Man and His Symbols

If reality is “symbolically represented” by something, it follows that that symbolic representation of reality will most like have individual symbols as its constituent parts. It has been argued that “the whole cosmos is a potential symbol.” And the individual symbols are everywhere if one were to stop and see them. As Freud suggested, a house, for instance, is a symbol for a mother’s womb, which in a sense was the first place where the individual was sheltered from the world and is a place where the infant longs for when it comes into the world because it felt safer and more at ease there. Writing, for instance, is a symbol for a person’s voice and especially for a voice of a person who is either absent or perhaps even dead, as Freud noted. 

As mentioned before, one of the more famous symbols in popular or religious culture is the “Star of David” or the “Seal of Solomon,” with the upward triangle representing a mountain, and in turn the mountain symbolizes the intellectual and spiritual center where the thinker finds his or her peace of mind. And on the other hand, the downward triangle represents a cave, which is the dwelling place of the thinker and from where the thinker communicates to the intellectual and spiritual center with the aim of finding peace of mind. 

Jungian psychoanalysis uses the mother as a symbol for the feminine aspect of the unconscious mind. Dreams are also symbols which in turn need interpretation and deciphering of meaning. And as Freud noted, the dreamer can discern the meaning or interpretation of a dream even if the dreamer is unaware that he or she knows the true meaning or interpretation of the dream. 

And as Aniela Jaffe argued: 

“Man, with his symbol-making propensity, unconsciously transforms objects or forms into symbols (thereby endowing them with great psychological importance) and expresses them in both his religion and his visual art. The intertwined history of religion and art, reaching back to prehistoric times, is the record that our ancestors have left of the symbols that were meaningful and moving to them. Even today, as modern painting and sculpture show, the interplay of religion and art is still alive.”

As Carl Jung argued, one of the more important religious symbols which have persisted through the course of time is the ‘mandala.’ In turn, a ‘mandala’ is a set of concentric circles used to symbolize a variety of psychological conditions, with a couple of the outer circles representing distraction and hell. However, the core circle of a ‘mandala’ represents concentration, and in turn, the core circle stands for the creation of thought and imagination which then elevates the individual to a divine state. 

René Guénon’s “The King of the World” is jam-packed with analysis of different religious symbols, and Guénon proved his expertise on the subject of religious symbols through this particular book. And his conclusion was that the ubiquity of symbols and religious symbols in their totality represent the coming of an “immense event in the divine order” which is nevertheless coming with an “accelerated speed” that might catch many off guard. And as Martin Lings argued, at heart of all the symbolism is a paradox: “It can thus be said that the whole fabric of the universe is woven out of eternity and ephemerality, infinitude and finitude, absoluity and relativity.”

The integration of symbolism into art and poetry has arguably been done best by Shakespeare in the Western world. Each and every character of Shakespeare’s work – from Othello to the “Green-Eyed Monster” as well as “The Dark Lady” and all the others – act as a symbol for some deeper idea or meaning. Moreover, Shakespeare could not have produced such symbolism and meaning if he himself were not on a “spiritual path” or part of some religious “order” during the course of his adult life. As Martin Lings argued, Shakespeare’s works “far transcend the idea of salvation in its more limited sense; and it may be remarked…that this does suggest that [Shakespeare] was following a spiritual path, which itself implies attachment to an order.” 

Thus, as far as Western culture and Western life is concerned, the truth is Shakespeare. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s