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Fabulous Fairy Tales for children and adults. From our vast collection of old traditional fairy tales and fables.

The Philosopher's Stone - Part 1

FAR away towards the east, in India, which seemed in those
days the world's end, stood the Tree of the Sun; a noble tree,
such as we have never seen, and perhaps never may see.

The summit of this tree spread itself for miles like an
entire forest, each of its smaller branches forming a complete
tree. Palms, beech-trees, pines, plane-trees, and various
other kinds, which are found in all parts of the world, were
here like small branches, shooting forth from the great tree;
while the larger boughs, with their knots and curves, formed
valleys and hills, clothed with velvety green and covered with
flowers. Everywhere it was like a blooming meadow or a lovely
garden. Here were birds from all quarters of the world
assembled together; birds from the primeval forests of
America, from the rose gardens of Damascus, and from the
deserts of Africa, in which the elephant and the lion may
boast of being the only rulers. Birds from the Polar regions
came flying here, and of course the stork and the swallow were
not absent. But the birds were not the only living creatures.
There were stags, squirrels, antelopes, and hundreds of other
beautiful and light-footed animals here found a home.

The summit of the tree was a wide-spreading garden, and in
the midst of it, where the green boughs formed a kind of hill,
stood a castle of crystal, with a view from it towards every
quarter of heaven. Each tower was erected in the form of a
lily, and within the stern was a winding staircase, through
which one could ascend to the top and step out upon the leaves
as upon balconies. The calyx of the flower itself formed a
most beautiful, glittering, circular hall, above which no
other roof arose than the blue firmament and the sun and
stars.

Just as much splendor, but of another kind, appeared
below, in the wide halls of the castle. Here, on the walls,
were reflected pictures of the world, which represented
numerous and varied scenes of everything that took place
daily, so that it was useless to read the newspapers, and
indeed there were none to be obtained in this spot. All was to
be seen in living pictures by those who wished it, but all
would have been too much for even the wisest man, and this man
dwelt here. His name is very difficult; you would not be able
to pronounce it, so it may be omitted. He knew everything that
a man on earth can know or imagine. Every invention already in
existence or yet to be, was known to him, and much more; still
everything on earth has a limit. The wise king Solomon was not
half so wise as this man. He could govern the powers of nature
and held sway over potent spirits; even Death itself was
obliged to give him every morning a list of those who were to
die during the day. And King Solomon himself had to die at
last, and this fact it was which so often occupied the
thoughts of this great man in the castle on the Tree of the
Sun. He knew that he also, however high he might tower above
other men in wisdom, must one day die. He knew that his
children would fade away like the leaves of the forest and
become dust. He saw the human race wither and fall like leaves
from the tree; he saw new men come to fill their places, but
the leaves that fell off never sprouted forth again; they
crumbled to dust or were absorbed into other plants.

'What happens to man,' asked the wise man of himself,
'when touched by the angel of death? What can death be? The
body decays, and the soul. Yes; what is the soul, and whither
does it go?'

'To eternal life,' says the comforting voice of religion.

'But what is this change? Where and how shall we exist?'

'Above; in heaven,' answers the pious man; 'it is there we
hope to go.'

'Above!' repeated the wise man, fixing his eyes upon the
moon and stars above him. He saw that to this earthly sphere
above and below were constantly changing places, and that the
position varied according to the spot on which a man found
himself. He knew, also, that even if he ascended to the top of
the highest mountain which rears its lofty summit on this
earth, the air, which to us seems clear and transparent, would
there be dark and cloudy; the sun would have a coppery glow
and send forth no rays, and our earth would lie beneath him
wrapped in an orange-colored mist. How narrow are the limits
which confine the bodily sight, and how little can be seen by
the eye of the soul. How little do the wisest among us know of
that which is so important to us all.

In the most secret chamber of the castle lay the greatest
treasure on earth- the Book of Truth. The wise man had read it
through page after page. Every man may read in this book, but
only in fragments. To many eyes the characters seem so mixed
in confusion that the words cannot be distinguished. On
certain pages the writing often appears so pale or so blurred
that the page becomes a blank. The wiser a man becomes, the
more he will read, and those who are wisest read most.

