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Categories: Hermeticism | Sacred Texts
The Emerald Tablet (or in Latin, Tabula Smaragdina) is a short text considered to be a cornerstone of the Hermetic movement and fundamental to the Art of Alchemy. Alchemical writings sometimes reference it by a variant title: The Secret of Hermes. Its putative author is Hermes Trismigestus (Hermes the Thrice-Great), a legendary Egyptian adept named after the Greek god of occult wisdom. The origin of the Emerald Tablet is lost in antiquity, and there is no recorded history as to its place of creation or the name of the actual author. Scholars and philosophers have been aware of it since the 10th century.
In the 14th century, the alchemist Ortolanus wrote a substantial exegesis on "The Secret of Hermes," which was influential on the subsequent development of alchemy. Many manuscripts of this copy of the Emerald Tablet and the commentary of Ortolanus survive, dating at least as far back as the 15th century.
A Latin copy of the Emerald Tablet was included among the alchemical papers of Isaac Newton. The manuscript was in Newton's own hand.
C.G. Jung identified "The Emerald Tablet" with a table made of green stone that he encountered in the first of a set of his dreams and visions beginning at the end of 1912, and climaxing in his writing the Seven Sermons to the Dead in 1916. The ideas contained in the Hermetic text are consistent with the enantiodromian processes characteristic of Jungian individuation.
The Text (English Translation)
Truly, without Deceit, certainly and absolutely, As Above, so Below, and as Below, so Above, in the Accomplishment of the Miracle of the One Thing. And just as all things have come from One, through the Mediation of One, so all things follow from this One Thing in the same Way. Its Father was the Sun, the Moon its Mother. It was carried in the Womb of Air, and the Earth was its Nurse. It is the Father of every Willed Thing in the whole World. Its Power is perfected if it becomes as Earth. Separate the Earth from Fire: the Fine from the Gross, gently and with great skill. It rises from Earth to Heaven, and then it descends again to the Earth and receives Power from Above and from Below. Thus you will have the Glory of the whole World. All Obscurity will be clear to you. This is the strong Power of all Power because it overcomes everything fine and penetrates everything solid. In this way was the World created. From this there will be amazing Applications, because this is the Pattern. Therefore am I called Thrice Greatest Hermes, having the three parts of the Wisdom of the whole World. Herein have I completely explained the Operation of the Sun.
Tabula Smaragdina in Thelema
In his Confessions, Aleister Crowley described the Emerald Tablet as a "sacred text in Greek" (672). In his 1917 essay "The Revival of Magick," he explained the Tablet as follows:
- That is to say, in order to perform his miracle, [the Magician] must call forth his own God in the Microcosm. That is united with the God of the Macrocosm by its likeness to it; and the Macrocosmic force then operates in the Universe without as the Magician has made it operate within himself; the miracle happens. (14)
- And as the macrocosm is the greater, it follows that what one does by magick is to attune oneself with the Infinite. (18)
Crowley associated the formulae of the Emerald Tablet with certain Qabalistic conundrums. He paraphrased the Emerald Tablet briefly in his glossary entry for Kether in the first volume of Book Four, and quoted the same portion in a description of Tiphareth in "The Magical Theory of the Universe" (Chapter 0 of Magick in Theory & Practice).
In Liber Samekh Crowley writes of the "Table of Emerald," as referencing
- That One Substance ... whose virtue it is to unite all opposite modes of Being, thereby to serve as a Talisman charged with the Spiritual Energy of Existence, an Elixir or Stone composed of the physical basis of Life ... this Eucharist, which createth, sustaineth and redeemeth all things. (Magick, 525)
- Crowley, Aleister. (1997). Magick: Book 4. 2nd ed. York Beach, Me. : S. Weiser.
- Crowley, Aleister. (1979). The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. London;Boston : Routledge & Kegan Paul.
- Crowley, Aleister. (1998). The Revival of Magick. Tempe, AZ : New Falcon Publications.
- Dobbs, B.J.T. (1991.) The Janus Face of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton's Thought.
- Jung, Carl Gustav, with Aniela Jaffe. (1963.) Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Pantheon.
- Thorndike, Lynn. (1934.) History of Magic and Experimental Science. (volumes III and IV) New York: Columbia University.