Origin of ‘As above, so below’

A phrase like ‘As above, so below’ is used by writers and astrologers alike to explain why and how the world works. It seems a great concept that the visible stars in the sky are linked to life on earth. The microcosm and the macrocosm are connected. On the internet using Google I find 108 million hits for ‘As above, so below’. Together with astrology I get 858.000 hits. This interests me and I am curious. Who used these words and where do they come from?

Who is Hermes Trismegistus?
Hermes Trismegistus strismegistus31.jpgis good for almost 35.000 hits and seems a perfect name to investigate. But that is easier said than done. There are few sources that really tell about him or his origins. It is not sure who he really was and where he lived, much speculation also.The name of Hermes Trismegistus (Greek for ‘Hermes the thrice-greatest’) is a blending of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth.

In Hellenistic Egypt, the name of the god Hermes was given as a substitute for the Greek name of Thoth. He was the Egyptian god of the moon and of wisdom and learning, usually represented as having the head and neck of an ibis. In the Greek mythology Hermes was the messenger of the Gods. Both these gods were associated with writing and magic and after time they became more and more the same and took each others symbolism as well.[1]

strismegistus4.jpg

In the Greek papyri an Egyptian Hermes Trismegistus is found. He is ‘a cosmic deity with whom the magician (in Egyptian style – cf. the ritual assumption of god-forms) could identify. In the Corpus Hermeticum Trismegistus is usually envisaged as a sage who lived in a remote period, conversing with the deities, though they also speak of him as a divine being … Apparently, Hermes Trismegistus was conceived as hovering between the divine and human world, which, being a mediator, was an advantage’.[2]

Hermetica
Many hits on the internet connect Hermes Trismegistus with occult sciences, such as alchemy and astrology. This association partly originates in the technical hermetic literature circulating in the Roman empire from as early as the second century. The expression “hermetically sealed” derives from the name Hermes. Appollonius of Tyana, the Pythagorian philosopher of the first century C.E. is less well known. Greek and Latin sources do not connect these two figures doctrinally, but in the Arabic Hermetic literature […] Apollonius (in Arabic: Balinus) is often associated with Hermes. There he is depicted as the discoverer and representative of Hermes’ teachings on the secrets of creation that had been lost to the generations before him.[3] Apollonius has even been identified as Hermes himself.

Hermetica or hermetic books are ‘ancient metaphysical works dealing essentially with the idea of the complete community of all beings and objects. Authorship of the books was attributed to the Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth, whose name was sometimes translated into Greek as Hermes Trismegistus and was therefore equated with the Greek god Hermes. The books treat of a variety of subjects, including magic, astrology, and alchemy, and were particularly influential in the 3rd century with the Neoplatonists and in France and England in the 17th century.’ [5]

The Hermetic writings can be divided into two main sections: writings on sciences, especially those of occult significance, and writings on philosophy, presenting the Hermetic doctrine and view of the world. In the scientific section a broad range of topics is covered: astrology, astronomy, alchemy, magic, geography, topography, education, worship, laws, priestly conduct, anatomy, disease, organs of the body, medicine, ophthalmology, and even gynaecology. The philosophical section is most interesting when studying Hermeticism. [6] In 1911 a text called Kybalion appeared. It is written by ‘three initiates’ and is called the essence of the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus. It explains the 6 principles in the universe. [7]

Beside the wide range of Hermetic writings there are also hits on the Tabula Smargadina or Emerald Tablet. Sources as early as 500 AD report on this tablet and what it says. Legend has it that the tabula was found in a cave by Apollonius in Egypt (near Alexandria ?) in the first century AD, inscribed on a plate of emerald, held by the corpse of Hermes Trismegistus.

In other legends (told by Albertus Magnus), Alexander the Great found it (in the third century BC).[2]
This green tablet, sometimes called the tablet of Hermes, could even be one of the earliest works in alchemy in the world. I don’t think it is still around, but apparently on the tablet there were thirteen lines. The second line holds the ‘As above so below’-axioma that everyone refers to. [8,9]

The words “As above so below”
Quoted here is the version by Isaac Newton from circa 1680.
1. Tis true without lying, certain & most true.
2. That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.
3. And as all things have been & arose from one by the meditation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.
4. The Sun is its father, the moon its mother,
5. The wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth its nurse.
6. The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.
7. Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
7a. Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.
8. It ascends from the earth to the heaven & again it descends to the earth and receives the force of things superior & inferior.
9. By this means you shall have the glory of the whole world & thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.
10. Its force is above all force, for it vanquishes every subtle thing & penetrates every solid thing.
11a. So was the world created.
12. From this are & do come admirable adaptations where of the means (or process) is here in this.
13. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
14. That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished & ended.

