The second-highest element on the spiritual hierarchy is mercury. Being one level higher than silver, mercury is the realm a person enters when they are close to perfection. This is represented by the liquid nature of mercury, which reflects a great intensity of spiritual power. Metaphorically, this liquidity suggests that mercury is close to moving beyond the material.
The ancients considered Mercury to be the Messenger of the Gods. This reflects the fact that mercury is the closest to the divine element of gold. Mercury is the closet planet to the Sun, so the Sun shines on Mercury before it shines on anything else. Characters of mercury ought to be able to instill a sense of awe in the characters made of baser elements.
Like silver, mercury is lustrous. Unlike silver, mercury is a liquid at room temperature. This is why it was once known as quicksilver, or water-silver. Alchemically, this property of being a liquid suggests that silver has been quickened to reach the stage of mercury. It suggests that something extra has been added to mere silver, some invisible energy that has had visible effects, and which has transmuted that silver to a higher state.
This quickening is from where we get the term ‘mercurial’. The term mercurial is used to describe people whose behaviour is hard to predict. There’s a more precise meaning – people whose behaviour is hard to predict because they are more closely attuned to the Will of God than anyone else. The characters of mercury are semidivine.
The characteristic quality of mercury is genuine intelligence in the form of a divine spark. This is where it contrasts with silver. Although a character of silver might have a rudimentary intelligence, perhaps enough to give them an advantage over the characters of baser elements, characters of mercury are more intelligent still. They are easily able to perceive the weaknesses of characters of silver, let alone the lesser elements.
Characters of mercury are more intelligent than the others, but they are not always more humble. Although they can be megalomaniacal, they are not prone to the Conceit of Silver, on account of that they are too closely attuned to God’s will. A character of mercury will not resent someone greater than themselves, but will rather co-operate with that person as a way of drawing God’s energy into the world. This disinclination to fight presages the frequency of the characters of gold.
Reflecting this humility, characters of mercury have more compassion than characters of baser elements. They are rarely motivated by purely egoic concerns. Rather, they work to end the suffering of others around them, and as such serve as messengers of the gods by expressing the will of the divine.
However, not being perfect, characters of mercury are still vulnerable to any of the lusts, rages and arrogances of the baser elements. They are just much less likely to fall prey to such impulses, and, when they do, they make amends much more readily. As such, they are clearly more noble in nature than most other people, and they tend to get treated as such.
The big danger of the character of mercury is that their ambition can cause great suffering. Although a character of mercury would never torture someone like a character of iron would, and they wouldn’t steal from someone like a character of lead would, they are still capable of causing immense suffering. Alexander was a character of mercury, if anyone was – and his conquests left piles of bodies in their wake.
The example of Alexander mentioned above perhaps best exemplifies the essence of a character of mercury. Being so close to perfection, they are, in a sense, above being judged by normal men. Chararacters made of baser elements have trouble enough understanding characters of silver; characters of mercury are beyond their understanding. To these baser characters, the characters of mercury appear as forces of nature.
Hindu Yogis associate mercury with the third eye chakra. This chakra is itself associated with intuition and foresight. A character of mercury will have great foresight, being able to see into the metaphysical world. This grants them the ability to predict the future and to see into people’s souls. A character of mercury will have powers of perception that the baser elements may not even believe are possible.
These powers of perception distinguish them from characters of silver. Although a character of silver might be able to accumulate a great amount of knowledge and apply it to, for example, building a bridge, this knowledge is limited to knowledge of the physical world and the phenomena in it. The character of mercury can see into the metaphysical world – something that most other characters don’t even believe exists. As such, they are very much the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.
The concept of a third eye relating to spiritual awakening gives away the essential nature of the character of mercury, which is someone who is almost enlightened. Although not perfect, their every action will be permeated with this greater illumination – which is precisely what makes them seem mercurial to the baser elements. Because the baser elements cannot see into the metaphysical world, they cannot understand why the characters of mercury make the decisions they do. Characters of mercury can easily appear mad to those of baser elements.
Characters of mercury are the sort of people who set the course of history. They can be found leading kingdoms and empires. A character of mercury is sufficiently impressive that even characters of silver feel awestruck in their presence. As such, they are capable of provoking immense resentment, as did Julius Caesar.
If your story involves a character of mercury, it’s feasible that resentment for them can provide the impetus for the plot. A character of silver might become envious and try to take them down, perhaps employing a character of iron to do so. A character of copper who serves as a priest, resenting the influence that a character of mercury has among the townsfolk, might assemble a mob to drive them out of town.
If not in politics, characters of mercury can be great artists or scientists. Here they distinguish themselves from characters of silver as genius distinguishes itself from mere brilliance. The characters of silver may be exceptionally skilled at applying methods and techniques to create a masterpiece, but only the characters of mercury have the power to create something truly original.
A modern representation of a character of mercury is William Shakespeare in the film Shakespeare in Love, or John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. Such characters clearly stand out from those around them, even if those around them are of silver or copper.
It’s very tempting to have a character of mercury as the protagonist of your story. Being genuinely intelligent, it’s easy to write a story in which they overcome the challenges placed before them. However, being already of the second-highest element, this leaves little room for the character to develop over the course of your story.
If a character of mercury serves as a minor character, it may be to enlighten your protagonist. Your protagonist might work in their service, or they might engage the character of mercury to teach them about some important issue. In either case, the character of mercury will likely be fundamental to the plot.
This article is from Viktor Hellman’s The Alchemy of Character Development, the sixth book in VJM Publishing’s Writing With Psychology series. This book will show you how to use alchemy to create deep, realistic and engaging characters for your creative fiction.
If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.