A Measure of Dreams (1908) by Arthur B. Davies
—When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add up,
What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.
−And if there is no lining to the world?
If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
Make no sense following each other?
And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?
−Even if that is so, there will remain
A word wakened by lips that perish,
A tireless messenger who runs and runs
Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
And calls out, protests, screams.
Czeslaw Milosz (1991) MEANING
Mercury Retrograde in Gemini
On May 18, a day after a New Moon in Taurus, we enter the second of our thrice yearly Mercury retrograde spells, this one occurring in Gemini. As the Mercury retrograde periods in 2015 all occur in Air signs, this chapter is significant for being in the mutable sign of Gemini where Mercury makes its home and lifts our minds with winds of inspired language. Mercury retrogrades are not a time to fear, though being aware that Mercury is setting a different tempo can help us orient to how to make productive use of its potential. When Mercury appears to move backward from our perspective during its retrograde, it is closer in orbit to us and creates the effect of moving slower. In correspondence, we gain access to a more magical perception that can decode messages from symbolic patterns in our daily experience. Following Mercury’s retrograde station, Mercury disappears from our view of it hovering over our horizon and moves into the underworld and the role of guiding us into pivotal inner insights of soul. In Gemini, Mercury plays up his mischievous trickster side that unveils the folly of those taking themselves too seriously, as well as amplifies our capacity to synthesize a multiplicity of perspectives, philosophies, and observations into shared meaning and unified vision.
son of Zeus and Maia . . .
. . . [Maia] produced her child,
the very crafty,
carrier of dreams,
and soon to show his stuff
–from the Homeric Hymn to Hermes
Mercury is the in-between archetype capable of seeing both sides of a duality, while mediating the tension of opposites in order to unify meaning. Mercury in Gemini has been stereotyped as scattered and distracted, yet this curious mental quality continually finds new connections between concepts superficially viewed as disparate. Mercury is a phallic god of fertility with a fully developed femininity that can take it beyond gender categories, a networker in the upper world of matter who can descend into the underworld and guide souls toward their next incarnation. There is a depth to Mercury retrograde that is simultaneously full of humorous and serious exploration. No one in society can escape the tricks Mercury plays, whether they be the chief executive of a large corporation hoarding societal rewards or an alienated, unemployed drifter struggling to survive from day to day. When Mercury strikes with his flash of light and clever grin, the joke he pulls on you holds a profound lesson to glean in meaning.
This youthfully handsome, friendly, and thievish guide, who possesses magical golden shoes that transport him over earth and sea and a magical staff with which he puts people to sleep and awakens them again- has he not all the characteristics and attributes of a seductive and lethal guide of souls, the gentle Psychopompos of the later monuments?
–Karl Kerenyi (p. 28) Hermes: Guide of Souls
During this Mercury retrograde from 14° to 5° Gemini, one of the most significant themes is the unveiling of the archetype of Neptune in Pisces. A little over a week before stationing retrograde, Mercury in Gemini formed a square to Neptune in Pisces, and during it’s retrograde phase Mercury will square Neptune again, ultimately stationing direct in range of a square to Neptune. The day after Mercury stations direct at 5° Gemini, Neptune will station retrograde at 10° Pisces, leading to Mercury creating a third square with a retrograde Neptune in Pisces after moving direct again. Since Neptune in Pisces represents our collective tapestry of consciousness and the unconscious, the square from Mercury in Gemini can lead us to penetrate into the connective details found in the interwoven threads of meaning within the Neptunian fabric surrounding us. If we open ourselves to the possibility of shifting our future visions, we can experience a re-alignment that sheds what has been disillusioning and re-centers us on the dreams that are most deeply felt and authentic.
As Mercury is also a boundary marker whose presence at entryways and borders is especially illuminated during Mercury retrograde time periods, it is further significant that Saturn, the planet of boundaries, is also retrograde when Mercury shifts direction and in range of an opposition to both the Sun and Mars. This very same sense of restriction we could feel from Saturn toward the Sun and Mars at the beginning of the Mercury retrograde is the very fuel Mercury will consume in order to stimulate our thoughts beyond previous limitations:
Archetypally, we can see in the image of Hermes a mythical statement of the psyche’s innate tendency to give definition to perceptual and mental horizons, to mark edges, to define spaces. Originally Hermes stood at the edge of known space . . . His sign marked the limit of consciousness. Beyond the boundary lies the unknown, the uncanny, the dangerous, the unconscious. When markers are created and limits set, however, curiosity and explorativeness are also excited and new spaces for exploration and discovery invite the bold and courageous traveler. If Hermes marks the boundary between conscious and unconscious, we have to realize that this boundary is always shifting and in flux; it is mercurial. Background and foreground may instantaneously reverse too, and generate new perceptions, novel insights.
