“In closely examining a series of Hermetic excerpts in the Oxford manuscript Bodleian Library Clarke 11, one of the two authors of this article*, J. Paramelle, has observed that, while the first portion of the excerpts presents certain interesting variant readings of texts already edited in Greek, the second portion was previously known only in a 6th-century Armenian version, and the third had not been edited at all.” (*Joseph Paramelle & Jean-Pierre Mahé, “Extraits hermétiques inédits dans un manuscrit d’Oxford”, 1991; this is the opening sentence, translated from French.)
These excerpts from a collection of writings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus are found on folios 79v–82v of the manuscript, with (a) another excerpt from Hermes (from Corpus Hermeticum XI) included in a separate florilegium just preceeding them. The excerpts proper are (b) taken from CH XII–XIV; (c) from the Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius IV–IX, otherwise transmitted only in Armenian translation; (d) from CH XVI; and (e) certain pieces otherwise unknown. In a narrower sense, Oxford Fragments or Oxford Hermetica (OH or HO = Hermetica Oxoniensia) refers specifically to these last. My subjective impression is that they come from a single text, written by someone with a penchant for a certain list-like style. Be that as it may, I will simply refer to the author as ‹Hermes›, just as with any other work ascribed to him.
With the gods who straightens our minds willing (and generous support from polyphanes of The Digital Ambler), I shall translate all these excerpts here, based on the Greek text the manuscript gives, unless it is clearly wrong (then I follow Nock and Festugière’s edition of the Corpus Hermeticum). For information about the manuscript’s readings, I rely on the paper cited above.
2 The separate excerpt
(CH XI.22, also cited by Cyril of Alexandria.)
From Hermes: You say that the god is invisible; but who is more manifest than him? He created all things so that you could see him through them all. For nothing is invisible, not even among incorporeals, since the intellect (noûs) is seen in intellection (tò noeîn), the soul in motion, the god in creation and demiurgy.
Ἑρμοῦ: Λέγεις ἀόρατον εἶναι τὸν θεόν· καὶ τίς αὐτοῦ φανερώτερος; διὰ τοῦτο τὰ πάντα πεποίηκεν, ἵνα διὰ πάντων αὐτὸν βλέπῃς. οὐδὲν γὰρ ἀόρατον οὐδὲ τῶν ἀσωμάτων· ὁ γὰρ νοῦς ὁρᾶται ἐν τῷ νοεῖν, ἡ ψυχὴ ἐν τῷ κινεῖν, ὁ δὲ θεὸς ἐν τῷ ποιεῖν καὶ δημιουργεῖν.
3 The excerpts from Corpus Hermeticum XII–XIV
(title = title of CH XII) Hermes Trimegistus’ (teaching) concerning intellect to Tat.
Ἑρμοῦ Τρισμεγίστου περὶ νοῦ πρὸς Τάτ.
(CH XII.1–2) The intellect, o Tat, is of the same essence as god, if there is any essence of god; …
ὁ νοῦς, ὦ Τάτ, ἐξ αὐτῆς τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ οὐσίας ἐστίν, εἲ γέ τις ἔστιν οὐσία θεοῦ· καὶ ποία τις οὖσα τυγχάνει, οὗτος μόνος ἀκριβῶς αὐτὸν οἶδεν. ὁ νοῦς οὖν οὐκ ἔστιν ἀποτετμημένος τῆς οὐσιότητος τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀλλ’ ὥσπερ ἡπλωμένος καθάπερ τὸ τοῦ ἡλίου φῶς. οὗτος δὲ ὁ νοῦς ἐν μὲν ἀνθρώποις θεός ἐστι· διὸ καί τινες τῶν ἀνθρώπων θεοί εἰσι, καὶ αὐτὴ ἡ[!] ἀνθρωπότης ἐγγύς ἐστι τῆς θεότητος· καὶ γὰρ ὁ Ἀγαθὸς Δαίμων τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς εἶπεν ἀθανάτους ‹ἀνθρώπους›, τοὺς δὲ ἀνθρώπους θεοὺς θνητούς· ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἀλόγοις ζῴοις νοῦς[!] ἡ φύσις ἐστίν. ὅπου γὰρ ψυχή, ἐκεῖ καὶ νοῦς ἐστιν, ὥσπερ ὅπου καὶ ζωή, ἐκεῖ καὶ ψυχὴ· ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἀλόγοις ζῴοις ψυχὴ[!] ζωή ἐστι κενὴ τούτου[!]. ὁ γὰρ νοῦς ψυχῶν ἐστιν εὐεργέτης ἀνθρωπίνων.
