THE AWAKENED GODDESS: KUNDALINI At PLAY
By Ruth Angela
Mercurius: The Genie in the Bottle
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)
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.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).
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 )
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.
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.
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.