus—are instantly convicted of dragging Judaïc matters into the myth.[1057]

The Theory Of The Physicists

XXXII. 1.[1058] The above [data] then afford [us] such and such suggestions. But from another start let us consider the simplest of those who seem to give a more philosophical explanation.

2. These are those who say that, just as the Greeks allegorise time as Kronos, and air as Hera, and the changes of air into fire as the generation of Hephæstus, so, with the Egyptians, Osiris uniting with Isis (earth) is Neilos, and Typhon is the sea, into which Neilos falling vanishes and is dispersed, except such part [of him] as the earth takes up and receives, and so becomes endowed with productiveness by him.

3. And there is a sacred dirge made on Kronos [1059]—and it laments “him who is born in the left-hand and died in the right-hand parts.”

4. For Egyptians think that the eastern [parts] of cosmos are “face,” the northern “right hand,” and the southern “left hand.”

5. The Nile, accordingly, since it flows from the southern [parts] and is consumed by the sea in the northern, is naturally said to have its birth in the left hand and its death in the right hand.

6. Wherefore the priests both pronounce the sea expiate and call salt “Typhon’s foam”; and one of the chief prohibitions they have is: “Not to set salt on table.” And they do not give greeting to sailors,[1060] because they use the sea, and get their living from it. And for this cause chiefly they accuse fish of being a cause of offence, and write up: “Hate fish!”

7. At anyrate at Saïs, in the entrance of the temple of Athena, there used to be chiselled up “babe,” “old man,” and after that “hawk,” then “fish,” and last of all “hippopotamus.”

8. This meant in symbols: “O ye who are being born and are dying, God hates shamelessness.”

9. For “babe” is the symbol of birth, and “old man” of death, and by “hawk” they mean God, and by “fish” hatred—as has been said on account of the sea—and by “hippopotamus” shamelessness, for it is fabled that after it has killed its sire it violates its dam.

10. Moreover, what is said by the Pythagorics, namely, that the sea is the tears of Kronos, would seem to riddle the fact of its not being pure and cognate with itself.

11. Let these things then be stated from outside sources as matters of common information.

XXXIII. 1. But the more wise of the priests call not only the Nile Osiris, and the sea Typhon; but [they call] without exception every source and power that moistens, Osiris—considering [him] cause of generation and essence of seed, and Typhon everything dry and fiery, and of a drying nature generally and one hostile to moisture.

2. And for this cause also, as they think he [Typhon] was born with a reddish-yellow body, somewhat pale, they do not by any means readily meet or willingly associate with men that look like this.

3. On the other hand, again, they say in the language of myth that Osiris was born black, because all [Nile] water blackens both earth and garments and clouds when mixed [with them], and [because] moisture in the young makes their hair black, whereas greyness comes on those past their prime, as though it were a turning pale owing to its drying up.

4. The spring, too, is blooming and productive and balmy; but autumn, through lack of moisture, is inimical to plants and baneful to animals.

5. And the ox that is kept at Sun-city which they call Mnevis—sacred to Osiris, while some also consider it sire of Apis—is black [also] and has second honours after Apis.

6. Moreover, they call Egypt, since it is especially black-soiled, just like the black of the eye, Chēmia, and liken it to a heart; for it is warm and moist, and is mostly confined in, and adjacent to, the southern part of the civilised world, just like the heart [is] in man’s left-hand side.

XXXIV. 1. Moreover, they say that sun and moon do not use chariots for vehicles, but sail round in boats—[thus] riddling their being nourished by and being born in the “Moist.”

2. And they think that Homer also, like Thales, set down Water as source and birth of all things, after learning [it] from Egyptians; for that Oceanus is Osiris, and Tēthys[1061] Isis, as nursing all things and rearing them all up together.

3. For Greeks also call “emission of seed” ἀπ-ουσίαν and “intercourse” συν-ουσίαν, and “son” (υἱὸν) from “water” (ὕδατος) and “moisten” (ὗσαι);[1062] and [they call] Dionysus Huēs, as lord of the Moist Nature, in that he is no other than Osiris.

4. In fact, Hellanicus[1063] seems to have heard Osiris called Hu-siris by the priests; for he persists in thus calling the god, presumably from his nature and power of invention.[1064]

Concerning Osiris And Dionysus

XXXV. 1. That, however, he is the same as Dionysus—who should know better than thou thyself, O Klea, who art Archi-charila[1065] of the Thyiades at Delphi, and wast dedicated to the Osiriaca before thou wert born?[1066]

But if for the sake of others we must quote testimonies, let us leave the things that must not be spoken of in their proper place.

2. The rites, however, which the priests perform in burning the Apis, when they transport its body on a raft, in no way fall short of a Bacchic Orgy. For they put on fawn-skins and carry thyrsuses,[1067] and shout and dance just like those inspired at celebrations of the Mysteries of Dionysus.

3. Wherefore many of the Greeks make Dionysus also bull-formed; while the women of the Eleians invoke him praying “the god with the bull’s foot to come” to them.

4. The Argives, moreover, give Dionysus the epithet of “bull-born,” and they call him up out of the water with the sound of trumpets, casting a lamb into the abyss for the Gate-keeper.[1068] The trumpets they hide in thyrsi, as Socrates has said in his “[Books] on Rites.”[1069]

5. The Titanic [Passions] also and the [Dionysian] Night-rites agree with what we are told about the tearings-in-pieces and revivings and palingeneses of Osiris; and similarly the [stories] of the burials.

6. For both Egyptians point to tombs of Osiris everywhere, as has been said,[1070] and [also] Delphians believe the relics of Dionysus are deposited with them by the side of the Oracle, and the Holy Ones offer an offering, of which we must not speak, in the fane of Apollo, when the Thyiades awake “Him of the winnowing fan.”

7. And that Greeks consider Dionysus to be lord and prince not only of wine, but of every moist nature, Pindar witnesses sufficiently when he sings:

May gladsome Dionysus make the pasturage of trees to grow—
Pure light of autumn.[1071]

8. For which cause also they who give worship to Osiris are forbidden to destroy a cultivated tree or to stop up a water-source.

The Theory Of The Physicists Resumed

XXXVI. 1. And they call not only the Nile, but also without distinction all that is moist, “Osiris’ efflux”; and the water-vase always heads the processions of the priests in honour of the God.

2. And with “rush”[1072] they write “king” and the “southern climate” of the cosmos; and “rush” is interpreted as “watering” and “conception” of all things, and is supposed to resemble in its nature the generative member.

3. And when they keep the feast Pamylia, which is phallic, as has been said,[1073] they bring out and carry round an image having a phallus three times the size of it.

4. For God is source, and every source by the power of generation makes manifold that which comes from it. And “many times” we are accustomed to call “thrice,” as, for instance, “thrice-blessed,” and “three times as many, endless, bonds”[1074]—unless, indeed, “three fold” was used in its authentic meaning by those of old; for the Moist Nature, as being source and genesis of all, moved from the beginning the first three bodies—earth, air, and fire.

5. For the logos that is superadded to the myth—how that Typhon cast the chief part of Osiris into the river, and Isis could not find it, but after dedicating an object answering to it, and having made it ready, she commanded them to keep the Phallephoria in its honour—comes to this: namely, an instruction that the generative and spermatic [powers] of the God had moisture as their first matter, and by means of moisture were immingled with those things which have been produced to share in genesis.

6. But there is another logos of the Egyptians—that Apophis, as brother of the Sun, made war on Zeus, and that when Osiris fought on his [Zeus’] side and helped him to conquer his foe, Zeus adopted him as his son and called him Dionysus.

7. Moreover, the mythical nature of this logos goes to show that it connects with the truth about nature. For Egyptians call [Cosmic] Breath[1075] Zeus—to which Dry and Fiery is hostile; this [latter] is not the Sun, but it has a certain kinship with him. And Moisture, by quenching the excess of Dryness, increases and strengthens the exhalations by which the Breath nourishes itself and waxes strong.

XXXVII. 1. Moreover, both Greeks consecrate the ivy to Dionysus and [also] among Egyptians it is said to be called chen-osiris—the name meaning, they say, “Osiris-plant.”

2. Further, Ariston, who wrote Colonies of the Athenians, came across some Letter or other of Alexarchus’s,[1076] in which it is related that Dionysus, as son of Osiris and Isis, is not called Osiris but Arsaphēs by the Egyptians—([this is] in Ariston’s first book)—the name signifying “manliness.”

3. Hermæus also supports this in the first book of his Concerning the Egyptians, for he says that “Osiris” is, when translated, “Strong.”[1077]

4. I disregard Mnaseas,[1078] who associated Dionysus and Osiris and Sarapis with Epaphos;[1079] I also disregard Anticleides,[1080] who says that Isis, as daughter of Prometheus,[1081] lived with Dionysus; for the peculiarities which have been stated about the festivals and offerings carry a conviction with them that is clearer than the witnesses [I have produced].

XXXVIII. 1. And of the stars they consider Sirius to be Isis’s[1082]—as being a water-bringer. And they honour the Lion, and ornament the doors of the temples with gaping lions’ mouths; since Nilus overflows:

When first the Sun doth with the Lion join.[1083]

2. And as they hold the Nile to be “Osiris’s efflux,” so too they think earth Isis’s body—not all [of it], but what the Nile covers, sowing [her] with seed and mingling with her; and from this intercourse they give birth to Horus.

3. And Horus is the season (ὥρα) and [fair] blend of air that keeps and nourishes all in the atmosphere—who, they say, was nursed by Lēto in the marshes round Butō; for the watery and soaked-through earth especially nourishes the exhalations that quench and abate dryness and drought.

4. And they call the extremities of the land, both on the borders and where touching the sea, Nephthys; for which cause they give Nephthys the name of “End,”[1084] and say she lives with Typhon.

5. And when the Nile exceeds its boundaries and overflows more than usual, and [so] consorts with the extreme districts, they call it the union of Osiris with Nephthys—proof of which is given by the ‘springing up of plants, and especially of the honey-clover,[1085] for it was by its falling [from Osiris] and being left behind that Typhon was made aware of the wrong done to his bed. Hence it is that Isis conceived Horus in lawful wedlock, but Nephthys Anubis clandestinely.

6. In the Successions of the Kings,[1086] however, they record that when Nephthys was married to Typhon, she was at first barren; and if they mean this to apply not to a woman but to their Goddess, they enigmatically refer to the utterly unproductive nature of the land owing to sterility.

XXXIX. 1. The conspiracy and despotism of Typhon, moreover, was the power of drought getting the mastery over and dispersing the moisture which both generates the Nile and increases it.

2. While his helper, the Æthiopian queen,[1087] riddles southerly winds from Æthiopia. For when these prevail over the Annuals[1088] (which drive the clouds towards Æthiopia), and prevent the rains which swell the Nile from bursting,—Typhon takes possession and scorches; and thus entirely mastering the Nile he forces him out into the sea, contracted into himself through weakness and flowing empty and low.

3. For the fabled shutting-up of Osiris into the coffin is, perhaps, nothing but a riddle of the occultation and disappearance of water. Wherefore they say that Osiris disappeared in the month of Athyr,[1089]—when, the Annuals ceasing entirely, the Nile sinks, and the land is denuded, and, night lengthening, darkness increases, and the power of the light wanes and is mastered, and the priests perform both other melancholy rites, and, covering a cow made entirely of gold[1090] with a black coat of fine linen as a mask of mourning for the Goddess—for they look on the “cow” as an image of Isis and as the earth—they exhibit it for four days from the seventeenth consecutively.

4. For the things mourned for are four: first, the Nile failing and sinking; second, the northern winds being completely extinguished by the southern gaining the mastery; third, the day becoming less than the night; and, finally, the denudation of the earth, together with the stripping of the trees which shed their leaves at that time.

5. And on the nineteenth, at night they go down to the sea; and the keepers and priests carry out the sacred chest, having within it a small golden vessel, into which they take and pour fresh water; and shouts are raised by the assistants as though Osiris were found.

6. Afterwards they knead productive soil with the water, and mixing with it sweet spices and fragrant incense, they mould it into a little moon-shaped image of very costly stuffs. And they dress it up and deck it out,—showing that they consider these Gods the essence of earth and water.

XL 1. And when again Isis recovers Osiris and makes Horus grow, strengthened with exhalations and moist clouds,—Typhon is indeed mastered, but not destroyed.

2. For the Mistress and Goddess of the earth did not allow the nature which is the opposite of moisture to be destroyed entirely, but she slackened and weakened it, wishing that the blend should continue; for it was not possible the cosmos should be perfect, had the fiery [principle] ceased and disappeared.

3. And if these things are not said contrary to probability, it is probable also that one need not reject that logos also,—how that Typhon of old got possession of the share of Osiris; for Egypt was [once] sea.[1091]

4. For which cause many [spots] in its mines and mountains are found even to this day to contain shells; and all springs and all wells—and there are great numbers of them—have brackish and bitter water, as though it were the stale residue of the old-time sea collecting together into them.

5. But Horus in time got the better of Typhon,—that, is, a good season of rains setting in, the Nile driving out the sea made the plain reappear by filling it up again with its deposits,—a fact, indeed, to which our senses bear witness; for we see even now that as the river brings down fresh mud, and advances the land little by little, the deep water gradually diminishes, and the sea recedes through its bottom being heightened by the deposits.

6. Moreover, [we see] Pharos, which Homer[1092] knew as a day’s sail distant from Egypt, now part [and parcel] of it; not that the [island] itself has sailed to land,[1093] or extended itself shorewards, but because the intervening sea has been forced back by the river’s reshaping of and adding to the mainland.

7. These [explanations], moreover, resemble the theological dogmas laid down by the Stoics,—for they also say that the generative and nutritive Breath [or Spirit] is Dionysus; the percussive and separative, Heracles; the receptive, Ammon [Zeus]; that which extends through earth and fruits, Demeter and Korē; and that [which extends] through sea, Poseidon.[1094]

The Theory Of The Mathematici

XLI. 1. Those, however, who combine with the above [considerations] of the Physicists some of the Mathematic [doctrines] derived from star-lore, think that the solar cosmos is called Typhon and the lunar Osiris.[1095]

2. For [they think] that the Moon, in that its light is generative and moistening, is favourable both for breedings of animals and sproutings of plants; whereas the Sun, with untempered and harsh fire, burns and withers up [all] that are growing and blowing, and with fiery heat renders the major part of the earth entirely uninhabitable, and in many places utterly masters the Moon.

3. For which cause Egyptians always call Typhon Sēth,[1096]—that is, “that which oppresses and constrains by force.”

4. And they have a myth that Heracles is settled in the Sun and accompanies him in his revolutions, while Hermes does the same with the Moon.

5. For the [revolutions] of the Moon resemble works of reason (logos) and super-abundant wisdom, while those of the Sun are like penetrating strokes [given] with force and power.[1097]

6. Moreover, the Stoics say that the sun is kept burning and nourished from the sea,[1098] whereas to the Moon the waters of springs and lakes send up a sweet and mild exhalation.

XLII. 1. The Egyptian myth runs that the death of Osiris took place on the seventeenth, when the full-moon is most conspicuously at the full.

2. Wherefore the Pythagoreans call this day also “Interception,”[1099] and regard this number as expiable.

3. For the “sixteen” being square and the “eighteen” oblong[1100]—which alone of plane numbers happen to have their perimeters equal to the areas contained by them—the mean, “seventeen,” coming between them, intercepts and divorces them from one another, and divides the ratio of “nine” to “eight”[1101] by being cut into unequal intervals.

4. And eight-and-twenty is the number of years which some say Osiris lived, and others that he reigned;[1102] for this is the number of the lights of the Moon, and it rolls out its own circle in this number of days.

5. And at what they call the Burials of Osiris they cut the tree-trunk and make it into a crescent-shaped coffin, because the Moon, when it approaches the Sun, becomes crescent-shaped and hides itself away.

6. And the tearing of Osiris into fourteen pieces they refer enigmatically to the days in which the luminary wanes after full-moon up to new-moon.

7. And the day on which it first appears, escaping from his beams and passing by the Sun, they call “Imperfect Good.”

8. For Osiris is “Good-doer.” The name, indeed, means many things, but chiefly what they call “Might energising and good-doing.” And the other name of the God,—Omphis, Hermæus[1103] says, means [also] when translated, “Benefactor.”

XLIII. 1. Moreover, they think that the risings of the Nile have a certain analogy with the lights of the Moon.

2. For the greatest [rising], about Elephantinē, is eight-and-twenty cubits, the same number as are the lights and measures of its monthly periods; and the least, about Mendes and Xoïs, is of six cubits, [analogous] to the half -moon; while the mean, about Memphis, when it is the right quantity, [is] of fourteen cubits, [analogous] to the full-moon.

3. And [they consider] the Apis the animated image of Osiris, and that he is conceived whenever generative light from the Moon fastens on a cow in heat.

4. For which cause also many of the markings of the Apis—lights shading off into darks—resemble the configurations of the moon.

5. Moreover, on the new-moon of the month Phamenōth[1104] they keep festival, calling it “Entrance”[1105] of Osiris into the Moon, as it is the beginning of spring.

6. By thus placing the power of Osiris in the Moon, they mean that Isis consorts with him while being [at the same time] the cause of his birth.[1106]

7. For which cause also they call the Moon Mother of the cosmos, and think that she has a male-female nature,—for she is filled by the Sun and made pregnant, and again of herself sends forth and disseminates into the air generative principles.

8. For [they say] she does not always overmaster the destruction wrought by Typhon;[1107] but, though frequently mastered, even when bound hand and foot she frees herself again by her generative power, and fights the way through to Horus.

9. And Horus is the cosmos surrounding the earth—not entirely exempt from destruction either, nor yet from generation.

XLIV. 1. Some, moreover, make out of the myth a riddle of the phenomena of eclipses also.

2. For the Moon is eclipsed at the full, when the Sun has the station opposite it, she entering the shadow of the earth,—just as they say Osiris [entered] the coffin. And she again conceals the Sun and causes him to disappear, on the thirtieth [of the month], though she does not entirely destroy him, as neither did Isis Typhon.

3. And when Nephthys conceives Anubis, Isis adopts him. For Nephthys is that which is below the earth and non-manifest, while Isis [is] that which is above the earth and manifest.

4. And the circle just touching them and called “Horizon,” as being common to both of them, has been called Anubis, and is likened to a dog for its characteristic; for the dog has the use of its sight both by day and night alike.

5. And Anubis seems to possess this power among Egyptians—just as Hecate with Greeks—being at one and the same time chthonian and olympian.[1108]

6. Some, however, think that Anubis is Kronos;[1109] wherefore as he breeds all things out of himself and conceives (κύων) [all] in himself, he got the name of Dog (κυών).

7. There is, then, for the worshippers of Anubis some [mystery] or other that may not be spoken of.[1110]

8. In olden times, indeed, the dog enjoyed the highest honours in Egypt; but seeing that when Cambyses[1111] slew the Apis and cast it out, no [animal] approached or touched its carcase but only the dog, he [thus] lost the [distinction of] being first and most honoured of the rest of the animals.

9. There are some, however, who call the shadow of the earth into which they think the Moon falls and is eclipsed, Typhon.

The Theory Of The Dualists

XLV. 1. From [all of] which it seems not unreasonable to conclude that no simple [explanation] by itself gives the right meaning, but that they all collectively do so.

2. For neither drought nor wind nor sea nor darkness is the essential of Typhon, but the whole hurtful and destructive [element] which is in nature.

3. For we must neither place the principles of the whole in soulless bodies, as [do] Democritus and Epicurus, nor yet assume one Reason (Logos) [only] and one Providence that prevails over and masters all things as demiurge [or artificer] of quality-less matter, as [do] the Stoics.

4. For it is impossible either that anything at all of no worth should exist where God is cause of all, or of worth where [He is cause] of nothing.

5. For “reciprocal” [is] cosmos’ “harmony, as that of lyre or bow,” according to Heracleitus,[1112] and according to Euripides:

There could not be apart good things and bad,
But there’s a blend of both so as to make things fair.[1113]

6. Wherefore this exceedingly ancient doctrine also comes down from the theologers and law-givers to poets and philosophers—[a doctrine] that has its origin set down to no man’s name, and yet possessed of credit, strong and not so easy to efface, surviving in many places not in words or voices[1114] only, but also in [secret] perfectionings and [public] offerings, both non-Greek and Greek [ones]—that neither does the universe mindless and reason-less and guidance-less float in “That which acts of its own will,” nor is there one Reason [only] that rules and guides, as though with rudder as it were and bits obedient to the reins; but that [the universe] is many things and these a blend of evil things and good.

7. Or, rather, seeing that Nature produces nothing, generally speaking, unmixed down here, it is not that from two jars a single mixer, like a tavern-keeper, pouring things out like drinks, mixes them up for us, but that from two opposite principles and two antagonistic powers—the one leading [things] to the right and on the straight [road], the other upsetting and undoing [them]—both life has been made mixed, and cosmos (if not the whole, at anyrate this [cosmos] which surrounds the earth and comes after the Moon) irregular and variable, and susceptible of changes of every kind.

8. For if nothing has been naturally brought into existence without a cause, and Good cannot furnish cause of Bad, the nature of Bad as well as Good must have a genesis and principle peculiar to itself.

XLVI.[1115] 1. And this is the opinion of most of the most wise.

2. For some think there are two craft-rival Gods, as it were,—one the artificer of good [things], the other of [things] worthless. Others call the better “God” and the other “Daimon,” as Zoroaster the Mage, who, they tell us, lived five thousand years before the Trojan War.

3. Zoroaster, then, called the one Ōromazēs, and the other Areimanios, and further announced that the one resembled light especially of things sensible, and the other, contrariwise, darkness and ignorance, while that between the two was Mithrēs; wherefore the Persians call Mithrēs the Mediator.

4. He taught them, moreover, to make offerings of gladsome prayers to the one, and to the other of melancholy de-precations.

5. For bruising a certain plant called “moly”[1116] in a mortar, they invoke Hades and Darkness; then mixing it with the blood of a wolf whose throat has been cut, they carry it away and cast it into a sunless spot.

6. For they think that both of plants some are of the Good God and others of the Evil Daimon; and of animals, dogs, for instance, and birds [1117] and hedgehogs of the Good, and water-rats of the Bad; wherefore they consider fortunate the man who kills the largest number [of the last].

XLVII. 1. Not that they also do not tell many mythic stories about the Gods; such as are, for example, the following:

Ōromazēs, born from the purest light, and Areimanios, of the nether darkness, are at war with one another.

2. And the former made six Gods: the first of good mind, the second of truth, the third of good order, and of the rest, one of wisdom, one of wealth, and the producer of things sweet following things fair; while the latter [made] craft-rivals as it were to those equal in number.

3. Then Ōromazēs having tripled himself, removed himself from the sun so far as the sun is distant from the earth, and adorned the heaven with stars; and he established one star above all as warder and look-out, [namely] Sirius.

4. And having made four-and-twenty other gods, he put them into an egg.

Whereupon those that were made from Areimanios, just the same in number, piercing through the egg . . .[1118]—whence the bad have been mingled with the good.

5. But a time appointed by Fate will come when Areimanios’s letting loose of pestilence and famine must be utterly brought to an end, and made to vanish by these [good gods], and the earth becoming plane and level, there must ensue one mode of life and one way of government for men, all being happy and one-tongued.[1119]

6. Theopompus, however, says that, according to the Magi, for three thousand years alternately one of the Gods conquers and the other is conquered, and for yet another three thousand years they fight and war, and each undoes the work of the other.

7. But that in the end Hades fails, and men shall be happy, neither requiring food nor casting shadow;[1120] while the God who has contrived these things is still and at rest for a time—not otherwise long for a God, but proportionate to a man’s sleeping.

8. The style of myth among the Magi, then, is somewhat after this manner.

XLVIII. 1. Moreover, Chaldæans declare that of the planets—which they call birth-presiding gods—two are good workers, two ill-doers, while three are intermediates and common.

2. As for the dogmas of the Greeks, they are, I take it, plain to all, ascribing as they do the good allotment to Olympian Zeus, and that which has to be averted to Hades.

3. Moreover, they have a myth that Harmony is the child of Aphrodite and Ares, the latter of whom is harsh and strife-loving, while the former is gentle and a lover of love-striving.

4. For Heracleitus plainly calls “War”—“father and king and lord of all,”[1121] and says that Homer, when he prays “that strife and hatred cease from gods as well,”[1122] forgets that he is imprecating the means of birth of all, in that they have their genesis from conflict and antipathy; that:

“Sun will not o’erstep his proper bounds, for if he do, Furies, Eight’s bodyguard, will find him out.”[1123]

5. The Pythagorics [also], in a list of names, set down the predicates of Good as—One, Finite, Abiding, Straight, Odd, Square, Equal, Right, Light; and of Bad as—Two, Infinite, Moving, Curved, Even, Oblong, Unequal, Left, Dark,—on the ground that these are the underlying principles of genesis.

6. Aristotle [also predicates] the former as Form and the latter as Privation.

7. While Plato, though in many passages disguising himself and hiding his face, calls the former of the opposite principles Same and the latter Other.

8. But in his Laws, being now older, no longer in riddles and in symbols, but with authentic names, he says[1124] cosmos is moved not by one soul, but probably by several, in any case not less than two,—whereof the one is good-doing, the other the opposite to this and maker of things opposite.

9. He leaves out, however, a certain third intermediate nature, neither soul-less nor reason-less nor motion-less of itself, as some think,[1125] but depending on both of them, and for ever longing for and desiring and following after the better, as the following [passages] of the argument (logos),[1126] combining as it does for the most part the theology of the Egyptians with their philosophy, show.

XLIX. 1. For though the genesis and composition of this cosmos has been blended from opposing, though not equal-strengthed, powers, the lordship is nevertheless that of the Better [one].

2. Still it is impossible the Worse should be entirely destroyed, as it is largely innate in the body and largely in the soul of the universe, and ever in desperate conflict with the Better.

3. In the Soul [of cosmos], then, Mind and Reason (Logos), the guide and lord of all the best in it, is Osiris; and so in earth and air and water and heaven and stars, that which is ordered and appointed and in health, is the efflux of Osiris, reflected in seasons and temperatures and periods.

4. But Typhon is the passionate and titanic and reasonless and impulsive [aspect] of the Soul, while of its corporeal [side he is] the death-dealing and pestilent and disturbing, with unseasonable times and intemperate atmospheres and concealments of sun and moon,—as though they were the charges and obliterations of Typhon.

5. And the name is a predicate of Sēth, as they call Typhon; for [Sēth] means “that which oppresses and constrains by force;”[1127] it means also, frequently, “turning upside down,” and, again, “overleaping.”

6. Some, moreover, say that one of the companions of Typhon was Bebōn;[1128] while Manethōs [says] that Typhon himself was also called Bebōn, and that the name signifies “holding back” or “hindering,” since the power of Typhon stands in the way of things going on their way and moving towards what they have to.

L. 1. Wherefore also of domestic animals they apportion to him the least tractable—the ass; while of wild ones, the most savage—the crocodile and hippopotamus.

2. As to the ass, we have already given some explanation. At Hermes-city, however, as image of Typhon, they show us a hippopotamus on which stands a hawk[1129] fighting a snake,—indicating by the hippopotamus Typhon, and by the hawk power and rule, of which Typhon frequently possessing himself by force, ceases not from being himself in and throwing [others] into a state of disorder by means of evil.

3. Wherefore also when they make offerings on the seventh of the month Tybi,[1130]—which [day] they call “Arrival of Isis from Phœnicia,” they mould on the cakes a bound hippopotamus.[1131]

4. And at Apollo-city it is the custom for absolutely everyone to eat a piece of crocodile. And on one [particular] day they hunt down and kill as many [of them] as they possibly can, and throw them down right in front of the temple, saying that Typhon escaped Horus by turning himself into a crocodile,—considering as they do that all animals and plants and experiences that are evil and harmful are Typhon’s works and parts and movements.

LI. 1. Osiris, again, on the other hand, they write with “eye” and “sceptre,”[1132] the former of which [they say] shows his providence, and the latter his power; just as Homer, when calling him who is ruler and king of all “Zeus supreme counsellor,” [1133] seems by “supreme” to signify his supremacy, and by “counsellor” his good counsel and providence.

2. They frequently write this god with “hawk”[1134] as well; for it excels in tension of sight and swiftness of flight, and can naturally support itself on the smallest quantity of food.

3. It is said, moreover, to hover over the bodies of the unburied dead and to cast earth upon them.[1135] And when it drops down on the river to drink, it sets its wings upright, and after drinking it lowers them again,—by which it is evident it saves itself and escapes from the crocodile, for if it is caught its wings remain fixed as they were set.[1136]

4. And everywhere they exhibit a man-shaped image of Osiris,—ithyphallic, because of his generative and luxuriant [nature].

And they dress his statue in a flame-coloured robe,—since they consider the sun as body of the power of the Good, as it were a visible [sign] of an essence that mind only can conceive.

5. Wherefore also we should pay no attention to those who assign the sphere of the sun to Typhon,[1137]—to whom nothing light or salutary, neither order nor genesis, nor any motion that has measure and reason, belongs, but [rather] their contraries.

6. And we should not set down drought which destroys many of the animals and plants, as the sun’s work, but [rather as that] of the breaths and waters in earth and air not being seasonably blended when the principle of disorderly and unbounded power makes discord and quenches the exhalations.

LII. 1. And in the sacred hymns to Osiris, they invoke him who is hidden in the Arms of the Sun;[1138] and on the thirteenth of the month of Epiphi[1139] they keep with feast the Birthday of the Eye of Horus, when moon and sun are in the same straight line; as they think that not only the moon but also the sun is eye and light of Horus.

2. And on the eighth of the waning [half] of Paōphi[1140] they keep the Birthday of the Sun’s Staff, after the autumnal equinox,—signifying that he needs an under-prop, as it were, and strengthening, deficient as he is in heat and light, declining and moving obliquely from us.

3. Moreover, just after the winter solstice they carry the Cow round the shrine [seven times], and the circuit is called the Seeking for Osiris, as in winter the Goddess longs for the “water” of the Sun.

4. And she goes round this number of times, because he completes his passing from the winter to the summer solstice in the seventh month.

5. Moreover, Horus, son of Osiris, is said to have been the first of all to make offerings to the Sun on the fourth of the waxing moon, as is written in the [books] entitled Birthdays of Horus.

6. Though indeed every day they offer incense to the Sun in three kinds—resin at his rising, myrrh at mid-heaven, and what is called “kuphi” at his setting; the reason for each of which I will explain later on.[1141] And with all these they think to make the Sun propitious to them and to do him service.

7. But what need is there to collect many such indications? For there are those who say point-blank that Osiris is Sun and is called Sirius by Greeks—though with Egyptians the addition of the article has caused the name to be mistaken[1142]—and who declare Isis to be no other than Moon; whence also [they say] that the horned ones of her statues are representations of her crescent, while by the black-robed ones are signified the occultations and overshadowings in which she follows Sun longing after him.

8. Accordingly they invoke Moon for affairs of love; and Eudoxus[1143] says that Isis decides love-affairs.

9. And these [explanations] have in a modified way some share of plausibility; whereas it is not worth while even listening to those who make the Sun Typhon.

10. But let us ourselves again take up the proper reason (logos).

The Proper Reason According To Plutarch

LIII. 1. For Isis is the feminine [principle] of Nature and that which is capable of receiving the whole of genesis; in virtue of which she has been called “Nurse” and “All-receiving” by Plato,[1144] and, by the multitude, “She of ten-thousand names,” through her being transformed by Reason (Logos) and receiving all forms and ideas [or shapes].

2. And she hath an innate love of the First and Most Holy of all things (which is identical with the Good), and longs after and pursues it. But she flees from and repels the domain of the Bad, and though she is the field and matter of them both, yet doth she ever incline to the Better of herself, and offers [herself] for him to beget and sow into herself emanations and likenesses, with which she joys and delights that she is pregnant and big with their generations.

3. For Generation is image of Essence in Matter and Becoming copy of Being.

LIV. 1. Hence not unreasonably do they say in the myth that [while] the Soul of Osiris is eternal and indestructible, Typhon often tears his Body in pieces and makes it disappear, and that Isis seeks it wandering and puts it together again.

2. For the Real and Conceivable-by-the-mind-alone and Good is superior to destruction and change; but the images which the sensible and corporeal imitates from it, and the reasons (logoi) and forms and likenesses which it receives, just as seal-impressions in wax, do not last for ever, but are seized upon by the disorderly and turbulent [elements], expelled hither from the field above, and fighting against the Horus whom Isis brings forth as the sensible image of that cosmos which mind alone can conceive.

3. Wherefore also [Horus] is said to have a charge of bastardy brought against him by Typhon—of not being pure and unalloyed like his sire, Reason (Logos), itself by itself, unmixed and impassible, but bastardized with matter on account of the corporeal [element].[1145]

4. Nevertheless, Horus gets the best of it and wins, through Hermes—that is, the Reason (Logos[1146]—bearing witness and showing that Nature reflects the [true] Cosmos by changing her forms according to That-which-mind-alone-can-conceive.[1147]

5. For the genesis of Apollo[1148] from Isis and Osiris[1149] that took place while the Gods were still in the womb of Rhea, is an enigmatical way of stating that before this [sensible] cosmos became manifest, and Matter was perfected by Reason (Logos), Nature, proving herself imperfect, of herself brought forth her first birth.

