TCD Question #11 - The Only Truly Free Man

by Arturo Perez-Reverte

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Re: TCD Question #11 - The Only Truly Free Man

Unread postby Parlez » Fri Aug 15, 2008 6:46 pm

Liz wrote:
Parlez wrote:I don't get that part either, Liz. Mercury is known as the fleet-footed speedy messenger of the gods, but I've never heard of him (or his avatar, the joker) as being the souls' guide through the kingdom of shadows. That sounds to me more like the devil. But in that context, the devil is imaged usually as a more cathonic entity, like a snake or a dragon. It's a stretch, but I guess you could say that someone who's so disenfranchized and beyond the pale in 'normal' society would, by necessity, be 'free' to become familiar with and comfortable in the realm of darkness and shadow. In which case, the joker might be seen as a suitable guide, showing the way through the labyrinth leading to esoteric knowledge and depth. In some mythologies there's also the Trickster ~ like the bogeyman, who hides out in the dark forest and jumps out at unsuspecting passers-by and scares the pants of them. Why? To try to get them out of their conventional ways of thinking and to remind them of the dark, shadowy realms they're trying so hard to ignore/avoid.
Maybe that's the connection here...? :eyebrow:

Parlez, I don’t see this figure as being free at all, being stuck in this role of a guide through the Labyrinth for eternity. This makes me think I am misunderstanding the point. :-)

If you're talking about the Cyclops who's restricted/doomed to residing in the labyrinth, then, yes, that's not freedom. But if you consider the Hero who conquers said terrible beastie and thus gains the ability to enter and leave the so-called Kingdom of Shadows, then you're talking about a free man. But we don't think of that kind of Hero as being a Fool, right? And he's not, in classic Greek mythology; the Hero and the Joker are two different archtypes. That's why the Baroness' interpretation breaks down in that last line. She mixing her myths me thinks.
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Re: TCD Question #11 - The Only Truly Free Man

Unread postby gemini » Sat Aug 16, 2008 12:38 am

Parlez wrote:
gemini wrote:

Parlez said
Mercury is known as the fleet-footed speedy messenger of the gods, but I've never heard of him (or his avatar, the joker) as being the souls' guide through the kingdom of shadows.
It sounds as though your instinct is to defend astrology from the dark side. Your instinct to protect astrology

Mercury, the messenger of the gods, is from Greek mythology, not astrology. Western Astrology borrowed the interpretations for the planets from pre-exisitng Greco-Roman mythology. Ergo, I'm defending/protecting nothing; I'm just stating academic info about Mercury, based on a mythology that contends he was sent from the gods who resided above, not below. If you want underworld, satanic connections you have to look elsewhere - to the god Hades and his ilk. Mercury was not a messenger of evil, or for Hades, or sent From Hell.

I will bow to your greater knowledge on the subject here.
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Re: TCD Question #11 - The Only Truly Free Man

Unread postby suec » Sat Aug 16, 2008 9:58 am

Wow, much to ponder on here. This morning, I had finally decided on an answer, only to be given a lot more to think about when I read the discussion.
For me, the most interesting aspect of Mercury is his freedom to move from place to place, from one world to another, including from Mt Olympus to the Underworld - and back again naturally, so he isn't confined by the usual boundaries in that way. The joker strikes me as occupying a similar position in terms of not being confined to one place - to quote Parlez: “not being expected to conform to the ordinary norms of the day”. He is able to cross social boundaries that others can’t.
I think in the context of this story, the “truly free man” is one whose mind is free and who exercises his own judgement. Corso has to do that, to decide whether or not to go along with what he has read about the Devil, and accept “conventional wisdom” or how much to go along with anything else he reads for that matter, including T3M and The Nine Doors of course. He has to decide for himself what the “truth” is about the girl and possibly earn a different fate.
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Re: TCD Question #11 - The Only Truly Free Man

Unread postby Parlez » Sat Aug 16, 2008 10:29 am

Nice points, suec. It's important to remember that Mercury is known to move fast, communicating in flashes. He doesn't stick around to make sure the mortal recipient got it 'right'. Ergo, sometimes Mercury's quick insights can lead a person to great mental clarity, sometimes to great mental confusion. At this point of the story it's up for grabs which way Corso is going with all his mental gymnastics; with all his literary intertexual associations. I thought he was heading for a brainfreeze myself, getting so overloaded with information that he couldn't possibly process everything rationally and move beyond the infernal buzzing in his head. He seemed to be just taking everything in, adding it to his cerebral stew, without pausing to reflect or to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

Hmmm...indeed, the devil is in the details.
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Re: TCD Question #11 - The Only Truly Free Man

Unread postby Liz » Sat Aug 16, 2008 5:51 pm

Parlez wrote: Hmmm...indeed, the devil is in the details.

So is Pérez-Reverte.

