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Philosopher's Stone

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According to legend, the Philosopher's Stone is a mysterious MacGuffin, almost always a red rock in reference to the alchemy term "rubedo". It was created by either magic or alchemy.

It allows the user to do any number of things, including:

  • Transmute any metal into gold.
  • Be able to live forever through an elixir of life.
  • Ascend into Godhood.

(Note that these uses are connected: gold can not rust, thus it is a substance that makes things immortal.)

Other possible attributes include:

  • Turning lead into gold.
  • Healing all injuries and diseases.
  • Creating eternally burning lamps.
  • Transmuting common crystals into precious gems.
  • Reviving dead plants.
  • Making flexible glass.
  • Creating Life, for example in the form of clones or Homunculi.

And in settings where Alchemy Is Magic, Alchemy gives 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 because most people simply don't have the capacity or experience to reach this state, and those who do 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 in order to get it, you must not want to use its power. 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. Subtrope of Public Domain Artifact.

Examples of the Philosopher's Stone in media:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Buso Renkin: In their attempts to make a Philosopher's Stone, the alchemists 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.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Philosopher's Stone seemingly has the power to violate the law of Equivalent Exchange in alchemy and allow the user to perform miraculous feats. It turns out that the law isn't actually broken, but the stone is composed of human souls which serve as a massive battery. It is even worse in Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), where thousands of souls are required to create a single stone.
  • Karakuri Circus: The Soft Stone is used to created Aqua Vitae, "Water of Life", which is used in the creation of Shirogane. Among other things, it can grant supernatural resilience and long life, especially if one dissolves oneself in it: whoever drinks the water afterward will inherit part of one's memories and personality.
  • Slayers features 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.
  • Spriggan: It's shown as an OOPArt artifact when Yu Ominae and Yoshino Somei team up to take down Koga-trained ninjas deployed to secure it during the former's field trip.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: "Philosopher's Stone — Sabatiel" is a card that allows the user to choose cards in their deck or Graveyard to activate in its place.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • In 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. This leads him and his nephews 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 global 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.
  • Fantastic Four: The 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.
  • The Flash: The 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. Funnily enough, someone rifling through the effects of Marvel's Chemistro did find his matter transmutation gun and realized he could use it to produce gold, but the villain's tech can only make the change for as long as the gun's wielder keeps willing it, making it useless for long-term changes. When he faces Ted Kord in the 80's Blue Beetle comic book, Doctor Alchemy tries to "become the Philosopher's Stone" and internalize it's power. However, when Doctor Alchemy succeeded, it put him on the verge of a Super-Power Meltdown which caused him to transmute anything and anyone uncontrollably. In the end, it was Be Careful What You Wish For as Ted (that age's Blue Beetle) saw the Doctor turn into a statue made from the same material of the Philosopher's Stone (so he Literally became the Stone).
  • Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix: Indiana Jones is trying to beat the Nazis in the search for the stone, which the latter need to resurrect fallen Third Reich soldiers and conquer the world with a zombie army.
  • Johan and Peewit: In "Le Sortilège de Maltrochu", Peewit's alchemical experiments somehow create a reverse Philosophers' Stone, that turns gold into lead. It was used by Peewit in The Smurfs (in the animated episode of this story) cartoon as a way to foil the Big Bad trying to escape with an armload of gold items, they're changed to worthless lead. The Big Bad drops the now-lead items in defeat, crying.
  • The Smurfs: Gargamel's introductory story has him trying to make the Philosophers' Stone from a recipe, but said recipe calls for dissolving a single smurf in the brew, which causes him to kidnap one.
  • Tex Willer: In a special titled "Il Segno del Serpente" (The Serpent's Mark), the main villain is a shady criminal cooperating with a native tribe and a gang of ruthelss mexican bandits funding the reaserch of a tormented ex-monk who has found a massive tome of alchemy which he could use to make the Philosopher Stone to turn lead into gold and make elixir of immortality. Near the end of the story, the man finally manages to create a unknown substance which allows him to turn lead into pure gold, but as Tex and his comrades break into the villains' lair (killing the bad guys), the alchemist tries to escape with the book, only to be killed by the venomous snakes placed as a trap near the lair. Having been told of the Stone and seen the transmuted gold himself, Tex wisely opts for disposing of the book in a fire, so that noone can abuse it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • As Above, So Below: The film's focal point. Having the stone is every alchemists' wet dream, and the alchemist protagonist Scarlett goes to great lengths to obtain it, even having to enter a creepy catacomb and Hell in the process. Though turning lead to gold is mentioned, the stone's main power ramps up Scarlett's mild psychic healing ability, allowing her to fully heal a mortally wounded person.
  • Doctor Mordrid: The stone is one of the elements needed by the villain to open the sealed Gates to Hell.

  • Zaltec II: The Generation Stone: The titular Stone. As it turns out, the Generation Stone is not an actual Philosopher's Stone but an artifact that allows traveling through time. The "Generation" in its name does not mean it can generate things, but can take its wielder to different generations (and hence "bring people back from the dead").

