Elixir of life

The elixir of life, also known as elixir of immortality and sometimes equated with the name philosopher's stone, is a potion that supposedly grants the drinker eternal life and/or eternal youth. This elixir was also said to cure all diseases. Alchemists in various ages and cultures sought the means of formulating the elixir.

White-Rabbit-making-elixir-of-immortality
The mythological White Hare making the elixir of life on the Moon, from Chinese mythology.

History

China

La expedición de Xu Fu, por Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Xu Fu's first expedition to the Mount of the immortals. By Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

In ancient China, many emperors sought the fabled elixir with varying results. In the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang sent Taoist alchemist Xu Fu with 500 young men and 500 young women to the eastern seas to find the elixir, but he never came back (legend has it that he found Japan instead). When Shi Huang Di visited, he brought 3000 young girls and boys, but none of them ever returned.

The ancient Chinese believed that ingesting long-lasting precious substances such as jade, cinnabar or hematite would confer some of that longevity on the person who consumed them. Gold was considered particularly potent, as it was a non-tarnishing precious metal; the idea of potable or drinkable gold is found in China by the end of the third century BC. The most famous Chinese alchemical book, the Danjing yaojue (Essential Formulas of Alchemical Classics) attributed to Sun Simiao (c. 581 – c. 682 CE),[1][2] a famous medical specialist respectfully called "King of Medicine" by later generations, discusses in detail the creation of elixirs for immortality (mercury, sulfur, and the salts of mercury and arsenic are prominent, and most are poisonous) as well as those for curing certain diseases and the fabrication of precious stones.

Many of these substances, far from contributing to longevity, were actively toxic and resulted in Chinese alchemical elixir poisoning. The Jiajing Emperor in the Ming Dynasty died from ingesting a lethal dosage of mercury in the supposed "Elixir of Life" conjured by alchemists.

India

Amrita, the elixir of life has been described in the Hindu scriptures (not to be confused with Amrit related to Sikh religion (see Amrit Sanskar)). Anybody who consumes even a tiniest portion of Amrit has been described to gain immortality. Legend has it that at early times when the inception of the world had just taken place, evil demons (Ashur) had gained strength. This was seen as a threat to the gods (Devas) who feared them. So these gods (including Indra, the god of sky, Vayu, the god of wind, and Agni, the god of fire) went to seek advice and help from the three primary gods according to the Hindus: Vishnu (the preserver), Brahma (the creator), and Shiva (the destroyer). They suggested that Amrit could only be gained from the samudra manthan (or churning of the ocean) for the ocean in its depths hid mysterious and secret objects. Vishnu agreed to take the form of a turtle on whose shell a huge mountain was placed. This mountain was used as a churning pole.

With the help of a Vasuki (mighty and long serpent, king of Nagloka) the churning process began at the surface. From one side the gods pulled the serpent, which had coiled itself around the mountain, and the demons pulled it from the other side. As the churning process required immense strength, hence the demons were persuaded to do the job—they agreed in return for a portion of Amrit. Finally with their combined efforts (of the gods and demons), Amrit emerged from the ocean depths. All the gods were offered the drink but the gods managed to trick the demons who did not get the holy drink.

The oldest Indian writings, the Vedas (Hindu sacred scriptures), contain the same hints of alchemy that are found in evidence from ancient China, namely vague references to a connection between gold and long life. Mercury, which was so vital to alchemy everywhere, is first mentioned in the 4th to 3rd century BC Arthashastra, about the same time it is encountered in China and in the West. Evidence of the idea of transmuting base metals to gold appears in 2nd to 5th century AD Buddhist texts, about the same time as in the West.

It is also possible that the alchemy of medicine and immortality came to China from India, or vice versa; in any case, for both cultures, gold-making appears to have been a minor concern, and medicine the major concern. But the elixir of immortality was of little importance in India (which had other avenues to immortality). The Indian elixirs were mineral remedies for specific diseases or, at the most, to promote long life.

Europe

Dell' elixir vitae 1624 Donato d'Eremita Plate 1 AQ14 (1)
Dell' elixir vitae, 1624

In European alchemical tradition, the Elixir of Life is closely related to the creation of the philosopher's stone. According to legend, certain alchemists have gained a reputation as creators of the elixir. These include Nicolas Flamel and St. Germain.

