…the great advantage of Mercurial intelligence is its power to keep the soul in motion, spiraling down toward a vortex of significance. Mercury keeps the carousel of interpretation moving, feeding wonder and curiosity instead of granting the stupor of final conquest (Moore 153).
The primary way the soul is deepened is through imagination. When we have new ideas about something we’re thinking about metaphorically, such as how a spiral exemplifies the movement of the soul, or how snowflakes are perfect mandalas, then we are functioning in the area of Hermetic intelligence. One of the main tasks of Hermes as World Daimon is to guide the soul into a deeper experience of the world. In our day, viewing the world metaphorically and imaginatively has taken a back seat to science, engineering and technical learning. What many don’t understand is that our technical concentration of this age is yet another story of soul, and we must view it, not literally, but through the eyes of soul. Most don’t listen to the voice of Hermes. Most are not receptive to the wisdom he provides. Everything that occurs in this world can be “seen through,” as James Hillman often said. We can view all of the wonders of Nature metaphorically. If we listen closely, Hermes will supply us with a wealth of interpretations that will lead our souls downward into, what Moore calls, “a vortex of significance.”
The practice of hermeneutics, the science of interpretation, is named after Hermes because of his role as messenger. He brings knowledge of a thing from the illimitable depths to the human soul. This nugget of knowledge was previously hidden from the awareness of the seeker of truth. These unconscious musings that arise from the abyss into our conscious awareness are delivered by Hermes. In doing so, he also fulfills his role as the god of the liminal, since, by bringing us to greater awareness, he creates liminal space, the “neither-here-nor-there,” the metaxical reality we call soul. Of this marginality, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, Paul Friedrich, writes in his book, The Meaning of Aphrodite, that
Hermes moves by night, the time of love, dreams, and theft;
he is the master of cunning and deceit, the marginality of illusions and tricks;
he has magical powers, the margin between the natural and the supernatural;
he is the patron of all occupations that occupy margins or involve mediation: traders, thieves, shepherds, and heralds;
his mobility makes him a creature betwixt and between;
his marginality is indicated by the location of his phallic herms not just anywhere but on roads, at crossroads, and in groves;
even his eroticism is not oriented to fertility or maintaining the family but is basically Aphroditic–stealthy, sly, and amoral, a love gained by theft without moral concern for consequences; and finally
Hermes is a guide across boundaries, including the boundary between earth and Hades, that is, life and death (Friedrich 206)
Of course, Hermes is closely attached to Aphrodite, who is a wonderful image for the identity of the Anima Mundi. Remember, Hermes is daimon to the World Soul.
So, the messages that Hermes brings are messages that have been previously hidden from us, but, upon our receiving them, our souls are deepened. This is Hermetic intelligence in a nutshell. In a later article, I’d like to delve into what Henry Corbin believed about the practice of hermeneutics. It is fascinating and very related to a discussion of Hermes as messenger.
Moore, Thomas. The Planets Within. Hudson: Lindisfarne Press, 1990.
Friedrich, Paul. The Meaning of Aphrodite. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.