The Emerald Tablet, also known as the Smaragdine Table, or Tabula Smaragdina, is a compact and cryptic piece of the Hermetica reputed to contain the secret of the “prima materia” and its transmutation. It was highly regarded by European alchemists as the foundation of their art and its Hermetic tradition. The original source of the Emerald Tablet is unknown. Although Hermes Trismegistus is the author named in the text.
Hermes Trismegistus is derived from the Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth and his Greek counterpart, Hermes. “Trismegistus” means “thrice greatest”, and is derived from statements in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, that he knows the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe, alchemy, astrology, and theurgy. Another opinion is that the epithet is derived from an epithet of Thoth found at the Temple of Esna, “Thoth the great, the great, the great.”
The Hermetica, which is said to be written by him, is generally regarded as the basis of Western alchemical philosophy and practice.
The origins of Western alchemy can be traced back to Hellenistic Egypt, in particular to the city of Alexandria and, Hermes Trismegistus is one of the most important characters in it.
Origin of the Emerald Tablet
The Tablets have been described as rectangular green slabs or plaques with exquisite, bas-relief lettering – inscribed with the secrets of the universe. Lettering that appears similar to the ancient Phoenician script. And while the many translations over the centuries all source their origin from these carved emerald stones, the “original” objects are nowhere to be found, at least until this day.
The source of the original Emerald Tablet is unclear, with conflicting information and confusing opinions. Depending on the source, this text is from 1.200 to 36.000 years old.
The most common legend claims that the tablet was found in a caved tomb under the statue of Hermes in Tyana, clutched in the hands of the corpse of Hermes Trismegistus himself. Another legend suggests that it was the third son of Adam and Eve, Seth, who originally wrote it. One more suggests that the Tablets were originally uncovered around 1350 BCE, in a hidden chamber under the Egyptian pyramid of Cheops. Others believe that the tablet was once held within the Ark of the Covenant. Some even claim that the original source of the Emerald Tablet is none other than the fabled city of Atlantis. by an Atlantean Priest-King named Thoth (in an incarnation as Hermes Trismegistus)
Whilst various claims have been made regarding the origins of the Emerald Tablet, as yet, no verifiable evidence has been found to support them. The oldest documentable source of the Emerald Tablet’s text is the “Kitab Balaniyus al-Hakim fi’l-`IlalKitāb sirr al-ḫalīqa”(book of Balinas the wise on the Causes). This was an Arabic work written in the 8 th century A.D. and attributed to a ‘Balinas’ or Pseudo-Apollonius of Tyana. It is Balinas who provides us with the story of how he discovered the Emerald Tablet in the caved tomb. Based on this Arabic work, some believe that the Emerald Tablet was an Arabic work written between the 6 th and 8 th centuries A.D., rather than a piece of work from Antiquity, as many have claimed.
However, it took several centuries to make the text accessible to Europeans. In the 12 th century A.D., the Emerald Tablet was translated into Latin by Hugo von Santalla.
Nevertheless, the text quickly became well known and it would become one of the pillars of Western alchemy. It was a highly influential text in Medieval and Renaissance alchemy, and probably still is today. In addition to translations of the Emerald Tablet, numerous commentaries have also been written regarding its contents. For instance, a translation by Isaac Newton was discovered among his alchemical papers. This translation is currently being held in King’s College Library in Cambridge University. Other notable researchers of the Emerald Tablet include Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, John Dee and Aleister Crowley.
The Transmutation of Consciousness
The interpretation of the Emerald Text is not a straightforward matter, as it is, after all, a piece of esoteric text. Basically, the text of the Emerald Tablets is a summary of the principles of alchemy. It is where the “Secrets of the Philosopher’s Stone” is described. The secret art of transmutation.
Transmutation, from an alchemist’s point of view, is about turning “base metal” into “gold.” “Base metal”, in the language of the mystics, refers to base human consciousness, while “gold” refers to the transmutation of the ordinary human into a conscious creator or enlightened being.
One of the key “truths” revealed in the Emerald Tablets is the notion of “As Above, So Below”. If indeed, the origins of this message come from some long-lost tablets, that means all the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians is itself but a copy of something much older.
Could the Emerald Tablets be the source book for both the Egyptian Mystery Schools and all western religious traditions? We know that Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all share certain principles which link back to Abrahamic traditions. But students of the Emerald Tablets argue that those Abraham-based precepts can all be sourced within the far older Hermetic principles revealed in the Emerald Tablets.
