As above, so below – Meaning and Origin

There will be some phrases on this website that you will have heard before and others that you will have learnt from our blogs. I’m guessing the phrase we’ll be talking about today falls under the latter.

The phrase “as above, so below” means that whatever happens in one realm of reality also occurs in another. If something great happens in a higher realm, we will be rewarded. If something bad happens, we will feel that evil here on Earth.

Initially, it was from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. A tablet that can educate you about alchemy, and we’ll be looking a bit about what that is later in this article.

Today, I want to talk about where you can use this phrase, where you may have seen it, and discussing whether there’s any evidence to back it up.

The Emerald Tablet of Hermes

Who was Hermes?

Let’s start off by talking about who the Emerald Tablet was dedicated to. As you can probably tell from the name, it was Hermes. But who was he?

He was a Greek god, with a lot on his plate. Hermes was the Greek god of trade, wealth, luck, fertility, animal husbandry, sleep, language, thieves, and travel.

Talk about an impressive CV!

Hermes being to the god of travel is why the original Flash (from DC comics), wore the iconic metal bowl on his head. He’s also the reason the delivery company is called “Hermes”.

What is Alchemy?

Today, whenever we hear the word Alchemy, many of us think about a bunch of nutters who still believe in magic. And whilst, indeed, we can’t turn lead into like they once predicted, if it wasn’t for alchemy, chemistry wouldn’t be what it is today.

Even if they did get some of their facts wrong, the alchemists did discover fundamental truths about our universe. They laid down the framework from which modern chemistry is based.

In fact, there was a period when Alchemy and Chemistry were synonymous with one another.

Uses

Christianity

When Christianity came onto the scene, the basic principle underlying “as above so below” became a part of their religion that a lot of people tend to overlook.

For example, within the Lord’s prayer, one of the lines is “On Earth as it is in Heaven”. This is to say that the person sending the prayer wants God to reign supreme on Earth, just as he does on Heaven.

The idea here is that God is the loving ruler of all. Just as he rules perfectly in Heaven, he also rules perfecting in the world in which we live in.

Science

Even if you’re not a Christian, “as above, so below” also applies to the realm of science. Specifically, the comparison of atoms and planets.

When you look at an atom, you will notice there is a nucleus, with electrons orbiting it. When you look at a solar system, you’ll see a sun with several planets rotating around it.

This is to show that the laws of the universe, such as gravity, and chemistry, are the same- whether we’re talking about atoms or planets.

Chemically, a great example is methane. We produce methane in our own bodies, yet some planets also produce methane, only on a much larger scale.

Parenting

Another area where the phrase “as above, so below” can be applied is in parenting.

In an ideal world, children are going to do what their parents tell them to. However, in the real world, they don’t do what their parents tell them to do, they do what they see their parents doing.

If a parent is likely to get angry quickly, chances are their child will follow suit. If two parents are always arguing, that will be what the child expects when they get into a relationship.

Is “above” misleading?

Yes

One could argue that in these situations, the word “above” is misleading. In all of the examples I have just given, nothing is physically “above” anything else.

For example, the planets are not “above” atoms. In fact, planets are themselves made of atoms.

And whilst many people think of Heaven as being “above” Earth, going in a rocketship and flying up forever will never lead you into Heaven. This is because Heaven is not “above” Earth, it’s located in a non-physical world.

And to say that parents are “above” children would be to say that children are always piggybacking off their parents. This is clearly not the case.

No

However, I think the previous section misunderstands what is meant by the word “above”. In this scenario, we’re talking about “above” as a physical location.

Instead, “above” is a question of greatness or importance.

Even though planets are not physically above atoms if you were to create a list and organise it by size, planets would be higher on that list than atoms.

Likewise, even though Heaven is not physically “above” Earth, it would still be higher on several lists, including importance, holiness, and significance.

Alternatives

The phrase “As above, so below” is a rather poetic sounding phrase. However, other, more common phrases have similar meanings.

For example, those of you who have studied science will be aware of the “laws of the universe”. These are laws that everything follows, such as gravity. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about atoms or planets.

You might also hear the phrase “you reap what you sow”, meaning that if you do something terrible, you will need to face the consequences. This relates to what we were speaking about earlier about children copying their parents.

Conclusion

The phrase “as above, so below” comes from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. And it means that whatever happens in one realm will also happen in another.

The tablet was about alchemy, something that many of us will dismiss as mumbo jumbo but has actually played a significant role in our modern understanding of chemistry.

“As above, so below” can be applied to several areas of our life, including religion, science, and parenting.

In all honesty, I don’t see this phrase catching on anytime soon. It sounds too old fashioned and poetic to be used in everyday conversation. But it’s still interesting to learn about.