I suspect this is one of those points that I will keep returning to, again and again, as long as I care to think about geomancy. When we look closely at the way in which the signs operate in relationship to each other, we can see in Populus a richness that we can only explore by surrendering our preconceptions about what we will find and what we will become. This is going to be a little ragged around the edges and that’s part of the point, too.
This sort of approach takes as a given that there is a dimension to creation, found in its purest expression in subjectivity, that is defined less about its inherent order than by its capacity to become orderly and yield order. Sitting at the forked path where Rene Descartes and Anne Conway part ways, it follows Anne Conway. The world isn’t without spirit, in part because we see so clearly around us that the world is full of things that, while different, are not alien to our spiritual nature.
(As an aside, let me say that it is a touch sad that I only learned of Anne Conway in a philosophy course I took in high school, at the local community college. An all but dissertation education in philosophy, at an esteemed historically-minded program, and I never heard her name again in the academy walls. Her work is very much in the vein of spiritualism.)
I have sometimes heard the motto ‘Solve et Coagula’ defined as analyze and recombine, but from this perspective the solve is more radical. Rather than analyze (a process that deploys quite existent categories), though, we can see in the figure of Populus the call to discover new categories and forms. The solve encompasses not just the material but ourselves and the coagula (undertaken under the auspices of Via) invigorates new forms of spirited life in which we are entangled and transformed.
Here, I can’t do much better than quote Sun Ra on the problems of mere analysis:
“The world as it is today is the result of the possible that they did…so now there’s something else, there’s always something else in a universe as big as this.”
Oh, heck, here’s the whole interview, which is well worth your time. Pay attention to the switch-up where he talks about rights for other kinds of beings. It may sound like a strange tangent, but it leads to this gem:
“I don’t know of any country that has rights for angels.”
The rights of angels and extraterrestrials…that concern carries with it the impulse of Queen Saturn and her love for the world.
Also, look at the glimpses of the performances we get between the interview. This is much bigger than just a musical style. Sun Ra is drawing out bits of (alien-angelic) life and realizing them in the mixture of music.
When we talk about the geomantic process in light of dissolving new forms from creation, we are moving from an ‘objective’ scientific-chemical understanding of alchemy toward a salvatory poesis rooted in liberation rather than analysis and generation rather than recombination.
A practice like this, rooted in exploration rather than explication, has plenty of dangers. The solve et coagula can go wrong, realizing toxic mixtures and trapping us in painful forms. The dangers are rarely total and even when we find ourselves in terrible realizations, the work can be continued and the situation dissolved and remade again.
All this points back to a vital sort of artistic impulse which often gets lost in an obsession with correct form and competency, which are audience impulses. While you need to develop a form as a way, as a means to perform the solve et coagula, too often we get stuck in the idea of what the results ought to look like or how they ought to be put to use, when the real question should be how well they serve to get us out into the wild line where the magic happens.
Let me conclude with an odd juxtaposition:
“Occultists who seek Gurdjieff’s inspiration in Sufi or Tibetan teachings should look closer to home. The greatest influence on this latter-day shaman may have been a twentieth-century theory of acting….
Perhaps training actors was the real aim of Gurdjieff’s ‘work.’ As he said: ‘Everyone should try to be an actor. The aim of every religion, of every knowledge, is to be an actor.’…Gurdjieff’s awakened human being could only be an actor in a script written by someone else….an automaton, controlled not from within but by another human being.
…Stanislavsky knew better. ‘When he has exhausted all avenues and methods of creativeness an actor reaches a limit beyond which human consciousness cannot extend…only nature can perform the miracle without which the text of a role remains lifeless and inert.'”—John Gray, Straw Dogs (133-34)
Only nature…but consider that this nature includes our daemons, angels, faeries, ancestors, wizards, and witches. Not by our own will, but by joining with one that transforms our own, does the work unfold. Solve the human will, coagula into another.