(CH XII.3–4) …
νόσος δὲ μεγάλη ψυχῆς ἀθεότης, ἔπειτα δόξα, αἷς πάντα τὰ κακὰ ἐπακολουθεῖ καὶ ἀγαθὸν οὐδέν· ἄρα[!] ὁ νοῦς ἀντιπράσσων αὐτῇ τὸ ἀγαθὸν περιποιεῖται τῇ ψυχῇ, ὥσπερ καὶ ὁ ἰητρὸς[!] τῷ σώματι τὴν ὑγείαν[!]. ὅσαι δὲ ψυχαὶ ἀνθρώπιναι οὐκ ἔτυχον κυβερνήτου τοῦ νοῦ, τὸ αὐτὸ πάσχουσι ταῖς τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων.
(CH XII.6) …
νῦν δὲ περὶ νοῦ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος, τί δύναται νοῦς καὶ πῶς ἐνδιάφορός ἔστιν, ἐν μὲν τοῖς[!] ἀνθρώποις τοιόςδε, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἀλόγοις ζῴοις ἠλλαγμένος· καὶ πάλιν ὅτι ἐν μὲν τοῖς ἄλλοις ζῴοις οὐκ ἔστιν εὐεργετικὸς ἀλλ’ ἀνόμοιος ἐν πᾶσι, τό τε θυμικὸν καὶ ἐπιθυμητικὸν σβεννύων, καὶ τούτων τοὺς μὲν ἐλλογίμους ἄνδρας δεῖ νοεῖν, τοὺς δὲ ἀλόγους.
(CH XII.10–11) Question of Asclepius to Hermes: …
Ἐρώτησις Ἀσκληπίου πρὸς Ἑρμῆν[!]: αἱ δὲ ὁρμαὶ τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων, ὡς οἶμαι, πάθη εἰσίν· εἰ δὲ καὶ ὁ νοῦς συνεργεῖ[!] ταῖς ὁρμαῖς, αἱ δὲ ὁρμαὶ πάθη, καὶ ὁ νοῦς ἄρα πάθος ἐστί, συγχρηματίζων[!] τοῖς πάθεσιν; — εὖγε, ὦ τέκνον· δίκαιον δὲ κἀμὲ ἀποκρίνασθαι. πάντα, ὦ τέκνον, τὰ ἐν σώματι ἀσώματα παθητά, καὶ κυρίως αὐτά ἐστι πάθη· πᾱν γὰρ τὸ κινοῦν ἀσώματον, πᾶν δὲ τὸ κινούμενον σῶμα, καὶ τὰ ἀσώματα δὲ κινεῖται ὑπὸ τοῦ νοῦ.
(CH XII.13–14) …
ὁ γὰρ μακάριος θεὸς Ἀγαθὸς Δαίμων ψυχὴν μὲν ἐν σώματι ἔφη εἶναι, νοῦν δὲ ἐν ψυχῇ, λόγον δὲ ἐν τῷ νῷ, τὸν οὖν θεὸν τούτων πατέρα. ὁ οὖν λόγος ἐστὶν εἰκὼν καὶ νοῦς τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ τὸ σῶμα δὲ τῆς εἰδέας[!], ἡ δὲ εἰδέα[!] τῆς ψυχῆς. ἔστιν οὖν τῆς μὲν ὕλης τὸ λεπτομερέστατον ἀήρ, ἀέρος δὲ ψυχή, ψυχῆς δὲ νοῦς, νοῦ δὲ θεός.
(CH XII.21) …
ὥσπερ τοῦ κόσμου μέρη ἐστὶν οὐρανὸς καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ γῆ καὶ ἀήρ, τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον μέλη ἐστὶ ζωὴ καὶ ἀθανασία καὶ αἰὼν[!] καὶ ἀνάγκη καὶ πρόνοια καὶ φύσις καὶ ψυχὴ καὶ νοῦς, καὶ τούτων πάντων ἡ διαμονὴ τὸ λεγόμενον ἀγαθόν; καὶ οὐκέτι ἐστί τι τῶν γινομένων ἢ τῶν γεγονότων, ὅπου οὐκ ἔστι θεός[!].
(CH XIII.7) One punishment, o my child, is ignorance; the second grief; the third lack of self-control; the fourth desire; the 5th injustice; the sixth greed; the seventh treachery; the eighth envy; ‹the ninth deceit;› the tenth anger; the eleventh ‹rashness; the twelfth› evil (or ‘vice’).
μία αὕτη, ὦ τέκνον, τιμωρία ἡ ἄγνοια· δευτέρα ἡ[!] λύπη· τρίτη ἀκρασία· τετάρτη ἐπιθυμία· εʹ[!] ἀδικία· ἕκτη πλεονεξία· ἑβδόμη ἀπάτη· ὀγδόη φθόνος· ‹ἐνάτη δόλος›· δεκάτη ὀργή· ἑνδεκάτη ‹προπέτεια· δωδεκάτη› κακία.
(CH XIV.6, also in Cyril) Everything that is originated cannot possibly be originated by itself, but must necessarily be originated by another; and without that which is originated, that which creates neither originates nor exists (or ‘neither comes to be nor is’). For the one, without the other, loses its own nature, through lack of the other. But if the two, that which is originated and that which creates, correspond, they are in unity, one leading and the other following: the creator god leads, and that which is originated follows.
