According to legend, the Philosopher's Stone is a mysterious red rock (though not always red or a rock), created by either magic or alchemy which allows you to do any number of things, including transmuting any metal into gold, allowing you to live forever through an elixir of life, or ascendance into Godhood.
And in settings where Alchemy Is Magic
, it usually turns Alchemy up to eleven
, giving the person using it almost god-like powers. Unfortunately, like most MacGuffins
it comes with some sort of catch, either involving Human Sacrifice
, being Powered by a Forsaken Child
, or something equally repugnant.
Note that this cost is largely only in fiction: In most alchemical modes of thought, the Philosopher's Stone was a metaphor for the result of achieving a sort of Gnostic enlightenment, where your knowledge and self-control reach the height of or go beyond human potential, and you transcend the worries of the mortal world to join with God. The reason the Stone isn't common is simply that most people simply don't have the capacity or experience to reach this state, and even those who have likely wouldn't have the desire to use the thing anyway, what with being what essentially amounts to a mental Physical God
and all. An often overlooked fact is that to get it, you must not want to use its power. Or more specifically, in order to attain it, you must have reached a degree of spiritual enlightenment that renders you content with your lot in life and, as such, do not feel any need to make use of the Stone's more profane (i.e. non-spiritual, like the turning lead into gold bit) properties.
It's less that you are unwilling to use it, and more that you don't feel the need
to use it. It should also be noted that some sources claim that the immortality was a result of the process required to forge the stone, rather than being a property of the stone itself — by the time you're able to make the Philosopher's Stone, you no longer need it
See Green Rocks
for other highly versatile Applied Phlebotinum
Examples of the Philosopher's Stone in media:
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Anime & Manga
- Slayers featured a version of the Philosopher's Stone, though one with not much in common with the original myth. This Philosopher's Stone had the property of amplifying magic a hundredfold. It ended up being swallowed by the Dark Lord Shabranigdu and presumably destroyed. There is no know way to produce a new one, as the Stone was a unique legendary artifact. Lina claims it was a piece chipped off the staff that supports the world; its true origin is revealed in the final light novel to be a piece broken off the black Demon Blood talisman.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, the Philosopher's Stone has the power to violate the law of equivalent exchange in alchemy, but it comes at a terrible price: the stone is composed of human souls. It is even worse in the 2003 anime adaptation, where thousands of souls are required to create a single stone.
- It turns out that the stone actually does not allow one to violate the law of equivalent exchange. As it happens, the stone actually acts like a massive battery for the alchemist, allowing them to perform energy-to-matter conversions which look to an outsider to be a total violation of equivalent exchange. Those human souls are converted into a "high-energy substance" which makes up the stone. Kimblee is also able to perform alchemy using a Stone after Ed cuts one of the circles on his palms, which he normally would not be able to do.
- The Soft Stone in Karakuri Circus is used to created Aqua Vitae, "Water of Life", which is used in the creation of Shiroganes.
- It was shown as an OOPArt artifact in Spriggan when Yu Ominae and Yoshino Somei team up to take down Koga-trained ninjas deployed to secure it during the former's field trip.
- In their attempts to make a Philosopher's Stone, the alchemists of Busou Renkin made the kakugane, which, while not granting immortality, do give a Healing Factor. The Black Kakugane gets even closer, in that it can be used as a transplant heart, at the cost of acting as a Psycho Serum.
- Flash villain Doctor Alchemy has the Philosophers' Stone, and uses its powerful ability to transmute any element to commit crimes. Yup, he uses something that can turn anything to pure gold to rob banks. On the bright side, he hasn't collapsed the DC Universe's gold market.
- The Fantastic Four villain Diablo, a centuries-old alchemist once used the stone to increase his alchemical powers. His goal of world domination makes a bit more sense than just trying to get rich.
