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7 Hermetic Questions for… Mani Nickpour

For our next interviewee, we have chosen the independent filmmaker Mani Nickpour who gives his views on the timeless wisdom of Hermes.

Mani Nickpour (1983) is originally from Iran and moved from Tehran to the Netherlands when he was seven. There, Mani was able to further develop the fascination for film that he had acquired at a young age with the large selection that was suddenly available.

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After making film productions for companies and advertising agencies for a long time, the time came for Mani to work on his own project: a feature film called Ahriman.

Mani’s interest in ancient symbolism and mythological stories played an essential role in the creation of the film’s story and aesthetic. The film, which Mani independently directs and produces, is currently in post-production and is expected to be released in 2024.

Dear Mani, below you will find seven questions based on sections from the hermetic text Asclepius, also known as the Perfect Discourse. We are very curious about your personal views on the timeless wisdom of Hermes and maybe how it relates to our modern world.

This therefore is the all, as you remember; it is the essence of the all and it is the all. The soul and the cosmos being embraced by Nature are set in movement by her with such diversity of quality, evident in all images, that countless forms are known to exist by the contrast of their qualities. Yet these forms are also united so that all things appear as one whole and from the one.

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Question 1: How do you view this statement about the One of – and in – All?

If one believes that, there is nothing wrong with it. You meet every human that has been part of you in another cycle. This means that you have to treat everyone well. To hurt someone else is also to hurt yourself (in a different cycle or form). But whether this statement is true cannot be said – at least not by a human being. That’s like wanting to know if there is life after death.

“‘Thus, O Asclepius, Man is a great miracle, a being to be adored and honoured. He passes into the nature of God as though he were God. He understands the race of daemons as he knows that he originates from the same source. He views with contempt that part of nature in himself which is human since he has put his entire trust in the divinity of the other part.

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Question 2: Do you also think that man is a (divine) miracle and why?

The problem with man is precisely that he behaves like a God. Because of that arrogance, he considers himself worth more than other beings and also is worth more than other people.

A person should earn respect, not automatically receive respect because he was born as a miracle. For man is as wonderful as any other being, but has more connection with the Divine. He must first find and unlock this Divinity within himself.

How much happier is the nature of a man when it is tempered by self-control! He is united to the gods through a common divinity. He inwardly despises that part of himself by which he is earth-bound. All other beings, to whom he knows he is necessary through divine dispensation, he binds to himself in a knot of love. He raises his sight to heaven while he takes care of the earth. Thus he is in the fortunate middle position: he loves those things that are below him and is beloved by the beings above.

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Question 3: How do you view the role of man as the ‘middle-manager’ of the world? And how do you possibly put that into practice?

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If man’s job is to maintain order on Earth and care for other beings, he is doing a very poor job. That some people try to fulfill this task and care for other beings (and their fellow humans), is beautiful. That was probably the intention. But the question is what the other people on earth do.

It is naive to fantasize that all people are automatically good. There are a lot of bad people. One can be guided in the right direction by convincing them of their own ability to do good things, but many do not believe in it. And because of this, people cause a lot of suffering on earth.

I don’t hurt anyone and where I can I help others, people, or animals. But I don’t see myself as a Divine being. That attitude makes you selfish. If you want to help someone, don’t look down on them while talking to them. That often happens with religion. You have to meet that person on their own level, and talk to them as equals or even as if you were below them.

Not all men, O Asclepius, have attained true understanding, but through a rash impulse and without the true insight of reason most, pursuing an illusion, are deceived. This begets evil in minds and transforms the nature of the best living creature into that of a wild beast and makes it behave like a savage monster.

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Question 4: How do you view this insight that our focus on appearances is bad and makes us behave like animals?

Many governments seem to want people to stoop to consuming useless information, viewing meaningless images, and loving worthless things. Through television and social media, people become materialistic and this is bad. You should not be a slave to objects.

However, having taste is a sign of exalted intelligence in man. We can enjoy aesthetics without there having to be a practical reason or meaning for it. An animal tears a piece of meat without thinking about the taste because it only eats to feed itself. A person has the basic need to eat, but we also can enjoy the taste. This love for aesthetics ensures that man creates art and thereby comes closer to the Divine.

Now I will speak to you as a prophet: after us there will be no one who has that simple love, which is the nature of philosophy. This consists in frequent contemplation and reverent worship by which alone the divinity may be known. Many destroy philosophy by their multifarious reasoning.

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Those men who come after us will be deceived by cunning sophists and turned aside from true, pure and holy philosophy. To worship the Supreme Being with single mind and heart and to reverence what has been made of his substance, to render thanks to the divine will, which alone is infinitely full of the Good: this is a philosophy that has not been dishonoured by the perverse curiosity of the mind.

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Question 5: How do you view this criticism that religion, philosophy, spirituality, or worldview is made unnecessarily complicated by many people?

Philosophy cannot be captured by a human being. How can a person determine which philosophical questions are “good” and which are “distracting”? You should always be able to ask any question; that is exactly what philosophy is meant for.

The quote above is the line of thought that comes close to some of the ideologies of the extremist branches of the Abrahamic religions. These words are straight from the mouth of Ahriman. Whoever says this is dangerous, a tyrant who tolerates no contradiction, who claims to know the “truth” about philosophy, who forces others to follow him blindly and not ask so many questions.

The dark will indeed be preferred to the light, and death thought better than life. No one will have any regard for heaven and a spiritual person will be deemed mad, and a materialist, wise. An angry man will be considered strong and the most evil regarded as good. ‘All the teaching about the soul that I have explained to you is that the soul is born immortal or expects to attain immortality. This teaching will not only be laughed at, but considered an illusion. It will be held as a capital offense, believe me, for a man to have given himself over to reverence of the divine mind.

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Question 6: How do you view this prediction? Does it describe our current times?

This prediction did not come true. There will always be darkness and evil present. But the truth wins. This quote is more of a warning than a prediction, so people are always on the lookout to make sure this never happens.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this danger more apparent. But the warning can be relevant at any time. In every difficult period, such as a time of war, it seems as if the foretold moment is coming. Therefore, people should try to hold it off for all eternity.

The world is good, O Trismegistus?”
“It is good, Asclepius, as I will teach you. For just as God husbands and distributes to all individuals and classes all the good things which are in the world [mundo], senses, soul and life, so the world [mundus] apportions and provides all those things which seem good to mortals: the succession of births in due season, the germination, growth and ripening of the fruits of the earth and similar things. Throughout all this God, abiding above the vault of the highest heaven, is everywhere observing all that is around.

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Question 7: Do you also see the world as inherently good and filled with goodness?

In nature, everything is in harmony and therefore good. Even what we as humans experience as bad in nature is part of the good. Nature does nothing that is bad. A volcano that erupts also contributes something good: the lava and ash transform the land into something new and make the earth fertile. People may experience it as bad, but it is not central to the cycles of nature. The world was good before man existed and therefore also afterward.

Man is fortunate that there is a place for him in nature and that the earth (or the Higher) provides for him with everything he needs. Everything and everyone who works against nature will sooner or later be corrected by nature itself.

Thanks again Mani for doing this interview. Your answers show how Hermeticism may be an ancient spiritual system, but can still have relevance in our modern times. Is there anything else you want to add to the interview, maybe something we forgot to ask that you think is important to mention regarding Hermeticism?

In essence, these discussions underscore the importance of recognizing our deeper connections to each other, the world, and the divine. They invite us to cultivate awareness, compassion, and a sense of reverence for life, guiding us toward a more integrated, fulfilling, and meaningful existence.

Ahriman trailer

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