Mercury Symbolically Considered

HERMES, or Mercury, is the winged and vital intelligence of God. He is the wisdom of the Creator, the Logos or Word by whom all things came into being.

Hermes is swifter than the lightning, for he is thought itself, wherein the lightning lives. The divine consciousness is free from time and space, which are merely the conditions whereby we perceive the limited, and so Hermes, bring the thought of Deity, transcends all such bounds. All objects of thought are bounded, but not thought itself. To Hermes the poet has addressed his lyre; and rightly, for Hermes is the inventor of the lyre and all music, as well as of all science and art. He is the master also of magic, and the patron of all those who seek after God by solitude and meditation.

Mercury is the god of playful trickery; he appears “as a boy {183} mischievous and lovely,” for, not having acquired that sense of responsibility which comes with the development of the sex-instinct, his cleverness is without serious purpose. As he grows, it turns to evil, and he becomes a thief and a liar; or to good, and he becomes the man of science, the keen intellectual investigator. But so elusive is this god that even pure intellect needs to be tempered by holier forces, or it is cold and evil. And it must be steadied, or its influence may be destructive as the lightning.

Mercury delights to strike and pass; the attention must be riveted, the intellect chained to lofty purpose, before permanent results can be achieved. Of all the powers that can befriend him, Jupiter is the best, even as a boy is best in the hands of a wise and truly religious teacher. He must not be entirely abandoned to the gaiety of Venus or the changeability of the Moon. Mars may make him unreliable and irritable. The Sun is too near his own nature to be wholly a good companion; Saturn must be indeed kindly and wise if youth is not to acquire the pessimism of age.

So Mercury is the most fascinating of the planets; he is a riddle to which new answers constantly are given; he is subtle and ambiguous, soft of speech and vivid of smile. Even his worst pranks move the Gods to laughter! Only when hardened in evil does he become the apache of the planets.

The lesson of Mercury is education. By right schooling and discipline, intellect, which is by nature non-moral, may be developed under noble auspices to create new worlds of thought. Intellect can solve the secrets of the stars, tame lightning, and give it to the children for a toy, discover the treasures of the ocean, force even philosophy to disclose her brows, rear the colossus, civilization, in the harbor of mankind – in a word, work every wonder. But this intellect is also capable of things wholly worthless, of dangerous exploits leading to disaster. It can inspire a skeptic to the ruin of religion, destroy a social system with false logic, uproot an empire, and dismay humanity. So seductive is the sophistical appeal to reason that man’s pride in his mind often binds him to the lessons of experience. There is no metal but iron that quicksilver will not corrode; and only firmness and moral courage can resist the plausibilities of the demagogue.

The mind is primarily a sword; it is easy to destroy the fabric of {184} society, because its foundations a compromise and convention. The world is admittedly false and evil; it never corresponds with our “a priori” ideas of it.

Destructive criticism is the principal function of the Devil. Satan is “the accuser of the brethren”; and it is fortunate that the great Judge of all the earth is not only just, but merciful.

But, above all, Mercury is he that standeth upon the threshold of the House of Heaven; he is the Messenger of the Gods. For as by intellect we are raised above the beasts, so it is our link with Deity. Only, it is not for us to be active, but to be passive. Let us listen to Nature in all her manifold mysteries, and especially in Art, for that which is not in the storm of the lightning or the earthquake, but in the still small voice. Let our intellect be illuminated by the great Light that is beyond it but let us receive humbly that which may be given us by the grace of the Omniscient. Let us indeed inquire ardently, with all the labor of which we are capable, into all things; but let us also remember the last words of the greatest philosopher – “All things end in mystery.” Let us realize that Absolute Truth resides beyond the reach of mortal mind, beyond the limitations of Time and Space, and that, were we wise as Solomon, this would still be true of us, that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” So it is the supreme achievement of the mind to recognize its own incapacity, and bow before the fact. “These things are hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes.” What is the issue? To become as little children; “for of such is the Kingdom of God.”

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