  • The Alchemist: It's the title character's Personal Legend.
  • Deptford Mice: In the 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.
  • Discworld: The Guild of Alchemists are said to be "trying to cure the philosopher's stones". They have come up with a number of ideas that they think are the secret to immortality (mostly the same ones peddled by All-Natural Snake Oil salesmen on Roundworld). So far their main achievement has been to turn gold into less gold.
  • Grimpow: The Invisible Road: The stone found by Grimpow turns out to be this.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stonenote : The Stone displays 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.
  • The Unhandsome Prince: It's Prince Hal's attempt to steal this from Emily's mother that leads to him getting turned into a frog. It also turns out that in addition to helping turn things into gold, touching the stone also tends to make you start spouting philosophy. (Although not necessarily very deep philosophy.)
  • Words of Science and the History Behind Them: The entry for "Catalysis" describes the search for a substance to turn "base" metals into gold. This substance is then compared to platinum turning a jet of hydrogen into fire without being consumed, as well as other examples where acids and enzymes are created.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Flash (2014): The midseason finale of Season 3 reveals that the whole plot hinges on a Philosopher's Stone, which, according to the research conducted by one of the heroes, has the power to create metahumans, not unlike the Particle Accelerator accident that started the whole series. Savitar, Season 3's Arc Villain, is essentially a prisoner that can't do anything as long as the Stone is encased in some stone box, although he can still cast illusions to have others do his bidding. Uniquely, the stone is glowing white (albedo), but is stated to be calcified Speed Force, which raises more questions than it answers about how it works at granting non-speed related powers and being a conduit somehow bonded to Savitar.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: One episode features the Stone, which apparently grants wishes, as long as your wish can be misconstrued as "turn everything I touch into the substance I just mentioned". The climax of the episode has a guy who turns stuff to stone fighting a guy who turns stuff to cheese.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "The Thing Lay Still", Lestat de Lioncourt claims he has produced the Elixir of Life using this, with that being why he, Louis de Pointe du Lac and Claudia are immortal and eternally youthful, which serves to lure several people inside their house, and the trio drain them all to death.
  • Kamen Rider Wizard: Obtaining the Philosopher's Stone seems to be goal of 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 the Stone in this case isn't a magic source, but rather a magic battery, essentially one of the jewels that are crafted into the show's magical rings writ large; in exchange for a truly enormous amount of mana, it can allegedly be used to do something like revive the dead (the reason both Wiseman and Haruto want it) or turn a Phantom back into a human (the reason Gremlin wants it). It spends the majority of the show inside one of the main characters before changing hands several times in the Grand Finale, with none of the characters who claim it actually getting anything they wanted from it. Ultimately, in the followup film, Haruto disposes of the Stone by leaving it inside himself via Journey to the Center of the Mind.
  • Sleepy Hollow: The first half of Season 4 sees new Big Bad Malcolm Dreyfuss gathering and reassembling the pieces of the Philosopher's Stone (here more of a stone tablet) so that he can become immortal in order to escape going to Hell as part of his Deal with the Devil. He succeeds, but Ichabod later uses the Stone to reverse the process. Interestingly, proximity to the Stone also causes the Horseman to lose his invulnerability.
  • Warehouse 13: The Stone was created by Paracelsus in an attempt to make himself immortal. He tested it on his brother and his brother's family, making them immortal. However, the experiment resulted in several hundred dead villagers. When the Warehouse 9 agents found out, they bronze him and broke 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). Notably, a fragment of the stone became set in a ring and used by his brother to perform miraculous reconstitutions of dead flowers.
  • The Wild Wild West: The Philosopher's Stone serves as a MacGuffin in "The Night of the Feathered Fury".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica: The "Philosopher's Stone" is the pinnacle of Hermetic Alchemy, a potion that suspends aging for decades, makes the drinker The Needless, and confers additional magical powers. It's much more effective than standard Longevity Treatments, but requires pounds of alchemically refined gold to make.
  • Deadlands: The Weird West: There's 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.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In 3.5 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 5th edition a Transmutation specialist wizard can create a generic 'transmuter's stone' which stores transmutation magic in it. Three functions of the stone that a 14th level transmuter can perform are Panacea (remove all curses/poisons/diseases and heal all health), Restore Life (a 'raise dead' spell), and Restore Youth (reduce a willing creature's apparent age from 13-30 years).
  • Res Arcana: The Philosopher's Stone is an expensive artifact that can convert any essence to gold on a 1-for-1 basis, which is the best rate in the game for this kind of effect. It's so powerful that the first Expansion Pack took several steps to Nerf strategies that revolve around it.
  • Rifts: The Philosopher's Stone is a prison for an evil supernatural entity. Anyone who uses the Stone becomes slowly corrupted by it, turning more and more evil. It can turn any base metal into gold, but the current owner (a minor king in Poland) mostly uses it to make medieval-style armor strong enough to withstand Energy Weapons. It also grants a magic force field that, while it doesn't make the owner immortal, definitely makes it harder to kill him.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse: In the backstory, the villain known as Biomancer attempted to create the Philosopher's Stone, but failed. He angrily discarded his failed prototype... whereupon it was found by an alchemist/scientist named John Rhodes, later known as the Scholar, who made a few modifications and turned it into a true Philosopher's Stone. The stone makes the Scholar The Ageless and allows him to perform amazing feats of transmutation. Unfortunately, the Scholar's life became linked to the Philosopher's Stone. When he used the last of its power to save Guise during the OblivAeon crisis, he ceased to exist, with everyone but Guise forgetting he ever was.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Eldlich archetype is the story of an attempt to create a Philosopher's Stone Gone Horribly Wrong, as it instead summoned an undead abomination, Eldlich the Golden Lord. The thing corrupted the conclave that initially summoned it into undead golden servants and poisoned the land with the cursed gold in order to trick more treasure hunters into its grasp.

