The philosopher’s stone (Latin: lapis philosophorum; Greek: chrysopoeia) is a legendary substance, supposedly capable of turning inexpensive metals into gold; it was also sometimes believed to be a means of making people younger, if not making them immortal. For a long time it was the most sought after goal in Western alchemy.
 In alchemy
Alchemists once thought a key component of the stone was a mythical element named carmot. The element is no longer believed to exist according to modern scientific knowledge. This legendary stone was thought to help amplify transmutations while doing alchemy. It was also thought to have had a dark red tone.
Alchemy itself is mostly an original concept and science practiced in the ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, and India. However, the concept of ensuring youthful health originated in China, while the concept of transmutating one metal into a more precious one (silver or gold) originated from the theories of the 8th century Arab alchemist, Jabir ibn Hayyan (Latinized as ‘Geber’). He analysed each Aristotelian element in terms of the four basic qualities of hotness, coldness, dryness, and moistness. Fire was both hot and dry, earth cold and dry, water cold and moist, and air hot and moist. He further theorized that every metal was a combination of these four principles, two of them interior and two exterior.
From this premise, it was reasoned that the transmutation of one metal into another could be effected by the rearrangement of its basic qualities. This change would presumably be mediated by a substance, which came to be called al-iksir in Arabic (from which the Western term “elixir” is derived). It is often considered to exist as a dry red powder made from a legendary stone — the “philosopher’s stone”.
In the 11th century, there was a debate among Muslim chemists on whether the transmutation of substances was possible. A leading opponent was Avicenna, who discredited the theory of transmutation of substances:
“Those of the chemical craft know well that no change can be effected in the different species of substances, though they can produce the appearance of such change.”
According to legend, the 13th-century scientist and philosopher Albertus Magnus is said to have discovered the philosopher’s stone and passed it to his pupil Thomas Aquinas, shortly before his death circa 1280. Magnus does not confirm he discovered the stone in his writings, but he did record that he witnessed the creation of gold by “transmutation.”
The 16th-century Swiss alchemist Philippus Paracelsus believed in the existence of alkahest which he thought to be an undiscovered element from which all other elements (earth, fire, water, air) were simply derivative forms. Paracelsus believed that this element alkahest was, in fact, the philosopher’s stone.
Jabir’s theory was based on the concept that metals like gold and silver could be hidden in alloys and ores, from which they could be recovered by the appropriate chemical treatment. Jabir himself is believed to be the inventor of aqua regia, a mixture of muriatic (hydrochloric) and nitric acids, one of the few substances that can dissolve gold (and which is still often used for gold recovery and purification).
Gold was particularly valued as a metal that would not rust, tarnish, corrode or otherwise grow corrupt. Since the philosopher’s stone would turn a corruptible base metal to incorruptible gold, naturally it would similarly transform human beings from mortal (corruptible) to immortal (incorruptible). One of many theories was that gold was a superior form of metal, and that the philosopher’s stone was even purer and superior to gold, and if combined with lesser metals would turn them into superior gold as well.
A mystical text published in the 17th century called the Mutus Liber appears to be a symbolic instruction manual for concocting a philosopher’s stone. Called the “wordless book”, it was a collection of 15 illustrations.
 Contemporary interpretations
The Latin American spiritual teacher Samael Aun Weor stated that the philosopher’s stone is synonymous with the symbol of the stone found in many other spiritual and religious traditions, such as the stone Jacob rests his head upon, the cubic stone of Freemasonry, and the rock upon which Christ lays the foundation of the temple.
|“||For in Scripture it says:”See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. – 1 Peter 2: 6-8||”|
He states that this “stone of stumbling” and “rock of offence” is the creative-sexual energy, which in Kabbalah is Yesod (“foundation”) that must be transmuted through sexual alchemy. It is said to be rejected by the “builders,” meaning those who seek spiritual edification, because they reject the transmutation of sexual energy, and instead use it to achieve sensual pleasure.
