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Representation of the Emerald Tablet

The Legendary Emerald Tablet and its Secrets of the Universe

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The origins of Western alchemy can be traced back to Hellenistic Egypt, in particular to the city of Alexandria. One of the most important characters in the mythology of alchemy is Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes the Thrice-Great). The name of this figure is derived from the Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth, and his Greek counterpart, Hermes. The Hermetica, which is said to be written by Hermes Trismegistus, is generally regarded as the basis of Western alchemical philosophy and practice. In addition, Hermes Trismegistus is also believed to be the author of the Emerald Tablet.

Legends of the Emerald Tablet

The Emerald Tablet is said to be a tablet of emerald or green stone inscribed with the secrets of the universe. The source of the original Emerald Tablet is unclear; hence it is surrounded by legends. The most common story 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.

Hermes Trismegistus. ( Public Domain )

And the creator of the Emerald Tablet has been provided in myth as the Egyptian god Thoth, who Armando Mei writes “divided his knowledge into 42 plates of emerald, codifying the great scientific principles ruling the Universe. The legend tells that after the gods’ fall, the Hermetic tablets were cleverly hidden so that no human being might find them. Only Thoth, on his return to that dimension, was able to recover the mysterious book.”

Thoth. ( Brooklyn Museum )

Another legend suggests that it was the third son of Adam and Eve , Seth, who originally wrote it. Others believed 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.

Spreading Stories of the Emerald Tablet

While 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 sirr al-haliqi (Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature), which was itself a composite of earlier works.

This was an Arabic work written in the 8th century AD and attributed to ‘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 also an Arabic text and written between the 6th and 8th centuries AD, rather than a piece of work from Antiquity, as many have claimed.

While Balinas claimed that the Emerald Tablet was written originally in Greek, the original document that he purportedly possessed no longer exists, if indeed it existed at all. Some say the text burned up in the Library of Alexandria . Nevertheless, Balinas’ version of the text itself quickly became well-known, and has been translated by various people over the centuries.

For instance, an early version of the Emerald Tablet also appeared in a work called the Kitab Ustuqus al-Uss al-Thani (Second Book of the Elements of the Foundation), which is attributed to Jabir ibn Hayyan. It would, however, take several more centuries before the text was accessible to Europeans. In the 12th century AD, the Emerald Tablet was translated into Latin by Hugo von Santalla.

A reconstruction of what the Emerald Tablet is believed to have looked like. ( Crystalinks)

 What’s Written on the Emerald Tablet?

The Emerald Tablet 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 . And today knowledge of the legendary Emerald Tablet (at least one interpretation of it ) is reaching new audiences with its presence in the surreal German-language series Dark.

An imaginative 17th century depiction of the Emerald Tablet from the work of Heinrich Khunrath, 1606. ( Public Domain )

The interpretation of the Emerald Text is not a straightforward matter, as it is after all a piece of esoteric text . One interpretation, for instance, suggests that the text describes seven stages of alchemical transformation – calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, fermentation, distillation and coagulation. 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.

Top Image: Representation of what the Emerald Tablet may have looked like. Source: info consapevole

By Ḏḥwty

References

Beyer, C., 2014. http://altreligion.about.com/od/westernocculttraditio1/p/Emerald-Tablet.htm. [Online]
Available at: http://altreligion.about.com/od/westernocculttraditio1/p/Emerald-Tablet.htm

Clark, R., 2013. Rawn's Commentary upon the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. [Online]
Available at: http://www.abardoncompanion.de/EmeraldTablet.html

Hart, E., 2006. The Emerald Tablet. [Online]
Available at: http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/med/me-elo4.htm

[Accessed 10 August 2014].MacFarlane, I. C., 2005. The Emerald Table of Hermes. [Online]
Available at: http://www.endlesssearch.co.uk/philo_emerald_tablet.htm

Sacred-Texts, 2014. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes. [Online]
Available at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/emerald.htm

Toraeke, C. d., 2014. A Commentary on the Emerald Tablet. [Online]
Available at: http://www.alchemywebsite.com/emertabl.html

Comments

Hi

I've been advised to provide my input in this comments section after submitting my feedback on this matter. Below is the formal email to the Editor of Ancient Origins website;

Hi Ancient Origins 

    I’d like to give a feedback, a crucial one if I may highlight, on some of the
    findings on The Emerald Tablet/ Tabula Smaragdina. I’m a student of Arabic
    Language, predominantly Quranic Arabic and I noticed the incorrect
    translation of the Arabic title in Kitab sirr Al Haliqa which is the oldest
    documentable of Emerald Tablet text.

