The philosopher's stone is a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals such as mercury into gold or silver. The philosophers' stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Efforts to discover the philosophers' stone were known as the Magnum Opus ("Great Work").
(alphabetical by author or source)
- Harry Potter began his education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first of seven projected novels: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In that first novel, Harry was on a quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone, which turns base metal into gold and produces an elixir of immortality. But his real quest in that novel, as in the succeeding books of the series, is for self-knowledge... Harry learns, among other things, about the three marks of existence that the Buddha taught, namely (1) that life involves suffering, (2) that we have no enduring separate self, and (3) that everything is constantly changing or transforming. Indeed, transformation is the key theme...
- Man aims at becoming a Divine Manasaputra, or perfected Son of Mind showing forth all the powers inherent in mind, and thus becoming like unto his monadic source, a Heavenly Man... Only when His Body has reached a certain vibratory movement can He truly influence the individual cells. This work of transmuting cell activity was begun on this planet during the last root-race, and the divine alchemy proceeds. The progress made is as yet but small, but each transmuted conscious cell increases the speed and the accuracy of the work. Time alone is needed for the completion of the work. In connection with this matter of transmutation comes the legend of the Philosopher's Stone, which is literally the application of the Rod of Initiation, in one sense. p.306-307
- Alice Bailey, A Treatise on Cosmic Fire (1925)
- I would remind you also that in that home of ancient magic which you call Egypt, the magical work there performed was definitely concentrated upon the producing of physical effects and material results... In later days, we have the appearance of alchemy in its many forms plus its search for the Philosopher's Stone and the teaching as to the three basic mineral elements. They were driven esoterically and from the subjective side of life to search for that which could unify the three lower physical levels and this is in its nature deeply symbolic of racial unfoldment. These levels symbolise the integrated man — physical, astral and mental. When to these elements the Philosopher's Stone is added and has done its magical work, then you have the symbolic representation of the control by the soul of the four higher levels of the physical plane, the etheric or energy levels. p. 119
- Alice Bailey, The Destiny of Nations (1949)
- Baptista Porta, the learned Italian philosopher, notwithstanding his endeavors to show to the world the groundlessness of their accusations of magic being a superstition and sorcery, was treated by later critics with the same unfairness as his colleagues. This celebrated alchemist left a work on Natural Magic ("Magia Naturalis," 1569) in which he bases all of the occult phenomena possible to man upon the world-soul which binds all with all... He shows that...by acting in unison with their parent-source, our sidereal bodies are rendered capable of producing magic wonders. The whole secret depends on our knowledge of kindred elements. He believed in the philosopher's stone, "of which the world hath so great an opinion of, which hath been bragged of in so many ages and happily attained unto by some." Finally, he throws out many valuable hints as to its "spiritual meaning." p. 229-230
- Voltaire becomes, toward the end of his life, Pythagorical, and concludes by saying: "I have consumed forty years of my pilgrimage . . . seeking the philosopher's stone called truth. I have consulted all the adepts of antiquity, Epicurus and Augustine, Plato and Malebranche, and I still remain in ignorance. . . . All that I have been able to obtain by comparing and combining the system of Plato, of the tutor of Alexander, Pythagoras, and the Oriental, is this: Chance is a word void of sense. The world is arranged according to mathematical laws." ("Dictionnaire philosophique, 1764")
- Instead of stating that God made man after his own image, we ought in truth to say that "man imagines God after his image," forgetting that he has set up his own reflection for worship. Where, then, lies the true, real secret so much talked about by the Hermetists? That there was and there is a secret, no candid student of esoteric literature will ever doubt. Men of genius--as many of the Hermetic philosophers undeniably were--would not have made fools of themselves by trying to fool others for several thousand consecutive years. That this great secret, commonly termed "the philosopher's stone," had a spiritual as well as a physical meaning attached to it, was suspected in all ages. The author of Remarks on Alchemy and the Alchemists very truly observes that the subject of the Hermetic art is MAN, and the object of the art is the perfection of man.
- Let no Theosophist, if he would hold to divine, not human truth, say that this “God in secret” listens to, or is distinct from, either finite man or the infinite essence — for all are one. Nor, as just remarked, that a prayer is a petition. It is a mystery rather; an occult process by which finite and conditioned thoughts and desires, unable to be assimilated by the absolute spirit which is unconditioned, are translated into spiritual wills and the will; such process being called “spiritual transmutation”. The intensity of our ardent aspirations changes prayer into the “philosopher's stone”, or that which transmutes lead into pure gold. The only homogeneous essence, our “will-prayer” becomes the active or creative force, producing effects according to our desire.
