The Virgin of the World

What meanest thou, my child, by the sensation of the soul?


The soul is truly incorporeal. But sensation is as a body, my father, for it exists in a body.


[p. 130]


If we place it in the body, my son, we indeed assimilate it either to the soul or to the energies, which, although in the body, are incorporeal. But sensation is neither an energy nor a soul, nor anything distinct from the body; it is not, therefore, incorporeal. If it be not incorporeal, it must necessarily be corporeal, for there is nothing which is neither corporeal nor incorporeal.

The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, [1884], at


THE Lord, the Creator of immortal forms, O Tatios, after having accomplished His work, made nothing further, nor does He now make anything. Once consigned to themselves and united to one another, these eternal forms move without having need of anything; or if, indeed, they are necessary one to another, they have at least no need of any extraneous impulsion, since they are immortal. Such ought, indeed, to be the nature of the creations of the supreme God. But our (immediate) maker has a body; he has brought us forth, and unceasingly he brings forth, and will bring forth dissoluble and mortal bodies, for he ought not to imitate his own Creator, and, moreover, he cannot. For the first has evolved His


[p. 131]

creations from His own essence, primordial and incorporeal; the second has formed us of that which is corporeal and engendered. Whence it follows naturally, that heavenly forms born of incorporeal essence are imperishable, while our bodies, being constituted of corporeal matter, are consequently weak in themselves, and need extraneous assistance.

For how, indeed, could the combination which composes our bodies be sustained, if it were not continually fed and supported by elements of the same nature? The earth, the water, the fire, and the air flow into us and renew our covering. We are so weak that we cannot even endure a single day of movement. Thou knowest well, my son, that without the repose of the night our bodies would not resist the day’s toil. For this reason our good creator, in his universal providence, has ensured the continual life of his creatures by devising sleep, the restorer of movement, and by assigning to repose an equal or even longer time (than to labour). Meditate, my son, on this virtue of sleep, opposed to that of the soul, and not less energetic. For if the function of the soul be movement, bodies cannot live without slumber, which loosens and unbinds the yoke of the organism, and by its restoring action dispenses to it the matter which it needs, giving water to the blood, earth to the bones, air to the nerves and vessels, fire to the eyes. And hence the great pleasure which the body finds in sleep.

[A great

[NOTE.–The opening passage of this fragmentary discourse will not lead the reader into error if he bears in mind the pantheistic character of all Hermetic teaching. The influx of the divine substance into the universe is perpetual, but the channels or forms through which [p. 132] it flows are immutable, unchangeable, and self-sustaining. The method of nature is determined from the beginning, and is incapable of variation or of intermittance. But the descent of soul into generation is a continual process, and will not cease until the creative period or “Day of Manifestation” closes. There has never been any suspension of the divine energies since the commencement of their primordial operation. The outflow of Being into Existence is unending, otherwise natural generation would cease, and evolution be arrested. The secondary creator mentioned in this fragment is the Demiourgos, the of the material universe.


The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, [1884], at

[p. 132]


GREAT and divine power is established, O my son, in the midst of the universe, beholding all that is done by men upon earth. In the divine order all is governed by providential Necessity; among men the same function belongs to Justice. The first of these governments includes celestial things, for the Gods neither will, nor can, transgress; not being subject to error, which is the source of sin, they are sinless. The second, Justice, is charged to correct, upon earth, the evil which happens among men. The human race, being mortal, and formed of corruptible matter, is subject to fall away when the sight of divine things does not sustain it (in virtue). Herein Justice exerts its action. By means of the energies which he draws from Nature, man is subject to Destiny; by the errors of his life, to Justice.


The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, [1884], at

[p. 133]


HERE, then, is that which can be said of the three tenses. They are not by themselves, and they are not bound together; again, they are bound together and are by themselves. Can the present be supposed without the existence of the past? One cannot exist without another, for the present is generated by the past, and from the present the future comes forth. If we wish to go to the root of the matter, we must reason thus:–The past tense is withdrawn into that which no longer is; the future is not so long as it has not become present; the present, in its turn, ceases to be itself the instant that it remains. Can that which does not endure for an instant and which has no fixed centre be called present when it cannot even be said to exist? Moreover, since the past is indistinguishable from the present, and the present from the future, they become one. There is among them identity, unity, continuity. Therefore time is continuous and divisible, even while it is one and identical.

The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, [1884], at


O MY son, matter becomes; formerly it was, for matter is the vehicle of becoming. [*1] Becoming is the mode of activity of the uncreate and foreseeing God. Having been


[p. 134]

endowed with the germ of becoming, matter is brought into birth, for the creative force fashions it according to the ideal forms. Matter not yet engendered, had no form; it becomes when it is put into operation.


^133:1 Dr. Menard observes that in Greek, the same word signifies [p. 134] to be born and to become. The idea here is that the material of the world is in its essence eternal, but that before creation or “becoming,” it is in a passive and motionless condition. Thus it “was” before being “put into operation;” now, it “becomes,” that is, it is mobile and progressive. Creation is thus the period of activity of God, who, according to Hermetic thought, has two modes–Activity, or existence, God evolved (Deus explicitus); and Passivity of Being–God involved (Deus implicitus). Both modes are perfect and complete, as are the waking and sleeping states of man. Fichte, the German philosopher, distinguished Being (Seyn) as One, which we know only through existence (Daseyn) as the Manifold. This view is thoroughly Hermetic. The “Ideal Forms,” mentioned in the above fragment, are the archetypal or formative ideas of the Neo-Platonists; the eternal and subjective concepts of things subsisting in the Divine Mind prior to “creation” or “becoming.”


