The Eclectic Pythagorean

“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres. ” -Pythagoras

Posts Tagged ‘Corpus Hermeticum’

The Chaldean Oracles

Posted by The Eclectic Pythagorean on October 17, 2008

The Chaldean Oracles

Edited and translated by Thomas Stanley


Where the paternal monad is.
The monad is enlarged, which generates two.
For the dyad sits by him, and glitters with intellectual sections.
And to govern all things, and to order all things not ordered,
For in the whole of the world shineth the triad, over which the monad rules. (5)
This order is the beginning of all section.
For the mind of the father said, that all things be cut into three.
Whose will assented, and all things were divided.
For the mind of the Aeternal father said into three,
Governing all things by the mind.
And there appeared in it (the Triad) virtue and wisdom. (10)
And Multiscient verity.
This way floweth the shape of the triad, being pre-existant.
Not the first (essence) but where they are measured.
For thou must conceive that all things serve these three principles.
The first course is sacred, butin the middle.
Another the third, aerial; which cherished the earth in fire.
And fountain of fountains, and of all fountains.
The matrix containing all things.
Thence abundantly springs forth the genration of mutivarious matter.
Thence extracted a prester the flower of glowing fire,
Flashing into the cavities of the world: for all things from hence
Begin to extend downwards their admirable beams.

The father hath snatched away himself;
Neither hath he shut up his own fire in his intellectual power.
[all things have issued from that fire]
For the father perfected all things, and delivered them over to the second mind,
Which the whole race of men call the first
Light begotten of the father; for he alone
Having crop’d the flower of the mind from the fathers vigor.
For the paternal self-begotten mind understanding [his] work,
Sowed in all the firey bond of love,
That all things might continue loving forever.
Neither those things which are intellectual in context in the light of the father in all things.
That being the elements of the world they might persist in love.
For it is bound of the paternal depth, and the fountain of the intellectuals.
Neither went he forth, but abode in the paternal depth,
And in the adytum according to divinely nourished silence.
For the fire once above, shutteth not his power
Into matter by actions, but by the mind.
For the paternal mind hath sowed symbols thro’ the world,
Which understandeth intelligibles, and beutifieth ineffables.
Wholly division and indivisible.
By mind he contains the intelligibles, but introduceth sense into the worlds.
By mind he contains the intelligibles, but introduceth soul into the world.

And of the one mind, the intelligible (mind).
For the mind is not without the intelligible;
It exists not without it.
These are Intellectuals, and Intelligibles, which being understood, understand.
For the intelligible is the ailment of the intelligent.
Learn the Intelligible, since it exists beyond the mind.
And of the mind which moves the Empyreal Heaven.
For the Framer of the fiery World is the Mind of the Mind.
You who know certainly the supermundane paternal depth.
The intelligible is predominant over all section.
There is somethingIntelligible, which it behooves thee to understand with the flower of the Mind.
For if thou enclinest thy mind, thou shalt understand this also;
Yet understanding something [of it] thoushalt not understand this wholly,
For it is a power fo circumlucid strength, glittering with intellectual sections (rays).
But it behooves not to consider this intelligible with vehemence of intellection,
But with ample flame of ample mind, which measureth all things,
Except this intelligible: but it behooves to understand this.
For if thou inclinest thy mind, thou shalt understand this also,
Not fixedly, but having a pure turning eye [thou must]
Extend the empty mind of thy soul twoards the intelligible,
That thou mayest learn the intelligible, for it exists beyond the mind.
But every mind undeerstands this god;
For the mind is not without the intelligible,
Neither is the intelligible without the mind.
To the intellectual presters of the intellectual fire,
All things by yielding are subservient to the persuasive counsel of the father.
And to understand, and always to remain in a restless whirling.
But insinuating into worlds the venerable name in a sleepless whirling.
Fountains and principles; to turn, and to always remain in a restless whirling.
By reason of the terrible menace of the father.
Under two minds the life generating fountain souls is contained;
And the maker, who self operating framed the world.
Who sprang out of the first mind.
Cloathing Fire with Fire, binding them together to mingle.
The fountainous craters, preserves the flower of his own fire.
He glittereth with intellectual sections, and filled all things with love.
Like swarms they are carried being broken,
About the bodies of the world.
That things unfashioned may be fashioned.
What the mind speaks, it speaks by understanding.
Power is with them, Mind is from Her.

