Favorite fragment from the history of thought and why? – Originally published by Cokky van Limpt in Dutch in Trouw 17 February 2003
‘God is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is everywhere and the circumference nowhere’ (Liber XXIV philosophorum)
Joost R. Ritman:
‘This work, attributed to the mythical figure Hermes Trismegistus, describes a meeting of 24 philosophers, who each give a definition of God. The above definition, which captures in a few words the essence of the Hermetic path of wisdom, has become my personal motto. Hermes Trismegistus is the spiritual father of my library and this saying attributed to him reflects the entire spectrum of my library, which is founded on the pillars of Hermetism.
The image of God as an infinite sphere refers to the omnipresent spirit of the Creator and places God, the primal creator, in the centre of everything. What is God? God is the invisible spiritual dimension from which all of creation can be explained. He is the universal life force revealing itself threefold in creation: in visible nature, in the growth and becoming of everything which is alive and in the striving towards union with the Creator.
We can only get to know God by exploring his creation: the centre is everywhere. By studying matter – plants and animals, minerals, the human body, the zodiac – man can learn to see that matter is ensouled. He will come to understand the relationship between that which can be explained and that which cannot, and finally confront the Creator himself. The way of Hermes follows the classical road of initiation: through matter, via reaching into the inner self, to the connection with the spirit, and a conscious existence in God: matter, soul, spirit.
Everything existing within creation is ensouled, in everything that exists the divine force is present as a life force. God has written his character in nature with fiery signs. He is transcendent and immanent, he cannot be understood, but he is present everywhere, also in so-called “dead” matter. Matter is not dead, it is the other side of energy. The building materials of the universe consist of the same atoms and energies which make up the human body: man is solidified stardust.
It is man’s task to explore the deep meaning of creation. The key to this exploration is human consciousness, which is composed of rational, emotional and spiritual intelligence. Conventional science generally limits itself to the perception of rational intelligence, which is confined by the senses.
However, as Blaise Pascal expressed it: “the heart has its reasons which reason does not know”. Human reason cannot provide the answers to human emotion, which looks inward from the outside, nor is it open to spiritual intelligence, which searches for wholeness, coherence, the coming into being and becoming of creation.
The ancient alchemists still had access to all three layers of consciousness and discovered by investigating the workings of visible nature how everything in the cosmos is related to everything else. They came across the interlinked relationship between the elements fire, air, earth and water: without fire, life is impossible, and without water there is no germination. They also discovered the fluctuations of ebb and flow and the positions of the sun and the moon and the monthly periods of women which refer to a fluctuating attraction that is cosmic: as above, so below. As in the greater constellations, so also in the lesser constellations: macrocosmos and microcosmos, the little and the large creation of the world, God and man are each other’s mirror image.
With this you hold the key in your hands, presuming, of course, that my personal motto is true. Those who are unsure, are hereby invited to come to my library and find out for themselves.’