Through countless centuries a living connection between the earth and heavens was taken for granted. The metals were considered to have an inherent affinity with their parent planets, and represented a material expression of living cosmic energies. This article is extracted from Nick Kollerstrom
's book The Metal-Planet Relationship
, an extremely important work which, through scientific analysis and metaphysical reflection, ties the prosaic realm of rational science to the qualitative realm of essence and being. The book explores the natural correspondences that exist between the traditional planet-metal associations and, more importantly, details how modern experiment only serves to vindicate the relationships.
Mercury and Quicksilver
Mercury appears sometimes in the form of a fluid metal, sometimes in the form of a hard brittle metal, sometimes in the form of a corrosive pellucid salt call'd Sublimate, sometimes in the form of a tasteless, pellucid white Earth, call'd Mercurius dulcis, or in that of a red opake volatile Earth, call'd Cinnabar; or in that of a red or white Precipitate, or in that of a fluid Salt; and in distillation it turns into a Vapour, and being agitated in vacuo, it shines like Fire. And after all these Changes it returns again into its first form of Mercury.
Sir Isaac Newton ('Optics' 1717, Query 30)
'A mind like quicksilver'-how well this image applies to mental processes! It is hardly surprising that astrologers should associate the planet Mercury with mental agility: the shining globules of this liquid metal form and reform so quickly, as fast as thinking. The metal mercury is the one element that one normally sees in the three states of matter - as the fluorescent lamp overhead in the classroom, as the liquid in the thermometer and as calamine the skin lotion; as Hermes was the one deity who could come and go through the three worlds.
Alas, the nimble quicksilver intelligence can end up as the mad hatter, whose mind is a-jumping all over the place - remembered in Alices immortal tea-party. This was a condition to which hatters were prone in Victorian times, due to using mercury metal to give a shine to top hats.
As Hermes was the messenger of the gods, so mercurial types make good link people. Likewise the metal mercury amalgamates: different metals can be brought together by dissolving them in mercury, it is a solvent for metals. The term 'amalgamate' is also used in commerce: different firms amalgamate together. This is a mercury-process, and Hermes was traditionally the god of commerce.
The most characteristic chemical trait of mercury is association. It links itself up in the most unexpected ways. The tendency to form complex compounds is very marked in the case of mercury.(2) It combines with nitrogen and carbon compounds which metals normally won't touch, as well as forming the usual metal salts, and forms complicated 'organometallic' mercury compounds, which catalyse the synthesis of a range of pharmaceutical and other organic, man-made products. It forms explosives (e.g. mercury iodide) which detonate at a mere touch. In amalgamating other metals together, it performs this interlinking function.
The Indian word for alchemy was Rassayana which means the way of mercury. The earliest alchemical texts in the West date from the first century AD, and this is also when the first texts for obtaining mercury from its ore cinnabar appear. Pliny the Roman naturalist gave such a recipe. Heating of the red ore cinnabar causes it to sweat globules of the shining metal; then, careful heating the mercury again yield a red ore (although this is the oxide, no longer the sulphide). This was the classic recipe whereby alchemists impressed their clients, and was the first inkling of a chemical reaction. Mercurys changeable nature seemed to manifest mysteries of matter. Hermes in his Egyptian form as thrice-greatest was the patron of alchemy, in which mercury had the central role. Alchemists who reckoned they could make gold would usually start off with mercury (which is, as chance would have it, next to gold in the Periodic table)
The orbit of this fastest-moving of planets was an enigma for a century. The plane of Mercury's orbit kept 'precessing' or shifting about in a way that defied explanation, and Newtons theory could not account for it. Mercury resisted this materialistic world conception, and it was only explained in the 20th century by the Theory of Relativity. Likewise, the metal mercury resists the solid state. It is the secret, the mystery of quicksilver, that a metal of such enormous density can yet remain liquid. It is not difficult to see why the alchemists credited mercury with a very special inner mobility and vitality.
Ancient Indian texts tell of Vimana which were fabulous flying craft (e.g. in the Mahabarata). These texts inform us that the craft were powered by mercury. Clearly, speedy mercury was just the stuff to power these mythic ancient craft! The commonest daily use for mercury sees it in constant motion - the thermometer. Hermes was traditionally the god of medicine, and Mercury was for long given an important role in medical practice. It was for centuries the staple remedy for syphilis, and even today it is still used for skin ointments-calomel-and the sublimate is used as a disinfectant. Mercury amalgams are used in dentistry, and mercurial aids such as the thermometer and blood pressure apparatus aid the doctor. Thus the different aspects of the Mercury-nature are expressed both by the metal and by the planet in the sly, in accordance with the Hermetic maxim, 'as above, so below.'
Mercury is always on the move, and nowadays it is coming out from circulation: from batteries, from tooth fillings, from gold amalgamation processes, etc, so that Euro- experts have a problem what to do with it. Thousands of tonnes of it might be placed carefully down one or two of the mines whence it was obtained! As Mercury is removed from large-scale use, we may be sure that other subtle properties of this mysterious and elusive element will turn up in due course.
Notes & References:
2) J.R.Partington, 'A Textbook of Inorganic Chemistry' 1960 p.795.
||J.R.Partington, A Textbook of Inorganic Chemistry 1960 p.795.
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has a Cambridge science degree and has worked as a physics schoolteacher. He is recognised throughout the astrological community for his pioneering studies that have brough his scientific background into exciting fields of research on planets, plants and metals. He has been actively involved in the study of planet-metal associations and other matters of a Hermatic nature for 30 years, and has lectured on these subjects since 1975. His work in medical research resulted in his book Lead on the Brain - a plain guide to Britain's No 1 pollutant
. His investigation of lunar effects upon plant growth led in the 1980s to his gardener's guide Planting by the Moon
and the popular annuals Gardening and Planting by the Moon
. Nick Kollerstrom's latest title, Crop Circles: The Hidden Form
, published by Wessex books, offers a new way of experiencing the crop circle mystery, through the geometry of the forms revealed in crops.
© Nick Kollerstrom