Many years ago, I sat in chemistry class at school, and held a tube filled with mercury. I felt its weight between my hands, and was fascinated by how it was so heavy and dense, but all the while still flowed elegantly like a liquid. I was not the only one in my class who was so curious about this strange dual natured substance. Many of my fellow students stared at it in trances too, moving the tube around in front of their eyes. But then the teacher went into great detail about its chemical properties, including many atomic details including words such as electron, neutron, and lattice; I quickly lost interest . . . This is not to say that what my teacher was explaining was not of importance, as for many, this would be at the forefront of their interest. For me, however, I was more powerfully captivated by that force within me, the intuition that sparked an inner chemical reaction, as if there was a set of Psychological reactions taking place inside of my brain as I stared. It was this very captivating force that was aroused from my depths that day, that has continued to peak my interest. These moments of captivation are so easily slipped beneath the conscious awareness of the ego, and so easily do they fall back into the unconscious abyss from which they came. But this image, this memory I have just described, this did not slip under the radar, and the fact I am writing about it in great detail now means that on that day in chemistry class, something significant must of happened for that memory to be burnt into my awareness still today.
Without getting too bogged down by the technicalities of the alchemists and their pursuit for gold, what I find fascinating is how Jung and others have stated that the real task of the alchemists was not of the creation of actual Gold in metallic form, but to become gold oneself. For the task of refinement was merely projected into these substances, the spirit of the alchemists, their instincts, their hitherto unconscious processes finally finding form in the substances of the outside. It seems this process of transference from inside the unconscious to a metal of the earth breaks the tension of the two opposites, and makes something real, binding it in the light. Or in my case staring into mercury, binding it into my memory. It seems by means of refining metals, they were making light of the transformations happening inside of their own selves, which by matter of harmony between inside and outside, created light inside, and further increased that alchemists awareness of the collective unconscious, and therefore they became wiser, more individuated, and more aware of their own true nature.
So why mercury? What is so special about mercury? Why was I so captivated by this?
Mercury is of two natures. It is both liquid and solid. It is both masculine and feminine. It is light and dark. Mercury is the beginning and the end. It is in itself the spirit in matter, and the matter that encapsulates it. Mercury can help, or can hinder. It is both good, and evil. Mercury Is the dragon of chaos that endlessly chases its own tail.
For this, Mercury can be seen as a trickster. It is more accurately seen as a transformational image of change, rather than ever being pinned down by any one state. Mercury is the function that could be seen as something akin to a phoenix, a process that is in all things, and both destroys and creates things. Mercury can summon demons, or it can summon angels; it will bring forth any spirit necessary, simply to cause a reaction that leads to change.
So it seems when I stared at that substance of mercury in that test tube, the archetypal process, that is, the one that allows transformations to occur, was triggered within me, reminding me that what I am looking at is something akin to a value in the form of a molecule. It is for this reason, that when looking into that tube, the first time I had ever truly seen mercury, that the sight seemed so familiar to me; as if I had seen this style countless times before. For mercury is only one expression of this form, and one may dream of mercury, or an Ace of clubs, or a burning phoenix, or a snake upon a cross; any of these the unconscious may use to express the same archetype.
So, if we accept mercury as something akin to the “Spirit of change and transformation”, then what happens if change is strongly resisted? If mercury is not allowed to do its job? Or perhaps what would happen if it is not even being acknowledged and celebrated as a vital ingredient to the development of human consciousness?
A good culture has the duty to nourish and encourage positive change in its people. This is generally done by a culture having tales and myths it tells its people to help them find their place, and find purpose in how to construct their lives. All good mythologies contain the fundamental forms of the collective unconscious, so as to remind people of the bedrock truth of our nature, and help us become a little more conscious of what lurks beneath the surface, so as to be above the lower levels of consciousness of animals. This mythological story telling, is in a way a form of alchemy. The telling of dream like tales (myths and fairy tales) to an awake individual, will in its own way, be a type of mercury, or a sort of trickster. For it is the myth that is half material, and half spirit. So if we see mercury as an archetype that is expressed in different forms throughout cultures; Christ, in Christianity, or perhaps the symbol of Yin Yang in Buddhism: What happens if we lose our understanding of this phenomenon?
The tale of Christ being crucified, with all its connotations, is in the very least an extremely powerful symbol of magic that promotes change. A man is hoisted up between four, and is spread apart, tortured, forced to accept the pain of our sins. Sin, being the lack of positive change, as sin is to miss your target. We could even see this image of the crucifixion as an amazingly accurate symbol for transformation, as it not only captures the nature of being hoisted in between the opposites, but also expressing the pain that always comes with this process, as without pain, or reaction, there can never be any transformation.
