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The Emerald Tablet
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GarryP
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Posted: Sun Jul 18, 2004 10:28 pm    Post subject: The Emerald Tablet Reply with quote

So, about this so-called Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, origin of the saying 'as above so below; as below so above - in order to accomplish the miracles of the one thing'.

I've been surprised how little documentation there is about said tablet. There's a bit of text which seems to crop up on quite a few websites, e.g. here:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/emerald.htm

This gives a brief introduction to the date and nature of its origins (both uncertain), together with more translations of the thing than you really wanted. It at least gives a couple of solid-looking refs (Holmyard and Needham) to chase up, which I'm doing.

But when exactly did it start to play a role in the way astrologers thought about their subject? And at what point did the misleadingly partial motto 'as above, so below' get coined, helping to reinforce the notion of stellar influence as a one-way, quite possibly causal, street? Was it that man Leo, or one of the Raphael boys before him?

It seems odd that astrologers haven't already done all the research that could be done on this, and compressed it all into a nice small article which I could read over lunch, be satisfied, and not have to think about the thing ever again. Well, maybe someone has, and if so, I'd be eternally indebted to anyone who can point me towards it. But given that I've already asked Kim Farnell and Nick Campion, people who, let's face it, can be relied upon to know things insofar as there are things to be known, and neither were able to point me towards that article of which I speak, I'm beginning to wonder whether it yet exists. Or will I have to fritter my autumn years away writing it?
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Sue



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Posted: Mon Jul 19, 2004 12:25 am    Post subject: Re: The Emerald Tablet Reply with quote

Quote:
And at what point did the misleadingly partial motto 'as above, so below' get coined, helping to reinforce the notion of stellar influence as a one-way, quite possibly causal, street?


This is a very good point. We have all had this phrase thrown at us throughout our astrological training but the original was quite different, and meant so much more. The original quite specifically talked about it as being, not so much a two way thing, but representative of the fact that all things are One. All things have come from One, so all things follow from this One in the same way. We can see evidence of this in the philosophies of countless groups such as the Pythagoreans. Contrary to what most people believe, there was an element of this in most pagan religions. The works of Hermes Trismegistus were very popular in 16th century Europe and there was a push to have the teachings of Aristotle replaced with those of Hermes. This failed of course. In some European schools it was heretical to question the teachings of Aristotle and students were sometimes expelled for doing so. All the alchemists of the time believed the Tablet to be their most important guide. Examples of those who used it as their guide are Paracelsus, Marcilio Ficino, Giordino Bruno (who was burned at the stake as a heretic), John Dee and even Isaac Newton.
I'm not sure who was the first to misquote and thereby substantially change the original quote but now you've got me curious so I shall have to try to find out.

Quote:
It seems odd that astrologers haven't already done all the research that could be done on this, and compressed it all into a nice small article which I could read over lunch, be satisfied, and not have to think about the thing ever again
.

Wouldn't it be nice if life were that simple. I'm sure we could all do with a personal research assistant who could research all those things we don't have time for but desperately want to know about. I agree that the Emerald Tablet needs to be looked at more closely and what I am particlulary interested in is how it influenced so many people whose own works contribute substantially to our understanding of astrology.

Quote:
Or will I have to fritter my autumn years away writing it?


Well, someone has to do it. Smile But, since you are not yet at your autumn years, maybe we'll all get lucky and someone else will do it in the meantime.
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Kim Farnell



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Posted: Mon Jul 19, 2004 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd hate you to think I wasn't paying attention :-)

I don't actually know the answer but would like to throw into the pot:-

Heaven above, heaven below; stars above, stars below; all that is above, thus also below; understand this and be blessed.
—Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), Prodrom. Copt., pp 193 and 275.

Simply because Sepharial was a bit of a Kircher fan, and so were a lot of his theosophical friends. And this particular quotation got bandied about by them a lot. So it would make a lot of sense to think of it being a primarily theosophical influence. And although I could easily find something that says Leo said it, because he did, I'd be pretty sure that Sepharial said it first. Most of what Leo said was said by someone else first.

I wouldn't blame a Raphael, not their style. Though I'm willing to be wrong as ever :-)

Thinking about it, this may well be "important". Sorry Garry, I didn't think of it before. I must have put my theosophical hat in the washing machine that day.

Kim
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GarryP
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Posted: Mon Jul 19, 2004 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Sue & Kim. I especially liked Sue's comment about me not being in my autumn years yet.

