Representation of the Emerald Tablet

The Legendary Emerald Tablet and its Secrets of the Universe


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


Beyer, C., 2014. [Online]
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Clark, R., 2013. Rawn's Commentary upon the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. [Online]
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Hart, E., 2006. The Emerald Tablet. [Online]
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[Accessed 10 August 2014].MacFarlane, I. C., 2005. The Emerald Table of Hermes. [Online]
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Sacred-Texts, 2014. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes. [Online]
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Toraeke, C. d., 2014. A Commentary on the Emerald Tablet. [Online]
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In scripture, the referance to Stone, is a figure to the Messiah (Christ). Psalm 118:22-23.
Isaiah 8: 11-17.. ! peter 2: 6-8..
Seven eyes, symbolic to Lord's infinate intelligence (omniscience)
'In a single day', Ultimately good friday; refers to Christ's second coming..

Proverbs 9:1 = Both wisdom and folly have a house to which mankind is invited. For her, there is no sitting.. When wisdom is used to construct, but sitting occurs; destruction can be close as a shadow..
So why do old civilizations, die ??

Rev 5:6; Lamb as slain, bearing the marks of slaughter. He has come to power, through his death. Spirits are Church's, about 50 miles apart, that formed a circle in Asia, moving clockwise north from Ephesus full circle to Laodicia, east of Ephesus. The entire book of revelation was sent to each church. On scrolls. Book form was not invented till second century ad.. Asia was a roman province in western Turkey.

That's very interesting. True, metaphor was oft used in ancient texts, but this wasn't always the case. Sometimes metaphor had to be used to recount very literal, visceral experiences or circumstances of which the writers or recorders could only draw from their own particular frame of reference.

These 'metaphors' are sometimes more literal than most suspect, it's just beyond their knowledge or frame of reference so they dismiss it as superlative yarn.

Because not all knowledge is for everyone. Only a true seeker will see what is hidden. Only a true seeker deserves to know.

Tsurugi's picture

Very interesting comment. I followed the link provided and read what was there as well, then downloaded the linked pdf for further perusal in the near future.

In the text of the linked blog post you provide an answer to a question I have long asked and intended to ask in response to your comment here, "Why all the symbolism? What reason is there for the concealment of esoterica within the exoteric?"
Your answer makes sense. But I confess to having doubts that it is the whole answer, though it may indeed be part of it. Concealing the truth to protect it from being hidden from the many by the few, has resulted in the truth being hidden from the many and known only to a few, after all....

Seven Star Hand's picture

Another fun though inconclusive article that I can shed more light upon. As with all such ancient wisdom texts, the key to understanding them is the symbology used, and this article does mention the term esoteric. It is beyond obvious in this instance that the so-called Emerald Tablet shown here and supposedly found translated elsewhere is someone's effort to present and profit from an alternative literal storyline. The original symbolism comes out of ancient pre-Ptolemy Egypt, so any real tablet would not be in Greek. Furthermore, the entire concept is symbolic like AmenMoses' two tables of stone and similar concepts. There is indeed a literal body of wisdom that was being referred to and it can be seen in the Doctrine of Two Spirits outline, which is also the true contents of the Two Tables of Stone from Exodus. The text and idea of Ten commandments were inserted much later by religious leaders, but the prophets themselves left proof of the truth.

To better understand the so-called Emerald Tablet of Thoth one must clear up key misconceptions about the symbolism. Just like the Two Tables of Stone in Exodus, the assertion of stone tablets comes from a misinterpretation of the meaning of table in this context. A table is a list of items and if you look at the Doctrine of Two Spirits, you see two tables of seven lines each. This is in part alluded to with the idea of ten commandments written on two stone tablets. Next, notice that the tablets most often shown look just like dual Egyptian Stelae as well the shape of the two feathers shown as the "crown" of Amun. The two feathers usually show seven vertical divisions, matching the number items that should be on each stone. Here are some further quick insights into that fact, and there is much more elsewhere.

Zechariah 3:9
For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, said the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.

Proverbs 9:1
Wisdom has built Her house; She has hewn out Her seven pillars.

Revelation 5:6 (reconstructed)
And I beheld, and, lo, within the midst of the throne and of the four creatures, and within the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the Seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

Next is to understand what the symbolism of stones, gems, and crystals actually means. Stone is one of the symbols for wisdom that alludes to pivotal knowledge that has stood the tests of time. Stone is also a symbol for ancient wisdom. On the other hand, crystals symbolize spiritual wisdom and gems are spiritual wisdom more valuable than gold. An emerald is a green and highly valued gemstone and green is one symbol for life. Thereby, emerald symbolizes spiritual wisdom about life. Among the tales about the emerald tablet is the assertion that the information would fit on a single gemstone.

Now look again at the Doctrine of Two Spirits, and keep in mind the same dualism seen in Egypt and AmenMoses' Two Tables of Stone. The two "spirits" or ways are also symbolized as light and dark, air and earth, and other dual pairs. Life and death are another. Thereby, the two tables are the wisdom related to life and death and very specifically, the upper half (truth, wisdom, compassion, justice, etc.) is symbolized as life and the lower is associated with death. With that understanding, and the fact that the "emerald table" of Thoth refers to spiritual wisdom about life, the upper half of the Doctrine of Two Spirits is the "emerald table.' It is also vital to understand that dualism is wisdom and both light and dark, life and death, etc. must be understood before there is any true wisdom. Thereby, the dualism seen in Egypt and elsewhere requires that there be two tables, whether on separate stones or gems or merely on opposite sides. Both would fit the symbolic requirements. Remember the Hall of Two Ways or two truths?

Enough for now...


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