A substance which enabled adepts in alchemy to compass the transmutation of metals. It was imagined by the alchemists that someone definite substance was essential to the success of the transmutation of metals. By the application or admixture of this substance all metals might be transmuted into gold or silver. It was often designated the Powder of Projection. Zosimus, who lived at the commencement of the fifth century is one of the first who alludes to it. He says that the stone is a powder or liquor formed of diverse metals, infusioned under a favourable constellation. The Philosopher's Stone was supposed to contain the secret not only of transmutation, but of health and We, for through its agency could be distilled the Elixir of Life. It was the touchstone of existence. The author of a Treatise on Philosophical and Hermetic Chemistry, published in Paris in 1725 says: " Modern philosophers have extracted from the interior of mercury a fiery spirit, mineral, vegetable and multiplicative, in a humid concavity in which is found the primitive mercury or the universal quintessence. In the midst of this spirit resides the spiritual fluid This is the mercury of the philosophers, which is not solid like a metal, nor soft like quicksilver, but between the two. They have retained for a long time this secret, which is the commencement, the middle, and the end of their work. It is necessary then to proceed first to purge the mercury with salt and with ordinary salad vinegar, to sublime it with vitriol and saltpetre, to dissolve it in aqua-fortis, to sublime it alain, to calcine it and fix it, to put away part of it in salad oil, to distill this liquor for the purpose of separating the spiritual water, air, and fire, to fix the mercurial body in the spiritual water or to distill the spirit of liquid mercury found in it, to putrefy all, and then to raise and exalt the spirit with non - odorous white sulphur that is to say, sal-ammoniac - to dissolve this sal-ammoniac in the spirit of liquid mercury which when distilled becomes the liquor known as the Vinegar of the Sages, to make it pass from gold to antimony three times and afterwards to reduce it by heat, lastly to steep this warm gold in very harsh vinegar and allow it to putrefy. On the surface of the vinegar it will raise itself in the form of fiery earth of the colour of oriental pearls. This is the first operation in the grand work. For the second operation; take in the name of God one part of gold and two parts of the spiritual water, charged with the sal-ammoniac, mix this noble confection in a vase of crystal of the shape of an egg: warm over a soft but continuous fire, and the fiery water will dissolve little by little the gold; this forms a liquor which is called by the sages chaos " containing the elementary qualities - cold, dryness, heat and humidity. Allow this composition to putrefy until it becomes black; this blackness is known as the ' crow's head ' and the ' darkness of the sages, ' and makes known to the artist that he is on the right track. It was also known as the ' black earth.' It must be boiled once more in a vase as white as snow; this stage of the work is called the ' swan, ' and from it arises the white liquor, which is divided into two parts - one white for the manufacture of silver, the other red for the manufacture of gold. Now you have accomplished the work, and you possess the Philosopher's Stone.
In these diverse operations, one finds many byproducts; among these is the ' green. lion ' which is called also 'azoph, ' and which draws gold from the more ignoble elements; the ' red lion ' which converts the metal into gold; the ' head of the crow, ' called also the ' black veil of the ship of Theseus, ' which appearing forty days before the. end of the operation predicts its success; the white powder which transmutes the white metals to fine silver; the red elixir with which gold is made; the white elixir which also makes silver, and which procures long fe - it is also called the ' white daughter of the philosopher .
In the lives of the various alchemists we find many notices of the Powder of Projection in connection with those adepts who were supposed to have arrived at the solution of the grand arcanum. Thus in the Life of Alexandel Scion, a Scotsman who came from Port Seton, near Edinburgh, we find that on his various travels on the continent he employed in his alchemical experiments a blackish powder, the application of which turned any metal given him into gold. Numerous instances are on record of Seton's projections, the majority of - which are verified with great thoroughness. On one occasion whilst in Holland, he went with some friends from the house at which he was residing to undertake an alchemical experiment at another house nearby. On the way thither a quantity of ordinary zinc was purchased, and this Seton succeeded in projecting into pure gold by the application of his powder. A like phenomenon was undertaken by him at Cologne, and elsewhere throughout Germany, and the extremist torture could not wring from him the secret of the quintessence he possessed . His pupil or assistant, Sendivogius, made great efforts to obtain the secret from him before he died, but all to no purpose. However, out of gratitude Seton bequeathed him what remained of his marvellous powder, which was employed by his Polish successor with the same results as had been achieved in his own case. The wretched Sendivogius fared badly, however, when the powder at last came to an end. He had used it chiefly in liquid form, and into this he had dipped silver coins which immediately had become the purest gold. Indeed it is on record that one coin, of which he had only immersed the half, remained for many years as a signal instance of the claims of alchemy in a museum or collection somewhere in South Germany. The half of this doubloon was gold, while the undipped portion had remained silver; but the notice concerning it is scarcely of a satisfactory nature. When the powder gave out, Sendivogius was driven to the desperate expedient of gilding the coins, which, report says, he had heretofore transmuted by legitimate means, arid this very naturally brought upon him the wrath of those who had trusted him.
In the Tale o f the Anonymous Adept we also find a powder in use, and indeed the powder seems to have been the favoured form of the transmuting agency. The term Philosopher’s Slone probably arose from some Eastern talismanic legend. Yet we find in Egyptian alchemy the oldest - the idea of the black powder - the detritus or oxide of all the metals mingled.
The Philosopher's Stone had a spiritual as well as a material conception attached to it, and indeed spiritual alchemy is practically identified with it; but we do not find the first alchemists, nor those of medieval times, possessed of any spiritual ideas; their hope was to manufacture real gold, and it is only in later times that we find the altruistic idea creeping in, to the detriment of the physical one. Symbolic language was largely used by both schools, however, and we must not imagine that because an alchemical writer employs symbolical figures of speech that he is of tile transcendental school, as his desire was merely to be understanded of his brother adepts, and to conserve his secret from the vulgar.