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Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies

 

 

 

Layers of Symbolic Understanding

 

By George A. Boyd © 2003

The encounter with symbolic material, be it in the form of a dream, the presentation of Mystery School teaching, or an object from another culture, may go through several stages of emotional and cognitive processing before it is understood and integrated. These are shown below.

Layer

Meaning

Mystery

The symbol’s meaning cannot be grasped at all. It is perceived as something entirely alien and incomprehensible.

Dream/Omen

The symbol is regarded as a negative omen, a sign of impending trouble or death. On the basis of the appearance of the symbol, one gives warnings. This level is the foundation of superstitious thinking.

Glamour

The symbol is regarded as a Divine revelation or prophetic dream, and takes on an aura of awe and reverence. One may feel gratitude or pride for visualizing the symbol or one may feel like a messenger of the gods. The symbol takes on a numinous quality.

Inquiry

The symbol is attacked by reason, attempting to elicit its meaning. Associations, word meanings, textual commentaries, dream books and books of symbolic analysis may be utilized to attempt to make sense of the symbol. Both the symbol and its context are analyzed.

Resonance

By analyzing the symbol through a particular context or filter [e.g., political, historical, theological, psychological, etc.], threads of meaning are uncovered. The interpretation resonates and feels correct. One gains an increasing sense of conviction that one has uncovered the correct meaning of the symbol.

Corroboration

One has a life experience that seems to fit a scenario portrayed by the symbol. The symbol becomes a metaphor for a lived experience.

Identification

One becomes at one with the symbol, realizing it as an inner form. Here one not only knows mystery, but has become mystery. The aura of mystery of certain spiritual teachers is predicated upon their embodiment of these symbolic forms that dwell in the Superconscious Mind.

To begin to understand the symbol, you must transcend your initial emotional reactions of numbness, anxiety or dread, and awe or wonder, and begin the process of active analysis. This will lead progressively to greater understanding and insight.

Symbolic pathwork, such as is found in numerological, astrological, tarot, kabalistic, and other divinatory systems (like runes or I Ching) attributes many meanings to the symbol. Its position or interrelationship with other symbols in a matrix or array of other symbols colors how it is interpreted. It is further interpreted in the context of the current life situation of the individual for which the reading is being done. The individual for whom the reading is being done corroborates the presentation of symbolic material by identifying it with a lived experience or a person with whom he/she is acquainted.

The understanding of symbols can be amplified by the practice of reflective meditation, which allows you to tease meaning out of symbolic material such as dreams, divinatory materials and art. We teach the rudiments of reflective meditation in the Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation.

We encourage you not to be mystified by symbols, which through misunderstanding have bred superstition and odd dogmas. Rather, we invite you to go deeper beyond emotional encounters to understanding and insight.

 

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