Solve et Coagula

The Alchemist (detail) by Andrea Aste

Solve et Coagula is the preeminent axiom and Great Work of alchemy. It means “dissolve and coagulate,” the process of breaking something down and recombining it into a purer and better form – think the caterpillar and butterfly, for example. Tarot, especially Chrysalis Tarot, is spiritual alchemy, as is yoga, chakra clearing, meditation and Dark Night of the Soul shadow work, plus many other disciplines as well.

The painting (left) by Andrea Aste, multimedia artist, master alchemist and tarotist, depicts an alchemist – a laboratory scientist – in search of the goal of all early alchemists: the quest for the illusive Philosopher’s Stone, believed to be a substance that can transform base metals into solid gold. It’s called a “stone” because the mysterious substance is impervious to fire.

Perhaps from alchemy’s earliest days, or certainly from its recent past, this metaphysical art was recognized as an allegory for spiritual development. In this formulation, “Solid gold” is analogous in Chrysalis to the Higher Self and in other esoteric traditions as ascension, enlightenment or illumination, etc. Psychologist Carl Jung termed the alchemical process in humans, individuation – the fulfillment of one’s personal destiny or full potential.

We shall concern ourselves here, however, with a macro approach: the art of alchemy in world affairs and regard the Philosopher’s Stone as the agent of substantive societal change – as an agent of creative destruction, if you will. Spiritual alchemy, we assert, may be applied to the macro (humanity) as well as to the micro (a human being): by changing ourselves we change the world.

At this juncture, we might well veer off into some oblique, nevertheless interesting direction chasing a mosaic of esoterica and legend associated with Solve et Coagula: Hermeticism, Ancient Egyptian and Greek mysticism, Theosophy and Thelema, The Golden Dawn, Anthroposophy and Rosicrucianism, among others. Along the way we might expect to meet interesting people like Madame Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley or Hermes Trismegistus.

But of particular interest and relevance to this blog, we will instead choose to introduce occult scholar and artist Eliphas Levi (a pseudonym) along with his most maligned creation, Baphomet the Sabbatic Goat. This rather hideous looking art/creature serves today as an unofficial sigil and egregore for the destructive phase of the Aquarian paradigm shift now shaking the foundations of civilization like a Biblical earthquake.

You might immediately recognize Baphomet as the inspiration for the “Devil” card art in the Rider-Waite tarot deck. As you likely know, there is no “Devil” card per se in Chrysalis Tarot. We spurn the devil as imaginary, not as an existential reality, although the reality of evil in our world is indeed omnipresent often palpable: We have met the Cosmic Boogeyman and he is us. You might also notice the word “Solve” on Baphomet’s right arm and “Coagula” on its left, which evince Baphomet’s relevance to this thesis.

It is said that Levi was among the first to assign good and evil attributes to the pentagram symbol, which adorns his Sabbatic Goat’s head. The pentagram in this case points up and, according to Levi, is therefore good. Chrysalis considers a pentagram simply a symbol of the five elements, namely fire, air, water, earth and spirit, and revered by all ancient cultures primarily as a symbol of yin-yang balance or of the Sacred Feminine. Levi himself regarded Baphomet overall as primarily a symbol of balance – the equilibrium of opposites – and vigorously asserted that his image merely depicted the god/idol worshipped by the ancient Knights Templar.

Levi’s magnum opus is titled The Great Secret: Or Occultism Unveiled. He has been described as both the keeper of the hermetic tradition and the absolute renovator of esoteric thinking in Europe in the 19th century.

An association of evil with macrocosmic alchemical change does seem appropriate; there must be an agent of objectionable destruction (“solve”). The Hindu goddess Kali (left), for example, personifies in Chrysalis Tarot the cleansing energy of creative destruction as she restores balance to one’s life or the world. In other words, creative destruction appears to be the preferred cosmic procedure to usher in first-order change; examine the last 100 years of world history!

The “solve” phase, as we noted, is the destructive phase. On a seemingly daily basis we witness dark evil forces of destruction all around us: moral deprivation, incivility, divisiveness on par with barbaric tribalism plus institutional rot in both church and state, to name but a few. Callous destruction of a prevailing social order surely implicates evil. Even worse, this evil often comes cloaked in puffed up pomposity espousing ludicrous moral superiority. Frankly, it’s the conventional lust for power and control – truly satanic.

On an individual basis, the only effective way to mitigate destructive evil in the world is for the spiritually minded to increase dramatically their output of positive energy and raise their individual self-awareness; to have faith and believe in the metaphysical weight of both spoken and written word. It’s essential in efforts to raise individual awareness that we stay well informed of current events so to avoid becoming infected with a mass psychosis mind virus (a diabolical egregore).

Critical thinking requires cognitive dissonance and evokes self respect. The globalists, many of whom literally and admittedly mean to destroy Western Civilization, appear determined to replace liberal democracy and liberty with Marxist totalitarianism and tyranny. These destructive evildoers, some known, most unknown, are godless peddlers of fear and falsehood who are celebrated and encouraged daily by the corrupt corporate media.

We wrote extensively and presciently of this paradigm shift in the Chrysalis Tarot Companion Book: “Change is always stressful. On the magnitude of an age-ending paradigm shift, the changes we will face pose challenges no one alive today has ever faced. In fact, change of this magnitude last happened well over 2,000 years ago. Chrysalis Tarot was created in 2014 for this transition to the Age of Aquarius, not so much for the present Age of Pisces. It was designed to help endure and make sense of the turmoil of transition.” On the bright side, I believe the Aquarian Age presages a quantum leap in the evolution of human consciousness.

Referring to the Four of Spirals (left), artist Holly Sierra’s favorite card, we noted: “When paradigms shift and worldviews change, the adjustments bring about the difficult process of clearing. Clearing energy is one of the subtle energies the Four of Spirals symbolizes in a reading. It is the same renewing energy encountered at an organized spiritual retreat that encourages self -emptying. We call this multi-layered clearing energy regathering. Small, like-minded groups from all over the planet are regathering to celebrate the passion for truth and change.” You may be part of one.


The Zodiac divides The Great Year into the 4 elements (Fire, Air, Water and Earth). Each element contains 3 constellations or ages and each of these 12 ages lasts approximately 2,160 years (the precession of the equinoxes is imprecise). Accordingly, we are now on the cusp of the Age of Aquarius. By my reckoning, the now concluding Age of Pieces likely began around the time the Maccabees restored Jewish rule to the Holy Land c.141 B.C. for the first time since the Babylonians! Jewish rule in the Holy Land, considered by many to include the Axis Mundi, set the stage, so to speak, for Jesus and the Piscean Christian Era, symbolized by the fish.

© Toney Brooks, 2022

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