These being many ascend to the lucid worlds.
Springing into them, and in which there are three Tops.
Beneath them lies the chief of immaterials.
Principles which have understood the intelligible works of the father.
Disclosed them in sensible works as in bodies;
Being (as it were) the ferry-man betwixt the father and matter.
And producing manifest images of unmanifest things.
And inscribing unmanifest things in the manifest frame of the world.
The mind of the father made a jarring noise, understanding by vigorous counsel,
Omniform ideas; and flying out of one fountain
They spring forth; for, from the father was the counsel and end,
By which they are connected to the father, by alternate life from several vehicles.
But they were divided, being by intellectual fire distributed into other intellectuals:
For the king did set before the multiform world an intellectual, incorruptable pattern;
This print through the world he promoting,
Of whose form according to which the world appeared
Beautified with all kinds of ideas, of which there is one fountain,
Out of which come rushing forth others undistributed,
Being broken about the bodies of the world, which through the vast recesses,
Like swarms, are carried round about every way.
Intellectual notions from the paternal fountain cropping the flower of fire.
In the point of sleepless time, of this primigenious idea.
The first self-budding fountain of the father budded.
Intelligible Iynges do (themselves) also understand from the father:
By unspeakable counsels, being moved so as to understand.

For out of him spring all implacable thunders,
And prester receiving cavities of the entirely-lucid strengthof father begotten hecate
And he who begirs the flower of fire, and the strong spirit of the poles fiery above.
He gave to hispresters that they should guard the tops.
Mingling the power of his own strength in the synoches.
O how the world hath intellectual guides inflexible!
Because she is the Operatrix,
Because she is the dispensatrix of life giving fire.
Because also it fills the life producing bosom of Hecate.
And instills in the Synoches the enlivening strength of potent fire.
But they are guardians of the works of the father.
For he disguises himself, professing to be clothed with the print of images.
The Teletarchs are comprehended with the Synoches,
To these intellectual presters of intellectual fire,
All things are subservient.
But as many as serve the material syncohes,
Have put on the completely armed vigour of resounding light.
With Triple strength fortifying the soul and the mind.
To put into the mind the symbol of variety.
And not to walk dispersedly on the Empyrael channels;
But stiffly
These frame indivisables, and sensibles,
And Corporiforms, and things destin’d to matter.

For the soul being a bright fire, by the power of the father remains immortal,
And is mistress of life,
And possesseth many complexions of the cavities of the world:
For it is in immitation of the mind; but that which is born have something of thew body.
The channels being intermixed, she performs the worls of incorruptible fire.
Next the paternal conceptions I (the soul) dwell,
Warm, hjeating all things;
For he did put the mind in the soul, , the soul in the dull body.
Of us the father of gods and men imposed,
Abundantly animating Light, Fire, Aether, Worlds.
For natural works co-exist with the intellectual light of the father,
For the soul which adorned the great heaven, and adorning with the father.
But Her horns are fixed above,
But about the shoulders of the Goddess, immense nature is exhalted.
Again, indefatigueable Nature commands the worlds and works.
The heaven drawing an eternal course may run.
And the swift sun might come about the center as he useth.
Look not into the fatal name of this nature.

