The Emerald Tablet

The Ancient Emerald Tablet – The Secret Formula of Creation

In Hermetism by Chris A. Parker

The Emerald Tablet, otherwise known as the Tabula Smaragdina, or Smaragdine Tablet, is a mysterious element of the Hermetica believed to hold the secrets behind the transmutation of the ‘Prima materia.’

Although the Emerald Tablet’s original source remains a mystery, we know that its author was one Hermes Trismegistus, as indicated in the text itself. European alchemists held it in the highest regard, and it came to form the basis of their Hermetic traditions and art.

The name Hermes Trismegistus has its origins in the names of Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, and Hermes, one of the Greek gods. ‘Trismegistus’ might be translated to mean ‘thrice greatest,’ and this is in reference to a passage in the Emerald Tablet where the author attributes three parts to the Universal wisdom, namely theurgy, astrology, and alchemy.

However, some voices suggest that the name is derived from an epithet to be found at the Temple of Esna that states ‘Thoth the great, the great, the great.’

The Hermetica is considered to be his work and has been the basis of alchemical practice and philosophy in the Western world, and its origins can be traced back in time to Hellenistic Egypt, with the city of Alexandria being particularly important. Within its pages, Hermes Trismegistus is one of the central characters.

The Emerald Tablet vs. The Emerald Tablets (plural)

There is a level of confusion among the public when it comes to differentiating between The Emerald Tablet and Emerald Tablets (plural). 

Hermetic tradition’s most famous artifact is the Emerald Tablet of Hermes, even though we only have access to translations today. The Tablet is what informs the practical art of alchemy and the confection of what’s referred to as the Philosopher’s Stone.

Conversely, the plural Emerald Tablets of Thoth refers to work published by ‘Dr. Doreal’ in mimeographed form in the 1930s after he claimed to have uncovered multiple previously unknown tablets. However, the Rosicrucian tradition, which considers alchemy as an integral part of its tradition, only acknowledges a single Emerald Tablet.

Dr. Doreal’s work would rapidly gain underground fame among the esoterics of the time. He claimed to have uncovered the new knowledge during the Second World War while in Tibet. His original work had Tablets numbered 1-13, while supplemental 13th and 15th tablets were added later on. 

The fact that no one has verified the existence of these tablets with their own eyes indicates that they would most likely have been considered channeled material were they presented to us today. Still, the Emerald Tablets of the Atlantean Thoth are considered a part of the modern-day Corpus Hermeticum. They are considered valuable resources in helping deepen and elaborate the meaning behind the historical writings of Hermes/Thoth the Emerald Tablet.

However, what we’re dealing with here is the singular Emerald Tablet of Thoth/Hermes.

Origins of the Emerald Tablet

The Emerald Tablet fits the description of a green plaque or tab with an exquisite, bas-relief inscription detailing the Universal Secrets.

The lettering of the inscription closely resembles the Phoenician script of ancient times, even though we are still unfortunately not in possession of the original carving, though we have translations.

The sources of the original Emerald Tablet remain shrouded in mystery, with confusing opinions and conflicting information defining the subject. Depending on your information source, the text is approximately 1,200 – 3,600 years old.

The Ancient Emerald Tablet of Thoth
By Wikimedia-Commons

One of the most commonplace theories regarding the origins of the Emerald Tablet is that it was unearthed in Tyana within a tomb located below the statue of Hermes, clutched within the arms of Hermes Trismegistus.

Yet another theory posits that it was authored by Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth. Some claim that it was initially discovered around 1350 BCE in Egypt within a hidden chamber under the pyramid of Cheops.

Others again hold that the Tablet once rested within the Biblical Ark of the Covenant. You will even find some that believe it originally resided in the legendary city of Atlantis, written by the Priest-King Thoth incarnated as Hermes Trismegistus.

Even with all the theories in the public sphere, we have no tangible evidence proving where the truth lies, as the most ancient documentary evidence available to us is the Book of Balinas the Wise on the Causes (Kitab Balaniyus al-Hakim fi’l-`IlalKitāb sirr al-ḫalīqa).

It was written by the Pseudo-Apollonius of Tyana, known as ‘Balinas’ in the 8th century AD. He provides the story of discovering the Tablet within the caved tomb. It is based on this work that many scholars believe that the Tablet was written at some point in time between the 6th and 8th century AD, rather than ancient times.

