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Down the Rabbit Hole
Paul Kiritsis, PsyD Clinical Psychology, DPhil., MA (History)


A Psychological Interpretation of the Emerald Tablet

Paul Kiritsis - Thursday, November 22, 2012
An image from the mythological-based alchemical treatise Atalanta fugiens (1618) by Michael Maier, displaying Sol and Luna; the conjunction of opposing masculine and feminine energies.

The Emerald Tablet, otherwise known as the Tabula Smaragdina in Latin, is a condensed and apocryphal summation of Alexandrian alchemy that was reintroduced to the Latin West sometime during the thirteenth century. Esotericists and occultists frequently refer to it as the ‘Bible of all alchemists’, as fundamental to the Hermetic Art as what Biblical Scripture is to Christianity, the Koran to Islam, the Torah to Judaism, and the Enneads to Neo-Platonism.  In terms of esoteric influence in alchemo-Hermetic circles only the seventeen tracts of the Corpus Hermeticum are grander.

The earliest record we have of this document is in eighth and ninth century Arabic philosophical treatises, for instance in The Book of the Secret of Creation by Balinas, the Pseudo-Apollonius of Tyana. Translated from Arabic into Latin by Hugo von Santalla in the late twelfth century,[1] this text endeavours to anatomically dissect the cosmological principles which underpin the universe. It explores, among other things, the many names which define the intangible sphere of God and blatantly recapitulates the birth of the cosmos within the context of Aristotle’s theories of matter. The etheric bodies or planets of the primum mobile just below the Empyrean spur ontological differentiation of the primeval matter into three separate realms; the mineral kingdom with its stones and gems; the vegetable kingdom with its plants and trees; and the animal kingdom with its dogs and dears.

Being a miniature replica of the macrocosm, the human being possesses a very exalted place in this hierarchy and is particularly susceptible to interlinking forces of mutual attraction known as cosmic sympathies. The latter descries a condition of mutual attraction, correspondence and fundamental interconnectedness where everything below is caused by and is a debased reflection of everything above. Concluding Balinas’s Book of the Secrets of Creation is the enigmatic prose of the Tabula Smaragdina, which offers an abridged summa describing natural processes in the context of entelechy. Emphasis is placed on the dependence of all life on the two celestial luminaries and fire or heat is implicated as the primal mover and root power of chemical processes like sublimation, dissolution, and calcination. The cyclical movement of the alchemical opus, the hen to pan (all is one) or underlying unity of all created matter, the interdependence and interpenetration of spirit and matter, and everlasting transformation are some other cosmological leitmotifs that crop up implicitly in the text.

Below is an English translation (Holmyard, Alchemy, 98) of the Emerald Tablet:

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 miracle of one thing.

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

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 onto the Earth, it will separate the element of Earth from that if Fire, the subtle from the gross.

With great sagacitie it doth ascend gentle from Earth to Heaven.

Again it doth descend to Earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior.

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

The thing is the strong fortitude of all strength, for it overrcometh very subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance.  

Thus was the world created.

Hence there will 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 complete.

Below is my psychological interpretation of the Emerald Tablet:

True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true. The archetypal contents which are in the collective unconscious are mirrored by the conscious experiences of the ego personality, and the conscious experiences of the ego personality are a reflection of the transpersonal aspects of unconscious function, to accomplish the miracle of individuation

And as all psychological synergies of archetypal powers called temperaments were cogitated in the space of no time deep in the unconscious, so too all ego personalities arose from the collective unconscious by single acts of psychological projection.

The father thereof is thought, the mother feeling.  

Intuition carried it in its seedy womb, bodily sensation is the nurse thereof.

The collective unconscious is the father of all ‘diamond bodies’, all self-actualized personalities.

Its individual-creating powers are perfect.

When it becomes embodied it loses its unity and the transpersonal potentialities within begin acting through the ego’s four main functions–thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation–to separate the loathsome shadow from the nobler aspects of personality; the carnal, instinctual desirousness from the emerging totality of the everlasting Self.

As a protean and numinous force, the archetypal bundle manifesting on the earthbound plane as the personal ego raises its level of vibration to interact with transpersonal principles and imagery (i.e. entities, gods, landscapes, etc.) inhabiting the heavenly realm of dreams, hypnagogic images, and other altered states of consciousness.

From there it lowers its vibrational frequency and enters the earthbound plane again. With knowledge of the upper realms in tow, the personal ego can now descry how the transpersonal energies yearning for manifestation can best be actualized by archetypal contents presently in its own arsenal.

In this way your conscious personality can navigate through the contingencies of chance and become all your innate natural tendencies decreed you were meant to be without suffering perpetual immolation at the hand of possessive love, egocentric inflation, instinctual desire, and concupiscence, all qualities which can develop into neuroses and madness if left unhindered.

Your ego-self is innately equipped with the essence of re-membering the consciousness of unity and becoming all you were meant to be. This essence is comprised of two fundamental qualities–persistence and bravery–that sharpen unconscious willpower and transpose the psychic centre of the conscious personality to the mount of the true self from where every one of your problems, miseries, psychological disturbances, neurotic habits, and even more severe dysfunctions like psychosis can be resisted, overcome and unknotted.     

Thus was the individual Self born.

By virtue of the fact that psychological projection of archetypal content differs from individual to individual, there will be marvellous and comprehensive variations in individuated essence.   

For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I understand the interplay between the collective unconscious, the personal unconscious, and the conscious; the three parts of the wisdom of the whole world.

That which I had to say about the operation of human consciousness is complete.


Holmyard, E. J., Alchemy, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1957.

[1] Ebeling, pp. 49.

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