Japan

In the eight-century Man'yōshū, 'waters of rejuvenation' (変若水 ochimizu) are said to be in the possession of the moon god Tsukuyomi. Similarities have been noted with a folktale from the Ryukyu Islands, in which the moon god decides to give man the water of life (Miyako: sïlimizï), and serpents the water of death (sïnimizï). However, the person entrusted with carrying the pails down to Earth gets tired and takes a break, and a serpent bathes in the water of life, rendering it unusable. This is said to be why serpents can rejuvenate themselves each year by shedding their skin while men are doomed to die.[3][4]

Names

The Elixir has had hundreds of names (one scholar of Chinese history reportedly found over 1,000 names for it), among them Amrit Ras or Amrita, Aab-i-Hayat, Maha Ras, Aab-Haiwan, Dancing Water, Chasma-i-Kausar, Mansarover or the Pool of Nectar, Philosopher's stone, and Soma Ras. The word elixir was not used until the 7th century A.D. and derives from the Arabic name for miracle substances, "al iksir". Some view it as a metaphor for the spirit of God (e.g., Jesus's reference to "the Water of Life" or "the Fountain of Life"). "But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14) The Scots and the Irish adopted the name for their "liquid gold": the Gaelic name for whiskey is uisce beatha, or water of life.

Aab-i-Hayat is Persian and means "water of life".[5] "Chashma-i-Kausar" (not "hasma") is the "Fountain of Bounty", which Muslims believe to be located in Paradise. As for the Indian names, "Amrit Ras" means "immortality juice", "Maha Ras" means "great juice", and "Soma Ras" means "juice of Soma". Later, Soma came to mean the moon. "Ras" later came to mean "sacred mood experienced listening to poetry or music"; there are altogether nine of them. Mansarovar, the "mind lake" is the holy lake at the foot of Mt. Kailash in Tibet, close to the source of the Ganges.

In popular culture

The elixir of life has been an inspiration, plot feature, or subject of artistic works including animation, comics, films, musical compositions, novels, and video games. Examples include L. Frank Baum's fantasy novel John Dough and the Cherub, the science fiction series Doctor Who, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, House of Anubis, the popular manga Fullmetal Alchemist, the light novel Baccano!, and the movie Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva of the popular Professor Layton franchise.

See also

References

  1. ^ Medieval Science, Technology And Medicine: An Encyclopedia, A Glick, T.F., A Livesey, S.J., Wallis, F., Routledge, p. 20 2005
  2. ^ "Tan chin yao chueh – occultism". britannica.com.
  3. ^ Nelly Naumann (2000). Japanese Prehistory: The Material and Spiritual Culture of the Jōmon Period. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 133. ISBN 978-3-447-04329-8.
  4. ^ Nevsky, Nikolai (April 1971). Masao, Oka (ed.). 月と不死 [Tsuki to fushi] (in Japanese). 平凡社. ISBN 9784582801859. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  5. ^ I. K. Poonawala. "ĀB ii. Water in Muslim Iranian culture". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 12 February 2012.

Bibliography

Anqi Sheng

Anqi Sheng (Chinese: 安期生; Wade–Giles: An-ch’i Shêng) was a Chinese immortal and wizard, said to be already over 1,000 years old at the time of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor.

He was said to inhabit Mount Penglai. Anqi was said to have been a Taoist wizard, able to render himself visible or invisible at his pleasure. According to the Daoist hagiography Liexian Zhuan, Qin Shi Huang spoke with him for three entire days (including nights), and offered Anqi jade and gold. Qin Shi Huang feared death, and sought immortality, without success. In 219 BC, he sent an expedition under Xu Fu to find Anqi and to bring him back, along with the elixir of life, which grants immortality or eternal youth. When Xu Fu reported that a sea creature blocked the expedition's path, Qin Shi Huang sent archers to kill it. In 210 BC, Xu Fu continued his journey. Legend says he found Japan instead, proclaimed himself king, and never returned. The Records of the Grand Historian state that Li Shaojun visited Anqi Sheng during his travels. There is no record, however, of where they met or of Mount Penglai itself. In 130 BC, Emperor Wu of Han also sent an expedition to find Anqi, which proved unsuccessful.

Anqi holds an important place in the Taiqing and Shangqing Schools.

Anthony Rother

Anthony Rother (born 29 April 1972) is an electronic music composer, producer and label owner living in Frankfurt, Germany.Rother's electro sound ("Sex With the Machines", "Simulationszeitalter", "Hacker") is characterized by repetitive machine-like beats, robotic, vocoder-driven vocals, melancholy, futuristic mood and lyrics that often deal with the consequences of technological progress, the relationship between humans and machines, and the role of computers in society.

