The Emerald Tablet is the central teaching of the Corpus Hermeticum, the foundation of Western esotericism, Magic, and Alchemy. The Emerald Tablet may be the oldest surviving alchemical text.
Origins of the Emerald Tablet
The Emerald Tablet (or Emerald Table), held by Hermes Trismegistus in art, is said to be inscribed with the whole of the Egyptians’ philosophy, including the magical secrets of the universe. It is cited as the credo of Adepts, particularly the alchemists, who interpreted it as a description of the transmutation process.
The true origins of the Emerald Tablet are not known. No original text survives, only translations. The text has been attributed to early Arabic alchemy in the seventh century, to Chinese alchemy, and even to Atlantean origins.
According to one legend, the Emerald Tablet was found clutched in the hand of the body of Hermes Trismegistus in his cave tomb. Another version has it that Hermes Trismegistus’s body was mummified and interred in the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The Tablet probably first appeared in the West in editions of the psuedo-Aristotlean Secretum Secretorum, a translation of the Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, a book of advice to kings which is thought to date to the ninth century and was translated into Latin by Johannes Hispalensis in about 1140 and by Philip of Tripoli in about 1243. Similarities are found between the Tablet and the Syriac Book of Treasures written by Job of Odessa in the ninth century, and the Greek writings of the bishop Nemesius of Emesa in Syria from the mid-fourth century. Of particular importance to the Western magical tradition are three Latin translations, the earliest of which dates to circa 1200.
Was the Emerald Tablet literally made of emerald? The Greeks and Egyptians used the term translated as emerald for emeralds, green granites, and possibly green jasper.
The Text and Commentaries
The text of the Emerald Tablet states:
True, without falsehood, certain, most certain. What is above is like that which is below, and what is below, like that which is above, to make the miracle of One Thing. And as all things were made from contemplation of One, so all things were born from one adaptation. The father is the Sun, its mother is the Moon. The wind carried it in its womb, the earth breast fed it. It is the father of all works of wonder in the world. Its power is complete if turned towards earth, it will separate earth from fire, the subtle from the gross. With great capacity (Wisdom) it ascends from earth to heaven. Again it descends to earth, and takes back the power of the above and the below. Thus you will receive the glory of the distinctiveness of the world. All obscurity will flee from you. This is the most strong strength of all strength, for it overcomes all subtle things, and penetrates all solid things. Thus was the world created. From this comes marvelous adaptations of which this is the procedure. Therefore I am called Hermes Thrice-Crowned because I have three parts of the Wisdom of the whole world. And complete is what I had to say about the work of the Sun.
Numerous analyses of these statements have been made by scholars. Some interpretations are as follows:
1. True, without falsehood, certain, most certain. The Emerald Tablet speaks a universal truth on many levels. If the text cannot be perceived as truth, the fault lies with the individual, not with the text.
2. What is above is like that which is below, and what is below, like that which is above, to make the miracle of One Thing. The One Thing is an infi nite continuum of upwardness and downwardness. Since the continuum is infinite, any point along it is at the center. The One Thing symbolizes the Self.
3. And as all things were made from contemplation of One, so all things were born from one adaptation. The One is the Universal Mind, which contemplates or meditates all things into being. All things mirror its power and can create by adapting the creative process of the One.
4–6. The father is the Sun; its mother is the Moon. The wind carried it in its womb; the earth breast fed it. It is the father of all works of wonder in the world. The father/sun is the archetype of light/fire and downward creative process of light piercing darkness. The mother/moon is the archetype of in-forming/water, taking the light of the father/sun and reflecting it to the earth. The wind/womb is air, which mediates between fire and water. The earth/breast fed is the archetype of form. It is the element of earth, created by the combination of the other three elements. The father of all works of wonder in the world is the four elements combined with the fifth element of the Quintessence, the conscious awareness of the One or creator, which is independent life.
7. Its power is complete if turned toward earth, it will separate earth from fire, the subtle from the gross. The Quintessence is clothed in physical form and is divine conscious awareness as expressed through human beings.
