Hermetic/alchemical meditation

3. Solve et coagula

In this series of elementary meditative exercises, no special postures are required but that in which one is most comfortable, nor are any special breathing rhythms used. Meditation should be undertaken when one is not too tired, and the best situation is probably lying down in a quiet, nearly dark, room, and it is essential to have privacy and no possibility of being disturbed.
All these exercises begin with the Philosophic Egg or retort meditation, described in the first issue, which leads one into an inner meditative space. Within that space, we shall perform short exercises, and then close the meditation with the retort exercise reversed, that is leading one out of the inner space back to normal consciousness.
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Solve et coagula

Perform as an opening the Retort meditation until one stands within the inner space of one's being. For this Solve et Coagula technique, one takes any symbol, to start with simple forms, (though this meditation can be applied to working with any symbol), for example the triangle of Salt-Sulphur-Mercury, the Three Principles.

One begins at the Coagula phase, constructing the symbol in a hardened, coagulated manner. One might, for example, picture the triangle being made out of wood, say, with the three symbols for Salt, Sulphur and Mercury, carved or painted at the vertices, or better still, with a pile of ashy salt, liquid mercury and glowing sulphur at these points. Allow one's inward imagination to construct the symbol as you will, but pictured in a hardened, solid form, rather than in an abstract way. One will find that ones ability to concentrate on constructing and perpetuating this image in imagination is limited, but as one feels this concentration relaxing, one begins the Solve phase.

This consists of raising the imagined solid symbol into a more abstract form, letting one's consciousness naturally flow towards the experience of the symbol in high abstraction. One could, for example, picture a series of triangles radiating out from the hardened solid original image, into the depths of cosmic space, carrying one's consciousness with them, until one stands in a threefoldness, within the triple space of the archetypal nature of the three principles.

This Solve state cannot be held for long and one must descend from this world of pure form into the reconstruction of the symbol in solidity - coagulated. Allow one's being to repeat and recycle this process as often as one's inner resources permit, one can end on either phase but the after resonances in the soul will be very distinctive of this closing phase.

These two phases of the experience of a symbol in the inner world, begin to play into one another through the course of such meditative exercises, and one begins to build a bridge between form and substance in the creation of a symbol. The Solve phase extracts the essence, the inner life of the symbol, the Coagula phase provided a foundation for the form, keeping it true. This is a most important meditative technique and we shall use it often in future exercises where we shall use it to explore the nature of various alchemical symbols.