The greatest work of an artist, writer, or composer
is often called their “magnum opus,” a Latin term
meaning “the great work.” Less known is that this
term was originally used by alchemists to describe
the search for the philosopher’s stone, a universal solvent
that would facilitate the transmutation of lead into gold.
Alchemists abandoned their 2,000-year search for
the philosopher’s stone shortly before the American Revolution.
“Magnum Opus” was then adopted by artists to refer to any
work that transmuted lesser (leaden) thoughts and emotions
into higher (golden) thoughts and emotions.
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