Certainly, if the principles and mysteries outlined within the Emerald Tablets date back to the “First Time” it would be easy to see how they could have reached and influenced the likes of Abraham, Moses and those early Hebrews. But like the rest of the Tablets’ mysteries, we can’t know for sure if their origins truly date back to such an ancient, pre-flood era.
Here are some of the best-known translations
Translation of Issac Newton c. 1680.
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. ffor it vanquishes every subtile thing & penetrates every solid thing.
11a) So was ye world created.
12) From this are & do come admirable adaptaions 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.
Translation from Aurelium Occultae Philosophorum. Georgio Beato
1) This is true and remote from all cover of falsehood
2) Whatever is below is similar to that which is above. Through this the marvels of the work of one thing are procured and perfected.
3) Also, as all things are made from one, by the condsideration of one, so all things were made from this one, by conjunction.
4) The father of it is the sun, the mother the moon.
5) The wind bore it in the womb. Its nurse is the earth, the mother of all perfection.
6a)Its power is perfected.
7) If it is turned into earth,
7a) separate the earth from the fire, the subtle and thin from the crude and course, prudently, with modesty and wisdom.
8) This ascends from the earth into the sky and again descends from the sky to the earth, and receives the power and efficacy of things above and of things below.
9) By this means you will acquire the glory of the whole world, and so you will drive away all shadows and blindness.
10) For this by its fortitude snatches the palm from all other fortitude and power. For it is able to penetrate and subdue everything subtle and everything crude and hard.
11a) By this means the world was founded
12) and hence the marvelous cojunctions of it and admirable effects, since this is the way by which these marvels may be brought about.
13) And because of this they have called me Hermes Tristmegistus since I have the three parts of the wisdom and Philsosphy of the whole universe.
14) My speech is finished which i have spoken concerning the solar work
From Madame 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 judgement.
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.
From Fulcanelli, new translation
1) It is true without untruth, certain and most true:
2) that which is below is like that which is on high, and that which is on high is like that which is below; by these things are made the miracles of one thing.
3) And as all things are, and come from One, by the mediation of One, So all things are born from this unique thing by adaption.
4) The Sun is the father and the Moon the mother.
5) The wind carries it in its stomach. The earth is its nourisher and its receptacle.
6 The Father of all the Theleme of the universal world is here.
6a) Its force, or power, remains entire,
7) if it is converted into earth.
7a) You separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, gently with great industry.
8) It climbs from the earth and descends from the sky, and receives the force of things superior and things inferior.
9) You will have by this way, the glory of the world and all obscurity will flee from you.
10) It is the power strong with all power, for it will defeat every subtle thing and penetrate every solid thing
11a) In this way the world was created.
12) From it are born wonderful adaptations, of which the way here is given.
13) That is why I have been called Hermes Tristmegistus, having the three parts of the universal philosophy.
14) This, that I have called the solar Work, is complete.
- Verum, sine mendacio, certum et verissimum:
- Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius, ad perpetranda miracula rei unius.
- Et sicut res omnes fuerunt ab uno, meditatione unius, sic omnes res natae ab hac una re, adaptatione.
- Pater eius est Sol. Mater eius est Luna, portavit illud Ventus in ventre suo, nutrix eius terra est.
- Pater omnis telesmi totius mundi est hic.
- Virtus eius integra est si versa fuerit in terram.
- Separabis terram ab igne, subtile ab spisso, suaviter, magno cum ingenio.
- Ideo fugiet a te omnis obscuritas.
- Haec est totius fortitudinis fortitudo fortis, quia vincet omnem rem subtilem, omnemque solidam penetrabit.
- Sic mundus creatus est.
- Hinc erunt adaptationes mirabiles, quarum modus est hic. Itaque vocatus sum Hermes Trismegistus, habens tres partes philosophiae totius mundi. Completum est quod dixi de operatione Solis.
We may never know the answers to the mystery behind the Emerald Tablets’ origins, their true nature or even their existence at all. What we do know is that the information as it has come down to us reveals secrets which alchemists throughout the ages had long sought to keep hidden from the world. The information you and I may use to transform ourselves into a conscious creator.
Yet, despite the various interpretations available, it seems that none of their authors claim to possess knowledge of the whole truth. Furthermore, readers are encouraged to read the text and try to interpret and find the hidden truths themselves.
Sources: www.sacred-texts.com, www.wikipedia.com, www.ancient-origins.ne
Image: Wikimedia – Commons