I wrote about the philosopher’s stone in 2011, aka the elixir of life. For alchemists, it was the ultimate objective, symbolizing alchemical perfection, transforming base metal into gold (we all know how it, in book form, transformed the life of JK Rowling via a certain Harry Potter).
But it was meant to have other properties too, quite apart from rendering anyone who consumed a small part of it healthy and immortal. It could, for instance be used to construct perpetually burning lamps, revive dead plants, turn crystals into diamonds, or create a clone or golem, traditionally out of inanimate materials such as clay or wood. These were nothing more than dumb, obedient robots, with no thoughts of their own. Ideal for the washing up and taking out the trash!
In a way we all remain alchemist. On a grand scale the modern day philosopher’s stone remains elusive. A cure for cancer? A renewable energy source? Someone to take over Top Gear?
On a more personal level our striving, our Magnum Opus, is the search for fulfillment and enlightenment in whatever it is we do. And for some, a lack of ambition, or the fear of failure, that idea in your head that won’t go away unless you do something about it can quite easily turn you into a golem.
When I first wrote about alchemy, the first of the artefact quintet, The Obsidian Pebble, was about to be released.
Now, five years later, the second, the Beast of Seabourne is out there with the third, The Witch of Carpathia scheduled for later this year.
Throughout the books, alchemical symbols play a vital part in solving some of the puzzles. But now that I have a final draft of the final book written, the parallels between the philosophy of the alchemists and my own journey resonate even more. All authors are alchemists, experimenting with words, looking for the transformation of base materials into something that can transcend the normal. But in the process, the biggest transmutation takes place in the mind of the author/alchemist.
Jung said it all. He claimed the material substances and procedures were only a projection of the alchemists’ internal state, while the real substance to be transformed was the mind itself. Keep striving!