The maker who operating by himself framed this world.
And there was another bulk of fire,
By it self operating all things that the body of the world might be perfected,
That the world might be manifest and not seem membranous.
The whole world of Fire, Water and Earth., and all nourishing Aether,
The unexpressible watch words of the world.
One life by another from the distributed channels
Passing form above to the opposite part,
Through the center of the Earth; and another fifth middle:
Fiery channel, where it descends to the material channels life bringing fire,
Stirring himself up with the goal of resounding light.
Another foutnainous, which guides the Empyreal world.
The center from which all (Lines) which way so ever are equal.
For the paternal mind sowed symbols through the world.
For the center of everyone is carried betwixt the fathers.
For it is an immitation of the mind,
But that which is born hath something of the body.

For the father congregated seven firmaments of the world;
Circumscribing Heaven in a round figure,
He fixed a great company of inerratic stars,
And he constituted a septenary of erratic annimals.
Placing Earth in the middle and water in the middle of the Earth.
The Air above these.
He fixed a great company of inerratic stars,
To be carried not by laborious and troublesome tension,
But a settlement which hath not error.
He fixed a great company of inerratic stars,
Forcing Fire to Fire,
To be carried by a settlement which hath not error.
He constituted them six; casting into the midst the fire of the sun,
Suspending their disorder in well-ordered zones.
For the Goddess brings forth the great Sun, and the bright Moon.
O Aether, son, spirit, guides of the moon and of the air;
And of the solar circles, and of the monthly clashings.
And of the aerial recesses.
The melody of the aether, and of the passages of the sun, and moon, and of the air,
And the wide Air, and the Lunar course, and the pole of the sun.
Collecting it, and receiving the melody of the aether,
And of the sun, and of the moon, and of all that are contained in the air.
Fire, the derivation of fire, and the dispenser of fire;
His Hair pointed is seen by his native light;
Hence comes Saturn.
The sun assessor beholding the pure pole;
And the Aetherial course, and the vast motion of the moon,
And the Aerial fluxions,
And the great sun, and the bright moon.

The Mundane god; Aeternal, infinite.
Young, and old, of a spiral form.
And another fountainous, who guides the Empyreal heaven.

It behooves thee to hasten to the light, and to the beams of the father;
From whence was sent to thee a soul clothed with much mind.
These things the father conceived, and so the mortal was animated
For the paternal mind sowed symbols in souls;
Replenishing the soul with profound love
For the father of the gods and men placed the mind in the soul;
And in the body he established you.
For all divine things are corporeal.
But bodies are bound in them for your sakes:
Incorporeals not being able to contain the bodies.
By reasons of the corporeal nature in which you are concentrated.
And they are in god, attracting strong flames.
Descending from the father, from which descending the soul
Corps of empyreal fruits the soul-nourishing flower.
And therefore conceiving the worlds of the father
They avoid the audacious wing of fatal destiny;
And though you see this soul manumitted,
Yet the father sends another to make up their number.
Certainly these are superlatively blessed above all souls;
They are sent forth from heaven to earth,
And those rich souls which have unexpressible fates;
As many of them (O King) as proceed from shining thee,
Or from (Jove,god?) himself,
Under the strong power of his thread.
Let the immortal depth of thy soul be predominant;
But all thy eyes extend upward.
Stoop not down to the dark world,
Beneath which lies a faithless depth,
And Hades dark all over, squallid, delighting in images, unintelligible,
Precipitous, creaggy, a depth;
Always rolling, always espousing an opacous, idle breathless body,
And the light hating world, and the winding currents,
By which many things are swallowed up.
Seek Paradise;
Seek thou the way of the soul,
Whence or by what order having served the body,
To the same place from which thou didst flow.
Thou must rise up again, joining action to sacred speech,
Stoop not down, for a precipice lies below the earth;
Drawing through the ladder which hath seven steps,
Beneath which is the throne of necessity.
Enlarge not thy destiny.
The soul of man will in a manner clasp go to herself;
Having nothing mortal, she is wholly inebriated from god:
For she boasts harmony, in which the mortal body exists.
If thou extend the fiery mind
To the work of piety, thou shalt preserve the fluxible body.
Theres room for the image also in the circumlucid place.
Every way to the unfashioned soul stretch the reigns of fire.
The fire glowing cognition hath the first rank.
For the mortal approaching the fire, shall have the light of god.
For to the slow mortal the gods are swift.
The furies are stranglers of men.
The burgeons, even of ill matter, are profitable good.
Let hope nourish the in the fiery angelic region.
But the paternal mind accepts not her will,
Until she got of oblivion, and pronounce a word,
Inserting the rememberance of the pure paternal symbol.
To these be gave the docible character of life to be comprehended.
Those who were asleep he made fruitful by his own strength.
Defile not thy spirit nor deepen the superficies.
Leave not the dross of matter on a precipice.
Bring her not forth, least going forth she have something.
The souls of those who quit the body violently, are most pure.
The ungirders of the soul, which give her breathing, are easy to be loosed.
In the side sinister of Hecate, there is a fountain of vertue;
Which remains entire within, not emitting her virginity.
O man the machine of boldest nature!
Subject not to thy mind the vast measures of the earth.
Nor measure the measures of the sun, gathering together cannons;
He is moved by the aeternal will of the father, not for thy sake.
Let alone the swift course of the moon: she runs ever by the swift impulse of necessity.
The progression of the stars was not brought forth for thy sake.
The aetherial wide flight of birds is not veracious,
And the dissection of entrails and victims all these are toys,
The supports of gainful cheats; fly thou these
If thou intend to open the sacred paradise of piety
Where virtue, wisdom, and equity, are assembled.
For thy vessel the beastd of the earth shall inhabit.
These the earth bewails, even to her children.