The wise man knew how to unite the sunlight and the
moonlight with the light of reason and the hidden powers of
nature; and through this stronger light, many things in the
pages were made clear to him. But in the portion of the book
entitled 'Life after Death' not a single point could he see
distinctly. This pained him. Should he never be able here on
earth to obtain a light by which everything written in the
Book of Truth should become clear to him? Like the wise King
Solomon, he understood the language of animals, and could
interpret their talk into song; but that made him none the
wiser. He found out the nature of plants and metals, and their
power in curing diseases and arresting death, but none to
destroy death itself. In all created things within his reach
he sought the light that should shine upon the certainty of an
eternal life, but he found it not. The Book of Truth lay open
before him, but, its pages were to him as blank paper.
Christianity placed before him in the Bible a promise of
eternal life, but he wanted to read it in his book, in which
nothing on the subject appeared to be written.

He had five children; four sons, educated as the children
of such a wise father should be, and a daughter, fair, gentle,
and intelligent, but she was blind; yet this deprivation
appeared as nothing to her; her father and brothers were
outward eyes to her, and a vivid imagination made everything
clear to her mental sight. The sons had never gone farther
from the castle than the branches of the trees extended, and
the sister had scarcely ever left home. They were happy
children in that home of their childhood, the beautiful and
fragrant Tree of the Sun. Like all children, they loved to
hear stories related to them, and their father told them many
things which other children would not have understood; but
these were as clever as most grownup people are among us. He
explained to them what they saw in the pictures of life on the
castle walls- the doings of man, and the progress of events in
all the lands of the earth; and the sons often expressed a
wish that they could be present, and take a part in these
great deeds. Then their father told them that in the world
there was nothing but toil and difficulty: that it was not
quite what it appeared to them, as they looked upon it in
their beautiful home. He spoke to them of the true, the
beautiful, and the good, and told them that these three held
together in the world, and by that union they became
crystallized into a precious jewel, clearer than a diamond of
the first water- a jewel, whose splendor had a value even in
the sight of God, in whose brightness all things are dim. This
jewel was called the philosopher's stone. He told them that,
by searching, man could attain to a knowledge of the existence
of God, and that it was in the power of every man to discover
the certainty that such a jewel as the philosopher's stone
really existed. This information would have been beyond the
perception of other children; but these children understood,
and others will learn to comprehend its meaning after a time.
They questioned their father about the true, the beautiful,
and the good, and he explained it to them in many ways. He
told them that God, when He made man out of the dust of the
earth, touched His work five times, leaving five intense
feelings, which we call the five senses. Through these, the
true, the beautiful, and the good are seen, understood, and
perceived, and through these they are valued, protected, and
encouraged. Five senses have been given mentally and
corporeally, inwardly and outwardly, to body and soul.

The children thought deeply on all these things, and
meditated upon them day and night. Then the eldest of the
brothers dreamt a splendid dream. Strange to say, not only the
second brother but also the third and fourth brothers all
dreamt exactly the same thing; namely, that each went out into
the world to find the philosopher's stone. Each dreamt that he
found it, and that, as he rode back on his swift horse, in the
morning dawn, over the velvety green meadows, to his home in
the castle of his father, that the stone gleamed from his
forehead like a beaming light; and threw such a bright
radiance upon the pages of the Book of Truth that every word
was illuminated which spoke of the life beyond the grave. But
the sister had no dream of going out into the wide world; it
never entered her mind. Her world was her father's house.

'I shall ride forth into the wide world,' said the eldest
brother. 'I must try what life is like there, as I mix with
men. I will practise only the good and true; with these I will
protect the beautiful. Much shall be changed for the better
while I am there.'

