This summer I’ve been looking into Mercury more and thinking about how Mercury impacts student learning. I’m not sure if my investigation has been fast or slow, successful or unsuccessful, productive or completely unfruitful so far, but I remain on the trail. It was as if as soon as I announced that I was interested in studying Mercury, a giant flash of smoke was thrown in my face and Mercury slipped behind the fog and snickered at me, “Yeah, right, catch me, first.” That seemed about right for Mercury given this archetype of the trickster.
Astrologers associate Mercury with the mind and communication. So naturally I thought teachers who are given the task of facilitating learning for their students would be interested in Mercury’s influence on the mind. But I have felt thwarted from the outset to even begin to communicate what I am interested in here and it seems that during the whole of the summer and into the most recent Mercury retrograde this August I had completely forgotten the simple fact that the mental “mind” does not equal intelligence. Well, duh. This is an important realization for me not to forget as we consider the meaning of Mercury. Disappointed in myself, I felt I had already hit my first hilarious pothole in the Mercury project and was on the roadside with a flat tire, trying to find my jack when suddenly AAA showed up with wings on their feet just to laugh at me.
Besides the thinking mind there is also the body’s innate wisdom as well as the heart wisdom and collective wisdom, wisdom of the natural world, and many other living systems which provide intelligence to the whole human organism, all of this beyond the confines of our thick skulls. Then, some believe there are the spiritual hierarchies as well. I have been learning this for long time, but had momentarily forgotten this.
Some meditation schools refer to the mind as the “monkey mind.” I agree that the information-processing brain, with is electrical impulses is not the only wisdom center of our being, even though it may be the electrical message hub in the body. A gifted psychic friend of mine once told me that God is an acronym G.O.D. for “Getting Over Defining.” That has always stuck with me and has reminded me that words, language and the monkey chatter in the mind are just words (symbols) and while they are important, they are not everything, and they are certainly not Truth (with a capital T.) For this idea, we can explore the writing of Don Miguel Ruiz. The simple way to control monkey mind (too much thought) is through breath, as explained in this short video from a Buddhist monk on the “monkey mind.” Gatta love YouTube! Where does breath come from? It is outside of us, and we have to inhale it, let it circulate, and give it back. The air itself then contains some wisdom or nourishment, even another form of intelligence.
In the Chartres labyrinth, the mind is only the first part of the maze and only represents only 1/4 of the path of life. One must dive down deep into the heart, facing one’s fears and one’s sense of mortality in order to work one’s way through the whole maze. Then, there is a going back and forth phase where one must be able to go alternate between mind and heart, between self and other and integrate the two before one reaches the center. (For more about Chartres see the work of Institute for Applied Meditation.)
Mercury plays an important part in the nimbleness or flexibility of our intelligence, it’s our ability to mediate between the material and spiritual worlds but it is only a part of a much bigger picture. Perhaps in the same way, Mercury represents this same ability to alternate between our heart and mind, to slide right from one world into another through a cloud of smoke, to “be in the world, but not of it.”
Intelligence (as different from “mind) is a complex combination of memory (Saturn), the collection of information and communication (Mercury), the perception through the bodily 12 senses (Jupiter and the etheric), emotional processing (Moon), and the values one lives for and the strategies for attaining what is desired (Venus/Mars), or choices and means. All of these are in service to the soul’s purpose, represented by the sun. Back to the drawing board. The lesson here is that Mercury needs to be viewed in context.
It’s interesting to me that there seems to be among Western astrologers a disinterest in Mercury and an intentional ignoring or downplaying of Mercury in the chart interpretation. It seems almost every other planet is given more significance than Mercury. But this doesn’t daunt me, it intrigues me rather because it would seem to be a pretty big challenge to understand its nature.
In Isis Sophia by Willi Sucher, a student of Steiner’s, the author describes Mercury as the redeemer of Mars. Mars extends the astral forces of sympathy and antipathy coming from the realms of the past while Mercury redeems these from the standpoint of the future and in doing so works towards the emancipation and the individuation of the ego. Perhaps then by observing, whether a child, adult or even ourselves, we could begin to understand the interaction between the natal Mercury forces and the natal Mars forces and thereby the patterns or dynamics which color the individuation process which begins at the age of seven in childhood and matures with the birth of ego (emancipation) at or near the age of twenty-one. If we could get a better understanding, would we be able to better support children through the growth process toward a start on a healthy adult life?
Going further, how do immediate real-time transits impact the dynamics in a natal arrangement? We do not operate in a void. We are always swimming in a sea of cosmic forces that is constantly changing, so the question of what is happening on a given day, cannot truly be understood unless we understand these forces at a deeper level.
In beginning to think about the real-time influence of Mercury in the classroom, I took a few notes this past month as planets were changing signs moving direct and it did seem to my own way of being that as Mercury changed signs and shifted from retrograde to direct that there were certain and sudden shifts in how I and many of the people all around me were mentally and emotionally processing what they were experiencing as a sudden and noticeable change. This seemed quite real to me.
My larger question is…..How do these Mercury cycles impact a classroom environment where every individual student has his or her own unique perspective and capacities to integrate these forces? Do they merely change the way we perceive? How lasting are the effects? How can teachers become more aware of the integration capacities in their students to handle these changes? How can we observe a student’s ability to navigate between heart and mind? What can we learn through observing their nightly sleep quality at handshake in the morning, their flow through the daily rhythm, the ability to recall, and the carryover in memory from one day to the next? Is it unreasonable to expect that we might someday be able to understand more deeply this underappreciated redeemer, the elusive, slippery Mercury, the planet which rules the 7-14 year old phase of life?
For a brief explanation of Steiner’s 7 year cycles and the correlation ofthe 7-14 year old child with Mercury please see: The American Institute for Learning and Human Development and an article titled..The Stages of Life According to Rudolf Steiner.