Thrice-Greatest Hermes, Vol. 2, by G.R.S. Mead, , at sacred-texts.com
This beautiful little treatise, in which the great principles of the Gnosis are set forth so clearly and lucidly by the philosopher-mystic who penned it so many centuries ago, bears a double, or rather a triple, title: “Of Hermes to Tat: The Cup or Monad [or Oneness].” 1 The double title, however, is but a choice of names, for The Cup is The Oneness,—The One Element, 2 the “Body” of God, which is the Cause of all bodies and yet itself is bodiless; in other words, the Monad is the Intelligible Cosmos itself, Gods Image, elsewhere called His Alone-begotten Son.
That this idea of a Cup or Mixing-bowl (Cratēr), in the symbolic sense of an all-containing receptacle, in which all the elements were blended together, and in the metaphysical sense of a transcendent Unity, the source of all things measurable and numberable, was one of the main doctrines of the Trismegistic tradition, is plain from the Pœmandrist Zosimus, who refers especially to this Cup as the symbol of Spiritual Baptism—that is, the plunging of the whole nature into the Great Ocean of Spirit or Mind, so that the man becomes irradiate with Life and illumined with Light.
For a consideration of this Crater or Cup symbolism I must refer the reader to the chapter so entitled in the “Prolegomena”; it there being shown that in all probability it was transmitted along the Orphic line
of tradition, though doubtless the Egyptian had some similar ideas.
Our treatise should be read in the closest connection with C. H., xi. (xii.), “The Mind to Hermes,” which is its “esoteric” counterpart. What is here set forth for Tat by Hermes is there imparted to Hermes by the Mind; what is here set forth for the probationer or “hearer” is there set forth for the advanced disciple or “seer”; or, to use Mystery terms, what is here told to the Mystes is there revealed to the Epopt. Thus, then, the Tat-instruction begins.
1. All things are made by Reason, the Formative Energy of the Mind. The Ideal Cosmos, or World-Order, is the Divine Body.
2. Earth is the sensible Cosmos; on Earth man, the image of the Image, or Reason, of God rules. The purpose of man is thus to become the contemplator (θεατής) of the works of God; it is by the “wonder” aroused in him by the sight of these marvels that he will rise eventually into a knowledge of God Himself. This “wonder” is, then, the beginning of the True Philosophy or God-knowledge (ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ κατανόησις).
3. All men have in them “reason” (the ray of the Reason or Logos), but as yet few have “Mind.” This “mind” is the true Son of Mind, it is the real man, the perfect man, self-conscious of his Self. This true Self-consciousness is the prize set up for souls to win: the crown of humanity, the Christ-state (or, at any rate, the super-man or true man state).
The Christ-Baptism is the plunging of the whole nature into the Mind-filled Cup,—the Plērōma of the Divine Being whose Body and Mind are one,—for is
not the Cup the Body of God, “consecrated unto Himself alone” (§ 1), the Universal Body of all things?
It would be fascinating to speculate on what connection this Cup of Initiation may have had with the Mystic Eucharist, and the Original of the later Grail-tradition, which a great master of music and song has in our days made to live again in undying melody, and so restored it to its more universal significance. How Wagner sensed the marvel of the wondrous Vision with a poets intuition may be seen from his own words:
“To the enraptured gaze of one longing for celestial love, the clear blue atmosphere of heaven seems at first to condense itself into a wonderful, scarcely perceptible, but dazzlingly beautiful Vision. Then with gradually increasing precision the wonder-working angelic host is delineated in infinitely delicate outlines, as, conveying the holy vessel in its midst, it insensibly descends from the blazing heights of heaven. As the vision grows more and more distinct, . . . the heart throbs with the pain of ecstasy; . . . and when at last the Grail shows itself in the marvel of undraped reality, . . . the beholders brain reels—he falls down in a state of adoring annihilation. . . . With chaste rejoicing the angelic host then returns to the heavenly height, fading away into the nothingness whence it first emanated.”
But for the Seers of the Gnosis there was a more intimate realization, for they were bidden to cast aside all hesitation and fearlessly to plunge themselves into the very Cup Itself, the Ocean of Divine Love and Wisdom.
This was the Proclamation or Preaching (κήρυγμα),
or Good Tidings, of the Herald of God to men, to those who had the Living Faith they could “ascend to Him who had sent down the Cup,” Gods Greatest Gift.
By such a Baptism as this, not by a symbolic sprinkling with water, is it that man is to be redeemed. This is the consummation of mans earthly pilgrimage, the realization of the “Gnosis of the Mind, Vision of things Divine; God-knowledge is it; for the Cup is Gods.”
6. In § 6 we have given us a discipline of the mystic way, the “hating of the body,” which is by no means to be taken literally.
A misunderstanding of this discipline led many of the mystics of the time (and, for a matter of that, has led most of the mystics of all time) to the false belief that the body (or matter generally) was the source of evil. Hence we have all the mortifications and chastisements of the flesh which the monkish spirit introduced into Christendom, and which persist in some quarters even to our own day. Against this the Common Sense of Christianity as a general religion, basing itself on the general utterances of the Christ, has ever protested.
