The Emerald Tablet

Its origins are uncertain, attributed to the ancient Hermes Trismegistus, first recorded in the Sirr al-Khalíqa (The Secret of Creation) by the Arabic mystic Balinas. Whatever the history of the fourteen lines of alchemical wisdom known as The Emerald Tablet may be, its archetypal resonance and spiritual power has been proven by the minds it has captivated, from medieval alchemists to Renaissance scholars to physicist Isaac Newton and psychologist Carl Jung.


Corbell’s setting for string quartet and vocal quartet evokes an eclectic mix of baroque, medieval, and folk influences for a realization that has at once the mystic power of a mass and the intimate playfulness of a troubadour’s song.

The Emerald Tablet, for SATB vocal quartet and string quartet.
Performance time: 13 minutes, 20 seconds.

Chamber performance bundle: five vocal scores with piano reduction (letter-sized, comb-bound), string parts (letter-sized, saddle-stitched). $150
Conductor’s score: tabloid-sized, comb-bound: $50
Full score for study / archival: letter-size, miniature staves, comb-bound: $20

About the text
This new translation of The Emerald Tablet is based primarily on the 1541 Latin text from De Alchemica. This translation was written to be syllabically compatible with the Latin so that its musical setting could be sung either in Latin or English. Certain phrases were also translated differently from earlier English renderings to emphasize meanings or subtexts that a more literal translation lacked.

The Emerald Tablet

1. True, without any falsehood, certain and supremely true:
2. That which is lower is like unto that which is higher, and that which is higher is like unto that which is lower, to manifest all the wonders of one substance.
3. And just as myriad things emerge from oneness through singular contemplation, so everything is offspring of this one substance, through adaptation.
4. Its Father is the Sun. Its Mother is the Moon. The Wind carries it within its belly. Its nurse is the Earth.
5. The source of enchantment in all, in the whole world, is here.
6. Its power is gathered and made whole if it is thrown to earth.
7. Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the coarse, lovingly, confident in your genius.
8. It rises from earth unto heaven, and again it descends unto earth, and it gathers strength from the higher and also from the lower.
9. In this manner you will hold the whole world’s Glory.
10. Thus will you drive from yourself every obscurity.
11. This is the consummate force of all powerful forces, because it conquers each subtle thing, and penetrates every solid thing.
12. Thus was the world created.
13. Here unfold adaptations miraculous, by means of this method. And thus I am invoked as Hermes Thrice Exalted, holding the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
14. Complete now is my sermon on the operation of the Sun.

Translated by Christopher Corbell, copyright © 2017, Cult of Orpheus