Now these thoughts were great and daring, as our thoughts
generally are at home, before we have gone out into the world,
and encountered its storms and tempests, its thorns and its
thistles. In him, and in all his brothers, the five senses
were highly cultivated, inwardly and outwardly; but each of
them had one sense which in keenness and development surpassed
the other four. In the case of the eldest, this pre-eminent
sense was sight, which he hoped would be of special service.
He had eyes for all times and all people; eyes that could
discover in the depths of the earth hidden treasures, and look
into the hearts of men, as through a pane of glass; he could
read more than is often seen on the cheek that blushes or
grows pale, in the eye that droops or smiles. Stags and
antelopes accompanied him to the western boundary of his home,
and there he found the wild swans. These he followed, and
found himself far away in the north, far from the land of his
father, which extended eastward to the ends of the earth. How
he opened his eyes with astonishment! How many things were to
be seen here! and so different to the mere representation of
pictures such as those in his father's house. At first he
nearly lost his eyes in astonishment at the rubbish and
mockery brought forward to represent the beautiful; but he
kept his eyes, and soon found full employment for them. He
wished to go thoroughly and honestly to work in his endeavor
to understand the true, the beautiful, and the good. But how
were they represented in the world? He observed that the
wreath which rightly belonged to the beautiful was often given
the hideous; that the good was often passed by unnoticed,
while mediocrity was applauded, when it should have been
hissed. People look at the dress, not at the wearer; thought
more of a name than of doing their duty; and trusted more to
reputation than to real service. It was everywhere the same.

'I see I must make a regular attack on these things,' said
he; and he accordingly did not spare them. But while looking
for the truth, came the evil one, the father of lies, to
intercept him. Gladly would the fiend have plucked out the
eyes of this Seer, but that would have been a too
straightforward path for him; he works more cunningly. He
allowed the young man to seek for, and discover, the beautiful
and the good; but while he was contemplating them, the evil
spirit blew one mote after another into each of his eyes; and
such a proceeding would injure the strongest sight. Then he
blew upon the motes, and they became beams, so that the
clearness of his sight was gone, and the Seer was like a blind
man in the world, and had no longer any faith in it. He had
lost his good opinion of the world, as well as of himself; and
when a man gives up the world, and himself too, it is all over
with him.

'All over,' said the wild swan, who flew across the sea to
the east.

'All over,' twittered the swallows, who were also flying
eastward towards the Tree of the Sun. It was no good news
which they carried home.

'I think the Seer has been badly served,' said the second
brother, 'but the Hearer may be more successful.'

This one possessed the sense of hearing to a very high
degree: so acute was this sense, that it was said he could
hear the grass grow. He took a fond leave of all at home, and
rode away, provided with good abilities and good intentions.
The swallows escorted him, and he followed the swans till he
found himself out in the world, and far away from home. But he
soon discovered that one may have too much of a good thing.
His hearing was too fine. He not only heard the grass grow,
but could hear every man's heart beat, whether in sorrow or in
joy. The whole world was to him like a clockmaker's great
workshop, in which all the clocks were going 'tick, tick,' and
all the turret clocks striking 'ding, dong.' It was
unbearable. For a long time his ears endured it, but at last
all the noise and tumult became too much for one man to bear.

There were rascally boys of sixty years old- for years do
not alone make a man- who raised a tumult, which might have
made the Hearer laugh, but for the applause which followed,
echoing through every street and house, and was even heard in
country roads. Falsehood thrust itself forward and played the
hypocrite; the bells on the fool's cap jingled, and declared
they were church-bells, and the noise became so bad for the
Hearer that he thrust his fingers into his ears. Still, he
could hear false notes and bad singing, gossip and idle words,
scandal and slander, groaning and moaning, without and within.
'Heaven help us!' He thrust his fingers farther and farther
into his ears, till at last the drums burst. And now he could
hear nothing more of the true, the beautiful, and the good;
for his hearing was to have been the means by which he hoped
to acquire his knowledge. He became silent and suspicious, and
at last trusted no one, not even himself, and no longer hoping
to find and bring home the costly jewel, he gave it up, and
gave himself up too, which was worse than all.



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