30 de Noviembre, 2008
The exact origin of the Emerald Tablet
This 13 stanza verse may be, to those who understand it, one of the most profound examples of wordmanship ever recorded. To this writer, these words hold within their scope the essence of all scripture, myth, and spiritual metaphor.
The following interpretation of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes is offered by this writer who has spent many years contemplating, and proving, its content. My intent is only to aid those whose inner being responds to the tablet's song. Please understand that there are as many interpretations as there are interpreters, but there is only one Tablet. Did Hermes write it? Was there such a person, after all? We cannot be sure, nevertheless, the words are before us and they resonate with the truth and power of their meaning.
Each person who is drawn to the Emerald Tablet will have their own ideas and understanding of it, as it should be. Hopefully, some of these ideas will be shared so that everyone may benefit. No one person, in my opinion, can comprehend all that these words contain.
- Cohn de Toraeke
The Emerald Tablet Of Hermes
I. I Speak Not Fiction, But What Is Certain And Most True.
II. What Is Below Is Like That Which Is Above, And That Which Is Above Is Like That Which Is Below For Performing The Miracle Of One Thing.
III. And As All Things Are Produced From One, By The Mediation Of One, So All Things Are Produced From This One Thing By Adaptation.
IV. Its Father Is The Sun, Its Mother Was The Moon, The Wind Carried It In Its Belly, Its Nurse Is The Earth.
V. It Is The Cause Of All Perfection Throughout The Whole World.
VI. Its Power Is Perfect If It Be Changed Into The Earth.
VII. Separate The Earth From The Fire, The Subtle From The Gross, Gently, And With Judgment.
VIII. It Ascends From The Earth To Heaven, And Descends Again To Earth, Thus You Will Possess The Glory Of The Whole World And All Obscurity Will Fly Away.
IX. This Thing Is The Fortitude Of All Fortitude, Because It Overcomes All Subtle Things, And Penetrates Every Solid Thing.
X. Thus Are All Things Created.
XI. Thence Proceed Wonderful Adaptations Which Are Produced In This Way.
XII. Therefore Am I Called Hermes Trismegistus, Possessing The Three Parts Of The Philosophy Of The Whole World.
XIII. What I Had To Say About The Operations Of The Sun Is Complete.
The meaning of the term - HERMETIC PHILOSOPHY
The word "Hermetic" comes from the name Hermes Trismagistus; the Egyptian God of Wisdom who was blessed with three Magisteries, and who, it is traditionally believed, wrote the Emerald Tablet.
[hermetic] - sealed and impenetrable from the outside.
[philosophy] - from philo(s); Greek/Latin - beloved, or loving+ sophia; Greek - wisdom.
Therefore, Hermetic Philosophy means "The Sealed and Beloved Wisdom."
Hermes' words are simple and eloquent, and yet they encompass the whole Philosophy of the Great Art which includes the practical work of making the plant stone and mineral stone (referred to as The Minor Work and The Major Work, respectively)
Understand that Hermetic Philosophy IS the key. How one makes the stones, according to the sages, is as simple as making bread once the ingredients and processes are understood. They say that when the seeker understands the NATURE of the stones and their correct PROCESSES they will, with industry and perseverance, easily accomplish the work.
In this Spirit and Light Hermes' words apply to the comprehension of both stones for they are similar in nature, but very different in degree. Above all else, according to the sages, you will succeed in possessing the Stone when you have first succeeded in possessing it, metaphorically, within your heart. This is called, "At-One-ment", which is more commonly pronounced, atonement. Also - isn't it curious that At-One-ment and (S)tonement share the same numerical value of 8?
Hermes, through his words, becomes a metaphor for Creation's process.
The EMERALD TABLET OF HERMES - an interpretation
I. I SPEAK NOT FICTION, BUT WHAT IS CERTAIN AND MOST TRUE.
"I SPEAK ..." In the Christian Bible, at the beginning of the Gospel of St. John, it is written, 'In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and the Word WAS God.' This implies sound (vibration) as the first cause or affect upon Creation by 'I' (God), the Source of all that is to follow. EveryTHING in the universe, from the incomprehensible, to the most rarefied thought, even black holes, flows from 'I' and carries the essence of 'I' within it, flesh of its flesh, so to speak.
"NOT FICTION, ..." Fiction is imaginary falsehood. Though a thought may be false within its context, it still exists and has its being in Mind; only its application can be false. Just as there is no fiction in a giant redwood that began from a single seed, there is no fiction in Creation, which began from a single word. The first infinitesimal SOUND of the first Word instantly established infinite MIND.
"BUT WHAT ..." This inquisition opens the void of the NO-THING like a mother's womb opens to receive her husband's seed. Though there IS only the ONE, the ONE must acknowledge Itself to become itself, and thus the Word becomes two in ONE Mind - positive, and negative, male and female.
"IS CERTAIN ..." The first stirring of the Word is Potential, undefined yet CERTAIN (Absolute) - 'Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent.
" ... AND MOST TRUE." Potential desires expression. Inherent within the dual nature of Mind, which is both male as LIFE, and female as LAW (here, Law implies the principles of universal structure), is WILL, which, in turn, empowers Mind's desire to express itself through CONCEPTion. Their offspring is LOVE or the REALITY of LAWful LIFE, which is the 'MOST TRUE' love.
... . What is more lovable than the TRUTH itself - their Son?
The phonetics of Son and Sun, or Sol and Soul, is not accidental. Life, Law, and Truth are, alchemically speaking, Spirit (Mercury), Body (Salt), Soul (Sulfur), respectively. The TRINITY.
With these first eleven words Hermes has described creation.
II. WHAT IS BELOW IS LIKE THAT WHICH IS ABOVE,AND THAT WHICH IS ABOVE IS LIKE THAT WHICH IS BELOW FOR PERFORMING THE MIRACLE OF ONE THING.
