Mercury and Pluto
In Greek mythology the god Hermes (the Roman Mercury) was shown carrying a caduceus — a symbolic object representing a rod around which two serpents are intertwined. This Mercury symbol has been appropriated by the medical profession, which uses it as its emblem because Mercury had a good deal to do with healing processes and indeed with many other things. The Greek god was in part the errand boy for the great ruler of the sky, Zeus-Jupiter. Mercury was also unpredictable and full of mischief. In astrological symbolism it represents the mind, and particularly the intellectual processes and the memory function.
What is "mind"? To this question many answers have been given, and an early book by the American philosopher, Charles Morris, is entitled Six Theories of the Mind. Basic theories they are, yet they do not entirely cover the field of the human mind, and still less satisfactory are they in their brief mention of the superhuman planetary, cosmic or divine mind.
Mercury's symbol, the caduceus, gives us a very significant answer, for it represented for the initiated thinker of antiquity three currents of energy which are said to be linked with man's spinal column. One of these currents is straight and passes directly through the center of the vertebrae, from the coccyx to the lower part of the cranium — in India known as Sushumna. The other two currents winding like serpent convolutions around the first were called Ida and Pingala.
These three currents were expressions of the basic relationship between the pelvic sacral region (man's "seat of power") and the hind brain, center of the instinctual life energies of the human body. The hind brain region contains especially the hypothalamus, a large complex of nerves which apparently control the pituitary body — the endocrine gland which in turn controls all other endocrine glands, thus the basic functions of the body.
Hindu yoga (particularly Hatha yoga which deals with body postures, breath control and the cleansing of the entire organism) is essentially a technique for inducing a controlled activation of these above mentioned spinal currents of energy. It aims at withdrawing from the trunk of the body and its vital organs the vital force (prana) which these organs use in their normal functioning — then the yogi raises and condenses it in the central region of the brain.
This is not the place to discuss the complex yogic process which, traditionally, must only be attempted under the watchful eyes of a clairvoyant teacher (guru). I spoke of it only as a basis for the statement that "mind" is essentially a transformation and transmutation of the vital energies of the physical organism of man. His transformation takes place in the course of the natural and normal present-day process of human evolution according to a twofold rhythm represented by the Ida and Pingala currents in constant and cyclic interrelationship. But the transformation can apparently be accelerated under the conscious control of the human will, and the energy locked in, or latent within the base of the spine (coocyx region), can be made to ascend in a straight line through the activated and fiery Sushumna current. This induces certain high and transcendent states of consciousness, the highest of which is called samadhi, or spiritual illumination, or again "liberation."
The caduceus of the god Mercury tells all this and more to the initiated, and the graphic symbol used in astrology to represent the planet nearest to the Sun, source of all energies, is evidently an abstract condensation of the caduceus — even though it may also be interpreted in different but related ways. One may say, for instance that this Mercury symbol,is constituted by the symbol for Taurus, the zodiacal sign of productivity, surmounting a cross. This would suggest that mind Mercury arises as the productive force (Taurus) born of existential crises (the cross).
One could also see in the Mercury symbol the gylph of the planet Venus with a suggested lunar crescent above it, or perhaps it is not really a lunar crescent but simply an extension of the Venusian circle extending and opening itself up to a downflow from the sky.
Indeed the pituitary body, which is found back of the center of the eyebrows, has often been spoken of as the "third eye," and is supposed to be "ruled" by the Moon and, in a sense, to be like a cup ready to receive the "living waters" of the descending spirit.
All these possible interpretations constitute somewhat different ways of referring to the development of the mind, for this development represents, symbolically speaking, the extraction of the quintessence of truly vital and value-revealing personal experiences — a quintessence represented by Venus. Venus. is fundamentally the capacity in man to give meaning and value to personal experiences. Mercury takes this meaning and value, records them in the brain tapes of memory, relates them to other records, classifies, abstracts and generalizes, and as a result a mind unfolds its latent powers.
Out of the Venus flower and fruit the Mercury seed is born. And the seed is "immortal" — that is, it does not decay with the rest of the plant at the close of the year's cycle, and it contains at its throbbing, core the potentiality of a new life-cycle. The seed is the agent of the whole biological species; only within this seed can mutation occur.
The seed is the agent of an entire species. This statement is profoundly important, and it gives us the clue to the relationship between Mercury and Pluto, These two planets have some unusual characteristics in common, mainly their elongated orbits. They both essentially refer to the mind, but while Mercury is mind within an individual person, Pluto is basically the mind of the human species — and more than this, the mind of the planet earth. This is so because the function of humanity is to extract consciousness out of earthly experiences of trillions of living persons and of thousands of cultures born, maturing and decaying on all continents during many, many millennia.
As we already saw, Pluto is really a servant of the galaxy while Mercury, so close to the Sun, is the messenger of Jupiter as this largest of all planets relates itself to the Sun. The closest and most remote of the known planets, Mercury and Pluto, provide an interesting and significant fact, in that the mind and its foundation, the nervous systems, are in a sense the factors most closely involved in man's awareness of reality. It is the brain that sees, not the eyes. They merely register and pass on coded information.
At the opposite end of the mind process we may come to realize that, while each man has a Mercury mind in order to become personally aware of his environment and his place in the world, there is actually but one Pluto mind — that is, the mind of humanity, or planetary mind. Each individual person unconsciously tunes in to this vast collective mind. He does so through the "carrier wave" of the specific culture of the society within which he was born and within which he operates — through the particular language, archetypal symbols and social-religious biases of his culture.
The individual Mercury mind receives, unconsciously most of the time, and also transmits to the collective mind of its race, nation, culture. There is a constant interplay between the individual and the collective, and this interplay is the very substance of any man's mind — both conscious and unconscious.
When Pluto was discovered in 1930, several astrological symbols for it were presented. By far the most significant was the one made popular for many years by the Paul Clancy Publications, with the closed circle and open cup of the Mercury symbol transposed, so the circle lay above within the cup's brim. But the astronomers clung to a symbol blending the first two letters of the name Pluto, which "happened" to be the initials of the astronomer whose calculations led to the recent discovery of the planet — Percival Lowell.
The first-mentioned symbol suggested the planetary character of the Pluto mind by the circle, floating above the open cup. Out of individual tragedies and out of the very death of all cultures — but freed from them — we can witness the global reality of the mind, in which we all, thinking men and women, to whatever degree, "live, move and have our being."
Read Part One
Sun and Moon
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill.
Copyright © 1966 by Dane Rudhyar.
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