The Tabula Smaragdina, The Tarot, and the Color Green of Stones

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The Emerald Stone Tabula Smaragdina, and Green in the Tarot, Why Green and Why Stone?


Gershom Scholem, the great Kabbalistic scholar showed long ago the serious importance of colour and its symbolic significance in the Jewish tradition and mysticism. In like manner, Paul Foster Case and Robert Wang have shown the serious significance of colour in the Tarot Cards for deep meaning in personal meditations by practitioners.[1] It’s significant that the color green is perhaps one of the most important mystic colors involved in two of the most mystical texts in all of existence, the ever mysterious Emerald Tablet, and the ever enigmatic Tarot Cards.


The Tabula Smaragdina is made of Smaragd. The Latin Dictionary says that this smaragd is “a transparent precious stone of bright green color; including not only our emerald, but also beryl, jasper, malachite, etc.”[2] From this word emerald evolves through the Old French esmeralde.


Hermes Trismegistus is credited with inventing and writing the Tabula Smaragdina as also the inventor of all arts and sciences, including the Egyptian-Hermetic even gnostic texts.[3] Of course, as with all mysteries, the Tabula Smaragdina does not escape the attempts to give it an ancient genealogy, and yet a remarkable connection is discovered with two items intimately involved with it. The color green, and the precious stone emerald and other translucent stones having to do with salvation, exactly as the contents of the Emerald Tablet is concerned.


As far back as the ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts in spell 134 and 135, we read of a man being saved with his family in the next world, by the green stone.[4] Being saved by the stone recalls the sacred omphalos stone of antiquity, the center of the universe, the sacred seat of Apollo, yet also “the tomb of the slain and resurrected Dionysus.” The oldest known omphalos stone of ancient Egypt was the ben-ben stone. This was the prototype of the pyramid as well as the obelisk. It was on the ben-ben which the phoenix was cremated and resurrected every 500 years, once again showing the importance of the stone involved in immortality.[5]


“The Tabula Smaragdina is among the supreme mysteries of the alchemist’s art. It is constantly referred to by mystics and the cultists right down to the twentieth century. Those who have published the story and the content of it, have routinely traced it back through Plato and Pythagoras to Hermes and the emerald tablet of the Hermetics. Some geneologies give incredible chronological lines beginning with Chymes, to the Egyptian Horus, to Agathodaimon, to Hermes (Thoth) and so down to Pythagoras, plato, Aristotle, Democritus, Meria, the daughter of King Saba. It continues to Theosebeia, to Archelaos, Theophilos, the Emperor Justinian, Heraclius, and on down in the Middle Ages.” of course, Apollonius of Tyana is in the late Christian era and in the Biblical legends King Solomon gave the great sapphire to the Queen of Sheba, and in another legend Christ used it at the Last Supper.[6]


The Egyptians were obsessed with the color green, even their god Osiris was painted green to represent his resurrection from death. Their jewelry was lavished with turquoise and green jade stones, amulets painted green, etc., The goddess Nut is called “The Lady of Turquoise,” all this because green is the color of living, thriving plant life. The purifying effects of the green stone in the Coffin Texts is what delivers one. Their living women used green eye shadow and make up to give them more exalted living presence. Hathor, the Lady of Turquoise makes the two lands green. “Green brings one uncomfortably close to the other world.”[7]


“The Tabula was the father of talismans obtained by one who had ascended to heaven in order to comprehend the light of the firmament.”[8] It is the contents of the 13 articles which makes the Tabula Smaragdina so important. It ends on the note that the microcosm is the macrocosm in nature and this is the theater of operation, which is why Hermes is the Trismegistus, the three fold wisdom holder, for the alchemists the three divisions of nature are the mineral, the plant, and the animal. What we have here in the Emerald Tablet is a double path as Cottie A. Burland has described. “There is the class of opposites, of aboveness and belowness, of air with earth, of fire with water, the double path was really one. It was the road to perfection. It is divided to show a constant to and from, from and to, the constant moving from one condition to another.”[9]


This is quite remarkably very close to what the Tarot accomplish, “...every individual has the capacity to explore, enlightenment means emergence from the darkness of our limited sense perceptions and thought framework into a consciousness of the greater reality.”[10] This movement and transforming is symbolically shown by the alchemical Tarot symbol of the wheel, a circulating process, “by this is meant firstly the ascensus and descensus… the moral allegories of the wheel emphasize that the ascensus and descensus are, among other things, God’s descent to man and man’s ascent to God.”[11]


