The River of Alchemical Mercury



“You all know what mercury looks like-at room temperature it’s a silvery liquid that flows, it’s like a mirror. For the alchemists, and this is just a very short exercise in alchemical thinking, for the alchemists mercury was mind itself, in a sense, and by tracing through the steps by which they reached that conclusion you can have a taste of what alchemical thinking was about. Mercury takes the form of its container. If I pour mercury into a cup, it takes the shape of the cup, if I pour it into a test tube, it takes the shape of the test tube. This taking the shape of its container is a quality of mind and yet here it is present in a flowing, silvery metal.

The other thing is, mercury is a reflecting surface. You never see mercury, what you see is the world which surrounds it, which is perfectly reflected in its surface like a moving mirror, you see. And then if you’ve ever, as a child, I mean I have no idea how toxic this process is, but I spent a lot of time as a child hounding my grandfather for his hearing aid batteries which I would then smash with a hammer and get the mercury out and collect it in little bottles and carry it around with me. Well, the wonderful thing about mercury is when you pour it out on a surface and it beads up, then each bead of mercury becomes a little microcosm of the world. And yet the mercury flows back together into a unity. Well, as a child I had not yet imbibed the assumptions and the ontology of science. I was functioning as an alchemist. For me, mercury was this fascinating magical substance onto which I could project the contents of my mind. And a child playing with mercury is an alchemist hard at work, no doubt about it.

… I remember Al Wong once said to me, we were talking about the yin yang symbol, and he said you know the interesting thing is not the yin or the yang, the interesting thing is the s shaped surface that runs between them. And that s shaped surface is a river of alchemical mercury. Now, where the alchemists saw this river of alchemical mercury is in the boundary between waking and sleeping. There is a place, not quite sleeping, not quite waking, and there flows this river of alchemical mercury where you can project the contents of the unconscious and you can read it back to yourself.”

Terence McKenna, “Lectures on Alchemy“


“The bean“ in Chicago (via

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27 Responses to The River of Alchemical Mercury

  1. Monika – wonderful thought provoking post as always – mercurial is the definition of an agile mind and in Hindu jyotish Astrology Lord Mercury as i have stated in my post is an ambiguous deity who assumes the gender and inclination he wishes – in astrological charts too he becomes associated for his ‘effects’ with any planet in the vicinity becoming identical with them for according ‘effects’ to the subject of the chart –


  2. i notice that you have a facebook page with many followers – i have just joined facebook with some trepidation and wish to promote my blog there – my question is whether it costs anything and how does one get the following? – if you have the time enlighten a fellow traveller ( this query you may delete after reading it as it has nothing really to do with mercury


    • I still have not figured out facebook – the followers simply happened, somewhat mysteriously – I did not pay anything. I know that facebook will do everything to make page owners pay – your posts do not automatically show in the news feed if your followers unless you pay facebook to “boost” your post. I got the vast majority of my followers when my post The Dark Face of the Goddess became sort of viral on facebook. All in all, I think it is worth having a facebook page because you may reach to an audience outside of wordpress. I may not be the right person to ask about facebook because I do not devote much time to my facebook posts whereas I spend hours on wordpress. I will delete the question and answer if you want but I think it is relevant and connected with the archetype of Mecury and the exchange of ideas between likeminded souls.


  3. Pingback: The River of Alchemical Mercury | lampmagician

  4. Nataraj Express says:

    Reblogged this on Nataraj Express and commented:
    Wonderful Mercury.


  5. Monika,
    This post is incredible and like almost everything you post lately, it is freakishly timely for me. The yinyang image you chose is just perfect and Terence is always awesome! You chose such a great quote.

    It has taken some practice, but now I can easily re-enter dreamtime upon first waking. This is when I access my dreams. The more I work with dreams the more I stand in awe of their Divine Power. Life is truly unbelievable when you tap into your alchemical connection.

    With deepest gratitude and love,


    • Dearest Amanda, I am so happy you have noticed the intellectual sea of flames that has been engulfing me recently 😉
      Also the dream figures have been more outspoken recently.

