RNA, best known to basic biology students for its role in translating genes into proteins, has turned out to be a surprisingly versatile and cosmopolitan molecule. Plants, roundworms, flatworms and insects use RNA to carry signals through their tissues, and perhaps further. Inspired by laboratory studies hinting that RNA may play a role in interactions between organisms, and even different species, Eric Miska, a molecular geneticist at the University of Cambridge, coined the term “social RNA” to describe the molecule’s apparent role in communication both inside and outside organisms.
Extracellular packages called vesicles carry RNA molecules, which may ferry messages among cells. Image: National Institutes of Health
(from Greek κηρύκειον kērukeion “herald’s staff”) the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology. The same staff was also borne by heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. In Roman iconography it was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves. As a symbolic object it represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology and alchemy, it has come to denote the elemental metal of the same name.
By extension of its association with Mercury/Hermes, the caduceus is also recognised as a symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which balanced exchange and reciprocity are considered to be ideals. This association is ancient, and consistent from the Classical period to modern times. It is also used as a symbol representing printing, again by extension of the attributes of Mercury (in this case associated with writing and eloquence).
The caduceus is sometimes mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine and/or medical practice, especially in North America, because of historical and widespread confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings.
Rudolf Steiner describes the two sides of man as being a kind of fight between Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers, where Lucifer is the masculine power (Yang) and Ahriman is the feminine power (Yin). Both described in the literature as Serpents or Dragons. Lucifer represents The Right Pillar, and Ahriman The Left Pillar. They are on Earth seen as Evil powers, but they are necessary factors in our development, as we both need the Feminine and Masculine influence, but we need to find the balance between them. From ”The Balance in the World and Man, Lucifer and Ahriman”:
The left part of you — your left man, as it were — is the fortification set up by Lucifer, and your right man is the fortification set up by Ahriman. And the whole art of life consists in finding the true balance between them.