The Emerald Tablet is a short, cryptic piece of text that forms part of a collection of writings known as the Hermetica which are believed to be Egyptian – Greek in origin and written around 200AD. The author of the Emerald Tablet is unknown but the writings themselves claim Hermes Trismegist (“Hermes the Thrice-Greatest” – a Greek God) as the author.
The writing in the Emerald Table has gained attention because of its brevity and clarity in dealing with the foundational material of the universe. At its most basic, it explains the foundations of everything in the universe and how energy permeates all things. But despite its age, it’s philosophy is closely related to even older Taoist beliefs and the language used is strikingly similar between the Emerald Table and the Tao Te Ching.
The Greek state flourished during a period from the 8th century BC right up until 600 AD. What is interesting is that the Greeks and later the Romans were adept at incorporating the beliefs of conquered lands into their own religions – hence the plethora of gods and goddesses that have roots in many countries and cultures.
In addition, the Silk Road (or more accurately roads!) were overland routes that brought trade between East and West. It is entirely possible therefore, that not only were spices and goods brought from the East, but ancient beliefs and esoteric teachings that influenced the pagan religions and practices of the Greeks, Romans and the Northern cults.
That was of course before Christianity took hold! The Dark Ages followed on from the fall of the Greek and Roman Empires and during that period, Christianity moved to wipe out any belief that threatened its position. Within Europe, paganism was virtually wiped out or at least driven so far underground that its teachings were lost. Druidism today has tried to reconstruct the practices and beliefs of old but vast sections of Druidic practise remain lost to time.
The witch trials were a key element in wiping out ‘pagan’ beliefs in Europe – but it wasn’t just witches that burned alive. The term ‘witch’ was applied to any folk healer or holder of belief that went against Catholic teachings and the trials served to cement the Church as the sole religion and authority over much of Europe. At the same time, the crusades were launched against the East, making sure that mutual learning and understanding between East and West was impossible – and it is only now that this position is being reversed. This can be seen today in the West with the influence of things like acupuncture, holistic remedies, yoga and so forth.
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What is particularly interesting about the Emerald Table is its resemblance not to Greek or Egyptian beliefs but to Taoism and the writings of Taoism – some written as far back as 4th century BC – a full 600 years before the Emerald Tablet. It is entirely possible that the writer of the Emerald Tablet was influenced by Taoism and the beliefs of eastern traditions held in China and Japan.
The Emerald Tabled has several translations but the most widely quoted is the translation by Isaac Newton (yes, he of one the greatest minds ever);
Tis true without lying, certain & most true.
That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing
And as all things have been & arose from one by the meditation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.
The Sun is its father, the moon its mother, the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth is its nurse.
The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.
Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.
It ascends from the earth to the heaven & again it descends to the earth & receives the force of things superior & inferior.
By this means you shall have the glory of the whole world
& thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.
Its force is above all force. For it vanquishes every subtle thing & penetrates every solid thing.
So was the world created.
From this are & do come admirable adaptations whereof the means (or process) is here in this. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world
That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished & ended.
We can compare that to the Tao Te Ching which was composed by Lao Tzu sometime around the 4th Century BC. Comparing that to the first verse of the Tao Te Ching;
Tao (The Way) that can be spoken of is not the Constant Tao’
The name that can be named is not a Constant Name.
Nameless, is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The named is the Mother of all things.
Thus, the constant void enables one to observe the true essence.
The constant being enables one to see the outward manifestations.
These two come paired from the same origin.
But when the essence is manifested, It has a different name.
This same origin is called “The Profound Mystery.”
As profound the mystery as It can be, It is the Gate to the essence of all life.
Both the Emerald Tablet and the earlier Tao Te Ching could nearly be from the same author given the striking similarities in philosophy between the two. In fact, we could merge them and it would be difficult to pick out which words come from which text:
The energy of the world is a ‘nameless’ essence that is both ‘above and below’. It is the ‘Mother of all Things’ from which this world was created and is the ‘origin of Heaven and Earth’. It ‘permeates every solid thing’, its ‘force is above all force’ and it is the ‘essence of all life’
What both texts attempt to explain is the origin of life and the manner in which life (and non-life) is dependent upon this mysterious force or energy. They both say everything derives from this one thing (i.e. the Source)and to know it is to have the glory of the whole world, i.e. to understand The Profound Mystery.
What is this One Thing?
Alchemists in the middle ages believed the Emerald Tablet and similar texts were about transforming base elements into gold. Being able to do so would render them immensely powerful. Alchemy also wrapped up philosophical concepts in ‘engineering’ language so as to avoid the prying eyes of inquisitors and the very real risk of being burned alive. So transforming something into gold was very much concerned with how to transform the soul into something else – how the soul would understand its very creation and existence. Such understanding would lead to a blissful and immortal experience.
This life essence that both texts talk about has been here since the start of time. It permeated everything then and does now. It is in our thoughts, our actions, the chair we sit on, the food we eat and the ground we walk upon. It is every changing and ever moving, from one thing to the next. In an age when there is an awakening of a global consciousness and more and more people are understanding that everything is intimately connected, perhaps we are moving ever closer to understanding what Hermes Trismegist and Lao Tsu wrote about long ago – that everything we do affects everything else, right down to the thoughts we think and the universe acts as a giant conscious being that responds to our thoughts and actions. This force, this profound mystery, is the very essence that both sparks our consciousness at first life and moves after our death. It is the soul force that seeps and sinks into all things so that nothing is ever separate from the whole.