Lament of Hermes Trismegistus

Nicholas Weeks

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Many translations of this ancient Hermetic text. It explains the degeneration of Egypt and loss of spirituality around the world.

The Lament of Hermes Trismegistus

There will come a time when it will be seen that in vain have the Egyptians honored the divinity with a pious mind and with assiduous service. All their holy worship will become inefficacious. The Gods, leaving the earth will go back to heaven; they will abandon Egypt; this land, once the home of religion, will be widowed of its gods and left destitute. Strangers will fill this country, and not only will there no longer be care for religious observances, but a more painful thing, it will be laid down under so-called laws, under pain of punishments, that all must abstain from acts of piety towards the gods. Then this holy land, the home of sanctuaries and temples, will be covered with tombs and the dead.

O Egypt, Egypt, there will remain of the religion only fables, and thy children in later times will not believe them; nothing will survive save words engraved on stones to tell of thy pious deeds. The Scythian or the Indian, or some other such conquering neighbor will establish himself in Egypt. For behold the divinity goes back up to heaven; and men, abandoned, all die, and then, without either god or man, Egypt will be nothing but a desert.

Why weep, dear Asclepius? Egypt will be carried away to worse things than this; she will be polluted with graver crimes. She, hitherto most holy, who so much loved the gods, only country of earth where the gods made their home in return for her devotion, she who taught men holiness and piety, will give example of the most atrocious cruelty. In that hour, weary of life, men will no longer regard the world as a worthy object of their admiration and reverence.

This All, which is a good thing, the best that be seen in the past, the present, and the future, will be in danger of perishing, men will esteem it a burden; and thenceforth they will despise and no longer cherish this whole of the universe, incomparable work of God, glorious construction, good creation, made up of an infinite diversity of life forms, instrument of the will of God who, without envy, pours forth his favor on all his work, in which is assembled in one whole, in harmonious diversity, all that can be seen that is worthy of reverence, praise and love.

For darkness will be preferred to light; it will be thought better to die than to live; none will raise his eyes towards heaven; the pious man will be thought mad, the impious, wise; frenzied will be thought brave, the worst criminal a good man. The soul and all the beliefs attached to it, according to which the soul is immortal by nature or foresees that it can obtain immortality as I have taught you — this will be laughed at and thought nonsense. And believe me, it will be considered a grave crime to give oneself to the religion of the mind.

A new justice will be created, and new laws. Nothing holy, nothing pious, nothing worthy of heaven and of the gods who dwell there, will be any more spoken of nor will find credence in the soul. The gods will separate themselves from men, a deplorable divorce. Only the evil angels will remain who will mingle with men, and constrain them by violence — miserable creatures — to all excesses of criminal audacity, engaging them in wars, brigandage, frauds, and in everything which contrary to the nature of the soul.

Then the earth will lose its equilibrium, the sea will be no longer navigable, the heaven will no longer be full of stars, the stars will stop their courses, and will be silent. The fruits of the earth will molder, the soil will no longer be fertile, the air itself will grow thick with lugubrious torpor. Such will be the old age of the world, irreligion, disorder, confusion of all goods. When all these things have come to pass, dear Asclepius, then the Lord and Father, the god first in power and demiurge of the One God, having considered these customs and voluntary crimes, endeavoring, by his will, which is the divine will, to bar the way to vices and universal corruption and to correct errors, he will annihilate all malice, either by effacing it in a deluge or by consuming it by fire, or destroying it by pestilential maladies diffused in many places.

Then he will bring back the world to its first beauty, so that this world may again be worthy of reverence and admiration, and that God also, creator and restorer of so great a work, may be glorified by the men who shall live then in continual hymns of praise and benedictions. That is what the rebirth of the world will be; a renewal of all good things, a holy and most solemn restoration of Nature herself.
But an ancient Hermetic treatise nonetheless.

Admired by Peter Abelard (1079–1142) and his student Robert of Melun (c. 1100–1167) as a means to prove that knowledge of the Trinity was naturally available to pagans – the Greek philosophers.

Albertus Magnus (c. 1200–1280) praised the idea developed in the Asclepius that the human being forms a link between God and the world, uniting in themselves both the spiritual nature of divine beings and the corporeal nature of the material world.
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