- In a Disney Ducks Comic Universe comic by Carl Barks titled The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone, Scrooge McDuck reads about the stone, and learns that it can turn any other metal into gold, leading to him and his nephews going on a quest for the stone, and they succeed in recovering it from the Minotaur's Cave in Greece. But Scrooge is soon after visited by Monsieur Mattressface, a representative from the International Money Council. The Council fears that the stone's ability to turn everything to gold could lead to a vast devaluation of gold, causing a gobal economic collapse, and wish to have the stone for safekeeping. Scrooge ends up reluctantly giving up the stone.
- The Philosopher's Stone later returns in Don Rosa's The Old Castle's Other Secret or A Letter From Home, set in the same continuity as the one above. In it, a corrupt member of International Money Council (actually a cover organisation for the modern Knights Templar), Mister Molay, uses it on locks, as a lock of gold is easier to break than one of steel or iron. The stone is later used by Monsieur Mattressface to escape from a set of iron cuffs that Molay used to incapacitate him. The stone then ends up being used to render Mister Molay's gun useless, as a gun of solid gold tends to explode when fired.
- Appears, naturally enough, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stonenote , displaying its traditional powers of turning lead to gold and creating the elixir of life. There is also a nod to its origins in that the Mirror of Erised is used to protect it by ensuring that only someone who wanted to find the stone but not use it is able to retrieve it. At the end, it's destroyed to prevent Voldemort using it, with Nicolas Flamel and Perenelle accepting death as "the next great adventure" after more than six centuries of life.
- Used In The Alchemist. After all, it's the title character's Personal Legend.
- In the Deptford Mice prequel book "The Alchymist's Cat", creating the philosopher's stone - and thus the elixir - is the main goal of the alchemist Elias Spittle. He succeeds (with the help of his familiar) but in this version the elixir doesn't give total immortality; you can still die in one of the elements involved in the stone's creation (fire and water). The elixir also augments whatever magical abilities the drinker possesses. When said familiar discovers that his master murdered and bottled his sister, he drinks it and they have a Wizard Duel.
- In The Unhandsome Prince, it was Prince Hal's attempt to steal this from Emily's mother that led to him getting turned into a frog. It also turns out that in addition to helping turn things into gold, touching also tends to make you start spouting philosophy. (Although not necessarily very deep philosophy.)
Live Action TV
- The Philosopher's Stone serves as a MacGuffin in The Wild Wild West's "The Night of the Feathered Fury."
- In Kamen Rider Wizard, obtaining the Philosopher's Stone seems to be goal of the Wiseman, the leader of the Phantoms. His dragon, Gremlin/Sora, seems to be also trying to obtain it for himself. Ultimately, it's revealed that one of the title character's allies has the Stone within her. Unfortunately, Gremlin becomes the Starscream and kills both her and her father, who is also Wiseman. After Gremlin is killed, the title character goes to hide the Stone somewhere safe.
- Appears in Warehouse 13, created by Paracelsus in an attempt to make himself immortal. He tests is on his brother and his brother's family, making them immortal. However, the experiment results in several hundred dead villagers. When the Warehouse 9 agents find out, they bronze him and break the stone into three parts, so they could be hidden far from one another. After being de-bronzed in the 21st century, Paracelsus recovers the stone, makes his brother and his family mortal again, and then makes himself immortal (by sucking the life out of terminal patients).
- In the Deadlands Weird West game, there is a modification to the Mad Scientist template that allows you to make an Alchemist character— these characters create the Philosopher's Stone as an everyday ingredient in even the simplest of their magical potions. However, its implied that there are few Alchemists compared to their more mundane steampunk counterparts, so there remains a degree of "enlightenment" to the template. Further, the game invokes the "cost" aspect of the trope, in that each dose of Philosopher's Stone requires the Alchemist to sacrifice a bit of blood, doing damage proportional to the amount you're trying to create. The game also subverts the spiritual aspect of the stone: Philosopher's Stone is created from Ghost Rock and is hence indelibly linked to the Hunting Grounds and the Manitou evil spirits. Further, the "enlightenment" of an Alchemist takes the form of Batshit insanity, just like with normal mad scientists.
