The Mercurius Theater
A Traveling Academy
Directed by: Tom Cheetham & Claire Savage
"Outwardly Mercurius corresponds to quicksilver, but inwardly he is the anima mundi. A combination of trickster motifs can be found in his figure; his fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks, his powers as a shape-shifter, his dual nature, half animal, half divine, his exposure to all kinds of tortures, and his approximation to the figure of a saviour. These qualities make Mercurius seem like a daemonic being resurrected from primitive times, older even than the Greek Hermes." C.G. Jung
"Mercurius and anima have similarly shifty, flighty, iridescent, hard-to-catch, hard-to-fathom natures, a quality imaged by quicksilver in Mercurius and by the anima as elf and Melusine and by the shimmering wings of psyché… Mercurius is the representation par excellence of psychic nature." James Hillman
To orient ourselves amidst the upheavals of the Anthropocene we will need the widest possible vision of our primary human potential and of the range and diversity of human flourishing. The dynamics of global capitalism and technology are simultaneously totalitarian and revolutionary, unifying and shattering. Unprecedented flows of people and capital, ideas and things are obliterating boundaries between cultures and ecosystems, and unraveling social, political and psychic structures everywhere. At the same time, the drive toward universal technological monoculture is opposed by forces that act to scatter and disperse this energy in the service of local, particular and creative resistance.
Our mission is to articulate a worldview, and help to develop forms of life, founded on the conviction that imagination and improvisation provide the basis of human thought and action. We provide support and techniques for developing compassion, resilience, emotional flexibility, fearlessness and humor. We enable effective resistance to authoritarianisms and fundamentalisms of all kinds by meeting them at their origins in the psyche.
Our work has its roots in the European Romantic tradition and the idea of creative imagination, particularly as developed by C.G. Jung, Henry Corbin and James Hillman, while extending our reach to embrace a wild variety of radical thinkers, poets and artists from all (several) traditions. We recognize that all forms of human knowing are manifestations of the imagination, including those at work in the sciences. Reason, imagination and improvisation are aspects of the same primordially generative activity. There are many modes of knowing, and they all require an unfettered imagination in order to function. The sundering of imagination from instrumental rationality is in large measure responsible for the death of the soul, the degradation of human agency and dignity, and the dehumanization of economics, politics and society. We view our work kindling the imagination in individuals and in intimate, convivial groups as resistance to the disimagination machines that operate to annihilate the engaged and conscious citizens on whom the political imagination and the fate of the earth depends.
What can be seen is at stake. - H. D.
Imagination is the star in humanity. - Paracelsus
The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. – Diane di Prima
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. - Muriel Rukeyser
Improvisation is the fundamental form of human cognition. - Stephen T. Asma
There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is a dangerous activity. - Hannah Arendt
Art is magical. Poetry changes the way we think, it changes the way our brains work as we read it. - Alice Notley
It is in the deep mind that wilderness and the unconscious become one, and in some half-understood but very profound way, our relation to the outer ecologies seems conditioned by our inner ecologies. This is a metaphor, but it is also literal. - Gary Snyder
To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. - Pema Chödrön
If you stay in one place too long you’ll be taken over—either by your own fixating ideas or by those of others, either of which can immobilize and re-form you. To survive one must always be outrunning the destruction of the world. - Leslie Scalapino
To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening. - Dōgen
Realms of Engagement
We offer a rotating schedule of courses and workshops concentrating on the following overlapping areas of study: Psyche - The Arts - Culture, Society & Politics - Natural Science -Techology
Our courses emphasize participation and engagement, but we recognize and accommodate a variety of learning styles and personalities. The only rule is conviviality, the only prerequisites enthusiasm and dedication. The varieties of experiences we provide are listed below with texts outlining our motivations.
Entertaining Ideas: Classes & Workshops
Everything finds its way back into the tent of the mind, if only into the freaky sideshows of pathology. The polytheistic gridworks of myths keep all the rings going at once, providing the safety nets and stay wires that keep the whole show from falling apart. Once we let go the obsessive idea of a single center and the idea of order as unity, things can’t really fall apart. They simply go on performing their variety acts, each according to its kind – jugglers, clowns, tigers and horses and daredevil leaps on the flying trapeze; round and round, the mind endlessly entertaining, and being entertained by, ideas. - James Hillman
Artistic Practice: Visual & plastic arts/poetry/music/dance
There might be recovered some sense of what the mind was like before Homer, before the world went haywire & women were denied participation in the design & making of it. Perhaps someone might discover that original mind inside herself right now, in these times. Anyone might. - Alice Notley
Theater: Writing, Directing, Staging, Performing
Jung appeared in the world like a personage in one of those very dreams he taught his patients to dream. His uneasy presence in psychology, literature, comparative religion was less a comment than a demonstration. Even his most doctrinaire, hard-edged articulations … have the air of theater: reckon with this Figure. Better than analysing something merely there, he looked about him & synthesized a new narrative for us to enact, dream by dream, hermeneutic act by hermeneutic act, a pas de deux for analysand & analyst. He gave us not a science but a story. - Robert Kelly
Being Still: Meditative Practice
We should not hoard knowledge; we should be free from our knowledge. If you collect various pieces of knowledge, as a collection it may be very good. But this is not our way. We should now try to surprise people by our wonderful treasures. We should not be interested in something special. If you want to appreciate something fully, you should forget yourself. You should accept it like lightning flashing in an utterly dark sky. - Shunryu Suzuki
Ivan Illich has argued that the secular "rituals" of modern society are based upon need, fear, mistrust and the desire for power rather than on faith in the gifts and grace of the world. He wrote: “the most ominous expression of secularization in the West was not the death of nature (although this was related), nor a misnamed materialism, nor sexual ‘freedom,’ but the decline of liturgy, the routinization and emptying out of religious ritual in the churches.”
The mere act of eating together… is by its very nature an act of friendship and of ‘communion’... . To call a feast a ‘convivium’ is to call it a ‘mystery of the sharing of life’ - a mystery… in which the atmosphere of friendship and gratitude expands into a sharing of thoughts and sentiments, and ends in common rejoicing. - Thomas Merton