This Kircher fellow of Kim's complicates matters a bit. I'd figured that the Em Tab must have snuck into western astrology via Ficino (he surely must have translated it - I assume - though I can't quote you chapter and verse on this - yet) and influenced people for a bit, but eventually died out as an influence until Blavatsky translated it. So that the Blavatsky translation (whenever that happened, and if 'translation' is the right word anyway) would at least have marked a clear point before which it wasn't a force in modern western astrology.

But no, it seems it isn't that straightforward. Not that what I just said was straightforward anyway.

I'd like to know of any sightings of the crucial phrase (or close approximations) in Sepharial. And HPB for that matter. And actually in anyone at all. I've taken a quick look through Leo and couldn't actually find him saying it. Surely he does somewhere, though? The problem here is that - as the reader can prove for him or herself - it soon gets pretty tedious to skim books looking for a short phrase.

I mean - at what point did this saying become so ubiquitous? I think we should know.
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###



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Posted: Tue Jul 20, 2004 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Robert Schmidt says on the Project Hindsight home page that their central finding to date is a Hellenistic astrological practice which they call the System of Hermes. A quote from Schmidt’s article on the system: “The lineage recorded by Firmicus Maternus credits one Hermes Trismegistus with the founding of the Hellenistic astrological tradition.” Astrologers may have been saying it off and on for a long time. Your question about the short version does seem tricky and a real time-consumer.

There were some interesting characters in 19th century France who were digging (and stirring) things up. My impression is that they were especially interested in Egypt. The French occult and metaphysical writings seem to have strongly influenced the British. I recommend going to Paris and writing the article that the world is calling for.
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Sue



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Posted: Tue Jul 20, 2004 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure if Ficino translated the Emerald Tablet specifically. Cosimo de Medici obtained an almost complete copy of the Corpus Hermeticum somewhere in the mid 1400's and got Ficino to stop work on his translations of Plato to concentrate on the Corpus. I don't recall seeing the Emerald Tablet mentioned but then I wasn't specifically looking at the time.
However, it seems that there were already several translations around at this time. No one is quite sure when the first western translation was but I believe Roger Bacon wrote a translation, which would have put it in the 1200's sometime. I think the web article you mentioned Garry suggested that it came into the west in the 1100's. Cornelius Agrippa (b. 1456) makes a passing mention of it (although not specifically by name) in his epic 'Three Books of Occult Philosophy' and it is reproduced in the latest translation of Agrippa's book as being essential to his philosophy. It appears to have been readily available during the Renaissance and was seen as a necessary part of every alchemist's library. It had a huge influence and Frances Yates stresses its importance in her books. Even Isaac Newton wrote his own translation of the Emerald Tablet but I haven't seen it and I'm not sure if this is available anywhere.
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Kim Farnell



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Posted: Tue Jul 20, 2004 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I'd like to know of any sightings of the crucial phrase (or close approximations) in Sepharial. And HPB for that matter.


Ok, here goes for HPB :-
Secret Doctrine 1888
p29 As it is above so it is below" is the fundamental axiom of occult philosophy.
p139 We have said elsewhere that the great Flood had several meanings, and that it referred, as also does the FALL, to both spiritual and physical, cosmic and terrestrial, events: as above, so it is below.
p177 AS ABOVE, SO BELOW, IS THE LAW.Everything in the Universe follows analogy. "As above, so below"; Man is the microcosm of the Universe. That which takes place on the spiritual plane repeats itself on the Cosmic plane.
p202 All these relate to Heaven and Earth, and have a double and often even a triple meaning, and esoteric application to things above as to things below.
p203 A "struggle for life" as a "survival of the fittest" in the worlds above, as on our planet here below, are distinctly taught.
p218 In Esoteric Philosophy, every physical particle corresponds to and depends on its higher noumenon -- the Being to whose essence it belongs; and above as below, the Spiritual evolves from the Divine, the psycho-mental from the Spiritual -- tainted from its lower plane by the astral -- the whole animate and (seemingly) inanimate Nature evolving on parallel lines, and drawing its attributes from above as well as from below.
p219In Esoteric Philosophy, every physical particle corresponds to and depends on its higher noumenon -- the Being to whose essence it belongs; and above as below, the Spiritual evolves from the Divine, the psycho-mental from the Spiritual -- tainted from its lower plane by the astral -- the whole animate and (seemingly) inanimate Nature evolving on parallel lines, and drawing its attributes from above as well as from below.
p274 As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth

Isis Unveiled 1889
p22 An undeniable proof of this is the significance of their countless symbols. Every one of these symbols is an embodied idea, -- combining the conception of the Divine Invisible with the earthly and visible. The former is derived from the latter strictly through analogy according to the hermetic formula -- "as below, so it is above." Their symbols show great knowledge of natural sciences and a practical study of cosmical power.
p35 "As above, so it is below. That which has been, will return again. As in heaven, so on earth."