πᾶν τὸ γινόμενον ἀδύνατον ὑφ’ ἑαυτοῦ γινόμενον εἶναι, γινόμενον δὲ ὑφ’ ἑτέρου ἀνάγκη γίνεσθαι· τοῦ δὲ ποιοῦντος ἄνευ τὸ γεννητὸν οὔτε γίνεται οὔτε ἔστιν. τὸ γὰρ ἕτερον τοῦ ἑτέρου ἄνευ ἀπώλεσε τὴν ἰδίαν φύσιν, στερήσει τοῦ ἑτέρου. εἰ τοίνυν δύο ὡμολόγηται, τό[!] γινόμενον καὶ[!] ποιοῦν, ἔνεστι[!] τῇ ἑνώσει, τὸ μὲν προηγούμενον τὸ δὲ ἑπόμενον· προηγούμενον μέν, ὁ ποιῶν θεός, ἑπόμενον δὲ τὸ γινόμενον.
(CH XIV.7, also in Cyril) As rust is to copper, so is filth to the body. But neither did the coppersmith make rust, nor did the maker beget filth, nor did the god (create) evil (or ‘vice’).
ὥσπερ ὁ ἰὸς τῷ χαλκῷ καὶ ὁ ῥύπος τῷ σώματι. ἀλλ’ οὔτε τὸν[!] ἰὸν ὁ χακλουργὸς ἐποίησεν, οὔτε τὸν ῥύπον ὁ ποιητὴς ἐγεννησεν[!], οὔτε τὴν κακίαν ὁ θεός.
4 The excerpts from the Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius
(Definitions 4) 1. […] Everything that is diminished and increased is a living being.
2. Of living beings, some are immortal and ensouled; some have intellect, soul and spirit; ‹some only spirit; some soul and spirit;› some only life. For while life can abide without spirit, intellect, soul and immortality, all the others cannot be without life.
4.1 […] Πᾶν μειούμενον καὶ αὐξανόμενον ζῷόν ἐστιν.
2. Τῶν ζῷων τὰ μὲν ἀθάνατα καὶ ἔμψυχα, τὰ δὲ νοῦν καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ πνεῦμα ἔχει, ‹τὰ δὲ μόνον πνεῦμα, τὰ δὲ ψυχὴν καὶ πνεῦμα,› τὰ δὲ μόνον ζωήν. Ζωὴ μὲν γὰρ χωρὶς πνεύματος καὶ νοῦ καὶ ψυχῆς καὶ ἀθανασίας δύναται συστῆναι, τὰ δὲ ἄλλα πάντα χωρὶς ζωῆς ἀδύνατον εἶναι.
(Definitions 5) 1. Reason is the servant of intellect, because what intellect wills, reason interprets (or ‘translates’). […]
5.1. Ὁ λόγος τοῦ νοῦ διάκονος, ὃ γὰρ θέλει ὁ νοῦς, τοῦτο καὶ ὁ λόγος ἑρμηνεύει. […]
(Definitions 6) 1. […] A human being has both natures, the mortal and the immortal.
A human being has (all) three essences, the noetic, the psychic and the material.
6.1. […] Ἄνθρωπος ἀμφοτέρας ἔχει τὰς φύσεις, καὶ τὴν θνητὴν καὶ ‹τὴν› ἀθάνατον. Ἄνθρωπος τὰς τρεῖς οὐσίας ἔχει, τὴν νοητὴν καὶ τὴν ψυχικὴν καὶ τὴν ὑλικήν.
6.2. Ὡς ἀπὸ τῆς γαστρὸς ἐξῆλθες, οὕτω καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ σώματος ἐξελεύσῃ. ‹Ὡς εἰς τὴν γαστέρα οὐκέτι εἰσελεύσῃ, οὕτω καὶ εἰς ὑλικὸν τοῦτο τὸ σῶμα οὐκέτι εἰσελεύσῃ.› Ὡς ἐν τῇ γαστρὶ ὢν οὐκ ᾕδεις τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, οὕτω καὶ ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματος γινόμενος οὐ γνώσῃ τὰ ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματος ὄντα. Ὡς ἐξελθών ἐκ τῆς γαστρὸς τὰ ἐν τῇ γαστρὶ οὐ μνημονεύεις, οὕτω ‹καὶ› τοῦ σώματος ἐξελθών ἔτι κρείσσων ἔσῃ.
