The Emerald Tablet

he Emerald Tablet is one of the most revered documents in the Western World, and its Egyptian author, Hermes Trismegistus, has become synonymous with ancient wisdom. His tablet contains an extremely succinct summary of what Aldous Huxley dubbed the "Perennial Philosophy," a timeless science of soul that keeps popping up despite centuries of effort to suppress it. The basic idea is that there exists a divine or archetypal level of mind that determines physical reality, and individuals can access that realm through direct knowledge of God. The teachings of Hermes -- the Hermetic tradition -- is one of the oldest spiritual traditions in the world, and while no direct evidence links the Emerald Tablet to Eastern religions, it shares uncanny similarities in concepts and terminology with Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In the West, the tablet found a home not only in the pagan tradition but also in all three of the orthodox Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and many of the most heretical beliefs of the Gnostics are also openly expressed in it. Like the authors of the tablet, the Gnostics believed that direct knowledge of reality could be attained through psychological discipline and meditative exercises. They also shared a common view of the universe in which "All Is One," a pattern of creation and decay symbolized by the Ouroboros (the snake eating its own tail). Without doubt, the Emerald Tablet was the inspiration behind many other esoteric traditions, including over 1,700 years of alchemy. Most medieval alchemists hung a copy of the tablet on their laboratory wall and constantly referred to the "secret formula" it contained. In fact, during the sixteenth century, Hermes Trismegistus was such a revered figure that there was a movement to have his teachings replace those of Aristotle in European schools. Five hundred years later, the tablet's words are still held in the highest regard. "The Emerald Tablet is the cryptic epitome of the alchemical opus," noted Jungian analyst Dr. Edward Edinger, "a recipe for the second creation of the world." Ethnobotanist and consciousness guru Terence McKenna agrees, calling the tablet "a formula for a holographic matrix" that is mirrored in the human mind and offers mankind its only hope for future survival. "Whatever one chooses to believe about it," sums up John Matthews in The Western Way (Penguin 1997), "there is no getting away from the fact that the Emerald Tablet is one of the most profound and important documents to have come down to us. It has been said more than once that it contains the sum of all knowledge -- for those able to understand it." However, there is one nagging problem with the Emerald Tablet: Nobody seems to know for sure where it came from, or who really wrote it.


She allegedly put it in the Ark of the Covenant. the Emerald Tablet suffered the fate of all writings attributed to Hermes and went underground in a variety of secret organizations such as the Rosicrucians and Freemasonry. ought carefully to read the Hermetic philosophers. Caves. where it remains to this day. The reverence with which these diverse groups continued to hold the Emerald Tablet is exemplified in the following paragraph from the Morals and Dogma of Freemasonry: "He who desires to attain the understanding of the Grand Word and the possession of the Great Secret. which was taken aboard the ark by Noah. For 2 . and to this day. He found the Emerald Tablet hidden in a cave. but he must take. the single dogma of Hermes. the Hermetic literature. who was the second son of Adam. Oddly. The church fathers believed the Corpus Hermeticum lent support to Christian doctrines. learned how to "travel in both heaven and earth." This Hermes spent the rest of his life wandering throughout Asia and the Middle East teaching and healing. Jewish mystics identify the tablet's author with Seth. Probably the only constant in all these legends is what the Emerald Tablet looked like. and each is referred to as the "Son of the Moon" in other Hindu religious texts. In one of the earliest of these fabled scenarios. was condemned by Christians everywhere.Timeless Myths and Church Politics art of the problem trying to figure out the origins of the Emerald Tablet comes from the many legends that cloud its history. He based his conclusion on a linguistic analysis that dated the writings to that era. For over three centuries. walking in the company of Moses. ancient Egypt. adorned with Hermetic symbols. The seventeen treatises of the Corpus expand on the principles of the Emerald Tablet and appear to be records of intimate conversations between Hermes and his disciples. and the documents were required reading for European scholars. wife of Abraham. a giant fresco dominates the Borgia Apartments of the Vatican that shows Hermes. They credit him with writing the Emerald Tablet. Although it was not officially part of the Corpus Hermeticum. contained in his Table of Emerald. as others have done. Another interesting legend describes Hermes as a philosopher traveling in Ceylon in the fifth century BC. Hermes was a son of Adam and wrote the tablet to show mankind how to redeem itself from his father's sins in the Garden of Eden." There are other more veiled references to the Hermetic tradition in Freemasonry. For the next two hundred years. for the key of their allegories. So it caused a great scandal in 1614 when Protestant scholar Isaac Causabon declared these documents forgeries written by "semi-Christians" sometime between 200 and 300 AD. It is made of emerald or green crystal. It is always described as a rectangular green plaque with bas-relief lettering in a strange alphabet similar to ancient Phoenician. The history of the tablet was further complicated when its alleged author became associated with the Corpus Hermeticum in the Middle Ages. Occult historians generally agree that the tablet was found in a secret chamber under the pyramid of Cheops around 1350 BC. and will undoubtedly attain initiation. Another version describes Hermes giving the tablet to Miriam. the Hindu sacred book Mahanirvanatantra states that Hermes was the same person as Buddha. where it was later discovered by Sarah. daughter of Moses. they were thought by the Catholic Church to be very ancient and held in the highest esteem. for safekeeping. and the workmanship is exquisite. and after studying it. corpses. Noah supposedly hid the tablet in a cave near Hebron. After the Flood. which had been embraced by the early followers of Christ. Images of Hermes adorned cathedrals all over Europe. and secret wisdom are common themes in many of the stories.