6. Wherefore also they say that that God was lame[1150] in the dark, and call him Elder Horus; for he was not cosmos, but a sort of image and phantasm of the world which was to be.[1151]

LV. 1. But this Horus [of ours] is their Son,[1152] horizoned[1153] and perfect, who has not destroyed Typhon utterly, but has brought over to his side his efficacy and strength; hence they say it is that the statue of Horus at Coptos grasps in one hand Typhon’s virilia.

2. Moreover, they have a myth that Hermes cut out the sinews of Typhon and used them for lyre strings,—[thus] teaching [us] how Reason (Logos) brought the universe into harmony, and made it concordant out of discordant elements. He did not destroy the destructive power but lamed it.

3. Hence while weak and ineffective up there, down here, by being blinded and interwoven with the passible and changeable elements, it is cause of shakings and tremors in earth, of droughts and tempests in air, and again of lightnings and thunderings.

4. Moreover, it infects waters and winds with pestilences, and shoots up and rears itself as far as the moon, frequently blurring and blackening its light, as Egyptians think.

5. And they say that Typhon at one time strikes the Eye of Horus, and at another takes it out and swallows it. By “striking” they refer enigmatically to the monthly diminution of the moon, and by “blinding” to its eclipse, which the sun remedies by immediately shining on it after it has passed out of the shadow of the earth.[1154]

LVI. 1. Now the better and diviner Nature is from these:—[to wit] the Intelligible and Matter, and that from them which Greeks call Cosmos.

2. Plato,[1155] indeed, was wont to call the Intelligible Idea and Model and Father; and Matter Mother and Nurse—both place and ground of Genesis; and the offspring of both Genesis.

3. And one might conjecture that Egyptians [also revered[1156]] the fairest of the triangles, likening the nature of the universe especially to this; for Plato also, in his Republic,[1157] seems to have made additional use of this in drawing up his marriage scheme.[1158]

4. And this triangle has its perpendicular [side] of “three,” its base of “four,” and its hypotenuse of “five”; its square being equal to the [sum of the] squares on the containing sides.[1159]

5. We must, accordingly, compare its perpendicular to male, its base to female, and its hypotenuse to the offspring of both; and [conjecture] Osiris as source, Isis as receptacle, and Horus as result.

6. For the “three” is the first “odd”[1160] and perfect;[1161] while the “four” [is] square from side “even” two;[1162] and the “five” resembles partly its father and partly its mother, being composed of “three” and “two.”

7. And panta [all] is only a slight variant of pente [five]; and they call counting pempasasthai [reckoning by fives].

8. And five makes a square equal to the number of letters among Egyptians,[1163] and a period of as many years as the Apis lives.

9. Thus they usually call Horus also Min[1164]—that is, “being seen”; for cosmos is a sensible and see-able thing.

10. And Isis is sometimes called Muth,[1165] and again Athyri[1166] and Methyer. And by the first of the names they mean “Mother”; by the second, “Cosmic House” of Horus,—as also Plato [calls her] “Ground of Genesis” and “She who receives”; and the third is compounded from “Full” and “Cause,”—for Matter is full of Cosmos, and consorts with the Good and Pure and Ordered.

LVII. 1. And Hesiod[1167] also, when he makes all the first [elements to be] Chaos and Earth and Tartarus and Love, might be thought to assume no other principles than these,—if at anyrate in substituting the names we assign to Isis that of Earth, to Osiris that of Love, and to Typhon that of Tartarus; for his Chaos seems to be subsumed as ground and place of the universe.

2. Our data also in a way invite as witness Plato’s myth which Socrates details in the Symposium[1168] about the Birth of Love,—telling [us how] that Poverty wanting children lay down by the side of sleeping Means, and conceiving by him brought forth Love of a mixed nature and capable of assuming every shape, in as much, indeed, as he is the offspring of a good and wise father and one sufficient for all, but of an incapable mother and one without means,[1169] who on account of her need is ever clinging to some one else and importuning some one else.[1170]

3. For his Means is no other than the First Beloved and Desirable and Perfect and Sufficient; and he calls Matter Poverty,—who is herself of herself deficient of the Good, but is ever being filled by Him and longing for and sharing in [Him].

4. And the Cosmos, that is Horus, is born from these; and Horus, though neither eternal nor impassible nor indestructible, but ever-generable, continues by means of the changes and periods of his passions to remain ever young and ever to escape destruction.

LVIII. 1. Now, we should make use of the myths not as though they were altogether sacred sermons (logoi), but taking the serviceable [element] of each according to its similitude [to reason].

2. When, then, we say Matter, we should not be swept into the opinions of some philosophers, and suppose some body or other of itself soul-less and quality-less, and inert and inefficient; for we call oil the “matter” of a perfume, [and] gold that of a statue, though they are not destitute of every quality.

3. [Nay,] we submit the soul itself and [even] the thought of man as the “matter” of knowledge and virtue to the reason (logos) to order and bring into rhythm.

4. Moreover, some have declared the mind [to be] “region of ideas,” and, as it were, the “impressionable substance[1171] of the intelligibles.”

5. And some think that the substance of the woman[1172] is neither power nor source, but matter and nutriment of birth.

6. If, then, we attach ourselves to these, we ought thus also to think of this Goddess as having eternally her share in the First God, and consorting [with Him] for love of the goodness and beauty that surround Him, never opposed to Him, but, just as we say that a lawful and righteous husband loves [his wife] righteously, and a good wife though she has her husband and consorts with him, still desires [him], so [should we] think of Her as clinging to Him, and importuning Him,[1173] though [ever] filled full with His supremest and purest parts.

LIX. 1. But where Typhon steals in, laying hold of the last [parts, we should think of Her as] then seeming to wear a melancholy countenance, and being said to mourn, and to be seeking after certain relics and fragments of Osiris, and enfolding them in her robes, receiving them when destroyed into herself, and hiding them away, just as She also produces them again when they are born, and sends them forth from herself.

2. For while the reasons (logoi) and ideas and emanations of the God in heaven and stars remain [for ever], those that are disseminated into things passible—in earth and sea and plants and animals—being dissolved and destroyed and buried, come to light over and over again and reappear in their births.

3. For which cause the myth says that Typhon lived with Nephthys, but that Osiris had knowledge of her secretly.

4. For the last parts of Matter, which they call Nephthys and End, are mainly in possession of the destructive power; nevertheless the Generative and Saving One distributes into them weak and faint seed which is destroyed by Typhon, except so much as Isis by adoption saves and nourishes and compacts together.

LX. 1. But He is on the whole the Better one, as both Plato and Aristotle suppose; and the generative and moving [power] of Nature moves to Him and towards being, while the annihilating and destructive [moves] from Him and towards non-being.

2. Wherefore they derive the name Isis from hastening (ἵεσθαι) and coursing with knowledge, since she is ensouled and prudent motion.

3. For her name is not foreign;[1174] but just as all the Gods have a common name from two elements—“that which can be seen” and “that which runs”[1175]—so we call this Goddess “Isis” from “knowledge,”[1176] and Egyptians [also] call her Isis.[1177]

4. And thus Plato also says the ancients signified the “Holy[1178] [Lady]” by calling her “Isia,”—and so also “Mental Perception” and “Prudence,” in as much as she is [the very] course and motion of Mind hastening[1179] and coursing, and that they placed Understanding—in short, the Good and Virtue—in things that flow[1180] and run.

5. Just as [he says] again, the Bad is railed at with corresponding names, when they call that which hinders nature and binds it up and holds it and prevents it from hastening and going, “badness,”[1181] “difficulty,”[1182] “cowardice”[1183] [and] “distress.”

LXI. 1. And Osiris has had his name from a combination of ὅσιος (holy) and ἱερός (sacred); for there is a common Reason (Logos) of things in Heaven and of things in Hades,—the former of which the ancients were accustomed to call sacred, and the latter holy.

2. And the Reason that [both] brings [down] to light the heavenly things and is [also] of things that are mounting upwards,[1184] is called Anubis, and sometimes also Hermanubis,[1185] belonging in his former capacity to things above and in his latter to things below [them].

3. Wherefore also they offer him in his former capacity a white cock,[1186] and in his latter a saffron-coloured one,—thinking that the former things are pure and the latter mixed and manifold.

4. Nor ought we to be surprised at the manipulation of the names back into Greek.[1187] For tens of thousands of others that disappeared with those who emigrated from Greece, continue unto this day and sojourn with foreigners; for recalling some of which they blame the poets’ art as “barbarising,”—I mean those who call such words “glosses.”[1188]

5. Further, they relate that in what are called the “Books of Hermes,” it is written that they call the Power that rules the ordained revolution of the Sun, Horus, while the Greeks [call it] Apollo; and the Power that rules the Breath [or Spirit], some [call] Osiris, others Sarapis, and others Sōthis in Egyptian.

6. The last means “conception” (κύησιν) or “conceiving” (τὸ κύειν).[1189] Wherefore also, by inversion of the name, the star [Sōthis] which they consider the special one of Isis, is called Dog (κύων) in Greek.

7. We should, however, least of all be jealous about the names; still if we were, I would sooner give up “Sarapis” than “Osiris”; for though I think the former is a foreign one and the latter Greek, yet are they both [names] of One God and One Power.

LXIL 1. The Egyptian [names] also resemble these [Greek ones]. For they often call Isis by the name of Athena, which expresses some such meaning as “I have come from myself”—which is [again] indicative of self-motive course.

2. While “Typhon,” as has been said,[1190] is called Sēth and Bebōn and Smu,—the names being intended to signify a certain forcible and preventative checking, opposition or reversing.

3. Moreover, they call the loadstone “Bone of Horus,”[1191] and iron “[Bone] of Typhon,” as Manethōs relates; for just as iron often resembles that which is attracted to and follows after the loadstone, and often is turned away from it, and repelled to an opposite direction, so the saving and good and reason-possessing motion of the Cosmos both turns towards itself and makes more gentle by persuasion that harsh and typhonean [motion]; and then again after raising it into itself, it reverses it and plunges it into the infinitude.

4. Moreover, Eudoxus[1192] says that the Egyptians tell a myth about Zeus that, as in consequence of his having his legs grown together,[1193] he could not walk, for shame he lived in solitude; and so Isis, by cutting in two and separating these limbs of his body, made his going even-footed.[1194]

5. By those things, moreover, the myth enigmatically hints that the Mind and Reason (Logos) of God after it had progressed [1195] in itself in the invisible and unmanifest, came forth into genesis by means of motion.

The Symbolism Of The Sistrum

LXIII. 1. The sistrum (σεῖστρον) also shows that existent things must be shaken up (σείεσθαι) and never have cessation from impulse, but as it were be wakened up and agitated when they fall asleep and die away.

2. For they say they turn aside and beat off Typhon with sistra,—signifying that when corruption binds nature fast and brings her to a stand, [then] generation frees her and raises her from death by means of motion.

3. Now the sistrum has a curved top, and its arch contains the four [things] that are shaken. For the part of the cosmos which is subject to generation and corruption, is circumscribed by the sphere of the moon, and all [things] in it are moved and changed by the four elements—fire and earth and water and air.

4. And on the arch of the sistrum, at the top, they put the metal figure of a cat with a human face, and at the bottom, below the shaken things, the face sometimes of Isis and sometimes of Nephthys,—symbolising by the faces generation and consummation (for these are the changes and motions of the elements), and by the cat the moon, on account of the variable nature,[1196] night habits, and fecundity of the beast.

5. For it is fabled to bring forth one, then two, and [then] three, and four, and five [at a birth], and then adds one by one until seven;[1197] so that in all she brings forth eight-and-twenty, the number of lights of the moon.

6. This, however, is probably somewhat too mythical; anyway, the pupils of its eyes seem to become full and dilate at the full-moon, and to contract and shut out the light during the wanings of that luminary.

7. And by the human face of the cat is signified the intellectual and reasonable nature of the changes that take place in connection with the moon.

The True “Logos,” Again, According To Plutarch

LXIV. 1. But, to speak concisely, it is not correct to consider either water or sun or earth or heaven as Osiris or Isis, or, again, fire or drought or sea as Typhon; but if we were to assign simply that [nature] to the latter which is not subject to measure or rule owing to excesses or insufficiencies, and should reverence and honour that which has been subjected to order and is good and beneficent, as the work of Isis, and the image and copy and reason of Osiris, we should not miss the mark.

2. Moreover, we shall make Eudoxus[1198] cease to disbelieve and be perplexed, how it is neither Demeter who has charge of love-affairs but Isis, nor Dionysus who has the power either to make the Nile increase or to rule over the dead [but Osiris].

3. For we think that by one Common Reason (Logos)[1199] these Gods have been ordained over every domain of good; and every fair and good thing possible for nature owes its origin to their means,—[Osiris] giving [them] their origins and [Isis] receiving and distributing [them].

Against The Weather And Vegetation God Theories

LXV. 1. And we shall also get our hands on the dull crowd who take pleasure in associating the [mystic recitals] about these Gods either with changes of the atmosphere according to the seasons, or with the generation of the corn and sowings and ploughings, and in saying that Osiris is buried when the sown corn is hidden by the earth, and comes to life and shows himself again when it begins to sprout.

2. For which cause also [they declare] that Isis, on feeling she is pregnant, ties an amulet round her [neck] on the sixth day of the first half of the month Phaōphi;[1200] and that Harpocrates is brought forth about the winter solstice imperfect and infant in the things that sprout too early.[1201]

3. For which cause they offer him first-fruits of growing lentils, and they keep the days of thanks for safe delivery after the spring equinox.

4. For they love to hear these things and believe them, drawing conviction from things immediately at hand and customary.

LXVI. 1. Still there is nothing to complain of if  [only], in the first place, they cherish the Gods in common with ourselves, and do not make them peculiar to Egyptians, either by characterising Nile and only the land that Nile waters by these names, or, by saying that marshes and lotuses and god-making [are their monopoly], deprive the rest of mankind who have no Nile or Butō or Memphis, of [the] Great Gods.

2. Indeed, all [men] have Isis and know her and the Gods of her company; for though they learned not long ago to call some of them by names known among the Egyptians, still they knew and honoured the power of each [of them] from the beginning.

3. In the second place, and what is more important—they should take very good heed and be apprehensive lest unwittingly they write-off the sacred mysteries and dissolve them into winds and streams, and sowing and ploughings, and passions of earth and changes of seasons.

4. As those who [say] that Dionysus is wine and Hephæstus flame, and Persephone, as Cleanthes says somewhere, the wind that drives through the crops and is killed; and [as] some poet says of the reapers:

Then when they, lusty, cut Demeter’s limbs.[1202]

5. For these in nothing differ from those who regard a pilot as sails and ropes and anchor, and a weaver as yarns and threads, and a physician as potions and honey-brew and barley-water; nay, they put into men’s minds dangerous and atheistic notions, by transferring names of Gods to natures and to things that have no sense or soul, and which are necessarily destroyed by men according to their need and use. For it is not possible to consider such things in themselves as Gods.

LXVII. 1. For a God is not a thing without a mind or soul, or one made subject to the hand of man; but it is from these things that we deduce that those who bestow them on us for our use and offer them [to us] in perpetual abundance, are Gods.

2. Not different [Gods] for different peoples, not non-Greek and Greek, not southern and northern [Gods]; but just as sun and moon and earth and sea [are] common to all [men], though they are called by different names by different peoples, so of the Reason (Logos) that orders all things, and of one Providence that also directs powers ordained to serve under her for all [purposes], have different honours and titles been made according to their laws by different [nations].

3. And there are consecrated symbols, some obscure ones and others more plain, guiding the intelligence towards the mysteries of the Gods, [though] not without risk.

4. For some going entirely astray have stepped into superstitions, while others, shunning superstition as a quagmire, have unwittingly fallen into atheism[1203] as down a precipice.

LXVIII. 1. Wherefore especially with regard to such things, should we, taking with us Reason (Logos) as our mystic guide out of philosophy, reverently meditate upon each of the things said and done; in order that, [we may avoid what] Theodorus said, [namely] that when he offered his words with his right hand some of his hearers took them with their left,—and so not miss the mark by taking in another sense what laws on offerings and feasts have well ordained.

2. For that all [these things] must be referred to the Reason (Logos), we may learn from themselves also.

For on the nineteenth of the first month,[1204] when they keep a feast to Hermes, they eat honey and figs, saying when so doing, “Truth is sweet.” And the amulet of Isis which the myth says she put round her [neck][1205] is, when interpreted, “True Voice.”

3. And we should not consider Harpocrates either as an imperfect or infant god, or a [god] of pulse,[1206] but as protector and chastener of the babyish and imperfect and inarticulate reason that men have about Gods. For which cause he has his finger laid upon his lips as a symbol of reticence and silence.

4. And in the month of Mesorē[1207] when they make offerings of pulse, they say: “Tongue [is] fortune; tongue is daimon.”

5. And they say that of the trees in Egypt the persea especially has been made sacred to the Goddess, because its fruit resembles a heart and its leaf a tongue.

6. For of all man’s natural possessions nothing is more godlike than logos [word or reason], and especially that concerning the Gods, nor is there anything that decides more weightily for happiness.

7. Wherefore we commend him who goes down to consult the Oracle here[1208] to think religiously and speak reverently. But the many act ridiculously when, after they have in the processions and feasts made proclamation to speak reverently, they subsequently speak and think the most irreverent things about the Gods themselves.

LXIX. 1. What use, then, must one make of those melancholy and laughterless and mournful sacrifices, if it is not right either to omit the rites of custom, or to confound our views about Gods and throw them into confusion with absurd suspicions?

2. Yea, among Greeks, too, many things are done, just about the same time also, similar to those which Egyptians perform in the sacred [rites].

3. For instance, at Athens, the women fast at the Thesmophoria, sitting on the ground. While Bœotians move the palace of Achæa,[1209] giving that festival the name of Epachthē [the Grief-bringing], as though Demeter were in grief (ἄχθει) on account of the Descent [1210] of Korē.

4. And this month is the one for sowing when the Pleiades rise, which Egyptians call Athyr,[1211] Greeks Pyanepsiōn, and Bœotians Damatrios.[1212]

5. Moreover, Theopompus[1213] tells us that the Western peoples [1214] consider and name the winter Kronos, the summer Aphrodite, and the spring Persephone; and [say] that all things are born from Kronos and Aphrodite.

6. While the Phrygians, thinking that the God sleeps in winter, and wakes in summer, celebrate in his honour the Orgies of his “Going to sleep” at one time, and at another of his “Waking up”; while the Paphlagonians pretend that he is bound hand and foot and imprisoned in winter, and in spring is set in motion and freed from his bonds.

LXX. 1. And the season of the year suggests that the appearance of mourning is assumed at the hiding away of grains [in the earth],—which the ancients did not consider gods, but gifts of the Gods, indispensable [indeed] if we are to live otherwise then savagely and like the brutes.

2. And at the season when, you know, these [ancients] saw the [fruits] entirely disappearing from the trees and ceasing, and those they had sown themselves still scanty and poor,—in scraping away the earth with their hands, and pressing it together again, and depositing [the seed] in uncertainty as to whether it would come up again and have its proper consummation, they used to do many things similar to those who bury and mourn.

3. Then, just as we say that one who buys Plato’s books “buys Plato,” and that one who presents the creations of Menander “acts Menander,” so did they not hesitate to call the gifts and creations of the Gods by the names of the Gods—honouring them and reverencing them by use.

4. But those [who came] after, receiving [these names] like boors and ignorantly misapplying what happens[1215] to the fruits to the Gods [themselves], and not merely calling but believing the advent and hiding away of the necessaries [of life] generations and destructions of gods, filled their heads with absurd, indecent, and confused opinions, although they had the absurdity of their unreason before their eyes.

5. Excellent, however, was the view of Xenophanes[1216] of Colophon that Egyptians don’t mourn if they believe in Gods and don’t believe in Gods if they mourn; nay, that it would be ridiculous for them in the same breath to mourn and pray for the seed to appear again, in order that it might again be consumed and mourned for.

LXXI. 1. But such is not really the case; but, while mourning for the grain, they pray the Gods, the authors and givers [of it], to renew it again and make other grow up in the place of that which is consumed.

2. Whence there is an excellent saying among the philosophers, that those who do not learn how to hear names rightly, use things wrongly. Just as those of the Greeks who have not learned or accustomed themselves to call bronzes and pictures and marbles images in honour of the Gods, but [call them] Gods, [and] then make bold to say that Lacharēs stripped Athena, and Dionysius cut off Apollo’s golden curls, and that Capitoline Zeus was burnt and perished in the Civil Wars,—these without knowing it find themselves drawn into adopting mischievous opinions following [directly] on the [abuse of] names.

3. And this is especially the case of Egyptians with regard to the honours they pay to animals. For in this respect, at any rate, Greeks speak rightly when they consider the dove as the sacred creature of Aphrodite, and the dragon of Athena, and the raven of Apollo, and the dog of Artemis, as Euripides [sings]:

Thou shalt be dog, pet of torch-bearing Hecate.[1217]

4. Whereas most of the Egyptians, by the service and cult they pay to the animals themselves as though they were Gods, have not only covered their sacred rites entirely with laughter and ridicule—which is the least evil of their fatuity; but a dangerous way of thinking grows up which perverts the weak and simple to pure superstition, and, in the case of the shrewder and bolder, degenerates into an atheistic and brutal rationalism.

5. Wherefore, also, it is not unfitting to run through the conjectures about these things.[1218]

Concerning The Worship Of Animals, And Totemism

LXXII. 1. As for the [theory] that the Gods out of fear of Typhon changed themselves into these animals—as it were hiding themselves in the bodies of ibises and dogs and hawks—it beats any juggling or story-telling.

2. Also the [theory] that all the souls of the dead that persist, have their rebirth[1219] into these [animals] only, is equally incredible.

3. And of those who would assign some reason connected with the art of government, some say that Osiris upon his great campaign,[1220] divided his force into many divisions—(they call them companies and squadrons in Greek)—and gave them all ensigns of animal figures, and that each of these became sacred and venerated by the clan of those banded together under it.

4. Others [say] that the kings after [Osiris], in order to strike terror into their foes, used to appear dressed in wild beasts’ heads of gold and silver.

5. While others tell us that one of the clever and crafty kings, on learning that, though the Egyptians were fickle by nature and quick for change and innovation, they nevertheless possessed an invincible and unrestrainable might owing to their numbers when in agreement and co-operation, showed them and implanted into their minds an enduring superstition,—an occasion of unceasing disagreement.

6. For in as much as the beasts—some of which he enacted some [clans] should honour and venerate and others others—are hostile and inimical to one another, and as each one of them by nature likes different food from the others, each [clan] in protecting its own special [beasts] and growing angry at their being injured, was for ever unconsciously being drawn into the enmities of the beasts, and [so] brought into a state of warfare with the others.

7. For even unto this day the people of Wolf-town are the only Egyptians who eat sheep, because the wolf, whom they regard as god, [does so].

8. And the people of Oxyrhynchus-town, in our own day, when the folk of Dog-town ate the oxyrhynchus[1221] fish, caught a dog and sacrificing it as a sacred victim, ate it; and going to war because of this, they handled one another roughly, and subsequently were roughly handled by the Romans in punishment.[1222]

LXXIII. 1. Again, as many say that the soul of Typhon himself was parted among these animals, the myths would seem enigmatically to hint that every irrational and brutal nature is born from a part of the Evil Daimon, and that to appease and soothe him they pay cult and service to them.

2. But if he fall upon them mighty and dire, bringing on them excessive droughts, or pestilent diseases, or other unlooked-for strange mischances, then the priests lead away at dark in silence quietly some of the venerated [beasts], and threaten and try to scare away the first [one] of them; if, however, it stops, they consecrate and sacrifice it, as though, I suppose, this were some kind of chastisement of the Daimon, or some specially great means of purification in the greater [emergencies].

3. For in the Goddess-of-child-bed-town[1223] they used to burn living men to ashes, as Manethōs has told us, calling them Typhoneian; and the ashes they winnowed away and scattered.[1224]

4. This, however, was done publicly, and at one special time, in the Dog-days; whereas the consecratings of the venerated beasts, which are never spoken of and take place at irregular times, according to the emergencies, are unknown to the multitude, except when they have burials, and [the priests] bringing out some of the others, cast them in [to the grave with them] in the presence of all,—in the belief that they annoy Typhon in return and curtail what gives him pleasure. For only the Apis and a few other [animals] seem to be sacred to Osiris; while they assign the majority to him [Typhon].

5. And if he [Osiris] is really Reason (Logos), I think that the object of our enquiry is found in the case of these [animals] that are admitted to have common honours with him,—as, for instance, the ibis, and hawk, and dog-headed ape; [while] Apis himself [is his soul . . .],[1225] for thus, you know, they call the goat at Mendes.

LXXIV. 1. There remain of course the utilitarian and symbolical [reasons], of which some have to do with one of the two [Gods], but most [of them] with both.

2. As for the ox and sheep and ichneumon,[1226] it is clear they paid them honours on account of their usefulness and utility,—just as Lemnians crested larks which seek out and break the eggs of locusts, and Thessalians storks, because when their land produced multitudes of snakes, they came and destroyed them all—(wherefore they made a law that whoever killed a stork should be banished [1227])—so with the asp and weasel and scarab, because they discerned in them certain faint likenesses of the power of the Gods, as it were [that] of the sun in water-drops.

3. For as to the weasel, many still think and say that as it is impregnated through the ear and brings forth by the mouth, it is a likeness of the birth of reason (logos).[1228]

4. Again [they say] the species of scarab has no female, but all, as males, discharge their seed into the stuff they have made into balls,[1229] which they roll along by pushing, moving [themselves] in the opposite direction, just as the sun seems to turn the heaven round in the opposite direction, while it is [the heaven] itself that moves from west to east.[1230]

5. And the asp, because it does not age, and moves without limbs with ease and pliancy, they likened to a star.

LXXV. 1. Nay, not even has the crocodile had honour paid it without some show of credible cause, for it alone is tongue-less.[1231]

For the Divine Reason (Logos) stands not in need of voice, and:

“Moving on a soundless path with justice guides [all] mortal things.”[1232]

2. And they say that it alone, when it is in the water, has its eyes covered by a smooth and transparent membrane that comes down from the upper lid,[1233] so that they see without being seen,—an attribute of the First God.[1234]

3. And whenever the female lays her eggs on the land, it is known that this will be the limit of the Nile’s increase. For as they cannot lay in the water, and fear to do so far from it, they so accurately fore-feel what will be, that they make use of the rise of the river for laying their eggs and hatching them, and yet keep them dry and beyond the danger of being wetted.

4. And they lay sixty [eggs] and hatch them out in as many days, and the longest-lived of them live as many years,—which is the first of the measures for those who treat systematically of celestial [phenomena].[1235]

5. Moreover, of those that have honours paid them for both [reasons] [1236]—of the dog, we have already treated above.[1237]

6. As for the ibis, while killing the death-dealing of the reptiles,[1238] it was the first to teach them the use of medicinal evacuation, when they observed it being thus rinsed out and purged by itself.[1239]

7. While those of the priests who are most punctilious in their observances, in purifying themselves, take the water for cleansing from a place where the ibis has drunk; for it neither drinks unwholesome or poisoned[1240] water, nor [even] goes near it.

8. Again, by the relative position of its legs to one another, and [of these] to its beak, it forms an equilateral triangle; and yet again, the variegation and admixture of its black with its white feathers suggest the gibbous moon.[1241]

9. Nor ought we to be surprised at Egyptians being so fond of meagre likenesses; for Greeks too in both their pictured and plastic resemblances of Gods use many such [vague indications].

10. For instance, in Crete there was a statue of Zeus which had no ears,—for it behoves the Ruler and Lord of all to listen to no one.

11. And Pheidias used the serpent in the [statue] of Athena, and the tortoise in that of Aphrodite at Elis,—because on the one hand virgins need protecting, and on the other because keeping-at-home and silence are becoming to married women.

12. Again, the trident of Poseidon is a symbol of the third region, which the sea occupies, assigned [to him] after the heaven and air. For which cause also they invented the names Amphi-trite and Trit-ons.[1242]

13. And the Pythagoreans have embellished both numbers and figures with appellations of Gods.

For they used to call the equilateral triangle Athena—Head-born and Third-born[1243]—because it is divided by three plumb-lines[1244] drawn from the three angles.

14. And [they called] “one” Apollo, from privation of multitude,[1245] and owing to the singleness[1246] of the monad; and “two” Strife and Daring, and “three” Justice [or Rightness],—for as wronging and being wronged were according to deficiency and excess, rightness [or justice] was born to equality between them.[1247]

15. And what is called the Tetraktys, the six-and-thirty, was [their] greatest oath (as has been said over and over again), and is called Cosmos,—which is produced by adding together the first four even and [the first] four odd [numbers].[1248]

LXXVI. 1. If, then, the most approved of the philosophers, when they perceived in soulless and bodiless things a riddle of the Divine, did not think it right to neglect anything or treat it with disrespect, still more liking, I think, we should then have for the peculiarities in natures that are endowed with sense and possess soul and passion and character,—not paying honour to these, but through them to the Divine; so that since they are made by Nature into mirrors clearer [than any man can make], we should consider this as the instrument and art of God who ever orders all things.

2. And, generally, we should deem that nothing soulless is superior to a thing with soul, nor one without sense to one possessing it; not even if one should bring together into one spot all the gold and emeralds in the world.

3. For that which is Divine does not reside in colours or shapes or smoothnesses; nay, all things that either have no share or are not of a nature to share in life, have a lot of less value than that of dead bodies.[1249]

4. Whereas the Nature that lives and sees, and has its source of motion from itself, and knowledge of things that are its and those that are not, has appropriated both an “efflux of the Good,”[1250] and a share of the Thinker “by whom the universe is steered,” as Heracleitus says.[1251]

5. For which cause the Divine is not less well pourtrayed in these [sc. animals] than by means of works of art in bronze and stone, which while equally susceptible of decay and mutilations,[1252] are in their nature destitute of all feeling and understanding.

6. With regard to the honours paid to animals, then, I approve this view more highly than any other that has been mentioned.

Concerning The Sacred Robes

LXXVII. 1. Now as to robes: those of Isis [are] variegated in their dyes, for her power [is] connected with matters producing all things and receiving [all]—light darkness, day night, fire water, life death, beginning end; while the [robe] of Osiris has neither shade nor variegation, but one single [property]—the light-like,[1253] for the Source is pure and the First and Intelligible unmixed.

2. Wherefore when they have once and once only received this [robe],[1254] they treasure it away and keep it from all eyes and hands; whereas they use those of Isis on many occasions.

3. For it is by use that the things which are sensible and ready to hand, present many unfoldings and views of themselves as they change now one way now another; whereas the intelligence of the Intelligible and Pure and Single, shining through the soul, like lightning-flash, once and once only perchance allows [us] to contact and behold [It].

4. For which cause both Plato[1255] and Aristotle call this part of philosophy “epoptic,”[1256] from the fact that they who transcend by the reason (logos) these mixed and multiform things of opinion, are raised unto that Primal [One], Simple and Matter-less, and [so] contacting in its singleness the pure truth concerning It, they think philosophy has as it were [its] perfect end.

LXXVIII. 1. The fact, moreover, which the present priests cautiously hint at by expiatory sacrifices and covering their faces—[namely] that this God is ruler and king of the dead, being no other than him who is called Hades and Pluto among Greeks—in that they do not know how it is true, confuses the multitude, who suppose that the truly sacred and holy Osiris lives on earth and under earth, where the bodies of those who seem to have [reached their] end are hidden [away].

2. But He Himself is far, far from the earth, unspotted and unstained, and pure of every essence that is susceptible of death and of decay. Nor can the souls of men here [on the earth], swathed as they are with bodies and enwrapped in passions, commune with God, except so far as they can reach some dim sort of a dream [of Him], with the perception of a mind trained in philosophy.

3. But when [their souls] freed [from these bonds] pass to the Formless and Invisible and Passionless and Pure, this God becomes their guide and king, as though they hung on Him, and gazed insatiate upon His Beauty, and longed after it—[Beauty] that no man can declare or speak about.

4. It is with this the ancient tale (logos) makes Isis e’er in love, and, by pursuit [of it], and consort [with it], makes [her] full-fill all things down here with all things fair and good, whatever things have part in genesis.

5. Thus, then, these things contain the reason (logos) that’s more suitable to God.

Concerning Incense

LXXIX. 1. And must I also speak of the daily incense-offerings, as I promised,[1257] the reader should first of all have in mind the fact, that not only have men [in general] always paid most serious attention to things that conduce to health, but that especially in sacred ceremonies and purifications and prescribed modes of life “healthy” is not less important than “holy”; for they did not think it right to render service to the Pure and perfectly Harmless and Unpolluted with either bodies or with souls festering and diseased.

2. Since, then, the air—of which we make most use, and with which we have most to do—does not always keep the same disposition and blend, but at night is condensed, and weighs down the body, and brings the soul into a desponding and anxious state, as though it had become mist-like and heavy; [therefore] as soon as they get up they incense with pine resin, sanifying and purifying the air by its[1258] disintegration, and fanning up again the [fire of the] spirit connate with body[1259] which had died down,—since its perfume possesses a vehement and penetrating [force].

