The other day, I was reading Ouspensky's "The Symbolism of the Tarot" over at the Sacred Texts web site (www.sacred-texts.com). In the section "What is the Tarot", he used the word "problem" in a sentence that shed new light on an old question of mine.
Regarding the study of IHVH, he said "The study of this Name (or the four-lettered word, tetragrammaton, in Greek) and the finding of it in everything constitutes the main problem of Kabalistic philosophy."
He wrote in 1913, and his use of the language is different from my own. When I say I have a problem, I don't usually think about it as a good thing, or as a subject of research. I think of "Problem" as something that's bad, negative, something that is impeding my ability to enjoy life. In Ouspensky's mind though, a problem is the central core of a philosophy.
It got me thinking about how philosophy is a solution to a problem. When you have a problem, you try to solve it, and that got me thinking about the old alchemical axiom, Solve et Coagula.
I've tended to think about the process of Solve et Coagula as the process of breaking apart a conglomeration into its individual parts, refining it, and bringing the parts back together as a new and better whole. That's how the Great Work has manifested for me. But to the Solve stage, you must first recognize on some level that there is a problem that needs to be solved. What's my problem? What is it that I'm trying to solve?
The goal of "reuniting with God" is the solution to being separated from God. I've understood for a long time that the separation is only one level of existence, and that ultimately no one is separated from God. Through the Logos, the way back to Union and communion with the Divine was paved. So my problem isn't that I'm not united with God.
I perform the Great Work because I want to be a better person. I want a stronger character, I want to pass on a legacy of doing the right thing for my fellow incarnate beings to my children and grand children. I want to help people, and not be a selfish, lazy, ungrateful man. My problem is that I do the wrong thing instead of the right thing.
At any given moment, I have a pool of energy I can draw on to do something. I can go for a walk, give money to the poor, or insult some moron who cut me off in traffic. The potential for whatever I do is always there.
How that energy manifests is determined by what I decide to do. My decisions are influenced by my impulses towards selfishness, and how I'm going to make myself happy in the next moments. I'm a conglomeration of parts, some parts of me want to do the right thing, others jsut want to do the lazy thing. The way I make my decisions is heavily influenced by these component parts. The parts of myself that have control over my energy resources, my potential determine what I'm going to decide to do with my potential in any given moment, in any situation.
The solve process is where the component parts are melted down, and the imputities are taken away. The Great Work is to get rid of the negative components, and allow the positive components to dominate the decisions, to control the manifestation of the potential I carry.
So what is the Great Work? At this point, it's a series of little problems that need to be Solved and Coagulated. Each of my "High Magic" rituals need to be focused on resolving the problems in my character that I'm made aware of through the Conversations with my HGA. There are areas of ignorance about the roles of the archangels I need to Solve. There are problems of the heart, mind, and spirit, each of which will need to be addressed, and in the process, perhaps the greater Work will be accomplished.