This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy. These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff. It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text. The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon. While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.
Today, let’s discuss the second definition, part I, number 2 of 5:
Consequently (there are) three worlds on the whole: two units (make up) the sensible and one (is) the intelligible; one (is) after the species, and the third one (is) after (its) fullness. All of the multiple (belongs to) the three worlds: two of them (are) visibile: (namely) the sensible and man, (that) destructible world; and the intelligible is this God; he is not visible, but evident within the visible (things).
Starting off from the last definition, we know that there are three worlds:
- God: intelligible, immovable, partially sensible
- Heaven: sensible, moveable
- Man: sensible, destructible, reasonable
Further, we also know that Man and God are one, with Man taking the form and essence of God but being still destructible in part. Of the “three worlds on the whole”, the “two units” that make up the sensible part of the world is that of heaven and that of Man, while God is the world that is intelligible, thus strengthening our conjecture from before that while all sensible things may be in God, God itself is not necessarily sensible but is still intelligible.
The part of this definition distinguishing species and fullness refers to the relationship between Man and God. Both are one, as said before, but there’s a difference this time between species and fullness. Species is one type, essence, or idea of thing; this may be called the Greek eidea, while the Fullness may be appropriately called the pleroma, which indicates all possible things, the complete entireity of the cosmos, universe, world, and every thing that can, will, has, and no longer exists. The world of God, then, can be said to encompass literally all things, and that all things both possible and actual are in God.
Hermes basically disproves the negative of this, saying that there is nothing that is actually nothing, and that all things (even space itself) are filled with things within God, even that which is not sensible but only intelligible (i.e. that which is part of God and no other world). Compare the Asclepius (book XXXIII):
Now on the subject of a “Void,”—which seems to almost all a thing of vast importance,—I hold the following view. Naught is, naught could have been, naught ever will be void. For all the members of the Cosmos are completely full; so that Cosmos itself is full and [quite] complete with bodies, diverse in quality and form, possessing each its proper kind and size. And of these bodies—one’s greater than another, or another’s less than is another, by difference of strength and size. Of course, the stronger of them are more easily perceived, just as the larger [are]. The lesser ones, however, or the more minute, can scarcely be perceived, or not at all—those which we know are things [at all] by sense of touch alone. Whence many come to think they are not bodies, and that there are void spaces,—which is impossible. So also [for the Space] which is called Extra-cosmic,—if there be any (which I do not believe),—[then] is it filled by Him with things Intelligible, that is things of like nature with His own Divinity; just as this Cosmos which is called the Sensible, is fully filled with bodies and with animals, consonant with its proper nature and its quality;—[bodies] the proper shape of which we do not all behold, but [see] some large beyond their proper measure, some very small; either because of the great space which lies between [them and ourselves], or else because our sight is dull; so that they seem to us to be minute, or by the multitude are thought not to exist at all, because of their too great tenuity. I mean the daimones, who, I believe, have their abode with us, and heroes, who abide between the purest part of air above us and the earth,—where it is ever cloudless, and no [movement from the] motion of a single star [disturbs the peace].
Because of this, Asclepius, thou shalt call nothing void; unless thou wilt declare of what that’s void, which thou dost say is void;—for instance, void of fire, of water, or things like to these. For if it should fall out, that it should seem that anything is able to be void of things like these,—though that which seemeth void be little or be big, it still cannot be void of spirit and of air.
In another sense, however, it may be said that God is fullness itself; instead of merely saying that all things exist within God, it can also be said that all things are God, and since God is all things, God is All. However, since God is still one divinely simple entity, God is also One, and thus All is One. Compare this from the Corpus Hermeticum (book XV, part 3):
Thus, then, will I begin the sermon by invocation unto God, the universals’ Lord and Maker, [their] Sire, and [their] Encompasser; who though being All is One, and though being One is All; for that the Fullness of all things is One, and [is] in One, this latter One not coming as a second [One], but both being One. And this is the idea that I would have thee keep, through the whole study of our sermon, Sire! For should one try to separate what seems to be both All and One and Same from One,—he will be found to take his epithet of “All” from [the idea of] multitude, and not from [that of) fullness—which is impossible; for if he part All from the One, he will destroy the All. For all things must be One—if they indeed are One. Yea, they are One; and they shall never cease being One—in order that the Fullness may not be destroyed.
And, as Hermes says, all things will always be One, just as God is One, and so that Fullness “may not be destroyed”; we know that God is not destructible because of definition I.1, but that individual parts within God may be (e.g. Man).
