Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Of Boundaries and Bounders, Hermes Makes & Breaks Them Without Apologies

Any discussion of boundaries calls for a presentation of the god of boundaries, Hermes/Mercury. According to C.G. Jung he is "the patron deity of depth psychology," which goes into the depths of the unconscious through the personal unconscious and into the transpersonal archetypal layers of the unconscious, to bring unconscious archetypes, energy, and content up over the boundary/threshold into consciousness. Hermes is chiefly known as a guide or psychopomp, "psycho/psyche" meaning "soul" and "pomp" meaning "sending, sender." Thus He is a soul sender, in, through, and beyond official boundaries.

As Guide and Teacher, Hermes is a troublemaker, a boundary and rule breaker, a thief, a liar, and loudmouth truth teller. He's not "appropriate." He is a god of messes and makes plenty of them. He equally is an equal opportunity trickster manifesting chaos in both secular and "spiritual" settings where He is duty-bound to mug each without apology, with or without reason. The more Light-identified or Justice-identified the individual or group the more likely an encounter with Hermes is fated. He shouts out, "the king has no clothes..." or "ah, what a load of crap..." or like Cher in Moonstruck, as she slaps Nicholas Cage, "Snap out of it!". He's a trickster who shapeshifts to shock and startle, bringing a new way of perceiving reality, as it is, not as one visualizes it.

Hermes is not about safety. Safety for Hermes is being street smart, eyes wide open, canny, cunning and swift of foot and mind. He's a fast talker, a sideways walker-talker, speaking out of both sides of his mouth in order to gain something, to steal something hidden away in the unconscious in order to make conscious "by any means necessary" holy and unholy, writ, or wit, or twit, equally valuing the white between the lines, opening out or in to a "WHA'?" of mind.

Hermes, a god of occult, hidden knowledge, teaches by reversals, mistakes, sudden insight, and revelation. He is well-acquainted with the dark, the unconscious, the repressed, and forbidden, not only a protector of all wayfarers on official byways, but is the god and protector of thieves. He lies in wait, then springs upon and reshapes that which is set and stodgily staid into new revelations, new meanings, new formulations. He is the god of interpretations, of hermeneutics, which is the art of reading texts and finding the meaning "between the lines".

Hermes is a messenger deity, thus His winged helmet and feet. He carries messages between the upper world (the conscious), the lower world (the unconscious), and the inbetween world. In ancient times it was believed that if you entered the underworld without a guide, you would never come back. Hermes is that guide. He knows the ways of the demons there. He speaks "demon" and proclaims "shadow", and will shout it from the rooftops willy-nilly. He helps to negotiate and integrate the shadow, for He is a god of integrations, re- and dis- integrations in the depths of Dis (see William Blake's cosmological poem, "The Four Zoas" re: the Kingdom of Dis).

If one courts and sports with Hermes, be prepared for egg on the face and shit on the shoe, winged or not, and a large portion of humble pie which "is always hard to swallow with your pride" (lyrics from a Graham Nash song). Being a dissolver, He will dissolve groups, organizations, programs of all flavors that are too pompous and self-inflated. He wounds the healer and heals the wounder. He transforms all values in an ongoing evaluating and revaluing, unsettling those values which calcify into sacred cows. One of Hermes's first acts upon birth was to steal the sacred cows of His brother, Apollo!

I will use the following dream to reveal how Hermes shows up in contemporary dreams. As far as I know, the dreamer had no knowledge of the attributes of Hermes prior to dreaming this dream:

A client dreamed that he was late getting to the airport to fly to Europe, due to traffic congestion. He finally arrived, but found there was a problem with his passport and ticket. His plane was leaving shortly, and he felt "fucked with" when he realized that he had left his most important baggage back with the baggage claim man. He ran back to the man, who, upon seeing him, said, "I knew you'd be back for this", and gave him his bag. The dreamer explained the problems with his ticket and passport, and that the plane was about to leave. The baggage claim man smiled, and said, "No problem. Follow me." He led the client through a series of doors through which only airport officials go. In minutes they were at the gate. The doors were about to close. A few words from the baggage claim man to the flight attendant, and the dreamer was led to the airplane door. The client shouted his gratitude to the man, and asked his name so he could find him upon his return. The baggage claim man shouted back, "My name is HERMAN!"

In this dream we have the presence of a god, Herman, or rather, HERMES Himself, the keeper of the gates, breaker of rules and boundaries, who knows the right people. The baggage claim man (and the flight attendant) could allude to the dreamer's therapist, who functions as a guide and hermeneut in the ways of the client's conscious and unconscious life.