3. And, again, at mid-day, perceiving that the sun draws from the earth by force an exceedingly large and heavy exhalation, and commingles it with the air, they incense with myrrh.[1260] For its heat dissolves and disperses the turbid and mud-like combination in the atmosphere.

4. And, indeed, physicians seem to relieve sufferers from plague by making a great blaze, as though it cleared the air. But it clears it better if they burn fragrant woods, such as [those] of cypress, juniper, and pine.

5. At any rate, they say that at Athens, at the time of the Great Plague, Akrōn the physician became famous through ordering them to keep fires burning by the side of the sick, for he [thus] benefitted not a few.

6. And Aristotle says that the sweet-smelling odours, given off by perfumes and flowers and meadows, conduce no less to health than to enjoyment; because by their warmth and softness they diffuse themselves gently through the brain, which is naturally cold and as though congested.

7. And if, moreover, they call myrrh bal among Egyptians—and in translation this comes pretty near to meaning the dispersion of silly talk—this also affords some evidence for the reason why [they use it].

LXXX. 1. And [finally] kuphi [1261] is a mixture composed of sixteen ingredients:—of honey, and wine, and raisins, and cyperus;[1262] of pine-resin, and myrrh, and aspalathus,[1263] and seseli;[1264] and further of mastich,[1265] and bitumen,[1266] and nightshade,[1267] and sorrel; and in addition to these of both junipers[1268] (of which they call the one the larger and the other the smaller), and cardamum, and sweet-flag.[1269]

2. And these are not compounded in a haphazard way, but with the sacred writings being read aloud[1270] to the perfume-makers when they mix them.

3. And as to their number,—even though it has all the appearance of square from square, and [that too] the only one of equally equal numbers that has the power of making the perimeter equal to the area,[1271] it must be said that its serviceableness for this purpose at least is of the slightest.

4. But the majority of the ingredients, as they possess aromatic properties, liberate a sweet breath and healthy exhalation, by which both the air is changed, and the body being gently and softly moved by the vapour, falls asleep[1272] and loosens the distressing strain of the day’s anxieties, as though they were knots, [and yet] without any intoxication.

5. Moreover, they polish up the image-making and receptive organ of dreams like a mirror, and make it clearer, no less than the playing on the lyre which the Pythagoreans used to use before sleep, thus charming away and sanifying the passionate and reason-less nature of the soul.

6. For things smelt call back the failing sense, and often, on the other hand, dull and quiet it by [their] soothing [effect], when their exhalations are diffused through the body; just as some of the physicians say that sleep is induced when the vaporisation of the food, as it were creeping gently round the inward parts and groping about, produces a kind of tickling.

7. And they use kuphi both as draught and mixture; for when it is drunk it is thought to purge the intestines, [but when applied externally[1273]] to be an emollient.

8. And apart from these [considerations], resin is a work of the sun; and myrrh [comes from] the exudation of the trees under the sun-heat; while of the ingredients of kuphi, some flourish more at night, like all things whose nature it is to be nourished by cool breezes and shade and dew and damp.

9. Seeing that the light of day is one and single, and Pindar tells us that the sun is seen “through empty æther”;[1274] while air is a blend and mixture of many lights and properties, as it were of seeds dropped from every star into one [field].

10. Naturally, then, they use the former as incenses by day, as being single and having their birth from the sun; and the latter when night sets in, as being mixed and manifold in its qualities.


So ends this exceedingly instructive treatise of Plutarch, which, in spite of the mass of texts and monuments concerning Ȧsȧr and Ȧst which have already been deciphered by the industry of Egyptologists, remains the most complete account of the root mystery-myth of ancient Egypt. The myth of Osiris and Isis goes back to the earliest times of which we have record, and is always found in the same form. Indeed the “Ritual,” the “Book of the Dead,” which should rather be called the “Book of the Living,” might very well be styled “The Gospel of Osiris.”

It would be out of place here to seek for the historical origin of this Great Mystery; certainly Osiris was originally something greater than a “water sprite,” as Budge supposes. Osiris and Isis were and are originally, as I believe, cosmic or super-cosmic beings; for the Elder and Younger Horus, regarded macrocosmically, were the Intelligible and Sensible Worlds, and, regarded microcosmically, pertained to the mystery of the Christ-stage of manhood.

It may, of course, be denied that the ancient Egyptians were capable of entertaining any such notions; we, however, prefer the tradition of our Trismegistic tractates to the “primitive-culture” theories of anthropological speculation. That, however, such views were entertained in the first centuries is incontrovertible, as may be seen from a careful study of Philo of Alexandria alone. Thus to quote one passage out of many with regard to the two Horoi:

“For that this cosmos is the Younger Son of God, in that it is perceptible to sense. The Son who’s older than this one, He hath declared to be no one [perceptible by sense], for that he is conceivable by mind alone. But having judged him worthy of the Elder’s rights, He hath determined that he should remain with Him alone.”[1275]

When, moreover, we speak of the Christ-stage of manhood, we mean all that mystery that lies beyond the normal stage of man, including both the super-man stage and that of the Christ.

In any case, Plutarch is of the greatest service for understanding the atmosphere and environment in which the students of the Trismegistic tradition moved, and we have therefore bestowed more care upon him than perhaps the general reader may think necessary.

10. “Hermas” And “Hermes”


When, in a recent book,[1276] I was treating of the Early Church document The Shepherd of Hermas, in connection with the ancient and mysterious Book of Elxai, which, according to Epiphanius, circulated among the Essenes, Nazorenes, Ebionites, and Sampsæans, I wrote as follows:

“It is also of very great interest to notice the many intimate points of contact between the contents of the Apocalyptic Hermas and the teaching of the Early ‘Shepherd of Men’ tractate of the mystic school who looked to Hermes the Thrice-Greatest as their inspirer, that is to say, the earliest deposit of the Trismegistic literature. But that is another story which has not yet been told.”

At the same time, all unknown to me, Reitzenstein must have written, or have been writing, his learned pages on “Hermas and Poimandres,” coming to practically the same conclusion as I had in cruder form expressed several years earlier, when commenting on Hilgers’ theory[1277] that the “Shepherd of Men” was written in opposition to the “Shepherd of Hermas,” and suggesting that if there were any dependence of one on the other, it was in exactly the reverse sense to that of Hilger’s assumption.[1278]


Like all the other extant extra-canonical documents of the Early Church, and especially the Antilegomena, as Eusebius calls them, that is to say books disputed in his day but earlier admitted by wide circles into the canon, The Shepherd of Hermas has been submitted to the most searching analysis by modern criticism. Though its unity is still strenuously defended by some scholars, the majority are convinced of its composite nature; and I follow Hilgenfeld,[1279] who detects in the present form of this document three elements, or, so to say, three deposits: (i.) The Apocalyptic—Viss. i.-iv.; (ii.) The Pastoral—Vis. v.-Sim. vii.; (iii.) The Secondary, or appendix of the latest redactor—Simm. viii.-x. “Hermas i.” and “Hermas ii.” cite nothing from any of the canonical books of the New Testament, and this should be, for most scholars, a striking indication of their early date.


“Hermas ii.,” the “Pastoral Hermas,” begins as follows:[1280]

1. “Now when I had prayed in my house, and sat me down upon my couch, there entered a man of glorious appearance, in the guise of a Shepherd, clad in a white skin,[1281] with a wallet on his shoulders, and a staff in his hand. And he embraced me, and I embraced him.[1282]

2. “And straightway he sat down by my side. He saith to me: I am sent by the most Sovereign Angel, that I may dwell with thee for the rest of the days of thy life.

3. “I thought that he had come to tempt me;[1283] and I say unto him: Who art thou? For I do know (say I) into whose charge I have been given. He saith to me: Dost thou not know? Nay—answer I. I am (saith he) the Shepherd[1284] into whose charge thou hast been given.

4. “E’en as he spoke, his aspect changed, and I knew him, that it was he to whom I had been given in charge.”


If we now compare the Greek text of this interesting passage with that of the introductory paragraphs of the “Pœmandres,” it will be found impossible to refer their striking similarities merely to a common type of expression; the verbal agreements are too precise, and stand out convincingly at the first glance, without needing the assistance of the large type in which Reitzenstein (pp. 11, 12) has had them printed in his reproduction of the texts.

Most remarkable of all, however, is the similarity of ideas; for “Hermas” as for “Hermes” the Shepherd is not only a shepherd but a “shepherd of men,” even as in a different connection but in the same circle of ideas Peter and others were to become “fishers of men.”[1285]

Now, not only on general grounds is it difficult for any one who has carefully studied the two documents, to believe that the writer of the philosophic-mystical treatise not only had the Christian apocalyptic writing before him but took it as his point of departure; but, even if we are still strongly dominated by what has hitherto been the traditional view in all such questions, and cling to the theory that when there is similarity the Christian scripture must necessarily have been first in the field, it is very difficult to believe that a copier of “Hermas” should have left no traces of an acquaintance with the very distinctive feature of the robe and staff and wallet of the shepherd, and of the conversation which follows in what, on this theory, would be the presupposed original.


The mystical representation and thought-atmosphere of the writer or redactor of our present “Pœmandres” are far removed from any direct traces of contact with the folk-consciousness, in which the appurtenances mentioned by “Hermas” were the typical literary description of a shepherd since the time of Theocritus;[1286] not only so, but this was the symbolic representation of the “Shepherd of Men” in the general Hellenistic religious consciousness. Indeed, we find unquestionable proofs that Hermes was pre-eminently regarded as the “Good Shepherd,” and a figure of him with staff and wallet and single robe was a great favourite in the popular cult.[1287]

In one passage[1288] in which mention is made of this wallet and staff, further details are given showing that these simple symbols were well understood. The right hand is raised, and the left holds staff and wallet. Moreover, the staff has a serpent entwined round it, and Hermes is clad in a single robe. Like Isis, he stands upon the world-sphere, which has also a serpent twined round it. Hermes here represents the Mind or Logos, the father-mother (staff and wallet) force of nature; with the “left” he brings into generation, with the “right” he leads souls out of genesis, either to death, or regeneration. In this prayer, Hermes (as the sun) is called “the Shepherd who hath his fold in the West.”[1289]

It is to be further remarked that Hermes is in the dress of the “Poor,”[1290] and of the “Naked.”[1291]


But to return to Hermas. Why “Hermas” of all names in the world in this connection? We have a large literature in which “Hermes” plays the part of seer, and prophet, and revealer, and writer of sacred scriptures; in it, moreover, he figures as the beloved disciple of the Heavenly Mind, the Shepherd of Men. But what have we in Christian tradition to explain the name “Hermas”? Nothing, absolutely nothing, but contradictory hypotheses which try to discover a historic Hermas so as to authenticate the provenance of what is manifestly, like nearly every similar document of the time, pseudepigraphic. In my opinion, indeed, the very name Hermas betrays more clearly than anything else the “Hermes” source of the Christian writer’s setting of part of his most interesting apocalyptic. “Hermas” is because of “Hermes,” rather than “Hermes” in answer to “Hermas,” as Hilgers would have it.


This, however, does not mean to say that “Hermas” took the setting of the introduction of his Pastoral apocalypses from precisely the same text of the “Pœmandres” which now lies before us, for our present text is manifestly the redaction of an earlier form; so that if we could recover the other form we should in all probability find some additional verbal agreement of “Hermas” with “Hermes.”

That the ideas of the “Pœmandres” treatise were the mystical and philosophical side of much that appears in the popular cult of the time, may be seen by an inspection of the prayers from the Magic Papyri which we have translated.[1292] In them the Mind, as the Shepherd of Men, and the Revealer of the Light, is clearly set forth. Reitzenstein’s view (p. 32), accordingly, is that the Christian writer must have taken his description of the Shepherd from what originally was a fuller text of the “Pœmandres” than the one preserved to us, and that this will account for several features which would otherwise be peculiar to “Hermas.” This text was in closer verbal agreement with the general language of the popular Hermes religion as preserved to us in the Hermes-Prayers.[1293]


But the direct points of contact between “Hermas” and the Trismegistic literature are not confined to the “Pœmandres” document. As the original writer of “Hermas” was dependent on “Hermes” for the setting of the introduction to his Pastoral apocalypses, so also it is highly probable that the redactor was influenced by a lost treatise referred to in the introduction of “The Sacred Sermon on the Mountain,” C. H., xiii. (xiv.).

In this treatise reference is made to one of the now lost “General Sermons,”[1294] the scene of which also took place on a mountain. For in connection with it mention is made by Tat of his passing over a mountain, or ascending a mountain, at the beginning of his noviciate, when he became a “suppliant”;[1295] while it is further stated by Tat that at that stage the doctrine was not clearly explained, but rather hidden in riddles; for that as yet he was not sufficiently purified, and made “a stranger to the world-illusion.”

Now, it is remarkable that “Hermas,” in the appendix to the book (Sim. ix.), tells us that after these revelations the Shepherd came to him again, and told him that much had not been explained because of his “weakness in the flesh”; but now that he has been strengthened by the Spirit, the Shepherd will explain all “with greater clearness.” He then takes him away into Arcadia (a very unexpected locality for a Christian writer in Rome to choose), to a “breast-like mountain,” where he has the further teaching revealed to him.

But, strangely enough, it was precisely in Arcadia that the chief Hellenic cult of Hermes existed, as stated by Lactantius, basing himself on the common belief at Rome;[1296] and from Arcadia it was that Hermes, according to a tendency-legend that even at Rome went back at least to the second century B.C., set forth to teach the Egyptians.


Moreover, “Hermas” is throughout strongly tinged with “Gnostic” elements. As I wrote in my last book,[1297] it is practically one of the very numerous permutations and combinations of the Sophia-mythus—one of the many settings-forth of the mystic lore and love of the Christ and the Sophia, or Wisdom, of the Son of God and His spouse or sister, the Holy Spirit, of the King and Queen, of the Lord and the Virgin Church. In its most instructive series of visions are depicted the mystic scenes of the allegorical drama of man’s inner nature—the mystery-play of all time.

But when we say “Gnostic” we mean much that is also Hellenistic mysticism, and therefore much that is also “Hermetic,” for in the Trismegistic literature there is set forth a Gnosis of a far simpler type than in any of the Christian systems technically called “Gnostic.”


A striking example of the similarity of ideas of this nature is found in comparing the list of twelve vices and ten (seven and three) virtues, given in C. H., xiii. (xiv.) 7-10,[1298] with “Hermas,” Sim. ix. 15, 1-3, where twelve “virgins,” each bearing the name of a virtue, are set over against twelve “women clothed in black,” each bearing the name of a vice; and with “Hermas,” Vis. iii. 8, 7, where seven women, each in turn the mother of the other, are called by the names of seven virtues.

We need not, of course, necessarily suppose any direct contact in this case, though it is curious that the list of virtues occurs precisely in the sermon “On the Mountain”; but both writers clearly move in, or are influenced by, the same circle of ideas, and that, too, ideas of a very special nature.

The above points are sufficient for our purpose, and throw a most interesting light on one element in the composition of the very ancient Christian document whose exclusion from the canon, after enjoying for so many years practically canonical authority, is to be regretted.


Now, “Apocalyptic Hermas” is distinctly “anti-Pauline,” and perhaps this more than anything else accounts for the final exclusion of the book from the canon; it is therefore in vain to seek in it quotations from any of the Pauline Letters. But what is still more remarkable, neither it nor the “Pastoral Hermas” quote from any of the Canonical Gospels. This argues a very early date.

If, then, we are inclined to accept the statement of the writer of the Muratorian Fragment (c. 170 A.D.) that “Hermas” was written at Rome during the bishopric of Pius (140-c. 155 A.D.), this must refer to the completed work of the last redactor who is held responsible for “Hermas iii.,” and who was acquainted with several books of the canon. The “Pastoral Hermas” may thus be fairly pushed back to the beginning of the first century.

We have also to remember—a point which Reitzenstein does not seem to have taken into consideration—not only that the Greek original of our form of “Hermas” is lost, but that the Old Latin version has also disappeared, and that we possess only a Greek retranslation from the Latin.[1299] Under these circumstances, it is still more surprising that such strong traces of direct literary dependence on the original form of the “Pœmandres” introduction should still remain in our “Hermas.”


It would, however, in my opinion be a grave mistake to push the theory of literary dependence too far, and to seek to account for the main content of “Hermas” on any theory of direct borrowing from allied sources, or even solely of direct external conditioning by the mystical and theological ideas of the time. There is no a priori reason against the high probability that the original writer was recording some genuine inner experiences, however much, as was the fashion of the time, and of other times and climes, they may have been expanded, interpolated, and polished by literary art.

It is true that all such inner experiences would be strongly conditioned by the prior conceptions, thought-tone, and theological beliefs of the writer, and by the current and traditional types of such experiences known in his day. Indeed, it is very difficult anywhere to meet with the record of visions or apocalyptic utterances which are not so conditioned. The Buddhist seer, sees in the mode of traditional Buddhist conceptions of the unseen; the Hellenic mantis and sibyl find themselves in an invisible world of the familiar nature known to them from the mythologists, and poets, and mystery-traditions; the Egyptian prophet moves amid the familiar topography and schematology of the Amenti of his nation; even an Ezekiel sees in the symbols of the Babylonian cultus; while the Christian mystic invariably finds himself in the conventional heaven of the saints and the hell of the sinners.

It is not, therefore, necessary to follow Reitzenstein (pp. 8-11) in detail, when he seeks to show the strong influence of heathen mystical literature on the early Christian document we are discussing, and to point to striking parallels between the setting of the first four visions of “Hermas,” and the visions of Zosimus, as preserved in the fragments of his “Acts,”[1300] or the “Visit to Hades” of Setme and Si-Osiri, and their passing through the Seven Halls,[1301] as partially preserved in the Demotic “Tales of Khamuas.”[1302]

It is true that Zosimus, who nourished towards the end of the third century, was a member of the Pœmandres community, and, therefore, what he has to say is of great interest to us, for doubtless his visions were strongly conditioned by the Trismegistic tradition and especially by the Isis-type of its literature, and the cognate Egyptian “Books of Hermes”; but the points on which Reitzenstein lays stress seem somewhat too general to allow of our drawing any direct conclusion with regard to “Hermas” and “Hermes.”

There is a certain similarity; but our information is too scanty to permit of any precise drawing of general conclusions. There is, however, a valuable piece of information which prevents us from attributing all the similarities which may be noticed purely to the general thought-atmosphere of the times. In one particular at least, we can be more definite.


Zosimus is not the only follower of Thrice-greatest Hermes whose visions are still on record. Crates also has left an account of his mystic experiences, though unfortunately transmitted to us only in Arabic translation from the original Greek.[1303]

Crates leaves his body and enters the unseen world. “While I was praying,” he writes, “I felt myself suddenly carried into the airs [of heaven], following the same path as the sun and moon.” Here he meets with Thrice-greatest Hermes in the guise of “an old man, the most beautiful of men, seated on a chair; he was clad in white raiment, and held a book in his hand resting on the arm of the chair.”

Compare this with “Hermas” (Vis. ii. 2, 2): “I see opposite me a chair, and on it a covering of wool white as hail;[1304] then came there an old woman, in shining white raiment, having a book in her hand, and sat down alone.”

After this revelation, and when the “old woman” had ceased reading from the book, four young men came and carried off the chair, and departed with it to the East (ibid., 4, 1).

Here again it is of interest to compare this with the introduction to a magical “light-ritual,” where the seer has a vision of four men with crowns on their heads who bring in the “throne of the god.”[1305]

Crates is taught from the book and bidden to write what he is told. “Make thy book according to the instructions which I have given; and know that I am with thee and will never leave thee till thou hast accomplished all.”

So also “Hermas”; compare also the last sentence with the phrase in the Introduction to the “Pastoral Hermas”: “I am sent . . . that I may dwell with thee for the rest of the days of thy life.”

In another vision, Crates is instructed in a dialogue which strongly reflects the style and substance of our Trismegistic sermons. And in yet another he moves in the psychic reflection of the setting of the now for the most part lost Isis-type of the literature, which has a more strongly Egyptian colouring. He is transported to yet another heaven and firmament, and there sees the temple of Ptah (Hephæstus), and the statue of Venus (Isis), which holds converse with him.

He was then evidently saturated with the Trismegistic tradition, and had access to treatises which are now, unfortunately, lost to us, for it is just this type of the literature which shows signs of the more direct influence of Egyptian ideas, and the mention of the temple of Ptah is a striking confirmation that Reitzenstein is on the right track in his analysis of the oldest deposit of the “Pœmandres,” which he connects with the Ptah-tradition.


That the end and aim of the later Egyptian religion, and of all Hellenistic religious circles in general, was a Gnosis, or definite mystical experience in the form of visions and apocalypses, is manifest on all sides; and that this also was the chief interest of very numerous circles in the Early Church is a fundamental fact in the study of Christian origins which should not be impatiently brushed on one side, or minimised almost to extinction as of no real importance, but which should be restored to the first rank in seeking an explanation of the many obscure problems of these early days which no purely objective considerations will solve.

That the General Christian of these days, as of all subsequent centuries, had naturally much to learn in these matters from the trained Mystic, whether of his own faith or of another, is saying nothing to his discredit, for he naturally belonged to the “many” who were striving to become the “few.” General Christianity, however, spread so rapidly that the definite cultivation of the spiritual faculties practised by the early contemplatives of the faith soon gave place to a fanatical enthusiasm for a misunderstood monkdom, which swamped the monasteries with a flood of the “many,” who were often without any true vocation for the holy life, and not unfrequently quite ignorant of the elements of contemplation.

We need not speak of the wild fanaticism of warrior monkdom let loose with pick and hatchet and fire-brand to destroy the treasures of religious art throughout the beautiful Hellenic world, but even among the quiet and peaceable brethren there was much ignorance. How unknowing some of these good folk were, we may learn from a naïve story, the very simplicity of which convinces the reader of its genuineness.

Perhaps some one may here interject: But this has nothing to do with “Hermas”! Perhaps not; but it has a great deal to do with a proper understanding of the history of the development of General Christianity and its relationship to the deeper religious consciousness of the first centuries. When, then, I read the Greek text of this simple story, as reproduced by Reitzenstein,[1306] I thought that some who could not read Greek, but who take a very deep interest in such matters, might like to hear it, and so I have set it down in English.


The story runs as follows:

“Abbot Olympius[1307] said that one day a priest of the [Heathen] Greeks came down to Scetis;[1308] he came to my cell and passed the night there.

“Seeing the manner of life of the monks, he saith to me: ‘Living in this way, do ye not enjoy visions from your God?’ ‘Nay!’ I answer.

“Then saith the priest to me: ‘So long as we duly serve our God with holy deeds, he hideth nought from us, but revealeth unto us his mysteries. And ye, in spite of all your great labours—watchings, keeping silence, disciplines—sayest thou, ye see nought? Assuredly, then, if ye see nought, ye have let evil reasonings come into your hearts which shut you from your God; and ’tis for this cause his mysteries are not revealed to you.’

“And I went and told the elder [brethren] the words of the priest; and they were astonished and agreed that so it was. For impure reasonings do shut off God from man.”

I do not exactly understand what is the precise meaning of λογισμούς, which usually means  “reasonings,” and seems on the face of it to suggest that the monks’ intellectual grasp of the matter was at fault. It may, however, mean simply that their “thoughts” were impure. But this is not any more satisfactory, for the monks must have known already that impure thoughts were to be driven out.

What is clear is that the “priest of the Greeks” had personal experience of these pious exercises, and came from a circle where such things were normally practised; he, moreover, knew what was the reason for the monks’ non-success in contemplation. He knew that it all depended on thought, and that, too, on “good thought,” so that the “Good” might descend on the “good,” as the Hermes-Prayer (i. 9, 13) says. But he knew more than this; he knew that there was also need of “right thought,” of Gnosis as well as of faith, of the proper use of the intelligence and the driving out of erroneous ideas with regard to the nature of God.


But for a final word on “Hermas.” This early document was written at Rome; so all are agreed. It would, then, seem necessary to allow of sufficient time for a wide circulation of the older form of the “Pœmandres,” before it could reach Rome from Egypt. This time could not have been short, for it must be reckoned not by geographical considerations, which are hardly of any consequence in this connection, but by the fact that the “Pœmandres” was the gospel of a school that laid the greatest possible stress on secrecy. How, then, could a Christian writer have got possession of a copy? Had the pledge of secrecy already by this time been removed? This is not credible, for later Trismegistic documents still lay the greatest stress upon it.

Were, then, the early Christian mystical writers in intimate relationship with such circles as the Pœmandres-community? Some Gnostics undoubtedly were; was the writer of “Hermas”? Was there once friendship where subsequently was bitter strife?

Such and many other most interesting questions arise, but there is little hope that any satisfactory answer will be given them until the work on the mystical religious environment of the time has been pushed forward to such a point, that men may gradually become accustomed to the view that much of the secret of the Origins lies concealed in that very environment.

In any case, the way is cleared for pushing back the earlier “Pœmandres” document well into the first century, and for ranking it, therefore, as at least contemporary with the earliest of the New Testament writings.

11. Concerning The Aeon-Doctrine

“Hear then, my son, how standeth God and All. God; Æon; Cosmos; Time; Becoming.”—C. H., xi. (xii.) 1.


While rigidly excluding any consideration of the amazing elaboration of Christo-Gnostic æonology, it may not be unserviceable to offer a “few notes in connection with the simpler idea of the Æon. The subject really requires a treatise in itself, but that would, of course, be too lengthy an undertaking for these Prolegomena.[1309]

Let us, then, first turn to a striking passage which purports to give us the Orphic tradition of the Genesis of the World-Egg, and of the relation of its Glorious Progeny to the Æon.

The passage is of great interest for us in our present enquiry, for if it is not a direct quotation from Apion, the Alexandrian savant, and bitter opponent of the Jews and of Philo, during the first half of the first century A.D., it at anyrate represents the view of the Hellenistic theology of that period.

The passage is found in one of the sources of the composite and overworked document known as the Clementine Homilies,[1310] and runs as follows:


III. “There was when naught was but Chaos and an indistinguishable mixture of unordered elements still jumbled all together; both Nature herself being witness to it, and great men having thought it must be so.

“And as witness, I will bring forward for you the greatest of the great in wisdom, Homer himself, speaking about the original con-fusion:

“But may you all become water and earth[1311]

—meaning that thence all things have had their genesis, and that after the dissolution of their moist and earthy essence they are all restored again to their first nature—which is Chaos.

“And Hesiod, in his Theogony, says:

“In truth Chaos came into being the very first.[1312]

“And by ‘came into being’ he evidently means that it was generated as are things generable, and not that it for ever was as are things ingenerable.

“Orpheus also likens Chaos to an Egg in which was the con-fusion of the primordial elements.[1313]

“This is what Hesiod supposes by Chaos, what Orpheus calls an Egg—a thing generable, projected from the infinity of Matter (Hylē), and brought into being as follows:

IV. “Both fourfold Matter[1314] being ensouled and the whole Infinitude being as though it were a Depth (Βυθός), flowing perpetually and indistinguishably moving, and over and over again pouring forth countless imperfect mixtures, now of one kind and now of another, and thereby dissolving them again owing to its lack of order, and engulphing so that it could not be bound [together] to serve for the generation of a living creature—it happened that the infinite Sea itself, being driven round[1315] by its own peculiar nature, flowed with a natural motion in an orderly fashion from out of itself into itself, as it were a vortex,[1316] and blended its essences, and thus involuntarily the most developed part of all of them,[1317] that which was most serviceable for the generation of a living creature, flowed, as it were in a funnel, down the middle of the universe, and was carried to the bottom by means of the vortex that swept up everything, and drew after it the surrounding Spirit,[1318] and so gathering itself together as it were into the most productive [form of all], it constituted a discrete state [of things].

“For just as a bubble is made in water, so a sphere-like hollow form gathered itself together from all sides.

“Thereupon, itself being impregnated in itself, carried up[1319] by the Divine Spirit that had taken it to itself as consort, it thrust forth its head (προέκυψεν[1320]) into the Light—this, the greatest thing perchance that’s ever been conceived, as though it were out of the Infinite Deep’s universe a work of art had been conceived and brought to birth, an ensouled work [in form] like unto the circumference of eggs, [in speed] like to the swiftness of a wing.[1321]

V. “I would therefore have you think of Cronus (Κρόνος) as Time (Χρόνον[1322]), and of Rhea (῾Ρέα) as the flowing (τὸ ρέον) of the Moist Essence; for the whole of Matter being moved in Time brought forth, as it were, an Egg, the whole surrounding sphere-like Heaven (Ὀυρανός), which in the beginning was full of the productive marrow,[1323] so that it might be able to bring forth elements and colours of all kinds; and yet the manifold appearances which it was ever presenting, all came from One Essence and One Colour.

“For just as in the product of the peacock, although the colour of the egg seems to be one, it has nevertheless potentially in it the countless colours of the bird that is to be brought to perfection, so also the Ensouled Egg conceived from Infinite Matter, when it is set in motion from the perpetually flowing Matter below it,[1324] exhibits changes of all kinds.

“For from within the circumference a certain male-female Living Creature is imaged out by the Foreknowledge of the Divine Spirit that indwells in it, whom[1325] Orpheus doth call Manifestor (Φάνης—Phanēs), because when he is manifest (φανείς) the universe shines forth from him, through the lustre of Fire, most glorious of elements, perfected in the Moist [Element].

“Nor is this incredible, for in the case of glow-worms, for example, Nature allows us to see a ‘moist light.’

VI. “Accordingly the First Egg that was ever produced being gradually warmed by the Living Creature within it, breaks open, and then there takes shape and comes forth some such thing as Orpheus says:

“When the skull-like[1326] wide-yawning Egg did break [etc.].[1327]

“So by the mighty power of Him who came forth and who made Himself manifest, ‘the shell’[1328] receives its articulation[1329] and obtains its orderly arrangement; while He Himself presides as though it were upon a throne on Heaven’s height, and in the [realms] ineffable sends forth His light all round upon the Boundless Æon.”


This is evidently the Logos—the God from the Egg, and the God from the Rock; for the Primal Firmament was symbolised as Rock, as Adamant; just as in physical nature, the life-spark appears from the mineral kingdom.

The Logos presides in highest heaven, in the ineffable spaces, whence He sends out His rays upon the Æon, that Bound of Bounds which is itself Boundless. For the Egg may be thought of as the Boundary of some special universe or system; whereas the Æon is the Boundary of all universes.

The information given in this quotation purports to be the Orphic tradition of cosmogony; with this cosmogony all Hellenistic theologians would be familiar, and therefore we are not surprised to find many points of contact between it and the general ideas in our “Pœmandres” cosmogenesis, which, though doubtless having an original nucleus of Egyptian tradition in it, is nevertheless strongly overworked by minds that were also saturated with the mingled traditions of Plato, Pythagoras, and Orpheus.

Indeed, both “Plato” and “Pythagoras,” on their mystical side, are strongly tinged with “Orpheus.” Now, Orphicism was the revival of pre-Hesiodic Orphism initiated by Onomacritus under the Peisistratidæ. Original Orphism was, in my opinion, a blend of Hellenic Bardic lore with “Chaldæan” elements. It is not surprising, therefore, that when the “Books of the Chaldæans,” collected for the Alexandrian Library, were turned into Greek, great interest should have been taken in them by Hellenistic scholars, who found therein a confirmation of the Greek Wisdom of Orpheus, little suspecting that that Wisdom was in origin partially from the same source.


In illustration of this Chaldæo-Orphic symbolical cosmogony as “philosophised” in a Hellenistic Gnostic environment, we will quote from a system ascribed by Hippolytus to the Sēthians (a name indicating an Egyptian environment), and brought by him into the closest connection with those whom he calls the Naassenes—that is to say, with what he considers to be one of the earliest forms of the Christian Gnosis, but which, as we have shown, is a form of the pre-Christian Gnosis overworked in Christian terms about the middle of the second century. Of these Sēthians, Hippolytus[1330] tells us as follows:

“They think that there are Three Principles[1331] of the universals having certain definite boundaries, and yet that each of these Principles possesses boundless potentialities.

“Now, the Essences of these Principles (he says) are Light and Darkness; and in the midst of these is pure Spirit.

“The Spirit, however, that is set in the midst of the Darkness that is below and of the Light that is above, is not a spirit [or breath] like a blast of wind or some light breeze that can be felt; but is as it were the delicate scent of unguent or of incense compounded and prepared,—a force of fragrance that travels with a motion so rapid as to be quite inconceivable and far beyond the power of words to express.

“Now, since Light is above and Darkness below, and Spirit in some such way as I have said between them,—the Nature of the Light is that it shines forth from above, like a ray of the sun, into the Darkness beneath, while that of the fragrance of the Spirit, which has the middle rank, is, contrary wise, that it extends itself and is carried in every direction; just as in the case of incense on a fire, we see its fragrance carried in every direction.

“And such being the Power of the triply divided [Principles], the combined Power of the Spirit and Light descends into the Darkness which is set beneath them.

“And the Darkness is an awesome Water into which the Light together with the Spirit is drawn down and transferred.

“The Darkness, however, is not without understanding, but quite intelligent, and it knows that if Light were taken from Darkness, Darkness would remain isolated, unmanifest,[1332] splendourless, powerless, ineffectual, strengthless.

“Wherefore is it constrained with all its intelligence and understanding to hold down to itself the lustre and spark of the Light together with the fragrance of the Spirit.