On the next point in the definition, that “all of the multiple belongs to the three worlds”, this is just another way of saying that all things that exist or can exist do so somewhere, somehow: either it is in the world of Man, the world of heaven, or the world of God. However, two of the worlds are “visible”, which are the “sensible” (meaning heaven, or the sensible world external of Man) and Man itself, “that destructible world”. This is where we finally get to compare the destructibility of Man with heaven, which is not said to be destructible; thus, we might infer that heaven is indestructible and that the only thing that is destructible is Man, though this might be reaching a bit too far for the moment.
However, both heaven and Man are indeed sensible, which is pitted against the intelligibility of God, which is clarified to be “not visible” (and thus not sensible, at least physically or in the same manner that corresponds to things “visible” existing) but “evident within the visible things”. Again, we are told that God is in all things, and from before, we know that all things are in God. Plus, we know that heaven is moveable and that God is immoveable, and that God exerts power over heaven; thus, we know that God has the power to affect and change heaven, which can be extended to the act of creation. Creation makes something within God manifest, either outside the sensible worlds or within them. Plus, it can be said that all things that are makeable are made within God and yet separate from him; things that are made are no longer intelligible, but they become sensible. Compare the Corpus Hermeticum (book V, parts 1 and 2):
I will recount for thee this sermon (logos) too, O Tat, that thou may’st cease to be without the mysteries of the God beyond all name. And mark thou well how That which to the many seems unmanifest, will grow most manifest for thee. Now were It manifest, It would not be. For all that is made manifest is subject to becoming, for it hath been made manifest. But the Unmanifest for ever is, for It doth not desire to be made manifest. It ever is, and maketh manifest all other things. Being Himself unmanifest, as ever being and ever making-manifest, Himself is not made manifest. God is not made Himself; by thinking-manifest, He thinketh all things manifest. Now “thinking-manifest” deals with things made alone, for thinking-manifest is nothing else than making.
He, then, alone who is not made, ’tis clear, is both beyond all power of thinking-manifest, and is unmanifest. And as He thinketh all things manifest, He manifests through all things and in all, and most of all in whatsoever things He wills to manifest. Do thou, then, Tat, my son, pray first unto our Lord and Father, the One-and-Only One, from whom the One doth come, to show His mercy unto thee, in order that thou mayest have the power to catch a thought of this so mighty God, one single beam of Him to shine into thy thinking. For thought alone “sees” the Unmanifest, in that it is itself unmanifest. If, then, thou hast the power, He will, Tat, manifest to thy mind’s eyes. The Lord begrudgeth not Himself to anything, but manifests Himself through the whole world. Thou hast the power of taking thought, of seeing it and grasping it in thy own “hands,” and gazing face to face upon God’s Image. But if what is within thee even is unmanifest to thee, how, then, shall He Himself who is within thy self be manifest for thee by means of [outer] eyes?
And again, in book XIV, parts 2 and 3:
If all things manifest have been and are being made, and made things are not made by their own selves but by another; [if] made things are the many,—nay more, are all things manifest and all things different and not alike; and things that are being made are being made by other [than themselves];—there is some one who makes these things; and He cannot be made, but is more ancient than the things that can. For things that can be made, I say, are made by other [than themselves]; but of the things that owe their being to their being made, it is impossible that anything should be more ancient than them all, save only That which is not able to be made.
So He is both Supreme, and One, and Only, the truly wise in all, as having naught more ancient [than Himself]. For He doth rule o’er both the number, size and difference of things that are being made, and o’er the continuity of their making [too]. Again, things makeable are seeable; but He cannot be seen. For for this cause He maketh,—that He may not be able to be seen. He, therefore, ever maketh; and therefore can He ne’er be seen. To comprehend Him thus is meet; and comprehending, [it is meet] to marvel; and marvelling, to count oneself as blessed, as having learnt to know one’s Sire.
Thus, as God makes all things, all things still remain a part of God and within him, just as God remains in all things. However, they become sensible, and no longer part of the world of God, but become part of the world of heaven or of man; these are still part of God and, especially in the case of Man, in the same form as God, but are not identical with God, though they are still One. It’s a little convoluted, but you can think of it in terms of emanations within emanations, such as that of Qabbalah. Further, God is “evident within the visible things”, indicating that not only is he present in all things made visible and sensible, but also that he has left his mark upon them in creating them.
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