In contemplating the concept of God as an eternal creator, one is inevitably confronted with the apparent paradox arising from the scientific understanding that our universe has a definite beginning. How do we reconcile the hermetic concept of a timeless, ever-creating God with the temporal constraints suggested by contemporary scientific cosmology?
If there is indeed a beginning to our universe, and it is attributed to the creative will of an eternal God, does this imply a certain lack or need within the divine essence? Is there a perceived gap between the pre-creation and post-creation states of God, suggesting an imperfection in the divine nature?
In the profound wisdom of the Corpus Hermeticum, a collection of philosophical and theological writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, the nature and creation of the cosmos are revealed through a series of illuminating passages. These excerpts offer a glimpse into the intricate relationship between God, the Creator-Nous, and the material world, providing deep insights into the divine process that shapes our existence.
The hermetic texts offer a framework that intriguingly converges with certain aspects of scientific theories regarding the creation of the cosmos and the continuous processes that shape it but may disagree with others.
Birth of Creation
The journey into the understanding of the cosmos begins with the birth of the Creator-Nous and the formation of the sensory world. In CH I:9-10, Nous, described as a dual-gendered God, initiates the divine process by giving birth, through the Word, to another Nous – the Creator of the world.
“Nous, God, being male and female, beginning as life and light, gave birth, by the Word, to another Nous, the Creator of the world…”
The creation of the cosmos in Hermeticism echoes the scientific narrative of the cosmic creation event, often conceptualized in the Big Bang theory as an expansion from a singular point.
This Creator-Nous, associated with the elements of fire and air, crafts seven powers that govern the sensory world. The cyclic motion of these powers, aptly termed destiny, shapes the governance of the cosmos. The Word of God, uniting with the Creator Nous, signifies a pivotal moment where the downward elements are left behind, existing as matter alone.
This Creator-Nous, who encompasses the spheres and sets them in motion, may align with the universe’s dynamic nature in scientific terms, where celestial bodies are in constant motion and the cosmos is ever-evolving. In CH XII we read:
“Now do you say that God is invisible? Be careful. Who is more manifest than He? He has made all things for this reason: that through them you should see Him.” There might be a subtle difference between seeing Him in creation or seeing Him through creation.
Eternity, time, and generation are interwoven in the hermetic perspective. The assertion that God creates eternity, the cosmos resides in eternity, and time unfolds through the cosmos reflects the intricate relationship between these fundamental concepts. In CH XI we read:
“God creates eternity; eternity, the cosmos; the cosmos, time; and time, generation.”
The cosmos is not eternal like God but it is immortal. It has always existed, even before it manifested as something we can observe, and it will always exist.
“Within” God things are unmanifest and manifest, so maybe the cosmos is eternal in its unmanifested form, lying within the eternity of God, but is “trapped” within time in its manifested form. And the manifested form is the only thing we can see and scientifically measure and observe.
The Hermetic Cosmos
Below we will give relevant passages in the Corpus Hermeticum that shed more light on the nature and creation of the cosmos.
Corpus Hermeticum II.17 introduces the Father as the ultimate author of all things. The nature of the Father is defined by the act of creation, solidifying the divine origin of the cosmos. This revelation portrays the cosmos not as a random occurrence but as a deliberate creation stemming from the very essence of the divine.
Corpus Hermeticum IV.1 sheds light on the Creator’s nature as an immaterial and omnipresent force. The cosmos is not crafted with hands but by the Word (Logos), emphasizing the intangible, invisible, and immeasurable qualities of the Creator’s body. It is the Creator’s will that propels the creation of all beings, and this passage underscores the continuous, divine involvement in the formation of the cosmos.
Corpus Hermeticum V delves into the concept of the unmanifest, an eternal existence that does not need to appear but serves to make everything else manifest. The act of creation is portrayed as the unmoving being moved and the unmanifest being made manifest. This dynamic interplay between the unmanifest and the manifest brings forth a deeper understanding of the Creator’s role in shaping the observable world.