"WHAT IS BELOW IS LIKE THAT WHICH IS ABOVE, ..." and "AND THAT WHICH IS ABOVE IS LIKE THAT WHICH IS BELOW ..." These words bring to mind so many interpretations that it seems redundant to comment upon them. From the Bible - God speaks to Moses, I AM THAT I AM, to the most common contraction - AS ABOVE, SO BELOW.
In essence, for use with alchemical theory and philosophy, my sense is that these words should best be regarded to mean that the universal energies [ABOVE] work through and have their being in their physical counterpart [BELOW], such as a plant, for example.
I define REAL as that which is eternal, and ACTUAL as that which is temporal. Therefore, there is a Real pattern for the plant which represents its eternal idea and, for a period of time, an ACTUALized physical body. Likewise the experiences of the temporal body can exert an influence on the eternal counterpart.
A Stone is made by separating the three essentials, Salt, Sulfur, and Mercury; purifying them, and recombining them. Once done they are empowered exponentially by repeated imbibations and circulations. The Philosopher's Stone and the Plant Stone, to a lesser degree, are like lenses through which the universal power and perfect intelligence pass. The stone focuses and concentrates the threefold primal energy of the creative Word. That is why it will transmute metal, or flesh, to its level of potency. The more potent the stone, the more profound its affects.
"... FOR PERFORMING THE MIRACLE OF ONE THING." Transmuting lead to gold, or restoring the sick, or old, to health is unexplainable and implies a divine source for the Stone's goodness. One thing, which represents the ONE in all its forms; One Universe, One Mind, One energy, One power, One intellect, in one object - the Stone. That is a miracle!
III. AND AS ALL THINGS ARE PRODUCED FROM ONE, BY THE MEDIATION OF ONE, SO ALL THINGS ARE PRODUCED FROM THIS ONE THING BY ADAPTATION.
"ANDAS ALL THINGS ARE PRODUCED FROM ONE ... " Again, this would first implythe ONE original Source of All. Secondly, since we know that the Abovehas a Below, and visa-versa, it also implies a physical counterpartwhich is the Philosophical Mercury, the Prima Materia. Also known asthe Great Sea from which springs all life, the Mother of Christ - Mary;from mare - the sea (as in, mariner, etc.). It is written that allthings in the objective universe can be absorbed and dissolved in theMercury of the Wise - without a trace. So, this One thing as a conceptis represented by THE Mercury - not metallic mercury.
"BY THE MEDIATION OF ONE ...," The mediator in alchemical philosophy is universal MIND, or SOUL, of which there can only be one. In alchemy this is represented by the philosophical Sulfur [Soul Fire] objectified in our solar system by our sun. Our planet and everything in it and on it came from the differentiation of Solar material [particles].
"... SO ALL THINGS ARE PRODUCED FROM THIS ONE THING BY ADAPTATION." Solar particles may be looked upon as SEED ideas. From this seed grows all things by adaptation. Just as a seed adapts to its environment to grow and fulfill itself, so does a universe, a planet, or a person grow from a seed.
IV. ITS FATHER IS THE SUN, ITS MOTHER WAS THE MOON, THE WIND CARRIED IT IN ITS BELLY, ITS NURSE IS THE EARTH.
"ITS FATHER IS THE SUN ..." The sun is radical; it radiates and is masculine.
"ITS MOTHER WAS THE MOON, ..." The moon is magnetic; it concentrates and is feminine.
Here, the past tense of "WAS" is used. In my opinion this means that the elemental or nuclear universe was created once only and is constantly renewing and evolving by adaptation, though stimulated by a constant barrage of NEW solar energy - therefore the sun IS its Father. To expand this concept; the infinity of suns [stars] provides the universe with constant renewal and expansion. Black holes [negative polarity] contract the universe. The universe breathes - exhaling / inhaling. In some teachings this is referred to as the Divine Breath.
These are metaphors for the duality of the objective universe. The pure spiritual energy streaming from our sun has to have some kind of body - a photon. This photon carries within itself its identity, or its soul, and as a seed represents that which is above the sun [nonphysical]. It will contribute its seminal virtue as it joins other seminal particles [protons] to coagulate within the concentrating negative field of electrons [the MOON factor], and form a more complex particle like an atom. The atoms make elements which make molecules, etc. - all by Adaptation.
"THE WIND CARRIED IT IN ITS BELLY, ..." This, I think, is literally true. The solar wind showers our high atmosphere with photons and other solar particles [solar seeds] which are carried about the sky in the wind and moisture [when isolated from rainwater it is called Gur, or Ghur]. The seed is then brought to earth via thunder storms and charged with electrical energy. That's why the spring rain and the morning dew are so valued by alchemists; they contain electrically charged solar seed.
One of my early mentors explained that the seven color rays of the sun correspond to the seven tones of the musical scale, and they also correspond to the seven primary particles, or seeds, of material existence, at least on Earth. He taught that from these seven distinct particles, which contain the whole universe in potential, every element on the periodic scale was, by adaptation, created.
"... ITS NURSE IS THE EARTH." Adaptive growth occurs as the earth's rich and infinite array of elements is made available to the solar seed. Whether in the mineral, vegetable, or animal kingdom, the seed will find fertile options with which and in which to evolve. Realize that we are talking about the REAL seed not a seed kernel, like a grain of rice. One cannot see the seed, only its tangible body, the kernel.
Each of the 7 primary solar seeds [masculine] has, within the elemental mix of the earth, a crystalline counterpart that is feminine [negative]. They are alive in nature and they attract one another. The Marriage spoken of by the adepts, when they describe the making of Stones, is the purified union of these two, male and female, which are the volatile and fixed aspects of the same element. While in the marriage chamber, the philosophical vessel, the volatile becomes fixed and the fixed becomes volatile. Eventually, after they have consummated their union by consuming one another their SON (Stone) is born.
V. IT IS THE CAUSE OF ALL PERFECTION THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE WORLD.
Here, I think, is meant perfection as nature has it rather than as man would design it. The universe is slightly out of balance, though it perpetually tends toward balance. If it were in balance there would be no movement and no time, no sense of evolution or growth. However, what we experience as perfection is a form of calm balance within the fray of nature's arena. Perhaps our words joy, bliss, ecstasy, or contentment, may covey this type of perfection.