A very small sample of the occurance in HPB's writings. And then there are all the other theosophical writers of course.

I can probably find you Sepharial and Leo quotes once I've time to look. But the real point is that the theosophists, and therefore theosophical astrologers, were bandying it around as a phrase in the late 1880's.

The mention of Agrippa makes me wonder about Barrett's Magus, I haven't checked there yet, but if the phrase does appear then that would be a major influence on early nineteenth century astrologers.

Personally, I think the theosophists did it :-)
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GarryP
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Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the HPBs, Kim. That's certainly a lot of 'as above so belows' (henceforth AASB) without the converse - except for Isis p22 where she gives 'as below so above' only, but maybe that was a slip of the ectoplasm.

On balance I think this does make HPB the most likely suspect for filleting AASB out of its context.

Another thing - I wonder if the identification of AASB as 'the law of correspondences' is a helpful thing to look at? E.g. in the first page of the foreword of his book 'As Above, So Below', Alan Oken says, "...his (sic - i.e. the astrologer's) doctrine is based on what is termed 'the Law of Correspondences', or, 'As above, so below; as it is in the heavens, so it is on the Earth'."

Whilst HPB wasn't the first to use the term 'law of correspondences' (it's to be found in Swedenborg, and - anyone? - doubtless earlier sources too) I wonder if she was the first to equate AASB with that law. And I have the impression that most 20th century astrologers who quoted AASB also described it as the law of correspondences.

One thing to which I have the answer: Sue, Newton's translation is indeed available, it's one of the ones included on the site mentioned in my first post.
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GarryP
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Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2004 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Swedenborg does seem as if he should fit in here somewhere. At 'Isis Unveiled' Vol 1 p.306 HPB says of Swedenborg:

"His doctrine of correspondence, or Hermetic symbolism, is that of Pythagoras and of the kabalists -- "as above, so below.""

And at Para 205 (page 283 in the Everyman ed.) of 'The True Christian Religion', Swedenborg says:

"The knowledge of correspondences... is evident from the story of the wise men of the East, who came to the Lord at His nativity guided by a star, and bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh... For the star which went before them signified knowledge from heaven; gold, celestial good; frankincense, spiritual good; and myrrh, natural good; and these are the three constituents of all worship."

I'm not aware of Swedenborg connecting 'correspondences' with 'as above...' so maybe HPB made that connection.

Incidentally, whilst searching for Blavatsky material I discovered an episode of Beavis and Butthead where the two eponymous heroes meet Madam Blavatsky. Their exchanges were somewhat lacking in philosophical depth, however.
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granny_skot



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Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2004 4:19 pm    Post subject: sidenote Reply with quote

I must concede that the fact that the idea that the authors of beavis and buthead even know who blotvosky is, raises my estimation of their intellectual capacity from ..... the depths of a septic tank to maybe gutter level... I think the only thing to come from that toon that I find remotely intrigueing is Daria... whom I find a worthy being... when i grow up I want to be Daria! (okay Daria with a nice evil smile)

now back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Granny!
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Kim Farnell



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Posted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Swedenborg was bound to pop up soon. And we could equally bandy around Jakob Boehme's name. And what about Paracelsus you plead? Though personally I'd go for Fludd's History of the two Worlds Nice explanation here http://www.fact-index.com/m/ma/macrocosm.html

Before then, you start getting into signatures rather than correspondences.

But you weren't actually asking, "Who said it then?", but rather when did we get to claim it as the astrologer's motto?

I still think it's a theosophical thing. Because although all of the above were certainly known to astrologers prior to theosophy, HPB stirred them around her large pot together.

(It could be completely irrelevant of course, but I would be remiss in not reminding you that the Siblys were Swedenborgians.)