      Thank you for your inspiration.



  6. Wong’s words are fascinating and beautiful, Monika. I had not considered the yin yang symbol from that perspective.

    During my teen years, I worked in a family owned pharmacy, prepping for what I had thought would be undergraduate studies in Pharmacy. And while that path didn’t materialize, I recall an uncle teaching me, hands-on. about the elements, minerals, and chemical compounds. I am sure I have physically handled a lifetime share of mercuric toxicity, yet the experiences were blissful. A bit of a different connection, yet somehow, connected.

    Enjoyed learning from your sharing here. Thank you.


  7. Soul Fields says:

    Simply wonderful, thanks! 🙂


  8. This really struck a chord with me — excellent post !


  9. Dewin Nefol says:

    Hey Monika,

    A deeply meditative consideration of infinite thought spun from a well of silver-ink as iridescent and fluidly dreamy as the sparkle from the glassine surface of the Mercurial river itself. I was at once entranced by a cinema of transmuting images and captivated by the mental-visual complexity of thought’s infinitude, and yet sat here amidst the euphonic silence of contemplative reflection and found an understanding of simplicity. It is a J.J Winkelmann (1764) remarks, the harmony that the mind perfects to ‘ravish the soul does not consist in arpeggios but finds its form within a synthesis of notes… Everything that we must consider in separate pieces, or which we cannot survey and measure at once with a glance, from the number of constituent parts, loses some portion of its greatness […] because it cannot be comprehended and embraced as a single idea… And from unity proceeds another attribute of inspired beauty, the absence of individuality; that is, the forms of it cannot be described neither by points or lines other than those that shape beauty herself, and consequently produce a figure which is neither peculiar to any particular individual, nor yet expresses any one state of the mind or affection of the passions ‘.

    Mercury it seems is the ephemeral whisper of the Divine mind seeking to touch the world of substance once more through intuitive feeling. Mercury is the sizzling ‘S’ in the “intellectual sea of flames that has been engulfing” you recently, folding the cerebral lobes over and over and over like the sexual interplay of two slippery dolphins and heightening the extraction and transmission of true beauty from within your work by unity and simplicity – whatever is great in itself is elevated when executed and uttered with simplicity – and in the process inspiring us all to reflect higher than we may have ever thought possible. Mercury is indeed the mirror of the soul.

    A stunning post Monkia. Thank you.


    DN – 16/09/2014


    • This is really a stunning quote, one that I could imagine adopting as my motto. I have always aspired to a synthesis of notes, always wanted to achieve a sense of unity regarding any subject that I tackle. “The sizzling S in the intellectual sea of flames” sounds very inspiring and helps me understand why I actually chose S to form a visual background to my blog page.
      I must say it is really thrilling to read your comments because they show an incredibly deep engagement and such profound understanding. Thank you.


  10. Dewin Nefol says:

    P.S: Just one question….what is it that you read back to yourself when projecting the contents of your unconscious onto the river of alchemical Mercury?

    DN – 16/09/2014


  11. Dewin Nefol says:

    My, my, those are spiritually penetrating words Monika, as fair and intoxicating as the blush on the dewy red rose mirror called Aphrodite upon whom the winged God once lay.

    Thank you for a mercurially quick reply – how fluent and fast must flow the fundamental fleet footed flier of fluid form inside you to be as generous and inspiring with your words.

    In ruminating more on the ‘S’ symbol that you visually background on your blog…I think of it less as a signum than I believe it an expression of the element Air, the lightening message of grace, the sigh in a prayer that flows in your soul, it is breath. It is revealed within the figure S as the distillation of a deeply felt message in luminescent prose to express harmony and unity in the manifestation of two simultaneous and opposing thoughts solidified in space and time in contemplation of Spiritus Dei…the rhythmic pulse of ingress and egress in the breathing of God-consciousness. I think it a graceful form to choose.