Another kind of perfection is objective perfection. Gold we say is a perfect metal, a diamond a perfect gem, and so forth. Something without flaws. We also say a strong, healthy, person, is perfectly fit, and our natural scientists are always looking for the perfect specimen. Man can recognize and facilitate what in nature he accepts as perfection, but man cannot create perfection. Only God is perfect.
To the alchemists, perfection was represented by the epitome of the world's virtue, which they thought was the universe's virtue as well - the concentration and empowerment of the Prima Materia - the TRUE Philosophical Mercury. To them, everything that had reached the zenith of its potential had arrived there by virtue of the Mercury and thus contained it, yet some natural objects contained more than others - i.e., the metals.
VI. ITS POWER IS PERFECT IF IT BE CHANGED INTO THE EARTH.
Understand that in nature the Mercury is volatile, vaporous, and both male and female; the Spirit contains the Sulfur within it. Only after it is isolated, separated, and purified, are the male and female separately discernible.
Through art they are reunited in their perfection with their proper body [Salt] and, once empowered exponentially by many circulations, enabled to penetrate all matter and raise its vibrations to its own highest potential of perfection, like the transmutation of illness to health. Think of the Stone as a super conductor of the virtues of the sun.
The sun's light and virtue passes THROUGH the stone rather than from it. Metaphorically speaking, Jesus (God's Son) felt virtue, which he always acknowledged came from his Father in heaven, go out of him when a sick women touched the hem of his robe (his outer garment, which is analogous to the physical Earth [as the Stone] as stated in stanza VI).
Years ago I had come down with the flu. I had all the symptoms, fever, chills, dry mouth, and headache. My teacher put two drops of his preparation under my tongue and had me lie down. In two hours I was fine, even energetic. What was it? I don't know. Perhaps a charged Antamonial Theriac? By charged I mean it either contained the PM (Philosophical Mercury), or the mixture had been distilled out of a host menstruum of PM. It tasted extremely floral yet metallic.
VII. SEPARATE THE EARTH FROM THE FIRE, THE SUBTLE FROM THE GROSS, GENTLY, AND WITH JUDGMENT.
"SEPARATE THE EARTH FROM THE FIRE, ..." Here, Hermes talks about the process, but he's also implying that nature performs the same operation - As Above, So Below. Think of the Universe as analogous to water's characteristics. You have vapor [moisture], humidity [steam], fluid [water], solid [ice]; and before they combined to make water you had the elements hydrogen and oxygen, which are common to all its forms. Also common to all its forms is FIRE which is put there by the sun.
When you separate the water from most of its fire you have ice - its CRYSTAL formation. Likewise, even one of the most dense element known, osmium, has a melting point of 2700o C as it becomes fluid, and a boiling point of more than 5300o C as it becomes a vapor. Everything is bound by four natural qualities; warm, cold, dry, wet, and four natural states; fire, air, water, earth.
Specifically, he indicates here that the Mercury [fire] - and Sulfur - is to be separated from its body or vehicle, perhaps a plant or metallic ore.
"THE SUBTLE FROM THE GROSS, ..." In the case of a plant, the essential oils must be separated from the gross oils. In the case of minerals and metals - the subtle fire is locked up in their crystalline structure which has to be cracked and broken.
"GENTLY, ..." This is a primary KEY to all alchemical operations. Separation of the subtle parts from the gross parts will usually require an application of some type of externally manipulated heat. If this heat is too violent and too fast it will drive the subtle virtues away; if it is too weak, the subtle virtues can never break free. The great secret of alchemical operations is the CONTROL OF THE FIRE!
"AND WITH JUDGMENT." You do not want to destroy the life in the things you work with. Each kingdom has its own comfortable life sustaining range of temperature, even the metals.
For example: To hatch a fertilized chicken egg there must be the right amount of heat for the right amount of time - approximately 110o F. for several days. Too much heat and you have a cooked chick, too little and it cannot germinate and grow. It is the same in the plant and mineral kingdoms. That's why an alchemist knows that a foundry cast metal is dead because the heat required to melt it drove out the spirit - its Mercury. Learning to correctly sense the heat and the character of your fire takes time and practice. Meditation upon the fire does not hurt, either.
VIII. IT ASCENDS FROM THE EARTH TO HEAVEN, AND DESCENDS AGAIN TO EARTH, THUS YOU WILL POSSESS THE GLORY OF THE WHOLE WORLD AND ALL OBSCURITY WILL FLY AWAY.
At this juncture many opinions flourish. What, exactly, ascends and descends? The Mercury? The Sulfur and the Mercury? Nature herself may give a clue.
The sun radiates its energy into earth's ionosphere, stratosphere, and atmosphere, its light penetrates the cloud cover, and eventually reaches the earth's surface. Sun rays penetrate the oceans, rivers, lakes, ponds, and polar ice fields, invigorating, purifying, and sanitizing them all. It interacts with the earth's water in its various states. Water [the Moon factor] is highly magnetic, and crystalline - a liquid crystal, if you will. It is not only the most abundant fluid on the planet, but the most abundant chemical, and probably the least known and understood.
The earth is an organic, multidimensional, fluxing plasma of life forces, magnetic fields, and energy vortexes, all of which are potentially fertile and depend on water. From the arctic poles to the equator the earth's substance constantly moves. Winds, rains, erosion, volcanoes, tornadoes and hurricanes, undersea volcanic action, and tectonic plate movement all bring forth elemental material that intermixes with the Earth's water and is CIRCULATED.