In addition to electro, Rother also composes dark ambient music ("Elixir of Life", "Art Is a Technology"). He has also produced music for Sven Väth and DJ Hell. Currently, Anthony Rother concentrates on the creation of electro house music.

Auriol (novel)

Auriol: or, The Elixir of Life is a novel by British historical novelist William Harrison Ainsworth. It was first published in 1844 in serial form, under the title Revelations of London.

Auriol, written 1844, is slightly unusual in the Ainsworth repertoire as the action is entirely couched as a fantasy, so that the supernatural element (which occurs also, for instance, in his Guy Fawkes and his Windsor Castle) can take comparatively free rein. The story is accordingly a thoroughly gothic romance. It is in effect Ainsworth's contribution to the Faust genre. There is also a distinct connection with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, in the kidnapping of girls theme, and in that the story concludes in the atmosphere of the lunatic's confinement (and possible recovery), and the villain of the story is his keeper. Indeed, the use of the phantasmagorical aspects of the story to create a nightmarish commentary on contemporary society of the 1830s and 1840s anticipates (in the early 19th century) the expressionism of Robert Wiene's Caligari. German interest in English literature of this period is also suggested in the works of Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Rienzi and The Coming Race). Similarly it was John Gay and Dr Pepusch who provided the source-structure in The Beggar's Opera for Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera. There is a characteristic series of illustrations by 'Phiz'.

Banner Theatre

Banner Theatre is a community theatre company based in Birmingham, England. The theatre was founded in 1974.

Chang'e

Chang'e (Chinese: 嫦娥; pinyin: Cháng'é) or Chang-o, originally known as Heng'e, is the Chinese goddess of the Moon. She is the subject of several legends in Chinese mythology, most of which incorporate several of the following elements: Houyi the archer, a benevolent or malevolent emperor, an elixir of life, and the Moon. She is married to the archer Houyi. In modern times, Chang'e has been the namesake of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.

Dantian

Dantian, dan t'ian, dan tien or tan t'ien is loosely translated as "elixir field", "sea of qi", or simply "energy center". Dantian are the "qi focus flow centers", important focal points for meditative and exercise techniques such as qigong, martial arts such as t'ai chi ch'uan, and in traditional Chinese medicine.

Johann Conrad Dippel

Johann Conrad Dippel (10 August 1673 – 25 April 1734) was a German pietist theologian, alchemist and physician.

Moon rabbit

The moon rabbit is a rabbit in Asian folklore who lives on the Moon, based on pareidolia interpretations that identify the markings of the Moon as a rabbit. The folklore originated in China and then spread to other Asian cultures. In East Asian folklore, the rabbit is seen as pounding with a mortar and pestle, but the contents of the mortar differ among Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folklore. In Chinese folklore, the rabbit often is portrayed as a companion of the Moon goddess Chang'e, constantly pounding the elixir of life for her; but in Japanese and Korean versions, the rabbit is pounding the ingredients for rice cake. In some Chinese versions, the rabbit pounds medicine for the mortals. Unrelated moon folklore arising among native cultures of the Americas, also have rabbit themes and characters.

Muhammad Husain Azad

Muhammad Husain Azad (Urdu: مُحمّد حُسَین آزاد‎ — Mọḥammad Ḥusẹ̅n Āzād; 5 May 1827– 22 January 1910) was an Urdu writer who wrote both prose and poetry, but he is mostly remembered for his prose. His best known work is Aab-e-Hayat ("Elixir of Life").

Panacea (medicine)

The panacea , named after the Greek goddess of universal remedy Panacea, is any supposed remedy that is claimed to cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. It was in the past sought by alchemists as a connection to the elixir of life and the philosopher's stone, a mythical substance which would enable the transmutation of common metals into gold.

The Cahuilla people of the Colorado Desert region of California used the red sap of the elephant tree (Bursera microphylla) as a panacea.The Latin genus name of ginseng is Panax, (or "panacea") reflecting Linnean understanding that ginseng was widely used in traditional Chinese medicine as a cure-all.A panacea (or panaceum) is also a literary term to represent any solution to solve all problems related to a particular issue. The term panacea is also used in a negative way to describe the overuse of any one solution to solve many different problems especially in medicine.

Peng Zu

Peng Zu (彭祖, "Ancestor Peng")(篯铿) is a legendary long-lived figure in China. He supposedly lived over 800 years in the Shang dynasty. Some legends say that one year was 60 days in ancient China; that made him more than 130 years old. Others say he was over 200 years old or over 400 years old. Another says he was accidentally left off of the death list in heaven.

