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Hermes to Tat: on Aletheia

Just a few weeks ago, a Dutch book with translations of Hermetic texts has been published by the Bibliotheca Philosopha Hermetica. It follows the translations of the Corpus Hermeticum and Asclepius and contains the Stobaeus fragments, the Vienna and Oxford fragments, the Testimonia of Scott and some other texts. I already had the Stobaeus fragments in the English translation of Walter Scott, since in this publication the language in which the text is found is published next to the translation. The Stobaeus fragments are in Greek and now that I am rereading them, it occured to me that the fragment IIA (Stobaeus III, II, 31 – Nock/Festugière III, 4-8 and book XV in some versions of the Corpus Hermeticum) which is often called “Hermes to Tat: on Thruth” is full of the word “Aletheia”. Since I don’t believe that colleague Tapio Kotkavuori has anything Hermetic in his blog yet, I thought it might be appropriate to make a short post on Hermes on Aletheia.

Tat is questioning his father Hermes Trismegistus on what is Thruth. The word used in Greek is “Aletheia”. Used as often as this word is “ouk alethes” or “not true”. The word “Aletheia” is translated in a different ways, “reality” in the beginning and “thruth” towards the end. Tat wonders what is true or real, and Hermes says that this is difficult, because everything that is made out of something unreal, cannot be real. “All things on earth then, my son, are unreal; but some of them – not all, but some few only, – are copies of reality”. Tat wonders that no man can think of reality than. Hermes replies: “There is no reality on earth; it cannot come into being here below; but none the less it is possible for some men to think truly about reality”, but that doesn’t change anything about the fact that there is nothing true down here. “[…] reality is the absolute and unmixed Good” and everything subject to change is not real., not even man.
This discussion continues for a while. Then Hermes says:

The Sun alone [is real] because the Sun, unlike allother 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 supreme God, as the Maker

To conclude I come to the not too readable picture above this post, which in Scott’s translation says:

Tat What then, father, can be called real in the supreme degree? – Hermes. He alone, my son, and none but He, who is not made of matter, nor embodied; who is colourless and formless; who is changeless and unalterable; who ever is. –

Aletheia, the source of all the goal of all.

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