"IT ASCENDS FROM THE EARTH TO HEAVEN, AND DESCENDS AGAIN TO EARTH, ..." The elementally laden waters evaporate and ascend to the high altitudes where they are charged by the Sun and impregnated under the influence of the Moon before they condense as rain, snow, hail, mist, or dew, and descend back to the earth. They have regained the power to germinate bringing forth new life that will contribute to nature's drama. This process repeats itself perpetually. All life forms cycle through their term from birth to death whether it be for millions of years, or milliseconds. It is a constant circulation that everyday, little by little, evolves the whole planet.
"... THUS YOU WILL POSSESS THE GLORY OF THE WHOLE WORLD ..." Here Hermes suggests that through personal observation one will understand Nature's processes, which are gloriously straightforward, and come to know her Laws. Knowledge of the Laws of nature are indispensable in guiding one through the maze of pitfalls one encounters in producing the Great Stone. The lack of true knowledge instead of wild and confusing theory is the reason so many try, but so few succeed.
For example, observe a rose: During the night, between midnight and three, especially during the full moon, the blossom will cover its petals with microscopic droplets of its precious oil. As dawn nears the descending dew condenses on the rose petals and bonds with the tiny droplets of rose oil. As the first rays of the sun strike and warm the petals the charged water evaporates and ascends into the air with its little passenger of oil. This scene recurs with every tree, plant, and flower in our gardens and meadows and regenerates our atmosphere with its sweet aroma, to say nothing of the medicinal advantage it lends to one who breaths the morning air [prana?]. This happens over the whole planet each day. It is the natural process of steam distillation.
The dew also carries trace minerals and metals that have been exposed through the natural processes of erosion and other surface disturbance.
"... AND ALL OBSCURITY WILL FLY AWAY." I, for one, agree with the sages; nature is our best teacher. We should study the relationship between the three kingdoms and focus on understanding natural dynamics. It is plain and simple once the concept begins to formulate and clarify. The books we pour over represent what someone else perceived - and they can keep us blind to our own light.
To quote a sage that I once studied, "You must break free from thinking with your ego and be like a child observing the wondrous domain you call Earth. Open your heart and be like an infant suckling your daily ration of Wisdom from her breast."
The Stones are made by artificially duplicating Nature's processes as long as we follow her Laws. Indeed, there is a place in this work for Astrology, Qabala, and Magic, but true alchemy has no better friend than Nature herself.
Man is an ignorant being; his knowledge is limited, but his ignorance is infinite. Ram Ashied
IX. THIS THING IS THE FORTITUDE OF ALL FORTITUDE, BECAUSE IT OVERCOMES ALL SUBTLE THINGS, AND PENETRATES EVERY SOLID THING.
On the mental plane, after a stone has been successfully accomplished, a humbling sense of knowing occurs which brings with it understandings of those things pondered in vagueness and obscurity before. It marks a rite of passage that leaves one aware that the accomplishment was not and end of a quest, but rather a preparation for greater responsibility.
"THIS THING IS THE FORTITUDE OF ALL FORTITUDE,..." One's meditations are deeper and more profound. A bit more weight is felt spiritually but this is accompanied with joy and a sense of well being. Yet, one may feel more isolated as one's life changes due to changes in inner values and desires. This can mean changes in relationships and social choices. The FORTITUDE to meet these challenges is in you, nor are you alone because inner dimensional assistance is certainly evident.
On the physical plane the alchemists assure us that the Stones, both Major and Minor, when ingested in very small doses, strengthen the body organically by reinvigorating each system. This is accomplished on an atomic level in each cell by balancing all forces and bringing the cell's body, mind, and spirit into perfect harmony. Fortitude in the physical sense means that one regains the ability to meet all health and personal challenges with full strength.
"...BECAUSE IT OVERCOMES ALL SUBTLE THINGS,..." Diseases are incapable of taking root in the body, the power and virtue of the Stone augments the immune system and overwhelms them. The Philosopher's Stone is, of course, more permanent and more powerful than the plant stone.
Channels are opened as the body rejects its drosses and toxins. The chakras open allowing more vital hormone secretion to occur. The body actually transfigures to a higher state of energy. And the mind opens and expands becoming more psychically sensitive.
"...AND PENETRATES EVERY SOLID THING." On the mental plane this refers to the sages' claim that one can pierce the veil and perceive past and future clearly. One's mental power increases so that one may achieve a certain power and control over the elements, especially the weather.
On the physical, it is claimed by some who write of the virtues of the Philosopher's Stone that they have experienced the renewal of teeth, darkening of hair, renewed sexual potency and desire. Women who have passed menopause conceive and give birth in their fifties and sixties. Tumors and skin blemishes disappear, such as liver spots. Glasses are put away as normal eyesight returns.
In metal transmutation the stone transmutes a metal to its next highest level, tin to copper, copper to silver, silver to gold. According to the story of Bit Nur*, a light emitting crystal called a Billur, made by monastery alchemists, Chakimim, in the Himalayas, transmuted any metal exposed to its brilliant light into the next highest metal, silver to gold, for example. The author stated that the monks told him that their crystal was the TRUE Stone of Hermes.
Are these claims true? Only those who accomplish the glorious Stone will know.
*Paracelsus Research Society, Alchemical Laboratory Bulletins 1960-1972, Page 154.
X. THUS ARE ALL THINGS CREATED.
He speaks here of All THINGS. Creation is a process that is still going on from minute to minute. A constant flow of energy expressing countless forms of objective existence that mirror the unseen. The Stones epitomize that concentrated power that is exercised every moment by Divine Mind. They are artificial, man made, but divinely directed, and yet they transmit the creative power of God.
XI. THENCE PROCEED WONDERFUL ADAPTATIONS WHICH ARE PRODUCED IN THIS WAY.
Once the Stone(s) is in hand, its bearer will be directed from within as to its use - where, when, and how, and for whom. It has been claimed that the stone will make a dead branch flower, a blind person see, a tremor removed from one, palsy from another, and a barren field produce abundantly.
XII. THEREFORE AM I CALLED HERMES TRISMEGISTUS, POSSESSING THE THREE PARTS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE WHOLE WORLD.