and beliefs of those associated with the tablet and the societies in which they lived. we need to "separate the Earth from Fire. when new discoveries about Egypt and the deciphering of hieroglyphics suggested that the principles exposed in the tablet go back at least 5. One early Hellenistic papyrus known as An Invocation to Hermes might refer directly to the Emerald Tablet and its author: "I know your names in the Egyptian tongue. the subtle from the gross. Hermes himself had a son. As mundane as all this sounds. who is the Egyptian god of all learning and hidden knowledge. Tat. it is necessary to forsake the traditional archaeological approach. It descends from god to god/man to common man. Yet to unravel this clue.000 years ago and brought with them a powerful spiritual technology." If we follow the strict genealogical order in the Egyptian texts. when the Phoenicians settled on the Syrian coast. and in this sense. according to Masonic tradition.the Logos of Plato and the Word of the Christians. it is necessary to look at the psychology. arrived "in the year of the world 2670. where you did have your birth." That "true name" is the same name that all the Egyptian records point to as the author of the tablet: Hermes.000 years. The Book of What Is In the Daat." Today." Thrice Greatest Hermes owever. including references to the One Mind. But this person appears to have a threefold identity. the question still remains: Who really wrote the Emerald Tablet and when? New evidence started to turn up in the late nineteenth century. the great Thoth. philosophy. who was a scribe and lived in Alexandria around 250 BC. Phrases from the tablet." Is it really possible to trace the origins of Emerald Tablet by moving to a higher level and following its spirit back through time? Could there be a grain of truth in the old legends that historians have ignored? In creating such a hyper-history. Some scholars suggested the date of origin for the Emerald Tablet to be around 3000 BC. "and your true name as it is written on the Holy Tablet in the holy place at Hermopolis. the Berlin Papyrus (2000 BC).instance. According to those same texts. Thoth – The First Hermes here are tantalizing bits of evidence that suggest mysterious visitors came to Egypt over 12. their sacred name "Hiram Ibif" refers to the first Hermes (Hermes Ibis or Thoth). were discovered in many Egyptian papyrii. he was incarnated Thought. which is why in the Latin translations of the tablet. the Book of the Dead 3 . "Thoth or the Egyptian Hermes was the symbol of the Divine Mind. The Egyptians were the world's most accomplished esoteric symbolists. the One Thing. "In the mystic sense. most scholars agree that the Emerald Tablet is separate from or predates the Corpus Hermeticum and was probably the inspiration for them. which they passed down to future generations in a time capsule of wisdom that became known as the Emerald Tablet. Hermes is the son of the Agathodaimon." summarized the nineteenth-century French scholar Artaud. the Corpus really does contain ancient writings." it reads. and it is possible that this triple descendancy is a clue to understanding the true nature of Hermes. there is something very disconcerting about the triple progression here. So the Corpus Hermeticum really does contain the ancient Egyptian doctrine of which traces can be discovered from the hieroglyphics which still cover the monuments of Egypt. such as Papyrus of Ani and the Book of the Dead (1500 BC). In the words of the tablet itself. and the correspondences between the Above and the Below. and other scrolls dating between 1000 and 300 BC. he is called "Hermes Trismegistus" or "Hermes the Thrice Greatest. who. the Living Word -.