“And one can see an image of the nature of the latter in a man’s face—[namely] the pupil of the eye,[1333] which is dark because of the waters underlying it, yet illumined by Spirit.

“As, therefore, the Darkness contends for the Splendour, in order that it may make a slave of the Light-spark and see, so also the Light and the Spirit contend for their own Power; they strive to raise and bring back to themselves those powers which are mingled with the dark and awesome Water beneath.

“Now all the powers of the three Principles, being infinitely infinite in number, are sagacious and intelligent each according to its own essence. And though they are countless in multitude, yet, being sagacious and intelligent, as long as they remain by themselves, they are all at peace.

“If, however, one power is brought into contact with another power, the dissimilarity in their juxtaposition brings about a certain motion and energy that takes its shape from the concurrent motion of the juxtaposition of the contacting powers.[1334]

“For the con-currence of the powers constitutes as it were the impression (τύπος) of a seal struck off by concussion[1335] so as to resemble the [die] that stamps the substances brought into contact with it.

“Since then the powers of the three Principles are infinite in number, and from the infinite powers are infinite concurrences, images of infinite seals are of necessity produced.

“These images, then, are the forms (ἰδέαι) of the different kinds of living creatures.

“Now from the first mighty concurrences of the three Principles there resulted a mighty type of seal—Heaven and Earth.

“And Heaven and Earth have a configuration resembling a Womb, with the embryo[1336] in the middle; and if (he says) one would bring this to the test of sight, let him scrutinise scientifically the gravid womb of whatsoever living creature he wishes, and he will find the model of Heaven and Earth and of all things between them lying before him without any alteration.

“So the configuration of Heaven and Earth was such that it resembled a Womb as it were, according to the first concourse [of the three Principles].

“And again in the midst of Heaven and Earth infinite concourses of powers occurred, and every single concourse effected and expressed the image of nothing else but a seal of Heaven and Earth—a thing resembling a Womb.

“And in the Earth itself there developed from the infinite seals of different kinds of living creatures, [living things] still more infinite.

“And into all this infinity below the Heaven in the different kinds of living creatures, the fragrance of the Spirit from above together with the Light was sown and was distributed.[1337] . . .

“Accordingly there arose out of the Water a first-born source—Wind vehement and boisterous—and cause of all genesis.

“For by making a certain seething[1338] in the waters it[1339] raises up waves from the waters.

“And the genesis of the waves, being as it were a certain pregnant[1340] impulse, is the source of the production of man or mind, whenever [this motion] quickens under the impulse of the Spirit.

“And whenever this wave, raised from the Water by the Wind, and rendering nature pregnant, receives in itself the power of production of the female, it keeps down the Light from above that has been sown into it together with the fragrance of the Spirit,—that is to say, mind that takes forms in the various types; that is a perfect god, brought down from the Ingenerable Light from above and Spirit into a human nature, as into a temple, by the course of Nature and motion of the Wind, generated from Water, commingled and blended with bodies, as though he were the salt of existing things and the light of the Darkness, struggling to be freed from bodies, and unable to find liberation and the way out of himself.

“For as it were a very minute spark . . . like a ray[1341] . . . .

“Every thought and care of the Light above, therefore, is how and in what way mind may be liberated from the Death of the evil and dark Body,[1342] from the Father below, who is the Wind that in ferment and turmoil raised up the waves and brought to birth perfect mind, son of himself, and yet not his own in essence.

“For he was a ray from above, from that Perfect Light, overpowered in the sinuous[1343] and awesome and bitter[1344] and blood-stained Water; and that Light is the Spirit of Light borne upon the water.[1345] . . .

“But the Wind, being both boisterous and vehement in its rush, is in its whistling[1346] like unto a Serpent—a winged one.

“From the Wind, that is from the Serpent, the source of generation arose in the way that has been said; all things receiving together the beginning of generation.

“When then (he says) the Light and the Spirit have been received down into the impure and disorderly Womb of manifold suffering, the Serpent—the Wind of the Darkness, the First-born of the Waters—entering in generated man, and the impure Womb neither loves nor recognises any other form.[1347]

“And so the Perfect Logos of the Light from above having made Himself like unto the Beast, the Serpent, entered into the impure Womb, having deceived it[1348] through His similitude to the Beast; in order that He may loose the bonds that are laid upon the perfect mind that is generated in the impurity of the Womb by the First-born of the Water—Snake, Wind, Beast.

“This (he says) is the Servant’s Form;[1349] and this is the necessity of the Descent of the Logos of God into the Womb of the Virgin.

“But it is not sufficient (he says) that the Perfect Man, the Logos, has entered into the Womb of the Virgin and loosed the pains that are in that Darkness; nay, but after entering into the foul mysteries in the Womb, He washed Himself and drank the Cup of Living Water bubbling-forth—a thing that everyone must do who is about to strip off the Servant-Form and put on the Celestial Garment.”

There can be little doubt but that the main ideas in the background of this system of the Gnosis are closely connected with general Orphic and Chaldæan ideas, and also with the main schematology of our “Pœmandres” tractate.

From the Orphic tradition handed on by Apion we have seen that the Æon is the Circle of Infinitude and Eternity illumined by the Logos.


The whole of this Orphic lore (in other words, the Chaldæan wisdom-teaching) seems to me to be summed up in one division of the symbolism of the Mithra-cult, as may be seen by an inspection of the monuments reproduced by Cumont, and especially those of the mysterious figure which he calls “la divinité léontocéphale,” and the birth of the God from the Rock; this seems to point, as we might very well suspect, to a strong Chaldæan element in the Mithriac tradition.

Cumont[1350] tells us that although some scholars have rejected the name of “Mithriac Æon,” which was given by Zoëga to this awe-inspiring mystic figure,[1351] in his opinion (and he knows more of the subject than any other authority) it may very well have been actually called Æon in the sacred books of the mysteries.

If, however, this was the case, the mystic meaning, says Cumont, was of such a nature that it was concealed from the profane.

Our classical authorities inform us that the Magi expressed the name of the Supreme God, which was in reality ineffable, by various substitutes. The general name for the Mystery Deity was Cronus, and Cronus in the sense of Time.

“The Mithriac Cronus is a personification of Time, and this fact, which is now fairly established, permits us immediately to determine the identity of this pseudonymous God.

“There is only one Persian divinity which he can possibly represent, and that is Zervan Akarana, Infinite Time, whom, from the time of the Achemenides, a sect of the Magi placed at the origin of things, and from whom they would have both Ormuzd and Ahriman to have been born.

“It was this God that the adepts of the mysteries placed at the head of the celestial hierarchy, and considered as the first principle; or, to put it differently, it was the Zervanist system that the Mazdæans of Asia Minor taught to the Western followers of the Iranian religion.”

This all seems to me to point not to a Persian origin of the Æon, as Cumont supposes, but to a Chaldæan element dominating the Mithriac form of the Magian tradition.[1352]


Now the Chaldæan and Egyptian wisdom-cultures had many root-ideas in common (were they not regarded by the Greeks as the wisdom-traditions par excellence?); we are not therefore surprised to find that Egypt, with its ever-recurring grandiose mystery-phrases of enormous time-periods, such as “He of the millions of years,” had on its own soil a highly developed idea of Eternity and of Eternities—that is, of the Æon and of the Æons; and indeed the strongly Egyptian forms of the Gnosis, which we have preserved to us under Christian overworking, are involved in the most complex æonology.

It seems, however, almost as though the evidence suggests that this Egyptian element had been revivified, and rescued from the oblivion in which it had been buried in a decadent age, in the symbolism of an almost forgotten past, by a stream of Chaldæan ideas that poured into Hellenistic circles in the early Alexandrian period. When precisely the Æon-idea forced itself upon the philosophic mind of Alexandrian thinkers as an unavoidable mystic necessity, it is difficult to say with any certainty. It can, however, be said without fear of serious contradiction that it may have done so from early Ptolemaic times, and with certainty that it did so in the first century B.C. as truly as in the first century A.D.

That the term Æon was in frequent use in the popular Hermes-cult may be seen in Hermes-Prayer v. 4, where Thoth is characterised as the “Æon of the Æons who changes himself into all forms in visions.” So also in Prayer viii. 2, the Good Daimon, who has different names given him in the different hours, is called “Wealth-giving Æon.” So also with Isis, who is called Wisdom and Æon in the Papyri.[1353]

In conclusion, we may glance at what Reitzenstein (pp. 272 ff.) has to say concerning this “Aionenlehre.”


The name Abraxas, which consisted of seven elements or letters, was a mystery-designation of the God who combined in himself the whole power of the Seven Planets, and also of the Year of 365 days, the sum of the number-values of the letters of Abraxas working out to 365. This mysterious Being was the “Year”; but the Year as the Eternity, also conceived of in a spatial aspect, as the Spirit or Name that extends from Heaven to Earth, the God who pervades and full-fills the Seven Spheres, and the Three Hundred and Sixty-five Zones, the Inner God, “He who has His seat within the Seven Poles—ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ,” as the Papyri have it, and also without them, as we shall see.

The mysterious formula “the Name of which the figure is 365” meets us in such connections, that it cannot be taken to mean simply the “Year-God,” but is a synonym of the Highest God, a secret, mysterious Being. In brief it was, as we have seen, no other than the Lion-headed God, called in Greek Æon.

Indeed, we know from Philo of Byblos[1354] that, at least in his day, the second half of the first century A.D. (and, for all we know, prior to it), there were in Phœnicia communities of the Æon—of the Highest and Supercelestial One.


The first dated use of the word in a religious sense is found in Messala (who was Consul, 53 B.C.), as Johannes Lydus tells us.[1355] Moreover, Lydus informs us that the Ancients (οἱ πάλαι) celebrated a Feast of the Æon on January 5th.[1356] This can be no other than the Feast of which Epiphanius gives us such interesting details in treating of the Epiphany, when he writes, after describing the festival in the Koreion at Alexandria:[1357]

“And if they are asked the meaning of this mystery, they answer and say: To-day at this hour the Maiden (Korē), that is the Virgin, has given birth to the Æon.”[1358]

In the next paragraph Epiphanius designates this Æon as the Alone-begotten. Here, then, we have striking evidence that in its Egyptian environment the cult of the Æon was associated with mystery-rites reminding us strongly of the symbolism of the Christ-mystery.


Moreover, Messala[1359] tells us of this Æon, that He “who made all things and governs all things, joined together by means of the surrounding Heaven the power and nature of Water and Earth, heavy and downward, flowing down into the Depth, and that of Fire and Spirit, light and rushing upward to the measureless Height. It is this mightiest power of Heaven that hath bound together these two unequal powers.”

Lydus (ibid.) furthermore tells us that the idea of the Æon was associated by the Pythagoreans with the idea of the Monad; indeed, they seem to have derived the word aiōn from ἰά, the Ionic form of μία (one).

Any attempt to refer this Pythagorean identification to the earlier Pythagoreans would be at once rejected by the majority of scholars, but I believe myself that the original Pythagoreans were far too close to the Borderland between mythology and philosophy not to have personified or at least substantiated their “Numbers” and the Source of them. At anyrate it is highly instructive to find Plato himself writing in the Timæus:


“And when the Father who begot it [the Cosmos] saw that by its motion and its life it had become a likeness of the Everlasting Gods, He marvelled, and in delight determined further to make it still more like its Original.[1360] And as the latter is an Everlasting Living Being, He sought to make this [Sensible] Universe as far as possible like it.

“Now the nature of the Living Being was eternal (αἰώνιος—æonian); but to bestow this quality entirely on a generable creature was not possible.

“Accordingly He determined to make a moving image of Eternity (Αἰῶνος); and so in setting the Heaven in order He makes it an everlasting (αἰώνιον) image, moving according to number, of Eternity (Αἰῶνος) that rests in One—an image which we have, you know, called Time.”[1361]

Here it is very plain that Æon is not Time, but the Paradigm thereof—Eternity. It is the Consummation of the Eternal Gods—namely, the Plērōma, the Monad par excellence. We, therefore, find already in Plato the idea of the Æon fully developed. Did Plato “invent” it? Or did he put an already existing idea into philosophical terms? He presumably found it already existing. Was it then Orphic (Pythagorean), or did he learn of it in Egypt? Who shall say precisely?


Seeing, however, that we find the idea of the Æon fully developed in Plato, and seeing that Plato was, so to speak, scripture for our Hermetic writers, it is exceedingly puzzling that we should find it apparently introduced at a certain stage into the Trismegistic literature as a new doctrine.

It may be, however, that those who had followed Plato on purely philosophical lines had hitherto paid little attention to the idea of the Æon, except as an ultimate principle beyond the reach of speculation. When, however, the enthusiastic seership of mysticism dared to soar beyond heaven into the Heaven of heavens, and so to divide the Simplicity into an Infinitude of Multiplicity, the term Æon came to be used no longer for a transcendent unity but as the connotation of a grade of Being. It may then have been that our Hermetic writers reasserted the use of the term in its simpler philosophic meaning as a check to over-enthusiastic speculation.

But even if it were a reaction against a too great luxury of speculation, it must have been contemporaneous with the development of æonology; so that in any case C. H. xi. (xii.) must be dated from this point of view.

When æonology arose we cannot say precisely; but æonology in the Gnostic sense of the term was, as we have seen, to some extent at least existing as early as the earliest Christian documents.


Now though the Trismegistic tractate C. H., xi. (xii.) is evidently in literary contact with the Timæus,[1362] it nevertheless purports to give more “esoteric,” or at any rate more precise, instruction than is to be found in Plato’s famous cosmogonical treatise. It does not follow Plato, but hands on an instruction that has already been formulated in a precise and categorical fashion. The ladder of existence is God, Æon, Cosmos, Time, Genesis;—each following one from the other.

Æon is the Power of God (§ 3), whereas Cosmos is God’s creation and work (§§ 3, 4). The Æon, standing between God and Cosmos, is the Paradigm, and so also the Son of God (§ 15), and the final end of man is that he should become Æon (§ 20)—that is, Son of God. Æon is thus evidently the Logos of God, or the Intelligible Cosmos, as distinguished from the Sensible Cosmos. This Æon is the Fullness in which all things move, and chiefly the Seven Cosmoi (§ 7).


Now, Reitzenstein (pp. 274 ff.) shows very clearly that the Cult of the Saeculum or Æon was strongly developed in Roman theology in at least the first century B.C. This is too early a date for us to assign this development to the influence of the Mithras-cult. Can it then be that Rome was influenced by Egypt? Such at anyrate is Reitzenstein’s opinion (p. 277), who points to the fact that Messala, who is fully imbued with the Æon-idea, was a contemporary of Nigidius, the most learned of the Romans after Varro, and a Pythagorean philosopher of high attainments. Now it is remarkable that in his work, De Sphæra Barbarica, Nigidius treats of the Egyptian Sphere.


Egypt, as we have already remarked, at a very early date arrived at the idea of eternal or at anyrate of enormously long periods of time, and had symbolised this conception in a primordial syzygy or pair of Gods. Indeed, the names of the primordial Time-pair, Ḥḥw (Ḥeḥu) and Ḥḥt (Ḥeḥut), are immediately derived from “Ḥḥ,” generally translated “Million,” but by Brugsch and others as Æon.[1363] All the Egyptian Gods were Lords of the Eternity or of the Eternities. But not only so, the term “eternity” was used in connection with definite time-periods; for instance, “in a million (or eternity) of thirty year periods.” And again: “Thy kingdom will have the lastingness of eternity and of infinitely many hundred-and-twenty-year periods; ten millions of thy years, millions of thy months, hundred-thousands of thy days, ten-thousands of thine hours.”[1364]

Here we must remark the numbers 120 (that is 12 × 10) and 30; all essential numbers of the Gnostic Plērōma of Æons.

It is also of interest in connection with the Time-pair, to note that Horapollo, the Alexandrian grammarian, tells us that the Egyptians when they desire to express the idea of Æon write “sun and moon”[1365] (i. 1), and when they want to write “year” they draw “Isis,” that is “woman” (i. 3).

We thus see that in Egypt there were Æons of Periods or Years, and Years of Æons. Above all these ruled the God of the Æons, the highest God of many a mystic community.


And so we read the following song of praise to the Æon, inscribed on a “secret tablet” by some unknown Brother of a forgotten Order:

1. “Hail unto Thee, O thou All-Cosmos of æthereal Spirit! Hail unto Thee, O Spirit, who doth extend from Heaven to Earth, and from the Earth that’s in the middle of the orb of Cosmos to the ends of the Abyss!

2. “Hail unto Thee, O Spirit who doth enter into me, who clingeth unto me or who doth part thyself from me, according to the Will of God in goodness of His heart!

3. “Hail unto Thee, O thou Beginning and thou End of Nature naught can move! Hail unto thee thou vortex of the liturgy[1366] unweariable of [Nature’s] elements!

4. “Hail unto Thee, O thou Illumination of the solar beam that shines to serve the world. Hail unto Thee, thou Disk of the night-shining moon, that shines unequally! Hail, ye Spirits all of the æthereal statues [of the Gods]!

5. “Hail to you [all], whom holy Brethren and holy Sisters ought to hail in giving of their praise!

6. “O Spirit, mighty one, most mighty circling and incomprehensible Configuration of the Cosmos, celestial, æthereal, inter-æthereal, water-like, earth-like, fire-like, air-like, like unto light, to darkness like, shining as do the stars,—moist, hot, cold Spirit!

7. “I praise Thee, God of gods, who ever doth restore the Cosmos, and who doth store the Depth away[1367] upon its throne of settlement no eye can see, who fixest Heaven and Earth apart, and coverest the Heaven with thy golden everlasting (αἰωνίαις) wings, and makest firm the Earth on everlasting thrones!

8. “Thou who hangest up the Æther in the lofty Height, and scatterest the Air with thy self-moving blasts, who mak’st the Water eddy round in circles!

9. “O Thou who raisest up the fiery whirlwinds, and makest thunder, lightning, rain, and shakings of the earth, O God of Æons! Mighty art thou, Lord God, O Master of the All!”[1368]

Here there is no separation of God as intra-cosmic and extra-cosmic; He is both the one and the other. He is both the Fullness of the Godhead and also the Fullness of Cosmos. He is both the Cosmos, and He who is above the Cosmos and below the Cosmos.[1369]


Reitzenstein (p. 278), referring to our Trismegistic tractate, C. H., xi. (xii.), points to the distinction made between Æon and God on one side and Æon and Cosmos on the other. This, he thinks, shows signs of the influence of a fundamental trait of Hellenistic theology which makes the Demiurge the Second God.

However this may be, there certainly was a distinction drawn between the Creative, or rather Formative, God and the Supreme Deity, in many a Christian Gnostic System, and not unfrequently of a very disparaging nature to the former. Already in Jewish mystic and philosophic (Gnostic) circles a distinction had had to be drawn between the idea of God as the Creator God, and the idea of God as the Ineffable Mystery of Mysteries. This had been necessitated by the contact of the Jewish Gnostics with the old wisdom-ideas and with the fundamental postulates of Greek philosophy.


Many examples could be given,[1370] but we prefer to follow Reitzenstein (p. 279) in his references to the Magic Papyri, or Apocryphal literature of the same class, and append the translation of two striking quotations, as opening up an entirely novel side of the subject.

Thus in the eighth Book of Moses, we find the following passage in which the Jewish Creator God is placed in the second rank as compared with the Egyptian Supreme Principle.

“And God, looking down unto the earth, said: IAŌ! And all stood still, and then came into being from His Voice a Great God, most mighty, who is Lord of all things, who caused to stand the things that shall be; and no longer was there any thing without order in the æthereal realms.”[1371]

So also in an invocation to an unknown God, most probably to the Spirit to whom the Brother of the unknown community addressed his praise-giving as given above—we meet with the same distinction.

“Thee, the only and blest Father of the Æons, I invoke with prayers like unto Cosmos![1372]

“Come unto me who fillest the whole Cosmos with thy Breath, and dost hang up on high the Fire out of the Water,[1373] and dost from out the Water separate the Earth. . . . The Lord bore witness to thy Wisdom, that is the Æon, and bade thee to have strength as He Himself hath strength.”[1374]

And, later on, the Theurgist exclaims:

“Receive my words as shafts of fire, for that I am God’s Man, for whom was made the fairest plasm of spirit, dew[1375] and earth.”

He is a Man whose words are effective and bring all things to pass; for his “words” are compelling “acts,” or “theurgic.”

Other passages are brought forward by Reitzenstein (pp. 280-286) to show that the idea of the Logos or Æon as Second God was a fundamental conception in Hellenistic theology.

This may very well have been the case in general Hellenistic theology; but in philosophical circles, as we have pointed out in treating of the Logos-idea in Philo, the distinction was formal and not essential. So also in our Trismegistic treatises, which are saturated with transcendental pantheistic or monistic, or rather panmonistic, conceptions, if the Logos or Æon is momentarily treated of as apart from Supreme Deity, it is not so in reality; for the Logos is the Season of God, God in His eternal Energy, and the Æon is the Eternity of Deity, God in His energic Eternity, the Rest that is the Source of all Motion.

For the fullest exposition of the Æon-doctrine in our Trismegistic tractates, see The Perfect Sermon, xxx.-xxxii., and my commentary thereon.

12. The Seven Zones And Their Characteristics

“To the first zone he gives the energy of Growth and Waning; unto the second zone, Device of Evils now de-energized; unto the third, the Guile of the Desires de-energized; unto the fourth, his Domineering Arrogance also de-energized; unto the fifth, unholy Daring and the Rashness of Audacity de-energized; unto the sixth, Striving for Wealth by evil means deprived of its aggrandisement; and to the seventh zone, Ensnaring Falsehood de-energized.”—C. H., i. 25.


Let us first turn to the commentary of Macrobius on the famous “Dream of Scipio,” which Cicero introduces into his Republic (Bk. VI.), just as Plato appends the Vision of Er to his. Macrobius devotes the twelfth chapter of his First Book to a consideration of “The Descent of the Soul from the Height of Cosmos to the Depths of Earth,” and professes to base himself on Pythagorean and Platonic traditions. His dissertation covers more ground than the precise subject of the zones with which we are more immediately concerned; but as the whole scheme is of interest to our present studies, we will append a translation of practically the whole chapter.

“[According to Pythagoras] when the Soul descends from the Boundary where the Zodiac and Galaxy [or Milky Way] meet, from a spherical form, which is the only divine one, it is elongated into a conical one[1376] by its downward tendency.

“Just as the line is born from the point and proceeds into length out of the indivisible, so the soul from its point, that is ‘monad,’ comes into ‘dyad’—its first production [or lengthening].

“And this is the essence which Plato in the Timæus, speaking about the construction of the World-Soul, describes as indivisible yet at the same time divisible.

“For just as the Soul of the World so also the soul of an individual man will be found in one respect incapable of division—if it is regarded from the standpoint of the simplicity of its divine nature—and in another capable [of division]—since the former is diffused through the members of the world, and the latter through those of a man.

“When then the soul is drawn towards body—in this first production of it—it begins to experience a material agitation, matter flowing into it.[1377]

“And this is remarked by Plato in the Phædo [when he says] that the soul is drawn to body staggering with recent intoxication,—meaning us to understand by this a new draught of matter’s superfluity, by which it becomes defiled and gravid and so is brought down.

“A symbol of this mystic secret is that Starry Cup (Cratēr) of Father Bacchus placed in the space between Cancer and Leo[1378]—meaning that intoxication is there first experienced by souls in their descent by the influx of matter into them. From which cause also forgetfulness, the companion of intoxication, then begins secretly to creep into souls.

“For if souls brought down to body memory of the divine things of which they were conscious in heaven, there would be no difference of opinion among men concerning the divine state. But all, indeed, in their descent drink of forgetfulness—some more, some less.

“And for this cause on earth, though the truth is not clear to all, they nevertheless have all some opinion about it; for opinion arises when memory sinks. Those, however, are greater discoverers of truth who have drunk less of forgetfulness, because they remember more easily what they have known before in that state.

“Hence it is that what the Latins call a ‘lecture’ (lectio) the Greeks call a ‘re-knowing’ (repetita cognitio[1379]), because when we give utterance to true things, we re-cognize the things which we knew by nature before the influence of matter intoxicated our souls in their descent into body.

“Now it is this Matter (Hylē) which, after being impressed by the [divine] ideas, fashioned every body in the cosmos which we see. Its highest and purest nature, by means of which the divinities are either sustained or consist,[1380] is called Nectar, and is believed to be the drink of the gods; while its lower and more turbid nature is the drink of souls. The latter is what the Ancients called the River of Lethe [or Forgetfulness].

“The Orphic [initiates], however, suppose that Dionysus himself is to be understood as ‘Hylic Nous’[1381]—[that Mind] which after its birth from the Indivisible [Mind] is itself divided into individual [minds].

“And it is for this reason that in their Mystery-tradition Dionysus is represented as being torn limb from limb by the fury of the Titans, and, after the pieces have been buried, as coming together again whole and one; for Nous—which, as we have said, is their term for Mind—by offering itself for division from its undivided state, and by returning to the undivided from the divided, both fulfils the duties of the cosmos and also performs the mysteries of its own nature.

“The soul, therefore, having by means of this first weight [of matter] fallen down from the Zodiac and Galaxy into the series of spheres that lie below them, in continuing its descent through them, is not only enwrapped in the envelope of a luminous body,[1382] but also develops the separate motions which it is to exercise.

“In the sphere of Saturn [it develops] the powers of reasoning and theorizing[1383]—which [the Greeks] call τὸ λογιστικὸν and τὸ θεωρητικόν; in that of Jupiter, the power of putting into practice—which they call τὸ πρακτικόν; in that of Mars, the power of ardent vehemence—which they call τὸ θυμικόν; in that of the Sun, the nature of sensing and imagining—which they call τὸ αἰσθητικὸν and τὸ φανταστικόν; in that of Venus, the motion of desire—which they call τὸ ἐπιθυμητικόν, in the sphere of Mercury, the power of giving expression to and interpretation of feelings—which they call τὸ ἑρμη νευτικόν; on its entrance into the sphere of the Moon it brings into activity τὸ φυτικόν—that is, the nature of making bodies grow and of moving them.

“And this [soul], though the last thing in the divine series, is nevertheless the first thing in us and in all terrestrial beings; just as this body [of ours], though the dregs of things divine, is still the first substance of the animal world.

“And this is the difference between terrene bodies and supernal—I mean those of the heaven and stars and of the other elements[1384]—that the latter are summoned upwards to the abode of the soul, and are worthy of immunity from death from the very nature of the space in which they are and their imitation of sublimity.

“The soul, however, is drawn down to these terrene bodies, and so it is thought to die when it is imprisoned in the region of things fallen and in the abode of death. Nor should it cause distress that we have so often spoken of death in connection with the soul, which we have declared to be superior to death. For the soul is not annihilated by [what is called] its death, but is [only] buried for a time; nor is the blessing of its perpetuity taken from it by its submersion for a time, since when it shall have made it worthy to be cleansed clean utterly of all contagion of its vice, it shall once more return from body to the light of Everlasting Life restored and whole.”[1385]

The characteristics of the spheres given by Macrobius are according to their simple energies; there is no question of good or bad; it is the “thinking” of the soul that conditions the use of these energies for beneficent or maleficent ends.


Servius, however, in his Commentary on Virgil’s Æneid, vi. 714, hands on another tradition, in which the Spheres were regarded as inimical to the good of the soul, its evil propensities being ascribed to their energies. Some scholars are of opinion that Virgil in his famous Sixth Book is largely dependent on the ideas of popular Egyptian theology;[1386] however that may be, Servius writes as follows:

“The philosophers tell us what the soul loses in its descent through the separate spheres. For which cause also the Mathematici imagine that our body and soul are knit together by the powers of the separate divinities, on the supposition that when souls descend, they bring with them the sluggishness of Saturn, the passionateness of Mars, the lustfulness of Venus, the cupidity of Mercury, and the desire for rule of Jupiter. And these things perturb souls, so that they are unable to use their own energy and proper powers.”

It is to be noticed that the characteristics of the Sun and Moon are omitted, and this points to a doctrine in which Sun and Moon were treated as distinct from “the five.” So also in the “Books of the Saviour” appended to the Pistis Sophia document we find (pp. 360, 366 ff.) mention of only five planets. The tradition of this doctrine is exceedingly obscure,[1387] and does not immediately concern us, as our text works on a “seven” basis.


I have done my best to discover some consistent scheme by which the contradictory data in Macrobius, Servius, and Hermes might be reconciled, but the tabularising of their indications only makes confusion worse confounded.

It is evident, however, that the main thing that Macrobius hands on, and which he attributes to Orphic-Pythagorean-Platonic tradition, contains in itself no suggestion that these philosophers attributed any evil tendencies to the characteristics of the spheres in themselves. The tradition of Macrobius is as follows:



τὸ θεωρητικὸν
τὸ λογιστικὸν





τὸ πρακτικὸν


vis agendi.



τὸ θυμικὸν


ardor animositatis.



τὸ αἰσθητικὸν
τὸ φανταστικὸν


natura sentiendi.
natura opinandi.



τὸ ἐπιθυμητικὸν


motus desiderii.



τὸ ἑρμηνευτικὸν


vis pronuntiandi
et interpretandi
quæ sentiantur.



τὸ φυτικὸν


natura plantandi
et agendi corpora.

The confusion between the “vis agendi” of Jupiter and that of the Moon may be resolved by supposing that the former was the application of the reasoning faculty to the practical things of life, while the latter was the power of moving one’s own physical body, if indeed the “et agendi” is not a gloss of Macrobius.

Servius, on the contrary, is following a tradition in which the spheres were regarded as the sources of evil tendencies; ethical considerations dominate the whole conception. Seeing, however, that it is a fivefold distribution, we are unable to equate it with the doctrine of Hermes, which is sevenfold. Nevertheless, there are some parallels.

The lustfulness (libido) of Servius is to be paralleled with the “guile of the desires” or “lustful error” (ἡ ἐπιθυμητικὴ ἀπάτη) of Hermes. This is ascribed to the third zone by Hermes, and to Venus by Servius, Venus further coming third in Macrobius.

The “desire of rule” (desiderium regni) of Servius is clearly the “domineering arrogance” (ἡ ἀρχοντικὴ προφανία) of Hermes. In Hermes this belongs to the middle zone (fourth); in Servius it is ascribed to Jupiter, presumably as the ruler of the age—the ruler of the previous age being Saturn, who has been deprived of his energy and so rendered “torpid.”

The “passion” or “wrathfulness” (iracundia) of Servius is also to be paralleled to some extent with the “unholy daring” of Hermes. It is ascribed to the fifth zone by Hermes and to Jupiter by Servius, Mars also coming fifth in Macrobius.

Finally, the “love of gain” (lucri cupiditas) of Servius may be paralleled by the “striving for wealth by evil means” (αἱ ἀφορμαὶ αἱ κακαὶ τοῦ πλούτου) of Hermes. Hermes attributes this to the sixth zone, and Servius to Mercury.

The remaining quality mentioned by Servius, “torpor,” which he ascribes to Saturn, equates with nothing in Hermes, unless we can persuade ourselves that the  “ensnaring falsehood” or “falsehood that lies in wait” (τὸ ἐνεδρεῦον ψεῦδος) of Hermes has some connection with it.

The scheme of Hermes is septenary, and connected with the ideas of the ascent of the soul through seven zones, which we must locate as seven superimposed atmospheres extending from the surface of the earth to the moon’s orbit. There is no question here of the Celestial Spheres proper of the Philosophers, the characteristics of the energies of which are neither good nor evil in themselves; nor is there apparently any question of the “animal soul” proper, for the “passions and desires” are said to withdraw into the “nature which is void of reason.” Though nothing more is said about this nature in this connection, in the general belief of the time its dominion was thought of as located below the earth-surface—as a Tartarus of seven zones, corresponding to those above, in which the “animal soul” or “vehicle of desire” was thought of as being gradually disintegrated, its energies finally going back to their source in the Depths of the Darkness, while the process of such disintegration or metamorphosis produced a parallel consciousness of chastisements and horrors. The seven zones of our text, however, are apparently the region of purification of the lower energies of the human soul; the mental energies led into error by the animal passions.


Now if we turn to Salmon’s article on the “Hebdomad,”[1388] and to his discussion of the tradition of the “Ophites”—a mysterious medley of chaotic elements, which have not yet been analysed in any satisfactory fashion, but which have their roots in pre-Christian traditions of a very varied nature within the general characteristic of a syncretic Gnosticism—we find that after treating of the Celestial Hebdomad, he continues as follows:

“Besides the higher hebdomad of the seven angels, the Ophite system told of a lower hebdomad. After the serpent in punishment for having taught our first parents to transgress the commands of Ialdabaoth was cast down into this lower world, he begat himself six sons,[1389] who with himself form a hebdomad, the counterpart of that of which his father Ialdabaoth is chief. These are the seven demons, the scene of whose activity is this lower earth, not the heavens; and who delight in injuring the human race on whose account their father had been cast down. Origen (Adv. Cels., vi. 30) gives their names and forms from an Ophite Diagram; Michael in form as a lion, Suriel as an ox, Raphael as a dragon, Gabriel as an eagle, Thautabaoth as a bear, Erataoth as a dog, Onoel as an ass.”