Even so, it was many centuries before a Latin translation made the text available to Europeans, thanks to Hugo von Santalla in the 12th century. It quickly grew to become one of the pillars supporting Western alchemical arts and played a significant role in establishing and growing Rennaisance and Medieval alchemy. It continues to be a large presence in the world of alchemy to this day. 

It is believed that through the reading and contemplation of the text, one may discover the layers upon layers of obscured meaning lying within these words. One will encounter a considerable volume of concepts and wisdom that would have typically been considered Buddhist or Taoist.

The eminent and influential scientist Sir Isaac Newton claimed that many of his ideas were conceived upon reading the Emerald Tablet and Corpus Hermeticum. His translation was found among his papers on alchemy and can be viewed to this day at Cambridge University’s King’s College Library.

There have been other researchers of note who had an interest in the Emerald Tablet, including Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Aleister Crowley, and John Dee.

Related reading: The Seven Hermetic PrinciplesOpens in new tab

The Secret Formula of the Emerald Tablet – The Transmutation of Consciousness and the Prima Materia

The Emerald Tablet text outlines an esoteric truth regarding creation and its cause, providing a ‘magical formula’ or pattern that illustrates the relationship between cause and creation.

Getting to the Emerald Tablet’s meaning is a tricky matter, seeing as it is an esoteric text, after all. It can be summed up by describing it as the principles of alchemy. The ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ has its secrets revealed within the text, the hidden art of transmutation.

From the point of view of an alchemist, transmutation refers to the conversion of Prima Materia (base metal) into ‘gold.’ According to mystical terminology, the human consciousness corresponds to base metal,’ and ‘gold’ is used to denote the transmutation of the ordinary person into an enlightened being or conscious creator.

The ‘Elixir of Life’ is another term for the ‘Philosopher’s Stone,’ thought to hold the key to curing diseases, prolonging life, and ultimately granting us immortality.

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As Above, So Below

Among the most significant truths illuminated within the Emerald Tablet is the concept of “As Above, So Below”. While different sources will give us different interpretations on this concept, it is, generally speaking, a reflection upon the idea that the universe comprises multiple planes – the spiritual and the physical – with the thinking that what takes place in one plane affects the other at the same time.

This way of thinking leads to the conclusion that we cannot understand the universe unless we first understand ourselves. A segment of the scholastic community also links the Tablet with the idea of correspondence and the concepts of macrocosms and microcosms, which suggests that the key to understanding large systems is to first understand smaller ones and vice versa.

Should it be true that we came to this knowledge through the long-lost Emerald Tablet, then it stands to reason that the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians was but a copy or derivation of a more ancient tradition.

Might it be that the Emerald Tablet is the source material for the Egyptian Mystery Schools and, consequently, all of the religious traditions of the West?

It is acknowledged that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have a common thread linking them to Abrahamic tradition. Still, those who study the Emerald Tablet contend that the precepts espoused in these traditions all trace back to the Hermetic principles set forth within the Tablet.

Should it be the case that all the mysteries and principles set forth within the Emerald Tablet harken all the way back to the ‘First Time’, then it would not be far fetched to assume that it influenced all the early religious figureheads, including Moses, Abraham, and the earliest Hebrews. Wherever the truth lies, the fact is that we have no natural way of knowing whether the Tablet’s origins trace back to the ancient, pre-flood eras of humanity.

Check out our recommendations at “Hermetic Bookshelf” and many free resources at our Free Library

The Meaning of the Emerald Tablet

The text of the Emerald Tablet is compartmentalized into seven paragraphs, or rubrics. The term ‘rubric’ is derived from the Latin ‘rubeo,’ or ‘red,’ because in the Latin translations, the first letter of the first word of each paragraph would be highlighted in red ink. Note that the Tablet refers to the material universe when it mentions ‘universe.’ When it mentions the ‘Whole Universe,’ it is about the spiritual (above) as well as the material (below) universe. 

Give it a go and see whether you can see the secret formula contained in the words as you read through this English Translation of the Emerald Tablet.