 In art and entertainment
The philosopher’s stone has been subject, inspiration, or plot feature of innumerable artistic works: novels, comics stories, movies, animations, and even musical compositions. It is also a popular item in many video games. The following is a very incomplete list.
- Natural Magic (1558), by Giambattista della Porta
- The Philosopher’s Stone (1789), by Christoph Martin Wieland. German fairy tale.
- Hinzelmeier (1857), by Theodor Storm. Romantic style German fairy tale.
- Philosopher’s Stone (1859), by Hans Christian Andersen.
- The Trumpeter of Krakow (1928), by Eric P. Kelly.
- The Red Lion 1946, by Maria Szepes Hungary. Story of a man’s journey through four centuries of life after acquiring the Philosopher’s stone.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), by Gabriel García Márquez.
- The Philosopher’s Stone (Colin Wilson book) (1971), by C. H. Wilson.
- The Ogre Downstairs (1974), by Diana Wynne Jones.
- The Alchemist (1988), by Paulo Coelho.
- Foucault’s Pendulum (1988), by Umberto Eco, where a character claims that the Stone is actually the Holy Grail.
- Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone (1995), by Max McCoy.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997), by J. K. Rowling (renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US; note also that when the stone is referred to in Latin in a Potter context, it is called philosophi lapis rather than philosophorum, i.e. “of the philosopher” instead of the original “of philosophers”).
- The Philosopher’s Stone: A Quest for the Secrets of Alchemy (2001), by Peter Marshall
- The Baroque Cycle trilogy (2003–2004), by Neal Stephenson, where it is used to explain an unusually heavy gold sample.
- The Alchemyst:the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (novel, 2007), by Michael Scott.
- The Six Sacred Stones (novel, 2007 AUS or 2008 US and UK), By Matthew Reily.
 Comics, movies, TV, and animations
- The Fabulous Philosopher’s Stone (1955), a Donald Duck story by Carl Barks.
- The Flash rogue known as Doctor Alchemy used a philosopher’s stone as his main weapon in crime (1958)
- The Philosopher’s Stone (1958) by Satyajit Ray.
- The Night of the Feathered Fury”, a Wild Wild West episode. Count Manzeppi (guest star Victor Buono) attempts to acquire a wind-up bird that contains a magical secret: the Philosopher’s Stone (1967).
- Legend of the Holy Rose, a two-part MacGyver episode centered on finding the philosopher’s stone (1989)
- The Slayers (1995), the version of the stone that was depicted in this series varied quite substantially from traditional depictions of it, the stone being of a dark color, and appeared to have a metamorphic-rock-like consistency, it was said to be part of the “Staff of the Gods” that supported the Slayers world, and increased a magic-user’s powers exponentially, to the point of being almost god-like.
- The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (1996), episode where a modern alchemist forces the Quest family to join in his experimentation with the Philosopher’s stone.
- Rock of Ages, a 5-part story-arc in DC Comics‘ JLA comic series. (1997-98)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001); retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.
- Fullmetal Alchemist (2001) A legendary stone said to allow the holder to completely bypass the law of Equivalent Exchange. As with all things, however, to create a Philosopher’s Stone requires the expenditure of raw materials: in this case, human lives
- The American progressive metal band Tool refer to the Philosopher’s Stone on their 2001 album “Lateralus” on the opening track “The Grudge”.
- The concept-album Grand Materia (2005) by the Swedish metal-band Morgana Lefay is about Nicolas Flamel and his life and how he made the Philosopher’s Stone.
- Van Morrison recorded a song called “Philosophers Stone” for his 1999 album “Back on Top” which was heard in the 2000 film “Wonder Boys” and on its subsequent soundtrack. He also released an album entitled “The Philosophers Stone” on June 16th, 1998. This double CD is actually a collection of 30 previously unreleased recordings created between 1971-1988.
 Video Games
- World of Warcraft
- Final Fantasy XI
- Castlevania Lamnet of Innocence
- Tomb Raider Chronicles
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