Here, I think, we are on the track of one aspect of a general mystery-tradition that Hermes has “philosophized.” I say one aspect, for the “Ophite” tradition is not a single form of tradition, but a medley of traditions containing a number of forms; it is a complex or syncretism of Chaldæan, Persian, and Egyptian elements, patched together, or “centonized,” if we may use the term, with Jewish industry.


The wealth of symbolism and profusion of mysterious personifications with which these systems of subjective imagery were smothered, could exercise only a partial fascination on the clear-thinking, philosophical mind which had been trained in the method of Plato. If such a mind was combined with the mystic temperament, as was indubitably the case with the writer of our “Pœmandres” treatise, his main effort would be to simplify and categorize in the terms of philosophy at the expense of apocalyptic detail; nevertheless, when a man lived in the midst of such ideas, and was presumably in intimate relations with mystics and seers of all sorts, he could not but be strongly affected by the main presuppositions of all such apocalyptic, and the general notions of the schematology of the Unseen World, which all students of such matters at that period seem to have accepted in common.

We thus find that our Trismegistic literature, though dealing throughout with the Gnosis, treats it in a far more simple way than any other known system of the time. Nevertheless, even the complex imagery of the Ophite schools is occasionally summed up in a few graphic general symbols, and these, too, representing probably the oldest elements in them.


From the confused description by Origen[1390] of the famous but exceedingly puzzling Ophite Diagram that both Celsus and Origen had before them, though in different forms, we can make out with certainty only that this chart of the Unseen Spaces was divided into three main divisions—Upper, Middle, and Lower. The Middle Space contained a geometrical diagram of a group of ten circles surrounded by one great circle. This Great Circle was called Leviāthān, and the grouping of circles within it was apparently divided into a three and a seven. The Lower Space had in it a grouping of seven circles, the circles of the seven ruling daimones (xxx.)—elsewhere called Archontics—and the whole group was apparently called Bĕhēmōth (xxv.).

Celsus, quoted by Origen (xxvii.), tells us that the doctrine was that on the death of the body two groups of angels range themselves on either side of the soul,[1391] the one set being called “Angels of Light” and the other “Archontics”—evidently intended for “Angels of Darkness.” Thus the evil soul was thought to be led away by the Daimones to Behemoth, and the pure soul to Leviathan.

We cannot enter into the endless discussions concerning these two Great Beasts, mentioned together in Job xl. 15-24, and separately in Isaiah and Psalms; the most recent research comes to the conclusion that “it would seem that Leviāthān was regarded as lord of the ocean and Bĕhēmōth of dry land.”[1392]

But in our diagram Leviathan is Lord of the Heaven-Ocean or Great Green or Cosmic Air, and Behemoth Lord of the Cosmic Earth.

Indeed, in the Book of Enoch,[1393] the apocalyptic writer associates these two monsters with precisely the same eschatological considerations which Origen tells us were the purpose of the Diagram, only “Enoch” speaks of the Last Day, while the Ophite writer has in view the ascent of the soul of an initiate after death.

At the final separation of Righteous and Unrighteous, “Enoch” tells us, these Great Creatures, which before were united, will be parted. That is to say, at death there is a metamorphosis of the soul.

From what is said in “Enoch,” moreover, I deduce that the Upper Space of the Ophite Diagram was intended to represent the Celestial Paradise, that is the state of the Pure Mind or of the Righteous.

Leviathan and Behemoth are figured in IV. Esdras vi. 49-52, as Devourers of the Unrighteous; while general Jewish apocalyptic in both Apocrypha and Talmud believed that these monsters would in their turn become the food of the Righteous in Messianic times.[1394]

From all these indications we deduce that Behemoth was the Great Beast and Leviathan the Great Fish. The animal soul, intensified by contact with the human mind, then goes back to its source the Great Beast, and is devoured by it, and reabsorbed by it, its energies returning to the sum total of energies of the Great Animal Group-Soul, the whole energy and experience of which shall eventually become the “food” of the perfected man; that is to say, presumably, he will in his turn devour and so transmute these energies; the perfected man will thrive by transmuting the Body of the Great Beast into the Body of the Great Man.

The Great Fish, however, would seem to symbolize the higher energies of the soul, which also require transmutation. In being born into the stature of the Great Man, the Son of Man must needs pass “three days” in the Belly of the Whale. This Great Fish is of the nature of knowledge; for does not Oannes come out of the Ocean in fish-form to teach,[1395] in the Assyrian Mystery-tradition, and does not the Ophite tradition in another of its phases[1396] derive the inspiration of the great prophets of Israel, in their several degrees, from this same Group of Angels which the Diagram calls Leviathan?

It is also of interest to notice that Leviathan and Behemoth were believed to have once formed one monster, which was subsequently divided into male and female, Behemoth being male and Leviathan female. This reminds one of the primæval Water-Earth of Hermes, which was subsequently divided into Water and Earth, just as the animals were first of all male-female, and subsequently were separated. Moreover, in the Vision of Er the arcs of the journeyings of the ascending and descending souls end in two orifices above in the sky and two below in the earth, as though they were the ends of a once great hollow ring or circle that had been divided, or as it were two serpents arched above and below, with mouths and tails as orifices; and, curiously enough, in the Pistis Sophia the souls of the unrighteous enter by the mouth of the Lower Dragon and depart by the tail.

Now, Leviathan being female and Behemoth male, and both forming together as it were the circumference of the Great Wheel of Necessity, the Wheel of Genesis, the attribution of the gestation, so to speak, of the virtues of the soul to the one and the digesting of its vices to the other, is not so surprising. Further, they could be regarded as the right-hand or left-hand arcs or hemispheres of the Wheel, or Sphere, or Egg, according to celestial topography; whereas in Egyptian terrestrial parallelism the right hand was to the north and the left hand the south, upper and lower Egypt. Curiously enough, in Isa. xxx. 6, Behemoth is called the monster “of the south land.”[1397]

Whether or no the writer of the “Pœmandres” was directly influenced by the precise forms of tradition to which we have referred, is impossible to determine; but that he was influenced by the general ideas as symbolized is indubitable, and that he understood the esoteric meaning of the “hippopotamus” and “crocodile” symbols in Egyptian mysticism is highly probable.


Origen (xxxi.), moreover, tells us that, according to the Ophites, the consciousness of the soul after passing through the domain of the animal-formed Rulers, broke through what was called the “Fence of Iniquity,” and so turned towards the higher spheres, through which it also had to pass. In the seventh and highest of them, over which ruled the Virtue which was called Hōræus,[1398] it addresses the Ruler thereof with an apology or defence of its own innocence, beginning with the words: “O thou who hast transcended the ‘Fence of Fire’ without fear!”

This Fence of Fire was symbolised in the form of the Diagram which Origen (xxxiii.) had before him, as a circle of fire with a flaming sword lying across its diameter. This must then have been intended to represent the Sphere of Fire, or Angel or Guardian of the Gate, which had to be passed before the Celestial Paradise could be entered, for the flashing, circling blade is said to have guarded the “Tree of Gnosis and of Life.”

The same idea of a typical Boundary or Fence meets us in the “Pœmandres.” It is Man who breaks through the seven spheres and also their enclosing Sphere, the Might or Power that circumscribed the Fire. The root idea is the same. The point of view of Hermes, however, like that of the Ophite Gnostics, is not the passage round the Circle of Necessity of the souls of the unregenerate, as in the Vision of Er, but of the Straight Ascent of the soul of the initiate, his breaking through the spheres. It is the ascent of a soul who has reached the Hermes-stage, or Thrice-greatest grade, the final stage of winning its freedom, the Ascent after the last compulsory birth—the Ascent “as now it is for me” (§ 25).

13. Plato: Concerning Metempsychosis

“And the soul’s vice is ignorance. For that the soul who hath no knowledge of the things that are, or knowledge of their nature, or of Good, is blinded by the body’s passions and tossed about.

“This wretched soul, not knowing what she is, becomes the slave of bodies of strange form in sorry plight, bearing the body as a load; not as the ruler, but the ruled.”—C. H., x. (xi.) 8.[1399]

For the better understanding of this passage, we may appropriately refresh the memory of our readers with the Platonic doctrine of the transmigration of souls, as given in the Phædrus, 248 ff., using for this purpose the best translation we have in English, namely, that of Stewart,[1400] as a basis, but often departing from it for greater clearness.


“This is the life of the Gods. Of the other Souls, whosoever followeth God best, and is being made most like unto Him, keepeth the Head[1401] of her Charioteer lifted up into the Space without the firmament; so she is carried round with the circuit thereof, yet being [still] troubled with the Horses,[1402] and hardly beholding the Things-which-are; so she is now lifted up, now sinketh down, and because of the compulsion of the Horses, seeth some of the Things-which-are, and some she seeth not.

“And the rest of the Souls, you must know, follow all striving after that which is above, but unable [to reach it], and so are carried round together and sink below it,[1403] trampling upon one another, and running against one another, and pressing on for to outstrip one another, with mighty great sound of tumult and sweat.

“And here by reason of the unskilfulness[1404] of the Charioteers, many Souls are maimed, and many have many feathers [of their wings] broken; and all, greatly travailing, depart without initiation in the Sight of That-which-is, and departing betake them to the food of Opinion.

“Now this is why there is so great anxiety to see the Space where is the Plain of Truth,—both because the pasture suited to the Best Part of the Soul groweth in the Meadow there, and the power of wing, whereby the Soul is lightly carried up, is nourished by it, and that the law of Adrasteia is that whatsoever Soul by following after God hath seen somewhat of the true things, shall be without affliction till its next journey round; and if she can always do this,[1405] she shall be without hurt alway.

 “But when through incapacity to follow [God] she doth not see, and, overtaken by some evil chance, filled with forgetfulness and wickedness, she is weighed down, and, being weighed down, she sheds the feathers of her wings and falls on to the Earth,—then is the law not to plant her[1406] in her first birth in a beast’s nature; but to implant the Soul that hath seen most into the seed of one who shall become a Wisdom-lover, or a lover of the Beautiful, or a man who truly loves the Muses; the Soul that hath seen second best, into the seed of one who shall become a king that loveth law, and is a warrior and a true ruler; the Soul that hath seen third, unto the seed of one who shall become busied in civic duties, or in some stewardship, or in affairs; the one that hath seen fourth, into the seed of one who shall be a hardship-loving master of the body’s discipline or skilled in healing of the body; the Soul that hath seen fifth, into that which shall have a life connected with the oracles or mystic rites some way;[1407] unto the sixth a life poetic shall be joined, or that of some one or of another of the tribe of copiers; unto the seventh, the life of workman or of husbandman; unto the eighth, that of a sophist or a demagogue; unto the ninth, that of a tyrant.

“In all these lives, whoever lives them righteously obtains a better fate; he who unrighteously, a worse.

“Now to the selfsame state from which each Soul hath come, she cometh not again for some ten thousand years. For sooner than this period no Soul [re-]gains its wings, except the Soul of him who has loved wisdom naturally or contrary to nature.[1408]

“Such Souls in the third period of a thousand years, if they have chosen thrice this life successively, thus getting themselves wings, depart in the three thousandth year.[1409]

“But the other Souls, when they have ended their first life, are brought to judgment; and being judged, some go to places of correction below the Earth and pay the penalty, while others are rewarded by being raised unto a certain space in Heaven where they live on in a condition appropriate unto the life they lived in a man’s form.

“But in the thousandth year both classes come to the lottery of lives, and each doth make choice of its second life, whatever it may choose.[1410]

“And now is it that a Soul that once had had a man’s life doth pass into a brute’s life,[1411] and from a brute, he who was once a man, passes again into a man; for that indeed the Soul that never hath seen truth, will never come into this configuration.[1412]

“For we must understand ‘man,’ in the sense of form, as one proceeding from many sensations and collected into a unit by means of ratiocination.[1413] But this[1414] is recollection (ἀνάμνησις) of those things which our Soul once did see when she journeyed with God,[1415] and looked beyond the things we now call things that are, by raising her face[1416] to That-which-really-is.

“Wherefore of right, alone the understanding of the Wisdom-lover hath got wings; for he is ever engaged upon those things in memory as far as he can be, on being engaged at which, as being a God, he is divine.

 “The man then who doth make a right use of memories such as these, ever being made perfect in perfect perfectionings, alone becometh really Perfect.[1417]

“But in as much as he eschews the things that men strive after, and is engaged in the Divine [alone], he is admonished by the many as though he were beside himself,[1418] for they cannot perceive he is inspired by God.”


Let us now turn to the genuine disciples of the master for further light on this tenet, and first of all to Plotinus.

The most sympathetic notice of this tenet in Plotinus is to be found in Jules Simon’s Histoire de l’École d’Alexandrie (Paris, 1845), i. 588 ff., based for the most part on En., I. i. 12; II. ix. 6; IV. iii. 9; V. ii. 2; and on Ficinus’ Commentary (p. 508 of Creuzer’s edition).

After citing some “ironical” passages from Plotinus (in which the philosopher disguised the real doctrine which in his day still pertained to the teachings of a higher initiation), Jules Simon goes on to say:

“Even though admitting that this doctrine of metempsychosis is taken literally by Plotinus, we should still have to ask for him as for Plato, whether the human soul really inhabits the body of an animal, and whether it is not reborn only into a human body which reflects the nature of a certain animal by the character of its passions.

“The commentators of the Alexandrian school sometimes interpreted Plato in this sense. Thus, according to Proclus, Plato in the Phædrus condemns the wicked to live as brutes and not to become them, κατίεναι εἰς βιὸν θήρειον, καὶ οὐκ εἰς σῶμα θήρειον (Proc., Comm. Tim., p. 329). Chalcidius gives the same interpretation, for he distinguishes between the doctrines of Plato and those of Pythagoras and Empedocles, qui non naturam modō feram, sed etiam formas.[1419] Hermes (Comm. of Chalcidius on Timæus; ed. Fabric., p. 350) declares in unmistakable terms that a human soul can never return to the body of an animal, and that the will of the Gods for ever preserves it from such disgrace.”[1420]


Again, Proclus in his Commentaries on the Timæus, writes very definitely with reference to the following passage of Plato:

“And if he still in these conditions did not cease from vice, he would keep on changing into some brutish nature according as he acted in a way resembling the expression in genesis of such a mode of vicious living.”[1421]

For he says:

“With reference to this descent of souls into irrational animals, it is usual for men to enquire how it is meant.

“And some think that what are called brute-like lives are certain resemblances of men to brutes, for that it is not possible for the rational essence to become the soul of a brute.

“Others allow that even this [human soul] may be immediately degraded to reason-less creatures, for that all souls are of one and the same species, so that they may become wolves and panthers and ichneumons.

“But the true reason (logos) asserts that though the human soul may be degraded to brutes, it is [only] to brutes which possess the life suited to such a purpose, while the degraded soul is as it were vehicled on this [life], and bound to it sympathetically.

“And this has been demonstrated by us at great length in our lectures on the Phædrus, and that this is the only way in which such de-gradation can take place. If, however, it is necessary to remind you that this meaning (logos) is that of Plato, it must be added that in the Republic[1422] he says that the soul of Thersites assumed an ape [life], but not an ape’s body, and in the Phædrus[1423] that [the soul] descends into a brutish life, and not into a brutish body, for the mode of life goes with its appropriate soul. And in the passage [from the Timæus] he says that it changes into a brute-like nature; for the brutish nature is not the body but the life [principle] of the brute.”[1424]

14. The Vision Of Er

“But to the Mindless ones, the wicked and depraved, the envious and covetous, and those who murder do and love impiety, I am far off, yielding my place to the Avenging Daimon.”—C. H., ff., i. 23.


To this Daimon it is that the “way of life” of the man is surrendered at death (§ 24). In this connection we may consider the Story or Vision of “Ēr Son of Armenius,” which Plato tells at the end of the last book (X.) of his Republic (614 B ff.), for the symbolism is very similar to that of our tractate and the subject is more or less the same.

This Ēr is said by Clement of Alexandria to have been Zoroaster, “but no trace of acquaintance with Zoroaster is found elsewhere in Plato’s writings, and there is no reason for giving him the name of Er the Pamphylian. The philosophy of Heracleitus cannot be shown to be borrowed from Zoroaster, and still less the myths of Plato.”[1425]

What the source of the story is, scholarship has so far been unable to discover; the vast majority of scholars holding it to be an invention of Plato.

It is the story of a man “killed in battle,” whose body was brought home on the tenth day still fresh and showing no sign of decomposition. On the twelfth day, when laid on the funeral pyre, Er awakes and tells a strange story of his experiences in the invisible world.

This story should be taken in close connection with Plutarch’s similar but fuller Vision of Aridæus (Thespesius), upon which I have commented at length in my “Notes on the Eleusinian Mysteries.”[1426]


I there stated that the experiences of Aridæus were either a literary subterfuge for describing part of the instruction in certain Mysteries, or the Vision, in popular story form, was considered so true a description of what was thought to be the nature of the invisible world and the after-death conditions of the soul, that it required little alteration to make it useful for that purpose.

I would now suggest that the Story of Er is also used by Plato for a somewhat similar purpose. It is further interesting to notice that one of the characters in the Vision of Er is called Ardiæus, while in Plutarch the main personage is called Aridæus. The transposition of a single letter is so slight as to make the names practically identical, and the subject matter is so similar that we are inclined to think that there must be some connection between the Visions. Moreover, Aridæus is said to have been a native of Soli in Cilicia, just as Er is said to have been a Pamphylian; the tradition of such stories would thus seem to have been derived from Asia Minor, and the origin of them may thus be hidden in the syncretism of that land—where West and East were for ever meeting. It is, however, much safer to assume that, in the Story of Er, Plato is handing on the doctrines of Orphic eschatology;[1427] whether or not the story already existed in some form, and was worked up and elaborated by the greatest artist in words of all philosophers, will perhaps never be known. But to the story itself.


614 C.—Er, in a certain daimonian or psychic plane (τόπος τις δαιμόνιος), is made a spectator of a turning-point or change of course in the ascent and descent of souls. He thus seems to have been in a space or state midway between Tartarus and Heaven—presumably the invisible side of the sublunary space.

The world-engine of Fate, or Kārmic World-whorl, is represented by seven spheres (surrounded by an eighth) whose harmonious spinning is adjusted by the three Fates, the Daughters of Necessity.

Jowett (loc. cit.) says that the heaven-sphere is represented under the symbol of a “cylinder or box.” Where the “box” comes in I do not know; the term “cylinder” does not occur in the text, and even the cylinder idea is exceedingly difficult to discover in any precise sense. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the “heaven-sphere” is to be so definitely interpreted; for then our discussion of the meaning of the term “cylinder,” which occurs definitely in our K. K. Fragments, would be greatly simplified.

The matter is hard to understand, and Jowett’s attempts at exposition are hazy and sketchy in the extreme. Either Plato is talking nonsense, or Jowett does not understand the elements of his idea. Stewart’s attempt, which makes use of the latest Platonic research, is far more successful, but he also has to abandon many points in despair.[1428] How difficult the solution of the problem is may be seen from the text, which gives the symbolism of the vision of the spheres somewhat as follows:


616 B.—“Now when those in the meadow[1429] had tarried seven days, on the eighth they were obliged to proceed on their journey upwards, and, on the fourth day after,[1430] he [Er] said they came to a region where they saw light extended straight as a column from above throughout the whole extent of heaven and earth, in colour resembling the rainbow, only brighter and purer.

“Another day’s journey brought them to it, and there they saw the extremities of the boundaries of the heaven extended in the midst of the light; for this light was the final boundary of the heaven—somewhat like the under-girdings of ships—and thus confined its whole revolution.

“From these extremities depended the spindle of Necessity, by means of which all its revolutions are made to revolve. The spindle’s stalk[1431] and its hook are made of adamant,[1432] and the whorl of a mixture of adamant and other kinds [of elements].

“And the nature of the whorl is as follows. In shape it was like that of the one down here; but in itself we must understand from his description that it was somewhat as though in one great hollow whorl clean scooped out there lay another similar but smaller one fitted into it, as though they were jars[1433] fitting into one another. And so he said there was a third and a fourth, and [also] four others. For in all there are eight whorls set in one another—looking like circles from above as to their rims,[1434] [but from below] finished off into the continuous belly[1435] of one whorl round the shaft, which is driven right through the eighth whorl.

“The first and outermost whorl had the circle of its rim first in width; that of the sixth was second; that of the fourth, third; that of the eighth, fourth; that of the seventh, fifth; that of the fifth, sixth; that of the third, seventh; that of the second, eighth.

617.—“And the circle of the largest was variegated; that of the seventh brightest; that of the eighth had its colour from the seventh shining on it; those of the second and of the fifth had [colours] somewhat like one another, but yellower than the preceding; the third had the whitest colour; the fourth was reddish; the sixth was second in whiteness.[1436]

“Now the spindle as a whole circled round at the same rate in its revolution; and within this revolution as a whole the seven circles revolved slowly in a contrary direction to the one as a whole; of these the eighth went the fastest of them; the seventh, sixth, and fifth came second [in speed, and at the same rate] with one another; the fourth, in a reversed orbit, as it appeared to them, was third in speed; the third was fourth and the second fifth.

“The spindle revolved on the knees of Necessity; and on its circles above, on each of them, was a Siren whom they carried round with them, singing a single sound or tone; and from all eight of them a single harmony was produced.

“And there were three others seated at equal distances round about, each upon a throne,—the Daughters of Necessity, the Fates, clothed in white robes, with garlands on their heads, Lachesis and Clotho and Atropos; and they sang to the tune of the Sirens’ harmony,—Lachesis sang things that have been, Clotho things that are, and Atropos things that shall be.

“And Clotho from time to time with her right hand gave an extra turn to the outer spin of the spindle; Atropos, with her left, in like fashion to the inner ones; while Lachesis in turn touched the one with one hand and the other with the other.

“Now when they [Er and the souls] arrived, they had to go immediately to Lachesis. Accordingly a prophet [a proclaimer] first of all arranged them in their proper order, and taking from the lap of Lachesis both lots[1437] and samples of lives, he ascended a kind of raised place and said:

“‘The word (logos) of the Virgin Lachesis, Daughter of Necessity! Ye souls, ye things of a day, lo the beginning of another period of mortal birth that brings you death. It is not your daimon who will have you assigned to him by lot, but ye who will choose your daimon. He who obtains the first turn let him first choose a life to which he will of necessity have to hold. As for Virtue, Necessity has no control over her, but every one will possess her more or less just as he honours or dishonours her. The responsibility is the chooser’s; God is blameless.’

“Thus speaking he threw the lots to all of them, and each picked up the one that fell beside him, except Er, who was not permitted to do so. So every one who picked up a lot knew what turn he had got.

618.—“After this he set on the ground before them the samples of the lives, in far greater number than those present. They were of every kind; not only lives of every kind of animal, but also lives of every kind of man. There were lives of autocratic power [lit., tyrannies] among them, some continuing to the end, some breaking off half-way and ending in poverty, exile, and beggary. There were also lives of famous men, some famed for their beauty of form and strength, and victory in the games, others for their birth and the virtues of their forebears; others the reverse of famous, and for similar reasons. So also with regard to the lives of women.

“As to the rank of the soul, it was no longer in the power [of the chooser], for the decree of Necessity is that its choosing of another life conditions its change of soul-rank. As for other things, riches and poverty were mingled with each other, and these sometimes with disease and sometimes with health, and sometimes a mean between these.”

Thereupon Plato breaks into a noble disquisition on what is the best choice, and how a man should take with him into the world an adamantine faith in truth and right; and then continues:

619 B.—“And this is precisely what the messenger from that invisible world reported that the prophet said:

“‘Even for him who comes last in turn, if he but choose with his mind, and live consistently, there is in store a life desirable and far from evil. So let neither him who has the best choice be careless, nor him who comes last despair.’

“And when he had thus spoken, the one who had the first choice, Er said, immediately went and chose the largest life of autocratic power, but through folly and greediness he did not choose with sufficient attention to all points, and failed to notice the fate wrapped up with it, of ‘dishes of his own children’[1438] and other ills. But when he had examined it at leisure, he began to beat his breast, and bemoan his choice, not abiding by what the prophet had previously told him; for he did not lay the blame of these evils on himself, but on ill-luck and daimones, and everything rather than himself. And he was one of those who came from heaven, who in his former life had lived in a well-ordered state, and been virtuous from custom and not from a love of wisdom.[1439]

“In brief, it was by no means the minority of those who involved themselves in such unfortunate choices who came from heaven, seeing that such souls were unexercised in the hardships of life. Many of those who came from earth, as they had suffered hardships themselves, and had seen others suffering them, did not make their choice off-hand.

“Consequently many of the souls, independently of the fortune of their turn, changed good for evil, and evil for good. For if a man should always, whenever he comes into life on earth, live a sound philosophic life, and the lot of his choice should not fall out to him among the last, the chances are, according to this news from the other world, that he will not only spend his life happily here, but also that the path which he will tread from here to there, and thence back again, will not be below the earth[1440] and difficult, but easy and of a celestial nature.

620.—“Yes, the vision he had, Er said, was well worth the seeing, showing how each class of souls chose their lives.[1441] The vision was both a pitiful and laughable as well as a wonderful thing to see. For the most part they chose according to the experience of their former life. For Er said that he saw the soul that had once been that of Orpheus becoming the life of a swan for choice,[1442] through its hatred of womankind, because owing to the death of Orpheus at the hands of women, it did not wish to come into existence by conception in a woman. He further saw the soul of Thamyras[1443] choose the life of a nightingale. On the contrary, he saw also a swan change to the choice of a human life, and other musical animals in like fashion.

“The soul that obtained the twentieth lot chose the life of a lion; it was the soul of Ajax, son of Telamon, to avoid being a man, because it still remembered the [unjust] decision about the arms. The next soul was Agamemnon’s; and it too, out of hatred to the human race on account of its sufferings, changed into the life of an eagle.[1444] The soul of Atalanta obtained its lot in the middle, and letting her eye fall on the great honours paid an ‘athlete,’ was unable to pass it by, and took it. The soul of Epeius,[1445] son of Panopeus, he saw pass into the nature of a woman skilful in the arts. And far away among the last he saw the soul of the buffoon Thersites putting on an ‘ape.’

“By a stroke of luck also he saw the soul of Odysseus, which had obtained the last lot of all, come to make its choice. From memory of its former labours it had given itself a rest from love of renown, and for a long time went about to find the life of a man in private life with nothing to do with public affairs, and with great difficulty found one lying in a corner and thus passed over by all the rest; on seeing it, it declared that it would have done the same even if it had had first turn, and been glad to do it.

“And Er said that of the rest of the brutes also in like fashion some of them passed into men, and some into one another, the unrighteous ones changing into wild ones, and the righteous into tame; in fact, there were intermixings of every kind.

“When, then, all the souls had chosen their lives according to the number of their turn, they went in order to Lachesis; and she sent along with them the daimon each had chosen, as watcher over his life and bringer to pass of the things he had chosen. And the daimon first of all brought the soul to Clotho, set it beneath her hand and the whirling of the spindle, thus ratifying the fate each soul had chosen in its turn. And after he had attached it to her, he brought it to the spinning of Atropos, thus making its destinies[1446] irreversible.

621.—“Thence [Er] went, without turning, [down] beneath the Throne[1447] of Necessity, and when he had passed down through it, and the others had also done so, they all passed on to the Plain of Forgetfulness (Lethē) in a frightful and stifling heat; for it was bare of trees and vegetation of every kind.

“As it was now evening they camped by the River Heedlessness whose water no vessel can hold.[1448] They were all, however, compelled to drink a certain quantity of its water; those who are not safeguarded by prudence drink more than their quantity, while he who keeps on drinking it forgets everything.

“When they had fallen asleep and midnight had come, there was thunder and earthquake, and thence suddenly they were carried up into birth [genesis] some one way some another, like shooting stars.

“Er, however, was prevented from drinking the water; but in what manner and by what means he got back to his body he could not say, only, suddenly waking in the morning, he found himself lying on the pyre.”


The question that one naturally asks oneself is: Did Plato conclude his great treatise on the Ideal State with a popular legend in jest, or had he some deeper purpose? I cannot but think that he was jesting seriously. Is it too wild a supposition that he is hinting at things which he could not disclose because of his oath? Those who knew would understand; those who did not would think he was jesting simply, and so the mysteries would not be disclosed.

In any case we have, I think, got a hint of the part played by the Daimon in our treatise. Whether or not Hermes “copied” the idea from Plato, or both derived it from the same tradition, must be left to the fancy and taste of individual scholars. The Daimon is the watcher over the “way of life” (ἦθος); he is not necessarily a Kakodaimon, but so to speak the Kārmic Agent of the soul, appointed to carry out the “choice” of that soul, both good and ill, according to the Law of Necessity.[1449] The choice is man’s; Nature adjusts the balance.

The Vision is of a typical nature, and the types are mythologized in the persons of well-known characters in Grecian story. The “way of life” the souls choose becomes the garment of “habit” they are to wear, their form of personality, or kārmic limitation. Apparently some souls, instead of choosing a reincarnation in a human body, prefer to live the “lives” of certain animal natures. Are we then to believe that Plato seriously endorsed the popular ideas of metempsychosis? Or is it possible that he is referring to some state of existence of souls, which was symbolized by certain animal types in the Mysteries; as was certainly the case with the “lion” and “eagle,” though the “swan” and “nightingale” and “ape” are, as far as I am aware, never mentioned in this connection? Can it be that Plato here gives play to his imagination, basing his speculations on some general idea he may have learned in Egypt?

We know from the so-called “Diagram of the Ophites,” which is still traceable in a fragmentary form in the polemic of Origen against Celsus, that the “seven spheres” of the lower psychic nature were characterised by the names of animals: lion, bull, serpent, eagle, bear, dog, ass. We also know how the whole subject of animal correspondences preoccupied the attention of the Egyptian priesthood. But not only can we now make no reasonable scheme out of the fragmentary indications that have come down to us, but we also feel pretty well certain that if Plutarch’s account of the beliefs of the later Egyptians on the subject is approximately reliable, the priests themselves of those days had no longer any consistent scheme.

We may, therefore, conclude either that the whole matter was a vain superstition entirely devoid of any basis in reality; or that there was a psychic science of animal natures and their relationship to man which was once the possession of the priesthood of the ancient civilisation of Egypt, but that it was lost, owing to the departure from amongst men of those who had the power to understand it, and subsequently only fragments of misunderstood tradition remained among the lesser folk on earth. This at anyrate is the theory of our Trismegistic treatises.

15. Concerning The Crater Or Cup

“He filled a mighty Cup with it [Mind], 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,” etc.—C. H., iv. (v.) 4.


Whence came this idea of a Crater or Cup into our Trismegistic literature? Most scholars will answer unhesitatingly: From Plato. The Crater was the Cup in which the Creator mixed the Elements of the World-Soul; for we read in Timæus (41 D), where Plato is treating of the formation of human souls:

“Thus spake He, and once again into the Cup which He had used in blending and mingling the Soul of the Universe, He poured the remains of the Elements He had employed, and mingled them in much the same manner; they were not, however, pure as before, but in the second and third degree.”

I am, however, not inclined to attribute the origin of this symbolic expression simply to the imagery of Plato’s poetic mind, but am far more inclined to believe that Plato was using a familiar figure of “Orphic” symbolism. The idea of not only an Ultimate Crater, but of many subsidiary ones in the celestial and invisible realms, is closely connected with the “Orphic” idea of a Vortex.


Orpheus is said to have called the Æther the Mighty Whirlpool.[1450] This forms the Egg or Womb of Cosmos; it is a modification of Chaos or Rhea, the Eternally-flowing, the Mother of the Gods, the Great Container. Thus Proclus, in speaking of Chaos, says:

“The last Infinity, by which also Matter (ὕλη) is circumscribed, is the Container, the field and plane of ideas. About her is ‘neither limit, nor foundation, nor seat, but excessive Darkness.’”[1451]

Plato, as we have seen, in his psychogony, speaks openly of this Cup or Crater (Mixing Space, or Vortex) in two aspects; in it the Deity mixes the All-Soul of universal nature from the purest Cosmic Elements, and from it He also “ladles out” the souls of men, composed of a less pure mixture of these Elements.

Further, Macrobius tells us that Plato elsewhere indirectly refers to another aspect of this Cup.

“Plato speaks of this in the Phædo, and says that the soul is dragged back into body, hurried on by new intoxication, desiring to taste a fresh draught of the overflow of matter,[1452] whereby it is weighed down and brought back [to earth]. The sidereal [astral] Crater of Father Liber [Dionysus, Bacchus] is a symbol of this mystery; and this is what the Ancients called the River of Lethe, the Orphics saying that Father Liber was Hylic Mind.”[1453]

We have here, therefore, a higher and lower Cup. Proclus, moreover, speaks of several of such Craters, when he writes:

“Plato in the Philebus hands on the tradition of the Vulcanic Crater . . . and Orpheus is acquainted with the Cup of Dionysus, and ranges many such Cups round the Solar Table.”[1454]

Elsewhere, again, Proclus tells us that the Demiurge is said “to constitute the psychical essences in conjunction with the Crater”; this “Crater is the peculiar cause of souls, and is co-arranged with the Demiurgus and filled from Him, but fills souls”; thus it is called the Fountain of Souls.[1455]

If with these indications before us we might venture to generalize, we might say that, according to Orpheo-Pythagorean, Platonic, and Hermetic ideas, the “matter” of every “plane” was thought of as proceeding from such a Crater or Cup, from within without, and the elements thereof as being refunded into such a Cup or Centre or Receptacle—that is, from a more subtle, simpler, and inner phase to a more gross, complex, and outer phase, and vice versâ. In other words, the Crater is the “monadic” or “atomic” state of the matter of any given phase or state of existence.