In the path working mystic using the Tarot Cards, the path of Nun, “death” is remarkably enough, the color green. The fish as its meaning, the meaning of the Hebrew letter nun, is “the path of the flaming sword between golden colored Tiphareth and green colored Netzach, “the path on which the energy of God the Son is transformed into the first sphere, or pattern of energy underlying the material world.” As Wang further elaborates, significantly underlying all we have read so far about the Tabula Smaragdina, “this card represents the symbolic passing through a gateway which is at once the utter destruction of one phase of energy, and the transformation of that energy into something else.”[12]


The Tarot Card belonging to this path is “Death, a seeming contradiction, and herein rests a phenomenal insight.” “Nun is a verb it means to sprout or to grow.”[13] We are further told “Nun is the Aramaic word for fish, denoting great fruitfulness, and indicates that faith brings in a sense of abundance in our daily life.”[14] Rabbi Michael L. Munk describes how in Genesis 48:16, Jacob blessed Joseph’s children with the word viyedigu, “related to ‘dag,’ fish, is a blessing that Israel should be fruitful and multiply rapidly and plentifully like fish.”[15] As Case so unerringly states “The Bible says death is the last enemy to be overcome. But how? Overcome evil with good. Love your enemies. In these two brief sentences is the whole secret.”[16] From another angle, “The fish is a symbol of fertility. The widespread custom of eating fish on Friday is connected with the custom of consummating marriages on Friday night.”[17]


It is highly significant that the Sephiroth of the Kabbalah Tree of Life were actually sapphires, stones that glowed and reflected light from the creation.[18 ] The stones in the breastplate of the high priest in ancient Israel were considered to be a symbol of God’s presence, with the Urim and Thummim on them, and sometimes identified with them.[19] The stones are said by some to represent the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet signifying the sum total of knowledge.[20] In the Dead Sea Scroll Isaiah Pesharim (commentary made by the Qumran Community on the book of Isaiah) it describes how their foundation is of sapphires, and the Urim and Thummim gave of flashes and fire, flashes of light to them.[21] One description of them say they shone like the sun.[22]


Several of the stones in the High Priests’ breastplate, as well as the Urim and Thummim were variously described by ancient authors such as Epiphanius, as diamonds, or two emeralds, and these would shine brilliantly with a certain extraordinary light.[23] Alabaster was also a known stone in antiquity for its shining capabilities, and sacredness in displaying the power of God as the Urim and Thummim were said to do.[24] Very interestingly, like the Sefer Yetzirah says of God creating the letters of Hebrew, Louis Ginzberg, that indefatigable gatherer of Jewish legends and lore described how the Urim and Thummim and the stones on the High Priests’ breastplate would shine when they were looked at, and when certain letters glowed, the answer was spelled out to the question being asked. The letters were “engraved” into the sacred stones which were then illuminated as the stones began to glow with answers.[25]


Abraham was said to have possessed a green stone which was actually a book which he received from Adam, which was written on a sapphire stone. In that book he was shown the entire cosmos. He gave the book to Seth who hid it, and then Enoch was shown in a dream where to find them, and the stone taught him all about the seasons, planets, and the lights, and everything about the earth. He hid it until Noah got it transferred to him by the angel Raphael. By it Noah was able to behold the two sides of everything - life and death, good and evil - and the cycles of birth and death. He gave it to Shem before he died (Jewish tradition says this is Melchizedek) and Shem gave it to Abraham, by which means he was able to see the Glory of God.[26] This exact same knowledge is what one receives or is said to be able to when working with the Tarot accompanied by the Sefer Yetzirah![27] And Kaplan shows how the Sefer Yetzirah is said to have been written by none other than Abraham![28]


But further to amaze us greater is the idea that the breastplate of the high priest in ancient Israel is double. What that means, according to Erwin R. Goodenough is “the breastplate is double… for both in the universe and in man the Logos is double… there is one Logos which has to do with visible things which are imitation and likeness to those forms. This full array of symbols qualifies the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies and he ought to try unceasingly to be worthy of the cosmos… to become one who bears in mind the original pattern, so that he… becomes if one may say so… himself a little cosmos. The dress of the high-priest is then a copy of the universe.”[29]

All one has to do in order to see the viable connection here with the Tabula Smaragdina and the Tarot Cards is read Leonora Leet, or Robert Wang, or Paul Foster Case, or Kevin Townley, or Richard Roberts. Everything having to do with these two items correlate beautifully with the full ancient mystical insight of man belonging to the universe, and finding our way in it through means of contemplation, meditation, and light, to learn that our own Higher Self is that very Logos. This is the significance of the vision of Ezekiel, Daniel, Enoch, and Jesus, and John in his Revelation, Buddha, Arjuna, and many others, they all attained that vision of the Higher Self. This is fully accomplished through testimony of mystics the world over regardless of which “system” they belong to or use.