Within the area of the known, containers take shape which are reserved for specific types of human activity, while beyond them lies the “other,” the foreign (even if only temporarily), the taboo, the forbidden, the unclean. Hermes standing at the boundary marks a psychological and sometimes a moral limit and calls special attention to the space being entered or left. When he first appears, he may create a new space by dividing a vast horizon into the “here” and the “beyond,” and thus he creates both consciousness and a new unconscious. His intervention in the perceptual and psychological field creates new possibilities for consciousness, also new edges and boundaries beyond which lie the mysterious “others.” When he disappears, there is a loss of identity and definition.
— Murray Stein from Hermes and the Creation of Space (1999)
Two Trees (1875) by Odilon Redon
When I ran barefoot in our gardens by the river Niewiaza
Something was there, that I didn’t then try to name:
Everywhere, between the trunks of linden trees, on the sunny side of the lawn, on the path by the orchard.
A Presence resided, I didn’t know whose.
The air was full of it, it touched me, it held me close.
It spoke to me through the scents of grass, the flute voice of the oriole, the twitter of swallows.
Had I then been taught the names of gods, I would easily have known their faces.
But I grew up in a Catholic family, and so my surroundings were soon teeming with devils, but also with the saints of the Lord.
Yet in truth I felt their Presence, all of them, gods and demons,
As if rising within one enormous unknowable Being.
Czeslaw Milosz (2002) PRESENCE
Once Mercury has stationed retrograde he ushers us into a darker, deeper, underworld phase of our path, a stage during which our Mercurial perceptions function most strongly with intuition and symbolic awareness of patterns perceived in our journeys by day as well as at night in our dreams. We enter a liminal space of shifting speed that slows things down enough to take in a deeper examination of the underlying patterns we have been living from. This is a time in which our minds can be more free than normal to take in new insight, and we can ultimately emerge from the period with a revitalized perception. In a Mercury retrograde it matters less that you have constructed a rationally balanced argument to support your position, and matters more that you have described your perspective with poetic imagery that can strike at the hearts of your audience.
Mercury retrograde is also a time of synchronicity, and in this way we are fortunate that this Mercury retrograde in Gemini begins with the Moon applying to a conjunction with Mercury in the sign of the Twins. The Moon uniting with Mercury at the beginning of the retrograde increases our capacity to orient ourselves to the changes that will be coinciding with the Mercury retrograde and to begin to attune to the meaning that will be taking shape for us. There is also an expansive quality to the stationing of Mercury found in the sextile between Mercury and Jupiter in Leo, and since Jupiter in Leo is also in trine to Uranus in Aries it signifies that this coming Mercury retrograde could coincide with dramatic breakthroughs in thought that take us to a new level of thinking in whatever realm we have been exploring. The less we can be tied and bound to rigid, fixed belief systems, and the more we can liberate ourselves from past dogmatic thinking, the better we will be able to access the potential of this Mercury retrograde that appears to be very impressive in the field of creative thought and communication.
The Sun and Mars joining Mercury in Gemini is another important theme, and at the beginning of the Mercury retrograde the Sun and Mars are in range of an opposition to Saturn retrograde in Sagittarius, with Mars separating from an opposition to Saturn and the Sun applying to an opposition with Saturn. Mars in Gemini is full of mental activity, and it’s inquisitive nature could spark us to intellectually challenge authorities in our field of interest. Since Saturn in Sagittarius is retrograde, we could experience a de-conditioning from belief systems that have not been authentically resonant for us through exploring exciting new sources of knowledge. As Mars separates from it’s opposition to Saturn it will begin to form an exact square with Neptune in Pisces, and so this tension can compel us to go deeper into metaphysical study of our subject. In particular, the combination of Mercury retrograde in Gemini uniting with Mars direct in Gemini will feed our ability to create new categories and definitions of meaning that will both expand and intensify any subject we sustain focus on. If we are full of hubris or living in an illusion, the square between Mars in Gemini and Neptune in Pisces could result in a great Mercury retrograde joke being played on us that reveals the foolishness of our ways.