8. With great capacity (Wisdom), it ascends from earth to heaven. Again it descends to earth and takes back the power of the above and the below. Conscious awareness rises and falls through the continuum in a constant process of integration and unison.
9. Thus you will receive the glory of the distinctiveness of the world. All obscurity will flee from you. The constant process of integration creates a new level of enlightenment.
10. This is the most strong strength of all strength, for it overcomes all subtle things, and penetrates all solid things. The new Father/Light, or new level of enlightenment, is completely realized Self-awareness. There is a constant cycle of recreation, where each level of Father/Light creates a new level of Father/Light.
11. Thus was the world created. Everything in the world is imbued with the power of Father/Light.
12. From this comes marvelous adaptations of which this is the procedure. Everything in the world is the seed of its future self.
13–14. Therefore I am called Hermes Thrice-Crowned because I have three parts of the Wisdom of the whole world. And complete is what I had to say about the work of the Sun. There is personal knowledge and experience of the process of enlightenment, which is to be done physically, mentally, and astrally. The triple crown expresses the power of the center within the infinite continuum, for it can be anywhere and everywhere; it is the Sun and the Moon and everything that lies between. Thus, the Emerald Tablet describes the process of enlightenment as force into form.
Examples of Translations
Numerous translations have been made of the Emerald Tablet. No two are the same. Below are three examples of other translations:
Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber)
0. Balinas mentions the engraving on the table in the hand of Hermes, which says: 90 Emerald Tablet
1. Truth! Certainty! That in which there is no doubt!
2. That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above, working the miracles of one.
3. As all things were from one.
4. Its father is the Sun, and its mother the Moon.
5. The Earth carried it in her belly, and the Wind nourished it in her belly,
7. as Earth which shall become Fire.
7a. Feed the Earth from that which is subtle, with the greatest power.
8. It ascends from the earth to the heaven and becomes ruler over that which is above and that which is below.
14. And I have already explained the meaning of the whole of this in two of these books of mine.
1. Tis true without lying, certain & most true.
2. That wch is below is like that wch is above & that wch is above is like yt wch is below to do ye miracles of one only thing.
3. And as all things have been & arose from one by ye mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.
4. The Sun is its father, the moon its mother,
5. the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth its nourse.
6. The father of all perfection in ye whole world is here.
7. Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
7a. Seperate thou ye earth from ye fire, ye subtile from the gross sweetly wth great indoustry.
8. It ascends from ye earth to ye heaven & again it desends to ye earth and receives ye force of things superior & inferior.
9. By this means you shall have ye glory of ye whole world & thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.
10. Its force is above all force, pfor it vanquishes every subtile thing & penetrates every solid thing.
11a. So was ye world created.
12. From this are & do come admirable adaptations whereof ye means (Or process) is here in this.
13. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of ye philosophy of ye whole world.
14. That wch I have said of ye operation of ye Sun is accomplished & ended.
Madame Helena P. Blavatsky
2. What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is similar to that which is below to accomplish the wonders of the one thing.
3. As all things were produced by the mediation of one being, so all things were produced from this one by adaption.
4. Its father is the sun; its mother the moon.
6a. It is the cause of all perfection throughout the whole earth.
7. Its power is perfect if it is changed into earth.
7a. Separate the earth from the fire, the subtile from the gross, acting prudently and with judgment.
8. Ascend with the greatest sagacity from earth to heaven, and unite together the power of things inferior and superior;
9. Thus you will possess the light of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly away from you.
10. This thing has more fortitude than fortitude itself because it will overcome every subtile thing and penetrate every solid thing.
11a. By it the world was formed.
FURTHER READING :
- Clark, Rawn. “Commentary on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes.” Available online. URL: http://www. alchemywebsite.com/rawn_cla.html. Downloaded April 12, 2005.
- “Emerald Tablet of Hermes.” Available online. URL: http:// www.levity.com/alchemy/emerald.html. Downloaded May 11, 2005.
- Hauck, Dennis William. The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation. New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1999.
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