The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius: 7 (with quoted footnotes and translations)

1. But now, what is man? What else if neither body nor soul? (81) -Aye, dear Asclepius, who ever is not soul, is neither Nous nor body. For one thing is what becomes the body of man, and another thing what comes in addition to man. Then, what should be called truly a man, (82O Asclepius, and what is man? The immortal species (83) of everyman.

2. And the species of every living being is only in one part of the world, but the sole species of man is at once in heaven, on earth, in the water and in the air. (84Just as the body is marvellously moulded in the womb, (85) likewise the soul in the body.

3. From the murk into light the body goes out of the womb, but soul enters the body from the light into darkness. (86) The sight of the body is the eye; but that of soul is Nous. Just as a body which has got no eyes sees nothing, likewise a soul which has got no Nous is blind. (87Whatever the babe in the womb will crave for, so will the pregnant woman desire the same; likewise whatever Nous in soul will crave for, so will man desire the same.

4. Soul enters the body by necessity, (88Nous enters soul (89by judgement. (90While being outside the body, soul has neither quality nor quantity; (91once it is in the body it receives, as an accident, (92quality and quantity as well as good and evil: for matter brings about such things. (93)

5. God is within himself, the world is in God, and man in the world. (94) His (ie. man’s) deficiency is ignorance, his plenitude is the knowledge of God. (95) [•X• He says that evil consists in ignorance and good in knowledge /O\. (96) ]

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1. But now, what is man? What else if neither body nor soul? (81: It may be: “What else if not body and soul?”.) -Aye, dear Asclepius, who ever is not soul, is neither Nous nor body. For one thing is what becomes the body of man, and another thing what comes in addition to man. Then, what should be called truly a man, (82: The ‘essential’ man of CH 1.15: “Because of this, unlike any other living thing on earth, mankind is twofold – in the body mortal but immortal in the essential man.”; AH 7 “…Mankind is the only living thing that is twofold: one part of him is simple, what the Greeks call ‘ousiōdēs’, what we call a form of divine likeness. What the Greeks call ‘hulikos’ and we call earthly is fourfold. From it is made the body that covers over what we have already termed divine in mankind; it covers the divinity of pure mind, which rests alone with its kindred, the thoughts of pure mind, at peace with itself as if sheltered by a wall of body.”; CH 9.5 “…we are still too weak now for this sight; we are not yet strong enough to open our mind’s eyes and look on the incorruptible, incomprehensible beauty of that good. In the moment when you have nothing to say about it, you will see it, for the knowledge of it is divine silence and suppression of all the senses.” , i.e. an intelligible essence, which DH understands as a ‘form’ or a ‘species’.O Asclepius, and what is man? The immortal species (83: tesak [տեսակ] – [Armenian] = ‘species/essential man/human archetype’ = eidea [ειδέα] – [Greek]; ‘idea’; DH 1.1 “God: an intelligible world; world: a sensible God; man: a destructible world; God: an immovable world; heaven: a movable world; man: a reasonable world. Then there are three worlds. Now the immovable world is God, and the reasonable world is man: for both of these units are one: God and man after the species.”) of everyman.

