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The Emerald Tablet, also known as Smaragdine Table, Tabula Smaragdina, or The Secret of Hermes, is a text purporting to reveal the secret of the primordial substance and its transmutations. It claims to be the work of Hermes Trismegistus ("Hermes the Thrice-Greatest"), a legendary Hellenistic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.
This short and cryptic text was highly regarded by European alchemists as the foundation of their art, in particular of its Hermetic tradition.
Not to be confused with the 13 Emerald tablets of Thoth.
The oldest documentable source for the text is the Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, a compendium of advice for rulers in Arabic which purports to be a letter from Aristotle to Alexander the Great. This work was translated into Latin as Secretum Secretorum (The Secret of Secrets) by Johannes "Hispalensis" or Hispaniensis (John of Seville) ca. 1140 and by Philip of Tripoli c. 1243.
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.
The Tablet has also been found appended to manuscripts of the Kitab Ustuqus al-Uss al-Thani (Second Book of the Elements of Foundation) attributed to Jabir ibn Hayyan, and the Kitab Sirr al-Khaliqa wa San`at al-Tabi`a ("Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature"), dated between 650 and 830 AD.
The tablet text
A new translation bypassing the Latin has just been published by Nineveh Shadrach from the original Arabic of Book of Causes attributed to Apollonius of Tyana.
It contains an accurate commentary that can't be doubted.
It states: What is the above is from the below and the below is from the above. The work of wonders is from one.
And all things sprang from this essence through a single projection. How marvelous is its work! It is the principle [sic] part of the world and its custodian.
Its father is the sun and its mother is the moon. Thus the wind bore it within it and the earth nourished it.
Father of talismans and keeper of wonders.
Perfect in power that reveals the lights.
It is a fire that became our earth. Separate the earth from the fire and you shall adhere more to that which is subtle than that which is coarse, through care and wisdom.
It ascends from the earth to the heaven. It extracts the lights from the heights and descends to the earth containing the power of the above and the below for it is with the light of the lights. Therefore the darkness flees from it.
The greatest power overcomes everything that is subtle and it penetrates all that is coarse.
The formation of the microcosm is in accordance with the formation of the macrocosm.
The scholars made this their path.
This is why Thrice Hermes was exalted with wisdom.
This is his last book that he hid in the catacomb.
A 17th century depiction of the Tablet by Heinrich Khunrath, 1606
One translation, by Isaac Newton, found among his alchemical papers as reported by B. J. Dobbs in modern spelling:
Tis true without lying, certain most true.
That which is below is like that which is above that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.
And as all things have been arose from one by the mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.
The Sun is its father, the moon its mother,
the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth its nurse.
The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.
Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.
It ascends from the earth to the heaven again it descends to the earth and receives the force of things superior and inferior.
By this means ye shall have the glory of the whole world thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.
Its force is above all force. for it vanquishes every subtle thing and penetrates every solid thing.
So was the world created.
From this are and do come admirable adaptations whereof the means (Or process) is here in this.
Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished and ended.
Another translation from Aurelium Occultae Philosophorum by Georgio Beato:
This is true and remote from all cover of falsehood.
Whatever is below is similar to that which is above. Through this the marvels of the work of one thing are procured and perfected.
Also, as all things are made from one, by the consideration of one, so all things were made from this one, by conjunction.
The father of it is the sun, the mother the moon.
The wind bore it in the womb. Its nurse is the earth, the mother of all perfection.
Its power is perfected.
If it is turned into earth,
Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle and thin from the crude and coarse, prudently, with modesty and wisdom.
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.
By this means you will acquire the glory of the whole world, and so you will drive away all shadows and blindness.
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.
By this means the world was founded
And hence the marvelous conjunctions of it and admirable effects, since this is the way by which these marvels may be brought about.
And because of this they have called me Hermes Tristmegistus since I have the three parts of the wisdom and Philosophy of the whole universe.
My speech is finished which I have spoken concerning the solar work.
Original edition of the Latin text. (Chrysogonus Polydorus, Nuremberg 1541):
Verum, sine mendatio, 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.
Ascendit a terra in coelum, iterumque descendit in terram, et recipit vim superiorum et inferiorum.
Sic habebis Gloriam totius mundi.
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.
Contemporary rendering of Latin text
[It is] true, without error, certain and most true,
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.
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.
Its father is the Sun, its mother is the Moon, the Wind carried it in its belly, its nurse is the earth.
The father of the whole world [or "of all of the initiates"?] is here.
Its power is whole if it has been turned into earth.
You will separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the dense, sweetly, with great skill.
It ascends from earth into heaven and again it descends to the earth, and receives the power of higher and of lower things.
Thus you will have the Glory of the whole world.
Therefore will all obscurity flee from you.
Of all strength this is true strength, because it will conquer all that is subtle, and penetrate all that is solid.
Thus was the world created.
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.
It is finished, what I have said about the working[s] of the Sun.
In its several Western recensions, the Tablet became a mainstay of medieval and Renaissance alchemy. Commentaries and/or translations were published by, among others, Trithemius, Roger Bacon, Michael Maier, Aleister Crowley, Albertus Magnus, and Isaac Newton.
C.G. Jung identified "The Emerald Tablet" with a table made of green stone which he encountered in the first of a set of his dreams and visions beginning at the end of 1912, and climaxing in his writing Seven Sermons to the Dead in 1916.
Because of its longstanding popularity, the Emerald Tablet is the only piece of non-Greek Hermetica to attract widespread attention in the West. The reason that the Emerald Tablet was so valuable is because it contained the instructions for the goals of alchemists. It hinted at the recipe for alchemical gold, as well as how to set one's level of consciousness to a new degree.
It is credited as an influence for the best selling book and film, The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, that also says our intentions and emotions will manifest in our lives and world.
1. Hart, G., The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, 2005, Routledge, second edition, Oxon, p 158
2. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 415)
3.  Translation from the original Arabic of Book of Causes attributed to Apollonius of Tyana
4. "Newton's Commentary on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus" in Merkel, I. and Debus, A. G., Hermeticism and the Renaissance. Folger, Washington 1988.
5. Sometimes written Thelesmi. This indicates a Greek origin. The Latin word "Tela" (ae,fem.) roughly means "loom" or "incomplete cloth". The true meaning of the word is somewhat obscure.
• Holmyard, E.J. "The Emerald Table" Nature, No. 2814, Vol. 112, October 6, 1923, pp 525–6.
• Holmyard, E.J. Alchemy, Pelican, Harmondsworth, 1957. pp95–8.
• Needham, J. Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 5, part 4: Spagyrical discovery and invention: Apparatus, Theories and gifts. CUP, 1980.
• Ruska, Julius. Tabula Smaragdina. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der hermetischen Literatur. Heidelberg, 1926.
• Ruska, Julius. Die Alchimie ar-Razi's. n.p., 1935.
• Ruska, Julius. Quelques problemes de literature alchimiste. n.p., 1931.
• Stapleton, H.E., Lewis, G.L, Sherwood Taylor, F. "The sayings of Hermes quoted in the Ma Al-Waraqi of Ibn Umail. " Ambix, vol. 3, 1949, pp 69–90.
• M.Robinson. "The History and Myths surrounding Johannes Hispalensis," in Bulletin of Hispanic Studies vol. 80, no. 4, October 2003, pp. 443–470, abstract.