The Virgin of the World

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The Virgin of the World

By Hermes Mercurius Trismagistus tr. A. Kingsford, E Maitland

Fragments of the Book of Hermes to his Son Tatios – Part II

Tatios.

THOU hast well explained to me these things, my father, but instruct me yet again concerning this. Thou hast told me that know-ledge and art are activities of the reason; and now thou sayest that brute animals are so called because they have no reason. Whence it must necessarily follow that they have neither knowledge nor art.

Trismegistos.

It necessarily so follows, my son.

Tatios.

How then is it, father, that we behold certain animals making use of scientific and constructive knowledge; as, for instance, the ants who store up provisions for the winter, the birds who devise nests, the cattle who know their stables and return thither?

Trismegistos.

It is neither science nor art that directs them, my son, but nature. Science and art are acquired, but these creatures have acquired nothing. That which is naturally performed is the product of the universal activity; science and art belong only to those who have acquired them. Functions which are the common heritage are natural functions. Thus, all men can make use of their eyes, but not all are musicians, archers, hunters, and so forth. Some only among the many learn a science or an art, and exercise it. If in like manner certain ants only did what other ants do not, then thou mightest say with reason that they possess the science or the art of storing provisions. But all act in the same way under the impulsion of Nature and without deliberate intent; whence it is evident that neither science nor art directs them.

Activities, O Tatios, are incorporeal, and are exercised in the body and by the body. Insomuch as they are incorporeal, thou mayest indeed call them immortal; insomuch as they cannot be exercised but by means of a body, I say that they are always in a body. That of which the end and cause are determined by providence and necessity cannot remain inactive. That which is shall still be, therein is its body and its life. For which reason there will always be bodies; wherefore the creation of bodies is an eternal function. For terrestrial bodies are corruptible; nevertheless, bodies are necessary as abodes and as instruments for the energies. Now, the energies are immortal, and that which is immortal is always active. The creation of bodies is, then, a function, and an eternal function.

The energies or faculties of the soul are not all at once manifest; certain of them are manifest from the time of the birth of man, in the non-rational part of his soul; and as the reasonable part develops itself with age, the loftier faculties also lend their assistance. The faculties are attached to bodies. They descend from divine forms into mortal forms, and by them bodies are

created. Each of the faculties exercises a function either of the body or of the soul, but they subsist in the soul independently of the body. For the energies are eternal, but the soul is not always imprisoned in a mortal body. She can live without it, yet the faculties cannot manifest themselves unless in a body. This, my son, is an arcane discourse. The body cannot remain without the soul, but being can.

Tatios.

What meanest thou, my father?

Trismegistos.

Understand me, O Tatios. When the soul is separated from the body, the body indeed remains, but it is undermined by interior dissolution, and ends by disintegrating. Such an effect cannot be produced without an active cause; therefore, there remains some energy in the body after the withdrawal of the soul. Between an immortal entity and a mortal entity there is this difference: that the first is formed of simple substance, but not so the second. One is active, the other passive. All active being dominates, all passive being obeys; one is free, and governs; the other is in servitude, and subject to impulsion.

Now, the energies are not only in animate bodies, but in inanimate, such as wood, stone, and other like things. By means of the energies these things increase, fructify, ripen, decompose, dissolve, putrefy, disintegrate, and undergo all those changes of which inanimate bodies are susceptible. For energy is that which produces change, or becoming. And becoming is multiple, or rather universal. Never will anything capable of birth be wanting to the universe, because beings are continually brought forth by it and continually destroyed. All energy is then indestructible, no matter of what nature or in what body it is manifest. But among the energies, some are exerted in divine entities, some in mortal entities; some are universal, others special; some act upon species, others on individuals pertaining to these. Divine energies are exerted in eternal entities, and are perfect as these. Partial energies act by means of living beings; special energies in everything which exists. Whence it results, my son, that the whole universe is full of energies. For since energies necessarily manifest in bodies, there are many bodies in the universe. Nevertheless, the energies are more numerous than the bodies, for often there exist one, two, three energies in a body, without counting those which are universally distributed. I call those universal energies which are inseparable from bodies and which manifest themselves by sensations and movements, and without which no body could exist. Far otherwise are those special energies which manifest themselves in human minds by art, science, and labour. The sensations accompany the energies, or rather are the consequence of these last.

Understand, O my son, the difference there is between the energies and the sensations. Energy comes from above; sensation is of the body, and from the body has its being. It is the seat of the energy, which manifests by means of it, and from which it obtains, as it were, a vehicle. For this reason I say that sensations are corporeal and mortal; their existence is bound up with that of the body, they are born therewith, and therewith they die. Immortal energies have not sensation, precisely because of the nature of their essence; for there can be no other sensation than that of some good or some evil which happens to a body or which departs therefrom, and immortal entities are not subject to these accidents.

Tatios.

Sensation, then, is experienced by all bodies?

Trismegistos.

Yes, my son, and in all bodies the energies act.

Tatios.

Even in inanimate bodies, my father?

Trismegistos.

Even in inanimate bodies. Sensations are of different kinds; those of reasonable beings are accompanied by reason; those of beings without reason are purely corporeal; those of inanimate beings are passive, and consist only in growth and decay. Starting from one principle and arriving at one end, passion and sensation are alike the product of the energies. In animate beings, there are two other energies which accompany the passions and the sensations--to wit, joy and sorrow. Without these, the animated being, and, above all, the reasonable being, would feel nothing; they may then be considered as modes of the affections in reasonable beings, or indeed in all living beings. They are activities manifested by the sensations, corporeal movements produced by the irrational parts of the soul. Joy and sorrow are alike evil; for joy--that is, the sensation accompanied by pleasure--draws after it great evils; sorrow, likewise, involves penalties and suffering, yet more severe. Both joy and sorrow, then, are evil.

Tatios.

Is sensation the same thing in the soul and in the body, my father?

Trismegistos.

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

Tatios.

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

Trismegistos.

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.

 

 

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