MAN, then, Asclepios, is a great marvel; a creature worthy of respect and adoration. For amid this divine Nature he moves as if he himself were a God. He knows the order of the genii, and, aware that he is of the same origin, he despises the human side of his being in order to attach himself exclusively to the divine element.
How happily constituted and near to the Gods is humanity! In joining himself to the divine, man disdains that which he has in him of the earthly; he connects himself by a bond of love to all other beings, and thereby feels himself necessary to the universal order. He contemplates heaven; and in this happy middle sphere in which he is placed, he loves all that is below him, he is beloved of all that is above. He cultivates the earth; he borrows the speed of the elements; his piercing thought fathoms the deeps of the sea. Everything is clear for him. Heaven does not seem to him too high, for knowledge lifts him to it. The brightness of his mind is not obscured by the thick mists of the air; the earth's gravitation is no obstacle to his efforts; the profundity of deep seas does not disturb him; he includes everything and remains everywhere the same.
All animate beings have as it were roots passing downwards; inanimate beings, on the contrary, have a single root passing from below upwards, and supporting a whole forest of branches. Some creatures nourish[themselves [p. 52]
themselves upon two elements, others upon one only. There are two kinds of aliment for the two portions of the creature--one for the soul and another for the body. The soul of the world sustains itself by perpetual motion. Bodies develop themselves by means of water and of earth, the aliments of the inferior world. The spirit which fills everything, mingles with everything, and vivifies everything, adds consciousness to the intelligence, which, by a peculiar privilege, man borrows from the fifth element--the ether. In man, the consciousness is raised to the knowledge of the divine order.
Since I am led to speak of the consciousness, I will presently expound to you its function, which is great and holy as that of divinity itself. But let us first complete the exposition already begun. I was speaking of union with the Gods--a privilege which they accord only to humanity. A few men only have the happiness of rising to that perception of the Divine which subsists only in God and in the human intelligence.
Are, then, not all men similarly conscient, Trismegistos?
All, Asclepios, have not the true intelligence. They are deceived when they suffer themselves to be drawn after the image of things, without seeking for the true reason of them. It is thus that evil is produced in man; and that the first of all creatures lowers himself almost to the level of the brutes.[But [p. 53]
But I will speak to you of the consciousness and all that belongs to it, when I come to my exposition of the mind. For man alone is a dual creature. One of the two parts of which he consists is single, and, as the Greeks say, essential; that is, formed after the divine likeness. The part which the Greeks call Kosmic--that is, belonging to the world--is quadruple, and constitutes the body, which, in man, serves as an envelope to the divine principle. This divine principle, and that which belongs to it, the perceptions of the pure intelligence, conceal themselves behind the rampart of the body. [*1]
^53:1 "The five elements of the Microcosm are here made to correspond with the five elements which the Greeks allotted to the Macrocosm; earth, water, air, fire, and ether. Trismegistos says that man obtains his intelligence from "the ether--the fifth element." Trismegistos includes in the body the physical particles, the exterior consciousness, the magnetic forces, and the sensible or mundane mind. In the fifth element he includes the immortal part--soul and spirit; since he speaks of the "divine principle and that which belongs to it--the perceptions of the pure intelligence." The soul, as we have already seen in the "Virgin of the world," is the percipient principle of man; the spirit is the divine light by means of which she sees. It is advisable, in this place, to point out, for the sake of a clear under-standing of what follows, that Hermetic doctrine regards man as having a twofold nature. For he is in one sense a child of the earth, developed by progressive evolution from below upwards; a true animal, and therefore bound by strict ties of kinship with the lower races, and of allegiance to Nature. In the other sense, man descends from above, and is of celestial origin; because when a certain point in his development from below is reached, the human soul focuses and fixes the Divine Spirit, which is peculiarly the attribute of man, and the possession of which constitutes his sovereignty over all other creatures. And until this vivification of the soul occurs, man is not truly Man in the Hermetic sense.
