On #1 Hortulanus: "... the most true Sun is procreated by art. And he says most true in the superlative degree
because the Sun generated by this art exceeds all natural Sun in all of its properties, medicinal and otherwise"
(Davis modified by `Linden')
On #2 Albertus Magnus: Hermes says "the powers of all things below originate in the stars and constellations
of the heavens: and that all these powers are poured down into all things below by the circle called Alaur,
which is, they said, the first circle of the constellations". This descent is "noble when the materials receiving
these powers are more like things above in their brightness and transparency; ignoble when the materials are
confused and foul, so that the heavenly power is, as it were oppressed. Therefore they say that this is the
reason why precious stones more than anything else have wonderful powers" (60 -61). While the "seven
kinds of metals have their forms from the seven planets of the lower spheres" (168).
Hortulanus: "the stone is divided into two principle parts by the magistry, into a superior part which ascends
above and into an inferior part which remains below fixed and clear. And these two parts moreover are
concordant in their virtue since the inferior part is earth which is called nurse and ferment, and the superior
part is the spirit which quickens the whole stone and raises it up.
Wherfore separation made, and conjunction celebrated, many miracles are effected."
Burckhardt: "This refers to the reciprocal dependence of the active and the passive... essential form cannot be
manifested without passive materia.. the efficacy of the spiritual power depends on the preparedness of the
human 'container' and vice versa.... 'Above' and 'below' are thus related to this one thing and complement one
another in its regard".
Schumaker: "There are corresponding planes in various levels of creation, hence it is safe to draw analogies
between macrocosm and microcosm, the mineral kingdom and the human, animal and vegetable kingdoms
Needham: "the whole affirmation looks remarkably like the doctrine that extreme of Yang generates Yin, and
On # Hortulanus: "our stone, which was created by God, was born and came forth from a confused mass,
containing in itself all the elements- and hence our stone was born by this single miracle".
Trithemius: "Is it not true that all things flow from one thing, from the goodness of the One, and that
whatever is joined to Unity cannot be diverse, but rather fructifies by means of the simplicity and adaptability
of the One" "What is born from Unity? Is it not the ternary? Take note: Unity is unmixed, the binary is
compounded, and the ternary is reduced to the simplicity of Unity. I, Trithemius, am not of three minds, but
persist in a single integrated mind taking pleasure in the ternary, which gives birth to a marvelous offspring"
Burckhardt: "the undivided, invisible Light of the unconditioned One is refracted into multiplicity by the
prism of the Spirit". As the Spirit contemplates the Unity without full comprehension "it manifests the
'many-sided' All, just as a lens transmits the light it receives as a bundle of rays".
Schumaker: As God is one, all created objects come from one thing, an undifferentiated primal matter.
On #4 Hortulanus: " As one animal naturally generates more animals similar to itself, so the Sun artificially
generates Sun by the power of multiplication of...the stone.... in this artificial generation it is necessary that
The Emerald Tablet of Hermes
the Sun have a suitable receptacle, consonant with itself, for its sperm and its tincture, and this is the Luna of
Redgrove: Sun and Moon "probably stand for Spirit and Matter respectively, not gold and silver".
Burckhardt: Sun "is the spirit (nous), while the moon is the soul (psyche)".
Schumaker: "If the moon is associated with water, as because of its 'moisture' [as] was usual, and the sun with
fire, the prima materia is understood to have been generated by fire, born of water, brought down from the
sky by wind, and nourished by earth".
On #5 Albertus Magnus: by this Hermes "means the levigatio [making light weight] of the material, raising it
to the properties of Air. And why he says the wind carries the material [of the stone] in its belly is that, when
the material is placed in an alembic- which is a vessel made like those in which rosewater is prepared- then
by evapouration it is rendered subtle and is raised towards the properties of Air... And there distills and issues
from the mouth of the alembic a watery or oily liquor with all the powers of the elements" (17). In metals the
moisture is not separated from the dryness, but is dissolved in it; and being so dissolved, it moves about there
as if it had been swallowed by the Earth and were moving about in its bowels. And on this account Hermes
said 'The mother of metal is Earth that carries it in her belly'".
Hortulanus: "It is plain that wind is air, and air is life, and life is spirit... And thus it is necessary that the wind
should bear the whole stone.... [However] our stone without the ferment of the earth will never come to the
effect, which ferment is called food"
Trithemius: "the wind carries its seed in her belly".
Maier: By "the wind carried him in its belly" Hermes means " 'He, whose father is the Sun, and whose mother
is the Moon, will be carried before he is born, by wind and vapour, just as a flying bird is carried by air'.
