The basis of all the alchemical transformations required to obtain the Stone (called the Great Work) is seven-stepped formula described by the Emerald Tablet of Hermes.
History of the Tablet
(largely summarised from Needham 1980, & Holmyard 1957)
The Tablet probably first appeared in the West in editions of the psuedo-Aristotlean Secretum Secretorum which was actually a translation of the Kitab Sirr al-Asar, a book of advice to kings which was translated into latin by Johannes Hispalensis c. 1140 and by Philip of Tripoli c.1243. Other translations of the Tablet may have been made during the same period by Plato of Tivoli and Hugh of Santalla, perhaps from different sources.
Translation from Roger Bacon’s edition of Secretum Secretorum made c 1445
- True, true, with no room for doubt, certain, worthy of all trust.
- See, the highest comes from the lowest, and the lowest from the highest; indeed a marvelous work of the tao.
- See how all things originated from It by a single process.
- The father of it (the elixir) is the sun (Yang), its mother the moon (Yin). The wind bore it in its belly, and the earth nourished it.
- This is the father of wondrous works (changes and transformations), the guardian of mysteries, perfect in its powers, the animator of lights.
- This fire will be poured upon the earth…
- So separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, acting prudently and with art.
- It ascends from the earth to the heavens (and orders the lights above), then descends again to the earth; and in it is the power of the highest and the lowest.
- Thus when you have the light of lights darkness will flee away from you.
- With this power of powers (the elixir) you shall be able to get the mastery of every subtle thing, and be able to penetrate everything that is gross.
- In this way was the great world itself formed.
Hence thus and thus marvellous operations will be acheived.
For interesting and alternative translations of this visit Emerald Tablets Secret Texts
Seven Steps of the Philosopher’s Stone Formula
Although the alchemists went to great pains to conceal the true order of the steps of the formula for making the Stone, the correct order according to the Emerald Tablet is:
The first four steps take place Below, in the realm of matter.
The last three steps take place Above, in the realm of mind and creative imagination.