"Mercury has the best appearance, is witty, fond of jokes and laughter, and is learned. He takes upon himself the nature and constitution of the planets with which he is associated." Parashari 3.26.
Mercury is the great messenger of the Gods. He is the planet which represents speech, communication and commerce on all levels. In his lower function he organizes and articulates material resources. On a higher level he connects us with our inner capacities, the powers of the mind.
As Jupiter generally represents the higher or abstract mind, Mercury indicates the lower or concrete mind, the intellect or informational mentality. However, Mercury is not limited to this. He also shows the higher mind in its discriminating ability and connects us with the Divine Word or word of truth. Mercury governs names. On a lower level these are the outer appearances of title and personality which are illusory. On a higher level they are the names of God which connect us to the true reality of things.
Mercury governs writing, education, calculation, thought. Mercury is the fastest moving of the planets and so is indicative of quick comprehension, facility, ease and plasticity in expression. Mercury provides for the quick correlation of ideas, the fast interchange of information or of things of value. He is mental and nervous energy in its articulate activity. He shows our intellectual powers and the degree of mental development in life.
Mercury is a child and indicates the state of childhood generally, particularly in the period between infancy and adolescence. Afflictions to Mercury may mean health problems in childhood, troubles in the home life or difficulty at school. The mind and nervous system, as well as the lungs may suffer. As a planet of commerce, Mercury represents trade, or articles of trade, including money. Though not in himself a planet of wealth, he is helpful in both acquiring it and keeping it, as he helps us organize it. He is necessary whenever there is to be an exchange or ideas or commodities. He sees the value of open markets and free communication and is not restricted by boundaries of race, nation, caste or belief, but he can be attached to his own opinion, his calculations and his own gains and losses.
Mercury breaks down barriers between people and reveals a common humanity and common human needs. As such, he possesses a certain compassion and sense of equality based not so much upon sentiment as upon objectivity and practicality. Afflicted he is similarly willing to exploit everyone, though he will often improve their outer condition to some degree in the process. Mercury is an important factor for determining our vocation, as that is what we do in life to communicate with others, our interchange with society. Mercury shows how we appear and how we function in the network of transactions that makes up the world of things and ideas. In this regard, his representation of our education or training in life comes into play. He is the child that is the father of the man.
Mercury is the most mutable of the planets. As such he easily takes upon himself the nature of the other planets with which he is associated, for good or for ill. He may value communication and public opinion more than truth, and become dependent on and defensive of whatever is the strongest environmental influence. He is the mind which has no real nature of its own but reflects whatever it considers to be the reality, which may be no more than the impressions of the senses.
A weak Mercury makes us rationalize things to suit our purpose. It creates immaturity, naivete and folly. It can create dishonesty, a lack of properly defined boundaries. This may make a person a thief, not because they are cruel, but because they do not respect anything as belonging to another. They take what they need according to a childish view of life that the world should provide for them. They have no objective perception and are caught in childish fantasies and may even believe that what they have taken was really given to them or merited by them.
In this regard, Mercury is like the Moon. He is the child of the Moon. He is the mind which does not perceive but can merely organize ideas. If the mind orients itself towards the perception of truth, the vision of the eternal, then it will see the falseness of the external world and the reality of the inner consciousness. If it orients itself to the images of the senses as reality in itself, then it will see the outer world as real and create a scientific view of life. If, however, it orients itself to our selfish fears and desires as reality, it will create illusion, a neurotic or even schizophrenic view of life.
Mercury is the rational conscious mind which is still only the most articulate part of the subconscious mind (the Moon). True consciousness is not of the mind but transcends thought.
In Sanskrit, Mercury is Budha, which means intelligence or cognition, and relates to the Buddhi, the faculty of determination whereby we discern the real from the unreal (fully awakening which one become enlightened, a Buddha). When this faculty judges reality not by appearances but by discerning the transient from the eternal, then it functions rightly and the higher power of Mercury is revealed. When it discriminates names and forms we become caught in the apparent reality of the external world.
In the higher sense, Mercury is this faculty of truth determination which discriminates the real from the unreal, the pure from the impure, the truth from illusion. This is the most precise and perfect functioning of the mind. In this higher activity, Mercury, the mind, is Vishnu, the pervasive consciousness who is also the Divine son, the guiding cosmic intelligence and source of the great teachers and avatars.
A well-placed Mercury is or great importance in life. Our Mercury establishes our values in life. Material values, like prices and standards of measurement, artistic values, as well as spiritual values like seeing all life as sacred, are different aspects of the value sense of Mercury.
A good Mercury also gives good humor and psychological balance. It imparts a mental adaptability that is also playful. He is the trickster but can become deceptive. When afflicted Mercury becomes the fool, the idiot. Sometimes, even when wise, he will play the fool to express his adaptability and wit and to learn what would otherwise be hidden from him. Under a strong negative Saturn influence Mercury can lose its power and show lack of intelligence. Afflictions to Mercury do not always give lack of intelligence or intellect, however. They may cause some other harm, like speech defects, nervous system disorders or neurosis. Intelligence can be given by other planets, like Jupiter, but without a strong Mercury there will be difficulty in expressing it, particularly through the written word. Mercury determines our expression in life. Of what value is what we do or who we are if it cannot be in some way communicated or shared?
Mercury is very important in modern culture and one of its most beneficial powers--the need to establish open communication that must lead to a world culture. Telephone, radio, television and computers are products of Mercurial needs aligned with the engineering capacity of Mars. Yet so far we remain caught in the lower domain of Mercury and are only sharing superficial wealth and information, not communing with our deeper Self. We are swamped with massive and usually trivial data through the development of the lower Mercury principle through the mass media.
Astrology itself requires a strong Mercury for its needs of calculation and communication. As our principle of balance Mercury is often the point at which we can change our lives for higher purposes.
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