In the ancient “Odes of Solomon,” each of the righteous receives “an everlasting crown [which] is truth. Blessed are they who have set it on their head. It is a precious stone.”[30] “Creation, plan, foundation, and boundaries, all that brings a new world into existence, is done with a green stone. Each of the chief men of Israel was himself a precious stone (Isaiah 28:16). Each of the tribes of Israel was identified with a stone.”[31]

And with Hermetic alchemy, of which the Tarot are definitely a pictorial form and plan for each individual who so chooses to do pathwork, as noted by Paul Foster Case, Jason Lotterhand, Robert Wang, and many others, “the effectiveness of the alchemist’s stone depended on the intensely personal and individual relationship between it and its owner, so that the changes in the state of ore and metal are seen as a picture of the development of the human person as well as the universe. The white stone is given to him that overcometh (Revelation 2:17).”[32]


Endnotes

1. Gershom Scholem, “Colours and Their Symbolism in Jewish Tradition and Mysticism,” in “Diogenes,” 108 (Winter, 1979):84-111; “Diogenes,” 109 (Spring, 1980): 64-76; Paul Foster Case, “Tarot: Key to the Wisdom of the Ages,” BOTA, Revised ed., 1990; Robert Wang, “The Qabalistic Tarot’ A Textbook of Mystical Philosophy,” Marcus Aurelius Press, 2004.

2. Hugh Nibley, “One Eternal Round,” Deseret Book, 2010: 424.

3. David Fideler, “Jesus Christ Sun of God,” Quest Books, 1993: 232.

4. Raymond O. Faulkner, “The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts,” vol. 1, Aris & Phillips Ltd., re-issued, 1994: 116. Cf. Nibley, “Ibid.,” p. 426.

5. Fideler, “Jesus Christ Sun of God,” p. 274.

6. Nibley, “Ibid.,” p. 428f.

7. Nibley, “Ibid.,” pp. 431ff.

8. Nibley, “Ibid.,” p. 445.

9. In Nibley, “Ibid.,” p. 447.

10. Robert Wang, “The Qabalistic Tarot,” p. 5.

11. Carl Jung, “Psychology and Alchemy,” Princeton University Press, 8th printing, 1993: 164-165.

12. Wang, “The Qabalistic Tarot,” p. 181-182.

13. Wang, “The Qabalistic Tarot,” p. 182.

14. Edward Hoffman, “The Hebrew Alphabet,” Chronicle Books, 1998: 59.

15. Rabbi Michael L. Munk, “The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet,” Mesorah Publications, 13th impression, 2003: 156.

16. Paul Foster Case, “Tarot, Key to the Wisdom of the Ages,” BOTA, revised, 1990: 146.

17. Gershom Scholem, “On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism,” Schocken Books, 1st paperback, 1969: p. 143, note 2.

18. Gershom Scholem, Jonathan Garb, and Moshe Idel, “Kabbalah” in “Encyclopedia Judaica,” ed., Fred Skolnik, 2nd ed., 22 vols., (2007), Vol. 11, p. 635.

19. Cornelius Van Dam, “The Urim and Thummim, a Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel,” Eisenbrauns, 1997: 10.

20. Van Dam, “Urim and Thummim,” p. 15.

21. Van Dam, “Urim and Thummim,” p. 17. Cf. Florentino Garcia Martinez, “The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, The Qumran Texts in English,” E. J. Brill, 1994: 190-191, See also Robert H. Eisenman, Michael Wise, “The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered,” Element Books, 1992: 271 discussing a spirit of radiance.

22. Van Dam, “Urim and Thummim,” p. 18.

23. Van Dam, “Urim and Thummim,” p. 28.

24. Van Dam, “Urim and Thummim,” p. 41.

25. Nibley, “One Eternal Round,” p. 450.

26. Nibley, “One Eternal Round,” pp. 451-452.

27. This is the entire premise and discussion of Robert Wang’s book “The Qabalistic Tarot!” And he uses the Sefer Yetzirah to demonstrate the relationships of the Hebrew Letters to the paths and sephiroth on the Kabbalah Tree of Life, and where each Tarot Card belongs on both the tree’s sephiroth, as well as the paths of the Tree.