From the vapours of winds, which are nothing else but wind in motion, water proceeds, when condensed, and
from that water, mixed with earth, all minerals and metals arise". The substance carried by the wind is "in
chemical respect.. the sulphur, which is carried in mercury". Lull says "'The stone is the fire, carried in the
belly of the air'. In physical respect it is the unborn child that will soon be born". To be clearer, "'All mercury
is composed of vapours, that is to say of water, which the earth raises along with it into the thin air, and of
earth, which the air compels to return into watery earth or earthy water" As the elements contained within are
each reduced to a watery condition, they either follow the volatile elements upward as in common mercury,
or they stay below with the solid elements as in philosophical Mercury "and in the solid metals". So"Mercury is the wind which receives the sulphur... as the unripe fruit from the mothers womb, or from the
ashes of the burnt mother's body and takes it to a place where it may ripen".
Ripley says "our child shall be born in the air, that is the belly of the wind" [de Jong 1969: 55- 7.] Maier (2nd
Comment) on "The earth is its nurse": Food changes into the substance of the eater and is then assimilated."This harmony dominates the whole of nature, for the like enjoys the like".
The same happens in the Work and Nature "just as is the growth of the child in the mother's womb. So also a
father, a mother and a nurse have been attributed to the philosophical child... it comes into being from the
twofold seed and then grows as an embryo does". As a woman must moderate her diet to avoid miscarriage,
"in the same way one must set about philosophical work with moderation". The Seeds also have to be united."Philosophers say that the one comes from the East and the other from the West and become one; what does
this mean but combining in a retort, a moderate temperature and nourishment?". "One may wonder why the
earth is referred to as the nurse of the philosophic child, since barreness and dryness are the main properties
of the element earth". The answer is that not the element, but the whole Earth is meant. "It is the nurse of
The Emerald Tablet of Hermes
Heaven not because it resolves, washes and moistens the foetus, but because it coagulates, fastens and colours
the latter and changes it into sap and blood... The Earth contains a wonderful juice which changes the nature
of the one who feeds on it, as Romulus is believed to have been changed by the wolf's milk into a bellicose
individual" [de Jong 1969: 63 -5.]
Burckhardt: "The wind which carries the spiritual germ in its body, is the vital breath". Vital breath is the
substance of the realm between heaven and earth, it "is also Quicksilver which contains the germ of gold in a
liquid state". The earth is "the body, as an inward reality".
On #6 Burckhardt: the word talisman is derived from Telesma. Talismans work by corresponding to their
prototype, and by making a "'condensation', on the subtle plane, of a spiritual state. This explains the
similarity between the talisman, as the bearer of an invisible influence, and the alchemical elixir, as the
'ferment' of metallic transformation".
On #7 Hortulanus: The stone is perfect and complete if it is turned into earth "that is if the soul of the stone
itself.... is turned into earth, namely of the stone and is fixed so that the whole substance of the stone becomes
one with its nurse, namely the earth, and the whole stone is converted to ferment"
Trithemius: it is the seed from #5 that must be cast upon the earth.
Bacstrom: "Process- First Distillation".
Burckhardt: "when the Spirit is 'embodied', the volatile becomes fixed".
Schumaker: if the prime matter is to be used it must be fixed into a substance "capable of being handled".
On #7a Hortulanus: "You will separate, that is, you will dissolve, because solution is separation of parts.."
Burkhardt: The separation "means the 'extraction' of the soul from the body".
Schumaker "Since the volatile principle is fire -or sometimes, air- stability is produced by its removal. Or,
alternatively but less probably, the earth is impurity ('the gross') and a purified fire ('the subtle') is what is
On #8 Albertus Magnus: In intending to teach the operations of alchemy Hermes says the stone "'ascends to
heaven' when by roasting and calcination it takes on the properties of Fire; for alchemists mean by calcinatio
the reduction of material to to powder by burning and roasting. And the material 'again descends from heaven
to earth' when it takes on the properties of Earth by inhumatio, for inhumation revives and nourishes what
was previously killed by calcination".
Hortulanus: "And now he deals with multiplication [of the stone]." "Although our stone is divided in the first
operation into four parts... there are really two principle parts". The ascending, non fixed, and the earth or
ferment. "It is necessary to have a large quantity of this non fixed part and to give it to the stone which has
been made thoroughly clean from dirt.... until the entire stone is borne above by the virtue of the spirit"
"Afterwards it is necessary to incerate the same stone,..with the oil that was extracted in the first operation,
which oil is called the water of the stone" Roast or boil by sublimation until the "entire stone descends... and
remains fixed and fluent". "That which is coporeal is made spiritual by sublimation, and that which is
spiritual is made corporeal by descension".
