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Thread: origin of the term "philosophers stone"

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    origin of the term "philosophers stone"

    What is the origin of the term "philosophers stone" ?

    Personally I think it was originally called a dragon stone, snake stone, dragon jewel, snake jewel, dragon pearl, snake pearl, dragon egg, snake egg, dragons blood, snakes blood etc Basically it was always connected with dragons and snakes until the word dragon was substituted for philosophers. This would bring you to the question why is a philosopher a dragon?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Luxus View Post
    What is the origin of the term "philosophers stone" ?

    Personally I think it was originally called a dragon stone, snake stone, dragon jewel, snake jewel, dragon pearl, snake pearl, dragon egg, snake egg, dragons blood, snakes blood etc Basically it was always connected with dragons and snakes until the word dragon was substituted for philosophers. This would bring you to the question why is a philosopher a dragon?
    It's from expressions used by the Alexandrian and Byzantine alchemists, who referred to "a stone that is not a stone". These earlier Greek-speaking alchemists actually used other words or expressions, like "xerion" ("medicinal powder", which gave origin to the word "elixir"), "pharmakon", "ios", "tinging poison", etc., for the same thing that later on would become more customary to call the "Philosophers' Stone".

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    Thanks JDP,

    the first western mention of an object which is clearly the stone that I know about is the pantarbe stone of Apollonius of Tyana who lived 1-2nd AD. It is red, glows, is formed in the Earth (as all metals) and its root substance is the fleeting mercury (as all metals).
    What is interesting about the production of these early stones is that rituals and incantations are required for its production. Zosimos of Panopolis who lived at the end of 3rd AD says the same thing about the production of his xerion ie incantations are required in its production.

    about the stone which attracts and binds to itself other stones you must not be sceptical; for you can see the stone yourself if you like, and admire its properties. For the greatest specimen is exactly of the size of this finger nail," and here he pointed to his own thumb, "and it is conceived in a hollow in the earth at a depth of four fathoms; but it is so highly endowed with spirit, that the earth swells and breaks open in many places when the stone is conceived in it. But no one can get hold of it, for it runs away, unless it is scientifically attracted; but we alone can secure, partly by performance of certain rites and partly by certain forms of words, this pantarbe, for such is the name given to it. Now in the night-time it glows like the day just as fire might, for it is red and gives out rays; and if you look at it in the daytime it smites your eyes with a thousand glints and gleams. And the light within it is a spirit of mysterious power, for it absorbs to itself everything in its neighbourhood. And why do I say in its neighbourhood? Why you can sink anywhere in river or in sea as many stones as you like, and these not even near to one another, but here there; and everywhere; and then if you let down this stone among them by a string it gathers them all together by the diffusion of its spirit, and the stones yield to its influence and cling to it in bunch, like a swarm of bees."

    AND having said this he showed the stone itself and all that it was capable of effecting.
    http://www.mountainman.com.au/atyana38.html

    Zosimos notes the possibility, in passing. When the objective of alchemy became human salvation, the material constitution of the elixir became less important than the incantations that accompanied its production.
    https://www.britannica.com/topic/alchemy

    If the material from which "the stone" is composed is less important then the incantation needed to empower it we are talking then of the philosophers stone being a magic talisman which can be made from a number of materials which is empowered by magic ritual and incantations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Luxus View Post
    Thanks JDP,

    the first western mention of an object which is clearly the stone that I know about is the pantarbe stone of Apollonius of Tyana who lived 1-2nd AD. It is red, glows, is formed in the Earth (as all metals) and its root substance is the fleeting mercury (as all metals).
    What is interesting about the production of these early stones is that rituals and incantations are required for its production. Zosimos of Panopolis who lived at the end of 3rd AD says the same thing about the production of his xerion ie incantations are required in its production.
    I don't remember Zosimos ever saying such things or giving any "incantations" to make the Stone. All the texts of his I have read already feature such common devices of alchemical literature as "decknamen", allegories, analogies, etc. but I can't remember any such thing as "incantations" in any of them. He did believe in such things as "daemons" and the like uncorroborated entities, to be sure, but that was common of most men of those times. Superstition and blind belief in unproven things was rampant in older times. Let us be thankful that most modern men have been able to break free from the chains of blind faith in unproven things that no one has ever seen and instead concentrated their attention more on things that can actually be observed, manipulated, investigated and proven to be real (i.e. empiricism.)

    If the material from which "the stone" is composed is less important then the incantation needed to empower it we are talking then of the philosophers stone being a magic talisman which can be made from a number of materials which is empowered by magic ritual and incantations.
    I would say that the "incantations" are totally unnecessary and the product of some superstitious minds who attempted their hand at alchemy and started projecting their fanciful unproven beliefs onto the subject. But most alchemists in fact do not say anything about any such "incantations" being involved in making the Stone. Later on many of them believed in prayers for success and so forth, but without "magic" rituals involved. Just like many doctors also "prayed" to "God" for the health of their patients, but that does not mean that medicine really works because of such unproven things. When their patients got cured it was because the old doctors had done something tangible and real that actually was effective in curing the problem, not because some unproven invisible entity was really somewhere "out there" 24/7 actually attentively listening and answering their prayers.

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    It is in the encyclopaedia Britannica the claim or Zosimos believing the incantations were more important then the matter used, they are not known for making unsupported claims so I trust that he must have stated this. I do not have access to all his available works however.

    What is interesting then is that Zosimos believed the elixir could be made from various starting materials and that the process was the major factor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Luxus View Post
    It is in the encyclopaedia Britannica the claim or Zosimos believing the incantations were more important then the matter used, they are not known for making unsupported claims so I trust that he must have stated this. I do not have access to all his available works however.
    If you understand French, you can read translations of most of the surviving Greek-language fragments of his works here:

    https://archive.org/stream/collectio...e/116/mode/2up

    I can't remember seeing anything about any "incantations" supposedly being necessary to make the Stone there. Also, luckily two of his complete works survived in Arabic translation, and now have been translated into English (thankfully for all of us who are deep into the older alchemical literature and have been literally waiting for OVER A DECADE for some of these old texts to finally be translated into a modern language) and can be purchased here:

    http://www.livinghumanheritage.org/?p=105

    http://www.livinghumanheritage.org/?p=231

    And same thing as with the surviving Greek-language fragments: there is nothing there about any "incantations" supposedly being necessary to make the Stone.

    What is interesting then is that Zosimos believed the elixir could be made from various starting materials and that the process was the major factor.
    Nope, once again, if you examine his works you will see that he says and implies pretty much the same thing as most other alchemists, both before and after him: there are a certain limited number of substances that are employed in the process of making the Stone, and, due to this, these substances and their reactions are covered and spoken of under a barrage of "decknamen", allegories, similes, analogies, fairy tales, generalized descriptions (never too specific, for fear it would be too easy for the "vulgar" to figure some of them out), etc., and obviously not plainly & clearly described under their proper real common names that everyone knows, because if they had not done so then just about anyone would be able to prepare it, something they were certainly NOT inclined to allow to happen (the alchemists did not share the modern "egalitarian" and "democratic" views of our modern scientists, they were consummate ELITISTS who wanted a small minority of people, more specifically only those they considered their "peers", to partake of this knowledge and take advantage of it.)
    Last edited by JDP; 09-26-2017 at 02:09 AM.

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