The Sorcerers’ Stone

The sorcerers’ stone features in several of Angelus Silesius’s epigrams in the Cherubinic Wanderer. The stone was a fixture in 17th-century alchemy. As a poet, Angelus spiritualizes the stone to describe the soul’s transformation from lead into gold. God appears as a divine alchemist who uses the stone to purify the human heart, while surrounded by other alchemical devices in His divine workshop.

The poems below are from my recently published translation, The Sorcerers’ Stone: Alchemical Poems by Angelus Silesius. The book presents all of Angelus’s “alchemical” epigrams together. Also present are many of his poems about wisdom. In German, the stone was known as the Stein der Weisen: the stone of the wise or the philosophers’ stone. The connotations in German included the wise man of the biblical Psalms and Proverbs, secular philosophers, and even the “wise men” or magi (magician kings) of the Christmas story. My translation includes all the alchemical and magical epigrams, as well as many wisdom poems.

For updates on forthcoming translations, subscribe to my substack at Logic, Latin, and Literature.

A black and white engraving of Roger Bacon conducting an alchemical experiment

The Sorcerers’ Stone Is Within

Friend, go within yourself.
The fabled Sorcerers’ Stone
is not a thing to seek
in foreign lands alone. (3:118)

The True Philosophers’ Stone

The chemist’s stone is nothing.
The real stone, in my eyes,
is here: my golden tincture,
the Stone of all the Wise. (1:280)

The Best Potion

He is a potion-master
for real, and not a fraud,
who turns his heart to gold
for very love of God. (3:120)

The Gold-Making of the Wise

The wise can alter nature.
They make gold by their art—
and most when virtue makes us
angel-like at heart. (3:208)

Love Is the Sorcerers’ Stone

The sorcerers’ stone is love.
It makes gold out of ash,
turns nothings into things,
and makes us God at last. (1:244)