With the above data before us, it will also be instructive to turn to the Vision of Aridæus (Thespesius) as related by Plutarch,[1456] a vision that may be compared with profit with the Vision of Er as told by Plato. Thespesius is being conducted through Hades, or the Invisible World in contact with earth-life, by a kinsman who has “passed over,” as Spiritists would say, and curiously enough he there comes across a Chasm and a Crater—for part of the story runs:

“After these explanations he was conducted by his kinsman at great speed across an immense space, as it seemed, nevertheless easily and directly as though supported by wings of light-rays; until having arrived at a Vast Vortex (χάσμα) extending downwards, he was abandoned by the power that supported him.

“He observed also that the same thing happened to the rest of the souls there, for checking their flight, like birds, and sinking down, they fluttered round the Vortex in a circle, not daring to go straight through it.

“Inside it seemed to be decked like Bacchic caves[1457]  with trees and verdure and every kind of foliage, while out of it came a soft and gentle air, laden with marvellous sweet scents, making a blend like wine for topers, so that the souls feasting on the fragrance were melted with delight in mutual embraces, while the whole place was wrapt in revelry and laughter and the spirit of sport and pleasure.[1458]

“Thespesius’ kinsman told him that this was the Way by which Dionysus ascended to the Gods and afterwards took up Semele;[1459] it was called the Place of Lēthē (Oblivion).[1460]

“Wherefore he would not suffer Thespesius to stay there, though he wished to do so, but forcibly dragged him away, explaining how that the rational part of the soul was melted and moistened[1461] by pleasure, while the irrational part, and that which is of a corporeal nature, being then moistened and made fleshly, awakens the memory of the body, and from this memory come a yearning and a desire which drag down the soul into generation . . . the soul being weighed down with moisture.

“Next Thespesius, after travelling another great distance, seemed to be looking at a huge Cup,[1462] with streams flowing into it; one whiter than the foam of the sea or snow, another like the purple which the rainbow sends forth, while from a distance the others were tinged with other colours, each having its own shade.

“But when he came closer, the Cup itself (into which they flowed)—the surroundings disappearing, and the colours growing fainter—lost its varied colouring and only retained a white brilliance.”

Compare also the Hellenist writer in the Naassene Document (§ 17 S.): “The Greek theologi generally call Him [the Logos] the “Heavenly Horn of Mēn,” because he has mixed and mingled all things with all.”

On this the Jewish Gnostic writer comments: “This is the Drinking Vessel,—the Cup in which ‘the King drinketh and divineth.’”

It is, says the Hellenist commentator again, “the Cup (of Anacreon) speaking forth speechlessly the Ineffable Mystery.”

The Jewish commentator was a contemporary of Philo’s, and the Hellenist was prior to him; thus we see that the Cup symbol was used in precisely the same significance as in our text in at least the first century B.C., and that the idea was referred to the Greek theologers—in other words, the Orphics—and not to Plato.


With the above data before us, I think we may be persuaded without difficulty that the idea of the Cup, or Mixing-Bowl, did not owe its origin to any invention of Plato’s, but that the greatest of philosophers, when he makes use of the symbol, does but employ a familiar image well known to his audience—as, indeed, is very apparent in the summary fashion in which he introduces the figure. In other words, the symbol or image was a commonplace of the Orphic tradition, and doubtless, therefore, familiar to every Pythagorean.

Now, in our treatise it is noticeable that this Cup-symbol is equated with the Monad[1463] or Oneness—a technical Pythagorean term.

16. The Disciples Of Thrice-Greatest Hermes


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.”

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 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.

“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”[1464] 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.”[1465]

Imḥotep-Asclepius was thus the “image and likeness of Thoth the Wise,” even as Nefer-Tem was 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.[1466]


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

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.”[1467]

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.,[1468] 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.[1469]


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,”[1470] 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 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.[1471] 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,[1472] 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. . . .”[1473]

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[1474]  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.”[1475]

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,[1476] in the Step-Pyramid of Ṣaḳḳāra. This temple, 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,[1477] 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 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.”[1478]

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.[1479]


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 from a remarkable address recently delivered by the Rev. J. Estlin Carpenter to the students of Manchester College, Oxford,[1480] 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 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. 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.”[1481]

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 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),[1482] 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.[1483]


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.[1484]

In this connection it is to be noted that in the Theban Thoth-cult, Thoth was regarded as the Representative 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.”[1485]

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,[1486] 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.

Of the Sayings of this Asclepius a Greek porcelain[1487] 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).

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:[1488]

“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 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.”[1489]

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.”[1490]


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.[1491] 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.[1492] These Alchemical teachings of the Good Daimon are frequently in close contact with our Trismegistic doctrines; moreover, in the same literature, Hermes refers to Agathodaimon and appears to regard himself as his disciple.[1493] 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),[1494] 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,”[1495] is a saying belonging to the 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.[1496] He is the Æon.


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,[1497] while Plutarch calls her Lady of the Heart and Tongue even as is Hermes.[1498] She “sees” the teaching.

As her disciple, she has in the Stobæan Ex. xxxi.[1499] a king, probably King Ammon.

In a Magic Papyrus she even appears as teacher of Asclepius.[1500] 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.[1501] 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.

*******************The End*******************

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[1] This poem is dated January 1882. Chambers (p. 155, n.) says: “It is noteworthy that the last poem of Longfellow was a lyrical ode in celebration of Hermes Trismegistus.”

[2] Reitzenstein (R.), Poimandres: Studien zur griechisch-ägyptischen und frühchristlichen Literatur (Leipzig; 1904).

[3] Variously translated, or metamorphosed, as Pœmandres, Pœmander, Poemandre, Pymandar, Pimander, Pimandre, Pimandro. Already Patrizzi, in 1591, pointed out that only one treatise could be called by this title; but, in spite of this, the bad habit inaugurated by the editio princeps (in Latin translation) of Marsiglio Ficino has persisted to the last edition of the text by Parthey (1854) and the last translation by Chambers (1882).

[4] Vol. i., lib. i., cap. vii. See the fourth and last edition (Leipzig, 1790), with up to that time unedited supplements by Fabricius and G. C. Heumann, and very numerous and important additions by G. C. Harles.

[5] For the Hermetic writing in Pitra, Analecta Sacra et Classica, pt. ii., see R., pp. 16, n. 4, and 259, n. 1; and for reference to the Arabic literature, pp. 23, n. 5, and 172, n. 3.

[6] This study was published in the Theosophical Review, May 1899, and is independent of Reitzenstein’s work.

[7] S. F. W. Hoffmann’s Bibliographisches Lexicon der gesammten Litteratur der Griechen (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1839) simply copies Harles, while his appendix of “Erläuterungsschriften” is of no value.

[8] R. (p. 320), as we have seen, gives the date as 1463, but I have found no trace of this edition.

[9] The dates of these editions are as follows, though doubtless there were other editions of which we have lost record: 1471, ’72, ’81, ’83, ’91, ’93, ’94, ’97; 1503, ’05, ’16, ’22, ’32, ’49, ’52, ’54, ’61, ’70, ’76, ’77; 1611, ’41. They were printed at Venice, Paris, Basle, Lyons, and London.

[10] The writer has painfully perused it, for, more fortunate than the British Museum, he possesses a copy of this rare work.

[11] These on perusal prove of little value.

[12] R. 322 calls him a Minorite.

[13] It is clear, however, that Everard translated from Ficinus’ Latin version, and that the “Arabick” is a myth.

[14] Of which only 200 copies were issued to subscribers, as though, forsooth, they were to come into great “occult” secrets thereby.

[15] Part of the full title runs: K. W.-S. d. Wissenschaften, Mysterien, Theosophie, göttlichen und morgenländischen Magie, Naturkräfte, hermet. u. magnet. Phil., Kabbala, u. and. höhern Kentnissen, and much more in the same strain, but I have no doubt the reader has already had enough of it. From 1855 to 1857 fourteen parts appeared, mostly taken up with German translations of Hermes, of Agrippa’s Philosophia Occulta from the Latin, and of The Telescope of Zoroaster from the French.

[16] Op. inf. cit., p. 10.

[17] I have, therefore, not been able to avail myself of Tiedemann’s labours. R. 322 speaks highly of them.

[18] The last edition prior to Parthey’s was the reprint of Flussas’ text, at Cologne in 1630, appended to Rossel’s lucubrations.

[19] As already remarked, I have not been able to see a copy of the German of Tiedemann.

[20] For a list of those who thought Hermes was prior to Moses, and even identical with Joseph, or even Adam, see Harles, p. 49 ff. and notes.

[21] A Platonic philosopher who lived probably in the 4th century A.D.

[22] Op. cit., p. 3a.

[23] In which Patrizzi did but echo the opinion of his predecessors, such as Vergecius, the editor of the first edition of the Greek text, Candalle and many more.

[24] De Zoroastre Bactriano Hermete Trismegisto Sanchoniathone Phœnicio eorumque Scriptis, et Aliis contra Mosaicæ Scripturæ Antiquitatem; Exercitationes Familiares, pp. 73-180—a book now very scarce.

[25] Jacobi Bruckeri, Historia Critica Philosophiæ (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1767), i. 252 ff. Lib. ii., cap. vii., “De Philosophia Ægyptiorum.” See also Meiners’ Versuch über die Religionsgeschichte der ältesten Völker besonders der Egyptier (Göttingen, 1775).

[26] De Rebus Sacris . . . Exercitationes ad Card. Baronii Prolegomena, i., n. 10 (London, 1614). Casaubon concludes that the whole book, i.e. the “Pœmandres,” is a pseudepigraph, the pure invention of some Christian or other, or perhaps better, of some semi-Christian (p. 56).

[27] See his dissertation on Hermes and the Hermetic writings in the edition of 1820, vol. ii., pp. 128-155.

[28] Though Reitzenstein (p. 1) speaks of the”schneidende Kritik“ of Casaubon.

[29] Vol. i., p. 89, of the following amply entitled work, Das Platonisch-Hermetisches [sicChristenthum, begriffend die historische Erzehlung vom Ursprung und vielerley Secten der heutigen Fanatischen Theologie, unterm Namen der Paracelsisten, Weigelianer, Rosencreutzer, Quäker, Bohmisten, Wiedertäuffer, Bourignisten, Labadisten und Quietisten, by M. Ehre Gott Daniel Colberg, 2 vols. (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1690, 1691).

[30] Op. supr. cit.; the most “advanced” writer on the subject being Tiedemann, to whose work we have already referred; but unfortunately we have not been able to procure a copy, and the British Museum is without it. Tiedemann thinks that none of the Trismegistic writings existed before the fourth century, while Fabricius himself, whose summary of prior opinion is overworked by Harles, assigns them to the time of Porphyry and Iamblichus, though Harles dates the earliest of them from the end of the first to the middle of the second century (p. 48, n.).

[31] It may be worth while here to record the opinion of Gibbon, who would ascribe a Christian origin to some of the Trismegistic writings, and impatiently dismisses the subject by classing Hermes with Orpheus and the Sibyls as a cloak for Christian forgery (vol. ii. p. 69, Bury’s ed.).

[32] How the public is catered for may be seen from any popular “knowledge”-digest. The following will serve as a specimen, taken from the article “Hermes Trismegistus,” in The American Encyclopædia: a Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge, edited by Ripley and Dana (New York, 1874): “In the conflict between Neoplatonism and Christianity, the former sought to give a profounder and more spiritual meaning to the pagan philosophy, by combining the wisdom of the Egyptians and the Greeks, and representing it as a very ancient, divine revelation.”

[33] Delivered before the University of Jena at Pentecost, 1827, by Lud. Frid. Otto Baumgarten-Crusius.

[34] Orelli (J. C.), Sanchoniathonis Fragmenta de Cosmogonia et Theologia Phœnicorum (Leipzig, 1826).

[35] Hilgers (B. J.), De Hermetis Trismegisti Poimandro Commentatio (Bonn, 1855), suggested by the appearance of Parthey’s text in 1854.

[36] Möhler (J. A.), Patrologie, pp. 950-951—a brief note on Hermes. Ed. by F. X. Reithmayr (Regensberg, 1840).

[37] Op. cit., pp. 16-17.

[38] The whole of this article has been lifted, without acknowledgment, by M‘Clintock and Strong in their Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (New York, 1872).

[39] Pierret, Mélanges d’Archéologie égyptienne et assyrienne, i. (1873), p. 112; R. 1, n. 1.

[40] Op. sup. cit., 1866.

[41] The popular Christian solution, Ménard should have said.

[42] Gesch. d. griech. Philos., III., ii., 225 ff. Zeller, while recognising the Gnostic nature of C. H. i. and C. H. xiii. (xiv.), treats the rest of our Corpus as an expression of declining Paganism. So also Erdmann (Hist. Philos., i. 113, 2, Tr.), who deals with our Corpus only, and assigns its sermons to different authors and times. He contends that C. H. xiii. (xiv.) shows a Neo-pythagorean tendency, a term far vaguer than Neo-platonic even.

[43] Hermes Trismegistos n. ägyp., griech. u. oriental. Überlieferungen (Leipzig, 1875).

[44] A laborious article replete with references, but dealing solely with the Hermes-saga and not with our writings.

[45] Aall (A.), Geschichte der Logosidee in der Philosophie (Leipzig, vol. i. 1896, vol. ii. 1899), ii. 78, n. 4.

[46] Cf. Reitzenstein, Zwei religionsgeschichtliche Fragen (Strassburg, 1901), p. 93, n. 3.

[47] Art. “Hermes and Hermes Trismegistus,” by L. Schmitz, in Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (London, 1870), a work which is now entirely out of date; Jowett’s art., “Hermes Trismegistus,” in the Encyclopædia Britannica (9th ed., London, 1880), repeated in the recent reprint without alteration; and Mozley’s art., “Hermes Trismegistus,” in Smith and Wace’s Dictionary of Christian Biography (London, 1882); to both of which articles, if not to the works themselves, the above remark also applies.

[48] The Theological and Philosophical Works of Hermes Trismegistus, Christian Neoplatonist.

[49] Op. cit., p. xii.

[50] In this repeating de Foix, who attempted the same task more than three hundred years before.

[51] “The Poemandres of Hermes Trismegistus,” in The Journal of Theological Studies, vol. v. No. 19, April 1904 (London).

[52] Namely, that of the Good Shepherd.

[53] This is a reflection of Ménard’s sensible view.

[54] Ibid., p. 406.

[55] Ibid., p. 411.

[56] I have never come across this statement before, and so regret that G. has not given his authority. If such were the tradition, it would be exceedingly instructive. Salome, however, in the fragments of this Gospel preserved to us, says categorically that she has never “brought forth.”

[57] It is not, even if the “opening chapters” be reduced to the Proem. Heracleon, one of the disciples of Valentinus, comments directly on this Proem, but from the point of view of a quite independent tradition.

[58] The first commentator of any kind of which we have any knowledge, rather.

[59] Ibid., p. 412.

[60] Hermes Trismegistos, nach ägyptischen, griechischen und orientalischen Überlieferungen (Leipzig, 1875).

[61] πάσης καρδίας καί λογισμοῦ δεσπότης, p. 40, ed. Leemans.

[62] Der Gott, “der in pantheistischer Anschauungsweise die ganze Welt belehrend durchdrang,” writes Pietschmann, p. 14.

[63] Pleyte, Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Alterthumskunde, 1867, 10. The text is taken from a papyrus in the Leyden Museum.

[64] See Pietschmann, p. 15.

[65] From an ostrakon in the Louvre, De Horrack, Zeitschrift für ä S. u. A., 1868, 2. And again at Denderah, the King is said to “establish the laws like Thoth the twice-great one.” See Dümichen, ibid., 1867, 74.

[66] Lepsius, Erster Götterkreis, Taf. 1, 2. Text S. 181.

[67] Brugsch, Wörterbuch, 803, and many other references.

[68] For a long list of references, see Pietschmann in loco. I have so far cited some of these references to show that the statements of Pietschmann are based upon very ample authority. In what follows, however, these references may be omitted as they are not owing to my own industry, and the scholar can obtain them from Pietschmann’s book for himself.

[69] Op. cit., p. 16.

[70] Compare this title, die grossen Erkentnisse des Teḥuti, with the Coptic Codex Brucianus—Voici le livre des gnoses de l’Invisible divin.” Amélineau, Notice sur le Papyrus gnostique Bruce, p. 83 (Paris, 1891). See also Carl Schmidt, Gnostische Schriften in koptischer Sprache aus dem Codex Brucianus (Leipzig, 1892).

[71] Op. cit., p. 20.

[72] Herr der Metempsychose (Lord of Palingenesis), says Pietschmann, p. 23.

[73] Op. cit., p. 24 n.

[74] Op. cit., pp. 71 ff.

[75] And this is the case with the latter even to-day, where in the Sudan the natives “believe that its intelligence is of the highest order, and that its cunning is far superior to that of man.” (Op. cit., i. 21.)

[76] This is one of the most interesting of his titles: “Judge of the Reḥeḥui, the Pacifier of the Gods, who dwelleth in Unnu” (Hermopolis). (Op. cit., i. 405.)

[77] This must have been the mystery folk-tale circulated by the priests, for Marius Victorinus repeats it (Halm, Rhet. Lat. Min., p. 223), and it is preserved in the Physiologos (xlv. p. 275—Lauchert).

[78] Which means “City of the Eight [Gods].” (Op. cit., i. 113.)

[79] Perhaps suggesting two-faced or Janus-like—before and behind, without and within. With this, however, may be compared the symbolic headdress or mask worn by the virgin Korē (Proserpina) in the Eleusinian Mysteries; she had, Athenagoras (xx. 292) tells us, “two ordinary eyes, and two in her forehead, with her face at the back of her neck.”

[80] Suggesting Thoth.

[81] Suggesting the power of him who can either wrap the Net round the man or open it in a new direction, so that the man can “pass right through his body,” as Hermes says to Tat in one of our Sermons.

[82] Suggesting “Christs” who have given birth to their Father, the Mind, in their hearts.

[83] The fiends of a once mighty frame suggest beings of a daimonic nature. Perhaps there is a formal distinction intended by the epithet “helpless” and “abominable,” corresponding with the rational and irrational aspects of the soul as set forth in our sermons.

[84] King (L. W.), Babylonian Religion, p. 71.

[85] See my Orpheus (London, 1896), pp. 39 and 44 ff.

[86] Cf. Philo, De Som., i. (v. 92—Pfeiff)—τὸ παμποίκιλον ὔφασμα τουτονὶ τὸν κόσμον.

[87] Eschenbach (A. C.), Epigenes de Poesi Orphica (Nürnberg, 1702), p. 51.

[88] De Gen. Anim., II. i. 613C.

[89] Bibl, clxxxv.

[90] Tim., 1079F.

[91] The symbol of his actualising power.

[92] Showing that Set is Horus in his form of darkness.

[93] Mystically, the upper and lower kingdoms in man.

[94] “Thoth the Wise” of the “Inscription of London” § 4 (R. 64), to which we shall refer later on.

[95] See the reviews on the below-mentioned work in The Athenæum of 31st December 1898, and The Academy of 31st December 1898 and 7th January 1899.

[96] The Book of the Master, or The Egyptian Doctrine of the Light born of the Virgin Mother (London, 1898)—a sequel to his study entitled The House of the Hidden Places, a Clue to the Creed of Early Egypt from Egyptian Sources (London, 1895).

[97] Op. cit., pref. v.

[98] Op. cit., 13. Compare with this the three grades of Initiation given by Pietschmann (p. 24 n.), as cited above, p. 51.

[99] The image-doctrine of our treatises.

[100] This is an error; true initiation consisted in the fact that cosmic consciousness was realised in the body, while a man still lived. This consciousness naturally included the after-death consciousness as part of its content.

[101] Op. cit., p. 24.

[102] Op. cit., pp. 14, 15.

[103] That is, he who has the “balanced” nature.

[104] In my Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?—in treating of the Elxai tradition and the wild statements of the puzzled and puzzling Epiphanius, I asked: “May there not have been a mystery-teaching behind the beautiful historicised story of the sisters Mary and Martha, and of Lazarus, their brother, who was ‘raised from the dead’ after being ‘three days’ in the grave? Was not Lazarus raised as a ‘mummy’ swathed in grave-clothes?” In this connection it is interesting to find Tertullian (De Corona, viii.; Oehler, i. 436) referring to the “linen cloth” with which Jesus girt himself in John xiii. 4, 5, as the “proper garment of Osiris.” The proper garment of Osiris at one stage consisted most probably of the symbolic linen wrappings of the “mummy.”

[105] Op. cit., p. 23.

[106] Op. cit., p. 30.

[107] Op. cit., p. 194.

[108] Op. cit., p. 161.

[109] Op. cit., pp. 18, 20.

[110] Op. cit., p. 36.

[111] Op. cit., p. 153.

[112] Op. cit., p. 37.

[113] Op. cit., p. 71.

[114] Op. cit., p. 75.

[115] Op. cit., p. 44.

[116] Op. cit., p. 89.

[117] Op. cit., pp. 163, 164.

[118] Op. cit., p. 95.

[119] Op. cit., p. 96. The title seems to be found only in the latest recension of the twenty-sixth Saite dynasty—the time of our King Ammon—but certainly no better one can be suggested.

[120] Op. cit., pp. 103, 104.

[121] Op. cit., p. 148.

[122] Op. cit., p. 120.

[123] Op. cit., p. 185.

[124] Op. cit., p. 186.

[125] I have supplied the titles.

[126] Perhaps originally spirits or breaths.

[127] παντοκράτωρ, used of Hermes, Anth. P., append., 282.

[128] Compare Lactantius, i. 6 (Frag. II.); and especially iv. 7 (Frag. VI.).

[129] The “eyes and light of Horus,” according to Plutarch, De Is. et Os., lii.; mystically, the higher and lower “ego” and much else.

[130]  ἐν ταῖς κόραις—compare the dissertation on the meaning of the title of our treatise generally translated “Virgin (κόρη) of the World,” in the commentary thereto.

[131] Sc. the Ocean of Space, the “Great Green” of the Ritual.

[132] That is, father-mother of the universe.

[133] κωμαστήριον—that is, heaven. See VII. 3 below.

[134]  ἀπόρροιαι—or personified influences. See Plutarch, De Is. et Os., xxxviii., liii., lviii.; and especially Pistis Sophia, where it occurs over and over again. Compare also K. K., 1; Stob., p. 405, 17 (W.).

[135] εὐκερασία—referring apparently to the composition of “body” and “soul.”

[136] That is, the Pleroma or Æon (see VI. 9 below). Reitzenstein (p. 18) says rightly, as we have seen, that Egyptologists have long recognised that the God here identified with Agathodaimon was originally the Hermes or Thoth of Hermopolis Magna, Lord of the Eight Wardens (the Ogdoad), symbolised by apes, hymned by the Muses (? the Nine or Ennead), and spouse of Isis-Righteousness (cf. Plut., De Is. et Os., iii.).

[137] See 13 below.

[138] Compare the extra-canonical logos: “I stood on a lofty mountain and saw a gigantic man, and another, a dwarf; and I heard as it were a voice of thunder, and drew nigh for to hear; and He spake unto me and said: I am thou, and thou art I; and wheresoever thou mayest be I am there. In all am I scattered [that is, the Logos as seed or “members”], and whencesoever thou wiliest, thou gatherest Me; and gathering Me, thou gatherest Thyself.” (From the Gospel of Eve, quoted by Epiphanius, Hæres., xxvi. 3.) Cf. II. 7.

[139] In the Egyptian sense—that is, thy true “person” or “presence.” See R. 17, n. 6, for many references to this fundamental concept of Egyptian religion.

[140] φυλακτήριον—lit., as a phylactery or amulet. See R. 18, n. 8, for Egyptian origin of Jewish phylacteries.

[141] δράξ—here the symbol of any hostile elemental force. Compare K. K.,—Stob., 402, 22 (W.).

[142] καθ’ Ἅιδου.

[143] See 9 above.

[144] ἀβάσκαντος, ἀβάσκαντος.

[145] σωτηρίαν, or salvation.

[146] See II. 2 below.

[147] Compare with this prayer for the descent of the Mind into the heart, the ascent of the man into the Mind of C. H., xiii. (xiii.) 3.

[148] This is an echo of spiritual rebirth or regeneration.

[149] In its highest sense the heavenly food, or wisdom, the “supersubstantial bread,” or “bread of life.”

[150] ἐπαφροδισίαν προσώπου. See I. 13 above.

[151] The symbols of which are: the ibis in the east, ape in the west, the serpent in the north, the wolf (or jackal) in the south. So says the overworking of the text; but perhaps wolf should rather be dog.

[152] The terebinth, or turpentine palm. Compare this with the story of Terebinthus, from whose four Books Manes is said, in the Acta Archelai, to have derived his system.

[153] The ebony; perhaps symbolic of the “dark” wisdom, the initiation “in the black” of the K. K. Fragments.

[154] τὰ βαρβαρικὰ ὀνόματα—lit., barbarous, that is, non-Greek.

[155] Cf. I. 11.

[156] Lit., with Agathodaimon; compare σὺν θεῷ—“with God’s blessing.”

[157] συνδωκόντων—a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον—δώκω (δίδωμι) may be compared with στήκω (ἵστημι). The image may be taken from the well-known symbolical representation of the sun sending forth rays, each furnished with a hand for giving and blessing, especially in the frescoes of the Atem-cult period. Cf. K. K., 11 and 31.

[158] In the mystery-myth.

[159] Orig., medicines or philtres.

[160] εὐδιάλεκτος γενοῦ—a unique and inelegant expression in Greek, and of uncertain translation into English.

[161] This appears here to refer to Anubis, the “dog” of Hades, or the “death-genius,” the attendant on Thoth. “Black” is lit. “Ethiopian.” But compare in Pistis Sophia, 367, “Æthiopic Ariouth,” a ruler among the infernal daimonials, who is “entirely black.” The Ethiopians were famous for their sorcery and black magic. They were the traditional opponents of the “white magicians” of Egypt. Compare “Hor, son of the Negress” in the “Second Story of Khamuas,” in Griffith’s (F. Ll.) Stories of the High Priests of Memphis (Oxford, 1900), pp. 51 ff.

[162] This is not necessarily a prayer for physical form and the rest, but a prayer that the subtle ka of the man, the plastic soul-substance, may take a form of power and beauty, in the unseen world.

[163] εἴδωλον, or image or double. The theurgist is endeavouring to identify his ka with that of the god. It was with his ka also, presumably, that the consecrated statue of the god was “animated.” Compare the exposition of this theory as given in P. S. A., and the “image” or “likeness of God” in Lactantius, ii. 10. According to the Egyptians, man possessed: (1) a physical body (khat); (2) a soul (ba); (3) a heart (ȧb); (4) a double (ka); (5) an intelligence (khu); (6) a power (sekhem); (7) a shadow (khaibit) (8) a spiritual body (sȧḥ [sic]); (9) a name (ren). See Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, ii. 299, 300. These are, of course, not arranged in any natural order or in a scientific distribution. The precise meaning of most of these terms is not known. Budge (op. cit., i. 163, 164), however, writes: “Related intimately to the body, but with undefined functions, as far as we can discover, was the sekhem, a word which has been translated ‘power,’ and ‘form,’ and even ‘vital force’; finally the glorified body, to which had been united the soul, and spirit and power, and name of the deceased, had its abode in heaven. This new body of the deceased in heaven was called sāḥu.”

[164] Thoth and Maāt are represented as sitting on either side of Rā in his boat.

[165] That is, Hermes as the cosmic Logos.

[166] Thoth changes his form in every heaven-space or sphere. Compare C. H., i. 13; and also the same idea in the descent of the Christos in a number of Gnostic systems, where the Saviour and King conceals himself in the forms of his servants in every phase of his descent. Cf. also C. H., xi. (xii.) 16.

[167] θαύθ.

[168] That is, essence, or may be type.

[169] Presumably a symbol for air.

[170] Presumably a symbol for earth.

[171] Compare C. H., xi. (xii.) 20; and P. S. A., vi.

[172] With the Egyptians, Darkness was the mystery of all mysteries. As Damascius (On First Principles) says: “Of the first principle the Egyptians said nothing; but characterised it as a darkness beyond all intellectual conception, a thrice unknown Darkness” (σκότος ἄγνωστον τρὶς τοῦτο ἐπιφημίζοντες). See my Orpheus (London, 1896), p. 93, and for “Night,” pp. 154 and 170 ff. Perhaps this may again give some clue to the initiation “in the black” of the K. K. excerpt. The “dark wisdom” was the hidden of the hidden.

[173] αἰὼν αἰῶνος. In another hymn, Hermes, as Logos, is called “Cosmos of cosmos” (R. 23, n. 1)—that is, the spiritual world or order.

[174] That is the spiritual cosmos, or cosmos of Mind.

[175] Compare Isaiah xlv. 7: “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” Cf. C. H., i. 23, “the avenging daimon”; and ibid., 15, “Within the Harmony he hath become a slave.”

[176] Called in the Trismegistic literature the “Religion of the Mind” (Mentis religio). See P. S. A., xxv.

[177] Compare the cosmogony in Dieterich, Abraxas, 17, 43: “Through the Bitterness of God, there appeared Mind . . . that restrains the heart, and was called Hermes.” With this peculiar phrase “Bitterness of God” compare the “Bitter Chaos” of the hymn at the end of the J. source of the Naassene Document in “The Myth of Man” chapter; also the “Bitter Water” or Chaos of the Sethian System (Hipp., Philos., v. 19); so also Julian, in Oration V., who writes: “The oracles of the gods declare that through purification not only our soul but also our bodies are judged worthy of being greatly helped and preserved, for it is said in them that ‘the mortal vesture of bitter matter is preserved.’” Is it thus possible that the “Bitterness” of Jacob Böhme may be a reminiscence of the ancient Gnosis?

[178] For pure Egyptian parallels see R. 24, n. 1.

[179] See the theogony in Dieterich, op. cit., 18, 75: “And the soul came into being. And God said: ‘Thou shalt move all things . . . Hermes guiding thee.’” Compare C. H., x. (xi.) 21: “But on the pious soul the Mind doth mount, and guide it to the Gnosis’ light;” also xii. (xiii.) 12, ix. (x.) 10, iv. (v.) 11, vii. (viii.) 2.

[180] These rubrics I have added, following the example of Reitzenstein, but not his wording.

[181] Compare the expression “Jesus the living [one]” found frequently in the Introduction to the “First Book of Ieou” (Carl Schmidt, Gnostische Schriften in koptischer Sprache aus dem Codex Brucianus (Leipzig, 1892), 142-145—reprinted with his recent translation of the Pistis Sophia in Band I. of his Koptisch gnostische Schriften (Leipzig, 1905); and also the Preface to the newest found logoi: “These are the . . . words which Jesus, the living [one], spake” (Grenfell and Hunt, New Sayings of Jesus, London, 1904).

[182] Compare in the same writings the oft-repeated “Father of all fatherhood, Boundless Light.”

[183] See Dieterich, Jahrb. f. Phil., Suppl., xvi. 802, 171, and 706. Compare also Ephes. iii. 18, and the Valentinian interpretation of the terms in this text as given by Hippolytus, Philos., vi. 34 (Dunker and Schneidewin, p. 248); also the interpretation of the Light Hymn in Pistis Sophia, 146, where the “height” is identified with the “home” of the Light.

[184] The magic names of power are omitted, as in the other prayers.

[185] Horus is often represented as pilot of the sun-ship in its voyage across the ocean of space, the “Great Green.”

[186] The dragon here undoubtedly meaning darkness. Cf. C. H., i. 4.

[187] ὡς κυνοκέφαλος. Can it be possible that behind this strange symbolism there may once have been some such idea as this—that as the ape is to man, so was this great elemental to the God?

[188] Lit., art seated on the head of cosmos.

[189] That is the Eternity or Æon, called elsewhere the Pleroma or “fullness of grace,” and identified with Agathodaimon (see prayer, R. 30). See also Wessely, op. cit., 185 (R. 362); and compare John i. 14, “full of grace and truth”; and 16, “Of his fullness have we received, and grace for grace.”

[190] The regenerate, or spirit-born—that is of “virgin-birth” or the “birth of Horus.” But compare the declaration of the soul on its entrance into the unseen world after death, as given on an inscription found in the tomb of an Orphic or Pythagorean initiate, at Petilia, in what was once Magna Græcia: “Of Earth and starry Heaven child am I; my race is of the Heavens!” (See Inscr. Gr. Siciliæ et Italiæ, 638; and my “Notes on the Eleusinian Mysteries,” Theosophical Review, xxii. 317.)

[191] These are the logoi hidden in the hearts of all.

[192] This may be merely a figurative expression in praise of the might that can not only dissolve the most stable things on earth, but also set in motion the centre of stability of spiritual essences; or it may refer to the idea of the “God born from the rock,” which is most familiar to us from the Mithriac mystery-tradition, where the rock is said to symbolise in physics the “firmament,” which was thought of as solid or rigid by the ancients.

[193] That is, the seven cosmic spheres.