Now to add another layer.... All of this discussion on Mercury, the God, inspired me to look further and to go back and re-read the original quote in question. “In occult philosophy the joker is identified with the mercury of the alchemists.” Here are some interesting things I found by Googling "mercury of the alchemists":

From Wikipedia:

Starting with the Middle Ages, some alchemists increasingly came to view metaphysical aspects as the true foundation of alchemy; and organic and inorganic chemical substances, physical states, and molecular material processes as mere metaphors for spiritual entities, spiritual states and ultimately, spiritual transformations. In this sense, the literal meanings of 'Alchemical Formulas' were a blind, hiding their true spiritual philosophy, which being at odds with the Medieval Christian Church was a necessity that could have otherwise lead them to the "stake and rack" of the Inquisition under charges of heresy. Thus, both the transmutation of common metals into gold and the universal panacea symbolized evolution from an imperfect, diseased, corruptible and ephemeral state towards a perfect, healthy, incorruptible and everlasting state; and the philosopher's stone then represented some mystic key that would make this evolution possible. Applied to the alchemist himself, the twin goal symbolized his evolution from ignorance to enlightenment, and the stone represented some hidden spiritual truth or power that would lead to that goal. In texts that are written according to this view, the cryptic alchemical symbols, diagrams, and textual imagery of late alchemical works typically contain multiple layers of meanings, allegories, and references to other equally cryptic works; and must be laboriously "decoded" in order to discover their true meaning.

From Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored by A. Cockren, pg. 81:

That all things proceed from One Thing by the Will of the One Being, that is, that all Manifestation proceeds from one, is the axiom that lies at the root of the theory of all alchemical science. The Hermetic Tract expressed it thus: 'As all things were produced from One by the Mediation of One, so all things are produced from this One Thing by adaptation,' or, in other words, the One in Manifestation has become many. From this One, this Seed, as it were, which the alchemist has called the Alkahest, have proceeded three, Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt, and again from these three have proceeded the many.

Now we must remember that these terms are used by the alchemist very much as the modern chemist uses his terms, which when all is said, convey about as much or as little to the lay mind as do those of the alchemist. The alchemist's Mercury, therefore, must not be confused with the metallic mercury which it resembles neither in texture nor appearance, neither must the Sulphur necessarily possess the qualities of sulphur as we know it, but to a student of alchemy these two substances, together with their salt, convey the idea of the Spirit, the Soul, and the Body. As Paracelsus said: "It is not, however, the common Mercury and the common Sulphur which are the matter of metals, but the Mercury and the Sulphur of the Philosophers are incorporated and inborn in perfect metals and in the forms of them."


From the Royal Society of Chemistry:

Mercury, called quicksilver by the ancients was used to make red mercuric oxide by heating the element in a solution of nitric acid. The reaction of quicksilver in nitric acid is striking as a thick red vapor hovers over the surface and bright red crystals precipitate to the bottom. Alchemists were convinced that mercury transcended both the solid and liquid states, both earth and heaven, both life and death.

Mercury is one of the seven metals of alchemy (gold, silver, mercury, copper, lead, iron & tin). The symbol for mercury could also be used to represent the planet of the same name in astrology. The metal is often also represented by a serpent or snake.


From Lesson.astrology.com:

The symbol for Mercury is threefold: the circle of spirit, crowned with the soul of the crescent and carrying the cross of matter beneath. The crescent receives from above, and the cross of matter tugs from below. The circle of spirit is what they are both connected to.

Image

Image

That the alchemist's mercury leads to "enlightenment" leads me to think of "truth". Also, "transcendence of life and death" symbolizes "freedom "to me.
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Re: TCD Question #11 - The Only Truly Free Man

Unread postby stroch » Sat Aug 16, 2008 6:32 pm

I'm glad you posted this, Liz -- I was getting lost in the posts about Greek mythology and Satan. The alchemists were to find the essence of being. Everybody know about turning base metal into gold, but they didn't get burned at the stake for that. They were looking for philosophical and physical realities apart from established knowledge.

Even though the article states that the element mercury is different from the alchemists mercury, just consider the metal. It is a beautiful shiny silver, can be smashed into hundreds of tiny balls, and then reamalgamate into its previous form just by putting the fragments next to each other. It seems to be a cross between a liquid and a solid. And sulphur can be a liquid, a solid, and a gas, another changeable peculiar element.

It seems that PR is referring us to the amorphous and changable nature of his guide through the story, the one who is free from entanglements and can see the truth others are searching for.

I have flip-flopped between believing he is referring to Irene or Balkan--leaning to Balkan right now.
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Re: TCD Question #11 - The Only Truly Free Man

Unread postby Parlez » Sat Aug 16, 2008 7:46 pm

Well, I just have to laugh, because the way this conversation is going is such a classic example of Mercury - right here, right on this deck! We take a quote, and in trying to figure out it's 'true' meaning, we add more and more layers of information on top of it, in the hopes of gaining clarity, but in doing so we risk creating a hopeless muddle instead. That's why in modern astrology Mercury rules computers - the device that gives us infinite bits of information, without benefit of context or relevence or even sanity. It's just information. Garbage in, garbage out. That's how Mercury (the Greek emissary of the gods) works; he brings information from the lofty heights above down to us mortals below. It's up to us to decide what, if any, of said information 'matters'.

To wit: in alchemy, the metal mercury may be associated with the serpent; in astrology the god Mercury is associated with the bird. Go figure! :hypnotic:
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Re: TCD Question #11 - The Only Truly Free Man

Unread postby Liz » Sun Aug 17, 2008 1:47 am

stroch wrote:Even though the article states that the element mercury is different from the alchemists mercury, just consider the metal. It is a beautiful shiny silver, can be smashed into hundreds of tiny balls, and then reamalgamate into its previous form just by putting the fragments next to each other. It seems to be a cross between a liquid and a solid. And sulphur can be a liquid, a solid, and a gas, another changeable peculiar element.

I had forgotten about it's physical properties. :-O :hypnotic:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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