Hermes Trismegistus - The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Multiple Translations (53.0 Kb)
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The Tablet probably first appeared in the West in editions of the psuedo Aristotlean Secretum Secretorum which was actually a translation of the Kitab Sirr al Asar, a book of advice to kings which was translated into latin by Johannes Hispalensis c. 1140 and by Philip of Tripoli c.1243. Other translations of the Tablet may have been made during the same period by Plato of Tivoli and Hugh of Santalla, perhaps from different sources.The date of the Kitab Sirr al Asar is uncertain, though c.800 has been suggested and it is not ... More >>>
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The Tablet probably first appeared in the West in editions of the psuedo Aristotlean Secretum Secretorum which was actually a translation of the Kitab Sirr al Asar, a book of advice to kings which was translated into latin by Johannes Hispalensis c. 1140 and by Philip of Tripoli c.1243. Other translations of the Tablet may have been made during the same period by Plato of Tivoli and Hugh of Santalla, perhaps from different sources.
The date of the Kitab Sirr al Asar is uncertain, though c.800 has been suggested and it is not clear when the tablet became part of this work. Holmyard was the first to find another early arabic version (Ruska found a 12th centruy recension claiming to have been dictated by Sergius of Nablus) in the Kitab Ustuqus al Uss al Thani (Second Book of the Elements of Foundation) attributed to Jabir. Shortly after Ruska found another version appended to the Kitab Sirr al Khaliqa wa San`at al Tabia (Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature), which is also known as the Kitab Balaniyus al Hakim fil Ilal (book of Balinas the wise on the Causes). It has been proposed that this book was written may have been written as early as 650, and was definitely finished by the Caliphate of al Mamun.
Scholars have seen similarities between this book and the Syriac Book of Treasures written by Job of Odessa (9th century) and more interestingly the Greek writings of the bishop Nemesius of Emesa in Syria from the mid fourth century. However though this suggests a possible Syriac source, non of these writings contain the tablet.Balinas is usually identified with Apollonius of Tyna, but there is little evidence to connect him with the Kitab Balabiyus, and even if there was,the story implies that Balinas found the tablet rather than wrote it, and the recent discoveries of the dead sea scrolls and the nag hamamdi texts suggest that hiding texts in caves is not impossible, even if we did not have the pyramids before us.
Ruska has suggested an origin further east, and Needham has proposed an origin in China. Holmyard, Davis and Anon all consider that this Tablet may be one of the earliest of all alchemical works we have that survives. It should be remarked that apparantly the Greeks and Egyptians used the termtranslated as `emerald' for emeralds, green granites, "and perhaps green jasper". In medieval times the emerald table of the Gothic kings of Spain, and the Sacro catino a dish said to have belonged to the Queen of Sheba, to have been used at the last supper, and to be made of emerald, were made of green glass.
Hermes Trismegistus (Greek "thrice-great Hermes"; Latin: Mercurius ter Maximus) is the representation of the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. In Hellenistic Egypt, the Greeks recognised the congruence of their god Hermes with the Egyptian god Thoth. Subsequently the two gods were worshipped as one in what had been the Temple of Thoth in Khemnu, which the Greeks called Hermopolis.
Both Thoth and Hermes were gods of writing and of magic in their respective cultures. Thus, the Greek god of interpretive communication was combined with the Egyptian god of wisdom as a patron of astrology and alchemy. In addition, both gods were psychopomps; guiding souls to the afterlife. And there is also a connection with the Egyptian Priest and Polymath Imhotep.
A Mycenaean Greek reference found on a Linear B clay tablet at Pylos to a deity or semi-deity called TI-RI-SE-RO-E, Trisheros (the "thrice or triple hero") could be connected to the later epithet "thrice wise" "Trismegistus", applied to Hermes/Thoth. On the same Tn 316 tablet as well as other Linear B tablets, found in Pylos and Knossos, appears the name of the deity "Hermes" as E-MA-A, but not in any apparent connection with the "Trisheros". This interpretation of poorly understood Mycenaean material is disputed, since Hermes Trismegistus is not referenced in any of the copious sources before he emerges in Hellenistic Egypt.
The origin of the description Trismegistus or "thrice great" is unclear. Copenhaver reports that this name is first found in the minutes of a meeting of the council of the Ibis cult, held in 172 BCE near Memphis in Egypt. Fowden however asserts that the earliest occurrence of the name was in the Athenagora by Philo of Byblos circa 64-141 CE. Another explanation is that the name is derived from an epithet of Thoth found at the Temple of Esna, "Thoth the great, the great, the great." The date of his sojourn in Egypt in his last incarnation is not now known, but it has been fixed at the early days of the oldest dynasties of Egypt, long before the days of Moses. Some authorities regard him as a contemporary of Abraham, and some Jewish traditions go so far as to claim that Abraham acquired a portion of his mystical knowledge from Hermes himself (Kybalion).
Many Christian writers, including Lactantius, Augustine, Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, Campanella and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola considered Hermes Trismegistus to be a wise pagan prophet who foresaw the coming of Christianity. They believed in a 'Prisca Theologia', the doctrine that a single, true, theology exists, which threads through all religions, and which was given by God to man in antiquity and passed through a series of prophets, which included Zoroaster and Plato. In order to demonstrate the verity of the 'priscia theologia' Christians appropriated the Hermetic teachings for their own purposes. By this account Hermes Trismegistus was either, according to the fathers of the Christian church, a contemporary of Moses or the third in a line of men named Hermes, i.e. Enoch, Noah and the Egyptian priest king who is known to us as Hermes Trismegistus, or "thrice great" on account of being the greatest priest, philosopher and king.
This last account of how Hermes Trismegistus received the appellation "Trismegistus," meaning "Thrice Great," is derived from statements in the The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, that he knows the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe. The three parts of the wisdom are alchemy, astrology, and theurgy. The pymander, from which Marsilio Ficino formed his opinion, states that "they called him Trismegistus because he was the greatest philosopher and the greatest priest and the greatest king."
Another explanation, in the Suda (10th century), is that "He was called Trismegistus on account of his praise of the trinity, saying there is one divine nature in the trinity.
Modern occultists suggest that some Hermetic texts may be of Pharaonic origin, and that the legendary "forty-two essential texts" that contain the core Hermetic religious beliefs and philosophy of life remain hidden in a secret library.
In some trance "readings" of Edgar Cayce, Hermes or Thoth was an engineer from the submerged Atlantis, who also built, designed or directed the construction of the Pyramids of Egypt.
The book Kybalion, by authors dubbed "The Three Initiates," addresses Hermetic principles.
Within the occult tradition, Hermes Trismegistus is associated with several wives, and more than one son who took his name, as well as more than one grandson. This repetition of given name and surname throughout the generations may at least partially account for the legend of his longevity, especially as it is believed that many of his children pursued careers as priests in mystery religions.