[194] μεμνοινην—an untranslatable reading. Is it Egyptian?—or is it intended for μεμνόνειαν? If the latter, it would presumably be connected with the Egyptian myth and cult of Memnon (see Roscher’s Lexikon, coll. 2661 ff.). The Memnon cult was somehow connected with Hermes, for in the ruins of the temple were still (at the beginning of the third century) to be seen “statues of Hermes,” according to Philostratus (Vit. Apoll., vi. 4), who also (Imag., i. 7) tells us that the Memnon statue was as a lyre which was struck by the rod (πλῆκτρον), that is the ray (ἡ ἀκτίς), of the sun. If so, “the rod [of power], by which thou sendest forth the gods,” that is thy rays, each god being a ray of the spiritual sun, might have the epithet Memnonian applied to it. But in our present lack of information, this interpretation seems very strained.

[195] δόξαι—here meaning powers.

[196] ἀνειδωλόπληκτον.

[197] κωμαστήριον. Cf. I. 5 above.

[198] The serpent was a symbol of the Logos, and this is the idea underlying the so-called Ophite systems of the Gnosis.

[199] This refers to the first nome of Upper Egypt, whose metropolis, Elephantine, was once the chief seat of the popular Agathodaimon cult (R. 29, n. 4). The “world” was thus the Egyptian civilised world, beyond which was the darkness of Ethiopia.

[200] R. 3, nn. 1, 2.

[201] See R. 3-7, to whom I am indebted for the indications.

[202] Of the school of Aristarchus (fl. 280-264). The great Lexicon of Pamphilus is supposed by some to have been the basis of that of Hesychius.

[203] Apud, Galen, περὶ ἁπλῶν φαρμ., vi. Proœm. (tom. ix. p. 798 K).

[204] See Riess, Philologus Supplem., Fragg. 27-29.

[205] See Kroll, “Aus der Geschichte der Astrologie,” Neue Jahrbb. f. Phil. u. Päd., vii. 559 ff.

[206] Kroll, ii. 344; Riess, Frag. 33.

[207] Riess, Frag. 1.

[208] οὐρανοβατεῖν.

[209] So R. (5) completes a lacuna.

[210] βοή—presumably a parallel with the Bath-kol of Talmudic Rabbinism.

[211] The same rapturous vision of the soul after death is translated by Seneca (Cons. ad Marciam, 18, 2) from Poseidonius (135-(?)51 B.C.), who also clearly derived it from the same Egyptian Hellenistic literature.

[212] C. H., v. (vi.) 5.

[213] C. H., xi. (xii.) 6, 7; also Stob., Ecl., i. 49 (386, 3, W.).

[214] There are some dozen variants in the spelling and accenting of this name in Greek transliteration; in Egyptian we are told it means “Beloved of Thoth” (Mai en Thoth).

[215] Plutarch, De Is. et Osir., ix. and xxviii.

[216] Josephus, C. Apion., i. 14.

[217] Ælian, De Animalium Natura, x. 16.

[218] Budge, op. sup. cit., i. 332, says: “A tradition says Solon, Thales, and Plato all visited the great college at Heliopolis, and that the last-named actually studied there, and that Manetho the priest of Sebennytus, who wrote a history of Egypt in Greek for Ptolemy II., collected his materials in the library of the priesthood of Rā.”

[219] Chron., xl. See Cory (I. P.), Ancient Fragments, pp. 173, 174—mispaged as 169 (2nd ed.; London, 1832); and Mitller, Fragmenta Historicorum Græcorum, pp. 511 ff. (Paris, 1848).

[220] βίβλος Σώθεος.

[221] στηλῶν, generally translated “columns”; but the term is quite a general one and denotes any monument bearing an inscription.

[222] Syncellus has “into the Greek tongue,” an evident slip, as many have already pointed out.

[223] Sebennytus was the chief city of the Sebennyte province, situated about the centre of the Delta. Heliopolis or On, the City of the Sun, was situated some thirty miles north of Memphis.

[224] Presumably Manetho and his fellow priests.

[225] Lit., “for you questioning.”

[226] See my article on “The Sibyl and her Oracles,” in The Theosophical Review, vol. xxii. pp. 399 S. See also the passage preserved from the Ethiopian History of Marcellua by Proclus in his commentary on the Timæus of Plato; Cory, Ancient Fragments, p. 233.

[227] Frag. Hist. Græc., ut sup. cit., p. 512.

[228] A. Böckh, Manetho und die Hundsternperiode: em Beitrag zur Geschichte der Pharaonen, pp. 14-17 (Berlin, 1845).

[229] M. Letronne, Recueil des Inscriptions grecques et latines de l’Égypte, tom, i., pp. 206, 280 ff. (Paris, 1842).

[230] See The Athenæum, 12th November 1904.

[231] De Nat. Deorum, iii. 22.

[232] Ursin, De Zoroastre, etc., p. 73.

[233] For a permutation of the elements in this genealogy, in the interests of Heliopolis, see Varro, De Genie Pop. Rom., as quoted by Augustine in De Civ. Dei, xviii. 3 and 8.

[234] Hekekyan Bey, C. E., A Treatise on the Chronology of Siriadic Monuments, demonstrating that the Egyptian Dynasties of Manetho are Records of Astrogeological Nile Observations which have been continued to the Present Time—Preface, p. v. (London, 1863). The book deserves careful study, and cannot be hastily set aside with the impatience of prejudice.

[235] See Pietschmann, op. cit., pp. 31, 32; also Spiegelberg, Recueil des Travaux relatifs à la Philologie et à l’Archéologie égyptiennes et assyriennes, xxiii. 199. R. 117, n. 1.

[236] See the last chapter of the book from which the following passage is quoted. See also Iamblichus, De Mysteriis, cap. ii., who in a very clear statement of the sources of his information, and the method of treating the numerous points raised by Porphyry, says: “And if thou proposest any philosophical problem, we will resolve it for thee according to the ancient monuments of Hermes, on the thorough study of which Plato, and prior to him Pythagoras, founded their philosophy.”

[237] Who flourished in the early second half of the fourth century A.D.

[238] The passages and chambers being hewn out of the solid rock.

[239] Ammiani Marcellini Rerum Gestarum Libri qui supersunt, xxii. xv. 30; ed. V. Gardthausen (Leipzig, 1874), p. 301.

[240] τῶν ὅλων.

[241] στήλας.

[242] ἐπομβρίας, a downpour or flood of rain.

[243] Josephus, Antt., I. ii.; Cory’s An. Fragg., pp. 171, 172.

[244] Sanhedrin, 107 B; Sota, 47 A.

[245] See my Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?—pp. 137 ff. and 147 ff.

[246] A similarity already pointed out by Plew, Jahrb. f. Phil. (1868), p. 839.

[247] Drexler in Roscher’s Lex. d. Myth., ii. 388, 408, 445.

[248] Pietschmann misquotes this line, giving “ter maximus” for “ter unus” (op. cit., p. 36).

[249] καθάπερ Ἑρμῆς ὁ μέγας καὶ μέγας, line 19; the reading is perfectly clear, and I cannot understand the remark of Chambers (op. cit., Pref. vii.) that Hermes is called “μέγας, μέγας, μέγας” on the Rosetta Stone.

[250] “Inscription grecque de Rosette,” p. 3, appended to Müller, Frag. Hist. Græc. (Paris, 1841).

[251] Ibid., p. 20.

[252] Recueil des Inscriptions grecques et latines de l’Égypte, i. 283 (Paris, 1842).

[253] See Pietschmann, op. sup. cit., p. 35.

[254] In Greek not only is the term τρίσμακαρ (thrice-blessed) applied to Hermes in the inscriptions of Pselcis (see Letronne’s Recueil, i. 206 n.), but also in a Magical Prayer (Wessely, 1893—p. 38, 11. 550 ff.; Kenyon, p. 102) he is addressed as τρισμέγας, or “thrice-great” simply.

[255] Griffiths here refers to Pietschmann as his authority for this statement.

[256] Cf. Proc. Soc. Bib. Arch. (1899), p. 279.

[257] Recueil des Travaux relat. à la Phil, et à l’Archéol. égypt. et assyr., xxiii. 196. Cf. R. 54.

[258] J. C. Orelli, Sanchoniathonis Berytii quæ feruntur Fragmenta (Leipzig, 1826).

[259] Præparatio Evangelica, I. vi., vii.

[260] These are collected by Cory in his Ancient Fragments, pp. 3 ff. (London, 1832); and they may also be found in C. Müller, Fragmenta Historicorum Græcorum, “Philo Byblius,” iii. pp. 560 ff. (Paris, 1848).

[261] F. Wagenfeld, Sanchuniathon’s Urgeschichte der Phönizier in einem Auszuge aus der wieder aufgefundenen Handschrift von Philo’ s vollständiger Übersetzung (Hanover, 1836). In the following year Wagenfeld published the Greek text with a Latin translation under the title Sanchoniathonis Historiarum Phœniciæ Libri IX. (Bremse, 1837). For the further consideration of the reliability of Sanchuniathon, see Count (Wolf Wilhelm) Baudissin’s Studien zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte, Heft ii., “Über den religionsgeschichtlichen Werth der phönicischen Geschichte Sanchuniathon’s” (Leipzig, 1876).

[262] Perhaps attempts at transliterating the dialectic variants of Upper and Lower Egypt of the name Teḥuti.

[263] Wagenfeld’s text, Proœm., p. 2; Euseb., Præp. Ev., I. ix. 29.

[264] This is the beginning of the out-breathing of the universe or of any system; it is the Great Breath or Spirit moving on the Waters of Chaos, the primal nebula. Erebus was fabled to be a region of nether darkness separating Earth and Hades (not Hell). It was the Dark Side of Heaven.

[265] Lit., æon.

[266] That is, Sanchuniathon; so that we may take this passage as a direct quotation, or rather translation.

[267] Or sources; that is, the primal states of Matter or Chaos.

[268] Pothos, πόθος; yearning, longing—love for all that lives and breathes. This union was symbolised not only among the Phœnicians but also among most of the other nations by an egg, round which a serpent twines. When the egg and serpent are represented apart they stand for “Chaos” and “Ether,” matter and spirit; but when united they represent the hermaphrodite or male-female first principle of the universe, spirit-matter, called in Greek translation Pothos or Erōs.

[269] Cf. “The Darkness comprehended it not” of the Proem to the Fourth Gospel.

[270] Here Philo, the translator, volunteers the information that some call this prime plasm of Chaos, “Slime,” others explain it as “Fermentation,” in a watery sort of medium.

[271] The primal elements and their subdivisions.

[272] The same distinction is made in the cosmogonic account in “The Shepherd,” but with more detail.

[273] Presumably still mingled together, as in the account in “The Shepherd.”

[274] That is to say, after the land and water were separated.

[275] ἐγρηγόρησεν. The same expression is used in the Greek translation of The Book of Enoch, in speaking of the Watchers (Egrēgores).

[276] Op. cit., i. ii., pp. 8 ff.

[277] Op. cit., viii. p. 26.

[278] The best source of information is the art. “Megaloi Theoi,” in Reseller’s Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen u. römischen Mythologie, II. ii. (Leipzig, 1894-97).

[279] Zeitschr. f. äg. Sprache (1901), pp. 39 ff.

[280] “Sur la Tout-puissance de la Parole,” Recueil des Travaux rel. à la Phil. . . . égypt., xxiv. 168 ff.

[281] The God of Fire and Mind.

[282] An epithet of Ptah. But compare the Hymn to Rā given by Budge (op. cit., i. 339): “Praise to thee O Rā, exalted Sekhem, Ta-thenen, Begetter of his Gods.” Sekhem is vital “power”; Tathenen is, therefore, presumably Creative Life, or the Demiurgic or Creative Power. On page 230 Budge tells us that Tathenen is elsewhere symbolised as a fire-spitting serpent armed with a knife.

[283] The Heaven is the Great Heart of the Great Cosmos; in man the little cosmos, the heart, was the seat of the true understanding and will.

[284] Shu generally represents the dry air between the earth and sky. Cf. the Hymn to Amen-Rā: “Thou art the One God, who did’st form thyself into two gods; thou art the creator of the egg, and thou did’st produce thy Twin-gods” (Budge, op. cit., ii. 89). Shu’s twin or syzygy is Tefnut, who in terrene physics represents the moist air; but Shu is elsewhere equated with the Light.

[285] The Ocean of Heaven.

[286] The life or breath of the Creator.

[287] Sc. the water of the Great Green.

[288] Paut, sphere, or group, or company, or hierarchy, or pleroma,—here an Ogdoad.

[289] Namely, Thoth and Horus.

[290] That is, the heart (Horus) rules action by fingers (and toes), by means of the ducts or vessels (arteries, veins, and nerves) leading to them, and all that these mean on the hidden side of things; while the tongue in the mouth (Thoth), by means of teeth and lips, is the organ of speech, or intelligent or meaning utterance.

[291] This appears to be a mistranslation; it seems by what follows to mean “commands” or “gives expression to.”

[292] Not being; that is, brings them into manifestation. He is the Demiurge.

[293] R. glosses this as hieroglyph; but it should perhaps mean “word of the language of the gods”—the language shown by action in the world.

[294] That is to say, apparently, the fruit of actions on which gods and men feed. Cf. Hermes-Prayer, II. 2, where Hermes is said to “collect the nourishment of gods and men.”

[295] That is, as we have seen above, Ptah as the Demiurgic Power.

[296] Hieroglyphics; showing that the oldest hieroglyphics were symbols of the words of action—that is to say, modes of expression of being in action.

[297] Lit., copper.

[298] That is, the worlds of gods, or immortals, and of men, or mortals. But Reitzenstein says: “Thus the God of Memphis [i.e. Ptah] is the divinity or ‘the God’ of all Egypt”—meaning thereby the physical upper and lower lands; but I prefer a wider sense.

[299] This does not mean, I hold, that there was no “reincarnation,” that is, that the “being” of the man did not emanate other “souls,” but that the “soul” of a particular life did not return—that all of it deserving of immortality became a god with the gods, or “those-that-are,” and do not only ex-ist.

[300] Cf. Breasted, Zeit. f. äg. Spr. (1901), p. 47.

[301] C. H., i, 12.

[302] Contra Om. Hær., I. xxx.; ed. A. Stieren (Leipzig, 1853), i. 263 ff.

[303] Hær. Fab., I. xiv.

[304] F. F. F., pp. 188 ff.

[305] Both  and ch being transliteration devices for the same Hebrew letter ח in the word נחש.

[306] We know of the two titles, The Greater and The Lesser Questions of Mary; the general title is thought by some to be the proper designation of one of the sources of the composite document known as Pistis Sophia, and has been suggested as its more appropriate general epigraph.

[307] Philos., v. 1-11, of which I published a preliminary translation, under the heading “Selections from the ‘Philosophumena,’” in The Theosophical Review (August and September 1893), xii. 559-569, xiii. 42-52, and a summary in F. F. F., pp. 198-206.

[308] Ed. L. Duncker and F. G. Schneidewin (Göttingen, 1859); and ed. P. Cruice (Paris, 1860).

[309] The date of the writing of the Philosophumena is placed somewhere about 222 A.D.

[310] S. 132, 1—134, 80; C. 139, 1—141, 2.

[311] The worship of the serpent, according to H.

[312] Cf. the strange logos, preserved in Matt. x. 16 alone: “Be ye therefore wise as serpents.”

[313] The reading can be slightly emended by H.’s epitome in x. 9; but the phrase παρὰ τὸν αὐτῶν λόγον still remains an enigma.

[314] The Celestial Adam, the Adam Kadmon of Kabalistic tradition, or the Intelligible Cosmos of Hellenistic theology. See Cruice, note in loc.

[315] Or hymns of subtle meaning.

[316] That is, Man as Cause and Substance of all things.

[317] Sc. Powers.

[318] That is, presumably, “names of power” (Egyptice); the Adam who gave their “names” to all the “animals.”

[319] Geryon, the triple-headed or triple-bodied Giant, who plays a prominent part in the myth of Hercules.

[320] Or spiritual, psychic, and earthy.

[321] That is, the learning to know.

[322] Cf. § 25, J.

[323] That is, as we shall see later, C.

[324] λόγων.

[325] Celsus (c. 150-175 A.D.) knows of groups of Harpocratians—that is, worshippers of Horus—some of whom derived their tradition from Salōmē, others from Mariamnē, and others again from Martha (Origen, C. Celsum, v. 62). This suggests an Egyptian setting. (For Salome and Maria or Miriam (Mariamnē), the Sisters of Jesus, see D. J. L., 405 f .; for Martha, Our Lady, see ibid., 375 ff.) In the Gnostic Acts of Philip, Mariamnē, or Mariammē (both forms being found in the MSS., according to R. A. Lipsius, Die apokr. Apostelgeschichten—Brunswick, 1884—iii. 12), is the “virgin sister” of Philip, and plays an important rôle as prophetess. She is to Philip as Thekla to Paul, or Helen to Simon. Compare with this the “sister wife” whom Paul demands the right to take about like “the rest of the Apostles and the Brethren of the Lord and Cephas” (1 Corinth. ix. 5; D. J. L., 229). Salmon (art. “Mariamne” in Smith and Wace’s D. of Christ. Biog., iii. 830) refers to the Mary (Magdalene) of the Pistis Sophia, the chief questioner of the Master and His favourite disciple, the sister of Martha. The tradition of the Gnosis from James, the Brother of the Lord, is asserted by Clement of Alexandria in Book VI. of his lost work, The Institutions, where he writes: “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” (Euseb., Hist. Eccles., ii. 1; cf. D. J. L., 226).

[326] From here onwards we use the revised critical text of Reitzenstein (pp. 83-98), who appends what we may call an apparatus criticus of the emendations and conjectures of the various editions of our solitary MS. R., as usual, however, gives no translation.

[327] Is. liii. 8—same reading as LXX. Cf. also 25 § J.

[328] A remark of the writer of S., which, as we shall see at the end, is divided into Texts and Commentary.

[329] The “he says” may be ascribed to any subsequent hand; I have marked them all H. to avoid further complication.

[330] “Burstings forth,” inspirations, revealings, or mysteries.

[331] In Greek transformation, son of Apollo and the daughter of Minos, born in Libya. This points to a very ancient myth-connection with the old Cretan civilisation. Garamas was also called Amphithemis (q.v. in Roscher’s Lex.); he appears also, according to one tradition, to have been the father of Ammon. (See “Garamantis Nympha,” ibid.)

[332] This passage is doubly interesting, for it is not only a source, but a source within a source. Already a number of scholars have recognised it as an Ode; and not only so, but conjectured with much probability that it is by no less a master than Pindar himself. Nay, further, it is part of a Hymn to Jupiter Ammon—an additionally interesting point for us as showing strong Egyptian influence. It is true that in our text of Hippolytus the order of the words has been frequently changed to bring it into prose form; but the reconstruction of most of it is not difficult, and quite convincing. I translate from the text of Bergk’s final revision, as given S. 134, 135; C. 142. R., for some reason or other, does not refer to this interesting side-light.

[333] Sc. of the Fate-Sphere.

[334] This looks back, though with variants, to Ephes. iii. 15.

[335] Sc. the image-man, or Adam of “red” earth.

[336] Sc. the Chaldæans.

[337] τύπῳ.

[338] Sc. the Naassenes.

[339] This is a further indication of the environment of the Naassenes. Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 7.

[340] That is from Man (Father), Man Son of Man (Son), or Flowing Chaos (Mother)—corresponding in Hellenic mythology to Kronos, Zeus, and Rhea. For Rhea (from ρέειν, “to flow”) is the Moist or Liquid Nature, as with the Stoics; she is the a-cosmic or unordered Earth, the Prima Materia (the First Earth, the Spouse of Heaven—Uranus), Hyle Proper, who carries in her bosom the Logos. For references, see R., p. 99, n. 2.

[341] Cf. Ex. viii. 8.

[342] The preceding paragraph is evidently composed of selections from S. R. (p. 85, n. 1) thinks that we have here the description of only one aspect of Soul, and that the description of the remaining two aspects has been omitted by H.

[343] Sc. the Naassenes, in H.’s view.

[344] μορφῆς—lit., either form or beauty.

[345] Sc. of cosmos.

[346] This paragraph and § 7, together with the accompanying overworkings, seem to have been misplaced by H., according to R. (pp. 99, 100). The sudden introduction of the name Attis without any preliminaries, indicates another lacuna; the transition from the Assyrian to the Phrygian Mysteries of the Great Mother is too brusque

[347] The threefold nature of the Soul is thus distinguished by: (i.) The union (or marriage) which joins it to generation, or to earth-life—the nature of things on earth; (ii.) The union which joins it with death—the nature of the things “beneath” the earth; (iii.) The union which joins it with formal beauty, or beauty in form (μορφή)—the nature of super-terrene (or sublunary) things, here regarded as the Elysian state. The love of the Mother of the Gods for the Soul represents the “fourth state” (the turīya of Vedantic mystic psychology), or the absorption of the masculine power of the Soul by its own higher Feminine Nature. Cf. in Damascius’ “Life of Isidores” (Photius, Bibl., ed. Bekker, 345 a. 5: “I fell asleep, and in a vision Attis seemed to appear to me, and, on behalf of the Mother of the Gods, to initiate me into the feast called Hilaria—a mystery which discloses the way of our salvation from Hades.” Hades, the realm of Selēnē, is not Tartarus, the realm of Death.

[348] Compare the so-called Second Epistle of Clement (an early homily incorporating extra-canonical Gospel-materials), xii. 2: “For the Lord Himself being asked by some one when his Kingdom should come, said: When the two shall be one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the female neither male nor female”; and also the well-known logoi, from The Gospel according to the Egyptians, quoted several times by Clement of Alexandria: “When Salome asked how long Death should prevail, the Lord said: So long as ye women bear children; for I am come to destroy the work of the Female. And Salome said to Him: Did I therefore well in bearing no children? The Lord answered and said: Eat every Herb, but eat not that which hath bitterness. When Salome asked when these things about which she questioned should be made known, the Lord said: When ye trample upon the Garment of Shame; when the Two become One, and Male with Female neither male nor female.” And with the last logos of the above compare the new-found fragment of a lost Gospel: “His disciples say unto Him: When wilt thou be manifest to us, and when shall we see Thee? He saith: When ye shall be stripped and not be ashamed.”—Grenfell and Hunt, New Sayings of Jesus (London, 1904), p. 40. The environment is Egyptian and ascetic; it is a saying addressed to a community, as may be seen from one of the previous logoi: “Having one garment what do ye [lack]?”

[349] See Rom. i. 20-23, 25-27.

[350] ἀόρατα.

[351] ἀΐδιος—evidently a word-play.

[352] The received Pauline text is slightly shortened here.

[353] Evidently a reference to the Chaldæan fourfold (man-eagle-lion-bull) glyph of what Later Orphicism and Platonism called the Autozōon, representing the four main types of Animal Life; the same mystery which Ezekiel saw in the Vision of the Mercabah, or Celestial Chariot—a reflected picture, I believe, from the Chaldæan Mysteries.

[354] Verses 24 and 25 of the Received Text are omitted.

[355] ἀσχημοσύνη—meaning also “formlessness.”

[356] Cf. Ex. v. 2.

[357] That is, baptism.

[358] We wonder what “they” really did say? They may have argued in their private circles that even in the foulest things the clean soul could recognise the reversed signs of the Mysteries of Purity; for certainly these things require an explanation—nay, more urgently do they require an interpretation in proportion to their foulness. The hateful suggestion of Hippolytus that these ascetic and spiritually-minded folk—for their doctrines plainly show them to be so—were as foul as those of the Flood, only shows the ineradicable prejudice of unwitting self-righteousness.

[359] Completion of R.

[360] Picking up “Blessed Nature” from the first paragraph of 6.

[361] Cf. Ex. viii. 6, note.

[362] At fourteen a boy took his first initiation into the Egyptian priesthood.

[363] CfLittré, Traduct. des Œuvres d’Hippocrate, tom. i. p. 396.

[364] Presumably referring to Seed.

[365] Perhaps, however, they meant something very different, and perhaps even their analogies are not so foolish as they seemed to H.

[366] The material here seems to follow directly on § 5. It is a summary by H.; but seeing that there is more in it of S. than of H., we will print it as S., indicating H. when possible.

[367] Isis, or Nature, as the seven spheres and the eighth sphere (? the “black” earth).

[368] That is the Celestial Nile or Heaven-Ocean, which fructifies Mother Nature. “The Alexandrians honoured the same God as being both Osiris and Adonis, according to their mystical god-blending (syncrasia).” Damascius, “Life of Isidorus” (Phot., Bibl., 242; p. 342 a. 21, ed. Bek.).

[369] Sc. the Egyptians.

[370] Prov. xxiv. 16—same reading as LXX. Cf. Luke xvii. 4.: “If he trespass against thee seven times in a day and turn again to thee, saying, ‘I repent’; thou shalt forgive.” This saying is apparently from the “Logia” source; cf. Matt, xviii. 21, and compare the idea with the scheme of the “repentance” of the Pistis Sophia.

[371] The seven planetary spheres; but it may also connect with the idea of the falling “stars” as the souls descending into matter, according to the Platonic and Hermetic doctrine.

[372] Probably the Egyptians in their Mysteries, connecting with what is summarised by H. at end of § 6 and beginning of § 7.

[373] Evidently a logos from some Hellenistic scripture. In the evidence of Zosimus which we adduce at the end of our Trismegistic Fragments, he quotes (§§ 15 and 7) from the “Inner Door”—a lost treatise of Hermes Trismegistus—as follows: “For that the Son of God having power in all things, becoming all things that He willeth, appeareth as He willeth to each.” Thus we have S. quoting the original logos, which, I suggest, belongs to the “Pœmandres” type of Trismegistic literature. Therefore that type was in existence before S. This confirms our attribution of the “they declare” to the Egyptians and their Mysteries (Trismegisticism being principally the Hellenised form of those Mysteries), and also the completion of R. at the end of the first paragraph of § 7 above.

[374] Cf. Matt. xix. 17 = Mark x. 18 = Luke xviii. 19. The first clause agrees with Mark and Luke, the second with Matthew (omitting “the” before “Good”). The presumably primitive reading of the positive command, “Call me not Good,” has disappeared entirely from this phase of tradition.

[375] A different form from Matt. v. 45, but the same idea; for the other tradition, see Luke vi. 35.

[376] Cf. Matt v. 15 = Mark iv. 21 = Luke viii. 16 and xi. 33.

[377] Cf. Matt. x. 27 = Luke xii. 3.

[378] That is, symbolically distinguished statues of Hermes.

[379] The text is faulty; but compare Pausanias, VI. xxvi. 5, where, speaking of Cyllene, he says: “The image of Hermes which the people of the place revere exceedingly, is nothing but an ithyphallus on a pedestal.” This famous symbolic figure at Cyllene is mentioned also by Artemidorus, Oneirocr., i. 45; and by Lucian, Jupiter Tragædus, 42. Cf. J. G. Frazer’s Pausanias (London, 1898), iv. 110.

[380] Psychagogue and psychopomp—or leader and evoker of souls—apparently here meaning him who takes souls out of body and brings them back again to it.

[381] μνηστήρων—lit., meaning “recalling to mind”; and also “suitors.” Cf. Od., xxiv. 1 ff.

[382] Empedocles, On Purifications (Diels, 119; Stein, 390; Karsten, 11; Fairbanks, First Philosophers of Greece, 206); Empedocles continues: “ . . . have I fallen here on the earth to consort with mortals!”

[383] The Naassenes, in H.’s opinion.

[384] The souls.

[385] Some editors think this is a mistake for Ialdabaōth. The name, however, appears in the system of Justinus (Hipp., Philos., v. 26) as Esaddaios, evidently the transliteration of El Shaddai, as one of the twelve Paternal Angels, the Sons of Elohim, the Demiurge of the sensible world, and of Eden, the Maternal Potency or Nature.

[386] τοῦ ἰδικοῦ κόσμου—the cosmos of species and not of wholes. Cf. § 17 below for the passage of C. from which H. takes this. Compare Ptah-Hephaistos, the Demiurge by Fire, the Fourth, in the Inscription of London given in Chap. VI. above.

[387] Sc. Hermes.

[388] The continuation of the above quotation—Od., xxiv. 2 ff.

[389] Cf. C. H., i. 14: “he who hath power over the lives of cosmos.”

[390] Ps. ii. 9—same reading as LXX.

[391] Or “get back memory,” or “become suitors.”

[392] Eph. v. 14—a shortened form of the present Pauline text; Paul himself, however, seems to be quoting from some older writing. If the intermediate reading (ἐπιψαύσει for ἐπιφαύσει) can stand (see W. H., Ap. 125), it would mean “Christ shall touch thee” with His rod.

[393] Cf. Plutarch, De Is. et Os., xxxiv. After saying that Osiris, or the Logos, is symbolised as Ocean and Water, and that Thales took his idea of Primal “Water, as the cause of things, from the Egyptians, the initiated priest of Apollo and learned comparative mythologist continues: “The Greeks say that ‘son’ (ὑιόν) comes from ‘water’ (ὕδατος) and ‘to moisten’ (ὕσαι), and they call Dionysus ‘Hyes’ (ὕην) as Lord of the Moist (ὑγρᾶς) Nature, he being the same as Osiris.” Stoll in Roscher’s Lex. (sub vv.) says that “Hyēs” and “Hyē” were respectively designations of Dionysus and Semele, and that the meaning is the “Moistener” and the “Moistened” (references loc. cit.). The nymphs who reared Bacchus were also called Hyades (Pherecydes, 46; p. 108, ed. Sturz). Hyēs was also a popular epithet of Zeus as god of rain. See also Lobeck, Aglaophamus, 782 and 1045 ff.; Anecd., Bekk., p. 202: Some say that Hyēs = Attis, others that Hyēs = Dionysus; “for Zeus poured (ὕσε) ambrosia upon him.” One of the names of Bacchus was Ambrosia (Pherecy., ibid.; Non., xxi. 20). I would therefore suggest that the mystic cry “Hye Kye” meant “O Moistener beget!”

[394] Ps. xix. 4. That is the Sound (= Word) of the Heavens; quoted also in Rom. x. 18.

[395] Cf. Od., xxiv. 5. And compare also Hamlet, I. i.:  “The sheeted dead. Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.”

[396] Od., ibid. ff.

[397] Ps. cxviii. 22. Quoted in Matt. xxi. 42; Mark xii. 10; Luke xx. 17; Acts iv. 11.

[398] Taken by C. from S. and J., § 20; but I think that C. has missed the true meaning of the “corner-stone” in the brain.

[399] Cf. Eph. iii. 15.

[400] Is. xxviii. 16—reading ἐντάσσω for ἐμβάλλω of LXX.; quoted also in Eph. ii. 20 and 1 Pet. ii. 7.

[401] Sc. Isaiah.

[402] Completion of the lacuna by R.

[403] χαράκωμα—a technical term also for the “Gnostic” supernal Horos or Boundary.

[404] Dan. ii. 15.

[405] Compare the “complaints of the souls” in the K.K. fragments.

[406] Od., xxiv. 9 f.

[407] Od., ibid.

[408] Cf. Il., xiv. 201, 246; Hymn. Orph., lxxxiii. 2.

[409] Ps. lxxxii. 6.

[410] Cf. Gal. iv. 27: “But Jerusalem Above is free, which is our Mother.” (W. and H. text.)

[411] The final quotation within the quotation is also from Ps. lxxxii. 6. Here, then, we have a quotation from a scripture (“what is written”), glossed by J. with his special exegesis, but already being an exegesis of an Old Testament logos. It is not only a halacha, to use a term of Talmudic Kabbinism, but it is an authoritative apocalypse of the Jewish Gnosis.

[412] John iii. 6.

[413] Sc. the Naassenes, according to H.

[414] I am persuaded that this stood originally in J., and not in C.—being LXX. for Joshua.

[415] This paragraph summarises S. See next S.

[416] ἀβσίλευτος—that is, presumably, those who have learned to rule themselves, the “self-taught” race, etc., of Philo.

[417] Eusebius (Præp. Evang., IX. xxviii. and xxix. 5 ff.; ed. Dind. i. 505 ff. and 508 ff.), quoting from Alexander Cornelius (Polyhistor), who nourished about 100 B.C., has preserved to us a number of verses from a tragedy (called The Leading Forth) on the subject of Moses and the Exodus story, by a certain Ezechiel, a (? Alexandrian) Hebrew poet writing in Greek. In these fragments of Ezechiel’s tragedy, Mariam, Sepphōra, and Jothōr are all dramatis personæ. These spellings and that of Madiam are, of course, all LXX. (that is, Greek Targum) forms of our A.V. Miriam, Jethro, Zipporah, and Midian.

[418] Il., xv. 189.

[419] Cf. Luke viii. 10. Luke seems to preserve the reading of the source more correctly than Matt. xiii. 13 or Mark iv. 12. The Saying looks back to Is. vi. 9.

[420] Cf. § 30 J.