English Translation of the Emerald Tablet (Download PDF)
  1. In truth, without deceit, certain, and most veritable.
  2. That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing. And just as all things have come from this One Thing, through the meditation of One Mind, so do all created things originate from this One Thing, through Transformation.
  3. Its father is the Sun; its mother the Moon. The Wind carries it in its belly; its nurse is the Earth. It is the origin of All, the consecration of the Universe; its inherent Strength is perfected, if it is turned into Earth.
  4. Separate the Earth from Fire, the Subtle from the Gross, gently and with great Ingenuity. It rises from Earth to Heaven and descends again to Earth, thereby combining within Itself the powers of both the Above and the Below.
  5. Thus will you obtain the Glory of the Whole Universe. All Obscurity will be clear to you. This is the greatest Force of all powers, because it overcomes every Subtle thing and penetrates every Solid thing.
  6. In this way was the Universe created. From this comes many wondrous Applications, because this is the Pattern.
  7. Therefore am I called Thrice Greatest Hermes, having all three parts of the wisdom of the Whole Universe. Herein have I completely explained the Operation of the Sun.
Interpretation

1)The first ‘rubric’ or section within the Emerald Tablet is a promulgation of the doctrine that espouses as the most profound, the highest truth. It serves to invite us to be open to higher consciousness and deeper truths.

2) After this comes the second rubric that seeks to introduce the Universal Law of Correspondence to the reader, describing a vertical relationship linking the physical realm below (material) and the spiritual realm Above (invisible). Even though we exist in the physical realm, we remain a part of the ‘Divine Mind,’ or spiritual realm, above.

If it is the case that we are formed in the image of our creator, then it should follow that we have a similar capacity to create by employing the same formula. This is expressed symbolically in the work of Corpus Hermeticum called the “Divine Pymander”.  Hermes Trismegistus is thought to be the author of this, and describes his encounter with the Divine Mind, outlining what it taught him about the true nature of reality.

3) Third comes to an exposition of the nature pertaining to the One Thing – the Tablet’s subject matter. While alchemists have referred to it as First Matter (Prima Materia), we might also term it the life force that animates us. In Rosicrucian tradition, it is also called a vital life force, and other orders of thinking and philosophy have other appellations attached to it: Mana (Hawaiian culture), Prana (Eastern philosophy), Chi or Qi (Chinese science and art). This intangible, invisible force that gives life to us is the cohesive glue that comes forth in our mind, body, breath, and spirit.

Within the first two sentences of this rubric, the first four alchemical operations corresponding to the elements are represented; Calcination (Fire or Sun as Father), Dissolution (Moon or Water as Mother), Separation (Eart as the Nurse), and Conjunction (Wind or Vital Life Force).

4) The fourth rubric represents the most mystical aspects of the Emerald Tablet, letting us know the way to attain the spiritual realm (Above). We are also introduced to the final three operations of alchemy (Fermentation, Distillation, and, finally, Coagulation).

5) In the fifth rubric, the Purified Quintessence, the final result of the preceding conditions is described in detail.

6) The sixth rubric holds that the preceding rubrics outline a Universal Pattern whose destination is a transformation taking place across all levels of reality. This is the alchemical formula followed by all practitioners and is the pattern nature follows as it perfects matter. By following these patterns, the alchemical practitioner can manifest combinations and things in much the same way that the spirit conjures up physical forms.

7) The last rubric sets out to identify the author of the Tablet to us, the ‘Thrice Greatest Hermes’, and outlines the law of three, which is a prerequisite to giving for. Confirmation of this procedure is given with the last line of the text.

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The Emerald Tablet

Here are some of the best-known translations

Translation of Issac Newton c. 1680. (Download PDF)

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 (Download PDF)

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 (Download PDF)

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.

The Emerald Tablet
The Emerald Tablet. Photo from Mj2artesanos
From Fulcanelli, new translation (Download PDF)

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.

