Caduceus

Did it occur to you, at any stage, that “A Twisted Pair” might somehow relate to the double helix of DNA? … and to “the ordinary copper wire that connects home and many business computers to the telephone company”?*

Reading that this blog explores the “twinfulness” of the writer, did you consider implicating Mercury/Hermes, messenger of the gods and ruler of Gemini, the astrological twins?

Caduceus

Caduceus

Which brings me to the reason for today’s title. The symbolism of the caduceus “represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology and alchemy, it has come to denote the elemental metal of the same name. (from the Wikipedia article, Caduceus)

The article also points out that “The caduceus is sometimes mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine and/or medical practice, especially in North America, because of widespread confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings.”

The US Army Medical Corps’ confusion notwithstanding, a liberal table of correspondences might well relate both to “the crucified serpent” – an alchemical symbol for fixatio – and to the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness to heal those who had been bitten by snakes (see the Book of Numbers chapter 21). 

You might also want to read about Nehushtan (literally, a piece of brass).  

Connecting closely with this, it is interesting to note that John Donne (Sermons 10:190) uses “crucified Serpent” as a title of Jesus Christ – who, according to the Gospel of St John (3:14-15), said: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As Walter Burkert asserts, Mercury’s caduceus is “really the image of copulating snakes taken over from Ancient Near Eastern tradition”.

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* The definition of twisted pair – “the ordinary copper wire that connects home and many business computers to the telephone company” – comes from http://searchdatacenter.techtarget.com/definition/twisted-pair 

Choices, choices

There is no power in the universe like a man. As he is, so he chooses; what he chooses makes him what he is. You know this well, I think. (Mr Pym — ie, The Pymander, in the Epilogue to Farundell by L R Fredericks)

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Fredericks, LR. 2010. Farundell. London: John Murray. [p400]
Link to LR Frederics website.
Mr Pym aka The Pymander aka Pœmandres — refer to Wikipedia article titled Hermetica.

Straightaway misled

The soul in the body is straightaway misled by pleasure and sorrow, grief and delight. (from The Pymander — [Pœmandres] see note below)

For entertainment, here and there — and for a little light relief, from time to time — I’ve been reading a library book: Farundell, the debut novel of L R Fredericks, published in 2010 by John Murray, London.

Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, comments that “Farundell is a marvellously dark and intricate literary gothic novel. The style is elegant and engaging and the storyline compelling.” 

To me, Farundell was like eating an indulgent quantity of rich dark chocolate.

Oh! by the way, The Pymander is a book that features in Farundell.

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Pœmandres — refer to Wikipedia article titled Hermetica.

Circles and spheres

Quid ergo deus est? Ut ita dixerim, circulus spiritalis, cuius centrum est ubique circumferentia nusquam.

Deus est circulus cuius centrum est ubique, cuis circumferentia vero nusquam.

(God is a circle whose centre is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere.)  

Calligraphy by Kanjuro Shibata XX; Ensō ca. 2000

Calligraphy by Kanjuro Shibata XX; Ensō ca. 2000

Various versions and reformulations of this text are to be found scattered in a variety of places on the Internet. Unsurprisingly, we also find a range of attributions, including Empedocles (a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher), Blaise Pascal, Voltaire, and an anonymous 12th century work titled The Book of the Twenty-four Philosophers.

There’s an interesting piece on the subject in 1000 ways of celebrating the human spirit — which its author calls a “meta-blog bringing together several niche blogs”.

The meta-blog suggests: “Here is
one definition that defies that
indefinab[i]lity AND manage[s] to capture the essence of the combined immanence and transcendence of the theological position known as panentheism.”

Another site — http://www.luxlapis.co.za/yan/centre.htm — cites a 12th century theologian, Alain de Lille, who borrowed from the Corpus Hermeticum of the 3rd Century [sic]: “God is an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” And there’s a nicely-expressed passage from an itinerant Catholic priest, Giordano Bruno: “We can assert with certainty that the universe is all centre, or that the centre of the universe is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere.”

Religion vs magic

The only real strength of any religion is derived from its pilfering of Magical doctrine; and, religious persons being by definition entirely unscrupulous, it follows that any given religion is likely to contain scraps of Magical doctrine, filched more or less haphazard from one school or the other as occasion serves. (Aleister Crowley, from Magick Without Tears)

Fascinated by magic from an early age, and at the same time drawn to the Christian liturgy, it was only later that I began to recognise the multi-faceted relationship between the two.

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The AC quote is from Ewakening, one of the sites on my blogroll. Thanks.

The magus

Blue and gold, it depicts the god Mercury. He’s juggling. Behind him, raising his fist, crouches a cynocephalus – the Egyptian glyph of a dog-headed ape; guardian of the bottomless pit and also a symbol of writing. Mercury is messenger of the gods. The card names him otherwise.

The magus.

(Steven Sidor, in The Mirror’s Edge)

The narrator in the novel has found a tarot card in circumstances with sinister connotations. The card, he later learns, is from the Crowley Thoth deck – Wikipedia has some good background.

I am always interested to encounter pertinent references to esoteric matters in the course of my general reading. This reference interests me more than most: the Magus is one of the two cards I pair up to form twin significators for myself. (The other card is the Fool.)

In astrological terms, Mercury is ruler of the House of Gemini.

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Sidor, Steven. 2008. The mirror’s edge. New York: St Martin’s Minotaur. [p110]