[421] These three names are based on the Hebrew text of Is. xxviii. 13, A.V.: “But the Word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, there a little.” LXX.: “καὶ ἔσται αὐτοῖς τὸ λόγιον κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ, θλῖψις ἐπὶ θλῖψιν ἐλπὶς ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι, ἔτι μικρὸν ἔτι μικρόν.” That is: “And the logion [oracle, the Urim-and-Thummim, or instrument of the Logos, according to Philo] of God shall be to them tribulation on tribulation, hope on hope, still little still little.” See Epiphanius, Hær., xxv. 4. “Saulasau saulasau” = “tribulation on tribulation, tribulation on tribulation;” “kaulakau kaulakau” = “hope on hope, hope on hope;” “zeēsar [zeēsar]” = “still little still little”—that is, the “Height of Hope,” the “Depth of Tribulation,” and the “As yet Very Little”—evidently referring to the as yet small number of the Regenerate. Cf. Pistis Sophia, 354: “One out of a thousand, and two out of ten thousand.” See Salmon’s article, “Caulacau,” in Smith and Wace’s D. of Ch. Biog., i. 424 f. It is also to be noticed that Epiphanius ascribes the origin of these names to the Nicolaïtans. In Hebrew the corresponding name would be Balaamites; and Balaam or Bileam (Nico-laus) was one of the Rabbinical by-names for Jeschu (Jesus). See D. J. L., p. 188.

[422] This and the following paragraph seem to have been misplaced by J. or C., for § 19 connects directly with the exposition concerning the ithyphallic Hermes. See R. 100, n. 4.

[423] ὡς ἐκ γῆς ῥέοντα Ι`η-ρυόν-ην.

[424] Mēn was the Phrygian Deus Lunus. See Drexler’s admirable art. s.v. in Roscher, ii. 2687-2770.

[425] κεκέρακε—a word-play on κέρας (horn), unreproducible in English.

[426] John i. 3, 4. So the present text; but it must have been “nothing” in the text which lay before C.

[427] Cf. the logos, from The Book of the Great Logos according to the Mystery: “Jesus, the Living One, answered and said: Blessed is the man who knoweth this [Word (Logos)], and hath brought down the Heaven, and borne the Earth and raised it heavenwards, and he becometh the Middle, for it (the Middle) is ‘nothing.’”—Schmidt (C.), Gnostische Schriften in koptischer Sprache aus dem Codex Brucianus (Leipzig, 1892), p. 144; and Koptisch-gnostische Schriften (Leipzig, 1905), p. 259.

[428] That is the world of phenomena, or cosmos of species (ἰδικός) and not of genera or wholes.

[429] The fourth Demiurgic Power of the Sensible World was Esaldaios, as we have already seen from J., § 12. The indications are too vague to recover the “measures” and “numbers” of the system. But the “third and fourth” are apparently both “fiery”—the former giving “light,” the latter “heat.” Compare § 23 C., who speaks of the third Gate, or entrance to the third Heaven. This Heaven, the third from below, would correspond with the first ætheric sphere—there being, presumably, three before the fourth or middle, the “Fiery Ruler.”

[430] Sc. “Heavenly Horn of Mēn.”

[431] Cf. Gen. xliv. 5.

[432] Bergk includes these verses among the Anacreontica, n. 63, p. 835. Cf. Anacr., i. 10 (Bergk, 50, 10).

[433] The last line is reconstructed by Cruice (not. in loc.). Cf. Anacr., xxvi. 25, 26. Was Omar Ḵhayyām, then, “Anacreon palingenēs,” or was the same spirit in each?

[434] Cf. John ii. 11. The reading of our quotation, however, is very different from that of the familiar Textus Receptus.

[435] Cf. Luke xvii. 21.

[436] Cf. Matt. xiii. 44.

[437] Cf. Matt. xiii. 33 = Luke xiii. 20.

[438] This seems to connect immediately with the end of § 16. See R. 100, n. 4.

[439] S. probably had “For,” which was glossed by J. into “Moreover.”

[440] But this “statue,” as we have seen, was the ithyphallus simply.

[441] Or Typal Man.

[442] Or, generated or born from Above.

[443] Cf. John vi. 53, which reads in T. R.: “Amēn, Amēn, I say unto you, if ye eat not the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have not Life in yourselves.”

[444] Cf. Matt. xx. 22 = Mark x. 38 (where the phrase is put in a question).

[445] Cf. John viii. 21 and xiii. 33. It is remarkable that in the text of our Gospels these logoi are addressed to the Jews; C., however, takes them as sayings addressed to the disciples. It is possible that we may have here a “source” of the Fourth Gospel!

[446] These “tribes,” then, were not the Jewish tribes, ten of which did not return, but twelve typical natures of men, and something else.

[447] See Immisch’s excellent art., “Kureten u. Korybanten,” in Roscher, ii. 1587-1628.

[448] Κορύβας, the Lord of the Corybantes, or frenzied priests of Cybele, is thus feigned by mystical word-play to be ὁ ἀπὸ-κορυφῆς-βας, “he who descends from the head.”

[449] Cf. C., § 14.

[450] Apparently a quotation from some Jewish apocryphon. Cf. John v. 37: “Ye have never at any time heard His voice nor have ye seen His form.”

[451] Cf. Ps. xxviii. 10.

[452] Ibid., 3.

[453] Conflation of LXX. of Ps. xxiv. 17 and Ps. xxi. 21.

[454] A paraphrase of LXX.—Is. xli. 8.

[455] A paraphrase of LXX.—Is. xliii. 1.

[456] Isaiah; or the Word speaking through the prophet.

[457] Is. xliii. 1.

[458] Sc. Isaiah.

[459] Paraphrase of LXX.—Is. xlix. 15.

[460] Is. xlix. 16.

[461] Ps. xxiii. 7 and 9.

[462]  Ps. xxiii. 10.

[463] Sc. a “Serpent.”

[464] Ps. xxi. 6.

[465] Ps. xxiii. 10 and 8.

[466] Sc. the psalmist; or, rather, the Logos through the psalmist.

[467] Job xl. 27.

[468] Gen. xxviii. 7.

[469] Sc. Jacob.

[470] Gen. xxviii. 17.

[471] Cf. John x. 9—“true” not appearing in the traditional text.

[472] Sc. “Jacob”—using the name in the Philonean sense.

[473] This is the Zeus Phrygius of Diodor. iii. 58, and Eustathius, 565, 3. Cf. R. 163, n. 3, and Zwei relig. Fragen, 104, n. 3.

[474] ἔπαυσε.

[475] παῦε παῦε, a mystical word-play on πά-πά.

[476] Cf. Eph. ii. 17.

[477] Cf. what underlies Matt, xxiii. 27, Luke xi. 44, and Acts xxiii. 3.

[478] Cf. “Jesus, the Living [One]” in the Introduction to the newest found Sayings; and also passim in the Introduction (apparently an excerpt from another document) to the First Book of Ieou, in the Codex Brucianus.

[479] Cf. what underlies Matt, xxvii. 52, 53.

[480] Some words have apparently been omitted, corresponding to the final clause of the last sentence in S. See R., p. 101.

[481] Cf. 2 Cor. xii. 2-4.

[482] Cf. 1 Cor. ii. 13, 14.

[483] Cf. John vi. 44. Instead of “Heavenly Father,” T. R. reads “the Father who sent me.” Compare with this the longest of the newest found logoi, concerning “them who draw us” towards self-knowledge or the “kingship within.” (Grenfell and Hunt, op. cit., p. 15.)

[484] Cf. Matt. vii. 21.

[485] Cf. Matt. xxi. 31. T. R. reads “The Kingdom of God.”

[486] Or perfectionings, or completions, or endings, or initiations; also taxes—here a mystical synonym for pleromata (fullnesses) or logoi (words).

[487] Or, collectors of dues.

[488] 1 Cor. x. 11.

[489] Cf. the logos underlying Matt. xiii. 3 ff. = Mark iv. 3 ff. = Luke viii. 5 ff.

[490] Slightly paraphrased from LXX.—Deut. xxxi. 20.

[491] In that they are rulers of themselves, members of the “self-taught” Race—ἀβασιλεύτους, that is, free from the Rulers of Destiny, or Kārmic bonds.

[492] Cf. Matt. iii. 10= Luke iii. 9. Cf. also Hipp., Philos., vi. 16, in his maltreatment of the “Simonian” Gnosis.

[493] That is, Sons of the Logos.

[494] Cf. note on the third Ruler in § 17 C.

[495] Presumably the Phrygians.

[496] If our attribution of this to J. is correct (R. gives it to C.), we have perhaps before us a logos from the Phrygian Mysteries.

[497] This may possibly be assigned to C.; but C. usually comments on J. and does not lead, and the terminology is that of J. and not of C.

[498] A simple form of Matt. vii. 6. Is it by any means possible an underlying mystical word-play on the Eleusinian logos “ὕε κύε”; hence ὕς (pig)—a synonym of χοῖρος and κύων (dog)?

[499] This section seems to be misplaced, and § 25 probably followed § 23 immediately in the original; the antithesis of Fruitful and Unfruitful following one another, as above (§ 22), the antithesis of Dead and God.

[500] αἰ-πόλος, vulg. = “goat-herd.”

[501] S. had probably “ignorant.”

[502] ἀειπόλος, τουτέστι ἀεὶ πολῶν. Cf. Plato, Cratylus, 408 C, D.

[503] This is not very clear. But see Mozley’s article, “Polus,” in Smith, Wayte, and Marindin’s D. of Gk. and Rom. Antiquities (London, 1891), ii. 442, 443: “Both in [Plato’s] Timæus, 40 B. and [Aristotle’s] De Cælo, ii. 14, πόλος is used, not for the entire heaven, but for the axis of heaven and earth, around which the whole revolved. Again in the De Cælo, ii. 2, the πόλοι are the poles, north and south, in our sense of the word.” Compare also the rubric in one of the rituals in the Greek Magic Papyri—C. Wessely, Griechische Zauberpapyrus, in Denkschr. d. Akad., ph. hist. Kl., xxxvi. (Vienna, 1888)—where it is said that the Sun will then move towards the Pole, and the theurgist will see Seven Virgins (the Seven Fortunes of Heaven) approach, and Seven Youths, with heads of bulls (the Pole-lords of Heaven), who make the axis turn (661-670). Compare this with the “cylinder” idea in the fragment of K. K. Then there will appear the Great God “in a white robe and trowsers, with a crown of gold on his head, holding in his right hand the golden shoulder of a heifer, that is the Bear that sets in motion and keeps the heaven turning in due seasons.” This God will pronounce an oracle, and the theurgist will then receive the gift of divination. The special interest of this tradition is that it contains a Magian element (to wit, the “trowsers”), and this connects closely with Phrygia and the cult that was wedded most closely with the Mithriaca, namely, that of the Mother of the Gods.

[504] Od., iv. 384. In the Proteus myth Egypt is the Nile—that is, the “Great Green,” the Heaven Ocean. Proteus was also said to have been the messenger or servant of Poseidon, the special God, it will be remembered, of Plato’s Atlantis.

[505] πιπράσκεται, a synonym of πωλεῖται, which, besides the meaning of “coming and going,” or “moving about,” also signifies “is sold”; but I do not see the appositeness of the remark, unless the “ignorant” so understood it.

[506] Is. liv. 1; quoted also in Gal. iv. 27. Cf. Philo, De Execrat., § 7; M. ii. 435, P. 936 (Ri. v. 254): “For when she [the Soul] is a multitude of passions and filled with vices, her children swarming over her—pleasures, appetites, folly, intemperance, unrighteousness, injustice—she is weak and sick, and lies at death’s door, dying; but when she becomes sterile, and ceases to bring them forth, or even casts them from her, forthwith, from the change, she becometh a chaste virgin, and, receiving the Divine Seed, she fashions and engenders marvellous excellencies that Nature prizeth highly—prudence, courage, temperance, justice, holiness, piety, and the rest of the virtues and good dispositions.”
There are, thus, seen to be identical ideas of a distinctly marked character in both J. and Philo. Did J., then, belong to Philo’s “circle”? Or, rather, did Philo represent a propagandist side of J.’s circle? In other words, can we possibly have before us in J. a Therapeut allegorical exercise, based on S., by an exceedingly liberal-minded Hellenistic Jewish mystic?

[507] Cf. Matt. ii. 18, which depends on Jer. xxxi. 15 (LXX. xxxviii. 15). In T. R., however, the reading is by no means the same as in LXX. C. favours the Gospel text rather than that of LXX.

[508] This shows a very detached frame of mind on behalf of J. Perhaps it may be an interpolation of C.

[509] Jer. xvii. 9.

[510] This has all the appearance of a quotation from some mystic apocryphon of the Gnosis.

[511] See Cumont (F.), Mystères de Mithra (Brussels, 1898). In the monuments representing the bull-slaying myth of the Mithriaca, the bull’s tail is frequently terminated in “une truffe d’epis”—the number varies, being either one, three, five, or seven. In the Bundahish all things are generated from the body, especially from the spinal marrow, of the slain bull. Sometimes the wheat-ears are represented as flowing like blood from the wound above the heart inflicted by the dagger of Mithras, the Bull-slayer (op. cit., i. 186, 187). The constellation of the Wheat-ear in the Virgin, which was supposed to give good harvests, presumably refers to the same idea (cf. Eratosth., Cataster., 9). See op. cit., i. 202, 205, n. 2. The wheat-ear, therefore, symbolised in one aspect the “generative seed”—in animals and men-animals the spermatozoa, in man a mystery. Mithraicism had the closest connection with the Phrygian Mystery Cult; indeed, the Magna Mater Mysteries were used by it for the initiation of women, who were excluded from the Mithriaca proper.

[512] The Light-spark of Pistis Sophia nomenclature.

[513] That is, the hierophant initiate of the Great Mother.

[514] ὑπὸ πολλῷ πύρι, lit., “to the accompaniment of much fire.” This refers, I believe, to the brilliant illumination of the Temple, or, as it was variously called, the Initiation Hall (τελεστήριον), the Mystic Enclosure (μυστικὸς σηκός)—though this was probably the inner court surrounding the Temple proper the Great Hall (μέγαρον), or Palace (άγάκτορον). As Hatch says, in the tenth of his famous Hibbert Lectures for 1888: “And at night there were the mystic plays: the scenic representations, the drama in symbol and for sight. The torches were extinguished; they stood outside the Temple [in the Mystic Enclosure, presumably] in the silence and darkness. The door opened—there was a blaze of light—before them was enacted the drama.” Hatch (E.), The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church (4th ed., London, 1892). See also my “Notes on the Eleusinian Mysteries,” in The Theosoph. Rev. (April 1898), xxii. p. 151.

[515] ἤλθομεν, this verb forming its tenses from √ερ and √ελυθ, and ἔλευσις meaning also “coming.”

[516] Emend, by Keil.

[517] ἀνελθεῖν.

[518] It need hardly be said that this is all mystical word-play; ἀνακτόρειον is philologically derived from the same stem as ἄναξ, “a king.” Cf. the Anaktoron or Palace as the name of the Eleusinian Temple of Initiation.

[519] Heracleitus, Fr. (25, Diels; 101, Fairbanks, First Philosophers of Greece). “Deaths” may also be rendered destinies, fates, or dooms.

[520] Sc. the first path.

[521] These verses are from some unknown poet, who is conjectured variously to have been either Parmenides or Pamphus of Athens. See notes in loc. in both Schneidewin and Cruice.

[522] Sc. those of Persephonē.

[523] Sc. the Greater Mysteries; in which, presumably, the candidate went through some symbolic rite of death and resurrection.

[524] Or true virility, ἀπηρσενωμένους, which equates with ἀπ-ανδρουμένους, I believe, and does not mean demasculati, or exuta virilitate, as translated respectively by Schneidewin and Cruice. For the “death” mentioned above and the “casting away of the garments,” see the Mystery Ritual in The Acts of John (F. F. F., 431-434); and for the latter and the “Virginal Spirit,” the passages on the Sacred Marriage which I have collected in the chapter on the main doctrines of Philo.

[525] A loose reference to LXX.—Is. vii. 14.

[526] Or Eternity of Eternities.

[527] Cf. Matt. vii. 13, 14; our text, however, is an inversion of the clauses, with several various readings, of T. R.

[528] This seems to connect with the Fruitful of § 25. See below, in the Hymn “Whether blest Child,” the “cut wheat-ear” that Amygdalos brought forth.

[529] This refers to the First Man.

[530] Vulg., Almond-tree.

[531] In the Mithriaca, Mithras, in the most ancient myth, was represented as in (? born from) a Tree. See Cumont.

[532] Reading οἱονεὶ διαφύζοντα with S., C., and R.; but the Codex has οιον ἰδία σφύζοντα. If we read ᾠόν for the corrupt οιον, we get “the Egg throbbing apart” or in separation—and so link on with the Orphic (Chaldæan) tradition.

[533] διήμυξε, the synonym of a term which occurs frequently in the Pistis Sophia, “I tore myself asunder.”

[534] That is, to Man Son of Man.

[535] The somewhat boastful tone, shown in several passages already, probably betrays C.; it may, however, be assigned to J.

[536] ἀμύξαι, a play on Amygdalos.

[537] That is, “scarifications.”

[538] Cf. John i. 3., reading, however, οὐδὲν and not the οὐδὲ ἕν of W. H.

[539] The Piper; properly, the player on the syrinx or seven-reeded Pan-pipe. Compare the Mystery Ritual in The Acts of John: “I would pipe; dance all of you!” (F. F. F., p. 432); and, “We have piped unto you and ye have not danced” (Matt. xi. 17 = Luke vii. 27).

[540] Or harmonised; that is, cosmic or ordered. Cf. C. H., i. 15: “For being above the Harmony, He became a slave enharmonised”; also Orph. Hymn., viii. 11; and also Acts of John, where the Logos is spoken of as “Wisdom in harmony” (F. F. F., 436).

[541] Cf. John iv. 24.

[542] A conflation of John iv. 21 and 23. The “mountain,” when used mystically, signifies the inner “Mount of initiation.” Jerusalem in the text signifies the Jerusalem Below. The true worshippers worship in the Jerusalem Above.

[543] Sc. the Son.

[544] Sc. the Piper.

[545] ρῆμα—used also by Philo and LXX.

[546] With slight verbal omissions the opening lines down to “foundation” are identical with the beginning of The Great Apocalypse or Announcement of the “Simonian” tradition, an exceedingly interesting document from which some quotations have been preserved to us by Hippolytus elsewhere (Philos., vi. 9). The “Simonian” tradition was regarded by all the Church Fathers as the source of all “heresy”; but modern criticism regards The Great Announcement as a late document of the Christian Gnosis. The quotation of this document by J., however, makes this opinion, in my view, entirely untenable. If my analysis stands firm, The Great Announcement is thus proved to be pre-Christian, according to the traditional date. I am also inclined to think that in this quotation itself we have already the work of a commentator and not the original form of the Apocalypse.

[547] Cf. § 16 J.

[548] Cf. Matt. xiii. 31 = Mark iv. 30 = Luke xiii. 18.

[549] Sc. the Heavens of the Psalm, that is, the Æons and the rest above.

[550]  Ps. xviii. 3.

[551] The Naassenes, in H’s view.

[552] ἀπρονοήτως.

[553] κιθάραν—the ancient cithara was triangular in shape and had seven strings.

[554] The text of the following Ode has been reconstructed by Wilamowitz in Hermes, xxxvii. 328; our translation is from his reconstruction.

[555] ἄκουσμα—a hearing, an instruction, lesson, discourse, sermon, applied to the public lectures of Pythagoras (Jamb., V. P., 174). It means also a song or even a “singer,” a “bard.” “Their singers (ἀκούσματα) are thus called ‘bards’” (Posid. ap. Athen., vi. 49). The Hearers (οἱ ἀκουσματικοί) were the Probationers in the School of Pythagoras (see s.vv. in Sophocles’ Lex.). Schneidewin and Cruice adopt Hermann’s “emendation,” ἄκρισμα (mutilation), but I prefer the reading of the Codex, as referring to the “mournful piper,” or Logos, in the flowing “discord” of Rhea or Chaos, and therefore the “song” that Rhea is beginning to sing as she changes from Chaos to Cosmos.

[556] Perhaps Quick, for θεὸς is from θέ-ειν, “to run,” to imitate the word-play of our mystics.

[557] Or cut.

[558] βόμβοις.

[559] Lit., “bellower.”

[560] The Hebrew Naḥash, as we have already seen.

[561] There being more of J. than of H. in this, I have printed it as J. though it is a defaced J. I am also persuaded that in what follows we have a quotation from a “Simonian” document by J. rather than J. himself.

[562] That is, temples.

[563] Who derived all things symbolically from “Water.”

[564] Cf. Deut. xxxiii. 17.

[565] Cf. Gen. ii. 10 (LXX.).

[566] Cf. Gen. ii. 11, 12.

[567] Ibid., 13.

[568] Ibid., 14.

[569] Ibid.

[570] The substance of this is also to be found in the “Simonian” tradition “refuted” by Hippolytus.

[571] Cf. Gen. i. 7.

[572] Cf. John iv. 10.

[573] Lit., the Heracleian stone.

[574] κερκίδι. Cf. Hipp., Phil., v. 17, on system of Sethiani (S. 198, 36). Both S. and C. translate it correctly as “spina,” meaning “backbone”; it has, however, been erroneously translated as “spur.” Plutarch, De Is. et Os., lxii. 3, tells us that the load-stone was called by the Egyptians “bone of Horus”; and Horus is the “hawk” par excellence, the “golden hawk.” Cf. Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, ii. 246, who says that we are informed by Manetho (thus making Manetho the main source of Plutarch) that the “load-stone is by the Egyptians called the ‘bone of Horus,’ as iron is the ‘bone of Typho.’” In the chapter of the Ritual dealing with the deification of the members, the backbone of the deceased is identified with the backbone of Set (xlii. 12). Elsewhere (cviii. 8) the deceased is said “to depart having the harpoon of iron in him.” This seems to suggest the black backbone of death and the golden backbone of life.

[575] Cf. John ix. 1; τυφλὸς ἐκ γενετῆς, perhaps mystically meaning “blind from (owing to) genesis.” Cf. the “blind accuser” in the Trismegistic treatise quoted by Zosimus in our Fragments.

[576] John i. 9.

[577] This is evidently to be attributed to J., or rather his “Simonian” source, as it follows directly on the sentence about “every nature selecting.” Either C. has suppressed the opening words of J.’s paragraph and substituted his own gloss, or H. has mangled his text.

[578]lacuna in the Codex which is thus completed by S. and C.

[579] Cf. Is. xl. 15.

[580] That is, Messiah-ites, or Anointed-ones.

[581] Cf. 1 Sam. xvi. 13.

[582] 1 Sam. x. 1.

[583] The text of this Hymn is in places very corrupt; I have followed Cruice’s emendations mostly. Schneidewin, for some reason or other which he does not state, omits it bodily from his Latin translation.

[584] This attribution may be thought by some to be questionable; but as it is far more similar to the thought-sphere of J. than to that of C., I have so assigned it. It belonged to the same circles to which we must assign the sources of J.

[585] γενικὸς—perhaps “general” simply.

[586] Or, of the Whole.

[587] The Codex has ἔλαφον, which, with Miller, we correct into ἐλάφου. Is this a parallel with the “lost sheep” idea? Can it possibly connect with the conception underlying the phrases on the golden tablets found in tombs of “Orphic” initiates, on the territory of ancient Sybaris: “A kid thou hast fallen into the milk” (“Timpone grande” Tablet a, Naples Museum, Kaibel, C.I.G.I.S., 642); and, “A kid I have fallen into milk” (“Campagno” Tablet a, ibid., 641, and Append., p. 668)? But this connection is very hazy; it more probably suggests the nebris or “fawn-skin” of the Bacchic initiates (see my Orpheus, “The Fawn-skin,” pp. 243 ff., for an explanation). Cruice proposes to substitute ὑδαρὸν (“watery”); but there seems no reason why we should entirely reject the reading of the Codex, especially as C.’s suggestion breaks the rule of the “more difficult” reading being the preferable.

[588] βασιλείαν—kingdom or kingship.

[589] The Codex reads εἶπεν διησοῦς ἐσὸρ. Can this possibly be a glossed and broken-down remains of Ἰαω Ζεησαρ (Iaō Zeēsar)?

[590] Cruice thinks this refers to the breath of God’s anger; but surely it refers to the Holy Spirit of God?

[591] Sc. the soul, the “wandering sheep.”

[592] Cf. “the bitter Water,” or “Darkness,” or “Chaos,” of the Sethian system in Hipp., Philos., v. 19; and see the note to the comments following Hermes-Prayer v., p. 92.

[593] The Logos in His descent through the spheres takes on the Forms of all the Powers.

[594] Is it, however, possible that the original Hymn had Naas (Νάαν) and not Gnosis (Γνῶσιν)?

[595] Cf. R. 99, 100; and 100, n. 4.

[596] Wilamowitz’ hesitating attribution of it to the reign of Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) is, in my opinion, devoid of any objective support whatever. (See R., p. 102.) Reitzenstein himself (p. 165) would place it in the second century B.C.

[597] Incidentally also it may be pointed out that this analysis gives the coup de grâce to Salmon’s contention (“The Cross-references in the Philosophumena,” Hermathena, 1885, v. 389 if.) that the great systems of the Gnosis made known to us only by Hippolytus are all the work of a single forger who imposed upon the credulity of the heresy-hunting Bishop of Portus. This contention, though to our mind one of the most striking instances of “the good Homer nodding,” was nevertheless practically endorsed by Stähelin (Die gnostische Quellen Hippolyts in seiner Hauptschrift gegen die Haeretiken, 1890; in Texte u. Untersuchungen, VI.), who went over the whole ground opened up by Salmon with minute and scrupulous industry. The general weakness of this extraordinary hypothesis of forgery has, however, been well pointed out by De Faye in his Introduction à l’Étude du Gnosticisme au IIe et au IIIe Siècle (Paris, 1903), pp. 24 ff.; though De Faye also maintains a late date.

[598] R. p. 9.

[599] Dieterich, Abraxas, 203 ff.

[600] Gen. xlii. 11.

[601] De Confus. Ling., § 11; M. i. 411, P. 326 (Ri. ii. 257).

[602] To make himself a cosmos like the Great Cosmos.

[603] Ibid., § 28; M. i. 426, 427, P. 341 (Ri. ii. 279).

[604] In all, upwards of sixty Philonean tractates are preserved to us; and in addition we have also numerous fragments from lost works.

[605] Philo is known to the Jews as Yedidyah ha-Alakhsanderi.

[606] Thus, in D. V. C., § 3; M. ii. 475, P. 893 (Ri. v. 309, C. 65), referring to his beloved Therapeuts, he himself says: “They have also works of ancient authors who were once heads of their school, and left behind them many monuments of the method used in allegorical works.” Nor was this “allegorising” Jewish only; it was common. It was applied to Homer; it was the method of the Stoics. Indeed, this “treatment (θεραπεία) of myths” was the only way in which the results of the philosophy and science of the time could be brought into touch with popular faith.The text I use is that of Richter (M. C. E.), Philonis Judæi Opera Omnia, in Bibliotheca Sacra Patrum Ecclesiæ Græcorum (Leipzig, 1828-1830), 8 vols. M. refers to the edition of Mangey; P. to the Paris edition; Ri. stands for that of Richter—thus abbreviated so as not to be confused with R., which elsewhere stands for Reitzenstein; C. stands for Conybeare’s critical text of the D. V. C. (Oxford, 1895), the only really critical text of any tractate which we so far possess.

[607] “Philo,” in Smith and Wace’s Dict. of Christ. Biog. (London, 1887), iv. 357-389—by far the best general study on the subject in English. Drummond’s (J.) two volumes, Philo Judæus, or The Alexandrian Philosophy (London, 1888), may also be consulted, but they leave much to be desired. The only English translation is that of Yonge (C. D.), The Works of Philo Judæus (London, 1854) in Bonn’s Library; but it is by no means satisfactory, and I have in every instance of quotation made my own version.

[608] Or “divinely prompted” (De Vit. Mos., ii. 5-7).

[609] De Vit. Mos., iii. 23, 24.

[610] For a sketch of ancient Alexandria, see F. F. F., pp. 96-120.

[611] For a translation of the famous tractate on this subject, from the recent critical text of Conybeare, see F. F. F., pp. 66-82.

[612] D. V. C., § 3; M. ii. 474, P. 891 (Ri. v. 308, C. 56).

[613] De Sept., §§ 3, 4; M. ii. 279, P. 1175 (Ri. v. 21, 22).

[614] De Mut. Nom., § 4; M. i. 583, P. 1049 (Ri. iii. 163, 164).

[615] Quod Om. Prob. L., § 11; M. ii. 456, P. 876 (Ri. v. 284, 285).

[616] C., p. 146, 1. 13.

[617] D. V. C., § 9; M. ii. 482, P. 900 (Ri. v. 319, C. 111).

[618] Or shrine—a small room or closet.

[619] That is, a sanctuary or monastery, the latter in the sense of a place where one can be alone or in solitude. This is the first use of the term “monastery” known in classical antiquity, and, as we see, it bears a special and not a general meaning.

[620] Ibid., § 3; M. ii. 475, P. 892 (Ri. v. 309, C. 60).

[621] Grenfell and Hunt, New Sayings of Jesus (London, 1904), p. 18.

[622] Lit., ye mystæ and hierophants.

[623] Lit., orgies—that is, “burstings forth” of inspiration, or revealings.

[624] De Prof., § 16; M. i. 558, P. 462 (Ri. iii. 128).

[625] Leg. Alleg., i. 39, 4.

[626] δεισιδαίμονες—here meaning the literalists; it generally signifies the religious in a good sense, and the superstitious in a bad one.

[627] De Cherub., § 12; M. i. 146, P. 115 (Ri. i. 208).

[628] Ibid., § 14; M. i. 147, P. 116 (Ri. i. 210).

[629] Cf. Leg. Alleg., ii. § 15; M. i. 76, P. 1097 (Ri. i. 105).

[630] Lit., orgies.

[631] De Gigan., § 12; M. i. 270, P. 291 (Ri. ii. 61).

[632] Philo, apparently, would have it that the sacrifice of the ram, which was a symbol of virility, signified the obligation of chastity prior to initiation into the higher rites.

[633] De Vit. Mos., iii. § 17; M. ii. 157, P. 675 (Ri. iv. 216). The Therapeuts, with Philo, then do not mean “Healers,” as has been sometimes thought, but “Servants of God.”

[634] D. V. C., § 2; M. ii. 473, P. 891 (Ri. v. 306, C. 41, 42).

[635] Quod Det. Pot. Insid., § 27; M. i. 211, P. 174 (Ri. i. 295).

[636] Ibid., § 48; M. i. 224, P. 186 (Ri. i. 314).

[637] Leg. Alleg., i. § 32; M. i. 64, P. 59 (Ri. i. 87).

[638] Leg. Alleg., ii. § xv.; M. i. 76, P. 1097 (Ri. i. 106).

[639] Which they brought out of Egypt—that is, the body.

[640] De Sacrif., § 16; M. i. 174, P. 139 (Ri. i. 245).

[641] Quæst. in Gen., iv. § 2; P. Auch. 243 (Ri. vii. 61).

[642] Gen. xviii. 6.

[643] That is, apparently, the “good” = the “incorporeal,” and the “subject” = the “corporeal.”

[644] De Sacrif., § 15; M. i. 173, 174; P. 139 (Ri. i. 244, 245).

[645] De Cherub., § 12; M. i. 146, P. 115 (Ri. i. 208).

[646] Ibid., § 13; M. i. 147, P. 116, 117 (Ri. i. 209).

[647] Jer. iv. 3—where A.V. translates: “Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?”

[648] De Cherub., § 14, 15; M. i. 148, P. 116, 117 (Ri. i. 210, 211).

[649] In this, however, I venture to think that Conybeare is mistaken; it was a common dogma of the Hellenistic theology of the time.

[650] Op. sup. cit., pp. 302, 303.

[651] De Execrat., § 7; M. ii. 435, P. 936 (Ri. v. 254). See “Myth of Man in the Mysteries,” S. § 25 J.

[652] D. V. C., § 8; M. ii. 482, P. 899 (Ri. v. 318, C. 108).

[653] Elsewhere an epithet of the Logos.

[654] De Mut. Nom., § 23; M. i. 598, P. 1065 (Ri. iii. 183).

[655] Ibid., § 24; M. i. 599, P. 1065 (Ri. iii. 184).

[656] De Præm. et Pæn., § 18; M. ii. 425, P. 927 (Ri. v. 241).

[657] Leg. Alleg., iii. § 63; M. i. 122, 123, P. 94 (Ri. i. 175). Cf. Gen. xxx. 2: “Am I in God’s stead?”

[658] Gen. xxi. 6. A.V.: “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.”

[659] Leg. Alleg., iii. § 77; M. i. 131, P. 101 (Ri. i. 187). Cf. also De Cherub., § 13; M. i. 147, P. 115 (Ri. i. 209).

[660] Gen. xxix. 31. Cong. Erud. Grat., § 2; M. i. 520, P. 425 (Ri. iii. 72).

[661] De Spec. Leg., § 7; M. ii. 275, P. 774 (Ri. v. 15, 16).

[662] De Som., i. § 35; M. i. 651, P. 595 (Ri. iii. 257).

[663] De Ser. Num. Vind., 565 C.; ed. Bern. iii. 459. See, for a translation of the whole Vision, my “Notes on the Eleusinian Mysteries,” Theosophical Review (April, May, June, 1898), xxii. 145 ff., 232 ff., 312 ff.

[664] Gen. xxxviii. 11 ff.

[665] Quod Deus Immut., § 29; M. i. 293, P. 313 (Ri. ii. 94).