There has always been a close relation between mysticism and philosophy, the extent of which cannot be understood unless the examiner takes it very personally to search for it. The point is not to search for it as one procures a mathematical answer for purposes of intellectual satisfaction. This can only be done as an exercise in personal freedom. Otherwise, the answer will not be found, and yet another case of the blind leading the blind will spring into existence.

Now, a fair warning and disclaimer. The subject of this article is – precisely – the philosopher’s stone, the holy grail, the substance of which Spinoza spoke, the ├╝bermensch of Nietzsche’s, that out of which everything is made. So, words don’t quite express concepts with any perceivable specificity. As far as Lao Tzu was concerned, this was important enough to be put in the first sentence of his Tao-Te-Ching. Goes something like this, in translation as poor as the translator’s Chinese: the Tao that can be Tao’ed (means told) is not the eternal (or real) Tao. Then, after explicitly expressing the impossibility of ever writing about the real Tao, this man wrote a long book about it.

On the same note, I could bring up Walt Whitman, the man who clearly contradicts himself in the poem called “Song of Myself.” For a poet, however, to contradict oneself is no big deal, as is the case with mystics. After all, they’re just writing for the sake of being mystical or poetic. There’s no real requirement for mathematical precision or a philosophical conclusion of any sort. Sure, some mathematicians refer to some equations as being elegant and beautiful, but who understands those geeky nerds’ notions of beauty and elegance? Surely, there must be a line to be drawn somewhere. Surely we must be able to protect poetry and mysticism from mathematics and philosophy.

Fortunately, that is not the case. Put under scrutiny, all distinctions are quick to disappear.

Take the philosopher’s stone as a simple example, and don’t bother looking it up on Google, because I’ll spell it out right here right now. The philosopher’s stone was supposed to be made of the substance alchemists could use to transmute lead into gold. A careful reader of the old texts will always see the same themes coming up again and again, under all of the signs and secret notations. The brute metal becomes transformed under prolonged exposure to the purifying fire and contact with the philosopher’s stone. But why is it called the philosopher’s stone instead of the alchemist’s stone? Well, let’s bring in Descartes to help us on this one.

Descartes was and still is mostly famous for it’s simplistic affirmation known as the Cogito: Cogito, ergo sum; I think, therefore I am. I could extend myself and write for hours about this single sentence, but let’s get straight to the point: what is Descartes looking for here? What is the philosophical difficulty Descartes is trying to respond to by evoking this particular operation that denotes causality? Simply put, he needs to start somewhere. He needs a starting point, a stepping stone, out of which his philosophy can be built. No solid start means no philosophy.