Nature persuades there are pure daemons;
The burgeons, even all ill matter, are profitable and good,
But these things I revolve in the reclusive temples of my mind,
Extending the like fire sparklingly into the spaceous air or fire unfigur’d,
A voice issuing forth.
Or fire abundant whizzing and winding about the earth,
But also to see a horse more glittering than light.
Or a boy on thy shoulders riding a horse,
Fiery or adorned with gold, or divested,
Or shooting and standing on [thy] shoulders.
If thou speak often to me, thou shalt see absolutely that which is spoken:
For then neither appears the caelestial concave bulk,
Nor do the stars shine: the light of the moon is covered,
The earth stands not still, but all things apear thunder.
Invoke not the self-conspicuous image of nature;
For thou must not behold these before thy body be initiated.
When soothing souls they always reduce them from these myteries.
Certainly out of the cavities of the earth spring terrestial dogs.
Which show not tru figure to mortal man.
Labour about the hekatic strophalus.
Never change the barbarous names;
For there are names in every nation given from god,
Which have unspeakable power in rites.
When thou seest a sacred fire without form,
Shining , flashingly through the depths of the world,
Hear the voice of fire.



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To Asclepius

Posted by The Eclectic Pythagorean on October 9, 2008

II. To Asclepius (from Corpus Hermeticum)

<This dialogue sets forth the difference between the physical and metaphysical worlds in the context of Greek natural philosophy. Some of the language is fairly technical: the “errant spheres” of sections 6 and 7 are the celestial spheres carrying the planets, while the “inerrant sphere” is that of the fixed stars. It’s useful to keep in mind, also, that “air” and “spirit” are interchangeable concepts in Greek thought, and that the concept of the Good has a range of implications which don’t come across in the English word: one is that the good of any being, in Greek thought, was also that being’s necessary goal.

<The criticism of childlessness in section 17 should probably be read as a response to the Christian ideal of celibacy, which horrified many people in the ancient world. – JMG>

1. Hermes: All that is moved, Asclepius, is it not moved in something and by something?

Asclepius: Assuredly.

H: And must not that in which it’s moved be greater than the moved?

A: It must.

H: Mover, again, has greater power than moved?

A: It has, of course.

H: The nature, furthermore, of that in which it’s moved must be quite other from the nature of the moved?

A: It must completely.

2. H: Is not, again, this cosmos vast, [so vast] that than it there exists no body greater?

A: Assuredly.