- In Dungeons and Dragons, the Philosopher's Stone is a minor artifact. It takes the form of a small bit of black rock which can be broken open to find a small bit of quicksilver. This quicksilver can be used to turn large amounts of iron into silver or lead into gold, and can also be mixed with a cure potion to bring someone back to life with none of the usual level drain being resurrected causes.
- Its Spiritual Successor, Pathfinder, has the alchemist base class at 20th level can choose the Philosopher's Stone from one of several "grand discoveries" they can make, allowing them to make one per month.
- In Operator's Side / Lifeline, this is what drives the whole plot of the game.
- In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, it is revealed that the Wise One is a Philosopher's Stone. Apparently, in this world, Philospher's Stones are extremely powerful and intelligent beings forged through Alchemy.
- In Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, there is brief mention of Alchemists' quest for the Philosopher's Stone leading them to create the Black Stone and Crimson Stone, both of which are less helpful to humans and extremely useful to vampires (one casts eternal night on the surrounding area, the other allows one to gain power from stealing the souls of others, but turns the user into a vampire). This is presumably intended to explain Dracula's mad h4x, as the game turns out to be a Dracula origin story.
- Valkyrie Profile the Philosopher's Stone takes the form of the Great Big Book of Everything. It allows the sorcerer Lezard Valeth to look up and know just about any bit of lost information and in the end allows him to survive Ragnarok.
- In League of Legends it's a low level item that increases health and mana regeneration and passively increases the rate at which a champion earns gold.
- In the doujin game Crescent Pale Mist, one can be obtain as an Artifact from Sage Gasyukal's Philosopher's Stone to activate the power of equipable gemstones scattered throughout the game like the Ruby, Amethyst, and Diamond.
- Lost Kingdoms: Rune Stones are quite similar in concept, affording the user amazing power. Like many above examples, they're created by infusing a normal gemstone with an entity's soul. The original Rune Stones contained the souls of the Creator Deities, but it turns out human souls also work (though not as well).
- Alchemists in World of Warcraft produce Philosopher's Stones at higher levels of their profession. They can act as modestly-useful trinkets, but their main use is in allowing the alchemist to transmute rare materials out of common materials.
- In Darklands the party holds a Philosopher's Stone, which an alchemist uses as a catalyst to make potions. The more pure the Stone, the greater your chance of making the potions. More advanced potions (or greater volumes of a less advanced potion) can be made with better stones, and improving the quality of your stone is a significant part of the game.
- The adoptables website Valenth features the Fatis Mirajin, a Philosopher's Stone Gone Horribly Wrong. Accidentally created by a young elven alchemist in the site's backstory, it turned out to have a very dangerous flaw: corrupting elemental dream energy and horribly mutating anything that came near it. One of the main plot threads of the site is the fact that it is now threatening to turn the whole world into Dream Land.
- The Philosopher's Stone appeared in an episode of Jonny Quest The Real Adventures. The villain greedily used the stone's power to make himself rich, and in consequence lost his soul. This prevented him from using it to make more gold, so he got around that limitation by kidnapping Hadji and forcing him to make gold to keep his friends alive.
- The Philosopher's Stone made an appearance in an episode of the Aladdin series. In it, it was the source of all mystical power in the cosmos. The evil wizard Mozenrath created one with the aid of the wizard trapped in a book, Khartoum, only for Khartoum to double cross him and use the stone to escape the book and become the most powerful wizard in the world. However, while the stone's power was limitless, due to it growing unchecked, it exploded.
- One of the reasons Gargamel pursues The Smurfs is that the Smurfs are the Philosopher's Stone. At least six Smurfs are needed to make gold.
- Scientists have actually discovered that you can turn lead into gold using nuclear transmutation. Sadly it's a very costly process that can only produce a small amount of gold particles at a time, so the only real reason to actually bother with it is to prove that you can.
- Ironically, one of the elements that can be converted somewhat easily into gold is platinum (which is actually more valuable than gold).
- And the gold you get is radioactive!