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Thoth’s teachings and sometimes exact phrases from the Emerald Tablet, including references to the One Mind, the One Thing, and the correspondences between the Above and the Below, are contained in many Egyptian papyri, such as the Berlin Papyrus (2000 BC), the Papyrus of Ani (1500 BC), the Book of the Dead (1450 BC), and other scrolls dating between 1000 and 300 BC. The wisdom of Thoth, however, was not shared with the common people until the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep IV rediscovered the Emerald Tablet at the beginning of his reign in 1364 BC. It is stated on several Egyptian stele, dating from around 1500 BC, that without the writings of Thoth, the larger pyramids could not be built, so a great search throughout Egypt was conducted until his writings were found, and it is believed that it was Amenhotep who found them. Shortly afterwards the discovery, the pharaoh suddenly changed his name from Amenhotep (meaning “Amen is Satisfied”) to Akhenaten (meaning “He Who Serves the Aten”). His name change signaled his break with the powerful priests of Amen, a patriarchal god of war and wealth. Akhenaten set up a new monotheistic religion based on the rediscovered writings of Thoth. The new faith recognized the sun as the One Thing, the source of all creative energy. The new Egyptian supreme god, called the Aten or simply “the Disk,” was thought of as an abstract, intelligent energy. Pictures of the Aten show a shining disk with rays coming down from it and terminating on earth in hundreds of tiny hands.
“The Aten is Radiant Energy personified,” wrote Sati Devi in summarizing the views of other modern Egyptologists, “that is to say, an all-pervading reality of an immanent character. Akhenaten deliberately brushed aside the distinction between the god, maker of the solar Disk, and the solar Disk itself, the distinction between creative energy and created matter. The Disk was, like all matter that falls under our senses, but a visible manifestation of something subtler, intangible, everlasting its essence. And the heat and light, the energy of the sun, was the manifestation of that One Thing of which the visible flaming Disk was yet another manifestation.”
Akhenaten tried to apply the principles in the Emerald Tablet throughout his reign. Known as the heretic pharaoh, he espoused the revolutionary concept of “living in truth” and acting in natural accord with cosmic principles that the tablet called the “Operation of the Sun.” He referred to this universal ideal as Maat, which meant the “real thing” or absolute truth, the original will of the One Mind. The agent of Maat was the One Thing, of which the physical sun, or the solar Disk, was the physical expression. The principle of “living in truth” permeated every level of Egyptian society under Akhenaten. Most noticeable was the sudden change in the stiff and lifeless style that dominated Egyptian art. For the first time, Egyptian reliefs and paintings portrayed natural subjects such as plants and animals in exacting detail. In another striking break with tradition, Akhenaten ordered the abandonment of the old capitol of Thebes and built a new capitol city, Akhetaten (“Horizon of the Aten”). Scandalously, villas in the 60,000-population city were constructed without separate quarters for men and women, and women in particular were treated with more respect there.
After just seventeen years of rule, however, Akhenaten and his beautiful wife Nefertiti disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and it seems likely that the former priests of Amen did away with them. The heretic pharaoh was eventually replaced by his ten-year-old nephew. The boy’s given name, Tutankaten (“Servant of the Aten”), was changed to Tutankamen (“Servant of Amen”) after Akhenaten’s murder. The child pharaoh was tightly controlled by fundamentalist priests, who restored the capitol to Thebes, destroyed the city of Akhetaten, and erased all traces of Akhenaten’s monotheistic philosophy from Egypt. Moses, a prince in Akhenaten’s court exiled with the pharaoh, carried the new monotheistic idea with him to form the basis of Judaism.
Unlike the magnificent golden mummy of King Tut, the bodies of Akhenaten and Nefertiti were never found. Archeologist Sir Alan Gardner surmised that Akhenaten’s body had been “torn to pieces and thrown to the dogs.” The only written references to the Aten after the Akhenaten’s death were enigmatic allusions that associated the Disk with the great Sphinx on the Giza Plain.
The ancient wisdom remained hidden from the people until Alexander the Great was made pharaoh of Egypt in 332 BC. After learning the location of Hermes’ tomb, where the Thothian writings were stored, Alexander immediately headed across the Libyan Desert to an ancient temple at Siwa near where the tomb was located. According to Albertus Magnus and others, that is where Alexander found the Emerald Tablet. Alexander took the tablet and scrolls to Heliopolis, where he placed the scrolls in the sacred archives there. He then personally laid out the boundaries of the city of Alexandria, where a library would be built to house and study the Hermetic texts. Then, he assembled a diverse panel of priests, alchemists, and other scholars to prepare Greek translations. Copies of the tablet became primary documents at Alexandria, and revised Greek translations were issued in 290 BC, 270 BC, and 50 BC.
Alexander actually put the Emerald Tablet on public display in 330 BC, and the mysterious artifact caused quite a stir. One traveler, who had seen it at Heliopolis, wrote: “It is a precious stone, like an emerald, whereon these characters are represented in bas-relief, not engraved. It is esteemed above 2,000 years old. 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 the natural and genuine emerald, by his art.”
After Alexander died from a fever on his return from India, his body was interred in a tomb somewhere in the Egyptian desert, although to this day, no one knows where. The exact whereabouts of the original Emerald Tablet was also unknown after Alexander’s death, although there is some evidence that it was hidden, along with other treasures from Hermes’ tomb, in an underground cavern near Tyana in Cappadocia. Three hundred years later, it was discovered by a Syrian youth named Balinas, who absorbed the tablet’s teachings and once again brought them to light in the Western world. The youth became known as Apollonius of Tyana (after Apollo, Greek god of enlightenment and brother of Hermes). Respected for his great wisdom and magical powers, Apollonius traveled throughout the world and eventually settled in Alexandria to write scores of books on the meaning of the ancient teachings.
Unfortunately, Apollonius was a contemporary of Christ, and early Christians felt he was much too like their own Son of God. By 400 AD, every one of the books Apollonius wrote in Alexandria and nearly 700,000 other scrolls were destroyed in successive burnings of the Alexandrian libraries by the Romans, Christians, and Muslims. Fortunately, the original Emerald Tablet is said to have been moved to somewhere on the Giza plateau for safekeeping, although its exact location is a secret that is lost to the ages.
The earliest surviving translation of the Emerald Tablet is in an Arabic book known as the Book of Balinas the Wise on Causes, written around 650 AD and based on Apollonius’ Alexandrian writings. It also appears in the eighth century Kitab Sirr al Asar, an Arabian book of advice to kings. Another Arabic text, written by alchemist Jabir Hayyan around 800 AD, contains a copy of the Emerald Tablet and also gives Apollonius as the source. It is through these Arabic translations that knowledge of the Emerald Tablet made it to Europe with the Moorish invasion of Spain in 711 AD.
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