The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, , at sacred-texts.com[p. 54]
WHY then, O Trismegistos, was it necessary that man should be placed in the world, instead of where God is, to dwell with Him in supreme beatitude?
Thy question is natural, O Asclepios, and I pray God to assist me in replying to it, for everything depends upon His will, especially those great things which are at this moment the subject of our enquiry; listen, then, to me, Asclepios. The Lord and Author of all things, whom we call God, brought forth a second God, visible and sensible; I describe him thus, not because he himself has sensibility, for this is not the place to treat such a question, but because he is perceptible to the senses. Having then produced this unique Being who holds the first rank among creatures and the second after Himself, He found His offspring beautiful and filled with all manner of good, and He loved it as His own child. [*1] He willed, then, that another should be able to contemplate this Being so great and so perfect whom He had drawn forth from Himself, and to this end He created man, endowed with reason and intelligence.[The [p. 55]
The will of God is absolute accomplishment; to will and to do are for Him the work of the selfsame instant. And, knowing that the essential could not apprehend all things unless enveloped by the world, He gave to man a body for a dwelling-place. He willed that man should have two natures; He united them intimately and blended them in just proportion.
Thus, He formed man of spirit and of body; of an eternal nature and of a mortal nature, so that, a creature thus constituted, he might, by means of his double origin, admire and adore that which is celestial and eternal; cultivate and govern that which is upon the earth. I speak here of mortal things, not of the two elements subjected to man, to wit, earth and water, but of things coming from man, which are in him or depending on him, such as the culture of the soil, the pastures, the construction of buildings, of ports, navigation, commerce, and those reciprocal exchanges which are the strongest bond among men. Earth and water form a part of the world, and this terrestrial part is sustained by the arts and sciences, without which the world would be imperfect in the eyes of God. For that which God wills is necessary, and the effect accompanies His will; nor can it be believed that anything which has seemed good to Him can cease to seem good to Him, because from the beginning He knew what should be and what should please Him.
^54:1 This "second God" is the Visible Universe, which in most Hermetic writings is spoken of as the "Son of God"--"the word made flesh."
The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, , at sacred-texts.com[p. 56]
BUT I perceive, O Asclepios, that thou art anxious to know in what manner Heaven and those who inhabit it can be the object of the aspiration and adoration of man; learn, then, O Asclepios, that to aspire after the God of heaven and all those who are therein is to render them frequent homage; for alone of all animated beings, divine and human, man is able to render it. The admiration, adoration, praise, and homage of man rejoice heaven and the celestial inhabitants; and the choir of the Muses has been sent among men by the supreme Divinity in order that the terrestrial world might not be without the sweet science of hymns; or rather that the human voice might celebrate Him who only is All, since He is the Father of all things, and that the tender harmonies of earth might ever unite themselves with the celestial choirs. Only a few men, rarely endowed with a pure intelligence, are entrusted with this holy function of beholding heaven clearly. Those in whom the confusion of their two natures holds the intelligence captive under the weight of the body, are appointed to have communion with the inferior elements. Man is not, then, debased because he has a mortal part; on the contrary, this mortality augments his aptitudes and his power; his double functions are possible to him only by his double nature; he is constituted in such a manner that he can embrace alike the terrestrial and the divine. I desire, O Asclepios, that thou mayest bring to this exposition all the attention and all the ardour of thy mind; for many are wanting in[faith [p. 57]
faith concerning these things. And now I am about to unfold true principles for the instruction of the holiest intelligences.
