Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Heart of Stone

Stones - Torrente Torre, Italy, 2012
"Transform yourself into living philosophical stones!", exclaims Medieval Alchemist Gerhard Dorn in his precious 16th century manuscript Theatrum Chemicum. Again, he reports in Artis Auriferae that just as in the aurum philosophicum (gold) the four elements are contained in equal proportions, so the lapis (stone) also is from the four elements (quaternity symbolizes perfection); as such, the alchemists compared the Stone to gold in value and importance. Stone was identified by the medieval alchemists as roundness, simplicity and, thus, perfection. The stone has always been considered as a living entity; from the alchemical nigredo (darkness) arising - alchemically speaking - from the female element that takes the male element into itself (darkness is a female element), issues the Stone, symbol of the immortality of the Self. 
Is there anything as lasting as stone?
The greatest world cathedrals are made of stone and they will still be still standing out and high when all our modern skyscrapers are crumbling and collapsing.
The first Harry Potter book, The Sorcerer's Stone, has this precious element in its title and plot. How many of those who have read the book or saw the movie noticed the presence of the Stone in it? How many asked themselves what a sorcerer is? How many of us have wondered what relation there is between stones and sorcery?

I realize that more information than we can actually digest has been tossed into this article. The intent, though, was not to explain each quotation, but to create a mood, to stir fascination, to build a scenario and inject its senses-tickling impact through the skin of my three or four readers, transporting them into a forgotten and magical dimension.

There's no need to analyze quotations and tomes to see that stones have always been considered, in all eras, a living, dynamic and firm human element.
Lie down near the bank of a river and look around yourself. Stones, pebbles, rocks of all shapes and sizes, angular and round, smooth and crusty. Think of this: they have been there for millions of years, unmoved, unmovable, immortal but breakable, solid but malleable. Touch one stone, kiss it, and you become the stone. Carl Gustav Jung, as a young child, used to wonder, while sitting on his favourite stone in his house's garden, "What if, in truth, I am the stone and the stone is me?".

Am I of stone? Am I?
I am, we all are!

What is the practical scope of all this philosophizing, many might ask?
Are philosophers looking for answers when they do so?
Maybe, but I believe that the starting point should not to find solutions; it should be feeling the magic of this ancient dimension and merge into that long-lost inclination at wonderment and fascination for the small and the universal that videogames, Tv-series, and iPads have stripped away from the majority of us.

I can truly say that I have a heart of stone.

Do you?



  1. I love stone things, too - cathedrals, and (not being morbid) tombs. They're a message from the past. Thanks for such a thoughtful post!

  2. I have two rectangular glass jars at each end of my windowsill. The first one is filled with a collection of stones randomly picked over the years. Ones that just called to be picked from the ground. The other one is still only half full. Choosey, see. As decorative items they're both powerful and unobtrusive.

  3. That's why driven people climb mountains! These rocks are the craggy cousins of stone in all their unpolished, ragged and untamed glory!

    Happy Christmas!! Take care

    1. Thank you for commenting Tony,
      I love Cathedrals too, especially Notre Dame in Paris; it is to me the realm of stone. And tombs too.

      I also have some stones I picked from a riverbed in my hometown.

      Maybe you're right, but my love for stones won't get me to climb! I don't want my end to be just as unpolished, ragged and untamed!

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  5. Goodness, I love your posts, Jay. You're so different, and intelligent! What a fascinating post. And I hope 2013 is amazing for you. Can't wait to continue to read about your thoughts and adventures!

  6. I love stone, and your contemplation of it. I realized a week or two ago that the true touchstone for me (word not coincidental) is a line of Anasazi caves in New Mexico, made of reddish tufa or sandstone. I feel most connected to the solid earth, and to myself, there.

    Happiest New Year to my favorite philosopher!

  7. Happy New Year, Jay, if my last, thoughtful comment just got eaten up by the Blogger monster! Words lost into the ether, instead of carved in stone . . .

  8. Morgan,
    I don't know what to say. I get from you the best compliments. Thank you.
    I'll certainly keep writing for a while longer. Thanks for being so motivational.

    I feel the same, stones make me feel part of something larger and deeper than my own self: earth itself.

    Christie again,
    Happy New Year to you too. And no, your last comment was not eaten up. It was indeed carved in stone.