6.3. Τοῖς προοῦσι τὰ ἐνεστῶτα ἐπακολουθεῖ, καὶ τοῖς ἐνεστῶσι τὰ μέλλοντα. Ὡς ἐν τῇ γαστρὶ τὸ σῶμα τελειωθὲν ἐξέρχεται, οὕτω καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ τελειωθεῖσα ἀπὸ σώματος ἐξέρχεται. Ὥσπερ γὰρ ἀτελὲς σῶμα τῆς γαστρὸς ἐξελθόν, ἄτροφον ‹καὶ ἀναυξές› ἐστιν, οὕτω καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ, μὴ τελειωθεῖσα ἐκ τοῦ σώματος ἐξελθοῦσα, ἀτελὴς καὶ ἀσώματός ἐστι, τελείωσις δὲ ψυχῆς γνῶσις τῶν ὄντων. Ὡς ἂν τῇ ψυχῇ ἐν τῷ σώματι χρήσῃ, οὕτω καὶ αὐτὴ ἐξελθοῦσα τοῦ σώματος χρήσεταί σοι.
(Definitions 7) 2. […] ‹› […] …
4. Soul enters into the body by necessity, but intellect into soul by choice.
7.2. […] ‹καὶ παντὸς ζᾠου› […] ἡ δὲ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου μόνου εἰδέα καὶ ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐν γῇ καὶ ἐν ὕδατι καὶ ἐν ἀέρι. Ὡς δαιμονίως τὸ σῶμα ἐν τῇ γαστρὶ πλάσσεται, οὕτως ‹καὶ› ἐν τῷ σώματι ἡ ψυχή.
7.3. Ἀπὸ ‹τοῦ μέλανος› τὸ σῶμα εἰς τὸ φῶς ἐξέρχεται ‹τῆς γαστρός,› ἡ δὲ φυχὴ, ἀπὸ τοῦ φωτὸς εἰς τὸ σκότος ‹εἰσ›έρχεται εἰς τὸ σῶμα. ‹Σῶματος› ὅρασις ὀφθαλμός, ψυχῆς δὲ νοῦς. Ὥσπερ σῶμα ὀφθαλμοὺς μὴ ἔχον οὐδὲν βλέπει, οὕτω καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ νοῦν μὴ ἔχουσα τυφλή ἐστιν. Ὡς ἐὰν κισσήσῃ τὸ ἐν τῇ γαστρὶ, τοῦτο καὶ ἡ κύουσα ἐπιθυμεῖ· ‹οὕτω καὶ οὗτινος ἂν ὁ ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ κισσήσῃ, τοῦτο καὶ ἄνθρωπος ἐπιθυμεὶ.›
7.4. Ψυχὴ κατ’ ἀνάγκην εἰσέρχεται εἰς τὸ σῶμα, νοῦς δὲ κατὰ κρίσιν εἰς ψυχήν.
(Definitions 8) 4. The body is increased and completed by nature, while the soul is filled by intellect. Every human being has body and soul, but not every soul has intellect. Now there are two intellects, the one divine, the other psychic; but there are some who do not even have the psychic (intellect). […]
8.4. Τὸ σῶμα αὔξεται καὶ τελειοῦται ὑπὸ τῆς φύσεως, ἡ δὲ ψυχὴ πληροῦται ἀπὸ τοῦ νοῦ. Πᾶς ἄνθρωπος σῶμα καὶ ψυχὴν ἔχει, οὐ πᾶσα δὲ ψυχὴ νοῦν ἔχει. Δύο οὖν νόοι εἰσίν, ὁ μὲν θεῖος, ὁ δὲ ψυχικός· εἰσὶ δέ τινες μηδὲ τὸ ψυχικὸν ἔχοντες. […]
7. […] ‹Σοὶ καὶ θεὸς ἔστι γενέσθαι εἰ θέλοις, ὡς δυνατὸν ὄν·› θέλησον γὰρ καὶ νόησον καὶ πίστευσον καὶ ἀγάπησον, καὶ γέγονας.
(Definitions 9) 1. …
5. The one who does well for their body does badly for their own self. Just as the body without the soul is a corpse, so the soul without the intellect is idle.
9.1 Πᾶς ἄνθρωπος τὸν θεὸν νομίζει· ‹εἰ γὰρ ἄνθρωπός ἐστι, καὶ τὸν θεὸν οἶδε. Πᾶς ἄνθρωπος αὐτῷ τῷ τὸν θεὸν νομίζειν ἄνρωπός ἐστιν·› οὐ γὰρ παντὸς ἀνθρώπου νομίζειν. Ἄνθρωπος καὶ θεοὶ καὶ πάντα ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ διὰ τὸν ἄνθρωπον. Θεὸς πάντα, καὶ οὐδὲν, οὐδὲ τὸ μὴ ὄν, ἐκ‹τος› θεοῦ. ‹Θεὸς γάρ, οὐδὲν ἔστιν οὐδὲ ἓν, ⟦ὅ οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτός⟧.› Ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ἀνθρώπου, θεοὶ διὰ τὸν θεόν. Διὰ τὸν θεὸν ἄνθρωπος, διὰ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἅπαντα. Ὁ θεὸς ἀνθρώπου ἄρχει, ἄνθρωπος δὲ πάντων.
