Friday, February 26, 2010
ARCHETYPAL PROCESSES IV: Mercury – CREDO C
Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think.
– De la Rochefoucauld.
Neither the Sun nor the Moon is a planet. The Sun is a star and the Moon, a satellite of the Earth. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun and its process is communication. Venus, the next planet, rules relating. The Greeks called them Hermes and Aphrodite. Both of them are situated between the Earth and the Sun.
The archetypal Mercury, alas, is reduced visibly today to delivering flowers and his caduceus to the symbol of the medical profession, but his process is ubiquitous in our bodies and the entire world of opposites and connections; above all it introduces the role of comedy and humor. The process points above all to duality, and the symbol of the sign it rules is II, Gemini. A more grounded sign it also rules is Virgo. If one looks carefully at the visible figure, Hermes has a winged helmet to symbolize thought. We have a two-fold brain, a two-fold nervous system, and our thoughts are quicker than his archetypal mimic, Mighty Mouse! His feet are also winged, indicating the speed of thought, and he holds the potent symbol of the caduceus, the staff holding the entwined serpents, topped by a star and a dove by the alchemists. The caduceus seems to bear a prophetic resemblance to DNA and the chakra system. The process also rules the hands and fingers. I remember a time when I was waiting for a delayed train with my ten-year-old daughter Jennifer. We used the time to count the number of ways one could use the hands to communicate! We were up to 75, including waving, saluting, clapping, vowing, pointing, scolding, tootling, etc., and had we included the hand signing for the deaf … well, you get the idea!
In the outer world, the process appears above all in the written word in all its forms and, you might not realize that writing was invented during the Age of Gemini, appearing in Egypt as hieroglyphics and Sumeria as cuneiform, and history began! History enables one generation to communicate with another. However, Mercury does not rule such recent things as the Internet, nor does Venus rule television. These are ruled by the higher octaves of Uranus and Neptune, discovered only two centuries ago.
In mythology, the oldest story, the Epic of Gilgamesh, recounts the dramatic taming of a wild man, Enkidu, the evolving friendship of the hero Gilgamesh, and their adventures, and points to the tragic ending of the realization that death awaits us all. When we read this together in a ninth-grade class, some of my students were in tears! Many of the motifs in the Epic are repeated in the Hebrew Torah and Genesis in the Old Testament. Abraham came originally from Sumeria.
What this pair of friends starts is the motif of the archetypal “twins” of buddies in human culture. My Dictionary of Mythology has at least three pages of them! Castor and Pollux, David and Jonathan, Balim and Balor, Roland and Oliver, down to Max and Moritz, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, et al! These latter also point also to the role of humor, of comedy, jokes, puns, and even punctuation marks. Take the sentence Lydia is a good woman. Then contrast it with Lydia is a “good” woman. Note the “ ” are wee Geminis!
The metals associated with the original group are telling: Sun/gold; Moon/Silver; Venus/copper; Jupiter/tin; and Saturn/lead. Only Mercury is mercury, not only not a solid nor a liquid but also a toxin. To identify with intellect alone can be toxic, indeed. I think I have already shared the only time I dreamt anything in Latin. It was Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum, but the dream added ergo scio Deus est! I think therefore I am, says he, and I am told therefore I [can] know that God is! I woke up stunned and asked Walter to write it down, which he kindly did.
So Mercury alone is in the middle, connecting them all. He is both asexual and hermaphroditic. As a positive archetype, uniting the opposites, making two into one – the zipper going up! – he is the psychopomp (love that word!) or Leader of Souls, but going down, making two out of one, he is the Trickster or worse, the Devil. Even today, cartoons convey this archetype as wickedly humorous, with horns and tail, a corruption perhaps of Pan. I remember looking forward, as a child, to his appearance in the puppet show in the park in Paris. In the Middle Ages, his antics seemed to prove that the harder he tried to be bad, his actions turned out to be good in the end. His favorite word was ‘No!” as Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust tells us point blank: Ich bin der Geist der stets verneint. “I am the Spirit that ever denies!” (Perhaps he was a Republican!) He also bemoans when asked who he is, by replying: Ein Teil von jener Krafft die stets das Boese will und stets das Gute schafft. “I am part of that force that always wills evil, and yet ends up creating good!”
In my The Beejum Book, Lonesome, the rabbit guide, is always given to saying “now and then,” “up and down,” “here and there.” Mercury is familiar in many contemporary figures such as the Roadrunner, Wiley Coyote and their equivalent; he is a fixture in every culture’s mythology: the Norse Loki, the Hindu Ganesh, even Til Eulenspiegel is a German archetype.
For heavy duty evil, we look to Pluto/Hades, yet both names in Latin and Greek mean “riches.” This is the wealth implicit in the alchemical nigredo, the black shit, as it were, that like manure in time can fertilize growth on many different levels.
We have witnessed just recently the morality play of the golfer Tiger Woods as a Prodigal Son. Whatever you may think, I truly believe his remorse is genuine.
Dorothy L. Sayers, the detective story writer, was also an Oxford Inkling and friend of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and that group. Few realize that she was also a theologian, and a Gemini, to boot! She authored one of my favorite quotes:
The fires of hell are the flames of God’s love rejected.
Posted by IonaDove