    Video Games 
  • Atelier is all about using alchemy for Item Crafting, so it's not surprising that the Philosopher's Stone shows up in several games:
  • 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.
  • Code:Realize: The protagonist Cardia Beckford is an Artificial Human who has a gem known as the Horologium embedded in her chest. It turns out to be a precursor to a true Philosopher's Stone created by her father, alchemist Isaac Beckford. It's also highly toxic, causing her touch to corrode any object that hasn't been chemically protected.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Devil May Cry: This is a late-game key item that allows Dante to access the portal to the Underworld.
  • Drowned God: Conspiracy of the Ages: It's one of four ancient relics that the player character has to track down, and in this game, the Stone is not only a limitless energy source, but it also has a side effect where an Evil Doppelgänger made from a person's darker, more primal parts of their psyche will be created and split from the original self.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The "Transmute" spell basically turns the caster into a living Philosopher's Stone, at least regarding the ability to create gold. It's an extremely advanced spell which next to nobody in-universe has been able to master; but the player can learn it. It enables the Dragonborn to transmute iron orenote  into silver ore, and then silver ore into gold ore. As iron is plentiful throughout the game (silver and gold being far more rare), mastering the spell will ensure that the player has all the Money for Nothing they could ever want.
  • Golden Sun:
  • Guild Wars 2: Philosopher's Stones are not tied to alchemy or even any particular branch of magic; they are purchased using Spirit Shards to be used in the Mystic Forge for high-end non-discipline crafting, particularly notably to craft the Mystic Clovers used to create the coveted Legendary equipment.
  • Hidden Expedition: Smithsonian Hope Diamond: The bad guys have discovered that the eponymous jewel and its attendant shards each contain fragments of a celestial map leading to the Philosopher's Stone's hiding place. However, the bad guys have different motivations for wanting to get the Stone.
  • Laplace No Ma: For $1,000 you can buy them to revive any dying ally while exploring. Apparently they are just sold at any Dry-Goods store in 1920's Massachusetts.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Operator's Side: This is what drives the whole plot of the game.
  • Reah: Face the Unknown: The player can win a Philosopher's Stone if they beat a phantom alchemist four times at a game of stones. With it, the player can use the stone to transmute a lead weight into gold, allowing them to buy a canteen of water to cross the desert.
  • Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript: The stone itself is never seen in the game, but Leonardo da Vinci's notes about it are part of the plot. Several characters would love to get their hands on his lost notebook, and some are willing to kill for it.
  • Soul Nomad & the World Eaters: The Crimson Tear.
  • Terraria: The Stone appears as an accessory that reduces the amount of time the player has to wait for another chance to use a healing potion.
  • Tomb Raider Chronicles: Lara Croft searches Rome for the Philosopher's Stone. She finds it in the Roman Colosseum.
  • Touhou Koumakyou ~ the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil: In the Extra Stage, the alchemist Patchouli Knowledge combines her five elements into the single spellcard Fire Water Wood Metal Earth Sign: Philosopher's Stone.
  • 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.
  • World of Warcraft: Alchemists 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series: The Philosopher's Stone makes an appearance in one episode. In it, it's the source of all mystical power in the cosmos. The evil wizard Mozenrath creates 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 is limitless, due to it growing unchecked, it explodes.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: The Philosopher's Stone appeared in an episode. 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. He got around that limitation by kidnapping Hadji and forcing him to make gold to keep his friends alive.
  • Justice League: In "A Knight of Shadows", Morgaine Le Fay seeks the Philosopher's Stone in order to use its power to allow her son Mordred to Take Over the World. The current owner of the Stone uses it to provide himself with a wealthy hedonistic lifestyle.
  • The Smurfs: One of the reasons Gargamel pursues the Smurfs is that the Smurfs are the Philosopher's Stone. In this version, at least six Smurfs are needed to make gold.

    Real Life 
  • 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. The resulting gold is radioactive (and short half-lived) anyway, so it wouldn't have any legal commercial use. Ironically, the reverse operation (turning gold into lead) is much easier; and one of the elements that can be converted somewhat easily into gold is platinum, which is more valuable than gold.