Solutio Or Dissolution
Solutio not only connects us to the energies of Water, but it also serves to complement and harmonize the energies of Fire. If Fire symbolizes primordial, archetypal energies, Water alludes, among other things, to the subconscious energies of the Astral World that we must learn to access if we want to learn to communicate with the various parts of our consciousness.
Strong emotions, such as deep personal losses, feelings of despair or isolation, melancholy, or depression, are usually processed (or solved) through water and dissolution. Any time when anything solid feels or seems scattered, it signals that some kind of dissolution is at work. Edinger reminds us that for the alchemist, solutio often meant the return of matter to its original undifferentiated state of prima materia. But, every time we dissolve and coagulate, we hope that we are not starting from scratch again. Solutio allows us to liquefy or dissolve the rigid and static parts of the personality that resist change. Dennis Hauck notes that alchemists believed that salt in tears was the actual remnant of crystallized thoughts broken down by crying (see The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation). I also find that the element of Fire, just like Air or Water, leads to a state of solutio. Anything that dissolves, brings forth essential qualities that assist in a transmutation and coagulation, becomes an agent of solutio. Sometimes anger burns up into a purgation that allows us to move forth with our lives, just like tears can, or just like words (element of air) help clear the air and allow change to occur.
The picture below, left, from Osho Zen is called “Ice-Olation” and shows golden tears melting the ice figure, hinting already at the resulting transformative nature of solutio. Next to it, on the right, we find a very beautiful interpretation of solutio that completely changes the traditional Hanged Man, assigned to Key 12 in most decks, and its iconic meaning. Instead, Ellen Lorenzi-Prince gives us the image of a crone, a simple title, “Sacrifice,” and a simple poem:
I am the Woman Who Weeps
I am the soul who suffers
I bear all wounds
I cry for the beauty that exists
in spite of pain
I cry for the pain that exists
in spite of beauty
I cry for us all
It will be enough
I should also point out that in the classical Hermetic tradition Key 12 is also assigned to the Hebrew letter Mem, “water,” and its allegorical meaning is “fountain of wisdom.” Lorenzi-Prince gives us a powerful rendition of how the transformative power of solutio can become this fountain of wisdom and gives her Crone a biblical, cabalistic dimension
Some of the personal challenges that are dissolved through water do not necessarily have to be expressed in despair and melancholy or undergo a complete dissolution and reintegrationof the ego. Pictures like the two above also reflect an activation of the subconscious that might not be viewed by the ego as a direct threat.
There is usually a stage in our soul progression when we actually “get it” and from that point onwards we start to dissolve many irritants or egocentric propensities from a perspective of joy and peace, incorporating rituals that serve to cleanse us through our personal identification with the purification effects of water, as suggested here on the right with the Three of Water from the Osho Zen Tarot.
The Two of Air, left, from the Vision Quest Tarot is a great example of how the element of Air (mind, thoughts, communication) can be both alchemical solutio and coagulatio. Notice the water, the two hands holding the feathers is harmony; the moon watching silently This card could indicate in a reading that two ways of thinking, or some kind of conflict or polarity has been resolved, or at least brought away from nigredo or mortification or fermentation, and into potential harmony and balance. The card is called "Inner Peace," implying rest from inner strife.