Trithemius: "When the ternary has at last returned to itself it may, by an inner disposition and great delight,
ascend from the earth to heaven, thereby receiving both superior and inferior power; thus will it be made
powerful and glorious in the clarity of Unity, demonstrate its ability to bring forth every number, and put to
flight all obscurity".
Bacstrom: "Last Digestion". "The Azoth ascends from the Earth, from the bottom of the Glass, and
redescends in Veins and drops into the Earth and by this continual circulation the Azoth is more and more
subtilised, Volatilizes Sol and carries the volatilized Solar atoms along with it and thereby becomes a Solar
Azoth, i.e. our third and genuine Sophic Mercury". The circulation must continue until "it ceases of itself, and
the Earth has sucked it all in, when it becomes the black pitchy matter, the Toad [the substances in the
alchemical retort and also the lower elements in the body of man -Hall], which denotes complete putrifaction
or Death of the compound".
Read, suggests this section describes the use of a kerotakis, in which metals are suspended and subject to the
action of gasses released from substances heated in the base, and from their condensation and circulation.
Burckhardt: "dissolution of consciousness from all formal 'coagulations' is followed by the 'crystalisation' of
the Spirit, so that active and passive are perfectly united."
Schumaker: "Separate the volatile part of the substance by vaporization but continue heating until the vapour
reunites with the parent body, whereupon you will have obtained the Stone".
On # Trithemius: When the ternary has returned to Unity cleansed of all impurities "the mind understands
without contradiction all the mysteries of the excellently arranged arcanum".
Bacstrom: the black matter becomes White and Red. The Red "having been carried to perfection, medicinaly
and for Metals" is capable of supporting complete mental and physical health, and provides "ample means, in
finitum multiplicable to be benevolent and charitable, without any dimunation of our inexhaustable resources,
therefore well may it be called the Glory of the whole World". Contemplation and study of the Philosopher's
Stone ("L. P.") elevates the mind to God.
"The Philosophers say with great Truth, that the L.P. either finds a good man or makes one". "By invigorating
the Organs the Soul makes use of for communicating with exterior objects, the Soul must aquire greater
powers, not only for conception but also for retention". If we pray and have faith "all Obscurity must vanish
Burckhardt: "Thus the light of the Spirit becomes constant..[and] ignorance, deception, uncertainty, doubt and
foolishness will be removed from consciousness".
On # Trithemius: The Philosopher's Stone is another name for the 'one thing', and is able to "conquer every
subtile thing and to penetrate every solid". "This very noble virtue... consists of maximal fortitude, touching
everything with its desirable excellence".
Bacstrom: "The L.P. does possess all the Powers concealed in Nature, not for destruction but for exhaltation
and regeneration of matter, in the three Departments of Nature". "It refixes the most subtil Oxygen into its
own firey Nature". The power increases "in a tenfold ratio, at every multiplication". So it can penetrate Gold
and Silver, and fix mercury, Crystals and Glass Fluxes.
Burckhardt: "Alchemical fixation is nevertheless more inward... Through its union with the spirit bodily
consciousness itself becomes a fine and penetrating power". He quotes Jabir "The body becomes a spirit, and
takes on... fineness, lightness, extensibility, coloration... The spirit...
The Emerald Tablet of Hermes
becomes a body and aquires the latter's resistance to fire, immobility and duration. From both bodies a light
substance is born , which.. precisely takes up a middle position between the two extremes".
Schumaker: The product of the distillation and reunion will "dominate less solid substances, but because of
its own subtlety it will 'penetrate' and hence dominate, other solid things less pure and quasi-spiritual than
On # Burckhardt: "the little world is created according to the prototype of the great world", when the human
realises their original nature is the image of God.
Schumaker: "The alchemical operation is a paradigm of the creative process. We may note the sexual
overtones of what has preceeded"
On #12 Burckhardt: "In the Arabic text this is: "This way is traversed by the sages".
On # Hortulanus: "He here teaches in an occult manner the things from which the stone is made." "the stone
is called perfect because it has in itself the nature of minerals, ofvegetables and of animals.
For the stone is three and one, tripple and single, having four natures.... and three colours, namely black,
white and red. It is also called the grain of corn because unless it shall have died, it remains itself alone. And
if it shall have died... it bears much fruit when it is in conjunction..."
Newton: "on account of this art Mercurius is called thrice greatest, having three parts of the philosophy of the
whole world, since he signifies the Mercury of the philosophers.... and has dominion in the mineral kingdom,
the vegetable kingdom, and the animal kingdom".