H: And massive, too, for it is crammed with multitudes of other mighty frames, nay, rather all the other bodies that there are?

A: It is.

H: And yet the cosmos is a body?

A: It is a body.

H: And one that’s moved?

3. A: Assuredly.

H: Of what size, then, must be the space in which it’s moved, and of what kind [must be] the nature [of that space]? Must it not be far vaster [than the cosmos], in order that it may be able to find room for its continued course, so that the moved may not be cramped for want of room and lose its motion?

A: Something, Thrice-greatest one, it needs must be, immensely vast.

4. H: And of what nature? Must it not be, Asclepius, of just the contrary? And is not contrary to body bodiless?

A: Agreed.

H: Space, then, is bodiless. But bodiless must either be some godlike thing or God [Himself]. And by “some godlike thing” I mean no more the generable [i.e., that which is generated] but the ingenerable.

5. If, then, space be some godlike thing, it is substantial; but if ’tis God [Himself], it transcends substance. But it is to be thought of otherwise [than God], and in this way.

God is first “thinkable” <or “intelligible”> for us, not for Himself, for that the thing that’s thought doth fall beneath the thinker’s sense. God then cannot be “thinkable” unto Himself, in that He’s thought of by Himself as being nothing else but what He thinks. But he is “something else” for us, and so He’s thought of by us.

6. If space is, therefore, to be thought, [it should] not, [then, be thought as] God, but space. If God is also to be thought, [He should] not [be conceived] as space, but as energy that can contain [all space].

Further, all that is moved is moved not in the moved but in the stable. And that which moves [another] is of course stationary, for ’tis impossible that it should move with it.

A: How is it, then, that things down here, Thrice-greatest one, are moved with those that are [already] moved? For thou hast said the errant spheres were moved by the inerrant one.

H: This is not, O Asclepius, a moving with, but one against; they are not moved with one another, but one against the other. It is this contrariety which turneth the resistance of their motion into rest. For that resistance is the rest of motion.

7. Hence, too, the errant spheres, being moved contrarily to the inerrant one, are moved by one another by mutual contrariety, [and also] by the spable one through contrariety itself. And this can otherwise not be.

The Bears up there <i.e., Ursa Major and Minor>, which neither set nor rise, think’st thou they rest or move?

A: They move, Thrice-greatest one.

H: And what their motion, my Asclepius?

A: Motion that turns for ever round the same.

H: But revolution – motion around same – is fixed by rest. For “round-the-same” doth stop “beyond-same”. “Beyond-same” then, being stopped, if it be steadied in “round-same” – the contrary stands firm, being rendered ever stable by its contrariety.

8. Of this I’ll give thee here on earth an instance, which the eye can see. Regard the animals down here – a man, for instance, swimming! The water moves, yet the resistance of his hands and feet give him stability, so that he is not borne along with it, nor sunk thereby.

A: Thou hast, Thrice-greatest one, adduced a most clear instance.

H: All motion, then, is caused in station and by station.

The motion, therefore, of the cosmos (and of every other hylic <i.e., material> animal) will not be caused by things exterior to the cosmos, but by things interior [outward] to the exterior – such [things] as soul, or spirit, or some such other thing incorporeal.

‘Tis not the body that doth move the living thing in it; nay, not even the whole [body of the universe a lesser] body e’en though there be no life in it.

9. A: What meanest thou by this, Thrice-greatest one? Is it not bodies, then, that move the stock and stone and all the other things inanimate?

H: By no means, O Asclepius. The something-in-the-body, the that-which-moves the thing inanimate, this surely’s not a body, for that it moves the two of them – both body of the lifter and the lifted? So that a thing that’s lifeless will not move a lifeless thing. That which doth move [another thing] is animate, in that it is the mover.

Thou seest, then, how heavy laden is the soul, for it alone doth lift two bodies. That things, moreover, moved are moved in something as well as moved by something is clear.

