By Ruth Angela

Copyright 2008
(This chapter 3 is from an earlier version of the book The Hero's Path Within: Kundalini at Play which has been radically revised since this was first published. Nonetheless the information is still helpful. )

Chapter 3
Mercurius: The Genie in the Bottle

Where does an awakening story begin? Observers might explain that it began the night of Friday, July 13th 1979 when ancient pains and strains within my being were released dramatically. True, this was the outward sign of the manifestation of the awakening that was to come. But the outward signs did not tell of the build up to this point of the stress and conditioning of an unnatural civilized life that pressed on my heart like a ton weight. The volcano that bursts apart after hundreds of quiet years, does not suddenly erupt without much straining and groaning, earthquakes and rumbles deep underground. Thus it was that this eruption of emotion that came to me that night was but the final act of inner frustration and stress that could not and would not be suppressed any longer. It was a culmination of not just one lifetime of too much conditioning, too much taming, but of lifetimes of limitations superimposed upon a natural inner joy and light I call "Spirit" and Muktananda calls the "Self."

The ostensible explanation for the stress in my being was that I had fallen in love with an attractive student in my Master's program at the University, yet I was ten years married with a four year-old daughter. I took my wedding vows and my family welfare seriously, so I was not willing to begin a physical relationship with him, even as he flirted brazenly with me.

Through daily interactions with this fellow student, I came to believe in reincarnation because it was obvious to me that we had had many past lives in close relationships. While sitting in the classroom, I would see myself with him in different time periods of history. Sometimes I would be a Mogul wife trekking the Steppes of Asia next to a sled while he sat on a horse that pulled it; he was totally aware of every move of my body and my heart; our hearts beat as one in two separate bodies. Sometimes I would be a fat and jolly mother hanging up wet clothes on a washing line in Poland in the 1800's as he, my tiny son, played tag around my legs. In that classroom in 1979 in Hawaii, lifetimes of memories flooded my being just by being in the same vicinity with him. I thought I was really losing my mind, as the images continued to play through me like living movies. Then after class he made me feel like the most precious adorable goddess. That feeling of being adored and loved was something I had sought my whole life and never found in a relationship. It was intoxicating. It was a tonic. It made me feel alive and worthy. I started to take more care of my appearance. I was taking ballet lessons and in the best shape of my life. By contrast, my husband of 10 years totally ignored both me and my daughter, seeming to have a life entirely separate from us. He seemed to be biding his time before I graduated with my Masters degree, so we could divorce. To my spouse, I was a piece of the household furniture. To the attractive student, I was all things desirable. Thus the pressure to break these wedding vows was great. Yet some part of me knew that, should I violate my marital vows which I had made in a Christian church in December of 1969, I would destroy myself rather than gain a new happiness. I believe that in a past life I had gone down the road of adultery in a similar scenario and lost everything, so some ancient part of me would not go that route again.

Therefore, I willed myself to adhere to my social role as married wife and mother, and shoved away the idea of being this man's adulterous lover. I said "No" to my animal nature, to the natural spirit within me that sought joy and happiness instead of duty and social obligation. It was a war within. It was a battle against my own nature. Nathan Schwartz-Salant in Encountering Jung on Alchemy says that I was seeking the "sacred union" which was "pressing up from the depths of the human unconscious, having been cast out by nearly two thousand years of patriarchal forms of insight and vision" (10). Indeed the pressure that arose inside me at this time felt to be thousands of years of grief and denial.

Arnold Mindell, the visionary Jungian analyst says:
Our culture tells us: Be civilized, bottle up your true personality, or else let it out so quickly that you explode and go to war. Mercury is the symbol of pressure and tension, the feeling of being bottled up. He is the experience we often have of a tension headache or heart pressure, or of a stomach ache. He is a symbol of the pressured feeling everyone gets in a group which is too stiff and uptight. (52)

Mindell, therapist genius, quotes a tale from Grimm's Fairy Tales, in order to emphasize the importance of this type of stress or pressure in the process of personal development and integration as illustrated in Grimm's fairy tale mentioned in Working with the Dreaming Body. The story is called "The Spirit in the Glass Bottle." Here is it paraphrased for brevity.

