LET us return to man, and enquire concerning the divine gift of reason which entitles him to be called a reasonable creature. Among all the wonders we have noted in man, that which above all commands admiration is this:--that man has discovered the divinity of nature, and has made it efficient to his designs.
Our ancestors, wandering astray in matters of faith concerning the Gods, and unable to lift their minds to the Divine knowledge and religion, discovered the art of making Gods; and, having discovered it, they invested their products with appropriate virtues drawn from the nature of the world. And, as they could not make souls, they evoked the spirits of genii and angels, and endowed with them the holy images and sacraments, thus enabling their idols to exercise powers for good or ill. In such wise thine ancestor, O Asclepios, the inventor of medicine, has a temple on the Lybian mountain by the shores of the crocodile-frequented river, where also lies enshrined all of him which belonged to the earth--that is, his body. For the rest of him--his better part, or rather, indeed, himself--because the principle of consciousness and of life is the whole man--is restored to heaven. And now, by his divinity, he lends help to men in their sicknesses, who once instructed them in the art of healing. So also, Hermes, my own ancestor, whose name I bear, now enshrined in the country which is called after him, hears the prayers of those who come thither from all parts of the land to obtain of him assistance and health. Behold, again, what blessings Isis, the spouse of Osiris, confers upon men when she is favourable to them, and what ills she inflicts when she is angered! For these mundane and earthly Gods are accessible to wrath, being formed and composed by men out of Nature. Of, such sort in Egypt is the adoration paid to animals; and thus also do cities honour the souls of those men who, in their lifetime, gave them laws and whose names they preserve. And for this reason, O Asclepios, those deities which are adored in some places, receive in others no worship; whence arise many wars between the cities of Egypt.
And of what kind, O Trismegistos, is the divinity of these Gods who inhabit the earth?
It consists in the divine virtue, which naturally subsists in herbs, rocks, and aromatic principles, wherefore these deities love frequent sacrifices, hymns, and praises, and sweet music resembling the celestial harmony, which heaven-like rite, attractive to their sacred nature, draws them and retains them in their shrines, so that they patiently endure their long sojourn among men. It is thus that men make Gods. Neither must thou suppose, O Asclepios, that the acts of these terrestrial deities are controlled by hazard. For while the supernal Gods abide in the heights of heaven, keeping each the order which belongs to him, these Gods of ours have also their special functions. Some predict by means of lots and divination the events of the future; others preside, in various ways, over things depending on their care, or come to our assistance as allies, as kinsmen, or as friends.
87:1 This section continues and elucidates the argument of section IX. An acquaintance with occult doctrine regarding the Nature-spirits, or mundane Gods, will, I think, enable the reader to follow intelligently the observations of Hermes in regard to the sacred images. Precisely the same virtues as those attributed by the ancients to the idols of their various deities, are in our day attributed by Catholics to the idols of their saints. We hear of the "Virgin" of this or that town being propitious to a petition which the "Virgin" of some other place has refused to grant. Sacred images still heal the sick, avert pestilences, discover hidden springs, and confer blessings upon devotees. p. 88 Hermes points out that the powers by which these things are accomplished belong to the divinity of Nature, individualised and differentiated by human intervention; and that mankind necessarily passes through the stage of nature-worship before becoming competent to realise the celestial order and the being of the heavenly Gods. For before the empyrean can be reached by the human intelligence, it must traverse the spheres intermediate between earth and heaven. Thus the images of the Gods are worshipped before the Gods themselves are known; nor are these images necessarily of wood or stone. All personalities are eidola (idols) reflecting the true essentials, and having, as it were, a portion of Divinity attached to them and resident in their forms, but none the less are they images, and however powerful and adorable they may appear to the multitude who know not divine religion, they are to the Hermetist but types and persona of essentials which are eternally independent of manifestation and unaffected by it. The signs of the truly Divine are three: transcendency of form, transcendency of time, transcendency of personality. Instead of form is Essence; instead of time, Eternity; instead of persons, Principles. Events become Processes, and phenomena, Noumena. So long as the conception of any divine idea remains associated with, or dependent on, any physical or historical circumstance, so long it is certain that the heavenly plane has not been reached. Symbols, when they are recognised as symbols, are no longer either deceptive or dangerous; they are merely veils of light rendering visible the "Divine Dark," towards which the true Hermetist aspires. Even the most refined, the subtlest and most metaphysical expression of the supreme Truth is still symbol and metaphor, for the Truth itself is unutterable, save by God to God. It is Essence, Silence, Darkness.
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