There is contention here as to his meaning. Does he mean that he has achieved mastery over his Body, his Mind, and his Spirit? Or could he mean he has gained mastery or been made a Magistery over Salt, Sulfur, and Mercury in Nature. Some think he means that he is a Master Alchemist, a Master Astrologer, and a Master Magician (Qabalist). Others believe that he is one of the early incarnations of Christ. Actually, we each must decide for ourselves.
XIII. WHAT I HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE OPERATIONS OF THE SUN IS COMPLETE.
I have no more to add.
For comparison I have included another version of the Emerald Tablet. It was first written in the Chaldaen language, then translated to German, and then later to English. It has come from the Chakimim of Bit Nur. According to the story, they sang this like a hymn.
Praise And Honor Be Unto Our Lord Who Created Heaven And Earth Through A Word. And He Created That Which Is Above Like Unto That Which Is Below And That Which Is Below Like That Which Is Above.The exact origin of the Emerald Tablet (ET) of Hermes lies shrouded in mystery. Opinions vary widely, from the scholarly theory that it originated in the early period of Arabic alchemy, to the speculative fantasy of an Atlantean origin. The original document has not survived and all we are left with are translations of it. Of greatest impact on western thought, have been three 12th century Latin versions. In the past 200 years, several older Arabic translations have been discovered and rendered into English as well.
His Father Is The Sun, His Mother The Moon, And His Breath The Wind Blowed Gently Over The Earth Fructifying It.
And The Creatures From Below Mix Their Powers With Those From Above And They Beget A Wonderful Being.
Four Elements Does It Contain Within Itself.
In Its Earth Is Our Lord. In Its Water Is Our Lord. In Its Air Is Our Lord. In Its Fire Is Our Lord.
Earth, Water, Air, And Fire Pay Attention To His Will, And Obey The Law Of Our Lord.
Thus Is The World Created And The Name Of Our Lord Is The Key To Its Secret.
Some Arabic versions contain lines that claim the ET to be the testament of a person named 'Balinas', who enters a cave and sees Hermes sitting there holding an "emerald" (meaning "green stone", not necessarily that it was specifically an emerald) tablet upon which were written certain words in ancient Syriac. Apparently, Balinas left the cave and subsequently wrote down what he saw engraved upon Hermes' tablet. Whether historically accurate or not, these lines present us with a valuable mythological image: the inner search for meaning.
The Emerald Tablet is the foundation of western Alchemical thought and practice as we know it today. Alchemy is, essentially, the practical application of the Hermetic Philosophy, contrary to the common perception which posits Alchemy as a mere lust for gold.
There are quite a few different translations of the Emerald Tablet available, and I have chosen to use the 12th Century Latin translation from Steele and Singer (1928:p.492). I have however, constantly referred to my library of translations (14 in all) throughout my commentary, as each difference in wording produces a slightly different interpretation. I have tried to blend the meanings of the many into my comments upon this single version.
THE EMERALD TABLET OF HERMES
True, without falsehood, certain, most certain.
What is above is like what is below, and what is below, like that which is above. To make the miracle of the one thing.
And as all things were made from contemplation of one, so all things were born from one adaptation.
Its father is the Sun, its mother is the Moon.
The wind carried it in its womb, the earth breast fed it.
It is the father of all works of wonder in the world.
Its power is complete if turned towards earth, it will separate earth from fire, the subtle from the gross.
With great capacity (Wisdom) it ascends from earth to heaven. Again it descends to earth, and takes back the power of the above and the below.
Thus you will receive the glory of the distinctiveness of the world. All obscurity will flee from you.
This is the whole most strong strength of all strength, for it overcomes all subtle things, and penetrates all solid things.
Thus was the world created.
From this comes marvelous adaptations of which this is the procedure.
Therefore I am called Hermes Thrice-Crowned because I have three parts of the Wisdom of the whole world.
And complete is what I had to say about the work of the Sun.
1) TRUE, WITHOUT FALSEHOOD, CERTAIN, MOST CERTAIN.
The Emerald Tablet (ET) begins by stating that its words are universally true. There are many, many levels of Truth, and the ET here specifies that its words apply on all of these levels. In this way, the ET gives us a key by which to test our understanding of its words...if at any level of our experience, these words do not ring true, then our understanding of them must needs be broadened.
2) WHAT IS ABOVE IS LIKE WHAT IS BELOW, AND WHAT IS BELOW, LIKE THAT WHICH IS ABOVE. TO MAKE THE MIRACLE OF THE ONE THING.
Here the ET defines The One Thing as an Infinite Continuum. The term above (or any of its variant translations) establishes two concepts:
1) the starting point from which there is an above
2) an unlimited upwardness.
The term below likewise, establishes:
1) the starting point from which there is a below
2) an unlimited downwardness.
The statement that ABOVE IS LIKE WHAT IS BELOW, and vise versa, places them on a continuum of alikeness. This creates an Infinite Continuum with only one thing clearly defined -- the Center, from which above and below stretch infinitely.
In an Infinite Continuum, Center occurs any and every who, what, when, where and why. There is no point along the Continuum from which above and below do not extend infinitely, and thus, equally. In this sense, the Infinite Continuum is a One Thing.
I call this One Thing: Self. It includes all things and all not-things, and is perhaps the most inclusive and powerful Continuum we can posit. Such a Continuum places us in relation to a bird in a tree, an other person, a substance worked with in an alchemical laboratory, an Archangel, disparate aspects of our personality, a river, to essentially anything we can imagine.
Within the Continuum, there is no such thing as a miracle in that the word implies an occurrence outside of Nature's Laws. The perspective of Hermetics is that what we assume to be miraculous is merely the interplay of Nature's Laws in ways that we do not comprehend, and not a breaking of those Laws. With that in mind, the ET's statement of the MIRACLE OF THE ONE THING, implies that only at the level of the whole of the Infinite Continuum, is the truly miraculous an actuality; and, that everything we do here within the Continuum, is merely the manipulation of Nature's Laws.
