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" One touch of nature

makes all the world kin "

William Shakespeare

Solve et Coagula

January 23rd, 2008

In working with spiritual ideas it seems to me that we need to both elaborate and distill essential ideas and beliefs.

We need to elaborate them by teasing apart and ‘unpacking’ apparently simple statements to explore their depth and allow their potential to blossom like flowers. And yet we also need to distill all the teachings we receive, all that we read and come to know – to achieve clarity, and to help steer ourselves through life. A while back I tried to make a distillation of various key ideas about life, and spiritual development in particular, that I’ve just unearthed in my notes and I thought I’d share them with you. If you can think of other ‘distillations’ I’d love to hear them:

The source of Life is pure limitless love.
You are meant to be here. Life is meaningful and your life has a purpose.
All religions and spiritual paths are leading towards the same goal. You can choose to follow an already established path, or you can choose to create your own path out of a combination of ideas and methods from different paths.
At the heart of the spiritual life is the search for wisdom and compassion. You need to actively seek these qualities. You can relax and have fun too, but you do need to work at the Quest.
Seeking personal fulfilment isn’t enough. Spirituality isn’t just self-serving – it’s about being of value to other people and the world too. You can make a difference.
These are critical times – the Earth and humanity face challenges they have never faced before. These challenges offer great potential for you to learn and grow and give. You don’t need to worry about these challenges, but you shouldn’t ignore them either.
The world is more mysterious and magical than you can possibly imagine. You are not alone.
None of this belongs to you, but that is very cool.
You are whole and you are free. Only sometimes you think or feel you are not.
You are the creator of your destiny. The more you understand about how life works the more you can be of use to yourself and others.
You create your reality, but other people help create it too, just as you help to create their reality. We’re in this together.
Everything is connected.
You need to learn how to be focussed, and how to develop goals, and you need to learn how to let go, how to be open and relaxed and unattached.
Your heart knows. Deep down you know where you should be headed, and what you need to do. Spiritual practice can help you hear the still small voice of your heart so that you can follow your bliss.
You don’t need to wait to do any of this. Life isn’t a rehearsal. This is it. Be here now.

8 Responses to “Solve et Coagula”

  1. This is a very profound activity, but I’m not sure where to start to be able to do this myself. Do you start with a “deep” seed thought, or do you try to distill everything you’ve ever experienced, learnt, been taught?

  2. Hi David,
    The idea is to get to the ‘bare bones’ of all that you have learnt, or think you know or believe. One way to do this is to imagine you are about to die or go abroad forever and you are trying to convey the essential guiding ideas you feel are necessary to life to your son or daughter – or loved one. Or that you are alone on a desert island with a sheet of paper and a pen. Rather than leaving a note that says ‘Bugger!’ with the last few ounces of your strength you write down key ideas for whoever will find it. All easier said than done I know!

  3. Hi Philip,
    Reading this today was important to me, reminding me of things I know, forget, know again, forget, but KNOW. I seem to have such a conflict between my personality, wounds, circumstances on an outward level and what my heart and soul knows. To put it all into practice is the big one. My mind plays games depending on whats going on within and outside of me.
    I have a book I write into, asking questions to my Higher Self, then answering them from that place. I love the state I am in when I do this, then I get on with life as if that state is a million miles away. But I know I can go to it again.
    My pain, and its a big one, is witnessing the world as it is, knowing how it could and shoud be, feeling helpless to really do anything about it, but carrying on anyhow. Somewhere, I truly do remember my pristine origins from the Divine. Friends, true friends, remind me of this and we remind them, too. thank you for the reminder today.

  4. Oh I dunno – I quite like the idea of my bemused relatives gathered round a crumpled post-it note upon which, written in pencil, the word ‘bugger’.

    Joking aside, I have sat here wondering what best encapsulates my own nugget of wisdom and came up with Life Is What You Make It.

    Not the 1980’s track by Talk Talk…..although feel free to let the chorus loop in your brain for a bit.

    I’ve wasted a lot of time mooching around hoping that Life would reveal The Thing that I was destined for. And it never happened. So, I just set my compass towards something that I loved doing and set about trying to incorporate it into my life whenever possible. And it is working.

    It’s not perfect, but it’s better than moping around like some consumptive poet hoping for Something to turn up. As I was.

    Mind you – could probably still fit ‘Bugger’ and ‘Life’s what you make it’ on the same yellow post it note. Might use them both 🙂

  5. Solve et Coagula is summed up very well by your piece. It also is the basic premise of alchemy.
    The combination of Love and Wisdom (solve et coagula?) is something that I’ve had in my mind for a few months now. I suppose it is epitomised by the Sages.
    I feel that there is wisdom behind the erection of stone circles, standing stones etc but what we could give them now is a vivifying love to help complete the Sacred Round.
    I’m trying to think of a glyph to sum up the idea of love and wisdom but nothing comes to mind as yet. Do you have any ideas?

  6. I do this regularly with my (and others) dreams. Each and every element that appears in a dream is a symbol, an archetype, which needs decoding, and then the overall gist of the dream needs then to be rebuilt from these unpicked elements.

    I base my method on a chapter on dreams in a book “Stone Age Wisdom” by Tom Cowan. It is a detailed process, but really illuminating and from it we can deduce a huge amount about our inner lives, which run just under the surface of our outwardly looking lives.

    I have made many changes in the right direction after desolving and coagulating my dreams in this way.

  7. Alison – yes there would be something rather satisfying in leaving the world with a post-it with just one word on it!
    Louise – Summing up in words is something I find much easier than summing up in visual terms. You need a more right-brained person for that! I once met someone in New Zealand who specialised in working with workshop facilitators. She stood to one side of them, and as they spoke she would create visual representations of what they were saying on a chart beside them.
    TH – Tom Cowan writes beautifully. I must look at that book – and yes the process of distillation and elaboration works very well with dream-work

  8. At this point in my life, I think that one of mine would be to trust in life’s constant change. Life is that ever moving flow (even in what feels like total stagnation somethings seems to bubble away, hidden) and I am starting to realise that the trick is to find an at homeness at the heart of that constant movement. I have struggled with this one, the traumas of old losses making me fearful of that eternal shedding and embracing, and yet it has been those very losses that have challenged me to realise the importance of opening to this process. I have been blessed to make my home on an island known for its erosion, and it has been here – where the constant flow of life communicates itself so powerfully in the releasing of coast to ocean and in landslips that reshape and resculpt – that I have begun to feel truly safe. It feels quite an amazing paradox. This beautiful Island has taught me that at the heart of this dance of death and rebirth, there is true belonging; that in movement there is constancy. Life never stops surprising you.

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