If, then, we accept by matter of alchemical principle that mercury is the essential ingredient required for change, what happens if we take away this ingredient? It would be like a society with no redeeming ability, no bedrock to form anything from, no Prima Materia (prime matter)to decay the old, and rebirth the new. Without this mercury, we are stuck like lead, fixed, heavy, dense, and unable to transform towards gold. This archetype I am describing is personified in myth in Saturn, and lead is in fact the metal that Saturn is correlated with for this reason. So what happens to this image? This image bursting at the seams to let its presence be known in the light, yet simultaneously never showing its face in any obvious way as is the way with mercury; being so allusive and snake like by its very dual nature. Energy cannot be destroyed, it is either focused consciously, or projected unconsciously by simple way of nature.
So now we have mercury trapped, trapped within the dense material of lead, and with our modern eyes that have so much keenness for material, we only see the lead, but not the mercury that lives within it.
Saturn, a six lettered word, the sixth planet from the sun, the planet with a six sided shape at its pole (hexagon), has trapped us within its rings. Isn’t it sad that our consciousness has been trapped within its rings? Is it not this beastly planet that keeps us locked in a cycle of madness, looking everywhere and anywhere but inside. If we are ever to transcend, we must loosen our fixation on just material, and realise form and spirit are linked. Where there is one, there is the other. But for now, this understanding is one sided and trapped in our collective shadow. It is down there, but it lies in the darkness, wishing with all its essence only to be seen and loved. But oh, Saturn’s rings trap it, and that is the work of Satan. I struggle to not notice how Satan and Saturn could not be linked, by mere nature of the two word’s similarity, there must be a connection.
But I will not ponder too much on this for now, but instead we must ask ourselves – How does this image of mercury project if it is not being related to symbolically? Every neurosis must transfer its energy in some way to consciousness. The difference between a neurosis and a healthy integration is by matter of it being contained and grounded in consciousness by means of a form strong enough to contain the spirit. The symbol of Christ, is in my opinion a symbol powerful enough to capture the spirit of mercury, and for this, this acted as the vessel for it for two thousand years. But all forms eventually decay as they go through the cycles. And it seems the form of Christ has been leaking spirit slowly over time, like an isotope with a decaying half-life; yet the warmth we once received from this has been coming to an end, and its holy radiation is now no longer providing what it once did. The question then poses if this form can evolve to again capture the spirit, and the opposites can once again reunite and activate our relating function with it, and therefore reintegrate this ultimate value into the collective consciousness.
But for now, this is not the case.
The conservative ones still maintain their celebration and relation with this image, and they still reap the fruits by means of psychological health. Yet as the generations go by, and like Chinese whispers, the image continues to lose its meaning, the inevitable of a neurosis forming has become more and more likely, for more and more people. It seems now that the complex for a lack of relation has started to take the form of Demons, and possessions. If this form cannot find grounding in any earthly symbol or conscious representation, it will filter through the rings of Saturn, forced to lose its true essence, and therefore becomes twisted, deformed, perverted, and a caricature of its true form. I will not spell out how this is happening in modern society, but one just needs to look at the most modern cultural phenomenon’s with there conflation of the opposites, to see how this deformity of mercury is starting to possess individuals in the form of the literal flesh. People now no longer know whether they should be solid (masculine), or more liquid (feminine). They desperately try to capture this by making changes to their physical forms, but this will always be futile, as the flesh cannot exist like mercury, for it is the flesh, and only the flesh. This phenomenon only works in either higher dimensions, or at the very least inside us on a spiritual level. The modern and the unindividuated will feel this complex, and they will desperately feel something is not being satisfied within them. They feel in their culture that there is no representation for what they feel bubbling over inside of them. They know something is not right, and for this they allow a projection to occur and to find grounding in the only way society is providing, that being ideology.
It may be obvious to those not captured by this energy that what we are seeing is insanity, but what we must understand is what we are seeing is merely a symptom of a deeper cultural problem. The problem, ultimately, in my eyes, is a lack of providing our people with an image that helps them relate to Mercury, the image that binds all life together into wholeness, the image that communicates what is now is also tomorrow, and tomorrow is now. The image that says “I am the alpha and omega”. Without us at least trying to pin down this elusive element, we will be forever lost and in circles. We will desperately cling to old forms, or we will desperately try to create new ones.
Until we pin down the prime matter of life, we will have neither the sufficient matter, nor spirit; as we will lack the bridge that binds them both together.