Bibliotherapy

Hermes Trismegistus’ Prayer

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Image: Hermes Trismegistus, floor mosaic in the Cathedral of Siena.

‘As they left the sanctuary, they began praying to God and turning to the south (for when someone wants to entreat God at sunset, he should direct his gaze to that quarter, and likewise at sunrise towards the direction they call east), and they were already saying their prayer when in a hushed voice Asclepius asked: ‘Tat, do you think we should suggest that your father tell them to add frankincense and spices as we pray to God?’

When Trismegistus heard him, he was disturbed and said: ‘A bad omen, Asclepius, very bad. To burn incense and such stuff when you entreat God smacks of sacrilege. For he wants nothing who is himself all things or in whom all things are. Rather let us worship him by giving thanks, for God find mortal gratitude to be the best incense.’

‘We thank you, supreme and most high God, by whose grace alone we have attained the light of your knowledge; holy name that must be honored, the one name by which our ancestral faith blesses God alone, we thank you who deign to grant to all a father’s fidelity, reverence and love, along with any power that is sweeter, by giving us the gift of consciousness, reason and understanding:

Consciousness, by which we may know you;

Reason, by which we may seek you in our dim suppositions;

Knowledge, by which we may rejoice in knowing you.

And we who are saved by your power do indeed rejoice because you have shown yourself to us wholly. We rejoice that you have deigned to make us gods for eternity even while we depend on the body. For this is mankind’s only means of giving thanks: Knowledge of your majesty.

We have known you, the vast light perceived by reason.

We have understood you, true life of life, the womb pregnant with all coming to-be.

We have known you, who persist eternally by conceiving all coming to-be in its perfect fulness.

Worshiping with this entire prayer the good of your goodness, we ask only this, that you wish us to persist in the love of your knowledge and that we never be cut off from such a life as this. With such hopes we turn to a pure meal that includes no living thing.’

The closing prayer from the ‘Asclepius’ in Brian Copenhaver’s Cambridge University Press 1992 edition.

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