3) AND AS ALL THINGS WERE MADE FROM THE CONTEMPLATION OF ONE, SO ALL THINGS WERE BORN FROM ONE (by) ADAPTATION.
Having established the Infinite Continuum of Self -- The One Thing -- the ET now turns to a discussion of the production of life within this Continuum. The ET posits the ONE as "All Mind" and states that all THINGS arise from the CONTEMPLATION (meditation) of this ONE. Each of these THINGS , within the Continuum of Self, are self-conscious aspects of the One, of the All Mind, mirroring the power of the One, and must follow the methods of the One. So, as the One "makes" THINGS by contemplation, these THINGS must then "birth" what they desire by a similar process -- by adaptation of the process followed by the One.
4) ITS FATHER IS THE SUN, ITS MOTHER IS THE MOON.
5) THE WIND CARRIED IT IN ITS WOMB (belly), THE EARTH BREAST FED (nursed) IT.
6) IT IS THE FATHER OF ALL WORKS OF WONDER IN THE WORLD.
The ET now describes this "adapted" process of creation. As it applies to all things, my discussion here will of necessity, be able to cover only a few aspects of its applicability.
The imagery used is that of the human generative process (Father, Mother, Womb, Breast Fed), which is concurrently correlated to geo-centric symbols (Sun, Moon, Wind/Air, Earth). As an equation, it looks like this:
(Father/Sun + Mother/Moon + Wind/Womb + Earth/Breast)
= equals =
Father of all works of wonder in the world.
This is the archetype of Force (as opposed to Form), of light (as opposed to dark), of Fire (as opposed to Water), of thought (as opposed to physical matter). It is half of a polarity -- its existence implying the simultaneous existence of its opposite pole (Mother/Moon).
Force, energy, creative intent, Mind, Yod, whatever level of this archetype one employs, it always seeks expression in Form. In an Hermetic sense, each specific vibration seeks expression through the levels of vibration which are directly below it. So each specific vibration is the expression of that which lies above it, and simultaneously, expresses itself through the levels below it.
The creative process outlined in this section of the ET, is a "downward" movement of Force into Form (the "upward" movement of Form into Force, comes later). The sperm of the Father, seeks the egg of the Mother; the rhythm of the Sun (12) is bound to the Earth by the rhythm of the Moon (13); the Individuality expresses itself through the personality; the mental infuses the astral; the light knows itself only when piercing the dark; Chokmah enters Binah.
This is the archetype of in-Form-ing. It is the continuous movement of energy down the scale of vibration, expressing itself through ever denser manifestation. It receives the Sun's rays, changes them, and then reflects them to the Earth; it wraps its Womb around the egg which has captured the seed; it is the first Heh of Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh; Binah transformed by the seed of Chokmah, from her state of Dark Sterile Mother, to that of Bright Fertile Mother.
Creation is primarily a Mother's Work, and this is shown by the next symbols which are aspects of the Mother archetype.
In classical Hermetic treatment of the Elements, Air is seen as the product of Fire and Water, representing a synthesis of the two. Air acts as the intermediary between Fire and Water, and is in effect, produced by their interaction. Each, implies the existence of all three -- they exist only in combination. If we posit Fire as "upwardness", and Water as "downwardness", then Air would be a state of non-movement, a center between the two.
Air has no movement of its own accord, yet adopts any movement which is impressed upon it. In the ET's equation, the movement impressed upon the Air is downward. Here the Air is WIND, implying a Force behind it, and stressing that it is an expression of this Force. This expression acts as a WOMB, carrying the creation through gestation to birth. The Air clearly acts here as the agency of a downward Force in its accretion of Form.
In Qabbalistic terminology, this is Tiphareth as the product of Chokmah and Binah; but in its active downward flow towards Malkuth. The Vav of YHVH in its aspect of seeking downward expression through the Heh-final. This is the inclusion of the other planetary influences into our earthly experience by the cycles of Sun and Moon. This is the Individual Self of the "Adept's consciousness", which expresses itself through the personality and physical body.
Fire + Water + Air = Earth, is a common conception of the Element's relationship; but at an archetypal level. Practically and functionally however, Earth is experienced as an individual Element just like Fire, or Water. This is the archetype of Form itself. Whereas Water is the tendency to Form, Earth is the product of this tendency, the final clothing given to Force in its descent into expression. The Earth nourishes the creation, giving it solid and independent form.
This is Tiphareth clothed in Yesod, and manifest in Malkuth. The Heh-final of YHVH. This is the Individual Self, expressed through the personality, within a physical body.
Father of all works of wonder in the world:
These four Elements combined, plus the Fifth -- the conscious awareness of the creator -- result in independent life. The ET symbolizes this here by describing the result as a Father, which brings us back to the beginning of our equation, like the Uroboros, finding its end in its beginning in an endless cycle of self discovery. This nascent Father is said to generate all works of wonder in the world. Note the distinction here between works of wonder and miracle, implying that within the Continuum, the Father obeys the Laws of Nature.
Of paramount importance in the process of creation outlined in the ET is the factor of the creator's conscious awareness. It is the Fifth Element, the Quintessence, and though assumed throughout, it is never directly named. While the expression of the higher through the lower is a natural phenomena, it is only through the addition of conscious awareness that it produces the Father of all works of wonder in the world.
7) ITS POWER IS COMPLETE (integra) IF TURNED TOWARDS EARTH. IT WILL SEPARATE EARTH FROM FIRE, THE SUBTLE FROM THE GROSS.
The product of the ET's downward equation of creation, is a Father; or in an Elemental sense, a Fire. This is an active Force, though clothed in denser layers of vibration than Father/Sun. This Father/Fire is none other than the Quintessence clothed in physical Form -- the power of conscious awareness as expressed through the human being.
The ET states that this power of conscious awareness is *integra* (whole, complete, entire) if *versa fuerit* (turned-toward, cast to) the earth. This means that conscious awareness at the human level (Father/Fire), re-establishes contact (implying then, a participation in the Whole) with its more archetypal expressor (Father/Sun), when it is turned inward to the Self clothed in densest matter (Earth).
