The Philosopher’s Stone or Lapis Philosophorum has long been an item of obsession for many through out the centuries. But what is it exactly and why do so many people covet it?
The legend and acquisition of the stone are as diverse and unique as most legends. The legend of the stone first began in the late 1500’s by an italian alchemist. The stone was said to be able to transmute base metals into gold. Legends also state that the stone can only be acquired by the truly pure and divine. Those that possess the stone can grind it up into an elixir that will provide perpetual youth. However one must still imbibe food and drink or risk their stomach shrinking. The Elixir Vitae as it is known will keep one from needing drink or water as well. It is understandable how one would spend their life attempting to acquire the stone. Especially since it can grant riches and eternal youth.
What is the stone made of? Well depending upon what you read it can be made from solidified fire or it is merely a tincture that when applied to metal changes it to gold. Edward Kelley was said to have possessed the philosopher’s stone and was able to make lead into gold. It is interesting to note that Edward Kelley also helped John Dee to acquire the Enochian alphabet . It is doubtful however that Kelley had possession of the stone of legend; because Kelley actually ended up dieing in prison. A place where Kelley was placed for … drum roll please… turning lead into gold or what we call fraud.
Another person who was said to possess the Philosopher’s Stone, or at least knowledge of its creation was Nicolas Flamel. Nicolas was a famed French alchemist that allegedly received his knowledge of alchemy from a book given to him by an angel. Nicolas and his wife Pernelle used the book to create the Philosopher’s stone. In fact there are real French records that detail Flamel being able to transmute lead into gold. The legend extends from beyond this to say Nicolas and Pernelle used the stone to achieve physical immortality. Most recently Nicolas Flamel played an important role in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The Rosicrucians were a group of mystics of which it is said also possessed the Philosopher’s Stone. The Rosicrucians guarded the stone’s secrets zealously giving it only to those who were worthy of it. However they sought the stone solely for spiritual aspirations and not those of greed or immortality. However truth be told the alchemical secrets of lead into gold were actually metaphor for ascending a spiritual conscious. The philospher’s stone being the quintessential state of enlightenment.
Transmuting lead to gold was much akin to the Freemason system of a Mason starting as a rough ashlar and upon attaining mastery became a perfect ashlar. The lead is the base or gross state of spirituality and the gold is becoming pure and divine. The philosopher’s stone would then be achieving a perfect spiritual equilibrium. Another view on the philosopher’s stone was that its creation took place during sexual intercourse; by a mixing of the male and female spiritual energies. The stone would be the resultant union between male and female.
No matter whether the stone is real, legend, or metaphor it still provides a very robust reflection point for the imagination. Many creative works still use the stone as the base of a story. The Philosopher’s Stone remains a mystery but based upon the times of its creation it would be safe to assume it is more metaphor than reality.