10. A: Yea, O Thrice-greatest one, things moved must needs be moved in something void.

H: Thou sayest well, O [my] Asclepius! For naught of things that are is void. Alone the “is-not” is void [and] stranger to subsistence. For that which is subsistent can never change to void.

A: Are there, then, O Thrice-greatest one, no such things as an empty cask, for instance, and an empty jar, a cup and vat, and other things like unto them?

H: Alack, Asclepius, for thy far-wandering from the truth! Think’st thou that things most full and most replete are void?

11. A: How meanest thou, Thrice-greatest one?

H: Is not air body?

A: It is.

H: And doth this body not pervade all things, and so, pervading, fill them? And “body”; doth body not consist from blending of the “four” <elements>? Full, then, of air are all thou callest void; and if of air, then of the “four”.

Further, of this the converse follows, that all thou callest full are void – of air; for that they have their space filled out with other bodies, and, therefore, are not able to receive the air therein. These, then, which thou dost say are void, they should be hollow named, not void; for they not only are, but they are full of air and spirit.

12. A: Thy argument (logos), Thrice-greatest one, is not to be gainsaid; air is a body. Further, it is this body which doth pervade all things, and so, pervading, fill them. What are we, then, to call that space in which the all doth move?

H: The bodiless, Asclepius.

A: What, then, is Bodiless?

H: ‘Tis Mind and Reason (logos), whole out of whole, all self-embracing, free from all body, from all error free, unsensible to body and untouchable, self stayed in self, containing all, preserving those that are, whose rays, to use a likeness, are Good, Truth, Light beyond light, the Archetype of soul.

A: What, then, is God?

13. H: Not any one of these is He; for He it is that causeth them to be, both all and each and every thing of all that are. Nor hath He left a thing beside that is-not; but they are all from things-that-are and not from things-that-are-not. For that the things-that-are-not have naturally no power of being anything, but naturally have the power of the inability-to-be. And, conversely, the things-that-are have not the nature of some time not-being.

14. A: What say’st thou ever, then, God is?

H: God, therefore, is not Mind, but Cause that the Mind is; God is not Spirit, but Cause that Spirit is; God is not Light, but Cause that the Light is. Hence one should honor God with these two names [the Good and Father] – names which pertain to Him alone and no one else.

For no one of the other so-called gods, no one of men, or daimones, can be in any measure Good, but God alone; and He is Good alone and nothing else. The rest of things are separable all from the Good’s nature; for [all the rest] are soul and body, which have no place that can contain the Good.

15. For that as mighty is the Greatness of the Good as is the Being of all things that are – both bodies and things bodiless, things sensible and intelligible things. Call thou not, therefore, aught else Good, for thou would’st imious be; nor anything at all at any time call God but Good alone, for so thou would’st again be impious.

16. Though, then, the Good is spoken of by all, it is not understood by all, what thing it is. Not only, then, is God not understood by all, but both unto the gods and some of the men they out of ignorance do give the name of Good, though they can never either be or become Good. For they are very different from God, while Good can never be distinguished from Him, for that God is the same as Good.

The rest of the immortal ones are nonetheless honored with the name of God, and spoken of as gods; but God is Good not out of courtesy but out of nature. For that God’s nature and the Good is one; one os the kind of both, from which all other kinds [proceed].

The Good is he who gives all things and naught receives. God, then, doth give all things and receive naught. God, then, is Good, and Good is God.

17. The other name of God is Father, again because He is the that-which-maketh-all. The part of father is to make.

Wherefore child-making is a very great and a most pious thing in life for them who think aright, and to leave life on earth without a child a very great misfortune and impiety; and he who hath no child is punished by the daimones after death.

And this is the punishment: that that man’s soul who hath no child, shall be condemned unto a body with neither man’s nor woman’s nature, a thing accursed beneath the sun.

Wherefore, Asclepius, let not your sympathies be with the man who hath no child, but rather pity his mishap, knowing what punishment abides for him.

Let all that has been said then, be to thee, Asclepius, an introduction to the gnosis of the nature of all things.

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