Mercury is a metal, the god of communication and a mysterious element held paramount in both eastern and western alchemy. I have been fascinated by the material since I have known of it.
Needless to say that mercury is highly toxic, over the ages people have used mercury in many day to day uses; there are cases where it was used in the making of hats- which caused mental and physical disorientation to the people; giving rise to the famous saying ‘Mad as a Hatter’ used in Alice in wonderland (for the mad hatter). The god mercury is named after the element because of its swift moving nature. Mercury is very difficult to be contained, its a poor conductor of heat and moderate of electricity.
In Indian tantra/alchemy; mercury is called the semen of shiva. This is the most important element in this spiritual tradition. I possess a special shiva-lingam made on the inside of mercury (called a parad lingam); mercury though toxic is given the status of providing cure for all illness and even enlightenment; in the ayur-veda texts.
Mercury in Indian history is supposed to cure not only all disease but help in the inner transformation-alchemy and give eternal youth! Indian alchemy (called Rasayana- this itself means the way/path to mercury!) states that to try to attune to the ultimate cosmic power- the body and mind must be kept strong and stable- and for this the element remains Mercury.
Mercury has been traditionally used in minute quantities (Indians knew like most other races about the toxic properties of this element) to drink in water; to keep with food, and to make shiva-lingams which saints used to keep close/in touch with the body. Many saints keep these lingams permanently inside the palates of their mouths, in deep contemplation for decades all together.
Yet why is mercury revered so much? I really don’t have a clue for this but there are some special properties to this metal:
1) In tantra *and perhaps even older parts of rk-veda, mercury is seen as an agent to immortality. or eternal youth, it has fallen from “heavens” during the love making act of shiva-shakti. The mercury has to be purified through mantra and dhyana. This is the true alchemical feat; to convert it to remove pollution and grant life.
2) Alchemists (eastern and western) are amazed by mercury’s combining properties with other elements so easily; and all of them (chinese, european and indian) alchemists arrive at the conclusion that mercury possesses unknown powers which can be used to transmute-base metals to gold and also impure to pure (whatever may be the subject)
3) To my understanding, mercury has both material and psychic properties. It has long been speculated (though without evidence) that mercury use was rampant in the flying of “flying vehicles-vimanas” in ancient India, mercury was the fuel for the flight so as to say. apart from this mercury is very close in atomic weight to gold. Its use was hence understandable to create the philosophers stone.
I really don’t know what makes mercury so special. The fact that its so rare in nature itself or the fact that its liquid and yet so dense. or perhaps its the special physio-chemical properties (expansion with temperature and conductivity etc) which makes it unique or just maybe its something which we as normally cannot comprehend. The energy level and its rejuvenating properties (though so poisonous) must be looked upon with seriousness by rational communities (its not a coincidence that cultures across the world have chosen mercury as the god’s element)