AND since we are brought to speak of the relationship and of the resemblance between men and Gods, behold, O Asclepios, the power and capacity of man! Even as the Ruler and Father, or to give Him the loftiest name-- God is the creator of the firmamental Gods, so is man the creator of the Gods who dwell in temples, pleased with human proximity, and not only themselves illumined, but illuminating. And this both profits man and strengthens the Gods. Dost thou marvel, Asclepios? Dost thou lack faith as do many?
I am confounded, O Trismegistos; but yielding myself willingly to thy words, I judge man to be happy in that he has obtained such felicity.
Certes, he deserves admiration, being the greatest of all the Gods! For the race of the Gods is formed of the purest part of Nature, without admixture of other elements, and their visible signs are, as it were, only heads. 1 But the Gods which mankind makes, possess two natures--one divine, which is the first and by far the purest, the other belonging to humanity, which is the matter of which these Gods are composed, so that they have not only heads, but entire bodies, with all their limbs. Thus mankind, remembering its nature and its origin, persists in this matter, in the imitation of Deity, for even as the Father and Lord has made the eternal Gods after the similitude of Himself, so also has humanity made its Gods in its own image.
Dost thou speak of the statues, Trismegistos?
Yes, of the statues, Asclepios. See how wanting thou art in faith! Of what else should I speak but of the statues, so full of life, of feeling, and of aspiration, which do so many wonderful things; the prophetic statues which predict the future by bestowing dreams and by all manner of other ways; which strike us with maladies, or heal our pains according to our deserts? Art thou not aware, O Asclepios, that Egypt is the image of heaven, or rather, that it is the projection below of the order of things above? If the truth must be told, this land is indeed the temple of the world. Nevertheless--since sages ought to foresee all things--there is one thing thou must know; a time will come when it will seem that the Egyptians have adored the Gods so piously in vain, and that all their holy invocations have been barren and unheeded. Divinity will quit the earth and return to heaven, forsaking Egypt, its ancient abode, and leaving the land widowed of religion and bereft of the presence of the Gods. Strangers will fill the earth, and not only will sacred things be neglected, but--more dreadful still--religion, piety, and the adoration of the Gods will be forbidden and punished by the laws. Then, this earth, hallowed by so many shrines and temples, will be filled with sepulchres and with the dead. O Egypt! Egypt! there will remain of thy religions only vague legends which posterity will refuse to believe; only words graven upon stones will witness to thy devotion! The Scythian, the Indian, or some other neighbouring barbarian will possess Egypt! Divinity will return to heaven; humanity, thus abandoned, will wholly perish, and Egypt will be left deserted, forsaken of men and of Gods!
To thee I cry, O most sacred River, to thee I announce the coming doom! waves of blood, polluting thy divine waters, shall overflow thy banks; the number of the dead shall surpass that of the living; and if, indeed, a few inhabitants of the land remain, Egyptians by speech, they will in manners be aliens! Thou weepest, O Asclepios! But yet sadder things than these will come to pass. Egypt will fall into apostacy, the worst of all evils. Egypt, once the holy land beloved of the Gods and full of devotion for their worship, will become the instrument of perversion, the school of impiety, the type of all violence. Then, filled with disgust for everything, man will no longer feel either admiration or love for the world. He will turn away from this beautiful work, the most perfect alike in the present, the past, and the future. Nor will the languor and weariness of souls permit anything to remain save disdain of the whole universe, this immutable work of God, this glorious and perfect edifice, this manifold synthesis of forms and images, wherein the will of the Lord, lavish of marvels, has united all things in a harmonious and single whole, worthy for ever of veneration, of praise and love! Then darkness will be preferred to light, and death will be deemed better than life, nor will any man lift his eyes to heaven.
In those days the religious man will be thought mad; the impious man will be hailed as a sage; savage men will be deemed valiant; the evil-hearted will be applauded as the best of men. The Soul, and all that belongs thereto--whether born mortal or able to attain eternal life--all those things which I have herein expounded to thee, will be but matters for ridicule, and will be esteemed foolishness. There will even be peril of death, believe me, for those who remain faithful to religion and intelligence. New rights will be instituted, new laws, nor will there be left one holy word, one sacred belief, religious and worthy of heaven and of celestial things. O lamentable separation between the Gods and men! Then there will remain only evil demons who will mingle themselves with the miserable human race, their hand will be upon it impelling to all kinds of wicked enterprise; to war, to rapine, to falsehood, to everything contrary to the nature of the soul. The earth will no longer be in equilibrium, the sea will no longer be navigable, in the heavens the regular course of the stars will be troubled. Every holy voice will be condemned to silence; the fruits of the earth will become corrupt, and she will be no more fertile; the very air will sink into lugubrious torpor. Such will be the old age of the world; irreligion and disorder, lawlessness, and the confusion of good men.
When all these things shall be accomplished, O Asclepios, then the Lord and Father, the sovereign God who rules the wide world, beholding the evil ways and actions of men, will arrest these misfortunes by the exercise of His divine will and goodness. And, in order to put an end to error and to the general corruption, He will drown the world with a deluge or consume it by fire, or destroy it by wars and epidemics, and thereafter He will restore to it its primitive beauty; so that once more it shall appear worthy of admiration and worship, and again a chorus of praise and of blessing shall celebrate Him Who has created and redeemed so beautiful a work. This re-birth of the world, this restoration of all good things, this holy and sacred re-habilitation of Nature will take place when the time shall come which is appointed by the divine and ever-eternal will of God, without beginning and always the same.
Indeed, Trismegistos, the nature of God is Will reflected; that is, absolute goodness and wisdom.
O Asclepios, Will is the result of reflection, and to will is itself an act of willing. For He Who is the fulness of all things and Who possesses all that He will, wills nothing by caprice. But everything He wills is good, and He has all that He wills; all that is good He thinks and wills. Such is God, and the World is the image of His righteousness.
Is the world then good, O Trismegistos?
Yes, the world is good, Asclepios, as I will inform thee. Even as God accords to all beings and to all orders in the world benefits of divers kinds, such as thought, soul, and life, so likewise the world itself divides and distributes good things among mortals, changing seasons, the fruits of the earth, birth, increase, maturity, and other similar gifts. And thus God is above the summit of heaven, yet everywhere present and beholding all things. For beyond the heavens is a sphere without stars, transcending all corporeal things. Between heaven and earth he reigns who is the dispenser of life, and whom we call Zeus (Jupiter). Over the earth and the sea he reigns who nourishes all mortal creatures, the plants and fruit-bearing trees, and whose name is Zeus Sarapis (Jupiter Plutonius). And those to whom it shall be given to dominate the earth shall be sent forth and established at the extremity of Egypt, in a city built towards the west, whither, by sea and by land, shall flow all the race of mortals.
But where are they now, Trismegistos?
They are established in a great city, upon the mountain of Lybia. Enough of this. 1
70:1 Hermes speaks of the Stars, and of the Astral Powers, not of the Divine Intelligences. The whole of this discourse has a hidden and profound meaning, relating to the human organism, and to the elemental genii, which through man are individualised. A.K.
75:1 By "Egypt" is denoted not only the country of that name, but the physical system generally of the world, and especially--as in the Hebrew Scriptures--the human body.
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