“I, O 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. What then should a man do, O Father, to lead his life well, seeing there is nothing here true? Be pious and religious, O my son, for he that doth so is the best and highest philosopher.
“What then should a man do, O Father, to lead his life well, seeing there is nothing here true? Be pious and religious, O my son, for he that doth so is the best and highest philosopher.
“And without philosophy it is impossible ever to attain to the height and exactness of piety or religion. And let this, O Son, be the end of religion and piety: whereunto thou art once arrived, thou shalt both live well and die blessedly. And this only, O Son, is the way to the Truth which our progenitors traveled in.
“And thus it came to pass or happened unto me, which I received from my mind—that is, Pimander [divine wisdom], the Lord of the world—whereby I became inspired by God with the Truth, for which cause with my soul and whole strength I give praise and blessing unto God the Father.
“Holy is God the Father of all things! Holy is God, whose will is performed and accomplished by his own powers! Holy is God, that determineth to be known, and is known of his own or those that are his! Holy art thou! that by thy Word hast established all things.
“Good, O Asclepius [Greek god of healing], is in nothing but in God alone. Or rather, God himself is the Good always.
“The Seeds of God are few, but great and fair and good: virtue and temperance and piety. And the piety is the knowledge of God, whom—whosoever knoweth, being full of good things—hath divine understanding, and not [the understanding of] the many. And therefore they that have that knowledge neither please the multitude, nor the multitude them. But they seem to be mad, and move with laughter, hated and despised, and many times also murdered.”
This book of Mercurius is thought to have been written some hundreds of years before Moses. J. F., who writes the Preface, says thus: “In this book, though so very old, is contained more true knowledge of God and nature than in all the books in the world beside—I except only sacred Writ. And they that shall judiciously read it and rightly understand it may well be excused from reading of many books, the authors of which pretend so much to the knowledge of the Creator and creation. If ever God appeared in any man, he appeared in him, as appears by this book. That a man—that had not the benefit of his ancestors’ knowledge being, as I said before, the first inventor of the art of communicating knowledge to posterity by writing—should be so high a divine and so deep a philosopher seems to be a thing more of God than of man. And therefore it was the opinion of some that he came from heaven, not born upon earth. There is contained in this book that true philosophy, without which it is impossible ever to attain the height and exactness of piety and religion. The glory and splendor of philosophy is an endeavoring to understand the chief Good, as the Fountain of all Good.”
I have writ the more from Hermes [Trismegistus] because of its excellence and scarcity, although it’s a very small book.
As to pure divine philosophy, the scriptures themselves are a more excellent system of it: witness Solomon in the Old, and Paul in the New Testament. Although we know not whether we have the hundredth or hundred-thousandth part of what was written from the beginning. Yet Christ, the Word, the TRUTH, was always the Instructor of good men, to teach and write truth freely, as they had freely received of him.
So likewise Lucifer, the devil and Satan, always instructs bad men to teach and write lies for gain, glory, or applause, like unto the Manichees and theologasters of our time—these shameless devils that poison the world for gain—amongst all People.