Philosopher's Stone

Tanaqui tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie
Wed Jul 26 21:05:05 EDT 2000


Kyla:
 
+ As anyone who's read "The Ogre Downstairs" knows, a philosopher's
+ stone is one that turns things into gold. And, gee, is that what the stone
+ in the book does? Gee. 

Things? It has to be a base metal in _The Ogre Downstairs_.

Philosophers, even Natural Philosophers (physicists) don't just use the Stone
to make gold. That's more of a practical application, the work of alchemists
who eventually gave up all that mad dross-purging to become chemists. There
were other alleged ways to turn base metals into gold e.g. use of elixir, or
purification through concoction (heating). 

It's good that chemists eventually worked out a system based in reality: 
Eugenius Philalethes died much sooner than his Vaughn twin, because the 
Latin-scribbling philosopher-alchemist inhaled an unhealthy amount of mercury.

Hermetica, Dee's search for the Monad of the universal, the metaphysical poets:
all concerned with the Stone supposed to make things more perfect, that which
transmogrifies to an ideal state. Turning base metals into gold was just an 
example. An example which caused many deaths, as patrons sought to recoup their
investment or exact revenge from fraudsters. 

Donne refers to Christ in one poem as being the Philosopher's Stone who
changes men's base souls to the perfect/"gold" state.

Rowling's use of the Stone as something which removes the frailties from man
and affords immortality is another fairly common interpretation of the Stone's
effects.
 
+ But no, they have to change the name to "sorcerer's
+ stone," which says absolutely *nothing* about what it does and why it's
+ cool. I mean, a sorcerer's stone could be the big rock in the magic-user's
+ backyard that he likes to sit on!

Here I agree with you. The Sorceror's Stone could be just about anything -
it has no historical apparatus. I think it's his pet rock, myself. I can just
see Voldemort shaking it to make the eyes wiggle frenetically. 

Tanaqui 
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