According to the main legend and the most common claim, the tablet was found in a tomb dug under the statue of Hermes at Tyana, clutched in the hands of the corpse of Hermes Trismegistus himself.
Another legend suggests that it was Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth, who originally wrote it. Others believed that the tablet was once inside the Ark of the Covenant. Some even claim that the original source of the Emerald Tablet is none other than the legendary city of the Atlantis.
Although various claims have been made about the origins of the Emerald Table, so far no verifiable evidence has been found to support them. The oldest documentable source of the text of the Emerald Tablet is the Kitab sirr al-haliqi (Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature), which was itself a composite of earlier works. It is an Arabic work written in the 8th century AD, and attributed to a certain ‘Balinas’, or Pseudo-Apollonius of Tyana.
It is Balinas who provides us with the story of how he discovered the Emerald Table in the tomb. On the basis of this Arabic work, some believe that the Emerald Tablet was an Arabic work written between the 6th and 8th centuries BC, rather than a piece of work from antiquity, as many have claimed.
While Balinas claimed that the Emerald Tablet was originally written in Greek, the original document that he supposedly possessed no longer exists, if indeed it did exist.
However, the text itself quickly became known, and it has been translated by various people through the centuries. For example, an early version of the Emerald tablet also appeared in a work called Kitab Ustuqus al-Uss al-Thani (Second Book of the Foundation Elements), which is attributed to Jabir ibn Hayyan.
It would take several more centuries before the text was accessible to Europeans. In the 12th century AD, the Emerald tablet was translated into Latin by Hugo von Santalla.
The Emerald Table would become one of the pillars of Western alchemy. It was a very influential text in medieval and Renaissance alchemy, and probably still is today. In addition to the translations of the Emerald Tablet, numerous comments have been written on its content.
For example, a translation of Isaac Newton was discovered among his alchemical papers. This translation is currently in the King’s College bookstore at the University of Cambridge. Other notable researchers on the emerald tablet include Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, John Dee, and Aleister Crowley.
The interpretation of the text of the Emerald tablet is not a direct question, since it is after all an esoteric text. For example, one interpretation suggests that the text describes seven stages of alchemical transformation: calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, fermentation, distillation, and coagulation.
However, despite the various interpretations available, it appears that none of its authors claim to have knowledge of the whole truth. Furthermore, readers are encouraged to read the text and try to interpret and find the truths hidden within themselves.