Netflix’s German-language series Dark has transfixed (not to mention confused) audiences across the globe. The series initially took off thanks to its comparison to Stranger Things, what with its missing children, government conspiracies, and ’80s flashbacks. But that’s where the similarities between the shows stop. Dark is, well, much darker, as well as much more complex and more cerebral, with a Greek tragedy-like drama that unfolds amongst its extensive ensemble that is only exacerbated by the constant looping of time.
With a show like Dark, the smallest details make the difference for the entire trajectory of the narrative, making it easy for fans to develop theories on where this time-travelling saga is heading. One of those small, theory-instigating details from season one is something called the Emerald Tablet, an ancient, esoteric text that, honestly, if you hadn’t done some googling about the show, you may not have even realised was a thing. In season two, Dark‘s various storylines and time periods begin to connect, and the Emerald Tablet has a lot to do with everything coming together. But to fully understand the Emerald Tablet’s importance in the show, you must know the details and symbolism behind the enigmatic artefact that end up adding to the implications for where the show is leading and the circumstances it has already established.
What Are the Origins of the Emerald Tablet?
The Emerald Tablet — also known as Tabula Smaragdina in Latin — is an ancient wisdom text that has long been linked to Hermeticism, which is a religious, philosophical, and esoteric belief system established in the first three centuries CE. Hermeticism is convoluted and mysterious by definition, but to put it (kind of) simply: Hermeticism believes that there are three parts of the wisdom of the universe: alchemy, astrology, and theurgy (a form of white magic that involves summoning a supernatural power for help, basically). It has long been believed that the Emerald Tablet was part of a greater collection of works known as the Hermetica, written around the second and third centuries CE by an ancient philosopher named Hermes Trismegistus, although that notion has since been debated.
Whatever the origins, here’s what’s important in reference to Dark: The Emerald Tablet was believed to reveal the secrets of alchemy and hold the answers to the essence of all matter, or prima materia, making it the foundation for the work of medieval alchemists (people who create or transform elements). Over the centuries, it’s been studied closely by nearly all with an interest in Hermeticism, alchemy, esotericism, and the occult (Isaac Newton was a fan!). It’s also the origin of the well-known saying “as above, so below” (the actual line being “and that which is above is like that which is below”), which, when you think about it, has interesting implications when applied to the narrative’s closed time loop.
When Do We See the Emerald Tablet on Dark?
Audiences first caught on to the esoteric text reference in season one, episode six, when Jonas happens upon the Latin phrase sic mundus creatus est — another well-known line from the tablet that means “thus, the world was created” — etched into the metal doors in the cave used to travel between time periods. (“Sic Mundus Creatus Est” is also the name of the episode, FYI). But the tablet’s text actually appears several times throughout the first season — tattooed on the back of the enigmatic Noah, framed on the hospital wall in 1986 (spotted by Mikkel Nielsen after being catapulted back in time), and printed on an album that teenage Ulrich Neilsen plays in his bedroom, also in 1986. The album is titled Fist of Hebron by a band named Tabula Smaragdina.
Right off the bat, season two opens with a reference to the Emerald Tablet, and it becomes clear that this detail is way more than just a fan theory but an integral plot device. In the first five minutes, we see the same illustrated version of the text that’s on Noah’s back and on the hospital room wall tattooed on the chest of a man drilling the Winden cave in 1921 (who many think looks like an older Bartosz). In the same episode — 132 years later in 2053 — an older Elisabeth Doppler signs the phrase “sic mundus creatus est” to a ragged-looking mob — including a teenage Jonas, who is trying to get back to 2019. In episode four of the second season, Jonas finds himself in 1921, recovering from the injuries he incurs in 2053 when he himself is almost hanged. While mending those wounds at an inn of some sort, Jonas encounters a young Noah. Upon readying to leave his room, the tablet text is seen in a picture that is framed on Noah’s bedroom wall, where Jonas has been the entire time. Frightening Jonas, he leaves and so continues his journey through time.
In season two, Dark’s various storylines and time periods begin to connect, and the Emerald Tablet has a lot to do with everything coming together.
How Does the Emerald Tablet Come Into Play on Dark?
So much of Dark‘s storylines are entrenched in the causation of past, present, and future and how the three intertwine into a knot. This idea is also tied to, you guessed it, the Emerald Tablet and Hermeticism. A trinity knot — or the “triquetra,” according to Netflix’s website — is a knot “that has no beginning and no end, everything is connected.” It is found on Celtic ornaments, Germanic rune stones, Japanese illustrations, and Christian imagery. On the show, it is seen on the cave’s metal door, decorating Noah’s leather notebook, and sandwiched in between the illustrated text of the Emerald Tablet. “Similar to the Triquetra,” the Netflix website states, “the passage in the caves creates a closed time loop between the years 1953, 1986, and 2019, ensuring the past affects the future and the future influences the past.”
As the second season progresses, the Emerald Tablet becomes all the more laden with symbolism, setting out to act almost as the inception — or origin — of so much of Dark‘s philosophy. This becomes clear with the introduction of Adam, who forms a secret, cult-like organisation referred to as “the travellers,” whose mission appears to based on the tablet’s inscriptions. For the first half of the season, Adam is a mysterious character who acts like “the man behind the curtain” when it comes to the trajectory of Jonas’s journey and the world’s ultimate fate. By the end of season two, we not only discover that Adam is referred to as the “Sic Mundus” by a young Noah (season two, episode four), but we also learn the mind-bending fact that Adam is actually a much older Jonas whose face has been disfigured from constant time travelling and who is attempting to wage a war on time itself.
Delving even deeper into an interpretation of the key phrase sic mundus creatus est, there’s also the introduction of what characters refer to as the “God particle” in season two — a black mass that acts to transport the characters of Winden from different times (and remember, the Emerald Tablet is supposed to hold the secret of all matter). Even Adam’s own obsession with time, and how people act at the mercy of it, deftly leans into a pessimistic analysis of creation and how humans can command time. By the end of the second season, it’s clear that just like the alchemists of yore, the showrunners and creative team behind Dark are using the ancient text as a guide to flesh out the rest of the series. Yes, there will be a season three, especially after that crazy, cliffhanger ending. Fans will have to wait until 2020 to see what happens in the final chapter of this time-travelling drama.