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The Emerald Tablet (or Smaragdine Table or Tablet) of Hermes Trismegistus is a short, cryptic text purporting to reveal the secret of the primordial substance and its transmutations. Until the twentieth century its earliest known sources were Medieval Latin manuscripts, but subsequent investigations have revealed Arabic predecessors.
The Tablet Itself
One translation, by Isaac Newton, runs as follows:
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 mediation 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 you 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 adaptaions 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.
The oldest documentable source for the text is the Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, a pseudo-Aristotelian compendium of advice for rulers authored by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani in around 800 AD. 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 c.1243.
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, Albertus Magnus, and Isaac Newton.
Because of its longstanding popularity, the Emerald Tablet is the only piece of non-Greek Hermetica to attract widespread attention in the West.
- M.Robinson, "The History and Myths surrounding Johannes Hispalensis," in Bulletin of Hispanic Studies October 2003, vol. 80, no. 4, pp. 443-470 abstract
- Holmyard, E.J. "The Emerald Table" Nature, Oct 6th pp 525-6, 1929.
- 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, pp 69-90, 1949.
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