Peng Zu was regarded as a saint in Taoism. The pursuit of elixir of life by practitioners of Taoism was highly influenced by Peng Zu. He is well known in Chinese culture as a symbol for longevity, nutrition treatments, and sex therapy treatments. Legend maintains he married more than 100 wives and fathered hundreds of children, as late as in his 800s.

According to the Spring and Autumn period's Guoyu (Discourses of the States), the Han dynasty's Shiben (Genealogy), and the Tang dynasty's Kuodi Zhi (Record of Geography), Peng Zu was the founder of Dapeng and made marquis by the kings of the Shang dynasty.

Philosopher's stone

The philosopher's stone, more properly philosophers' stone or stone of the philosophers (Latin: lapis philosophorum) is a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals such as mercury into gold (chrysopoeia, from the Greek χρυσός khrusos, "gold", and ποιεῖν poiēin, "to make") or silver. It is also called the elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and for achieving immortality; for many centuries, it was the most sought goal in alchemy. The philosophers' stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Efforts to discover the philosophers' stone were known as the Magnum Opus ("Great Work").

Plague! The Musical

Plague! The Musical is a musical with book, music and lyrics by David Massingham and Matthew Townend. It is a dark comedy based loosely on the events of the Great Plague of London in 1665-1666.

Plague premiered in 2008 at The Questors Theatre in Ealing, London before transferring to C venues at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it was named a 2008 sell out show. A new production was performed at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was again performed at C venues with London previews at Upstairs at The Gatehouse.

Plague had its first U.S. Debut October of 2013. Under the direction of Martin Bones, it was performed by the Marble Valley Players, in West Rutland, Vermont at the West Rutland Town Hall.

Under the student-direction of Will Giering, who also starred as The Beggar Lord in the U.S. debut, Plague was performed, again, by Ithaca College in November 2018.

Sisterhood of Karn

The Sisterhood of Karn is a fictional religious cult that appears in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. Residing on the planet Karn, the Sisterhood was introduced in the 1976 serial The Brain of Morbius, and later appearing in the 2013 mini episode "The Night of the Doctor" and the 2015 episodes "The Magician's Apprentice" and "Hell Bent".

They are the guardians and worshippers of the Sacred Flame, which provides for them the Elixir of Life and thus grants them immortality. They are in some way related to, and affiliated with, the Time Lords, the species of which the show's protagonist, the Doctor, is a member.

The Elixir of Life

The Elixir of Life is an adventure module published in 1983 for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game.

Toofani Tarzan

Toofani Tarzan (Typhoon Tarzan/Stormy Tarzan) is a 1937 Hindi action adventure film directed by Homi Wadia. Produced by Wadia Movietone, the film had music by Master Mohammed with lyrics by Gyan Chander. It starred John Cawas, Gulshan, Nazira, Boman Shroff, Chandrashekhar and Dalpat.The film typically had the theme of ‘mad scientists looking for the elixir of life’ as per Rosie Thomas (2005), cited by Gokulsing and Dissanayake and was publicised as ‘India’s first jungle adventure film’ with remakes in the 1950s as Zimbo series.

Warmonger (novel)

Warmonger is a BBC Books original novel written by Terrance Dicks and based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It features the Fifth Doctor and Peri.

It is a prequel to the television serial The Brain of Morbius from Morbius and Solon and the Sisterhood of the Flame's perspective, although it is technically also a sequel as the Fifth Doctor is the main character while The Brain of Morbius featured the Fourth as the central protagonist. Cardinal Borusa also appears.

Wuzhizhou Island

Wuzhizhou Island is located off the coast of Hainan Province, China. This 1.48 square kilometre island is situated within Haitang Bay, approximately 30 kilometres northeast of Sanya, between Nanwan Monkey Island to the north, and Yalong Bay to the south.

Xu Fu

Xu Fu (Hsu Fu; Chinese: 徐福 or 徐巿; pinyin: Xú Fú; Wade–Giles: Hsu2 Fu2; Japanese: 徐福 Jofuku or 徐巿 Jofutsu; Korean: 서복 Seo Bok or 서불 Seo Bul) was born in 255 BC in Qi, an ancient Chinese state, and died between 195 and 155 BC. He served as a court sorcerer in Qin Dynasty China. Later, he was sent by Qin Shi Huang to the eastern seas twice to look for the elixir of life. His two journeys occurred between 219 BC and 210 BC. It was believed that the fleet included 60 barques, around 5,000 crew members, 3,000 men and women, and craftsmen of different fields. After he embarked on a second mission in 210 BC, he never returned.

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