This turning inward upon itself, is what initiates the cycle of return, and brings us to the next equation, that of Force arising from Form.
Whereas the ET's first equation was a downward one of the addition of Form onto Force, this new Father causes an opposite action, one of separation of Force from Form. The power of this introspection is two-fold: A) it will separate Earth from Fire; and B) it will separate the Subtle from the Gross.
With 'A', we see it separating the denser Earth (physical manifestation) from the initial inspiration of its subtler Fire. This is the Quintessence working upon itself, from the ground up, so to speak. Its effectiveness begins from the starting point of its densest manifestation, separating itself from its Self. This is a very apt description of the process of human introspection, or of alchemical putrefaction and fermentation. Here the Fire acts upon the Whole, and separates the Earth from its Fire (itself), consciously shedding its clothing of matter.
With the Fire thus freed from its Earth, the ET leads us to the perspective of 'B', where there is a reaching down, and a separating of the Subtle, this time, from the Gross. 'A'(Fire-minus-Earth) and 'B'(Gross-minus-Subtle) are the same processes, but on different levels and as seen from different perspectives: 'A' from Below, and 'B' from Above. The action of the Father/Fire is one of separation throughout, but in 'A' that action is a movement from Below toward Above; and in 'B', it is an action from Above, reaching down into Below to raise it to Above.
This outlines a double process of separation. First the earth is removed from the Fire, which implies an ascent of conscious awareness, from Earth to that of Fire. This Fire then acts upon itself anew, separating its own essence from its Gross aspects. As a whole, it is a process of the Father/Fire self-consciously releasing its Self from Form -- almost a direct reversal of the initial creative process.
8) WITH GREAT CAPACITY (Wisdom) IT ASCENDS FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN. AGAIN IT DESCENDS TO EARTH, AND TAKES BACK THE POWER OF THE ABOVE AND THE BELOW.
Conscious awareness, now liberated from its clothing of Form, rises upward through the levels of vibration within the Continuum. It does so with *magno ingenio* according to the ET. This term translates roughly as "great (magno) natural ability or talent (ingenio)", and is often posited as Wisdom. It is a very subtle force, one which implies an inherent ability -- a natural aspect of the Self-realized awareness.
This ascent is from Earth, or the clothing of Form (the Below), to Heaven (the Above), or a state of no-Form, and completes the ET's second equation of 'Force from Form'.
The descent of Force into Form, and its subsequent ascent back to a Form-less state, is however a process of a Self-conscious awareness, an awareness that learns throughout the process. The Force that originally descended into Form, is no longer the same, now that it has ascended -- it has changed and been transformed by the experience of Form. It now has the power, the Wisdom if you will, to descend anew into Form, bringing with it the increased awareness of its nature as a Force. Through its second descent into Form, Force integrates its Above aspects within its Below aspects, and becomes a clear expression of the whole Continuum of Above and Below (again we are brought back to the beginning of our equation,
illustrating that the Uroboros is not merely a circle, but a spiral). The result is a Self-aware Force, consciously clothed in Form, intentionally uniting the Above with the Below.
9) THUS YOU WILL RECEIVE THE GLORY OF THE DISTINCTIVENESS (light of Lights) OF THE WORLD. ALL OBSCURITY (darkness) WILL FLEE FROM YOU.
The ET presents a three-fold equation:
1) Force descends into Form in an act of creation (a four-fold process);
2) Force acts upon its in-Formed self, consciously ascending to a Form-less state (a three-fold process); and
3) Self-realized Force descends anew into Form, seeking to consciously express its Self therein (a one-step process).
Through this sequence, Force acquires a degree of Self-realization, re-connects with the powers of its true source, and is transformed into a new Father which receives the glory of the world.
Another active Force is produced, this time with the symbols of "light" attributed to it (an important echoing of Father/Sun), and is clearly a higher octave of the Father of all works of wonder in the world (the Father/Fire). This new Father/Light, has the power of Understanding and Wisdom, which illumines all darkness. Notice the progressive shift from a physically active Force, to a mentally active one.
10) THIS IS THE WHOLE MOST STRONG STRENGTH OF ALL STRENGTH, FOR IT OVERCOMES ALL SUBTLE THINGS, AND PENETRATES ALL SOLID THINGS.
Here the ET describes this new Father/Light, the completely Self-realized awareness. It does so in three parts, echoing the three-fold pattern we see throughout.
Part 1: the whole most strong strength of all strength.
This is another triple-superlative, similar to the opening line of true, without falsehood, certain, most certain. Strength implies a usable storehouse of Force and here we see that this Force is applicable on all levels. It is even effective with all other levels of Force, as this Father/Light is the most strong of all the active Forces within the Continuum. Please note the similarity between this aspect of the Father/Light and the initial 4-fold process of creation -- both are downwardly active, initiated from Above upon Below.
Part 2: it overcomes all subtle things.
This is the Father/Light's upward power to surpass any upward-tending thing. The second part of the ET's 3- fold equation, that of the upward movement of Force from Form, is echoed here and attributed as a power of the Father/Light.
Part 3: penetrates all solid things.
This is the Father/Light's downward power to inhabit (express itself through) any denser vibration of matter. The active Force represented here is equivalent to the third part of the ET's equation, that of the conscious re-descent of Force into Form.
Father/Light, the product of the ET's three-fold equation, mirrors the attributes of the One Thing, the whole of the Infinite Continuum. It appears capable of an equal creativity, but only *within* the Continuum -- an octave lower than the Miracle of the One Thing -- an expression of it.
This, of course, implies an infinite, cyclic process of continual re-creation, wherein this Father/Light becomes the Creatrix to a new generation of Father/Light, and so on. 11) THUS WAS THE WORLD CREATED.