Corpus Hermeticum X.10 describes the cosmos as beautiful but not inherently good, subject to change, and easily affected. It is both first among things that change and second among things that are, existing in a perpetual state of creation and movement. This passage introduces the concept of continuous transformation.
The relationship between God, eternity, the cosmos, time, and generation is unveiled in Corpus Hermeticum XI. The active power of God is identified as mind and soul, intricately linked with creation.
The cosmos, perpetually changing and assuming all forms tells us of the nature of the Creator. The passage contends that if the cosmos is omniform, what then shall we say of the Creator? The complexities of God’s nature are explored, contemplating the formlessness and omnipresence of the divine.
Corpus Hermeticum XII.22 addresses the apparent invisibility of God, cautioning against underestimating His manifestation. While God is considered invisible, His manifestation is pervasive, evident in the act of contemplation and creation. The goodness of God is reflected through all created things, reinforcing the idea that the act of creation is a continual revelation of His divine presence.
In Corpus Hermeticum XIV.3-4, the emphasis is placed on the continuous nature of God’s creation. The Creator is always creating, and this perpetual act is what makes Him always invisible. The passage further asserts the inseparable connection between the Creator and the created.
No void to fill
God did indeed decide to “create” the Cosmos, but that was not because there was anything “lacking” or that there was a gap to fill, making God imperfect. God is the Creator and therefore He wills to create.
That the hermetic texts say that God created the cosmos “within” Him does not mean that in a spatial, physical way. There was no gap within God that the cosmos needed to fill. Regarding the “body” of God that the cosmos is created “within” we read in CH IV.1:
“Since the Creator made the whole cosmos, not with hands but by the Word, understand that he is present and always is, creating all things, being one alone, and by his will producing all beings. For such is his body: intangible, invisible, immeasurable, indivisible, like nothing else.”
Creation in every moment
If we closely study the hermetic texts we can even conclude that the cosmos and everything within it is created “anew” by God in each and every moment.
From CH V:
1. However, the unmanifest exists always; it does not need to appear, for it exists always and it makes everything else manifest, though it itself is unmanifest since it always is. That which makes manifest is not itself made manifest, for it has not been brought forth. But it brings all images to the mind in imagination. Things that are begotten belong only to imagination. For imagination is nothing but begetting.
5. O son, to behold all that in one moment; the unmoving being moved, the unmanifest being made manifest through what it creates!
9. If you force me to speak more boldly, it is His nature to conceive all things and create them; and as without the Creator nothing can come into existence, so He would not exist eternally if He had not always been creating all things in heaven, in air, in earth, in the sea, everywhere in the universe, everywhere in the All, in what is and what is not. There is nothing in all this which is not Himself. Both the things that are and the things that are not are himself. For the things that are, He has made manifest and the things that are not He contains within Himself.
From CH XI:
5. What else does He do but create? God is not idle else all would be idle, for everything is full of God. There is nothing in the cosmos, or anywhere else that is idle. For the very word ‘idle’ is empty with regard to the Creator and the creation.
6. Everything must always be begotten at exactly the right place. The Creator is in everything. He does not dwell just in one thing, nor does He just create in one; He begets them all. His power being active is not separate from what He has begotten, for all that is begotten exists by reason of Him.
14. For working by Himself He is always in His work, for He is what He creates. If He were separated from it, all would collapse, and all would by necessity perish, because life would be no more.
And from CH XIV:
3. He is always creating, and so he is always invisible.
4. but it is impossible to separate one from the other, for there cannot be a Creator without that which is created; both are in fact the same thing. Therefore one cannot be divided from the other, anymore than it can be divided from itself.
We need to keep in mind that human perception is flawed because we study the cosmos from a spatio-temporal framework. For us, the cosmos started when it was created/willed and when physical space and time started.
The Corpus Hermeticum offers a profound exploration of the nature and creation of the cosmos. The dynamic interplay between God, the Creator-Nous, and the material world unfolds through various passages, inviting us to contemplate the divine essence that permeates our existence.
From the birth of the Creator-Nous to the continuous act of creation, the insights we present in this article provide a comprehensive understanding of the cosmos as a divine masterpiece in perpetual motion.