The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, , at sacred-texts.com
THE Master of Eternity is the first God, the world is the second, man is the third. God, Creator of the world and of all that it contains, governs all this universe and subjects it to the rule of man. And man makes of it the object of his special activity. So that the world and man become the appendage one of the other, and it is with reason that in Greek the world is called Kosmos. Man knows himself and knows the world; he should, therefore, distinguish that which is in accord with himself, that which is for his use and that which has a right to his worship. While addressing to God his praises and his acts of grace, he should venerate the world which is the image of God; remembering that he is himself the second image of God. For God has two similitudes: the world and man. The nature of man being complex, that part of him which is composed of soul, of consciousness, of mind, and of reason is divine, and from the superior elements seems able to mount to heaven; while his cosmic and mundane part, formed of fire, water, earth, and air, is[mortal [p. 58]
mortal and remains upon the earth; so that what is borrowed from the world may be restored to it.
It is thus that mankind is composed of a divine part and of a mortal part, to wit, the body. The law of this dual being, man, is religion, whose effect is goodness. Perfection is attained when the virtue of man preserves him from desire, and causes him to despise all that is foreign to himself. For terrestrial things, of which the body desires the possession, are foreign to all parts of the divine Thought. Such things may indeed be called possessions, for they are not born with us, they are acquired later. They are then foreign to man, and even the body itself is foreign to man, in such wise that man ought to disdain both the object of desire, and that whereby he is made accessible to desire.
It is the duty of man to direct his soul by reason, so that- the contemplation of the divine may lead him to take but small account of that mortal part which has been joined to him for the sake of the preservation of the lower world. In order that man should be complete in both his parts, observe that each of these possesses four binary subdivisions--to wit, the two hands and the two feet, which, with the other organs of the body, place him in relation with the inferior and terrestrial world. And, on the other hand, he possesses four faculties: sensibility, soul, memory, and foresight, which permit him to know and perceive divine things. He is able, therefore, to include in his investigations, differences, qualities, effects, and quantities. But if he be too much hindered by the weight of the body, he will be unable to penetrate into the true reason of things.
When man, thus formed and constituted, having[received [p. 59]
received for his function from the supreme God, the government of the world and the worship of Divinity, acquits himself well of this double duty, and obeys the holy Will, what should be his recompense? For, if the world is the work of God, he who by his care sustains and augments its beauty, is the auxiliary of the divine Will, employing his body and his daily labour in the service of the work produced by the hands of God. What should be his recompense, if not that which our ancestors have obtained? May it please divine goodness to accord this recompense also to us; all our aspirations and all our prayers tend towards its attainment; may we, delivered from the prison of the body, and from our mortal bonds, return, sanctified and pure, to the divine heritage of our nature!
What thou sayest is just and true, O Trismegistos! Such indeed is the price of piety towards God, and of care bestowed on the maintenance of the world. But return to the heavens is denied to those who have lived impiously; upon them is imposed a penance which holy souls escape, to wit, migration into other bodies. The end of this discourse, O Trismegistos, brings us to the hope of an eternal future for the soul, as the result of her life in the world. But this future is for some difficult to believe; for others it is a fable; for others, again, perhaps a subject of derision. For it is a sweet thing to enjoy what one possesses in the corporeal life. Therein lies the evil, which, as one may say, turns the soul's head, attaches her to her mortal part, hinders her from knowing her divine part, and is envious of immortality. For I say unto thee, by a prophetic inspiration, no man after us will choose the simple way of philosophy, which lies[wholly [p. 60]
wholly in application to the study of divine things, and in holy religion. The majority of men obscure philosophy with diverse questions. How come they to encumber it with sciences which ought not to be comprehended in it, or after what manner do they mingle in it diverse questions?
O Asclepios, they mingle in it, by means of subtleties, a diversity of sciences which belong not to it--arithmetic, music, geometry. But pure, philosophy, whose proper object is holy religion, ought to occupy itself with other sciences only in so far as to admire the regular phases of the stars, their positions and their courses, determined by calculation; the dimensions of the earth, its qualities and quantities; the depth of the sea; the power of fire; and to know the effects of all these things, and Nature; to adore Art, the artist, and his divine intelligence. As for music, that is apprehended when one apprehends reason and the divine order of things. For this order by which everything is ranged singly in the unity of the whole, is indeed an admirable harmony and a divine melody.