A university student must return home with his studies unfinished as his father has run out of money. So he returns to the family farm and while helping his father cut wood in the forest, he wanders into a mystic grove. Here while enjoying the blessings of nature, he hears a voice calling, "Let me out." He is puzzled, but follows the sound to an old oak tree. He buries down into the oak tree and finds a bottle. Inside the bottle is a little creature jumping up and down "Let me out. Let me out." So the student uncorks the bottle. Immediately out springs Mercurius, the genie in the bottle who expands to a large sized man; Mercurius declares immediately that his task is to "break the neck"of whoever sets him free. The student thinks quickly and coaxes the genie back in by claiming that the genie must prove he was in the bottle as the it's unbelievable that such a large being could come from such a tiny bottle. The pride of the genie is activated, and he gets himself back into the bottle just as the student corks him in again.
The genie pleads again for release only this time he promises several boons to the student in exchange for his freedom. When the student again releases the genie, Mercurius gives him the gift of healing and of transmuting of plain iron into silver. With this the student can help his father and return to the university, and he becomes a great healer and doctor. (48-52 )

This story is an obvious metaphor for the release of Kundalini which is sought after by yogis in the East. The name Mercurius is a cognate of Mercury, the silver fluid used in thermometers that is toxic, silver, mirroring, metalic and responds quickly to heat. According to the dictionary, "mercurial" means "sprightly, ready-witted, volatile." Mindell calls Mercury, "nothing less than the spirit of the oak tree, the source of life, death and healing.... the wotanic wild, barbaric spirit which was bottled up centuries ago in order to achieve our present level of civilization" (Mindell, Working 59).

Thus, the bottle holding Mercurius in this story is a parallel to the Kundalini enclosed or stored in a bulb at the base of the spine. I felt this bottled up energy as incredible stress in my gut, like a soccer ball on fire in 1979. Mindell sees in this story a metaphor for the suppression of natural behavior and spontaneity which is induced by civilized life:
Europeans and Americans all have a similar dream. Our culture tells us: Be civilized, bottle up your true personality, or else let it out so quickly that you explode, and go to war. Mercury is the symbol of pressure and tension, the feeling of being bottled up. (Mindell, Working 52).
He goes on to say that tension is a natural result of this suppression, but that tension is also important as "the ripening of the fruit of wholeness" (Mindell, Working 59). So this stress I felt was a stage of maturation where my real, suppressed nature was ready to burst out of its conditioned and socially compliant mask. At the point where I was when I went to seek relief at the meditation center in 1979, I felt that to keep Mercury [Kundalini] in any longer would probably make me mad or die. My desperation was a great spur to bring this release closer.

... if Mercury is not outwitted, as in our fairy tale Mercury comes out, but could kill the patient. In practice, this means that by simply encouraging all tensions and stresses to leave the body, people can develop permanent physical injuries, or else they can actually go insane. (Mindell, Working 57).
Mindell warns that the spirit must be released gradually, "then feelings come out which actually heal people and help them to individuate" (Mindell, Working 58). Jung says, "The process of individuation is founded on the instinctive urge of every living creature to reach its own totality and fulfillment--the trend of nature in this respect is more towards completion than perfection" (qtd. in Speigleman and Vasavada 122). This stage of fulfillment also compares to Ken Wilber's "Centaur," Maslow's "Self-Actualization" and Loevinger's "Integrated" levels (Wilber, Atman 181). These are mature states of the ascent of consciousness. This is the healing boon gained from uncorking the bottle.

The dangers from Mercury being released too "quickly and chaotically" are that people "don't form an imagery or coherent feeling which the ego can integrate" (Mindell, Working ~8) creating confusion, and even madness.
Most ordinary people either bottle him [Mercury] up so long that they die from him, or they let him out, can't handle the consequences and actually go psychotic. One side of the spectrum is madness, and the other is vegetative chaos, or illness. It's almost impossible to tell who is going to bottle Mercury up too long, and who will let him out too early, and who will be able to master him once he comes out in the first place. (Mindell, Working 58).
Mindell warns that "modern psychotherapists" do not understand the "Mercury" element. My experience echoes this. There is little training in Western psychotherapy for this bursting forth of the life spirit. Everything is labeled either psychosis or schizophrenia, neither term is fully understood and neither is there any coherent or holistic method of healing other than prescribing drugs. Basically Western psychiatry has little to offer those in the throes of "spiritual emergency." All this I was to discover some years later.

When I walked into that meditation center to meet this awakening experience, I was about to participate in an initiation which would send me into chaos, but which held the promise of integration and wholeness. Mindell's words accurately foretell what I faced from my culture.

There is also no doubt in my mind that whoever meets this body spirit head on faces a tough challenge; integrating a spirit which has little popularity in the environment. Often it is easier to be sick, to suffer unbearable and unrelentless pressure, or to go mad, than it is to be in the reality of a spirit which brings one up against social conflict, misunderstanding, and the difficulties of being an individual. You see, it is a challenge, a mythical challenge, a proprioceptive pain to be a human being. (Mindell, Working59).
I remember feeling as if I had a huge football of black lead in my belly that was Mercury bottled up--it would not let me feel anything except pain. Was I to be saved or destroyed? At this point, I am sure had I known the risks involved, I would still have taken the path I took. The agony of Mercury bottled up and bursting to break loose was more than I could bear much longer.

It was with some anticipation, therefore, that I agreed to go to a meditation center in Lanikai with my friend, Cheryl, as she assured me that this would help my stress. Little did she know how well it would work and how this night would change my entire life.

Go to Chapter 4.
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