Note: This is an article that is not in any way claiming alchemy works or the Philosopher’s stone is real. This is an article about what served as a foundation for the concept of such a proto-science.
In Tomb Raider: Chronicles, Lara goes on a mission to find the fabled philosopher’s stone. Additionally, many of you have watched Harry Potter and saw his quest to obtain the Philosopher’s stone, too. However, though the stone does not exist, there is a foundational concept behind the very idea of the fabled proto-science that supposedly developed the stone. Its basic beginnings started with the idea of the elements which are very real, hence, earth, wind and fire. However, there were also fictional writings by the renowned Grecian philosopher Plato for one example. One of his works was titled “The Republic”, in which people were rendered into categories defined by precious metals: copper, silver and gold.
About “The Republic”:
“The myth holds that each citizen has a certain sort of metal mixed in with his soul. In the souls of those most fit to rule there is gold, in those suited to be auxiliaries there is silver, and in those suited to be producers there is either bronze or iron.”
This type of writing and concept (though fictional) inspired what we know today as alchemy.
Alchemy put in simplest terms studies the elements and matter with the main objective to transfigure common metals into gold and, additionally create a potion of immortality. Simple or not it is still a mouthful.
Reaching into Alchemy’s roots
To know more about alchemy you have to dive into the distant past. Zosimos (who was born in Panopolis known today as Akhmim Egypt) was the first known alchemist. He wrote the oldest books on the subject. His popularity reached its pinnacle in 300 AD. However, there is nearly nothing known about his life.
He is one of the authors featured in a compendium that is thought to have been compiled during the Byzantine epoch. There are Arabic translations of many texts by Zosimos. Some were found in a book known as The Keys of Mercy and Secrects of Wisdom written by the Persian alchemist Al-Hassan Ibn Ali Al-Tughrai. There are also four more books that mention his works. However, they suffered through translation and that caused some speculations about several books being one in the same.
Here is an excerpt from what Zosimos said about what the ancient and divine writings say from the book of Enoch:
“The ancient and divine writings say that the angels became enamoured of women; and, descending, taught them all the works of nature. From them, therefore, is the first tradition, chema, concerning these arts; for they called this book chema and hence the science of chemistry takes its name.“
There were three reliable archaic authors that referenced him in their texts, Photius a ninth-century author and Georgus Syncellus from the eighth and ninth century. The third one Sudias from 950 AD tells that Zosimos was from Alexandria, however, he lived there for a while and that could have more than likely been what he meant.
The study of alchemy has many symbols. There is one that really stands out. The symbol for the philosopher’s stone. The reason for this is because of the Harry Potter end book The Deathly Hallows. The symbol that J.K. Rowling used to denote the Deathly Hallows.
The Deathly Hallows symbol is very similar to the symbol for The Philosopher’s Stone and is also used to define alchemy.
The author added a touch of realism to her writing by pulling elements from the actual symbol for the philosopher’s stone found in alchemy to render the Deathly Hallows symbol. Not to mention Nicolas Flamel.
Nicolas Flamel “Flamel.” Laid paper, n.d. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/b2773w30s
Mr Flamel was a French alchemist from the 14th century that claimed to have turned lead into gold by using an ancient mystic Hebrew text known as the Kabbala. Though many famous people were involved with alchemy, here is one other I am sure you will all recognise and his connection to the Philosopher’s stone.
Sir Isaac Newton and the Philosopher’s Stone
(It is believed that if the philosopher’s stone was real, it was a substance and not an actual stone.)
Sir Isaac Newton was best known for gravity and his laws of motion. However, he also was fascinated by alchemy. He even wrote a recipe concerning a substance that had the properties for aiding in the creation of the Philosopher’s stone. The title recipe is called: “philosophic mercury”. It was originally copied from another alchemist by the name of George Starkey (Born: 1628, Bermuda Died: 1665, London, United Kingdom Education: Harvard University)
. It was an experiment that Newton felt had an error that he fixed. So the recipe is Newton’s corrected version of the Starky alchemy recipe. Additionally, Newton wrote his own experimental recipe for distilling lead ore.
Until the 18th century, alchemists created a deep symbol code language that only they understood. Their objective was to cull out those with less understanding of their work. There were many alchemy experiments written in these extensive symbols that gave way to what we know today as chemistry. Of course, if you look at the word, “alchemist” you can see where the word “chemist” comes from.
This 17th-century manuscript contains instructions that Newton copied from an American alchemist’s writings, as well as descriptions of one of Newton’s own experiments. (Image credit: Chemical Heritage Foundation) More defined
This manuscripte was only a small part of Newton’s interest in alchemy. It is known he wrote over a million words through notes and expiraments on the subject. You can read more about his academic exploits at the chemistry of Isaac Newton. It is an online project curated Indiana University, in hopes to share it globaly.
I hope you enjoyed this bit about the Philosopher’s stone and it answered any looming questions. Thanks for viewing and remeber like our Lara and me:
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