The Emerald Tablet is one of alchemy’s historic trade secrets. It is a single emerald engraved with instructions for completing the Master Work of all alchemy: the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life. These original instructions were therefore simple enough that they could be written on the surface of a single stone. The alchemist explains to Santiago that alchemists later began to distrust simplicity, and so they created other texts and compiled other information about the Master Work. In Santiago and the alchemist’s time period, many strive after the goal of the Master Work, but with no success. The Emerald Tablet is thus a symbol of the value of simplicity. The novel repeatedly emphasizes the value of trusting one’s self and focusing on one’s Personal Legend, and these projects require that one value simplicity: if a Personal Legend becomes more important than anything else, then one’s priorities and problems become less complex and confusing. The novel also suggests that truth is reached by listening to one’s heart, another process that values simplicity. Learning does not require extensive study, but rather quiet observation. Repeatedly this novel emphasizes the ways humans create barriers to their own success, particularly when they value complexity over simplicity, as in the history of The Emerald Tablet.
Apart from its lesson of simplicity, in itself the Emerald Tablet also symbolizes the interconnectedness of all things. It is a distillation of all of alchemy into one unified object, just as the Soul of the World is the distillation of all life and creation into one thing.
The Emerald Tablet Quotes in The Alchemist
“I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But, above all, I learned that these things are all so simple that they could be written on the surface of an emerald.”