Also during the initial phase of Mercury retrograde, transiting Venus in Cancer will claim center stage by triggering the Uranus and Pluto square with an opposition to Pluto in Capricorn and a square to Uranus in Aries. These stressful, growth-oriented aspects to Venus will give Mercury retrograde a lot of material to work with, and if you are a writer there could be incredible depth to access and process through your craft. Venus triggering the Pluto and Uranus square will uncover our emotional needs and insecurities we have been overcompensating for in one way or another. Significant memories could arise to process that connect back to any point within the series of seven squares between Pluto and Uranus that have been in range since 2011. This is fortuitous in both the healing and creative realms, as memory is a fertile source from which the Mercury retrograde can weave new meaning from the release of old thought forms. The connection between Mercury with memory and creativity can be found in the Homeric hymn to Hermes, where it is revealed that Hermes is a follower of the Titaness of memory, and mother of muses, Mnemosyne:
Suddenly [Hermes] started playing the lyre
louder, reciting a prelude-
and the sound accompanying him
about the immortal gods
and the dark earth,
how they were in the beginning,
and what prerogatives each one had.
And the first of the gods
that he commemorated with his song
was Mnemosyne, Mother of Muses,
for the son of Maia
was a follower of hers.
–from the Homeric Hymn to Hermes
Vision (1883) by Odilon Redon
That boundless substance,
different, in any case, from
the flight of a crane, the gait of a tiger,
the underwater gambols of sperm whales.
In dreams I saw cities of gas and metal,
unceasing fabric of the mind.
Music of the spheres, music of violins and flutes.
That, which endures,
while they are born and die.
Higher than the blind energies of matter,
higher than currents running in the body
of eel, piranha, shark, so they may open
their jaws and devour their catch.
A temple full of little gods and demons,
with a vast number of nicknames and tails.
Czeslaw Milosz (2003)
The Inferior Conjunction of Mercury and the Sun in Gemini, the point of conception for a freshly synthesized vision, occurs at 9:56 am Pacific Standard Time on May 30, 2015 at nine degrees of Gemini. Gemini is one of the mutable, double-bodied signs, perhaps through the image of the twins being the most exemplary sign of the human tendency toward dualistic thinking. Just like the heaven of connecting with another human we consider to be a kindred spirit, soul mate, twin flame, . . . etc . . . it can be the deeply felt experience of our own personal patterns being mirrored back to us through another that sparks an epiphany of self-realization, and demonstrates how the interplay between twins can coalesce transcendent thought. At the inferior conjunction we have a magical moment to achieve a one-pointed focus of the unity that holds duality within it, that bridges a multiplicity of meaning to a unified perspective, and that guides us into an insightful realization about our soul and associated patterns. This is a time to meditate or surrender to Hermes the Psychopomp, as we allow the message of the moment to soak into our core and revivify our perception.
The Sabian Symbol for 9° Gemini where Mercury’s inner union with the Sun occurs is “A QUIVER FILLED WITH ARROWS,” and fittingly had a double meaning to Dane Rudhyar. On the lower level, this symbol represents the human capacity “to extend the scope of his conquest of nature and kill enemies in order to build a larger base for the collective development of a culture and an organized society” (p. 95). Since a quiver of arrows suggests the existence of a target to aim at, this symbol also represents the penetrating potential of the human mind to go through the target toward which it aims, destroying the obstacles on its path. At a higher level, Rudhyar likened this symbol to the “Zen practice of archery” in which “the obstacle is the ego” (p. 95). The unifying concept of this symbol to Rudhyar is “CONQUEST,” whether it is applied to conquering the external world or the restrictive influence of the ego on our inner world. During this Mercury retrograde, it is best to remember Rudhyar’s conjecture of conquest, as the moment our ego grabs hold of us in order to win a debate at all costs, is the moment that the staff of Hermes could suddenly strike and enfold us in a joke of which we are the punchline. The more we can sustain a collaborative, creative air between us and those holding sharply contrasting opinions, we will be better able to avoid the pitfalls of dispute that stresses more so than enlivens. The inspiring potential we find here is that by listening to opinions coming from drastically different perceptions to our own, we can fertilize tremendous growth of knowledge from within.
With the Sun and Mercury exactly conjunct in Gemini and in square to Neptune in Pisces, with Mars in Gemini in sextile to Jupiter in Leo and Uranus in Aries, we have a regenerating, liberating well to drink from within us even though the current events dominating the global stage are filled with instability, violence, discord, and oppression. An image that comes to my mind in association with the strong Gemini energy of the Sun, Mercury retrograde, and Mars is that of a WITNESS to life in all of its complex depth, a witness who is then willing to serve as a messenger to inform the surrounding society about what is going on in secrecy behind the proverbial locked doors Mercury can open for us. When we express the full story we are witnessing within and around us, we beam our light into the collective matrix and move others with the emotive, wakening wind of Mercury.
