'The Emerald Tablet'

'The Emerald Tablet'

The Emerald Tablet (or Tabula Smaragdina) is the alchemists' Bible and, brief though it is, it is allusive and magical. No wonder it inspired medieval alchemists...

I will tell you a thing that is without falsehood and most certain. That which is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is like that which is above, working the miracles of the One.

And since all things arise from the One by the work of the One, so all things arise from this unique thing, by adaptation.

The sun is its father, the moon is its mother. The wind carried it in her womb, the earth nourished it.

It is the principle of perfection throughout the world. Its power is infinite when it is changed into earth.

It ascends from earth to heaven and from heaven descends to earth, and gathers the unity of the power of higher things and lower things. Thus you will achieve glory throughout the world and you will ward off all shadows.

It will separate earth from fire, then then from the thick, gently, with great skill.

It is the power stronger than any other power, because it can overcome every subtle thing and penetrate every solid thing.

Thus was the world created. Marvelous are the operations that have been accomplished in this manner. An here ends what I must say about the work of the Sun.
  • translation is from Alchemy: The Great Secret by Andrea Aromatico.

The Emerald Tablet entered western Europe after 1000 CE in Latin, translated from an ancient Arabic manuscript which in turn was a translation of an ancient Greek manuscript, probably from Egypt. Some historians attribute it to the 4th century CE, while the more romantically inclined attribute it to the legendary Hermes Trismegistus, who seems to have been a magical hybrid of the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes.

The sun is its father, the moon is its mother...

The illustration at top is from the Splendor Solis, an alchemical illustrated manuscript from 16th century Germany. This setting sun is the last of its 22 images.

The image below shows Thoth on the right, the Lord of Rebirth with his ibis beak. The crescent moon is upon his head, holding a full moon, suggesting a link to the crescent moon of Revelation 12 and the Virgin Mary. Seshat (center) and Thoth are writing the young king's name on the Tree of Life.