The following passage is a study on the planet Mercury and its true essence. It belongs to a series of articles that link astrology and esoterism, and aim at clarifying and correcting terms and views that have been distorting both astrology and esoterism for a number of years.
In traditional astrology, Mercury identifies with mercury, communication, information, the nervous system, speech and mental ability. In mythology, it is the winged God: cunning, inventive, able but unreliable at the same time. It is the deity who – in embodying it – illustrates best the contrast between the human and divine element. It is the patron of thieves, but also mankind’s first teacher in Knowledge and magic. It is often represented as the hermaphrodite messenger of the Gods, while its statues at crossroads proclaim it ‘road-pointer’ to the right but also the wrong course. All these sketch Mercury’s astrological meaning.
However, in our opinion, identifying Mercury with mental ability is not entirely accurate. Its position in a natal chart mainly describes (according to traditional methods of interpretation) the way that a person expresses himself. A person’s thinking faculty and his perception in general are traced throughout the chart, with an emphasis on the 3rd-9th house (Gemini – Sagittarius) axis. For example, Mercury in Gemini could indeed speak of a hyperkinetic and inventive person; nevertheless, the issue of intelligence would not end there. Intelligence also depends upon the position of the Sun and the Moon, as well as the element that colours them (water, air, earth, fire). Moreover, a man could polarize his thinking through another dominant planet in the horoscope, such as Mars or Venus.
Next, it appears that the majority of horoscopes present a ‘restrictive’ element pertaining to perception. For example a 9th house Mercury trine Jupiter and Saturn, which is considered ‘strong’, could be in an aquatic sign that would mentally restrict it but enhance its intuition. Even if we find Mercury perfect in aspect and position, we will often come across other restrictions, such as Saturn squaring the ruler of the 3rd house. These restrictions always hold a decisive meaning because they function as the horoscope’s regulators, potentially withholding certain abilities in exchange for a more expansive mental constitution. This is why we often meet smart and quick-witted people that lack depth of thought, or the opposite.
However, only the esoteric meaning of this planet will reveal his true stature hidden behind the usual astrological interpretations. To begin with, Mercury is it who neutrally transmits all information. It is indifferent to everything and mechanistically adaptive.
Aleister Crowley writes:
“It must here be remarked that because of his complete indifference to anything whatever (and that thought is -- when you get far enough -- only a primary point of wisdom) he is entirely unreliable. One of the most unfathomably dreadful dangers of the Path is that you must trust Mercury, and yet that if you trust him you are certain to be deceived. I can only explain this, if at all, by pointing out that, since all truth is relative, all truth is falsehood. In one sense Mercury is the great enemy; Mercury is mind, and it is the mind that we have set out to conquer.”
Here exists the antithesis it holds as a planet, and the shades that colour it during its course along the zodiac. This antithesis is adequately explained if one realises its actual and higher function, although it is very difficult to approach due to the planet’s fine and fragile nature.
Essentially, this planet represents the energy in between conditions. If Mars is a centrifugal force, the beginning of the pathway to individualisation, and Venus is the centripetal force of Love on man’s way to the Sun – as a symbol of consciousness, then Mercury is the condition that intervenes between Mars and Venus. The energy between Empedocles’ “love and strife”. Plato mentions in his Symposium that the philosopher stands between God and man, searches for knowledge he knows he lacks. Namely, philosophy is tension, an intermediate state between knowledge and ignorance. It is also ‘love’, and from this point view, Mercury – philosophical mercury – expresses ‘love’s' energy as the “Third force” of the religious and philosophical triadic system.
In Dervish orders, the Master is called ‘Dervish’, a word that derives from ‘Hermes’ and means intermediate – mediator. It actually refers to the “Observer within”, and the state of “observing one’s self” – the fragile and tender energy – state of Consciousness that meditation practitioners often arrive at. Namely, the sacred state of “Attention” followed by “Next Attention”, in Gurdjieff’s words. It is the point when the dove or Divine Grace descends!
Let’s not forget that Yoga means union. Thus, Mercury is Yoga itself, as well as its object! In addition, it is the bridge between ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’. In buddhism and the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” it is the ‘bardo’ state, i.e. the few moments in the void between sleep and the other sleep that people call ‘wakefulness’, between life and death. From there, a properly prepared disciple is launched into higher levels of consciousness. Mercury's ability as a psychopomp is explained precisely here!
The word ‘conscious’ – and consequently ‘consciousness’ – originally derives from the Latin conscious, where con- means ‘together’ and scire ‘to know’, and signifies the simultaneous existence in two levels, the merger and fusion of two separate worlds into a third state of presence. It furthermore indicates an underlying cognitive object within man, which turns him into the subject of his own observation!
One may find valuable notes and deciphering of symbols in The Spirit Mercurius, Jung’s chapter on Mercury in his Alchemical Studies.
At this point, it is worth meditating on the planet's relationship with the ultimate philosophical and scientific question of all time - one that assumes new dimensions after the discovery of the D.N.A helix (Caduceus): the enigma of consciousness’ birth from matter. It is true, that in some esoteric paths – such as the one Gurdjieff called “The Fourth Way” – the most fundamental principle for a disciple is to discover the existence of the principle per se! Such a thing requires that the seeker possess a mighty Mercury – guide within, who will lead him safely through wild and deceptive pathways.
The 'intermediate state’, ‘bardo’ and ‘next attention’ – despite all efforts at a detailed description - will only be truly comprehended by those who achieved a personal physical experience through overexertion and ‘skill’, and of course ‘Divine Grace’, and will remain dark secrets for the uninitiated and all who remain at profane, rough and crude mental approaches.
Harry Potter is given the incomprehensible instruction to wait at platform 9 ¾ in order to take the train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; neither at platform nine, nor at ten, but at platform nine and three quarters, whereat he finds himself after a truly inspired - although apparently unreasonable – act of launching into a wall in the space between, transferring himself to the right place, and at the same time, onto the covetable path of Knowledge, in search of the Philosopher’s Stone.
Translated by Evangelia Tsavdari
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