The philosophers’ stone (Latin: lapis philosophorum) is a legendary alchemical substance, said to be capable of turning base metals, especially lead, into gold (chrysopoeia); it was also sometimes believed to be an elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and possibly for achieving immortality.
|The Alchymist, In Search of the Philosophers’ Stone by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1771.|
For many decades, it was the most sought-after goal in Western alchemy, meditated upon by alchemists, such as Sir Isaac Newton, Nicolas Flamel, and Frater Albertus. The Stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. The discovery of the philosopher’s stone was known as the Great Work.
The origins of the philosopher’s stone seem to be in ancient Hinduism. The Yoga Vasistha, written between the 10th and 14th century AD, contains a story about the Philosopher’s stone (Cintamani).
A great Hindu sage wrote about the spiritual accomplishment of Gnosis using the metaphor of the philosopher’s stone. Saint Jnaneshwar (1275-1296), wrote a commentary with 17 references to the philosopher’s stone that explicitly transmutes base metal into gold. The seventh century Indian sage Thirumoolar in his classic Tirumandhiram explains man’s path to immortal divinity. In verse 2709 he declares that the name of God, Shiva or the god Shambala, is an alchemical vehicle that turns the body into immortal gold. His poetry resonates with the deathless nature of spiritual attainment. And since God Shiva is usually depicted through a Shivalinga, a sculpted stone, this is possibly the origin.
Another Indian saint, Ramalinga Swamigal (1823-1874) is believed to have dissolved his “perfected” body into blinding white light, just as another sage, Manickavasagar, is believed to have done in the seventh century. He too claimed direct knowledge bestowed by divine grace. In his classic testimony, “The Divine Song of Grace”, Ramalinga describes the transmutation of his dense physical body into a body of light:
“Oh God! The Eternal Love, just to bestow upon me the golden body, You, Universal Love, have merged with my heart, allowing yourself to be infused in me. Oh Supreme Love, You with the Light of Grace have alchemised my body”.
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