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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 "holy grail" of Western alchemy.
In the view of spiritual alchemy, making the philosopher's stone would bring enlightenment upon the maker and conclude the Great Work.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Comics, movies, TV, and animations
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Philosopher's_stone". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|