Solve et Coagula

Solve et Coagula

Solve et Coagula is the alchemical process of “dissolve and congeal.” This is a very interesting metaphor for me, since I’ve been discussing the Metaxy, this idea of a middle-region between opposites. I came across this alchemical notion again in the past few days and really connected with it.

Some alchemists believe that Soul can become disconnected and lost. It can either be trapped in matter or it can be so high in the ethereal that it is totally ineffectual. Their answer, in the form of their art, is to dissolve the dense and literal substance into something more gaseous (spirit or mind). This is equivalent to matter giving up a part of itself. Then, the gaseous is worked upon so that it condenses, thus giving up its part. This middle-region between these two processes is Soul. Arnold de Villa Nova (1235-1313) wrote,

For the solution of the body means the coagulation of the spirit and vice versa; each gives up something of its own nature; they meet each other half way, and thus become one inseparable substance, like water mixed with water.

This is, of course, akin to the Gnostic belief that the soul is trapped in the material body and that only gnosis could free one from this evil.

Someone who is lost in the materialistic world is a good example of Soul being trapped in dense matter. Someone else might be aloft in an ivory tower with high-minded ideas of Utopia. This extreme idealism would be an example of the incorporeal substance that needs to be more concrete, or congealed. Soul is born in the middle. The Metaxy is a kind of uterine fluid which brings forth a new creation.

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