    And, alchemically speaking, one might happily linger in the flaming thoughts of a Venusian’s mind that the ‘S’ is the Sun distilled in the Moon to illuminate us with the soulful balm of their recurring embrace, which we feel as love and deep thought. And within thought’s indefinable form lays the absorbing love affair you have with the distillation of mind.

    There is further alchemical interplay within the absorbing form of the ‘I’ and the ‘S’ that I see IS the S in the I as ‘One’.

    Your choice of symbol is yet another attribute of true beauty mirrored in the captivating shine from the glittering river of alchemical Mercury flowing in your mind.


    DN – 17/092014


    • All you say about me can be said about you, and more justly so. You speak like Spiritus Mercurius. I’m so glad I inspired this alliterative feast. I hope you know I adore your comments.
      About your explication of S I can only say it sizzles with symbolic splendor.


  12. Dewin Nefol says:

    …or should that be upon reflection…’how fluent and fast must flow the fructifying fine fundamental fleet footed flaming flier of fluid form from inside you so to be as fecundate with your blogging thoughts’.

    DN – 17/09/2014


  13. Dewin Nefol says:

    Hey Monika,

    You are as generous in your reply as you are in sharing the rich depth of your thoughts and ideas here on WP. It makes me consider how such attributes lend themselves so readily to the meaning of the name Monika – counsel. Thank you for very kind and inspiring words…I’ll be sure to save those sentiments for a repeat read later, having comments ‘adored’ is most flattering – and what a lovely sounding word ‘explicate’ is…to ‘explain’ and ‘indicate’, or to develop the idea of something still further. It is a word almost pregnant with Uranus like potential to manifest forms in chaos that evolve to be given their Jupiter polish. Words can hold such fascination as symbols when one develops a culture of purposefully understanding them.

    As an aside, I boarded a train making the return trip home from work this evening and found myself sat across from a lady wearing a silver necklace made of two entwining ropes of silver thread bound together by a delicate bow. In light of the nature and content of this post and commentary, I found myself suddenly aware of the synchronicity reflected in that one chance moment. What compounded the fascination still further was the appearance of two threads of silver being bound together as one, as opposed to just the one bound to itself. It suggested at non-polar polarity. So perhaps it reveals the polarising attribute of Mercury to extract the Light of thought from within either the densely packed Earth (and Underworld) or from the sky-realm of the Gods? Certainly, the optical effect of speed and distance perceived when looking through the window of my moving train and into the light reflecting down from a cloudy sky upon the vast curving surface of earth seemed somehow to fit the moment well.

    I read on The Uranus and Jupiter Cycle your comment…”This writing is permeated with fiery energy urging to open the gates of our consciousness so that caravans loaded with spiritual gifts from the farther lands may enter. Right now this creative energy of fire is very palpable to me”. Fire is an unconscious and mischievous allure for any oxygenated Air sign, but it is not the flame that Air flows towards; it is the attraction of heat that drive the currents of consciousness in the mind. Perhaps it is the Gemini within you whose breath first draws Mercury in as lightening thought by the seduction of a sacred Fire, but whose breath flows out crystallising beneath your pen in a romance of the mind.

    Monika, in return for your reply, may I leave you a short poem that caught me in its web? It is another synchronistic find, this time online not reality, hinting towards a more sensuous engagement with the ornamental form of liquid Mercury.

    ~ A Noiseless Patient Spider ~ By ~ Walt Whitman ~

    A noiseless patient spider,
    I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
    Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
    It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
    Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

    And you O my soul where you stand,
    Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
    Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
    Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
    Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.


    DN – 18/09/2014


    • Hi Dewin, I am not sure this is the reaction you were looking for but your comments first of all bring a huge smile to my face. They are so entertaining and full of verbal delight. Pondering the symbolism of words has been my lifelong passion – I see words as rich in symbolism as images. I often see images in my mind’s eye that single words could evoke. This is a lovely anecdote you recount about your train experience. The idea and image of a non-polar polarity I find very appealing.
      Secondly, I want to address your musings on fire. Yes, I am a Gemini but I have plenty of fire in my natal chart: so much I could even compare myself to St Teresa (humbly of course) whose heart was “pierced by an angel with the fire of love.”
      The poem is magnificent – thank you so much.


