Hermès Trismegistus: His First Book
Oh my son, write this First Book, both for humanity’s sake, and for piety towards god
For there can be no religion more true or just, than to know the things that are; and to acknowledge thanks for all things, to Him that made them, which thing I shall not cease continually to do,.
What then should a man do, Oh Father, to lead his life well; seeing there is nothing here true?
Be Pious and Religious, Oh my son; for he that does so, is the best and highest philosopher, and without philosophy it is impossible ever to attain to the height and exactness of piety and religion.
But he that shall learn and study the things that are, and how they are ordered and governed, and by whom, and for what cause, or to what end, will acknowledge thanks to the workman, as to a good father, an excellent nurse, and a faithful steward, and he that gives thanks shall be pious or religious, and he that is religious shall know both where the truth is, and what it is, and learning that he will be yet more and more religious.
For never, Oh my son, shall, or can that soul, which, while it is in the body, lightens and lifts up itself to know and comprehends that which is good and true, slide back to the contrary. For it is infinitely enamored by this, and forgets all evils; and when it hath learned and known its father and progenitor, it can no more apostatize or depart from that good.
And let this, Oh son, be the end of religion and piety; by which when one arrives, you will both live well and die blessedly, while your soul is not ignorant wither it must return, and fly back again.
For this only, Oh son, is the way to truth, which our progenitors traveled in; and by which making their journey, they at length attained to the good. It is a venerable way and plain, but hard and difficult for the soul to go in that which is a body.
For first must it war against its own self, and after much strife and dissension, it must be overcome of the part; for the contention is of one against two, while it ascends and they strive to hold and detain it.
But the victory of both is not alike, for the one hastens to that which is good, but the other is a neighbor to the things that are evil; and that which is good, desires to be set at liberty, but the things that are evil love bondage and slavery.
And if the two parts be overcome, they become quiet, and are content to accept of it as their ruler; but if the one be overcome of the two, it is by them led and carried to be punished by its being and continuance here.
This is, Oh son, the guide in the way that leads thither; for you must first forsake the body before your death, and get the victory in this contention and difficult life, and when you have overcome, RETURN.