This is a very deep statement. The Divine Pymander (Librum 1:Corpus Hermeticum) describes a similar sequential, cyclic process of Force descending into Form, becoming self-aware and then creative anew, followed by another descent further into Form. The eventual result is "the world". This is also seen in Qabbalah as the Kethric Light descends into
Malkuth, and becomes creative anew at each step of the way.
This says something very important about the world around us. It says that everything is alive. Every thing, every person, animal, tree, rock, drop of water, pile of dung, everything, is alive and is the product of the One Thing. Each thing has the power of the Father/Light tucked away inside of it...no matter at what level of manifestation we look, this is true, without falsehood, certain, most certain.
12) FROM THIS COMES MARVELOUS ADAPTATIONS OF WHICH THIS IS THE PROCEDURE.
The this from which come marvelous adaptations, is the world. Here we see into the heart of Alchemy as the ET states that every natural thing has the Father/Light within it, and each thing is therefore the seed of its future self. It is at the level of marvelous adaptations that we humans intervene, for we must, as physical beings, work with the substance of the world. We work *within* the Continuum, mirroring the powers of the One Thing, performing marvelous adaptations as opposed to the miracle of the One Thing.
Conscious awareness within a physical body, is an example of Force within Form, of the Above inhabiting the Below. This is what we have to work with -- this is the world upon which we turn our Fire, our Father/Light, and self-craft our future selves. What has preceded this point in the ET, has been a description of the natural processes of the formation of our prima materia -- the world. Only now do we come to the procedure by which we create our marvelous adaptations (the Stone), and this is revealed in the two closing lines:
13) THEREFORE I AM CALLED HERMES THRICE-CROWNED, BECAUSE I HAVE THREE PARTS OF THE WISDOM OF THE WHOLE WORLD.
14) AND COMPLETE IS WHAT I HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE WORK OF THE SUN.
These lines break down to three sections in echo of the overall three-fold nature of the ET:
A) Therefore I am called Hermes Thrice-Crowned --
Therefore implies a sense of consequence, and I am called implies a second-hand knowing. This is the initial bringing of Force into Form...the novice studying, praying and experimenting...the Father/Light turning upon itself with its Fire, in cyclic adaptation of the process of the One Thing...the seed rotting in the earth, dynamizing the power which will inevitably spring forth.
Hermes Thrice-Crowned is a very potent and broad symbol; one which I cannot do justice in the space of this short commentary. Briefly, it is a symbol of the Three-In-One, an image of thesis, synthesis and antithesis combined. It is Sun and Moon, and every thing that lies between these two archetypes. More to the point in this context, is that it represents the power that Center has within an Infinite Continuum -- it can occur any where and/or every where, and is in effect a mobile, self-directed agent of the Whole. That Hermes is Thrice-Crowned, is an indication that this power is active on the three levels of physical, astral and mental (Sal, Sulphur and Mercury).
Section 'A)' clearly mirrors the first part of the ET's basic equation: the creative descent of Force into Form, the inevitable, natural result of which is the Father/Fire who initiates the subsequent ascent:
B) because I have (the) three parts of the Wisdom of the Whole World. --
Here there is a sense of personal knowing, of I have, indicating individual experience. The actual possession of the three Fathers is implied by the term Wisdom, the Supernal Fire. And here we also see that they are powerful *within* the Whole Continuum. This represents the achievement of the second part of the ET's equation, that of the ascent of Force from Form. There is also an indication that this process is to be accomplished three times (mentally, astrally and physically). Please note how this Wisdom of the Whole World is a slightly different expression of the Father of all works of wonder in the world (which I've designated with the term Father/Fire).
C) And complete is what I had to say about the Work of the Sun. --
As in part three of the ET's equation, the procedure of marvelous adaptations is made complete, whole, entire (an echo of "integra") by the conscious re-descent of Force into Form. Here this is symbolized by the phrase what I had to say, which implies a past-tense, intentional expression of an idea (Force) through words (Form -- remember now, this was supposedly inscribed upon green stone!).
Work of the Sun is another broad symbol. In short, it points here to the fact that this is an active process *within* the Continuum. The Sun-Tiphareth connection points to this being a Yetziratic, or creative, process, carried out by the Individual Self. In a Qabbalistic sense, this constitutes a metallic Work, specifically that of gold. It is furthermore Mercurial, in that it is predominantly Fire mixed with Air (Helios). The Sun also implies a specific rhythm, symbolically uniting the 4-fold Elements and the 3-fold Principles in its journey through the 12-fold zodiac.
This 3-fold procedure of marvelous adaptations is very similar to the ET's archetypal equation; yet has distinct differences, occurring as it does, on a lower octave *within* the Continuum.
And so the Emerald Tablet of Hermes ends. "Integra" by virtue of its having finished with the decent of its essential Force into the Form of instructions for our enlightenment.
The ET outlines an essential three-part equation:
1) The creative descent of Force into Form (a 4-step process).
2) The ascent of Force from Form, in a conscious act of Self-realization (a 3-step process).
3) The re-descent of Self-aware Force into Form (a 1-step process).
In the first part of the equation, the Father/Sun acts as the initial agent of the One Thing, producing the Father of all works of wonder in the world, or the Father/Fire, as I have designated it here. The Father/Fire is the active agent of the second part of the equation, and produces the Father/Light who re-descends in the third and final part.
This equation cycles three times throughout the ET. In the first cycle, the One Thing produces the initial Father/Light; the second cycle is that of the Father/Light, acting upon itself, producing the world; and the third cycle is represented by human action, those marvelous adaptations performed upon the prima materia of the world.
These are just a few of my observations of the meaning contained within the Emerald Tablet. It is one of the "root texts" of humanity...a bit of archetypal poetic symbolism, which presents a different glimmer of Wisdom to each who approaches it, each time it is approached. Over the years that I've studied the ET, meditating upon it and experimenting with its precepts, I've come to see it as a brilliant beacon of Wisdom's light...so different from my first impression of it as something so dense I'd never penetrate its enigma.
I pray that my commentary inspires you to consider the ET in your own way, pulling from it your own portion of Wisdom.
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