The Pillars of Hermes and the emerald tablet

According to legends, Thoth preserved his canon of writings inside two great pillars just before the Great Flood inundated the world. Thousands of years later, the pillars were rediscovered. According to existing texts written by Egyptian priests, one of the pillars was discovered outside the city of Heliopolis, and the other was unearthed near Thebes. The massive columns were covered with sacred hieroglyphics. When first discovered, they were referred to as the Pillars of the Gods of the Dawning Light. The pillars were eventually moved to a secret temple dedicated to the First Gods. Some texts indicate that this location was the Temple of Amin in Siwa, which is the oldest temple in Egypt. Only priests and pharaohs were allowed to view the sacred objects and scrolls.

Some evidence suggests the pillars really existed. Not only were they described in scrolls dating back to 1550 B.C.E., but they also were periodically put on public display and have been mentioned by credible sources throughout history. Solon, the Greek legislator and writer, studied them firsthand and noted that they memorialized the destruction of an ancient advanced civilization. The great historian Herodotus encountered the two pillars in a secret Egyptian temple he visited in 400 B.C.E. “One pillar was of pure gold”, said Herodotus, “and the other was as of emerald, which glowed at night with great brilliancy”. Because Hermes is the Greek name for Thoth, he named them the Pillars of Hermes.

The mysterious Pillars of Hermes were said to have been viewed by Alexander the Great, Achilles Tatius, Dio Chrysostom and Laertius, and other Roman and Greek historians have described them in detail. In Iamblichus: On the Mysteries, Thomas Taylor quotes one ancient writer who noted that the two pillars were created before the Great Flood. The Alexandrian scribe Manetho recorded that the pillars contained 36,525 manuscripts written by Thoth, although it should be noted that this figure is the exact number of days in 100 years, which symbolized perfection completion to the Egyptians.

When opened, Thoth’s pillars were said to contain not only many priceless manuscripts, but also a marvelous artifact that has become known as the Emerald Tablet. The green crystalline tablet carried a succinct summary of the Thothian writings and outlined a new philosophy of the Whole Universe. The priests of Amun kept the tablet and other texts in hiding, but its philosophy filtered down into other writings. Phrases from the emerald Tablet can be found in the Papyrus of Ani (1250 B.C.E) and chapters from the Book of the dead (1500 B.C.E.), the Berlin Papyrus No. 3024 (2000 B.C.E.), and other religious scrolls dating between 1000 and 300 B.C.E. one papyrus known as An Invocation to Hermes, which dates from Hellenic Egypt, actually refers to the tablet: “I know your names in the Egyptian tongue, and your true name as it is written on the Holy Tablet in the holy place at Hermopolis, where you did have your birth”.

Not until Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and became its Pharaoh in 332 B.C.E. did knowledge of the tablet’s existence spread. Historical documents show that Alexander traveled to Siwa, where he retrieved the writings of Thoth and the tablet. He then took the items with him to Memphis and then on to Hermopolis.

The pillars of Hermes were said to contain over 300 scrolls in addition to the Emerald Tablet, and reports indicate that Alexander moved them to the Temple of Heliopolis in 332 B.C.E. and put them on public display. Researcher Manly P. Hall found fragments of a letter from one traveler who had seen the Emerald Tablet in Heliopolis. “It is a precious stone, like an emerald”, wrote the man, “whereon these characters are represented in base-relief, not engraved into the stone. It is esteemed above 2,000 years old. Plainly, the matter of this emerald had once been in a fluid state like melted glass, and had been cast in a mold, and to this flux the artist had given the hardness of a natural and genuine emerald, by his art”.

Hermetic scholars believe that Alexander built the great library at Alexandria built the great library at Alexandria primarily to house and study the Thothian materials, and the writings of a scribe from the Temple of Heliopolis confirmed that view. His name was Manetho, which means Gift of Thoth and he was one of the first scribes allowed access to the contents of the pillars. He wrote that the writings were more than 9,000 years old and contained the sum of all knowledge. Unfortunately, only a few of Manetho’s works survived the burning of the great library at Alexandria. Some of his letters to Ptolemy II survived, as well as one of his books called Sothis. In that book, Mantheo wrote: “After the Great Flood, the hieroglyphic texts written by Thoth were translated from the sacred language into Greek and deposited in books in the sanctuaries of Egyptian temples”.

Mantheo wrote that the magical Book of Thoth, written in the hand of Thoth himself, was kept in a locked gold box in the inner sanctuary of the Temple of Hermopolis, and only one priest at a time was entrusted with the key. According to some historians, an occult brotherhood known as the Sons of Horus was formed before the Arab invasion of Egypt to preserve Thoth’s book and his other teachings, as well as the complete works of Mantheo. The alchemist Clement of Alexandria was given access to the secret documents around 170 C.E., but that is the last recorded reference to this original material.

When Alexander left Egypt in 331 B.C.E., he headed north to Cappadocia and Mesopotamia. According to some reports, he took the treasures from the Pillars of Hermes and stored them in an underground cavern in Cappadocia. Alexander went on to conquer all the remaining territory from Babylonia to India, but died on the return trip in 323 B.C.E. Alexander’s final wish was to be buried near the temple at Siwa in Egypt, but his tomb has never been found.

The legend picks up again in Cappadocia in 32 C.E., when a young boy named Balinas was exploring caves outside the city of Tyna and discovered the ancient texts hidden by Alexander. The precocious lad took a five-year vow of silence as he absorbed the materials and then sought out teachers versed in Hermetic philosophy to complete his education. He became known as Apollonius of Tyana and was renowned for his magical skills and healing abilities. He is said to have returned the tablet to Alexandria around 70 C.E. and made the enlightened city his home. He wrote most of his books in Alexandria, though he continued to travel the world, inspiring everyone he met with his great wisdom.

As for the Emerald Tablet, a few reports record it was buried for safe-keeping in a vault on the Giza plateau around 400 C.E., but no trace of it has ever been found. No one knows for sure if there is such an artifact as the Emerald Tablet, but several expeditions have been undertaken to search for it. The earliest surviving translation of the Emerald tablet is in the Arabic Book of Balinas, which was written around 700 C.E. Several Arabic translations made their way to Europe with the Moorish invasion of Spain in 771 C.E. The first Latin translation appeared in 1140 in a book by Johannes Hispalensis called Book of the Secrets of Creation. After the alchemist Albertus Magnus issued several more translations in the mid-1200s, the Emerald Tablet spread like wildfire. Most European alchemists had a copy and constantly referred to the “secret formula” it contained.

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