- In his Magie Naturelle (1558) Baptista Porta tells us this clearly: "I do not promise you mountains of gold nor the philosopher's stone, nor even that golden liquor which renders immortal him who drinks it. . . All that is only visionary; for the world being mutable and subject to change all that it produces must be destroyed." Geber, the great Arabian alchemist, is even more explicit. He seems, indeed, to have written down the following words with a prophetic forecast of the future: "If we have hidden aught from thee, thou son of science, be not surprised; for we have not hidden it especially from thee, but have made use of a language which will hide the truth from the wicked in order that men who are unjust and ignoble may not understand it. But thou, son of Truth, seek and thou wilt find the gift, the most precious of all. You, sons of folly, impiety, and profane works, cease endeavoring to penetrate the secrets of this science; for they will destroy you and will hurl you into the most profound misery."
- Let us see what other writers have to say on the question. Having begun to think that alchemy was after all solely a philosophy entirely metaphysical instead of a physical science (in which they erred), they declared that the extraordinary transmutation of base metals into gold was merely a figurative expression for the transformation of man, freeing him of his hereditary evils and of his infirmities in order that he might attain to a degree of regeneration which would elevate him into a divine Being. This in fact is the synthesis of transcendental alchemy and is its principal object; but this does not for all that represent every end which this science has in view. Aristotle said in Alexandria that the philosopher's stone was not a stone at all, that it is in each man, everywhere, at all times, and is called the final aim of all philosophers. Aristotle was mistaken in his first proposition though right with regard to the second. On the physical kingdom, the secret of the Alkahest produces an ingredient which is called the philosopher's stone; but for those who care not for perishable gold, the alkahest, as Professor Wilder tells us, is only the allgeist, the divine spirit, which dissolves gross matter in order that the unsanctified elements may be destroyed.
- When speaking of her search of the unknown, Blavatsky talked of alchemy, of union or “marriage of the red Virgin” with the “astral mineral,” and of the philosopher’s stone (union of the soul and the spirit). She was influenced by her studies of the books in her great-grandfather’s library on “alchemy, magic, and other occult subjects... Paracelsus, Kunrath, and Agrippa,” she wrote, “all spoke of the ‘marriage of the red Virgin with the Hierophant,’ and of that of the ‘astral mineral with the sibyl,’ of the combination of the feminine and masculine principles,” or what the East calls the harmonizing of yin and yang ... Blavatsky believed that the truest practitioners were not seeking vulgar gold, but the golden understanding; not the transmutation of base metals, but the psychic transformation of their own personalities, nor the elixir of immortality by the philosopher’s stone, that mysterious lapis that symbolized the total man. She wrote, “the philosopher’s stone symbolizes the transmutation of the lower animal nature of man into the highest and divine.” The latter she calls “the universal solvent of everything” (Idem, p. 41 42).
- Slyvia Cranston H. P. B.: The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement. New York: Putnam, 1993.
- That the forms of natural bodies may depend upon different arrangements of the same particles of matter has been a favourite hypothesis advanced in the earliest era of physical research, and often supported by the reasonings of the ablest philosophers. This sublime chemical speculation sanctioned by the authority of Hooke, Newton, and Boscovich, must not be confounded with the ideas advanced by the alchemists concerning the convertibility of the elements into each other. The possible transmutation of metals has generally been reasoned upon not as a philosophical research, but as an empirical process. Those who have asserted the actual production of the precious metals from other elements, or their decomposition, or who have defended the chimera of the philosopher's stone, have been either impostors, or men deluded by impostors. In this age of rational inquiry it will be useless to decry the practices of the adepts, or to caution the public against confounding the hypothetical views respecting the elements founded upon distinct analogies, with the dreams of alchemical visionaries, most of whom, as an author of the last century justly observed, professed an art without principles, the beginning of which was deceit, the progress delusion, and the end poverty.
- Alchemy is an ancient science purported to transmute base metals into gold by freeing them from their impurities through the various stages of the alchemical process. Alchemy is also often understood metaphorically as a spiritual process, whereby the self undergoes a series of purifying stages, until a transmutation to a higher form of consciousness is reached.
Some of the earliest writings on alchemical philosophy came from Aristotle, who proposed that the basis of the material world was a prima materia, or prime, chaotic matter, out of which form arose in the shape of four elements: fire, air, water and earth. The Creator, by blending these in certain proportions, brought forth the limitless varieties of life. To transform one substance to another, the alchemist believed he could change its elemental proportions “through the processes of burning, calcination, solution, evaporation, distillation, sublimation and crystallization” (p. 8).