I'll try and confuse the matter further tomorrow :-)

Kim
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GarryP
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Posted: Sun Jul 25, 2004 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First, a big slab of Blavatsky - timid readers may wish to skip it:

"And here we may as well mention the works of Hermes Trismegistus. Who, or how many have had the opportunity to read them as they were in the Egyptian sanctuaries? In his Egyptian Mysteries, Iamblichus attributes to Hermes 1,100 books, and Seleucus reckons no less than 20,000 of his works before the period of Menes. Eusebius saw but forty-two of these "in his time," he says, and the last of the six books on medicine treated on that art as practiced in the darkest ages; and Diodorus says that it was the oldest of the legislators Mnevis, the third successor of Menes, who received them from Hermes. Of such manuscripts as have descended to us, most are but Latin retranslations of Greek translations, made principally by the Neo-platonists from the original books preserved by some adepts. Marcilius Ficinus, who was the first to publish them in Venice, in 1488, has given us mere extracts, and the most important portions seemed to have been either overlooked, or purposely omitted as too dangerous to publish in those days of Auto da fe. And so it happens now, that when a kabalist who has devoted his whole life to studying occultism, and has conquered the great secret, ventures to remark that the Kabala alone leads to the knowledge of the Absolute in the Infinite, and the Indefinite in the Finite, he is laughed at by those who because they know the impossibility of squaring the circle as a physical problem, deny the possibility of its being done in the metaphysical sense."

(Isis Unveiled p.407)

I don't really have any comment on this apart from, well, that's kind of relevant isn't it.

Thanks for the refs Kim. That URL is interesting - rather, it points to an interesting page. I'm interested by the ref to Olympiadorus saying, "the mythic Hermes calls man a small cosmos", in the 3rd century CE - which pushes the first sighting of Hermes saying that kind of thing back by about 5 centuries. Shame it doesn't give a ref for that.

Joseph Needham, p.370ff 'Science & Civilisation in China' puts forward the suggestion that the Emerald Tablet may well have originated in China.

I remember some time back, there was a project underway to put all of Alan Leo's works onto CD. It seemed to me like a waste of time then, but now it would be quite useful to be able to search for 'AASB' in there. Does anyone know what became of that project?

Well, this is a really fragmentary post isn't it. No point in trying to introduce any thematic continuity at this late stage. So:

Re. the Beavis and Butthead sub-theme: I found B&B fitfully funny, but also often quite annoying. However. Mike Judge (who was behind them) is also responsible for the wonderful 'King of the Hill', a humorous cartoon show which is one of the few compelling reasons to own a TV.
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Sue



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Posted: Sun Jul 25, 2004 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

GarryP wrote:


I remember some time back, there was a project underway to put all of Alan Leo's works onto CD. It seemed to me like a waste of time then, but now it would be quite useful to be able to search for 'AASB' in there. Does anyone know what became of that project?


Hi Garry,

Midheaven Bookshop has a cd collection of Alan Leo's works. From what I remember, it is not the complete works but those in the AA Library, which is a substantial collection anyway.

Cheers
Sue
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GarryP
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Posted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Major thanks to Kirk Little for tracking 'AASB' down in Alan Leo:

It appears at p.12 of 'How to Judge a Nativity': "Everywhere throughout Nature there is analogy, or rather, a reflection of attributes, from that which is above to that which is below---As above So below runs the Hermetic axiom."

And at p.29 of 'The Art of Synthesis': "But it is evident that applying the maxim 'As above so below,' the Sun of our System is a Star having streams of influence which seem to link it with each planet and give to each its special lordship over certain signs of the zodiac; for the Sun has primal lordship over all the signs, and then each planet is allotted its separate rulership under the Sun."

I've got the 2nd edn of 'How to Judge' from 1908, where the quotation appears as above. It's described as 'revised and greatly amplified', so I guess there's a small chance the quotation may not be in the first edition. Anyone?

I have to say, I'd assumed it would occur much more frequently in Leo's books, but those seem to be the only two occurrences.
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Deb
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Posted: Fri Jul 30, 2004 1:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Garry

In case this helps, Culpeper slips into Latin to quote the abbreviated phrase in the preface to his Astrological Judgement of Disease, (1655). It’s on the page marked c in the Ascella reproduction. I’ve copied the bits that seem of most interest to you below:

Quote:
Excellent and true was that Mottoe of HERMES TRISMEGISTUS: QUOD EST SUPERIUS, EST SICUT INFERIUS; and this will appear to the eye of everyone that deserves the name of a reasonable man, if he do but consider, that his whole body is made of the same materials that the whole Universe is made of, though not in the same form, namely of a composition of contrary elements. There is scarce a man breathing that knows his right hand from his left, but knows that if you set bottles of hot water to a man’s feet it will make his head sweat; and the reason is the mutual harmony of one part of the body with another; why then as well should not the actions of one part of the creation produce as well effects in another, that being also one entire body, composed of the same elements, and in as great harmony? …. Why then should not the Celestial bodies act upon the Terrrestriall, they being made of the same matter and by the finger of the same God.


The capitalisation is as in the text.
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