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  • Writer's pictureMichael Sales

Examining The Emerald Tablet of Hermes

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

To survive and thrive in the Anthropocene, humanity must develop a higher level of consciousness. If we proceed as we have since the beginning of this era around 200 years ago, our species and some form of life on the planet will likely have a life expectancy of another couple hundred years that will be characterized by a continuous decline into the kind of dystopia depicted in Blade Runner, Mad Max, or Waterworld. Amoral technology of either an advanced or retrograde nature will be combined with human desperation and nihilism. Not a good look.

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The higher level of consciousness that the emerging era requires of humanity has been calling our species from an array of mountain tops for eons. It entails a fusion of our minds with the deeper kind of knowing that sages of many cultures and backgrounds have found, experienced, and promulgated in multiple ways.


I believe that the Emerald Tablet of Hermes is a message to the ages that is worthy of study and reflection. There are many others, of course, but this one fascinates me because I believe it heralds the sort of science that is increasingly being conducted now. Others may, of course, dismiss the attention I pay to information like this as that of a neophyte mystic grasping metaphysical straws, to which I say, “Different strokes for different folks.”


I read The Emerald Tablet of Hermes for the first time in 1969. I knew immediately that it would always be important to me.


Like many texts that are considered sacred across millennia, the exact origins of the Tablet are shrouded in mist. When I was first exposed to it, the Tablet was associated with the Book of Thoth, allegedly the ancient Egyptian name for Hermes.


I didn’t know the word when I first saw the Tablet, but I’ve come to understand that it is an alchemical text. My understanding is that the objective of alchemy is to raise “normal” human consciousness to an awareness of superconsciousness. We can build upon that awareness through various modalities, such as dreams and specific types of concentration that enable higher knowing to access the channels of our mind and flow through us. I believe that the Tablet is about that process.


In the popular imagination, alchemy is associated with the transmutation of metals, e.g., turning lead into gold. Certainly, there are plenty of folks who tried to accomplish this feat and maybe some did. I believe this whole get-rich-quick perception of alchemy doesn’t understand the science’s metaphor. An internal and esoteric pursuit is conceptualized as one that can be understood in external or exoteric language. Lead is the normal state of human consciousness; gold is that state of enlightenment. Gold is the human mind lit up and in interaction with transcendent understanding. It is also a way that the Merlins of the world get the money-crazed crowd off their backs.


Here is the Tablet. Following the translation, I intersperse the text with my thoughts in italics:


True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true. That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of one thing. And as all things were by contemplation of one, so all things arose from this one thing by a single act of adaptation. The father thereof is the Sun, the mother the Moon. The wind carried it in its womb, the earth is the nurse thereof. It is the father of all works of wonder throughout the whole world. The power thereof is perfect. If it be cast on to earth, it will separate the element of earth from that of fire, the subtle from the gross. With great sagacity it doth ascend gently from earth to heaven. Again it doth descend to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior. Thus thou wilt possess the glory of the brightness of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly far from thee. This thing is the strong fortitude of all strength, for it overcometh every subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance. Thus was this world created. Hence will there be marvellous adaptations achieved, of which the manner is this. For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I hold three parts of the wisdom of the whole world. That which I had to say about the operation of Sol is completed.

Here are my thoughts, per section, in italics...


True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true. That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of one thing.

This is the fundamental precept, which has been used in many contexts. To me, it means that there is a superconscious/metaphysical realm that is “above” that is or should be or could be reflected in our own consciousness, which is “below,” waiting to act as a mirror.

And as all things were by contemplation of one, so all things arose from this one thing by a single act of adaptation.

This reminds me of the Big Bang, the emergence of something out of nothing, the singular prime mover from which all that we see in the external universe. The beginning of the Universe is a koan; it defies explanation and blows my mind. Nothingness/metaphysics precedes being.

The father thereof is the Sun, the mother the Moon. The wind carried it in its womb, the earth is the nurse thereof.

This speaks to the four elements of antiquity, Fire, Water, Earth, Air. The “father” of this knowing is like the sun. We are currently 83,000,000 miles away from the Sun. This is a good thing. Quoting Bruce Springsteen, Manfred Mann warns us that our eyes can “get burned out by the Sun.”

It is the father of all works of wonder throughout the whole world. The power thereof is perfect.

There is a lot in the world that is probably not best described by the word “wonder.” But, if you get down to the level of particle physics, for example, which is the current definition of material reality, all is wonderful and glorious. I’m not speaking of understanding. I’m talking about feeling it.


Plus, it looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.


Another text, which claims to be alchemical, proclaims: “In all things great and small, I see the beauty of the Divine expression.”


Divine is a word that is out of currency for many people. In explaining why I use it here, I’m reminded of Hobsons Choice, a 1954 movie starring Charles Laughton and John Mills, in which someone says, “30 seconds of revelation are worth more than 30 years of not knowing.” If one is lucky, one will have blazing insights along the way which can legitimately be called “divine.“ They knock us off our feet. and we never forget them.


In The Candy Colored Tangerine Flake Baby, Tom Wolfe asserts that sex is the original psychedelic. A tooth-rattling orgasm is pretty damned divine! It’s a doorway to feeling and knowing wonder. It’s perfect (and so is the afterglow).


If it be cast on to earth, it will separate the element of earth from that of fire, the subtle from the gross.

Metaphysical knowing achieves ever-finer levels of discernment. It generates an infinite number of taxonomies, both in consciousness and in the definition of what material.

With great sagacity it doth ascend gently from earth to heaven. Again it doth descend to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior.

The human consciousness that mirrors superconsciousness sets up a vibration, a cosmic music, a dance, and a whole lot of shakin’ ensues.


Thus thou wilt possess the glory of the brightness of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly far from thee.

It’s worth the effort to wise up.

This thing is the strong fortitude of all strength, for it overcometh every subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance.

Knowing about the metaphysical ground of being is the strongest force there is. It’ll get you through Hell and high water.

Thus was this world created. Hence will there be marvellous adaptations achieved, of which the manner is this.

All science derives from delving into this force.

For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I hold three parts of the wisdom of the whole world.

He knew a lot.

That which I had to say about the operation of Sol is completed.

He was a man of few words.



 

-- Translated by Steele, Robert and Singer, Dorothea Waley 1928.

“The Emerald Table” in: Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine,

21, pp. 41–57/485–501, p. 42/486.








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