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I know that the philosopher’s stone is only a myth built on human greed, but, nonetheless, for centuries it was said and believed that this legendary alchemical substance would turn any given metal, such as lead, into gold. It was also believed to be an elixir that would grant eternal life and youth. For many centuries it was also the most ambitioned end to most alchemists. The philosopher’s stone symbolizes perfection to its purest form, the spiritual enlightenment and divine happiness. Those efforts to discover the philosopher’s stone were known as Opus magnum (“Great work”)

But if it was only a myth, could we not find a solution in a romantic novel? Victor Hugo, the great French romantic author, wrote “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” in 1831. The novel itself is made out of eleven books that tell the unfortunate story of Emerald, an Andalusian gypsy, and Quasimodo, a deaf hunchback, in Paris around the XVth century. Every good romantic novel should have a young Andalusian gypsy, I am certain. It looks like Victor Hugo realized that.

The writer himself never did the “Grand Tour” around Andalusia, actually, he barely made it to the Basque Pyrenees. However, he already had news and stamps from the oriental mystery of the romantic Andalusia. He also had knowledge of the great masterpiece of the Mezquita. Victor Hugo was also an acclaimed spiritist, it was unlikely of him not to include the philosopher’s stone in at least one of his stories. So he placed his “opus magnum” underneath the floors of the Mezquita and he appointed Averroes as the mind behind this alchemy.

 

EXTRACT:

Meanwhile, this master, bent over a vast manuscript, ornamented with fantastical illustrations, appeared to be tormented by an idea which incessantly mingled with his meditations. That at least was Jehan's idea, when he heard him exclaim, with the thoughtful breaks of a dreamer thinking aloud.

–Yes, Manou said it, and Zoroaster taught it! the sun is born from fire, the moon from the sun; fire is the soul of the universe; its elementary atoms pour forth and flow incessantly upon the world through infinite channels! At the point where these currents intersect each other in the heavens, they produce light; at their points of intersection on earth, they produce gold. Light, gold; the same thing! From fire to the concrete state. The difference between the visible and the palpable, between the fluid and the solid in the same substance, between water and ice, nothing more. These are no dreams; it is the general law of nature. But what is one to do in order to extract from science the secret of this general law? What! this light which inundates my hand is gold! These same atoms dilated in accordance with a certain law need only be condensed in accordance with another law. How is it to be done? Some have fancied by burying a ray of sunlight, Averroes,--yes, 'tis Averroes,-- Averroes buried one under the first pillar on the left of the sanctuary of the Koran, in the great Mahometan mosque of Cordova; but the vault cannot he opened for the purpose of ascertaining whether the operation has succeeded, until after the lapse of eight thousand years.

–"The devil!" said Jehan, to himself, "'tis a long while to wait for a crown!"

–"Others have thought," continued the dreamy archdeacon, "that it would be better worth while to operate upon a ray of Sirius. But 'tis exceeding hard to obtain this ray pure, because of the simultaneous presence of other stars whose rays mingle with it. Flamel esteemed it more simple to operate upon terrestrial fire. Flamel! there's predestination in the name! Flamma! yes, fire. All lies there. The diamond is contained in the carbon, gold is in the fire. But how to extract it?

 

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
Book seven, chapter 4.
Victor Hugo


 

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