Latin text (Download PDF)
  1. Verum, sine mendacio, certum et verissimum:
  2. Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius, ad perpetranda miracula rei unius.
  3. Et sicut res omnes fuerunt ab uno, meditatione unius, sic omnes res natae ab hac una re, adaptatione.
  4. Pater eius est Sol. Mater eius est Luna, portavit illud Ventus in ventre suo, nutrix eius terra est.
  5. Pater omnis telesmi totius mundi est hic.
  6. Virtus eius integra est si versa fuerit in terram.
  7. Separabis terram ab igne, subtile ab spisso, suaviter, magno cum ingenio.
  8. Ideo fugiet a te omnis obscuritas.
  9. Haec est totius fortitudinis fortitudo fortis, quia vincet omnem rem subtilem, omnemque solidam penetrabit.
  10. Sic mundus creatus est.
  11. 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.
English translation from the Latin text Tabula Smaragdina based on that by Robert Steele and Dorothy Singer (Download PDF)
  • True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true.
  • That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of (the) one thing.
  • And as all things were by contemplation (meditation) of (the) One, so all things arose from this one thing by a single act of adaptation.
  • The father thereof is the sun, the mother the moon; the wind carried it in its womb; the earth is the nurse thereof.
  • It is the father of all works of wonder (thelema) throughout the whole world.
  • The power thereof is perfect, if it be cast on to earth.
  • It will separate the element of earth from that of fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with great sagacity.
  • It doth ascend from earth to heaven; again it doth descend to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior. Thus thou wilt possess the glory of the brightness of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly far from thee.
  • This thing is the strongest of all powers, the force of all forces, for it overcometh every subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance. Thus was this world created.
  • Hence there will be marvellous adaptations achieved, of which the manner is this.
  • For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I hold three parts of the wisdom of the world.
  • That which I had to say about the operation of sol is completed.
Historical Translation (Download PDF)
  • True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true.
  • That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of (the) one thing.
  • And as all things were by contemplation (meditation) of (the) One, so all things arose from this one thing by a single act of adaptation.
  • The father thereof is the sun, the mother the moon; the wind carried it in its womb; the earth is the nurse thereof.
  • It is the father of all works of wonder (thelema) throughout the whole world. The power thereof is perfect, if it be cast on to earth.
  • It will separate the element of earth from that of fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with great sagacity.
  • It doth ascend from earth to heaven; again it doth descend to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior. Thus thou wilt possess the glory of the brightness of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly far from thee.
  • This thing is the strongest of all powers, the force of all forces, for it overcometh every subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance.
  • Thus was this world created.
  • Hence there will be marvellous adaptations achieved, of which the manner is this.
  • For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I hold three parts of the wisdom of the world.
  • That which I had to say about the operation of sol is completed.
The Ancient Emerald Tablet of Thoth
Contemporary Translation rendering of Latin text (Download PDF)
  1. [It is] true, without a lie, certain and most true,
  2. That which is below is as that which is above, and that which is above is as that which is below, to perform the miracles of the one thing.
  3. And as all things were from the one, by means of the meditation of the one, thus all things were born from the one, by means of adaptation.
  4. Its father is the Sun, its mother is the Moon, the Wind carried it in its belly, its nurse is the earth.
  5. The father of the whole world [or “of all of the initiates”?] is here.
  6. Its power is whole if it has been turned into earth.
  7. You will separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the dense, sweetly, with great skill.
  8. It ascends from earth into heaven and again it descends to the earth, and receives the power of higher and of lower things.
  9. Thus you will have the Glory of the whole world.
  10. Therefore will all obscurity flee from you.
  11. Of all strength this is true strength, because it will conquer all that is subtle, and penetrate all that is solid.
  12. Thus was the world created.
  13. From this were wonderful adaptations, of which this is the means. Therefore am I named Thrice-Great Hermes, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
  14. It is finished, what I have said about the working[s] of the Sun

Instead of engaging in an over-analysis of the Emerald Tablet, seeking a deeper connection with the truths it holds is the best course of action. This can be achieved by reading and re-reading it until the wisdom it holds starts to resonate with you on some level. Take a copy with you and refer to it throughout your day, and you will notice how the wisdom begins to seep into you. It might help you rewrite it in a way that appeals to you more readily.

This was the approach used by almost every researcher into the Emerald Tablet, from Isaac Newton to Albertus Magnus, who personally prepared translations of the text for their use.

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Featured Image: The Emerald Tablet, from Mj2artesanos

Chris A. Parker

Since 1998, researcher and blogger in practical occultism and Mind-science, who believes that the best way to predict the future is to create it…