2. Ἀπὸ τῶν ἐξωτέρων τὰ ἐξώτερα νοεῖται· ‹ὁ μὲν› ὀφθαλμὸς τὰ ἐξώτερα ‹βλέπει,› ὁ δὲ νοῦς τἂ ἐσώτερα. Οὐκ ἦν τὰ ἔξω, εἰ μὴ ἦν τὰ ἔσω. Ὅπου νοῦς, ἐκεῖ φῶς· ὁ νοῦς γὰρ φῶς ἐστι, καὶ τὸ φῶς νοῦς. Ὁ νοῦν ἔχων πεφώτισται, ὁ δὲ νοῦν μὴ ἔχων ἀφώτιστός ἐστι.
3. Ὁ θεὸν εἰδὼς θεὸν οὐ φοβεῖται, ὁ θεὸν μὴ εἰδὼς θεὸν φοβεῖται. Ὁ μηδὲν εἰδὼς τῶν ὄντων πάντα φοβεῖται, ὁ δε πάντα εἰδὼς τὰ ὄντα οὐδὲν φοβεῖται. […]
5. Ὁ τῷ σώματι καλῶς χρησάμενος ἑαυτῷ κακῶς ἐχρήσατο. Ὥσπερ τὸ σῶμα χωρὶς τῆς ψυχῆς νεκρόν ἐστιν, οὕτω καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ χωρὶς τοῦ νοῦ ἀργὴ ἐστι.
5 One excerpt from CH XVI.4
… fire, water and earth, furnished from one root.
… πυρὸς καὶ ὕδατος καὶ γῆς, ἐκ μιᾶς ῥίζας ἠρτημένας.
6 The unique excerpts or Oxford Fragments
(Fragment 1) 1. […] Therefore, the soul, being incorporeal, unshaped, undivided and contrary to the accidents¹ of the body, to shape and to color, and […] of the very otherness² that accords with bodies; always keeping in accord with the same things and the same way, (the soul) maintains its immortality by one (di’ henós), being of itself.³ It needs no other to preserve it, and does not share in movement or origination (génesis). 2. What is of this kind does not have an origin; what is not originated does not grow; what does not grow is not diminished; what is not diminished is not destroyed; what is not destroyed is unchangeable; what is not changed is permanent; what is permanent is unmoved by the change and flux of the body; what is unmoved is self-moved by nature; what is self-moved is immortal, and intellective because of intellect; and this would be a power of intelligible essence.⁴
1: Accidents (symbebēkóta) are the contingent features of a body; such properties are unbecoming of the unchangeable soul.
2: Soul is typified by sameness, not otherness (heterótēs).
3: Litwa translates, a little more freely: “By virtue of a single (factor), it maintains its own immortality since it always belongs to itself.” But it is not so much a ‘single factor’ as unity and sameness (not belonging-to-itself but being-of-itself) that make the soul immortal, as the following also illustrates more clearly.
4: The swerve to characterizing the soul as something intellective (noerón), i.e., capable of thought/intellection, through intellect/mind (noûs), does not seem to be prepared logically in the previous statement, unless the idea is that what unmoved and unmovable by another, yet moved by itself, must have a kind of rationality underlying its self-motion. In any case, it seems that until the last phrases, the soul is only being characterized, but at the end, it is given an essential definition, as “a power (dýnamis) of intelligible (noētḗ) essence (ousía).” It is not perceptible, like bodies, but belongs to the more elevated realm of intelligible realities, accessible only to the mind and not the senses.
1. ‹…› διὸ ἡ ψυχή, ἀσώματος οὖσα καὶ ἀσχημάτιστος καὶ ἀμερὴς καὶ ἐναντία τοῖς τοῦ σώματος συμβεβηκόσι, σχήματι καὶ χρόᾳ, καὶ αὐτῆς τῆς κατὰ τῶν σωμάτων ἑτερότητος ‹…›, ἀεὶ κατὰ ‹τὰ› αὐτὰ καὶ ὡσαύτως ἔχουσα, δι’ ἑνὸς συνέχει ἑαυτῆς τὴν ἀθανασίαν, ἑαυτῆς οὖσα. Ἡ μηδενὸς ἑτέρου δεομένη τοῦ σώζοντος αὐτὴν, καὶ κινήσεως ἀμέτοχος ‹καὶ› γενέσεως· 2. τὸ δὲ τοιοῦτο γένεσιν οὐκ ἔχει, τὸ δὲ μὴ γενόμενον οὐκ αὔξεται, τὸ δὲ μὴ αὐξανόμενον οὐ μειοῦται, τὸ δὲ μὴ μειούμενον οὐ φθείρεται, τὸ δὲ μὴ φθειρόμενον ἀμετάβλητον, τὸ δὲ μὴ μεταβαλλόμενον μόνιμον, τὸ δὲ μόνιμον ἀκίνητον τῆς τοῦ σώματος μεταβολῆς καὶ ῥεύσεως, τὸ δὲ ἀκίνητον αὐτοκίνητον τῇ φύσει, τὸ δὲ αὐτοκίνητον ἀθάνατον, νοερὸν διὰ τὸν νοῦν· τοῦτο δὲ ἂν εἴη δύναμις τῆς νοητῆς οὐσίας.