2. And the species of every living being is only in one part of the world, but the sole species of man is at once in heaven, on earth, in the water and in the air. (84: We reconstruct here the Greek text after CH 12.20: “…each living thing frequents one part of the cosmos: water for those that live in the water, earth for those that dwell on land, air for those that float above. But mankind uses them all – earth, water, air, fire. He even sees heaven, which he grasps by sensing it. And god, who is energy and power, surrounds everything and permeates everything, and understanding of god is nothing difficult, my child.”; see Paramelle- Mahé 1990-91, p. 123 n. 12. [Translated from Mahé’s original French version into English]: “One might wonder if there is any link between these HO [or OH] and the fragments of the DH preceded in C. Would they originally belong to the hermetic source? In favour of this hypothesis, it could be observed that, stylistically, some passages of the OH have quite the appearance of definitions or brief sentences. In addition, the development on the human law (OH III) can bring back different formulations of the DH. Finally, it should be noted that the DH are incomplete in Armenian. They are interrupted abruptly, in DH X,7, by an interpolation inspired by Nemesius of Emesus. However, just before this interpolation, the last paragraph of the text that remained pending is parallel to SH XIX,1. Would he be defrauding us of concluding that SH XIX,2-7 would constitute the sequence of DH and that our OH would represent even later developments extracted from the hermetic source? Other arguments seem to carry weight in the opposite direction. First of all the OH are separated from the DH by a quote from CH XVI,4. In addition, they have great affinities with SH VIII and SH XV-XX, especially SH XV-XVII, which are addressed to Ammon. Now we know, by their title preserved in Armenian, that the DH are addressed to Asclepius. Finally, A.-J. Festugière detects in SH XV. XIX (which he considers to be the continuation of XVII) and XXII the influence of the pneumatic medical school, in particular the Οροι ίατριχοί [Terms of healers]) of Ps. Galen, which date at the earliest from the third century AD. If this comparison is valid, the chronological index probably also applies to our unpublished works, which are especially close to these memes extracted from Stobaeus. But such a late date contrasts with the fact that some sentences included in the DH served as a source for CH I, the famous Poimandres, which dates back to the very beginning of the second century.“) Just as the body is marvellously moulded in the womb, (85CH 5.6 “…consider how the human being is crafted in the womb, examine the skill of the craftwork carefully, and learn who it is that crafts this beautiful, godlike image of mankind…”; CH 10.4 “So it is, then, for one who can see. For god also wishes this seeing to happen… the vision of the good is not like the ray of the sun which, because it is fiery, dazzles the eyes with light and makes them shut. On the contrary, it illuminates to the extent that one capable of receiving the influence of intellectual splendor can receive it. It probes more sharply, but it does no harm, and it is full of all immortality…“; CH 14.9 “For in god there is only one condition, the good, but one who is good is not contemptuous or impotent. This is what god is, the good, all power to make all things. All that is begotten has come to be by god’s agency, by the agency of one who is good, in other words, of one able to make all things…”; HHE, vol. 2, p. 294 [Translated from Mahé’s original French version into English]: “(DH VII,2) That is, in ancient Egypt, the office of Khnum, the potter god, who became the Agathodemon of Ptolemaic Egypt and lends his name to one of the sages of Hermeticism. For example, the Layalist Teaching attributes the merits to Pharon: He is the heir of every god, it is Khnum of everyone, the progenitor who creates humans. The Wisdom of Amanemope similarly teaches that man is made of clay mixed with straw and god is his Creator. However, except in the texts of Merikare are previously quoted, we do not learn the details of the office of the potter. Here again these are the the closest text to Trismegistus, in time as in form, is the Hymn to Khnum by Esna.

Hymn to Khnum:

… He opened his eyes, He cleared the access of the ears, he put The body in intimate contact with the atmosphere, He made his mouth to eat.

… He organized the race of blood in the bones…… shaping the skin on the limbs…… the hands, with their fingers, to accomplish their work…

… The bladder, to urinate… the heart, to serve as a guide… the testicles,… the anus, to fulfill their function…

… He is their father, he, Tanen, who gave birth to everything that exists… Had her mouth spat out that they were born immediately?

[Cf.] CH V,6-7:

Who drew The Circle of Eyes? Who drilled the holes in the nostrils and ears? Who made the mouth opening? Who stretched the muscles and tied them up? Who drove the vein canals? Who solidified the bones? Who covered all the flesh with skin? Who separated the fingers? Who enlarged the soles of the feet? Who pierced [passages for] the pores? Who extended the spleen? Who shaped the pyramid-shaped heart?… Who hid the shameful parts?… What father, what mother, if not the invisible God who, by his own will, made everything?”) likewise the soul in the body.