28. Aryeh Kaplan, “Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Creation,” Samuel Weiser, revised, 1997: xii.

29. In Nibley, “One Eternal Round,” p. 454. Philo said the high priests’ raiment is a representation of the heavens.

30. James H. Charlesworth, ed., “The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha,” 2 vols., Doubleday, Vol. 2, p. 743.

31. Nibley, “One Eternal Round,” p. 457.

32. Nibley, “One Eternal Round,” p. 457-458.
 

Cino

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Whew, what a read. Incidentally, green is my favourite colour.

One request, if you could split posts like this into smaller chunks, it would be easier (for me) to get into a discussion. Having read your text, I feel like having just been handed an entire textbook with the assignment, "discuss!" o_O

I'll pick out one passage, not to be picky on principle, but to get something started:

In the path working mystic using the Tarot Cards, the path of Nun, “death” is remarkably enough, the color green.
Depending on the system of correspondences, this path has different colours in the four worlds, only one of which is green(-blue): in Atziluth, the Divine World.
 
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ScholarlySeeker

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Whew, what a read. Incidentally, green is my favourite colour.

One request, if you could split posts like this into smaller chunks, it would be easier (for me) to get into a discussion. Having read your text, I feel like having just been handed an entire textbook with the assignment, "discuss!" o_O

I'll pick out one passage, not to be picky on principle, but to get something started:


Depending on the system of correspondences, this path has different colours in the four worlds, only one of which is green(-blue): in Atziluth, the Divine World.

Oh man, I never thought of it that way... I was just throwing out something I put together with a few connections. I can and will make some shorter posts also. I just honestly never thought of these being conversations stoppers...

Now that is something I had not known, about the green path. I thought the colors of the paths were always those colors, but it makes sense that they can change between the worlds, kind of like different dimensions change the rules of physics. Thanks I learned something new! I didn't mean to overwhelm you, I was just trying to get some juices flowing is all.

May I ask you something now that you brought up Atziluth.....you are familiar with the 4 worlds of the Kabbalah... have you read Leonora Leet at all? She has some really interesting connections of the Kabbalah 4 worlds with some cosmology ideas. I really enjoy her books.
 

Cino

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May I ask you something now that you brought up Atziluth.....you are familiar with the 4 worlds of the Kabbalah... have you read Leonora Leet at all? She has some really interesting connections of the Kabbalah 4 worlds with some cosmology ideas. I really enjoy her books.

No, but sounds interesting! Can you go into more detail?
 

ScholarlySeeker

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No, but sounds interesting! Can you go into more detail?
I can and will as I have time. She is a Kabbalistic wonder! Lots of connections with sacred geometry and Kabbalah in her materials. She was a Renaissance scholar until she discovered the Kabbalah and spent the last 20 years studying and writing on Kabbalah, thank goodness! She studied under the legendary Kabbalistic scholar Aryeh Kaplan and legendary sacred geometer Robert Lawlor. She is the real thing, no gushy mush mush, but the totality of the systematic looking into the Kabbalah from a realistic, spiritual, scholarly, spiritual perspective. I LOVE her stuff. Quite deep, but then.... that is.......after all.......the Kabbalah if it's design is to get us into the Cosmological perspective. More later amigo!
 

SufiPhilosophy

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I admire the colour green and it figures largely in my belief system.

It is also the colour of Al Khidr / Khizr, "The Green One", the teacher of Arabia in ancient times. Said by some to be Hermes or Enoch.

I notice you write about the Gematrists a lot, and Leet's kabbalistic key on one thread.

I have a question: Imagine a person with a low IQ. Imagine a person with a high IQ. Imagine our sole aim is to worship God and our highest hope is to see God and go to heaven.

How do Hermeticism, the Emerald Tablets, a quick wit with regard to gematria, the Kabbalah, matter? How will they help us?

And one half-question: Do we have to be high IQ to be saved?
 

ScholarlySeeker

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I admire the colour green and it figures largely in my belief system.

It is also the colour of Al Khidr / Khizr, "The Green One", the teacher of Arabia in ancient times. Said by some to be Hermes or Enoch.

I notice you write about the Gematrists a lot, and Leet's kabbalistic key on one thread.

I have a question: Imagine a person with a low IQ. Imagine a person with a high IQ. Imagine our sole aim is to worship God and our highest hope is to see God and go to heaven.

How do Hermeticism, the Emerald Tablets, a quick wit with regard to gematria, the Kabbalah, matter? How will they help us?

And one half-question: Do we have to be high IQ to be saved?
I use it because I enjoy it. It helps me think and find new connections and ideas. It helps me keep learning and using a little Hebrew too.
 
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