In a previous article, Introduction to Hermeticism, I briefly discuss Hermes Trismegistus, the legendary figure who is credited with the philosophical movement known as Hermeticism. Hermes Trismegistus is credited with writing the Corpus Hermeticum, one of the foundation documents of Hermeticism, as well as the Emerald Tablets and many other sacred writings. The Emerald Tablets are considered a pillar of Western alchemy and esotericism. The emerald tablets are a series of stones supposedly inscribed with the secrets of the universe, particularly the secrets to alchemy.
While there are a variety of legends that date the tablets to various times of antiquity, the oldest documented source is in "Kitab Balaniyus al-Hakim fi'l-`Ilal Kitāb sirr al-ḫalīqa" (كتاب سر الخليقة و صنعة الطبيعة أو كتاب العلل للحكيم بلنياس), a composite of earlier works attributed to Balinas (possibly a pseudonym of Apollonius of Tyna) and dated to sometime between the 6th and 8th centuries. In this book, Balinas lays out the framework of the Emerald Tablets. He says he found them in a vault beneath a statue of Hermes in the city of Tyana (now located in Turkey).
The Emerald Tablets would go on to be a centerpiece for medieval alchemical movements. It was first translated to Latin in the 12th century by Hugo of Santalla. After that, it has been translated by Johannes Trithemius, Roger Bacon, Michael Maier, Albertus Magnus, Isaac Newton, Aleister Crowley, and Helena Blavatsky.
There are a variety of legends as to the origins of the Emerald Tablets. The most common is that they were authored by Thoth, an Atlantean Priest-King. Thoth is said to have been an immortal who chose when he would leave the mortal world. At the destruction of Atlantis, he established a colony near ancient Egypt. He is said to have ruled over other colonies located near Central and South America which are said to influence the Mayan culture.
Thoth ruled from 52,000 BC to 36,000 BC, and at the end of his reign, legend states, that it was him who built the Great Pyramid at Giza, not Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops), in order to safeguard the ancient wisdom of Atlantis. According to legend, the Great Pyramid of Egypt has been and still is considered a temple of initiation into the mysteries. The pyramid was placed over another structure known as the Great Halls of Amenti. As time progressed in ancient Egypt, Thoth was adopted into their pantheon, being known as the God of Wisdom and Scribe of the Gods. Thoth is said to have three reincarnations, the last being Hermes Trismegistus who authored the Emerald Tablets and which were left with the pyramid priests who protected the Great Halls of Amenti.
The Emerald Tablets are described as being ten in number, each composed of a green stone impervious to the ravages of time, resistant to all substances, and interconnected to each other by gold rings. The Tablets were written in an ancient Atlantean language where the characters respond to attuned thought waves, releasing the associated mental vibration in the mind of the reader. The Tablets contain the history of Atlantis, its destruction, the diaspora of Thoth and his followers to Egypt, the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Halls of Amenti, and the keys to alchemy and ancient wisdom which would result in atonement.
Some legends of the Tablets tie it in with the Abrahamic religions where it is believed that a son of Adam and Eve wrote them and that they were once held within the Ark of the Covenant. Within Christianity, it has been praised by some while others have condemned it as heretical.
The Emerald Tablets have a foggy history that has given rise to many myths and legends surrounding these artifacts and its assumed author, Hermes Trismegistus. It is said that during the 16th century, Hermes Trismegistus was so revered that his teachings started to replace Aristotle's in European school. So too today are the Tablets still highly regarded by those who seek to truly understand them and not just a temporary fancy.
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10. Hauck, D. W. (n.d.). A Hyper-History of the Emerald Tablet. Retrieved from Alchemy Lab: https://www.alchemylab.com/hyper_history.htm