(Fragment 2) 1. In the eye, firstly, there is a visual faculty (dýnamis); [in the ear, an auditory faculty; in the nose, an olfactory faculty;] and in the tongue, a gustatory faculty. 2. Each of these is an analogue to (one of) the four elements: vision, firstly, to fire; hearing to air; smell to water; taste to earth.
1. Ἐν ‹μὲν› τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ δύναμις ὁρατικὴ ‹…› ἐν δὲ γλώσσῃ δύναμις γευστική· 2. ἕκαστον δὲ τούτων ἀνάλογόν ἐστι τοῖς τέσσαρσι στοιχείοις, ἡ μὲν ὄψις πυρὶ, ἡ δ’ ἀκοὴ ἀέρι, ῥὶς ὕδατι, γεῦσις γῇ.
(Fragment 3) 1. For humans, based on (mere) opinion, set down law as a standard for judges, because they have abandoned the truly real justice and the soul in eternity with a body.¹ 2. They accuse each other and they are accused, practicing mutual hatred rather than mutual love, misanthropy rather than philanthropy (‘love of humanity’), ignorance rather than knowledge; and because of their ignorance, they draw fortunes and necessities² to themselves as the condition of their incomprehension. Unfamiliar with the truth, they are full of (mere) cleverness. 3. For that reason, heaven is pure of such laws.
1: Litwa interprets this as referring to eternally embodied souls such as the divine stars or the World Soul, but the phrasing is unspecific enough that I am uncertain whether this is the intended meaning. Could the meaning be that humans have abandoned their own eternal soul by hewing to the body?
2: Týkhai and Anánkai, often disastrous fates that are insuperable to us (or at least to the ignorant).
1. ‹…› ἄνθρωποι γὰρ δόξῃ νόμον ἔθεντο σκοπὸν τοῖς δικάζουσιν, ἀπολειπόμενοι τῆς ὄντως οὔσης δικαιοσύνης καὶ τῆς ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι ψυχῆς σὺν σώματι. 2. κατηγοροῦσιν ἀλλήλων καὶ κατηγοροῦνται, μισαλληλίαν ἀσκοῦντες ἀντὶ φιλαλληλίας καὶ μισανθρωπίαν ἀντὶ φιλανθρωπίας, ἀγνωσίαν ἀντὶ γνώσεως, καὶ διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιαν ἑαυτοῖς ἐπισπῶνται τύχας καὶ ἀνάγκας, ἀμαθίας ἐπίταγμα, ἀληθείας ἄπειροι, πολυτροπίας μεστοί· 3. διὰ τοῦτο καθαρὸς ‹ὁ› οὐρανὸς τῶν τοιούτων νόμων.
(Fragment 4) 1. When the desiderative faculty is detached from reasoning, it is productive of transgressiveness;¹ for transgressiveness is a manifold evil, and thus there is great hatred among the wicked. 2. Desire detached from reasoning produces pleasure and, in senselessness, it invents fortunes of many twists and it entirely walls (itself?) up in human life.² 3. When it impacts on vision, pleasure produces agitation by imposing itself over vision, warming it up toward immoderacy, and through it fastens onto illicit intercourse;³ invents awful pronouncements, illicit transgressiveness and excessive impiety; and produces sufferings of many twists.
4. Between intellect and reason, there is reasoning that follows intellect.⁴ When the irrational is detached from reasoning, ignorance and transgressiveness are produced. But when reasoning emerges out of the irrational again, then it draws the irrational towards itself;⁵ and when it lakes hold of it, it fills it with an understanding of its own irrational impulses.
1: ‘Transgressiveness’, tólma, signifies more or less what the Greek word hubris (hýbris) has come to mean in modern English: in a word, excessive boldness.
2: The idea seems to be that desire, like ignorance in fragment 3, is the cause of human subjection to (mis)fortune.
3: Probably referring to sex (which fits with the focus on vision, often described as the primary cause of sexual desire in ancient literature), but the point about the destructiveness of desire is clearly more general.
4: Intellect is noûs, reasoning logismós, reason lógos.
5: Differently put, it can restrain the irrational.