Bacstrom: the wisdom of the world (?) is hidden in "Chiram and its Use". Hermes "signifies a Serpent, and
the Serpent used to be an Emblem of Knowledge or Wisdom."
Burckhardt: "The three parts of wisdom correspond to the three great divisions of the universe, namely, the
spiritual, psychic and corporeal realms, whose symbols are heaven, air and earth".
Schumaker: "The usual explanation of Tristmegistus.. is that Hermes was the greatest philosopher, the
greatest priest, and the greatest king".
Trithemius: "our philosophy is celestial, not worldly, in order that we may faithfuly behold, by means of a
direct intuition of the mind through faith and knowledge, that principle which we call God...."
Trithemius: "Study generates knowledge; knowledge prepares love; love, similarity; similarity, communion;
communion, virtue; virtue, dignity; dignity, power; and power performs the miracle".
Newton "Inferior and superior, fixed and volatile, sulphur and quicksilver have a similar nature and are one
thing, like man and wife. For they differ from one another only by degree of digestion and maturity. Sulphur
is mature quicksilver, and quicksilver is immature sulphur: and on account of this affinity they unite like male
and female, and they act on each other, and through that action they are mutually transmuted into each other
and procreate a more noble offspring to accomplish the miracles of this one thing". "And just as all things
were created from one Chaos by the design of one God, so in our art all things... are born from this one thing
which is our Chaos, by the design of the Artificer and the skilful adaptation of things. And the generation of
this is similar to the human, truly from a father and mother".
Blavatsky: the mysterious thing "is the universal, magical agent, the astral light, which in the correlations of
its forces furnishes the alkahest, the philosopher's stone, and the elixir of life.
Hermetic philosophy names it Azoth, the soul of the world, the celestial virgin, the great Magnes, etc" It
appears to be that which gives organisation ("the maze of force-correlations"), and form i.e. the perfect geometry of snowflakes.
Sherwood Taylor: "the operation of the Sun.. was carried out by a 'spirit', universal, the source of all things,
having the power of perfecting them. Its virtue is integral [# 6a] (ie having the power to convert the diverse
into a single substance), if it be turned into earth (ie. solidified). This conveyed that the Stone was to be a
solidified pneuma. Pneuma was the link between earth and heaven, having the virtue of the celestial and
subterranean regions- the power of the whole cosmos from the fixed stars to the centre of the earth. It
overcomes every nature and penetrates every solid. It is the source of the whole world and so it can be the
means of changing things in a wonderful way.
The three parts of the philosophy of the whole world are presumably of the celestial, terrestrial, and
Shah: The table is "the same as the Sufi dictum... 'Man is the microcosm, creation the macrocosm the unity.
All comes from One. By the joining of the power of contemplation all can be attained.
This essence must be separated from the body first, then combined with the body. This is the Work. Start
with yourself, end with all. Before man, beyond man, transformation'".
A COMMENTARY OF IBN UMAIL
HERMUS said the secret of everything and the life of everything is Water.... This water becomes in wheat,
ferment; in the vine, wine; in the olive, olive oil.... The begining of the child is from water.... Regarding this
spiritual water and the sanctified and thirsty earth, HERMUS the great, crowned with the glorious wisdom
and the sublime sciences, said[#1] Truth it is, indubtible, certain and correct, [#2] that the High is from the
Low and the Low is from the High. They bring about wonders through the one, just as things are produced
from that one essence by a single preparation. Later by his statement [#4] Its father is the Sun and its mother
the Moon he meant their male and their female. They are the two birds which are linked together in the
pictures given regarding the beginning of the operation, and from them the spiritual tinctures are produced.
And similarly they are at the end of the operation. Later in his statement [#7 ?] the subtle is more honourable
than the gross, he means by the subtle the divine spiritual water; and by the gross the earthly body. As for his
later statement [#8] with gentleness and wisdom it will ascend from the earth to the sky, and will take fire
from the higher lights, he means by this the distillation and the raising of the water into the air. As for his
later statement [#8a] It will descend to the earth, containing the strength of the high and the low, he means by
this the breathing in (istinshaq) of the air, and the taking of the spirit from it, and its subsequent elevation to
the highest degree of heat, and it is the Fire, and the low is the body, and its content of the controlling earthly
power which imparts the colours. For there lie in it those higher powers, as well as the earthly powers which
were submerged in it.
The natural operation and decay causes it to be manifest, and hence the strength of the earth, and of the air,
and of the higher fire passed in to it. Later he said [#9] it will overcome the high and the low because it in it is
found the light of lights: and consequently the darkness will flee from it. [See Stapleton et al. p 74, 81.]