Books & Lit,  Mind / Body

The Emerald Tablet.


All Western alchemy is attributed originally to a mystical figure known as Hermes Trismegistus (the thrice great) who became interwoven with the Egyptian god Thoth and is said to have inscribed the Emerald Tablet, the cornerstone, so to speak, of Hermetic Philosophy. What’s interesting about it is it is that it’s one of the earliest writings talking about the mirror relationship between macrocosm and microcosm.

There are many translations of translations of the inscription, even one by Sir Isaac Newton himself. How accurate they are is hard to tell as I don’t know if anyone is in possession of the legendary tablet. I’ve chosen the following translation from The Emerald Tablet of Hermes and The Kybalion, edited by Dr. Jane Ma’ati Smith C. Hyp. Msc.D. which is from an Arabic version, and attests to be a translation of the original Syriac:

“The above from the below, and the below from the above, the work of the miracle of the One.

And things have been from this primal substance through a single act. How wonderful is this work! It is the main principle of this world and its maintainer.

Its father is the Sun and its mother the Moon; the Wind has borne it in its body, and the Earth has nourished it.

The father of talismen and the protector of miracles whose powers are perfect, and whose lights are confirmed.

A fire that becomes earth.

Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, with care and sagacity.

It rises from Earth to Heaven, so as to draw the lights of the heights itself, and descends to the Earth; thus within it are the forces of the Above and the Below;

Because the light of lights within it thus does the darkness flee before it.

The force of forces, which overcomes every subtle thing and penetrates into everything gross.

The structure of the microcosm is in accordance with the structure of the macrocosm.

And accordingly proceed the knowledgeable …”

The riddle of the ages, or a bunch of nonsense? You decide.

But if you’re interested in alchemy, please listen to this BBC Radio 4 podcast on the subject from Melvyn Bragg’s wonderful series In Our Time which explores the history of ideas.