There is a widely held belief among the religions which practice self-denial:
The desires of the flesh are considered "evil" and at odds with the spirit, which is supposedly a "good" thing. Theologians manifest and sustain this conflict to divide the heart and conquer the soul! They pit spirit against matter, then appoint themselves position of supreme arbiter, divine interpreter of what's right and wrong, good and evil.
This belief system nurtures a socially sanctioned form of schizophrenia. Suddenly, advocates of holy war and suicide bombers are heros who will be "rewarded in heaven" for their actions.
The Satanist does not split himself in two parts, spiritual and carnal, but sees them merging as ONE! The Staff of Hermes, otherwise known as the Caduceus of Mercury, beautifully exemplifies this idea. Oddly enough, it has been the symbol for the North American medical profession for nearly a hundred years! It can be seen here in the states when you visit any hospital: two serpents criss-crossed around an upright staff with a round knob on top and flanked by wings.
Joseph Henderson described the symbol quite eloquently in part 2 "Ancient Myths and Modern Man" in Carl Jung's Man and his Symbols: "Here we see his full power of transcendence, whereby the lower transcendence from underworld snake-consciousness, passing through the medium of earthly reality, finally attains transcendence to superhuman or transpersonal reality in its winged flight." Of course, Mr. Henderson might have well said, "It somewhat resembles a penis with angel wings," but that would not have gone over too well with the barren intellectuals in our colleges and universities.
The symbol was used by printers in the 16th and 17th centuries because it was the Staff of Hermes (Mercury) the messenger god, and therefore a deliverer of information. In the 19th century, a medical publisher used the symbol prominently on its texts, and thereafter it became associated with medicine. Since the staff represents the integration of polarities (male and female) represented by the entwined serpents, the number of intersections corresponds to the endocrine glands or chakras and the symbol represents in its entirety union of body, mind and spirit, we have the perfect symbol for health and longevity!
Some physicians critical of the Staff note that Hermes is the god that leads the dead to the underworld and is associated with wealth and commerce. As the classic trickster or devil in Greek myths, he is also the patron of thieves. Forbid that doctors would want to be associate themselves with trickery, death, and the accumulation of wealth!! Medical apologists terrified by such nefarious references suggest we should go back to the staff of Aesculapius, which is depicted as a single serpent coiled around a cypress branch.
I would just like to state that there are numerous ways to explain the caduceus, whether it be from a scientific, religious or mythological vantage and after awhile, the boundaries become quite hazy! Despite what theorists tell you, none of this symbolism is arbitrary. It goes beyond mere coincidence.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that one finds staffs and serpents in nearly every culture throughout history. Also, the serpent and the bird symbol combined is profoundly meaningful and usually positive, associated with healing, wisdom, and transcendence. Even the pharoahs of Egypt, who were thought to be of divine origin, wore the double crown of Horus and Set, represented by the vulture and the cobra. The coiled serpent represented the "divine fire" or Kundalini energy, which originates in sacrum - the bone in the base of the spine - and ascends to the thousand petaled lotus atop the head. From the ancient Sanskirt, Kundalini means literally, "Serpent Power."
In the Old Testament (Numbers 21), Moses is told by God to construct a fiery serpent of brass and to display it on a pole so that those who had been bitten by poisonous snakes would be healed by gazing upon it. In the Gospel of John (John 3:14), we find this serpent image applied to Christ: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." This analogy identifies Christ with the serpent (something quite common in Gnostic texts).
If God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are one according to the doctrine of the Trinity, then the Catholic crucifix is implicitly a caduceus as well! The cross is the staff, and Christ is simultaneously serpent and bird. And the knob at the top of the caduceus? On the crucifix, it intimates the presence of God, but it is defiled by a crown of thorns.
John D. Allee, Founder
First Church of Satan
JDA/lca © 2004 First Church of Satan, http://churchofsatan.org