3. From the murk into light the body goes out of the womb, but soul enters the body from the light into darkness. (86: CH 1.21 “…Life and light are god and father, from whom the man came to be. So if you learn that you are from light and life and that you happen to come from them, you shall advance to life once again…”; CH 7.2 “…Those of you who can will take the ebb and gain the haven of deliverance and anchor there. Then, seek a guide to take you by the hand and lead you to the portals of knowledge. There shines the light cleansed of darkness. There no one is drunk. All are sober and gaze with the heart toward one who wishes to be seen, who is neither heard nor spoken of, who is seen not with the eyes but with mind and heart. But first you must rip off the tunic that you wear, the garment of ignorance, the foundation of vice, the bonds of corruption, the dark cage…”; SH 23.34 “Another soul piercingly shrieked and wept for a long time before speaking, often turning above and below what served as its eyes. ‘O heaven,’ it said, ‘source of our generation… you tireless light of Sun and Moon, reared with us from our birth – from all of you we are dragged and suffer agonies… we who are from vast luminous realms… will be shut up in dishonorable and lowly tents.’”) The sight of the body is the eye; but that of soul is Nous. Just as a body which has got no eyes sees nothing, likewise a soul which has got no Nous is blind. (87: CH 10.8 “And this is soul’s most perfect glory. But if a soul that has entered into humans remains vicious, it neither tastes immortality nor shares in the good but turns back and rushes down the road toward the snakes, and this is the sentence pronounced against a vicious soul. The vice of soul is ignorance. For the soul, when it is blind and discerns none of the things that are nor their nature nor the good, is shaken by the bodily passions, and the wretched thing becomes – in ignorance of itself – a slave to vile and monstrous bodies, bearing the body like a burden, not ruling but being ruled. This is the vice of soul.”Whatever the babe in the womb will crave for, so will the pregnant woman desire the same; likewise whatever Nous in soul will crave for, so will man desire the same. 

4. Soul enters the body by necessity, (88: SH 15.6 “…the most proximate soul is acclimated to the body , not because these two share a natural kinship, but because this is what is fated. {Contrast SH 8.5 where the soul chooses a body depending on providence.} The soul has no natural urge to be with a body.”Nous enters soul (89: CH 11.4 “… God is in mind, but mind is in soul, and soul is in matter…“; 12.13 “…the good demon [Agathos Daimon], has said that soul is in body, that mind is in soul…“by judgement. (90‘krisin’, cf. CH 10.11 “The immobility of mind initiates the motion of matter in this way: Since the cosmos is a sphere – a head, that is – and since there is nothing material above the head just as there is nothing of mind below the feet, where all is matter, and since mind is a head which is moved spherically – in the manner of a head, that is – things joined to the membrane of this head in which is the soul are by nature immortal, as if they have more soul than body because body has been made in soul; things far away from the membrane, however, are mortal, because they have more body than soul; thus, every living being, and likewise the universe, has been constituted of the material and the mental.“; the Armenian reads ‘bnut’iwn’ (phusin), which may be a corruption of ‘k’nnut’iwn’, nearly equivalent to ‘krisin’.While being outside the body, soul has neither quality nor quantity; (91: CH 13.3 “…seeing within me an unfabricated vision that came from the mercy of god, I went out of myself into an immortal body, and now I am not what I was before. I have been born in mind. This thing cannot be taught, nor can it be seen through any elementary fabrication that we use here below. Therefore, the initial form even of my own constitution is of no concern. Color, touch or size I no longer have; I am a stranger to them. Now you see me with your eyes, my child, but by gazing with bodily sight you do not understand what I am; I am not seen with such eyes, my child.“once it is in the body it receives, as an accident, (92: CH 9.9 “For all things that exist are in god, Asclepius. They have come to be by god’s agency, and they depend from on high, some of them acting through bodies, others moving through psychic substance, or making life through spirit, or taking in the spent remains, which is as it should be. Or rather, to let the truth be shown, I should say that god does not contain these things. He is all of them, so he does not acquire them as something added from outside but gives them freely to the outside, and this is god’s sensation and understanding, always moving everything. The time will never come when any of the things that are will be abandoned. When I speak of the things that are, I speak of god. For god holds within him the things that are; none are outside of him; and he is outside of none.”; SH 26.13 “There are other things as well, my most famous son, that come from the equilibrium of our body’s composition. ‘What is our body’s composition, mother?’ Horus asked. Isis: ‘It is the assembly and blend of the four elements. From this blend and assembly, a vapor is exuded. This vapor wraps itself round he soul and runs through the body. To both – I mean body and soul – it bestows its own quality. In his way, arise the different variations that occur in soul and bodies.”quality and quantity as well as good and evil: for matter brings about such things. (93: CH 14.7 “You need not be on guard against the diversity of things that come to be, fearing to attach something low and inglorious to god. God’s glory is one, that he makes all things, and this making is like the body of god. There is nothing evil or shameful about the maker himself; such conditions are immediate consequences of generation, like corrosion on bronze or dirt on the body. The bronzesmith did not make the corrosion; the parents did not make the dirt; nor did god make evil. But the persistence of generation makes evil bloom like a sore, which is why god has made change, to repurify generation.”)

