Bibliotherapy

Proclus,Kircher & Taylor-The Emerald Tablet

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Frontispiece of Ars magna lucis et umbrae (1646), Athanasius Kircher, engraved by Petrus Miotte Burgundus. Source of image: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a note by Thomas Taylor in his translation of Proclus’ ‘The Theology of Plato’. Book Seven, chapter 28. Page 550-51/ 693-694.Prometheus Trust. 2009. Athanasius Kircher’s quote of his ‘Oedipus Egyptiacus’ and the version given by Thomas Taylor of the Emerald Tablet is rarely found in the bibliographies and listings of available versions and translations of the Emerald tablet.


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Note 7: This is a very ancient Egyptian doctrine. And hence Kircher in his ‘Oedipus Egyptiacus’ says that he read the following words engraved in a stone near Memphis: ‘ Coelum sursum, coelum deorsum, quod sursum id omne deorsum, haec cape et beaberis,’ I.e Heaven is above and heaven is beneath. Everything which is above is also beneath. Understand this, and you will be blessed. Conformably to this also the celebrated Smaragdine Table, which is of such great authority with the Alchemists, and which whether originally written or not by Hermes Trismegistus, is doubtless of great antiquity, says that all that is beneath resembles all that is above. But the table itself is as follows:

Verum sine mendacio, certum et verisssimum: quod est inferius, est sicut id quod est superius, et quod est superius, est sicut id, quod est inferius ad perpetrandum miraculum unius rei. Et sicut res omnes fuerunt ab uno mediatione unius, sic omnes res natae ab hac re adoptione. Pater ejus est sol, mater ejus luna. Portavit illiud  ventus in ventre suo. Nutrix ejus terra, pater omnis telesmi totius mundi est hic. Virtus ejus integra est, si vera fuerit in terram. Separabis terram ab igne, subtile a spisso suavietr cum magno ingenio. Ascendit a terra in coelum, iterumque descendit in terram, et recipit vim superium et inferium. Sic habebis gloriam totius mundi, ideo fugiet a te omnis obscuritas. Haec est totius fortitudinis fortitudo fortis, quia vincet omnem rem subtilem, omniaque solida penetrabit. Sic mundus creatus est. Hinc erunt adoptationes mirabiles, quarum moduus hic est. Itaque vecatus sum Hermes Trismegistus habens tres partes philosophiae tortius mundi. Completum est quod dixi de opere solis’.

Thomas Taylor’ s English translation:

It is true without a lie, certain, and most true, that what is beneath is like is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which is beneath, for the purpose of accomplishing the miracle of one thing. Ans as all things were from one through the mediation of one, so all things were generated from this thing by adoption (i.e. by participation). The Sun is the father, and the moon its mother. The wind carried it in its belly. The earth is a nurse. This is the father of all perfection of the whole world. Its power is entire when it is converted into earth. You must separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the thick sweetly with great genius. It ascends from earth to heaven, and again descends to the earth, and receives the power of things superior and inferior. Thus, you will have the glory of the whole world, and thus all obscurity will fly from you. This is the strong fortitude, because it vanquishes every subtle thing, and penetrates all solid substances. Thus, the world was fabricated. Hence admirable adoptions will take place of which this is the mode. I am therefore called Hermes Trismegistus possessing three parts of the philosophy of the whole world. That which I have said concerning the work of the sun is complete.

And the passage of Proclus’ ‘Theology of Plato mentioned by note 7:

‘…Let us, therefore, now return to the words of Plato. In the first place then he says that Ocean and Tethys were the progeny of Heaven and Earth. And here we may observe, that as this whole world is ample and various, as adumbrating the intellectual order of forms, it contains these two extremities in itself, Earth and Heaven; the later having the relation of a father, but the former of a mother. On this account Plato calls Earth the most ancient of the Gods within the heavens, in order that conformably to this he might say, that Earth is the mother of all that Heaven is the father; at the same time evincing that partial causes are not only subordinate to their progeny, as Poverty, in the ‘Banquet’ of Plato to Love, but are likewise superior to them, as alone receiving the offspring proceeding from the fathers. These two extremities, therefore, must be conceived in the world, Heaven as the father, and Earth as the mother of her common progeny. For all the rest terminate in these, some giving completion to the celestial number, but others to the wholeness of Earth. After the same manner, likewise, in each of the elements of the world, these two principles, Heaven and Earth, must be admitted, subsisting aerially indeed in the air, but aquatically in water, and terrestrially in earth; and according to all the above-mentioned modes; in order that each may be a prefect world, adorned and distributed from analogous principles. For if man is said to be a microcosm, it is not necessary that each of the elements by a much greater priority should contain in itself appropriately all that the world contains totally? Hence, it appears to me that Plato immediately after speaking about Heaven and Earth, delivers the theory of these Gods, beginning from those two divinities; for the other divinities proceed analogous to Heaven and Earth. These two divinities, however, are totally the causes of all the Gods that are now produced. And these divinities that are the progeny of Heaven and Earth, are analogous to the whole of each. These two, likewise, as we have before observed, are in each of the elements, aerially, or aquatically, or terrestrially. For Heaven is in Earth, and Earth is in Heaven.’

Athanasius Kircher
Portrait of Thomas Taylor by Sir Thomas Lawrence, about 1812, from the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. In the background the Acropolis of Athens is silhouetted against a fiery sky, and by Taylor’s left hand is a copy of his translation of the works of Plato.

Extracts from Proclus, ‘The Theology of Plato’, Thomas Taylor edition and translation.Book Seven, chapter 28. Page 550-51/ 693-694.Prometheus Trust. 2009.🌿 More about the other translations and versions of the Emerald Tablet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerald_Tablet 🌿 More about Thomas Taylor: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Taylor_(neoplatonist) 🌿More about Athanasius Kircher: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasius_Kircher 🌿 More about Proclus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proclus
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