- Johannes Fabricius, Alchemy: The Medieval Alchemists and their Royal Art. London: Diamond 1989.
- Content is the Philosopher’s Stone, that turns all it touches into Gold.
- Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia (1732)
- Thrift is the Philosopher's Stone.
- Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia (1732)
- From this theoretical structure of nature evolved the assumptions upon which alchemy was based: the unity of the universe and relatedness of all natural phenomena as expressed by the idea of prima materia from which all bodies were formed and into which they might again be dissolved, and the existence of a potent transmuting agent capable of promoting the change of one kind of material into another (Fabricius, p. 8). This transmuting agent became known as the philosopher’s stone, an object so quintessential it could not only transmute metals, but cure illness and prolong life....The process was composed of three stages. In the first, the alchemist heated the primary material, usually a blend of salt, mercury and sulfur, until it dissolved and turned black with decay. Under this continuous heat the liquid became dry, powdery and white. If all was done properly, the materials would eventually recombine and become a brilliant red, the color of the philosopher’s stone.
- Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy,Trans. R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1977
- Explained briefly in more modern terms by Carl G. JUNG, the alchemical process, or Great Work, begins with blackness (nigredo), either present from the beginning or produced by separation of the elements. A union of opposites occurs, often represented by a marriage (coniunctio) of male and female. This union is followed by the death of the product of their union and a corresponding nigredo. At this point, a washing leads to the whitening stage (albedo), which is highly prized as the silver or moon condition. However, this is not the final product, as it must still reach the sun stage or rubedo condition, accomplished by raising the heat of the fire to its highest intensity (pp. 230-2)
- Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy,Trans. R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1977
- Everyone knows Newton as the great scientist. Few remember that he spent half his life muddling with alchemy, looking for the philosopher's stone. That was the pebble by the seashore he really wanted to find.
- An occult fraternity, which has endured from very ancient times, having a hierarchy of officers, secret signs, and passwords, and a peculiar method of instruction in science, religion, and philosophy. . . . If we may believe those who, at the present time, profess to belong to it, the philosopher's stone, the elixir of life, the art of invisibility, and the power of communication directly with the ultramundane life, are parts of the inheritance they possess. The writer has met with only three persons who maintained the actual existence of this body of religious philosophers, and who hinted that they themselves were actually members. There was no reason to doubt the good faith of these individuals -- apparently unknown to each other, and men of moderate competence, blameless lives, austere manners, and almost ascetic in their habits. They all appeared to be men of forty to forty-five years of age, and evidently of vast erudition . . . their knowledge of languages not to be doubted. . . . They never remained long in any one country, but passed away without creating notice.
- The writer of the following pages submits his opinions upon Alchemy to the public... convinced that the character of the Alchemists, and the object of their study, have been almost universally misconceived; and as a matter of fact though of the past, he thinks it of sufficient importance to take a step in the right direction for developing the true nature of the studies of that extraordinary class of thinkers. The opinion has become almost universal, that Alchemy was a “pretended science by which gold and silver were to be made by the transmutation of the baser metals into these substances, the agent of the transmutation being called the philosopher’s stone.” Those who professed this Art are supposed to have been either impostors or under a delusion created by impostors and mountebanks. This opinion has found its way into works on Science, and has been stereotyped in biographical dictionaries and in encyclopaedias... allusions to Alchemy, in histories, romances, and novels, are of but one character, and imply that the professors of the Art were either deluders or deluded, were guilty of fraud or the victims of it.... the object of the Art was the perfection, or at least the improvement, of Man. (Preface)
- Some two years since, I printed a small pamphlet on the subject of Alchemy, my object being to throw out an idea with which I was strongly impressed, that the Philosopher's Stone was a mere symbol, and that the Alchemists were not in pursuit of gold, but of wisdom, carefully and conscientiously leaving the latter word undefined... I did not then, nor do I now, undertake to say precisely what the Alchemists sought. I was positive, however, that they were not in pursuit of 'gold or of worldly honors; and I am still of this opinion. I thought their object was religious, in which I am also fully confirmed by a further examination of alchemical works, of which I have obtained many since my pamphlet was printed... My pamphlet, in which I express the opinion that the Philosopher’s Stone is a mere symbol, signifying something which could not be expressed openly without incurring the danger of an auto-da-fe.