5. God is within himself, the world is in God, and man in the world. (94: CH 8.5 “According to the father’s will, and unlike other living things on earth, mankind, the third living thing, came to be in the image of the cosmos, possessing mind as well as a relation not only of sympathy with the second god but also of thought with the first god. For they have perception of the former god as of a body, but they take thought of the latter as of a mind without body, as of the good…“) His (ie. man’s) deficiency is ignorance, his plenitude is the knowledge of God. (95CH 10.8-9* “[8] Hermēs: ‘And this is soul’s most perfect glory. But if a soul that has entered into humans remains vicious, it neither tastes immortality nor shares in the good but turns back and rushes down the road toward the snakes, and this is the sentence pronounced against a vicious soul. The vice of soul is ignorance. For the soul, when it is blind and discerns none of the things that are nor their nature nor the good, is shaken by the bodily passions, and the wretched thing becomes – in ignorance of itself – a slave to vile and monstrous bodies, bearing the body like a burden, not ruling but being ruled. This is the vice of soul. [9] The virtue of soul, by contrast, is knowledge; for one who knows is good and reverent and already divine.’ Tat: ‘Who is this person, father?’ Hermēs: ‘One who says little and hears little. He fights with shadows, my son, who wastes time on talking and listening to talk. One neither speaks nor hears of god the father and the good. This being so – that there are senses in all things that are because they cannot exist without them – yet knowledge differs greatly from sensation; for sensation comes when the object prevails, while knowledge is the goal of learning, and learning is a gift from god.’“) [•X• He says that evil consists in ignorance and good in knowledge /O\.] (96Perhaps a gloss of the Armenian translator. In medieval Armenian manuscripts •X• normally means ‘star’ and /O\ ‘sinner’. (For the idea that sins are provoked by astral demons, see: CH 16.15-16 “[15] The demons on duty at the exact moment of birth, arrayed under each of the stars, take possession of each of us as we come into being and receive a soul. From moment to moment they change places, not staying in position but moving by rotation. Those that enter through the body into the two parts of the soul twist the soul about, each toward its own energy. But the rational part of the soul stands unmastered by the demons, suitable as a receptacle for god. [16] Thus, if by way of the sun anyone has a ray shining upon him in his rational part and the totality of those enlightened is a few, the demons’ effect on him is nullified. For none – neither demons nor gods – can do anything against a single ray of god. All others the demons carry off as spoils, both souls and bodies, since they are fond of the demons’ energies and acquiesce in them. And it is this love that misleads and is misled. So, with our bodies as their instruments, the demons govern this earthly government. Hermes has called this government ‘fate.’”; CH 9.3 “Mind conceives every mental product: both the good, when mind receives seeds from god, as well as the contrary kind, when the seeds come from some demonic being. Unless it is illuminated by god, no part of the cosmos is without a demon that steals into the mind to sow the seed of its own energy, and what has been sown the mind conceives – adulteries, murders, assaults on one’s father, acts of sacrilege and irreverence, suicides by hanging or falling from a cliff, and all other such works of demons.“; SH 6.11 “Consider too the product of their energy, Tat. They sow into the earth emanations called tanai. Some of these bring health, while others are destructive.{Festugière derived ‘tanai’ from the Greek verb ‘τείνω’ [to stretch/reach]. They are stretched out rays of the decans.})

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-Footnoted quotes from the CH, AH and SH are by Copenhaver and Litwa unless specified. Quotes from Paramelle-Mahé and HHE are originally in French and by Mahé, but I have translated them into English for the reader.

{Abc} – indicates a footnoted verse contained within Mahé’s original footnotes in DH or Litwa’s original footnotes in SH.

(*)- indicates multiple usage of a single verse in the footnotes.

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