Our mystic philosopher, in urging his disciples to hate the body, apparently does so because they are in the first stages of awakening, and so far have not got the “Mind” active in them.
In taking the first steps there must be developed a consciousness of the strong antithesis of good and evil, of love and hate, in order that the will of the disciple may be strengthened towards the good and weakened towards the bad.
When, however, his will is balanced between the two, when he as easily wills good as evil, then, and
not till then, is he prepared to learn the further great lesson: that real wisdom consists in balance, in the Middle Way; that nothing is evil in itself—the Body is as honourable in its own sphere, as absolutely necessary and indispensable, as is the Mind in its.
He learns the great secret that to have ones thoughts always in heaven is as erroneous as to have them always on earth; that there is a higher mode of existence, when the things of heaven and earth are within each other, and not apart.
As the Introduction to The Book of the Great Logos according to the Mystery has it:
“Jesus saith: Blessed is the man who knoweth this Word (Logos), and hath brought down the Heaven and borne up the Earth and raised it Heavenwards.” 1
Heaven and Earth must kiss each other for this consummation, this truly Sacred Marriage.
And yet in the third Synoptic (xvi. 25, 26) we read:
“Jesus saith: If any man come unto Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own soul also, he cannot be My disciple.”
Here we have precisely the same word “hate” (μισεῖ) as in our text. That, however, this “dark saying” was interpreted in a mystical sense by Gnostic tradition, as by no means referring to physical parents but to the past causes of our imperfections, 2 I have already pointed out on several occasions 3; we may therefore
conclude that in a gnostic teaching, such as is our treatise, the terms “hate” and “body” are not to be literally interpreted.
8. And that this is so may be seen from the declaration in § 8: “For tis not God, tis we who are the cause of evil things, preferring them to good”;—where the cause of evil is not assigned to the body but to mans own choice. And finally, to clinch our contention, we would refer the reader to the Sermon to Asclepius, C. H., vi. (vii.) 6:
“Such are the things that men call good and beautiful, Asclepius—things which we cannot flee or hate.”
9. In § 9 we have to notice the phrase: “Therefore to It Gnosis is no beginning; rather is it that Gnosis doth afford to us the first beginning of Its being known”; and compare it with the logos quoted by the Jewish commentator in the Naassene Document (§ 25): “The Beginning of Perfection is Gnosis of Man, but Gnosis of God is Perfect Perfection.”
The claim for the Gnosis is therefore a modest one. The Gnosis is not an end in itself; it is but the beginning of the True Knowledge of God. They who receive the Baptism of the Mind are made “perfect men,” not Perfect; not until they have received this touch of the Christ-consciousness have they reached true manhood.
Those who have received this Baptism know why they have come into being,—the purpose of life. They become consciously immortal; they know they are deathless, they do not only believe it; their immortality is no longer a belief, it is a fact of knowledge.
They have won their freedom from Death and Fate, and know the real constitution of the cosmos up to the Threshold of the Good, the Plain of Truth—that is to
say, presumably in Buddhist terms, as far as the Nirvāṇic state of consciousness. Not yet, however, have they entered Nirvāṇa—that is to say, become one with the Logos. They have seen the Sight or Vision of Nirvāṇa, but not entered into the Promised Land, that “Blessed Space,” which, as Basilides tells us, “can neither be conceived of nor characterized by any word.” 1
The Vision is an earnest of what they may be. They have become Gods, it is true, already, or, in other words, enjoy the same freedom and consciousness as the Gods or Angels, but there is a still more transcendent state, when they will be at-oned with Deity Himself.
Hard as it is to leave the “things we have grown used to,” the things habitual, it must be done if we are to enter into the Way of the Gnosis. But no new Path is this, no going forth into new lands (though it may have all the appearance of being so). The entrance on the Path of the Gnosis is a Going-Home, it is a Return—a Turning-Back (a True Repentance). “We must turn ourselves back unto the Old Old Way” (τὰ παλαιὰ καὶ ἀρχαῖα).
And for the followers of the Doctrine of Thrice-greatest Hermes, this Old Old Path could have meant nothing but the Archaic Wisdom of Ancient Egypt. The Wisdom of Egypt was thus the Gnosis.
92:1 See R. 193. Unfortunately, though he twice quotes from our treatise, Stobæus adds nothing to our knowledge of the title, since he prefixes his extracts with the simple heading, “Of Hermes.”
92:2 Which is to be equated, I believe, “meta-physically” with the Quintessence or Æther.
96:1 Codex Brucianus; see F. F. F., p. 520.
96:2 Cf. the Pistis Sophia, 341-343, where the text is given as: “He who shall not leave father and mother to follow after Me is not worthy of Me,” and explained by the Saviour to mean: “Ye shall leave your Parents the Rulers, that ye may be Children of the First Everlasting Mystery.”
96:3 See, for instance, Extracts from the “Vâhan” (London, 1904), pp. 374-376.
98:1 See F. F. F., p. 261.