1. Ὅταν δὲ ἀποσπασθῇ ἡ θυμικὴ δύναμις ἀπὸ τοῦ λογισμοῦ, τόλμης γεννητική· γίνεται γὰρ ποικίλον κακὸν ἡ τόλμα, διὸ ἐν πονηροῖς πολὺ τὸ μῖσος. 2. ἐπιθυμία δὲ λογισμοῦ ἀποσπωμένη ἡδονὴν γεννᾷ καὶ τύχας πολυτρόπους ‹ἐν› ἀπονοίᾳ εὑρίσκουσα καὶ ἀποτειχίζουσα τῷ ἀνθρωπίνῳ βίῳ διαπαντός· 3. ἐπερείδουσα δὲ τῇ ὄψει, λύσσαν γεννᾷ τῇ ὄψει ἡδονὴ ἐπιστᾶσα καὶ ἐκθερμαίνουσα πρὸς ἀκολασίαν καὶ ταύτῃ προσάψασα τὴν ἄθεσμον μίξιν καὶ δεινὰ ῥήματα εὑρίσκουσα καὶ τόλμαν ἄθεσμον καὶ ὑπερβεβλημένην ἀσέβειαν, πολύτροπα παθήματα γεννῶσα. ‹…›
4. μεταξὺ γὰρ νοῦ καὶ λόγου, ἔστι λογισμὸς ἑπόμενος νῷ. Ὅταν ‹μὲν› τὸ ἄλογον ἀπὸ τοῦ λογισμοῦ ἀποσπᾶται, γεννᾶται ἄγνοια καὶ τόλμα· ὅταν δὲ ἀνακύψῃ λογισμὸς ἐκ τοῦ ἀλόγου, τότε ἕλκει εἰς ἑαυτὸν τὸ ἄλογον, καὶ τούτου λαβόμενος ἐπλήρωσε συνέσεως τῶν ἀλόγων ὁρμῶν.
(Fragment 5) 1. A shape is an appearance and image of form in accordance with bodies; 2. a form is the mould of the shape,¹ and it creates through them; (it) creates as follows:²
[…] of human sperm collects in the brain, and the sperm floats on top of the brain, as a foam that has a reproductive faculty in it.³ 3. When (someone) comes to a desire for sex, they forcefully discharge said sperm into the womb; 4. Nature⁴ receives it and changes it, dividing out the serous and the dead part, and shapes the remainder, (cooperating) with the pneumatic faculty⁵ inside it; and (nature) makes it larger, and when it has become large, it becomes a likeness. 5. (Nature) sculpts this and makes it an image by the appearance of the image, and when it has become an image, (the likeness) is visible in the body.⁶ 6. And the body is formed in the womb by the formation of the living being, and it is sculpted and breathes in the uterus.⁷
7. And its harmonious arrangement arises from measurements, while the shapes are like spaces for forms in accordance with bodies.⁸ 8. For when the shape receives the form, at once the shape becomes like the form, and so the shape becomes a pattern of the form in accordance with shape; and the shape is a moulding of the body. 9. But the form precedes the moulding, and the moulded body is shaped, made an image, and can be seen.⁹
10. And origination (or ‘birth’, génesis) differs from origination, as does originated from originated.¹⁰ 11. For this is what the first principle of the first creation of the cosmos is like; it is the origination of all things.¹¹ 12. As much as intellect differs from intellection, so does deity from divinity; for the divine has been deified by god.¹²
1: This entire fragment revolves around the Platonic concept of an eternal form (or ‘species’, eîdos) underlying the shapes (skhḗmata, sg. skhêma) we can actually observe in the bodies around us. To express the influence of the former on the latter, ‹Hermes› uses the word týpos, which can mean ‘mould, moulding, what is moulded’. To simplify, we can draw a line from form (eîdos) → mould (týpos) → shape (skhêma), but only the first and the last are real entities.
2: The “it” which creates (dēmiourgeî) by this process is, as we will see, Nature. The explanation that follows is an account of the formation of a human embryo (remember that eîdos means both ‘form’ in general as well as ‘species’); similar topics are also discussed in some of the works of Hermes quoted by Stobaeus (namely SH 15 and 21–22, translated here).
3: Bizarre as this account of sperm may seem to us, it is not outside the realm of respectable natural philosophy in antiquity.
4: Litwa translates, or rather overtranslates Nature, phýsis, as “[t]he woman’s reproductive matrix”, which is not wrong per se, but (a) regrettably introduces gender into a non-gendered text, and (b) severs the semantic connection between the processes in a pregnant person’s body and nature in general. Phýsis refers to both, and the link is vital to the point our fragment is making.
5: The pneumatic faculty (dýnamis pneumatikḗ) refers to a quantity of pneûma (a kind of fiery air or ‘spirit’) in the sperm; this pneuma is understood as in some sense intelligent and agential, if only in the sense that we might say the same about DNA. This concept explains why the sperm is not indefinite material for Nature to sculpt as it will, but contributes something to the formation of the embryo.
6: ‹Hermes› returns to some of the words introduced in the first sentence – namely appearance (phásma) and image (eídōlon) – to characterize the process whereby the body is shaped like its paradigmatic form. Nature sculpts (plass– or platt-) it by making it an image, not in the appearance of the form per se, but in the appearance of an image or likeness of the form. Clearly, it is a struggle to express the process in language.
7: There are some ambiguities in this sentence. The body is formed, i.e., fashioned after its form (eido-poieîtai), and becomes the formation or configuration (mórphōma) of a living being; but is that configuration the cause, the means or the result? It is also unclear whether there is a relation between the sculpting and the breathing, i.e., whether the embryo/fetus is simply breathing (pneî) or expressing its pneumatic faculty, resulting in the process of “sculpting”.
