Solve et Coagula

The second chapter of Chemical Serpents is titled “Eggs and the Androgynous Child”, carrying the general theme of serpent symbolism from the previous chapter into its relation to eggs, their offspring and serpent-like mythic beings, with specific reference to the Philosophers Egg, the Cosmic Egg, the Monas Hieroglyph, and the figures of the Androgyne, Baphomet, N’Aton and Sophia.

Roman Caduceus

At this stage I would like to point out the smaller illustrations I created to accompany the entire text. Each image is different but unified with the others by being contained within a golden egg. The egg theme also extends to the full page images, which each reference eggs and form egg shapes within the image. To me, the egg is a powerfully spiritual symbol. It is a cocoon in which disparate elements merge and transform into a unified whole. It is a protective shell of limitations within which we grow and from which we transcend. It is a womb for body, mind, and soul. It is our flesh, our ego and our assumptions, the very limits of our being. That which defines, confines, changes, dissolves and becomes something else. It is the point and the circumference, an emblem of creation entwined with destruction, wholly symbolic of life itself.

Solve Et Coagula
Solve Et Coagula © 2012 Janice Duke

Solve et Coagula means “divide and unify”. This is the maxim of alchemy, an enduring symbol of which we find in the image of the androgyne. This symbol appears in many alchemical illustrations as a two headed body with male and female halves divided left and right, often associated with the sun and the moon. This illustration takes some inspiration from images of the left-right androgyne from bronze age Mesopotamia, featuring a bearded male half facing the sun (the conscious ego), and a female half facing the moon (the unconscious), each associated with a serpent. I also allude to Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet, with the raised male arm bearing the symbol for Aries as a reference to solve, Aries being associated with the energy of Mars (the planet to which he points) and so division and destruction, while the female arm pointing down bears the symbol for Taurus, associated with the loving and unifying energies of Venus (the planet to which her other arm is raised in blessing), and so referring to coagula. This embodies the idea that to ascend is to divide in the abstraction of the ego and to descend is to unite in the embodied present of the here and now. These gestures also refer to the alchemical formula of “as above, so below”. We are part of the all and the all is part of us.

This union, of the above and the below, the one and the all, the male and the female, the dark and the light, the conscious and the unconscious, of all dualities, creates the hermaphrodite (from Hermes + Aphrodite) in the centre, a symbol for the “first”, “perfect” or “complete” human, associated with the Gnostic embodiment of the world soul. This is the androgynous child to which the chapter refers. To me, this is symbolic of the produce of a fully individuated consciousness, that is, an individual that has delved into their own inner divisions, unified within themselves and from this birthed a new and distinct psyche, distinguished by its inner completeness. It is united in itself, as an expression of the fabric and structure of existence, yet divided by the very fact of its being a unique facet of this.

The androgynous child is the awareness of the self as one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, of the self as an avatar of the all. This gives it a fractal quality, as consciousness experiences itself through countless and diverse forms. The egg in which it sits, in a posture of meditation, is made of the four elements, distinct and unified, with fire at the centre, the symbolic purifier and element of the will and the spirit. The kundalini serpent emerges from the fire at the base of the child’s spine, forming the foundation of a golden path into the heavens, where we find Mercury, wise and magical messenger of the gods, pouring down the light by which the child is crowned.


  1. […] illustrations for it concerning threes and trinities. You may have noticed that the first chapter, the second and this one, concern the one, then the one becoming two, and now the three, or the two becoming […]

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