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Emerald Tablet, The
--as related to alchemy


True, without deceit, certain and most true.
What is above, is like what is below, and what is above is like that which is below, for the performing of marvels of the one thing.
And as all things were from one thing, by the mediation of one thing: so all things are born of this one thing, by adaptation.
Its father is the Sun, its mother is the Moon; the wind carried it in its belly; its nurse is the Earth.
This is the father of all perfection of the whole world.
Its power is integral, if it be turned into earth.
You shall separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, smoothly and with cleverness.
It ascends from the earth into the heaven, and again descends into the earth and receives the power of the superiors and inferiors. So thus you will have the glory of the whole world. So shall all obscurity flee from thee.
This is the strong fortitude of all fortitude: because it will overcome every subtle thing and penetrate every solid.
Thus was the earth created.
Hence will there be marvelous adaptations, of which this is the means.
And so I am called Hermes Trismegistus, having three parts of the Philosophy of the whole world.
What I have said concerning the operation of the Sun is finished.

No definite meanings have been given to the cryptic utterances. But there are strong suggestions that this version of the Tablet indicates the belief in alchemy that there exists a correspondence or interaction between celestial and terrestrial affairs, and that all the manifold forms in which matter occurs have but a single origin. A universal soul or spirit permeates both macrocosm and microcosm, and such unity in diversity implies the possibility of transmutation. The Sun and Moon that are mentioned in the Tablet may represent gold and silver, as they usually do; but later this was regarded as a reference to sulphur and mercury. Alchemists generally attach their personal interpretation to the Tablet, so, if there is any agreement, it seems to be in the general consensus that the powers of the cosmic soul must somehow be concentrated in a solid, the philosopher's stone or elixir, which would enable the production of the transmutation which the alchemists sought.

Even though its meaning is dubious, the Emerald Tablet, also known as the Emerald Table or Tabula Smaragdina, is certainly one of the most ancient of alchemical documents. In legend the original form is supposed to have been found in a cave, inscribed on a plate of emerald held in the hands of the corpse of thrice-greatest Hermes, Hermes Trismegistus. In one legendary version Sara, the wife of Abraham, found the Tablet when she accidentally entered the cave near Hebron sometime long after the Flood. Other versions of the legends have Alexander the Great or Apollonius of Tyana the discoverers. There are many unanswered questions concerning the origin of the Tablet. As to whether it goes back to Apollonius of Tyana, no answer is possible. The more general consensus is that it came to Islam from Syria rather than from Alexandra because the Arabian accounts of it discovery usually mention the Flood--Noah took it with him in the ark--and the Flood was not known in Egypt. A.G.H.


Sources:

Holmyard, E.J. "The Emerald Table" Alchemy. New York. Dower Publications. 1990. pp. 97-100
Taylor, F. Sherwood. "The Words of the Secret Things of Hermes Trismegistus" Alchemists, Founders of Modern Chemistry. Kessinger Publishing.
pp. 89-90