Through a Jungian Lens

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Alchemy – The Spirit Mercurius – Embodying Opposites

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Another sunset photo taken from the front of my little villa here in Costa Rica.  In seeing this scene in light of my reading and recent posts, I think of being in a cauldron and being cooked.  My ofttimes weird sense of humour takes a tangent and likens it to being in a cooking pot in the South Pacific, surrounded by hungry headhunters wearing bones in their hair.  The humour aside, the skies look like they are on fire, logos is threatened.  There is definitely a sense of transformational heat at work.

The transformation of Mercurius, as prima materia, in the heated, sealed vessel is comparable to cooking the basic instinctive drives in their own affect until their essential fantasy content becomes conscious.  “Instead of arguing with the drives which carry us away, we prefer to cook them and . ask then what they want. . . . That can be discovered by active imagination, or through experimenting in reality, but always with the introverted attitude of observing objectively what the drive really wants.” (von Franz, Alchemy, p. 129)

Moving from conflict to a place of balance.  It isn’t all that much different when dealing with others.  When we give others the chance to speak, to be heard, we defuse most of the conflict even if we don’t have both parties agree.  Why shouldn’t this work with how we deal with complexes and shadowy figures in our dark inner spaces.  Perhaps we would feel less the victim of the unknown if we were to cautiously engage with these complexes and shadowy figures.

As I researched for this post, I found this graphic that I have seen a number of times in different books.  I located it again in an Internet search.  That said, I can’t give the original source of the image.  All that I can say is that it is one of a number of images depicting Mercurius.  There is definitely a sense of trickster in him.  Here is what Daryl Sharp has to say about this guy:

Mercurius is the fly in the ointment, the invisible little guy who ruins your plans.  He is mercurial, after all, unpredictable; there’s no telling when he might pop up in your life to turn it topsy-turvy, from driving you into a lamp-post to having a go at the baby sitter.  And  you can be conscious of his trickster quality and still be at his mercy. . . .

Of course, like any archetypal entity Mercurius embodies the opposites, and so he as a benign side as well.  He gets you out of bed in the morning; he gives you ambition, ideas “out of the blue,” a job to do, someone to love, kids to focus on with awe. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked:  Book Two, 2008, p. 57)

There is no doubt that Mercurius acts within us without our ever being aware of him.  Yet, once one begins to dare the alchemical task of individuation, we actually get to sense his presence within rather than blame some factor on the outside, blame some other on the outside.  More importantly is to recognise that it isn’t all bad.  Perhaps being made a fool at times is for the good, a bit of humility so that we don’t get to filled with ourselves.


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