Fragments of the Writings of Hermes to Ammon

Hermes Trismegistos

PART I.

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.

PART II.

All things are produced by Nature and Destiny, nor is any place void of Providence. Providence is the Free Will of the Supreme God; whence two spontaneous forces, Necessity and Destiny. Destiny is subject to Providence and to Necessity; and to Destiny are subject the stars. Therefore, no man can escape from Destiny, nor arm himself against the action of the stars. For they are the instruments of Destiny; by their means the will of Destiny is accomplished throughout all Nature and in human existence.

PART III.

The soul is, then, an incorporeal essence, and even when she is in a body, she does not wholly lose her manner of being. Her essence is that of perpetual movement, the spontaneous movement of thought; yet is she not moved in any thing else, nor towards any thing else, nor for any thing else. For she is a primordial force, and that which is primal needs not that which is secondary. The expression “in any thing” is applicable to place, to time, to nature; “towards any thing” is applicable to a harmony, to a form, to a figure; “for any thing” is applicable to the body, because time, place, nature, and form are related to the body. All these terms are conjoined by reciprocal bonds. The body requires place, for it is not possible to conceive of a body unless also of a place occupied by it; a body changes its nature, such change is not possible unless in time, and by means of movement in nature; nor can the component parts of a body be united unless by harmony of form. Space exists on account of corporeity, it contains the changes thereof and suffers it not to be annihilated in these changes.

The body passes from one condition to another, but in quitting its first condition it ceases not to be body, it takes only another condition. It was body, it remains body, its state alone varies; wherefore, that which changes in corporeity is quality and mode of being. Place, time, and natural movement, themselves bodiless, have each their special property. The property of space is to contain; the property of time is interval and number; the property of nature is movement; the property of harmony is affinity; the property of body is change; the property of soul is thought.

PART IV.

The soul is then an incorporeal essence; if she had a body she would be unable to preserve herself, for every body has need of breath and of life which consists in order. Wherever there is birth there is fluxion. To “become” presupposes magnitude, that is augmentation; augmentation involves diminution, which, in turn, brings about destruction. That which receives the form of life participates in being by means of the soul. In order to produce existence, it is necessary to exist; existence I define to be a reasonable becoming and participation in intelligent life. Life constitutes the creature, intelligence renders it reasonable, the body makes it mortal. The soul is then incorporeal, and possesses an immutable force.

Can an intelligent creature exist without a living essence? Can he be rational if an intelligent essence does not maintain in him rational life? If intelligence does not manifest itself in all creatures, it is on account of the constitution of the body in regard to harmony. If heat dominates in the constitution thereof, the creature is volatile and ardent; if cold dominates, it is heavy and slow. Nature distributes the elements of the body according to a law of harmony. This harmonic combination has three forms: the hot, the cold, and the temperate. Conjunction is established according to stellar influence. The soul appropriates the body destined to her, and causes it to live by the operation of nature. Nature assimilates the harmony of bodies to the disposition of the stars, and the combination of their elements to the harmony of the stars; so that there may be reciprocal sympathy. For the purpose of stellar harmony is to engender sympathies in agreement with Destiny.

PART V.

The soul is then, O Ammon, an essence having its end in itself, receiving from the beginning the life prepared for her, and attracting to herself, as a material, a certain reason endowed with passion and desire. Passion is a matter; if it enters into accord with the intelligent part of the soul, it becomes courage, and does not yield to fear. Desire also is a matter; in association with the rational part of the soul, it becomes aspiration and yields not to voluptuousness. For reason enlightens the blindness of desire.

When the faculties of the soul are thus co-ordinated under the supremacy of reason, they produce justice. The government of the faculties of the soul belongs to the Intellectual Principle which subsists in itself in its provident reason, having for authority its own reason. It governs all like a magistrate; its provident reason serves it as counsellor. The reason of this Principle is the cognizance of the reasons which furnish the image of rationality to the irrational; an image relatively obscure when compared with reason, but rational when compared to the irrational, as an echo compared to a voice, or the light of the moon compared to that of the sun. Passion and desire are ordained according to a certain reason; they mutually attract each other, and establish between them a circulatory current of thought. Every soul is immortal, and always in movement. For we have seen that movements proceed either from energies or from bodies. We have seen, also, that the soul, being incorporeal, proceeds not from any matter, but from an essence incorporeal itself. Everything that is born is necessarily produced by some other thing. Two movements necessarily accompany everything the generation of which involves decay; that of the soul which moves it, and that of the body which augments, diminishes, and decomposes it, in decomposing itself. It is thus that I define the movement of perishable bodies. But the soul is perpetually in motion, without cessation she moves and produces movement.

Thus every soul is immortal and always in motion, moved by her own activity. There are three species in souls: divine, human, and irrational. The divine soul abides in a divine form, it is therein that she has her energy; therein she moves and acts. When this soul separates herself from mortal creatures, she forsakes her irrational parts and enters into the divine form; and, as she is always in motion, she is borne along in the universal movement.

The human soul has also something divine, but she is bound to irrational elements desire and passion; these elements are undying, because they are energies; but they are energies of mortal bodies, therefore they are removed from the divine part of the soul, which inhabits the divine form. When this divine part enters into a mortal body and meets therein these irrational elements, she becomes, by means of their presence, a human soul. The soul of animals is composed of passion and desire, therefore the animals are called brutes, because their soul is deprived of reason. The fourth species in soul, that possessed by inanimate creatures, is placed outside the bodies actuated. This soul moves in the divine form, and impels it passively.

PART VI.

The soul is, then, an eternal and intelligent essence; having for thought her own reason. She enters into association with the concept of harmony. Separated from the physical body, she endures in herself, she is independent in the Ideal world. She controls her reason, and confers on the entity emerging into life a movement analogous to her own thought, that is being; for the property of the soul is to assimilate other things to her own character. There are two kinds of vital movement: the one conform-able to the essence of the soul, the other to the nature of the body. The first is general, the second particular; the first is independent, the second is subject to necessity.

For everything moved is subject to the necessary law of the mover. But the motor movement is united by affinity to the intelligent principle. It behoves the soul to be incorporeal, and to be essentially different from the physical body, for if she had a body she would have neither reason nor thought. All bodies are unintelligent, but in receiving the spirit they become animated and breathe. The breath belongs to the body, but reason contemplates the beauty of the essential. The sensible spirit discerns appearances. It is distributed into organic sensations; mental perception is a part of it, as also is the acoustic, olfactive, gustative, and tactile sense. This spirit, attracted by thought, discerns sensations, otherwise it creates only phantoms, for it belongs to the body, and receives all things. The reason of the essential is the judgment. To the reason belongs the cognizance of lofty things; but to the sensible spirit, opinion. This last receives its energy from the external world; but the former from within itself.