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-Great"), a legendary Egyptian
sage or god, variously identified with the Egyptian god Thoth
and/or the Greek god Hermes
This short and cryptic text was highly regarded by European alchemists as the foundation of their art, in particular of its Hermetic tradition.
The tablet text
One translation, by Isaac Newton, found among his alchemical papers as reported by B.J. Dobbs in "Newton's Commentary on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus" in Merkel, I and Debus A.G. Hermeticism and the Renaissance. Folger, Washington 1988.:
- 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 meditation 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. Separate 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 ye 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 adaptations 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.
Another translation from Aurelium Occultae Philosophorum
by Georgio Beato
- 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 consideration 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.
- 6) Its power is perfected.
- 7) If it is turned into earth,
- 7) Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle and thin from the crude and coarse, 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.
- 11) 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 Philosophy of the whole universe.
- 14) My speech is finished which I have spoken concerning the solar work.
Original edition of the Latin
text. (Chrysogonus Polydorus
Verum, sine mendacio, 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,
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
- 1. True, without error, certain and most true
- 2. That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, 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 of the daughter from [the] one, by [means of] adaptation.
- 4. Its father is the sun, its mother[,]the moon, the wind carried it in its belly, its nurse is the earth.
- 5. The father of all the initiates of the whole world is here.
- 6. Its power is integrating if it be turned into earth.
- 7. Separate the earth from the fire, the fine from the dense, delicately, by [means of/to] the great [together] with capacity.
- 8. It ascends by [means of] earth into heaven and again it descends into the earth, and retakes the power of the superior[s] and of the inferior[s].
- 9. Thus[,] you have the glory of the whole world.
- 10. Therefore[,] may it drive-out by [means of] you of all the obscurity.
- 11. This is the whole of the strength of the strong force, because it overcomes all fine things, and penetrates all the complete.
- 12. Thus[,] the world has been created.
- 13. Hence they were wonderful adaptations, of which this is the manner.
- 14. Therefore[,] I am Hermes the Thrice Great, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
- 15. What I have said concerning the operation of the Sun has been completed.
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
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.
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 The 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.
- Holmyard, E.J. "The Emerald Table" Nature, No. 2814, Vol. 112, October 6th 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. Die Alchimie ar-Razi's. n.p., 1935.
- Ruska, Julius. Quelques problemes de litterature 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.