  14. Dewin Nefol says:

    Hey Monika,

    ‘Sizzling’ with passion yet balanced with the tenderness of a swollen heart…I was moved by Teresa’s saintly presence to all but feel those flaming swords moving gracefully inside her, each a lightening bolt solidifying into translucent beads of white hot glass, ecstatic with rapture and cherished like the kiss from a red rose on the wind. Is it any wonder that our fair lady blushed as she did when pierced by the shining rays of heaven’s solar star? Drinking deeply to taste the many secrets, scents and flavours of her Nature, my mind is led a merry dance through wisps of smouldering flame to stories of the bridal night at the Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosencrantz….to which they say was a collision of the 7 worlds.

    I share your fascination with the loving pleasure of words, with their innate allure and symbolic resonance, and with their power to influence and move our soul. At times words are elevating and uplifting, in other moments they gently enquire upon us, asking us to re-define, re-address, or rebalance our perspectives and our goals. But always it is the act of enduring this cathartic process that stimulates the imagination in any number of extraordinary, and enticing ways. And so it was for me, as it always is when amidst the press of words following posts and comment threads here, I find total engagement with wonderful souls always opens up new paths of possibility that lead to untouched passages of emotion and feeling. It is truly fascinating to sometimes just read and read and dream and dream and sit back and see the glitter flow…always in the maelstrom ideas form, boil, burn and cool but never quite solidify…. at least not at first…they arrive as sketches to be given flesh, as seeds of vast dreamscapes and droplets of profound visions that grow in the mind for the sculptor to carve its individual form. In recent days, I have been wonderfully inspired to persist creatively and feel so excited once more by the pull and push of the symbolic muse…she who is still as much a mystery to my mind as the mystery of the mind is to the heart she provokes. I adore her being so near. It would seem that cast from a distant Sun, a noiseless web-throwing friend here at WP flung far his sinuous spool and reeled me to the fountainhead to drink once more from cups of Thought and Beauty beneath the watchful eye of her resplendent shine. Curious too is the appearance of Nin-Giz-Zida with whom I share my place at the font: that oily bronze black slack-sliding slithering snake whose Lorded fecundity rises and falls upon the trunk of the Good (Underworld) Tree. How he shines in the face of Love.

    Equally as delightful, and no less as entertaining, have been the comings and goings of the elusive muse Synchronicity of late. She appears from time to time to cast her gossamer threads upon the air that find footholds in the life of a passer-by. These small and unnoticed coils are left to lift me higher from my trodden path so that I might choose to follow them or not to mysterious ends. Today’s gift was another blessing. A small reel of silver parcel tape lay on the pavement at the base of the hill that I descend of a morning on my daily commute to work. It was a most curious and charming find. Certain that I was still dreaming, I stopped to pick the undamaged tape up off the floor, bound it carefully within a tissue, and gave it safe passage throughout the day until returning home with it in the evening. Silver it seems has become so captivating a reflective surface upon which to view the world. Indeed, perhaps it is autumn’s call come early, but Earth already seems abundant with glorious colour, from the pale blue of ice filled skies, to the gold, red, and yellow of falling leaves and the deep purple and orange sunsets, all is coloured by the sweetest caress of Love. And high above it all, from deep within the freedom of endless space came a single peel of thunder as I sat down to write this comment! Zeus it seems had a message to pass to those who would hear his call. There are many further examples I could mention of synchronistic moments occurring recently, but all in their unique way are leading me onwards on my forward journey. Sometimes it feels that the true allure within symbolic form lies as much in the decisions we make to act upon the message they contain as it does in the depths of our quicksilver imagination that materialised them. Which leads me to consider Zeus’s call from the skies shortly after reading your piece on Juno…and for some reason I had in my mind the word Muse.

    Consciousness moves through us in mysterious ways to always bring the gifts that we require in to our lives.


    DN – 23/09/2014

    P.S: Haruki Murakami, “Kafka on the Shore”… every word was a thrill. Thank you Monika.


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