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William Blake's “Newton.” (1795) In this work Newton is depicted critically as a "divine geometer".

Making a Magical Substance for Health and Wealth - Discovery of Alchemy Transcripts by Newton

A recent auction has led to the discovery of one of Isaac Newton’s alchemy transcripts, which may just be one step towards creating the magical substance known as the philosopher’s stone.  According to Live Science, the manuscript dating back to the 17th century, was concealed within Newton’s private collection. The title of the document translates to "Preparation of the [Sophick] Mercury for the [Philosophers'] Stone by the Antimonial Stellate Regulus of Mars and Luna from the Manuscripts of the American Philosopher."

Newton is reported to have written more than a million words pertaining to alchemy throughout his lifetime, but his manuscripts have been scattered about, as most of them were sold by his family in London in 1936.  Many writings have ended up in the hands of private collectors. The philosopher’s stone manuscript actually resurfaced in Sotheby's in New York in December 2004. It had previously been offered at Bonhams in 2009, and eventually sold at Bonhams in Pasadena in February 2016.

Newton's 17th century manuscript with text copied from an American alchemist's writings, as well as descriptions of one of Newton’s own experiments.

Newton's 17th century manuscript with text copied from an American alchemist's writings, as well as descriptions of one of Newton’s own experiments. (Chemical Heritage Foundation)

The manuscript was purchased by the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Indiana University has created a project known as The Chymistry of Isaac Newton Project, which is an online repository and will contain the newly found manuscript.

The history and story of the philosopher’s stone are intriguing and somewhat mythical, as the substance is believed to have magical powers that will bring health, wealth, and possibly eternal life. The tale of the philosopher’s stone originated in Western alchemy, and is believed to have the ability to transform common metals, like copper and tin, into silver and gold. It is also known as “the tincture,” and “the powder.”

The Alchemist in Search of the Philosophers Stone. (1771) By Joseph Wright of Derby.

The Alchemist in Search of the Philosophers Stone. (1771) By Joseph Wright of Derby. (Public Domain)

Turning metals into silver and gold was a process that involved heating the base metal in a pear shaped glass and then carefully watching the color changes. Alchemists believed that in addition to its ability to turn metal into gold and silver, the philosopher’s stone could be used to create an “elixir of life” – curing illness, prolonging life, and revitalizing the soul. It is easy to see why the philosopher’s stone would have been desirable, as it had the ability to grant someone both health and riches.

Many modern individuals are familiar with the idea of the philosopher’s stone thanks, in large part, to JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, as the first volume revolves around Harry Potter and his friends trying to protect the “philosopher’s stone,” (also called the “sorcerer’s stone” in American editions) a magical stone that would bring riches and eternal life.

Newton’s handwritten transcript outlines the process for making “philosophic mercury” for the philosopher’s stone.  Newton copied the text from well-known American chemist George Starkey.  Starkey studied at Harvard University before travelling to England in 1650 to work with other chemists, including Robert Boyle, who was one of Newton’s contemporaries.  To control other chemists’ access to his experiments, Starkey published his works under a pseudonym - Eirenaeus Philalethes.

James Voelkel, one of the curators of rare books from the Chemical Heritage Foundation, told Live Science that it is unclear whether Newton actually carried out Starkey’s alchemy experiment, or if he merely just wrote it down. However, he did much more than just copy the text word for word. In addition to copying Starkey’s text, Newton added additional notes and made corrections to the philosophic mercury process. Then, on the back of the manuscript, he wrote instructions of his own experiment, distilling lead ore.

“Philosopher's stone” as pictured in Atalanta Fugiens Emblem 21. (1617)

“Philosopher's stone” as pictured in Atalanta Fugiens Emblem 21. (1617) (Public Domain)

The discovery of Newton’s transcript as related to the philosopher’s stone provides insight into Newton as an individual and a scientist. He is most well-known for his studies of gravity and motion. However, the transcript for the philosophic mercury, as well as Newton’s many other alchemy transcripts, show that his studies and practices covered a much wider scope, as well as illustrating his connections with other scientists from his era, including Starkey, Boyle, and others.

Featured Image: William Blake'sNewton.” (1795) In this work Newton is depicted critically as a "divine geometer". Source: Public Domain

By MRReese

Comments

There is no philosopher's stone per see. The western worlds obsession for this external object/process to provide 'wealth, long life' etc,, this obsession for the external world wealth, possesions, power shall always remain hidden as it completely ignores that what is being talked about or alluded to is the internal alchemy process.

We are what we believe we are . Health starts and is an internal process. We take into the body the four primes or life, air, water, food and sunlight, which is mixed internally providing us the requirements for life.

I can concur with your last comment in many ways. Perhaps my opening line in my first comment in using the latin term ‘per se’ which means I believe ‘by itself’ was used wrongly. I was I thought alluding to, that the philosopher’s stone a physical object(?) was not in by itself the only thing required for either external or internal alchemy. And or that perhaps the philosopher’s stone may not be ‘just’ a physical object but also an internal one.

As is above/macro/external, so shall it be below/micro/internal.

About 40 years ago in my ignorance I ask a number of questions. A question asked reveals 3 things I believe; 1) what one knows, 2) what one does not know, 3) that which will be revealed. But, once a question is asked IT must be answered. Well my questions have been and continue to be answered in a number of ways. Either discovering these answers by my self through various means, or having things revealed to myself by others.

My challenge and that which I have discovered is that there is no way these answers can be how shall I say it, ‘shared’. The language just does not exist I believe. They have to be discovered by self for self, more of a feeling, an internal understanding. The best I have ‘come’ up with is to live these truths and not to be afraid to speak them when ever possible if one can. By living them and speaking up, not dwelling in the place where ‘fear is the mind killer’, the best I can hope for is others to observe these truths and take them into their lives as well. Sort of like the concept of 6 degrees of separation or the 100 monkey syndrome.

Many, a time over the last 40 years I have wished that I had never asked these questions, nor gone down the rabbit hole, could crawl back into that cave of ignorance. But alas, it is not so. That which I have had to go through, experience, that which has been revealed to me, well at times it has been and continues to be almost overwhelming.

Having meandered about this path of life now for 60 years no one is more surprised then myself that ‘I’ AM still here. Ignorant and naïve in many ways being off set by other things, maintaining a dynamic balance of sorts. Still the stranger in a strange land, seeking the answers to many questions. Watching, observing, participating in, waiting.

Any ways, in truth my apologies for disturbing your wa. All the best to you in your seeking.

Yes, there is no doubt it is interesting, but... if there was any success in transmutation (including the nuclear kind), the supply, if not access to the actual recipe, would have noticeably increased a long time ago and gold and silver would be rendered worthless (perhaps fiat is the ultimate philosopher's stone!) Given the staggering billions of man hours relating to all sorts of chemistry just in the last century, there is even less likelihood of such fantasy. I prefer to think of alchemist achievements like the realization that kaolin would transform lower quality pottery into porcelain by Augustus the Strong's prison guest! The Newton papers reflect a man who took everything around him very seriously. Had he lived another 100 years, perhaps he would have discarded many lines of thought, but that does not mean he wasted his time. Research in general is the pursuit of what ends up being many dead ends.

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