- Remarks upon alchemy and the alchemists... Published by James Miller (1865)
- It was no doubt in view of this, that Sandivogius was led to express the opinion, that “many men of good consciences and affections secretly enjoy this gift of God”; for, it must be admitted, and it is worthy of all thankfulness, that every truly upright man must live, to the extent of his fidelity to the Law of God, under a sense of God’s approbation; which may be as good a definition of the Philosopher’s Stone as we need have. Merely learned men should know that they have no prescriptive or exclusive right to God’s approval, but that this is the need only of the honest man, whether he be clothed in silken robes or in the humblest apparel of the poor. This is the Elixir and the Water of Life, and the medicine so much talked of under the name of the Philosopher’s Stone at least, practically considered; though theoretically it may point to a special knowledge... not to be expressed in words.
- Remarks upon alchemy and the alchemists..., Published by James Miller (1865)
- In matters of history, where testimony to facts is important, it is otherwise. In this case, the veracity and competency in judgment of the historian must be established, or the facts recorded may be looked upon as comparatively unimportant... Divine Justice, rests upon quite other grounds, making it possible, as the Alchemists say, for the poor to be “employed in making the Philosopher’s Stone”; that is, the most humble man living may be honest, and enjoy the blessings of probity. Whoever is conscious of a failure on this point is disqualified for passing an adverse judgment upon the results claimed as the fruit of well-doing ; for the work is one of experience, as all of the writers testify, — in what I understand to be the spirit of the text, John vii. 17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.” Whoever will rightly interpret this text, and abide by it, will find the “pearl of great price”; and what does it signify whether it be called a pearl, or a stone, the Magaritte of Chaucer’s Testament of Love...
- Remarks upon alchemy and the alchemists, indicating a method of discovering the true nature of Hermetic philosophy: and showing that the search after the philosopher's stone had not for its object the discovery of an agent for the transmutation of metals, Published by James Miller (1865)
- My purpose has been to show that, notwithstanding there were pretenders and impostors, and freely admitting that multitudes were deceived by the literal signification of the language of the Alchemists, the genuine adepts were in pursuit of neither wealth nor worldly honors, but were searchers after truth, in the highest sense of this word; and whether we call it truth, virtue, wisdom, religion, or the knowledge of God, one answer will be found to explain all of these expressions. This one answer, or one thing, was the Philosopher’s Stone, and can be found in no other thing in the universe but the nature of man, made in the image of God. Hence the importance of the maxim. Know Thyself.
- Remarks upon alchemy and the alchemists... Published by James Miller (1865)
- The famous philosopher's stone cannot be discovered or created without the participation of woman... The first task which faces women is to insist in all countries upon full rights and equal education with men; to try with all their might to develop their thinking faculties, and, above all, to learn to stand on their own feet without leaning altogether upon men. In the West there are many fields which are now available to women, and one must admit that they are quite successful in all of them.
It is necessary to awaken in woman herself a great respect for her own Origin; she should realize her great destiny as a bearer of the higher energy. Indeed, it is woman's intuition which should again, as in the better periods of history, lead humanity on the path of progress...
- Helena Roerich, in Letters of Helena Roerich II, (1937)
- I presume that they therefore speak of two stones, a celestial and a terrestrial. The celestial stone is the eternal blessedness and, as far as the Christian world of ideas is considered, is Christ, who has aided mankind to attain it. The terrestrial stone is the mystical Christ whom each may cause to be crucified and resurrected in himself, whereby he attains a kingdom of heaven on earth with those peculiar qualities that have been allegorically attributed to the philosopher's stone. Therefore the terrestrial stone is called a reflection of the celestial and so it is said that from lead, etc., the stone may be easily produced and "in a short time," i.e., not only after death.
- As Michael Maier (Symbola Aureae Mensae Lib. XI 1617) informs us, Melchior Cibinensis, a Hungarian priest, expressed the secrets of the forbidden art in the holy form of the Mass. For as birth, life, exaltation, suffering in fire and then death were, as it were, ascribed to the Philosopher's Stone in black and gloomy colors, and finally resurrection and life in red and other beautiful colors, so he compared his preparation with the work of the salvation of man (and the "terrestrial" stone with the "celestial" stone), namely, with the birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.... The making of the Philosopher's Stone is, so to speak, the Imitation of Christ.
- According to Khunrath (Amphitheatrum) prayer, work and perseverance lead to eternal wisdom by the mystical ladder of the seven theosophical steps. Perfect wisdom consists in the knowledge of God and his Son, in the understanding of the holy scriptures, in self knowledge and in knowledge of the great world and its Son, the Magnesia of the philosophers or the Philosopher's Stone. The mystical steps in general contain three activities, hearing (audire), persevering (perseverare),knowing (nosse et scire), that applies, to five objects, so that we can distinguish seven steps in all. Only the pure may enter the temple of wisdom, only the worthy are entrusted, with the secrets, the profane, however, must stay away.
- Herbert Silberer in Problems of mysticism and its symbolism (1917)