THIS IS THE MOST FAMOUS OF THE HERMETIC DOCUMENTS, a revelation account describing a vision of the creation of the universe and the nature and fate of humanity. Authors from the Renaissance onward have been struck by the way in which its creation myth seems partly inspired by Genesis, partly reacting against it. The Fall has here become the descent of the Primal Man through the spheres of the planets to the world of Nature, a descent caused not by disobedience but by love, and done with the blessing of God.
The seven rulers of fate discussed in sections 9, 14 and 25 are the archons of the seven planets, which also appear in Plato’s Timaeus and in a number of the ancient writings usually lumped together as “Gnostic”. Their role here is an oddly ambivalent one, powers of Harmony who are nonetheless the sources of humanity’s tendencies to evil. – JMG
1. It chanced once on a time my mind was meditating on the things that are, my thought was raised to a great height, the senses of my body being held back – just as men who are weighed down with sleep after a fill of food, or from fatigue of body.
Methought a Being more than vast, in size beyond all bounds, called out my name and saith: What wouldst thou hear and see, and what hast thou in mind to learn and know?
2. And I do say: Who art thou?
He saith: I am Man-Shepherd (Poemandres), Mind of all-masterhood; I know what thou desirest and I’m with thee everywhere.
3. [And] I reply: I long to learn the things that are, and comprehend their nature, and know God. This is, I said, what I desire to hear.