Asclepios to the King Ammon.
I ADDRESS to thee, O King, a comprehensive discourse, 1 which is, as it were, the sum and epitome of all others. Far from being in accordance with the opinion of the vulgar, it is wholly adverse thereto. Even to thee, it may seem inconsistent with certain of my discourses. My master, Hermes, who frequently conversed with me, either alone, or in the presence of Tatios, was wont to say that those who should read my writings would affirm their doctrine to be quite simple and clear, while indeed, on the contrary, it is truly occult and contains a hidden sense. And it has become yet more obscure since the Greeks undertook to translate it from our language into theirs. This has been a source of difficulty and perversion of sense. The character of the Egyptian language, and the energy of the words it uses, enforce the meaning on the mind. As much then as thou canst, O King, and indeed thou art all-powerful, prevent this discourse from being translated, lest these mysteries should reach the Greeks, and their manner of speech, adorned and elegant in expression, should, perchance, weaken the vigour and diminish the solemn gravity and force of these words. The Greeks, O King, have new forms of language for producing argument, and their philosophy is prodigal of speech. We, on the other hand, employ not words so much as the great language of facts.
I will begin this discourse by invoking God, the Master of the Universe, the Creator and the Father, Who contains all, Who is All in One, and One in All. For the plenitude of all things is Unity, and in Unity; nor is the one term inferior to the other, since the two are one. Bear in mind this thought, O King, during the whole of my exposition. Vain is it to seek to distinguish the All and the One by designating the multitude of things the All, and not their Plenitude. Such a distinction is impossible, for the All exists no longer if separated from Unity; and if Unity exists, it is in the Totality; now it indeed exists and never ceases to be One, otherwise the Plenitude would be dissolved.
In the bosom of the earth there are impetuous springs of water and of fire; such are the three natures of fire, water, and earth, proceeding from a common origin. Whereby it may be thought that there is one general fountain of matter, bringing forth all abundantly and receiving existence from on high. It is thus that heaven and earth are governed by their creator, that is, by the sun, who causes essence to stream downwards, and matter to rise upwards, and who draws to himself the universe, giving all to everything, lavish of the benefits of his radiance. It is he who distributes beneficent energies not only in heaven and throughout the air, but upon earth also, and even in the depths of
the abyss. If there be an intelligible substance, it must be the very substance of the sun, whose light is the vehicle thereof. But what may be its constitution and primal fount, he only knows. That by induction we may understand that which is hidden from our sight, it would be necessary to be near him and analogous to his nature. But that which he permits us to behold is no conjecture; it is the splendid vision which illuminates the universal and supernal world.
In the midst of the universe is the sun established, like the bearer of the crowns; and even as a skilful driver, he directs and maintains the chariot of the world, holding it to its course. He keeps fast the reins of it, even life, soul, spirit, immortality, and birth. He drives it before him, or, rather, with him. And after this manner he forms all things, dispensing to immortals eternal permanence. The light, which from his outer part streams towards heaven, nourishes the immortal spaces of the universe. The rest, encircling and illuminating the entirety of the waters, the earth, and the air, becomes the matrix wherein life germinates, wherein are initiated all births and metamorphoses, transforming creatures, as by a spiral motion, and causing them to pass from one portion of the world to another, from one species to another, and from one appearance to another; maintaining the equilibrium of their mutual metamorphoses, as in the creation of greater entities. For the permanence of bodies consists in transmutation. But immortal forms are indissoluble, and mortal bodies decompose; such is the difference between the immortal and the mortal.
This creation of life by the sun is as continuous as his light; nothing arrests or limits it. Around him, like an army of satellites, are innumerable choirs of Genii. These dwell in the neighbourhood of the Immortals, and thence watch over human things. They fulfil the will of the Gods by means of storms, tempests, transitions of fire, and earthquakes; likewise by famines and wars, for the punishment of impiety. For the greatest crime of men is impiety towards the Gods. The nature of the Gods is to do good, the duty of men is to be pious, the function of the Genii is to chastise. The Gods do not hold men responsible for faults committed through mistake or boldness, by that necessity which belongs to fate, or by ignorance; only iniquity falls under the weight of their justice.
It is the sun who preserves and nourishes all creatures; and even as the Ideal World which environs the sensible world fills this last with the plenitude and universal variety of forms, so also the sun enfolding all in his light accomplishes everywhere the birth and development of creatures, and when they fall wearied in the race, gathers them again to his bosom. Under his orders is the choir of the Genii, or rather the choirs, for there are many and diverse, and their number corresponds to that of the stars. Every star has its genii, good and evil by nature, or rather by their operation, for operation is the essence of the genii. I n some there is both good and evil operation. All . these Genii preside over mundane affairs, they shake and overthrow the constitution of States and of individuals; they imprint their likeness on our souls, they are present in our nerves, our marrow, our veins, our arteries, and our very brain-substance, and in the recesses of our viscera. At the moment when each of us receives life and being, he is taken in charge by the genii who preside over births, and who are classed beneath the astral powers. Perpetually they change, not always identical, but revolving in circles. They permeate by the body two parts of the soul, that it may receive from each the impress of his own energy. But the reasonable part of the soul is not subject to the genii; it is designed for the reception of God, who enlightens it with a sunny ray. Those who are thus illumined are few in number, and from them the genii abstain; for neither genii nor gods have any power in the presence of a single ray of God. But all other men, both soul and body, are directed by genii, to whom they cleave, and whose operations they affect. But reason is not like desire, which deceives and misleads. The genii, then, have the control of mundane things, and our bodies serve them as instruments. Now, it is this control which Hermes calls Destiny. 1
The Intelligible World is attached to God, the Sensible World to the Intelligible World, and through these two worlds, the sun conducts the effluence of God, that is, the creative energy. Around him are the eight spheres which are bound to him--the sphere of the fixed stars, the six spheres of the planets, and that which surrounds the earth. To these spheres the genii are bound, and to the genii, men; and thus are all beings bound to God, who is the universal Father. The sun is the creator; the world is the crucible of creation. The Intelligible Essence rules heaven, heaven directs the gods, under these are classed the genii, who guide mankind. Such is the divine hierarchy, and such is the operation which God accomplishes by gods and genii for Himself. Everything is a part of God, thus God is all. In creating all, He perpetuates Himself without any intermission, for the energy of God has no past, and since God is without limits, His creation is without beginning or end.
101:1 This discourse, which usually concludes, not precedes, the "Fragments," is sometimes but erroneously attributed to Apuleius; see Hargrave Jennings' scholarly and exhaustive "Introductory Essay" to my Annotated Edition of "The Divine Pymander."
Robt. H. FRYAR, Bath.
106:1 Asclepios, throughout this discourse, preaches pure Hermetic doctrine, which discourages all traffic with elementals, astrals, and other dæmonic influences, whether beneficent or the reverse, and instructs man rather to seek the grace of the Holy Spirit, by aspiring evermore inwards and upwards, and abiding in the reasonable and divine part of his nature.
106:2 Compare with this declaration the opening passage of Section III. in the Book of Hermes to Tatios, and my note thereon. The Divine Olympos, or Mount of Energies, emits a continuous river of Generation, or "Becoming." And the equilibrium of Nature is continually maintained by a corresponding process of perpetual return from Matter to p. 107 Essence; from Existence to Being. With the right hand ADONAI projects; with the left He indraws.
The leading idea in the above fragment is the parallelism between Man and the Universe. The whole Solar System of the Macrocosm, with its hierarchy of gods and elemental powers, is resumed in the human system of the Microcosm.
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