“World” can be a comprehensive idea if as an autonomous entirety it accommodates the observer as if he were moving about in the world he normally is surrounded by. The world of the Iliad or that of the Odyssey accommodates us in this way. Every such world, however, is at the same time a worked-out idea of the world that existed already prior to this expression of it and that lent itself to the finished expression of the idea. There can be no “world”- even if it is the purely spiritual epiphany of an intellectually luminous god- which is not “worldly,” that is, which does not function as a space to contain the content of the revelation in a fitting way. If a god is “idea” and “world,” he remains nonetheless in connection with the world that contains all such “worlds”; he can be only an “aspect of the world” while the world of which he is an aspect possesses such idea-aspects. Indeed, it has the ability to shine forth in its totality as idea, it possesses the light of the idea, and is itself in its own way lighted and clear . . . “Light” and “clear” in the sense of “world-like” – and therefore convincing – could also be the idea of Hermes.
— Karl Kerenyi (p. 69) Hermes: Guide of Souls
Germination by Odilon Redon (1890-96)
To find my home in one sentence, concise, as if hammered in metal. Not to enchant anybody. Not to earn a lasting name in prosperity. An unnamed need for order, for rhythm, for form, which three words are opposed to chaos and nothingness.
Czeslaw Milosz (1981-1983)
After Mercury separates from its inner merging with the Sun, the Sun moves on to initiate a conjunction with Mars in Gemini, as Mercury begins its shifting ways again and starts to station direct. The Sun conjoining Mars in Gemini constellates images of a warrior of words, a passionate poet, an intellectual activist who refuses to collude with oppressive powers and instead expresses her voice in defiance to surrounding injustice. The Sun-Mars conjunction in Gemini as Mercury stations direct germinates our desires with inquisitive thoughts that can reveal new meaning for us through the juxtapositions of language and philosophies we encounter. At the same time the Sun and Mars are coming together in Gemini, Mercury is stationing direct in range of a square to Neptune that is also stationing retrograde simultaneously. We have had four years so far to experience the meaning of Neptune in Pisces by transit, and in the first couple of weeks in June 2015 we can receive illumination of any Neptunian illusions that have been sourcing our conditioned beliefs. As an illusion of Neptune is unveiled, in the winged steps of Mercury we will be able to experience a sharper sense of clarity and direction to follow forward.
In this final phase of the Mercury retrograde cycle in Gemini, one of the most significant transits is the ingress of Venus into the fiery, solar sign of Leo during the first week of June. Venus in Leo ignites a creative actualization of the mental contents the Mercury retrograde has been brewing, and by the time Mercury stations direct Venus in Leo will have passed through a beautiful sextile to Mercury in Gemini. There is a potent re-integration available at this upcoming stationing direct of Mercury at five degrees of Gemini, that can unbind and untether us from restrictive thought patterns. This potential release can be seen in the transits of the Moon conjoining Uranus in Aries at the time of Mercury stationing direct, with the Moon-Uranus conjunction in Aries being in sextile to the Sun-Mars conjunction in Gemini and in trine to the Jupiter-Juno conjunction in Leo. Within this magical mix of astrological aspects, Mercury will arise from the underworld at dawn and with a flash of light illuminate our waking horizon as our Morning Star again.
Hermes, draw near, and to my pray’r incline,
Angel of Jove, and Maia’s son divine;
Prefect of contest, ruler of mankind,
With heart almighty, and a prudent mind.
Celestial messenger of various skill,
Whose pow’rful arts could watchful Argus kill.
With winged feet ’tis thine thro’ air to course,
Emblems of Mercury O friend of man, and prophet of discourse;
Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine
In arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine.
With pow’r endu’d all language to explain,
Of care the loos’ner, and the source of gain.
Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod,
Corucian, blessed, profitable God.
Of various speech, whose aid in works we find,
Emblems of Mercury And in necessities to mortals kind.
Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere,
Be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear;
Assist my works, conclude my life with peace,
Give graceful speech, and memory’s increase.
–from the Orphic Hymn translated from the Greek by Thomas Taylor (1824)
Kerenyi, Karl. (1976). Hermes: Guide of Souls. Spring Publications.
Milosz, Czeslaw. (2011). Selected and Last Poems, 1931-2004. HarperCollins.
Rudhyar, Dane. (1974). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases. Vintage.
Stein, Murray. (1999). Hermes and the Creation of Space.