Mercurius: The Spirit in Matter


Justified & Ancient
Aug 7, 2002
I was reading the blog of Rick Veitch about his latest dream comics in the resurrected Rare Bit Fiends and came across this bit that seemed interesting:
Mercurius is an enigmatic figure at the arcane core of alchemy, being descibed as both the beginning and end of whatever it was the old alchemists were doing. Most people think of turning lead into gold or Harry Potter style spell casting when they think of alchemists, but I’m here to tell you they were into something else entirely. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was one of the first to see it in our time, but his writings can be very confusing.

This new RARE BIT FIENDS material is my attempt to share with readers how I personally came to grips with what Jung and the alchemists (and as it turns out many others) were actually talking about; direct experience of the living heart of nature.

When I make a statement like that, I hope you won’t assume I’m the victim of some sort of mind cult. While there definitely is a cult of personality around C.J. Jung, we dreamworkers recognize the extraordinary value of his research. He left us a realistic model of the human psyche and the tools to investigate it. What Einstein is to physics, Jung is to dreamwork.
I really wasn't familiar with the term, so I looked it up:
When the alchemist speaks of Mercurius, on the face of it he means quicksilver (mercury), but inwardly he means the world-creating spirit concealed or imprisoned in matter.

The dragon is probably the oldest pictorial symbol in alchemy of which we have documentary evidence.

It appears as the Ouroboros, the tail-eater, in the Codex Marcianus, which dates from the tenth or eleventh century, together with the legend ‘the One, the All’.

Time and again the alchemists reiterate that the opus proceeds from the one and leads back to the one, that it is a sort of circle like a dragon biting its own tail. For this reason the opus was often called circulare (circular) or else rota (the wheel).

Mercurius stands at the beginning and end of the work: he is the prima materia, the caput corvi, the nigredo; as dragon he devours himself and as dragon he dies, to rise again in the lapis.

He is the play of colours in the cauda pavonis and the division into the four elements.

He is the hermaphrodite that was in the beginning, that splits into the classical brother-sister duality and is reunited in the coniunctio, to appear once again at the end in the radiant form of the lumen novum, the stone.

He is metallic yet liquid, matter yet spirit, cold yet fiery, poison and yet healing draught – a symbol uniting all the opposites.”

Psychology and Alchemy
Part 3,
Chapter 3.1