(v) The Broken Sword Glyph

The Caduceus is an alchemical symbol. Read from the base upwards, the imagery illustrates the process of solve et coagula (dissolve and coagulate): breaking a thing down into its constituent parts before bringing it back together in a more exalted state. In other words, alchemical transformation.

First comes solve, dissolution, represented by the separating of the two snakes at the base of the symbol. This leads to various stages of preparation: rising up through the bodies of the snakes as they entwine or spiral around each other – divided yet also interconnected – until the elements reach maturity at the heads. There follows the process of coagula, coagulation: bringing the elements back together again in a new unity, as represented by the wings.

Alchemy is commonly defined as the process of transforming base metals into gold; true alchemy is an inner transformation, in which the outer process is symbolic for inner change.

In psychology, the term 'analysis and synthesis' describes the same process – mentally breaking a thing down into it parts, before bringing those parts back together to arrive at a better understanding of the whole.

How does the symbolism already explored fit into this model?

Could it be telling the story of a specific alchemical process: a process of analysis and synthesis within the World Mind?

As a starting point, consider the universe as one great Mind constantly evolving. Is it possible that the evolution/creationism debate is the middle stage in a process of analysis and synthesis within the one Mind?

With all the symbolic elements woven together, an interpretation unfolds as follows:

The Broken Sword Glyph is a pictorial representation of the one hundred and forty-seven year “packet of time” between November 22, 1859 and November 22, 2006.

The release of Origin marks the starting point. From that moment on, the argument over the origin of life on Earth follows two distinct schools of thought: a spiritual origin of mankind versus a biological/physical origin.

At the extremes: militant Darwinism which excludes the idea of a spiritual dimension to the world; pitched against fundamentalist creationism, which takes all that Bible stuff just a little too literally and discounts the validity of biological evolution.


November 22, 1859 isn’t literally the day on which the evolution/creationism debate suddenly begins, just as November 22, 2006 isn’t literally the day on which the process reaches its conclusion; they are symbolic markers.

Evolutionism and creationism: two schools of thought snaking their way through time, evolving and being refined, circling each other to create a spiral dance of entwined energies stretching down through the years.

The two trains of thought develop and evolve until November 22, 1963 when Huxley, Lewis and Kennedy die.

Huxley on the side of science, Lewis on the side of faith, Kennedy in-between. Three men who die on the same day, three men symbolically connected to the union of the spiritual and the physical, three men who almost – but not quite – bridge the Abyss.

The Abyss is the point at which the Sword is broken. In the case of the symbolism surrounding JFK, this is Excalibur, symbol of Camelot, the Divine Will of the King. With the breaking of the Sword, the Will has faltered and the kingship fallen. The death of Kennedy represents the “failure” of the Will of the King to bring the two strands – spiritual and physical – together.

However, it only appears to be a failure: in reality, it is a specific point in an ongoing process of planetary evolution.

Robert Bly suggests that many people projected their undeveloped Inner King onto Kennedy. It follows that Kennedy’s death forces people back on themselves – no longer able to rely on an external figurehead to carry their hopes and dreams, they have to turn within. They have to find their own Inner King.


The assassination of JFK had an enormous impact on the world stage. Robert Bly is among a number of authors to touch on the symbolic or psychological implications of the event. Another is Robert Anton Wilson who, in Cosmic Trigger, suggests that when Kennedy was shot, “something died in the American psyche.”

Wilson offers a symbolic interpretation of JFK’s death when he writes:

Camelot died; the Divine King had been sacrificed.

He is alluding to what Kennedy represented symbolically to the nation. Kennedy the man was clearly flawed but Kennedy the symbol, especially after his death, was a different matter. His administration became known as Camelot, evoking ideas of a golden time of hope, adventure and optimism. When Kennedy was shot, the nation was taken through a powerful symbolic initiation. Wilson suggests that the American people “were caught suddenly in the midst of a Frazer-Freud re-enactment of archetypal anthropological ritual.”

Wilson fails to expand upon the significance of the Divine King (or explain what “a Frazer-Freud re-enactment of archetypal anthropological ritual” actually means) but this is the very point at which Kennedy’s death takes on symbolism completely in line with the emerging theme, for it is the role of the Divine King to stand poised between Heaven and Earth and to bring the two realms into union.

The Divine King is a powerful archetype common to many mythologies, from the ancient Mayan tradition to contemporary Christianity, and whose function is to act as a bridge between the world of the physical and the world of the spirit.

From one perspective, the fall of the Divine King marks the breakdown of this union; from another, it marks a sacrifice – raising the event to mythic proportions. The event passes into the wider consciousness and takes on a profound symbolic dimension.

It is no accident that around the same time, a great expansion of cultural awareness is gathering momentum in the West.


One purpose of any initiation is to shock the system into preparing for something new to arise. What seems like a loss can often be a clearing of the ground, ready for new growth. In the history of Western Civilisation, 1963 was a remarkable year both culturally and politically. It was in this year that the Civil Rights Movement took centre stage in American politics, marked by Martin Luther King’s famous I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and by John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address in which he called for civil rights to become a moral rather than legal issue. (A shift from head to heart.) 1963 also saw the last in a series of government reports on gender inequality and the publication of Betty Friedan’s influential The Feminine Mystique, both events raising the profile of women’s rights and causing many social commentators to cite 1963 as the year that the feminist movement really got off the ground. Not only in secular areas was the old system challenged: in 1963 the US Supreme court ruled compulsory Bible reading in public schools to be unconstitutional; the year also saw the foundation of the American Atheists organisation.

Culturally, a new wave was sweeping the nation. It was in 1963 that Bob Dylan released Blowin’ in the Wind, Sam Cooke wrote and recorded A Change is Gonna Come and Harvey Ball invented the Smiley Face icon.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the day after Kennedy’s death, the first episode of the BBC series Doctor Who was broadcast on British television and it could be argued (for those who care to analyse the symbolism of Doctor Who in any great depth) that with this shift, the archetype of the Divine King had retreated back across the Veil and re-entered the realms of mythology and imagination.

Sam Cooke’s sentiments were right: a change was coming to the west. 1963 was the year that Beatlemania took off on both sides of the Atlantic and the counterculture movement gathered momentum, bringing with it sexual revolution, widespread questioning of authority, the anti-war movement, an increased focus on environmentalism, and an interest in the spirituality of the East, which spoke of compassion, self-awareness, and the unity of all things.

The old regime reacted against this change, highlighting the age-old conflict between authoritarians and libertarians. It is the same conflict William Blake describes in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and proclaims to be the fundamental root of disharmony in the world. Reason versus instinct, conformity versus individuality, the repressive “right” versus the permissive “left”: all are variations on a theme. The phase the world is going through at the moment is a struggle to find a resolution to this conflict: to find wholeness.

True wholeness, both individually and collectively, will come from understanding the dynamics involved. It will come when reason and instinct are no longer at odds with one another. Symbolically speaking, wholeness will come when the Sword is reforged and harmony restored.

There follows a period of synthesis culminating in a new understanding. We are now above the abyss, where all opposites are reconciled.

The Broken Sword Glyph depicts a problem, but within the problem lies clues to its solution. Something is broken and calls out to be whole again. The king is lost, but that which is lost can be rediscovered.

At the highest point of the glyph lies the sphere known as the Crown, our connection to Source. The story of the Glyph suggests the time is ripe to reforge the divine Sword, reclaim our Crown, and awaken the Inner King that exists within each and every one of us.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
JRR Tolkein