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Book Review:

The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation

By Dennis William Hauck


Anything with the words “personal transformation” in the title usually scares me off. After 40 years of New Age hysteria in America, I suppose I should have gotten used to it by now, but I’m sick to death of these pop occultists turning everything in life into an “inner journey.” Can’t I just get a book about the object known as the Emerald Tablet of Hermes? Do I have to also learn about the Emerald Tablet of my soul? Not that I’m opposed to a spiritual interpretation of the alchemical process, which is ultimately what “The Emerald Tablet” is about. But I get the feeling that the author doesn’t understand the physical manifestation of the spiritual process of which he writes, that physical process being the perennial sexual secret of the ancient mystery schools. He seems to see it more as a metaphor for “personal healing through transcendental meditation.” It is unfortunate that an author so clearly so well-read and knowledgeable as Dennis Hauck can’t resist indulging in how own fantasies of being a motivational speaker for the maladjusted mid-life yuppies that make up his core audience. His chapters describing the “7 Steps to Transformation” are about as painful to wade through as Chicken Soup for the Soul or Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And his condescending attempts to “dumb down” the Hermetic doctrine for these 40-something ex-hippies that he targets his writings towards is about as embarrassing as it is unnecessary. Consider this sample from a suggested “Conversation” that you can have with the God Hermes during a meditational session. Say to Hermes:” It seems like the universe is like a gigantic lava lamp, in which the light bulb of the One Mind heats up the gooey One Thing in a display of continuously changing shapes - rising and falling, rising and falling. What’s the point?” To this he will reply with equally trite and horrendously written words of wisdom, as he “materializes before us... pulsating and radiant. We watch as his heart transforms into an ibis bird and his brain into a gleaming emerald...” Sheesh. Break out the aromatherapy candles, y’all!

Even so, there was a reason why I bought this book in the first place. Within certain chapters at the beginning and at the end, there is presented a wealth of astounding information about the actual object called the Tablet of Hermes as it has existed throughout history, changing hands with significant historical figures many times over. The author first recounts the stories “three incarnations of Hermes” which are believed to have existed on Earth and to have possessed the Emerald Tablet. The first is, of course,, the original god Hermes, who is believed by some to have actually been a human son of one of the Gods, and who of course was also a Hermaphrodite. He wrote the “Emerald Tablet”, which explains the creation of the universe and the alchemical process of the transmutation of the spirit, on a slab of green stone which is said to be “a stone, yet not a stone, liquid, yet solid, made of “prima materia”, or the First Matter of the alchemists. This stone is also said to have fallen from Heaven, a jewel chipped off of Lucifer’s crown. Hermes has been variously equated with Thoth, Prometheus, Seth and Enoch from the Bible, and Idris from the Muslim tradition. Eventually the tablet wound up with Noah, who took it on board the ark, and then buried it on Mt. Ararat. Later it was found by Abraham’s wife, Sarai. The next incarnation of Hermes was the Pharoah Anknaten, Egypt’s weirdest monarch, He allegedly found the Tablet also, and shortly thereafter converted to the monotheist sun religion which he is famous for imposing on formerly polytheistic Egypt. Like Hermes, he had a number of feminine qualities, including wide hips, a thin, delicate face, and large, protruding breasts, causing some to speculate that he was a hermaphrodite, or a woman masquerading as a man. Some have also speculated that Anknaten might have passed his monotheism onto a certain Hebrew slave named Moses, who, although not usually thought of as a contemporary of Anknaten, is often theorized as such by fringe authors. At this point, it is worth noting that, according to qabalistic legends, Miriam, Moses’ sister had found the Tablet in a cave and placed it in the Ark of the Covenant for “safe keeping.” The third incarnation is Balinas, a famous healer and metaphysician in Hellenistic Greece. When he dies his body was assumed into Heaven, but not before he had lived a long life, performed many miracles and gathered up a huge cult following, who called him “Apollonius of Tyana” and also “Hermes, the Thrice-Greatest.” Balinas’ career began when he found the Emerald Tablet in the tomb of the original God Hermes (at least according to tradition), in an underground tunnel that was accessed from beneath a statue of the God Hermes.

In the same chapter, Hauck also goes into the fascinating story of another man lucky enough to have possessed the Tablet: Alexander the Great. He too found it in a tomb, while conquering Egypt, and he too was profoundly spiritually affected by it. While not considered an incarnation of Hermes, he did believe himself to be the biological son of the Egyptians’ “Hidden God”, Amen, a belief confirmed after consulting two oracles, which he became even more convinced of after finding the Tablet. He had coins minted of himself bearing the horns of Amen, and he put the Tablet on display at Heliopolis. The library of Alexandria was built to house the hundreds of Hermetic documents that popped up following this. These later became known as the Corpus Hermeticum.

The subject of the actual transmutation of is explained adequately in this book, and we et to read the fascinating stories of all the famous people throughout history who have been credited with successful alchemical transmutations, among them: Paracelsus, Nicholas Flamel, Fulcanelli, St. Germain, John Dee and Edward Kelly, and hundreds of familiar names in European aristocratic and esoteric circles. Unfortunately, the process known as sexual alchemy, which was also going on in these circles, is barely explained, although the author surely knows about it, and one wonders why. Perhaps it would have distracted from the author’s clear intent of creating a best-selling New Age self-help book for disgruntled Baby Boomers. This book is at times very interesting, and overall worth reading, although the skimming of certain sections might be necessary, and the numerous illustrations are hilariously surreal. (I love the ridiculousness of alchemical imagery.) Given the lack of printed material on the subject, anyone interested in the Emerald Tablet is almost obligated to buy this book.

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