The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, [1884], at


TO speak of the Real with certainty, O Tatios, is an impossible thing to man, himself an imperfect creature, composed of imperfect parts, and constituted of an assemblage of foreign particles; nevertheless, as much as it is possible and permissible to me, I affirm that Reality is only in eternal beings, the forms of which also are real. Fire is but fire and no more; earth is nothing else than earth; air


[p. 135]

is only air. Put our bodies are compounded of all these; we have in us fire, earth, water, and air, which yet are neither fire, nor earth, nor water, nor air, nor anything truly. If, then, from the beginning Reality is foreign to our constitution, how shall we behold Reality, or speak thereof, or even understand it, unless indeed by the Will of God? Mundane things, O Tatios, are not then themselves real, but the simulacra of Reality, and not all are even such; some are but illusion and error, O Tatios, fantastic appearances, mere phantoms. When such an appearance receives an influx from above, then, indeed, it becomes a similitude of the Real, but without this superior influence it remains an illusion. In the same way a portrait is a painted image of a body, but not the body it represents. It appears to have eyes, but sees nothing; ears, but hears nothing; and so on of the rest of it. It is an image which deceives the sight; it appears a reality, and is but a shadow. Those who behold not the False behold the True; if, then, we understand and see everything as it truly is, we see the Real; but if we see that which is not, we can neither understand nor know anything of the Real.


There is, then, my father, a Real even upon earth?


Reality is not upon the earth, my son, and it cannot be thereon, but it can be comprehended by a few men to whom God vouchsafes the divine vision. Nothing on earth is real, there are only appearances and opinions on


[p. 136]

earth; yet all is real for intelligence and reason. Wherefore to think and to speak the truth this indeed may be called real.


What sayest thou? It is right to think and speak that which truly is, and yet nothing is true upon earth?


This certainly is true, that we know nothing of Truth. How should it be otherwise, my son? Truth is the supreme virtue, the sovereign Good which is not obscured by matter, nor circumscribed by the body; the naked Good, evident, unalterable, august, immutable. Now, the things which are here below thou seest, my son, are incompatible with the Good; they are perishable, changing, various, passing from form to form. That which is not even identical with itself, how can it be real? All that transforms itself is illusive, not only in itself, but by the appearances which it presents to us one after another.


Is not even man real, my father?


He is not real, my son, as man. The real consists solely in itself, and remains what it is. Man is composed of manifold elements, and does not continue identical


[p. 137]

with himself. So long as he inhabits a body he passes from one age to another, and from one form to another. Often, after but a short interval of time, parents no longer are able to recognize their children, nor children their parents. That which changes in such wise as to be no longer recognizable as itself, can it be a real thing, Tatios? Should we not rather think this succession of diverse appearances an illusion? Look only on the eternal and the Good as the Real. Man is transient, therefore he is not real; he is but appearance, and appearance is the supreme illusion.


Then the celestial bodies themselves are not real, my father, since they also vary.


That which is subject to birth and to change is not real, but the works of the great Father may receive from Him a real substance. Nevertheless, there is in them a certain falsity, seeing that they too are variable, for nothing is real save that which is identical with itself.


What, then, may we call indeed real, my father?


The sun, the only one of all creatures that changes not, and which remains the same. For this reason is confided to him alone the ordinance of the universe; he


[p. 138]

is the chief and the maker of everything; I venerate him and prostrate myself before his truth, and, after the first Unity, I recognize in him the creator.


And what, then, is the primordial Reality, O my father?


He Who is One and alone, O Tatios; He Who is not made of matter, nor in any body, Who has neither colour nor form, Who changes not, nor is transmuted, but who always Is.

* * * *

That which is illusion is perishable, my son. The providence of the Real has limited and will limit by dissolution all mundane things, for dissolution is the condition of all births; all that is brought forth dissolves in order to be again brought forth. It is necessary that out of dissolution life should come into existence, and that life in its turn should decay, in order that the generation of creatures should never cease. Behold, then, in this perpetual birth, the Creator before all! Creatures born of dissolution are but shadows, they become at one time this, at another that; for they cannot be the same, and how is it possible for that which is not identical with itself, to be a real thing? Such must then, my son, be called appearances, and man must be regarded as an appearance of Humanity; as, also, a child is an appearance of childhood, a young man of adolescence, an adult of manhood, an old man of


[p. 139]

senility. For how shall it be said that a man is a man, a child a child, a youth a youth, a grown man a grown man, an old man an old man, since by incessant transformations they deceive us both as to what they were, and what they have become? Behold, then, in all these things, my son, only the illusive appearances of a superior Reality; and since, indeed, this is the case, I define Illusion as the expression of the Real.

The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, [1884], at


TO understand God is difficult; to speak of God, impossible. For the corporeal cannot express the incorporeal; the imperfect cannot comprehend the perfect. How is the eternal to be associated with the transient? The first abides for ever, the other is fleeting; the first is the Real, the other is a reflected shadow. As much as weakness differs from strength, or smallness from greatness, so much the mortal differs from the divine. The distance which divides them one from the other obscures the vision of the beautiful. Bodies are visible to sight, and that which the eye beholds the tongue is able to express. But that which has not any body, nor appearance, nor form, nor matter, cannot be apprehended by sense.

[I understand,

[p. 140]

I understand, O Tatios, I understand that which it is impossible to define–that is God.

[The above fragments are from the “Physical Eclogues” and “Florilegium” of Stobaeus.]

The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, [1884], at

[p. 141]





THAT which rules the universe is Providence; that which contains the universe and limits it is Necessity; Destiny impels and enfolds all things by the compulsory force which belongs thereto. It is Destiny which is the cause of birth and of the dissolution of Life. The universe, then, first receives Providence, the first ordained. Providence extends to the skies, about which the Gods revolve, in perpetual and untiring motion. There is Destiny because there is Necessity. Providence foresees, Destiny determines, the position of the stars. Such is the universal law.

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