What is real

ExcerptfromVol: 1 of Hermetica.

Reprint available at  http://www.kessinger-publishing.com/From the Discourses of Hermes to Tat.

-Hermes. Concerning reality, my son Tat, it is not possible for one who is but a man to speak adequately; for man is an imperfect creature, composed of parts which are imperfect, and his mortal frame is made up of many alien bodies.

But what is within my power to say, namely, that reality exists only in things everlasting. The everlasting bodies as they are in themselves, fire that is very fire, earth that is very earth, air that is very air, and water that is very water, these indeed are real.

But our bodies are made up of all these elements together; they have in them something of fire, but also something of earth and water and air; and there is in them neither real fire nor real earth nor real water nor
real air, nor anything that is real. And if our composite fabric has not got reality in it to begin withhow can it see reality, or tell of reality?


All things on earth then, my son, are unreal; but some of them, not all, but some few only,are copies
of reality. The rest are illusion and deceit, my son; for they consist of mere appearance. When the appearance flows in from above, it becomes an imitation of reality. But apart from the working of power from above, it remains an illusion ; just as a painted portrait presents to us in appearance the body of the man we see in it, but is not itself a human body.

It is seen tohave eyes, and yet it sees nothing ; it is seen to have ears, and yet it hears nothing
at all. The picture has all else too that a living man has, but all this is false, and deceives the eyes of those who look at it; they think that what they see is real, but it is really an illusion.

Those then who see illusion ; but those who see reality. If then we think or see each of these things as it is, we think and see truly ; if we think and see them otherwise than they are, we shall neither think nor see
truly. And so when I think and say that nothing on earth is real, I am thinking and speaking truly.

-Tat. Well then when a man thinks and speaks truly, is it not right to call that truth (or reality)?

-Hermes. What do you infer from that?

-Tat. If that is so father, it follows that there is some reality even on earth .

-Hermes.You are mistaken my son. there is no reality on earth; it cannot come into being here below;but
non the less it is possible for some men to think truly about reality; and I was not speaking unadvisedly, when I said that it is true that there is nothing real here below.

How is it possible, my son, that anything real should come into being on earth? For reality is the absolute and unmixed good; it is that which is not fouled by matter, nor muffled in body; it is bare of coverings, and
shines with light undimmed; it is immutable and unalterable. But the things on earth, my son, what they are , you can see. They are not capable of receiving the good ; they are subject to destruction and to
perturbation ; they are dissoluble and mutable, ever altering, and changing from one thing in another. And seeing that they are not even true to themselves, how could they possibly be real?

Everything that changes is illusory, because it does not stay in the state in which it is, but presents appearances that vary. And all things on earth are overtaken by destruction;
for without destruction things cannot come in to being. The things which come into being must needs arise out of those which are destroyed ; and the things which come into being must needs be destroyed, in order that coming-into-being may not stop.The things which come into being out of destruction must therefore be illusory, because they come to be different things at different times. For it is not possible that the same things should come into being again; and how can that be real, which is not the same that it was before? Inasmuch as things change, they are illusory. But at the same time you must understand, my son, that these illusory things are dependent on reality itself, which is above; and that being so, I say that the illusion is a thing wrought by the working of reality.

-Tat. But what of man, father? Is not man real?

-Hermes. In so far as he is man, my son, he is not real. For the real is that which consists of itself alone, and continues to be such as it is in itself; but man is composed of many different things, and does not
continue to be such as he is in himself, but shifts and changes from one time of life to another, and from one form to another. Oftentimes men fail to recognize their own children and after a short interval, and
children likewise fail to recognize their parents. And when a thing so changes that it is not known, how can that thing be real, my son? Is it not an illusion, inasmuch as its changes manifest themselves in varying appearances? You must understand that that which ever is, and that alone, is real. But man is not a thing that ever is; and therefore man is not real, but is only an appearance. We ought then to call men appearances, my son, if we name them rightly. We ought to call a child the appearance of a child, and a youth the appearance of a youth, and an adult man the appearance of an adult man, and an old man the appearance of an old man; for the child does not remain a child, nor the youth a youth, nor the adult man an adult man, nor the old man an old man. And appearance must be illusion.

-Tat. And what of these everlasting bodies, father? Are they too unreal? For they too suffer change.

-Hermes. Everything that is subject to change is unreal; and the everlasting bodies also have in them something that is illusory, inasmuch as they suffer change; for nothing is real, which does not continue to be as it is.But seeing that they have been made indestructible by the Forefather, it may well be that the existence they have received from him is real.

-Tat. What then can we call real, father!

-Hermes. The Sun alone; because the Sun, unlike all other things, does not suffer change, but continues to be as he is. Wherefore the Sun alone has been entrusted with the task of making all things in the universe ; he rules over all things, and makes all things. Him do I worship, and I adore his reality, acknowledging him, next after the one supreme God, as the maker.

the maker.

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