8: There seems to be a distinction being drawn between the immanent properties of a shape (which can be measured), on the one hand, and its metaphysical link to form, on the other. With respect to the latter, a shape is like an instantiation, a “space” or “locus” (khṓra), of the form insofar as possible in a body.
9: ‹Hermes› again struggles to express in words how the form is replicated in the shape while maintaining the distinction between the two. In brief, the form (eîdos) is eternal, and relates as a mould (týpos) to each instantiation of itself that arises as shape (skhêma) in an individual body. So shape itself can be called “a pattern of the form in accordance with shape”.
10: Litwa translates: “One birth differs from another, and the entity born differs from another.” On this view, the text is comparing génesis from one form to génesis from another. This is plausible in view of the preceding, but does not connect to what follows. I believe that ‹Hermes› is drawing a distinction between génesis-as-such (“the origination of all things”) and individual géneseis, in this case human births. The two originated would be the cosmos at large and an individual being inside it, such as a human person.
11: Origination (génesis) is the first principle (arkhḗ) of creation (ktísis): thus, there is no distinction between demiurgy or creation and the natural process of origination. These are only different terminologies for the way that shapes are moulded by the forms.
12: As I understand it, three pairs are being compared:
• Origination (génesis) as first principle → individual origination (génesis) or birth.
• Intellect or mind (noûs) as a universal → intellection or thinking (nóēma) in general.
• God (theós) or deity (theótēs) → the divine (theîon) or divinity (theiótēs).
In each case, we might say, the universal is the cause or condition for the particular.
1. Σχῆμά ἐστι φάσμα καὶ εἴδωλον τοῦ εἴδους τοῦ κατὰ τὰ σώματα· 2. εἶδός ἐστι τύπος τοῦ σχήματος, καὶ διὰ τούτων δημιουργεῖ, δημιουργεῖ δὲ οὕτω.
τοῦ ἀνθρωπείου σπέρματος †ὂν τὸ νοῖμος† συναθροίζεται ἐπὶ τὸν ἐγκέφαλον καὶ ἐπιπλεῖ τῷ ἐγκεφάλῳ σπέρμα, ἀφρὸν ἔχον ἐν ἑαυτῷ δύναμιν γεννητικήν. 3. τοῦτο ὅταν εἰς προθυμίαν ἔλθῃ συσυνουσίας, ἐκ τῆς βίας ἀφίησι τὸ καλούμενον σπέρμα εἰς τὴν μήτραν· 4. τοῦτο λαβοῦσα ἡ φύσις μεταβάλλει, χωρίζουσα τὸ ἰχωρῶδες καὶ τὸ διεφθαρμένον, καὶ τὸ λοιπὸν πλάσσει σὺν τῇ ἐν αὐτῷ δυνάμει πνευματικῇ καὶ εἰς μῆκος φέρει, ‹εἰς› μῆκος δὲ γενόμενον εἰκὼν γίνεται, 5. καὶ τοῦτο σχηματίζει καὶ εἰδωλοποιεῖ τῷ τοῦ εἰδώλου φαντάσματι, εἴδωλον δὲ γενόμενον ἐπιφαίνεται τῷ σώματι, 6. καὶ εἰδοποιεῖται τὸ σῶμα ἐν τῇ μήτρᾳ τῷ ζῴου μορφώματι πλάττεταί τε καὶ πνεῖ ἐν τῇ νηδύϊ.
7. καὶ ἡ μὲν ἁρμονία γίνεται ἐκ τῶν ἀριθμῶν, τὰ δὲ σχήματα ὥσπερ χωραί εἰσι τῶν κατὰ τῶν σωμάτων εἰδῶν. 8. ὅταν γὰρ ὑποδέχηται τὸ σχῆμα τὸ εἶδος, εὐθέως γίνεται τὸ σχῆμα ὅμοιον τῷ εἴδει, καὶ γίνεται οὕτω τὸ σχῆμα λόγος τοῦ κατὰ τοῦ σχήματος εἴδους, τὸ δὲ σχῆμα τύπος ἐστὶ τοῦ σώματος, 9. τὸ δὲ εἶδος προτερεῖ τοῦ τύπου, τὸ δὲ σῶμα τυπούμενον σχηματίζεται καὶ εἰδωλοποιεῖται καὶ ὁρᾶται.
10. διαφέρει δὲ καὶ γένεσις γενέσεως καὶ γινόμενον γινομένου. 11. ἔχει δὲ ὧδε ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κατ’ ἀρχὰς τοῦ κόσμου κτίσεως· γένεσις τῶν πάντων ἐστίν. 12. Ὅσον διαφέρει ὁ νοῦς τοῦ νοήματος, τοσοῦτον καὶ ἡ θεότης τῆς θειότητος· τὸ γὰρ θεῖον ὑπὸ θεοῦ ἐθεώθη.