Sources and links:
[1] Explanation on the origins of Hermes Trismegistus was found on http://www.answers.com/topic/hermes-trismegistus#after_ad1
[2] In Tabula Smaragdina, the Emerald Table by Wim van Dungen, 2002-2006 is spoken about the legend & history of Hermes Trismegistus. This can be found at http://www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/emerald.htm#1a
[3] Hermes Trismegistus and Apollonius of Tyana in the writings of Baha’u’llah by Kevin Brown. http://www.mountainman.com.au/Hermes_Apollonius_Keven_Brown.htm%5D
[4] Hermes Trismegistus, the Archaic underground Tradition with quotes from the Ancient Egypt tradition and Greek accounts, as found in modern books and texts. http://www.mystae.com/restricted/streams/scripts/hermes.html
[5] A definition of hermetica or hermetic books can be found at http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Hermetic.html
[6] Explanation on the hermetic writings by http://students.roanoke.edu/groups/relg211/bennett/writings.html%5D
[7] Kybalion can be downloaded from http://www.gutenberg.com.
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerald_Tablet
[9] http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/emerald.htm

32 thoughts on “Origin of ‘As above, so below’

  1. “This green tablet, sometimes called the tablet of Hermes, could even be one of the earliest works in alchemy in the world. I don’t think it is still around, but apparently on the tablet there were thirteen lines. The second line holds the ‘As above so below’-axioma that everyone refers to”.

    Here is a link to a literal translation of the Emerald Tablets of Thoth. It is number 11 that is The Key to Above and Below.

    http://www.crystalinks.com/emerald.html

    They are all very fascinating! Enjoy

    • its said that Alexander the great had it at one time, and was lost, or stolen during the fires of the library of Alexandria. such a shame.

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  3. The phrase “As above, so below” was first used by Inanna – a sumerian godess in a mythological text about her. I think you have to sift through alot of hits before coming up on anything about this sumerian poem where the phrase first originated.

  4. time is no time
    but the eyes to see better

    the heart never miss a beat
    to see better and better

    the light of infinity

    crossing always in front of my eyes
    such is my ultimate reward

    to be

  5. Always thought it was an alchemical standard. At any rate, it is ‘old knowledge,’ and as we as a race grow older, we learn just how true the old knowledge was/is, and how much we have forgotten that are having to relearn. Cutting edge physics is discovering that ‘as above, so below’ is not an empty euphemism, but an accurate description of, well, everything.

    Now, shall we work on ‘what goes around comes around?’ ^_^

  6. Thank you … this is ancient wisdom andsacred knowledge, not lost in the present or obscured from the future … because of inquiring minds like yours it will continue to be visible in the great web of existence. This has been a a vibrationally inspiring journey.

    In anna

  7. The saying also explains why a microscopic atom is constructed in the same way as a macro-scopic galaxy, with particles encircling an energetic core. Amazing how the ancients perceived the same principle that modern science developed to realize.

    • ah no its not

      the atom has specific quantum states and probabilities that act very differently then observable scale objects

  8. I heard this phrase occasionally and I thought this was like “as in heaven, so in hell’, it never occurred to me it was alchemical. I’m feeling somewhat stupid and ignorant now – was about to use it in a wrong way. Thanks God, I took a minute to check.

    • CM, maybe you understand better than you realise. I asked the Nazarene: “Are you my saviour?” and I think he may have replied: “Yes, just as you are mine – as above, so below.”
      If God is Love, and if Love recognises equality, not hierarchy, and if all is interconnected and interdependent, then…

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      • For me, it is very simple. The true origins of As Above So Below is the Book of Genesis, chapter 1 and verse 1: ‘In the beginning God created the Heavens and Earth.’ What more needs to be said? First, the entire understanding is that in the beginning there was only God and there a total unified reality that had no above and below. Yet, here the Bible states, at the very start, God created a world that was Above (Heaven) and a World Below (Earth). I think that’s proof enough, but you might like this:

        LINK–> http://stjudasmaccabaeus.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/the-star-of-david-symbolism-in-the-first-chapter-of-the-book-of-genesis/

      • late to the discussion…

        i’ve heard a different translation of the ‘in the beginning God created the Heavens and Earth’…

        an argument goes that God didn’t create heaven and earth but

        ‘in the beginning God SEPARATED the Heaven from the Earth’ – i thought that an interesting distinction to ponder..God created a separation …we became separate from God in order to become/experience fully self-super-consciousness (cosmic/christ consciousness) and ultimately come back into alignment with the ‘as above, so below’ of our own accord and free will.

      • late to the discussion…

        i’ve heard a different translation of the ‘in the beginning God created the Heavens and Earth’…

        an argument goes that God didn’t create heaven and earth but

        ‘in the beginning God SEPARATED the Heaven from the Earth’ – i thought that an interesting distinction to ponder..God created a separation …we became separate from God in order to become/experience fully self-super-consciousness (cosmic/christ consciousness) and ultimately come back into alignment with the ‘as above, so below’ of our own accord and free will, and thus creating ‘heaven on earth’…..’thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’

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  12. “As above, so below” is a very ancient saying which goes back farther than Egyptian civilization, all the way to Sumerian times. Translations from Sitchin of the Sumerican clay tablets has Hermes Trismegistus as being the son of Enki and Ereshkigal, named Ningishzidda.

    Because his life span was so much longer than humans, he traveled all over the globe,and is known by quite a few other names such as Thoth, Hermes Trismegistus, and Quetzalcoatl. It’s all the same dude.

    Not much is known about him personally other than a few small details. We know he’s got light skin, red hair, and blue eyes. We also know he left, saying he would be back in some undetermined future, so obviously, he’s still alive somewhere..

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  15. smh no Europeans was even thought of in the Egyptian days because they didn’t exist yet don’t forget it look like this man is a cover up for there people. they also had no spirituality to become divine person, if so Europeans would not be so big on slaver, genocide, dogma, bondage, and being so secrete

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