" is impossible to categorize intellectually because he transcends anything we normally think about gods and men. as "Recorder and Balancer. that they may work cures. arrange their speech in logical patterns. he speaks and it is his command. supposedly taught humans how to become gods through breath control. who is said to have written the Emerald Tablet and hid it in a pillar at Hermopolis to preserve it through the coming world deluge. One of Thoth’s scrolls. Thoth. and illumines those who are learned therein. Usually depicted as a man with the head of an ibis (a wading bird with a long curved beak). who most sources agree was the "first Hermes." In Iamblichus: On the Mysteries. Thoth instituted record keeping and founded the sciences of mathematics. According to the Ebers Papyrus. "What emanates from the opening of his mouth." a time before the Great Flood when the godlike beings came to earth and established their kingdom in Egypt. and medicine. as the "Shepherd of Men" and "Vehicle of Knowledge." Thoth is the source of all natural law." he wrote. They included Thoth. which determines who is admitted into heaven.and other Egyptian funerary texts. this Egyptian neter (archetypal power) seems a simple personification of the powers of mind. there are subtle clues in the many alternative names for this God of Thought that suggest he really represents the ultimate archetype of the Word of God (the One Mind) creating the universe. Thoth is called the "Source of the Word." Thoth is the guide to alternate states of consciousness and initiator of human enlightenment. "that comes to pass. Thoth preserved the ancient wisdom by inscribing two great pillars and hiding sacred objects and scrolls inside them. The Greek legislator. the "god" of science and mathematics. "and the other was as of emerald. as the "Pillars of the Gods of the Dawning Light. Egyptian holy books refer to these sacred pillars. Thoth embodies the rational powers of the Sun as well as the intuitive. one located in Heliopolis and the other in Thebes. The Book of Breathings. and other Roman and Greek historians." As the "Revealer of the Hidden" and "Lord of Rebirth. The mysterious pillars are also described by Achilles Tatius. Solon." the innermost intent in all of our thoughts and actions." the one god without parents who precedes all others." says an ancient Egyptian text. However. astronomy. 4 . and numerous rebirth texts refer to a remote epoch known as the "Zep Tepi. who makes the books. and the physicians who follow him." he is the higher mind in man that provides inspiration and inner knowledge. Just before the Great Flood. He was said to be responsible for teaching men how to interpret things. The pillars were what the historian Herodotus described in the temple of an unidentified Egyptian god he visited. Dio Chrysostom. As the inventor of hieroglyphics. Thoth is the final judge. Paradoxically. a 68-foot-long scroll on alchemy that is the oldest book in the world: "Man’s guide is Thoth. The ibis is the Egyptian symbol for the heart. He is the "Soul of Becoming" whose creative willpower fashions reality. irrational energies of the Moon. which glowed at night with great brilliancy. and. "One pillar was of pure gold. saw them and noted that they memorialized the destruction of Atlantis." As the "Reckoner of the Universe. who bestows on him the gifts of his speech." Thoth presides over the Weighing of the Heart ceremony." These splendorous columns are mentioned by numerous credible sources down through history. Thomas Taylor quotes an ancient author who says the Pillars of Hermes dated to before the Great Flood and were found in caverns not far from Thebes." They were moved to a third temple where they later became known as the two "Pillars of Hermes. Laertius. and write down their thoughts. who weighs individuals’ "true words.