    The correct translation for this title should be كتاب سر الخليقة
    و صنعة الطبيعة أو كتاب العلل للحكيم بلنياس
       “Book of Secret of Creation and industry of Nature (or Nature of reality/
    reason of justification) for the discreet authority with the inspiring mass
    generation. The word بلنياس is NOT a person, but rather refers to the
    masses/massing generation.

    Truthfully, it was on Wikipedia when I first spotted this mistake so I
    decided to search on other ancient history sources including this site to
    inspect further. I can’t seem to trace where the earlier references cited
    this information from because clearly the initial translation of this book is
    incorrect, thus the existence of “Balinas/Balanius” is in no doubt
    questionable.
    Another point I’d like to highlight is the legend of the Philosopher’s
    Stone which is linked to the Emerald Tablet:

    1. Sources highlight that the existence of the works on this “mythical”
    stone dated as far back as 3CE/300AD.

    2. However the first appearance of the Emerald Tablet in Kitab Sirr Al Haliqa
    was between 6-8CE/600-800AD

    Therefore the real question;
    if the earliest works of Philosopher’s Stone existed since ca. 300AD, this
    means the Emerald Tablet MUST EXIST in the SAME TIMELINE as it is the primary
    source of the creation of the mythical stone.
    So why are all the timelines muddled this information up in history?

    Any clarification on this matter is appreciated. Thank you for your time in
    reading this feedback.

    

Hi

I've been advised to provide my input in this comments section after submitting my feedback on this matter. Below is the formal email to the Editor of Ancient Origins website;

Hi Ancient Origins 

    I’d like to give a feedback, a crucial one if I may highlight, on some of the
    findings on The Emerald Tablet/ Tabula Smaragdina. I’m a student of Arabic
    Language, predominantly Quranic Arabic and I noticed the incorrect
    translation of the Arabic title in Kitab sirr Al Haliqa which is the oldest
    documentable of Emerald Tablet text.

    The correct translation for this title should be كتاب سر الخليقة
    و صنعة الطبيعة أو كتاب العلل للحكيم بلنياس
       “Book of Secret of Creation and industry of Nature (or Nature of reality/
    reason of justification) for the discreet authority with the inspiring mass
    generation. The word بلنياس is NOT a person, but rather refers to the
    masses/massing generation.

    Truthfully, it was on Wikipedia when I first spotted this mistake so I
    decided to search on other ancient history sources including this site to
    inspect further. I can’t seem to trace where the earlier references cited
    this information from because clearly the initial translation of this book is
    incorrect, thus the existence of “Balinas/Balanius” is in no doubt
    questionable.
    Another point I’d like to highlight is the legend of the Philosopher’s
    Stone which is linked to the Emerald Tablet:

    1. Sources highlight that the existence of the works on this “mythical”
    stone dated as far back as 3CE/300AD.

    2. However the first appearance of the Emerald Tablet in Kitab Sirr Al Haliqa
    was between 6-8CE/600-800AD

    Therefore the real question;
    if the earliest works of Philosopher’s Stone existed since ca. 300AD, this
    means the Emerald Tablet MUST EXIST in the SAME TIMELINE as it is the primary
    source of the creation of the mythical stone.
    So why are all the timelines muddled this information up in history?

    Any clarification on this matter is appreciated. Thank you for your time in
    reading this feedback.

    Best,

Aznim

Hahaha this is too funny! The International Alchemy Guild apparently knows all secrets of the universe and they can be written on something smaller than a standard A4. Must be a very efficient script they use. Considering the size of the alleged topic at hand ("secrets of the universe") the other illustration, from Wikimedia (that with a very large stone) appears bit more "realistic", although even a stone of that size would probably need sub-microscopic lettering to contain even the smallest fragment of anything having "universal" proportions. The universe is actually pretty big. Or, who knows, perhaps there are no "secrets of the universe", perhaps this alchemy thing is just another method of converting hot air into money?

There is great Truth spoken of in this thread. It is oft worth remembering though that Wisdom spoken out of Wisdom's turn is aught but the jowly hum of a fool about his errands.

here lies the true history... read the lyrics and discover more than about the smerald table
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpbkJrJodcQ

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