According to at least one ancient papyrus. Akhenaten was also very androgynous in appearance. the energy of the sun. which meant the "real thing" or absolute truth. the Hermes above. A few lines 5 . like all matter that falls under our senses." He referred to this universal ideal as Maat. who ruled from 1364 to 1347 BC. the original will of the One Mind. called the Aten or simply "the Disk. the first of three incarnations of Hermes Trismegistus. everlasting -. As a god. and his drooping shoulders. Statues of Akhenaten have survived that show him naked with the breast of a woman and no male genitalia. "that is to say. and several scholars have noted its similarity in spirit to Emerald Tablet. The Disk was. pear-shaped torso. of which the physical sun." and there is no doubt he possessed alien features. the distinction between creative energy and created matter. and the solar Disk itself. Thoth is the archetypal Hermes. without the writings of Thoth the larger pyramids could not be built." wrote one twentieth-century Egyptologist. Whether or not he found the tablet. such a person actually lived during the Amenhotep dynasty. His name change signaled his break with the powerful priests of Amen to set up a new monotheistic religion that recognized the sun as the One Thing. was the physical expression. and respected scholars have accused him of being a homosexual or a woman masquerading as a man." was never personified like previous gods but was thought of as an abstract energy. Akhenaten stands as a candidate for the second Hermes because he tried to apply the tablet’s principles and spread its spirit throughout his reign. and also shared the throne with a handsome young man by the name of Smenkhkare. was the manifestation of that One Thing of which the visible flaming Disk was yet another manifestation. maker of the solar Disk. "The Aten is Radiant Energy personified.In summarizing all the ancient wisdom and preserving it. Thoth the first scribe can be considered the true author of the Emerald Tablet. and there is only one person who seems to have promulgated the spirit of the Emerald Tablet during those centuries. our hyper-history suggests that Akhenaten rediscovered the Emerald Tablet at the beginning of his rule as pharaoh. The agent of Maat was the One Thing. and scrawny legs certainly made him look like a space traveler. or the solar Disk. According to the Ebers Papyrus. Akhenaten – The Second Hermes he "second Hermes" arrives on the scene sometime after the Great Flood. Pictures of the Aten show the Disk with rays coming down from heaven and terminating on earth in hundreds of tiny hands. Both of Akhenaten’s co-rulers shared the title "Beauty of All Beauties. Shortly after he took the throne. he espoused the revolutionary concept of "living in truth" and acting in natural accord with cosmic principles that the tablet called the "Operation of the Sun. Akhenaten deliberately brushed aside the distinction between the god. he suddenly changed his name from Amenhotep (meaning "Amen is Satisfied") to Akhenaten ("He Who Serves the Aten"). an all-pervading reality of an immanent character. It was Amenhotep IV. but a visible manifestation of something more subtle." Although traditional history makes no mention of it. lack of musculature. the lovely Nefertiti (whose family origins are still unknown to Egyptologists).its essence. so a great search throughout Egypt was conducted until they were found. The new Egyptian supreme god. Known as the heretic pharaoh." Some occult authors have dubbed Akhenaten the "Extraterrestrial King. He had a thin face and a massive elongated bald head supported by a spindly neck. the source of all creative energy. It is known that this freakish pharaoh claimed one of the most beautiful women in the world as his bride. intangible. Akhenaten's Hymn to the Aten is considered one of the best pieces of Egyptian lyric poetry ever discovered. And the heat and light.

Perhaps all the legends linking Moses and tablet are not so far off. His given name. where he placed the scrolls in the sacred archives and put the Emerald Tablet on public display. Construction of the city of 6 . a Greek who became pharaoh when he conquered Egypt in 332 BC -. Akhenaten was well aware of the brewing unrest among the priests but never hesitated spreading the precepts contained in the tablet. going on its feet. Unlike the magnificent golden mummy of King Tut. and wild beasts.Alexander the Great.000population city were constructed without separate quarters for men and women. In another striking break with tradition. he gained access to all the treasures of Egypt. villas in the 60. Akhenaten might as well have been from another planet. Most noticeable was the sudden change in the stiff and lifeless style that dominated Egyptian art. As pharaoh. You created the world according to your desire. Alexander immediately headed across the Libyan desert to an ancient temple at Siwa near where the tomb was located. Convinced it was his destiny to reveal the ancient secrets. whatever is on earth. including the whereabouts of Hermes’ (Akhenaten's?) tomb. flying with its wings. Tutankaten ("Servant of the Aten"). Archeologist Sir Alan Gardner surmised that Akhenaten’s body had been "torn to pieces and thrown to the dogs." The only written references to the Aten after the Akhenaten's death were enigmatic allusions that associated the Disk with the great Sphinx on the Giza Plain. Akhenaten ordered the abandonment of the old capitol of Thebes and built a new capitol city. and erased all traces of monotheism from Egypt. and women in particular were treated with more respect there. Moses had fled to the land of the Kenites. the heretic pharaoh was eventually replaced by a ten-year-old boy. who restored the capitol to Thebes. it can be assumed that Moses would have conferred with the pharaoh many times on behalf of his people. By some indications. In the open court of the time. Apollonius – The Third Hermes ur hyper-history continues with the life of another Egyptian pharaoh. was changed to Tutankamen ("Servant of Amen") after Akhenaten’s murder. and what is on high. Alexander took the tablet and scrolls he found in the tomb to Heliopolis. According to Exodus. Sigmund Freud was the first to suggest that Moses appropriated the pharaoh’s idea of one supreme god and brought the new religion to the Jews. the bodies of Akhenaten and Nefertiti were never found. and traditional scenes of sterile Egyptian society were replaced by such ungodly behavior as Akhenaten kissing his wife or bouncing his daughters on his knee.reveal Akhenaten's passionate belief in the One Mind: "How manifold it is." The principle of "living in truth" permeated every level of Egyptian society under Akhenaten. on a desolate stretch of land along the east bank of the Nile near the modern Egyptian city of Asyut. while You were alone: all men. According to Albertus Magnus and others. Akhetaten ("Horizon of the Aten"). what You have made yet hidden from the face of man. Egyptian reliefs and paintings portrayed natural subjects such as plants and animals in exacting detail. and it seems likely that the former priests of Amen did away with them. like whom there is no other. Akhenaten and Nefertiti disappeared under mysterious circumstances. For the first time. destroyed the city of Akhetaten. one of those that took his ideas to heart was a man of god by the name of Moses. After just seventeen years of rule. Oh One God. which is what the subjects of Akhenaten were called. The child pharaoh was tightly controlled by fundamentalist priests. In any case. cattle. In Moses and Monotheism (1939). that is where Alexander found the Emerald Tablet. Scandalously. Yet for the disenfranchised patriarchal priests.

an Arabian book of advice to kings. The earliest surviving translation of the Emerald Tablet is in an Arabic book known as the Book of Balinas the Wise on Causes. Hall. and 50 BC. and early Christians felt he was much too like their own Son of God. written around 650 AD and based on Apollonius’ Alexandrian writings. like an emerald. It is said that a brilliant Syrian youth named Balinas found it hidden in a large cavern just outside his hometown of Tyana in Cappadocia. Hermes is always the revealer of ultimate knowledge hidden to mankind. He never claims credit for it. and to this flux the artist had given the hardness of the natural and genuine emerald. Unfortunately. Apollonius traveled throughout the world and eventually settled in Alexandria. After Alexander died from a fever on his return from India. He is like a spirit who reincarnates through time to guide us in our struggle toward enlightenment.000 years old. Respected for his great wisdom and magical powers. Several papyrii in the British Museum mention a canon of Egyptian teachings that included the writings of Hermes that was still in existence at the time of Clement of Alexandria (around 170 CE). 270 BC. it has been suggested that he took the original tablet with him and hid it for safekeeping before going on to conquer Babylonia and India. It is esteemed above 2. Greek god of enlightenment and brother of Hermes). before Alexandria's libraries were destroyed in successive burnings by the Romans. not engraved. What have we learned from our attempt at hyper-history? Can we even tell if the author of the Emerald Tablet was a man or a god? The answer down through the ages has always been both. every one of the scores of books Apollonius wrote in Alexandria and all of the dozens of temples dedicated to him were destroyed by Christian zealots." When Alexander left Egypt. the mysterious Emerald Tablet caused quite a stir. Apollonius was a contemporary of Christ. The youth became known as Apollonius of Tyana (after Apollo. although to this day. and whether portrayed as man or god. But Apollonius still stands as the third Hermes in our hyper-history." utters the 3.Alexandria to house and study the Hermetic texts was begun immediately. Apollonius describes finding the Emerald Tablet in the underground cavern in Tyana. the god Thoth. copies of the tablet became primary documents at Alexandria. and had been cast in a mold. copies of the Emerald Tablet had made their way into Arabia and from there eventually reached Spain and Europe. though he spent the rest of his life writing about it and demonstrating its principles to anyone who would listen. By 400 AD. Another Arabic text. It is a tradition that goes all the way back to the first Hermes. and Muslims. his body was interred in a tomb somewhere in the Egyptian desert. and according to some reports. Meanwhile. Fortunately. scholars issued revised Greek translations in 290 BC.500-year-old Papyrus of Ani. According to esoteric historian Manly P. no one knows where. Yet someone did discover the hiding place of the Emerald Tablet. It also appears in the eighth century Kitab Sirr al Asar. It was Balinas who absorbed the tablet’s teachings and once again brought them to light in the Western world. 7 . "May Thoth write to you daily. The matter of this emerald had once been in a fluid state like melted glass. whereon these characters are represented in bas-relief. because he did more than any other person in the modern era to assure that the Emerald Tablet and its principles survived. who had seen it on display at Heliopolis. One traveler. In all these texts. who was said to inspire people with direct perception of truth. wrote: "It is a precious stone. by his art. Christians. written by alchemist Jabir Hayyan around 800 AD. and he assembled a panel of priests and scholars to prepare Greek translations. contains a copy of the Emerald Tablet and also gives Apollonius as the source.