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Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies





Symbolic Meditation


By George A. Boyd ©2001

Symbols are templates of meaning. This suggests that each person will attribute different meanings to a symbol based on their experience and perspective. They will interpret it in their own way.

Because religions use powerful symbols to engage the emotions and imaginations of people, it is not surprising that there is such great diversity in how people interpret these symbols. Divergent doctrines have grown up around the interpretation of symbol-laden scriptures, giving rise to multiple sects.

Let us use in example the glyph for the astrological symbol, Mars.

This symbol can refer to a man. It also means strength and vitality. It can connote male sexuality. It can stand for the personality element of the will. It can represent the Greek god, Ares, the god of war in Greek mythology [called Mars in Roman mythology]. It can be construed as an archetype of war and battle, raging between nations, or an inner conflict within a person's own mind. It can be interpreted an autocratic or despotic leader, such as an emperor or warlord, rebellion against the authority of an overbearing father, or a person's own desires to be in control. It can be linked to the Emperor card in the Tarot deck.

Depending on how this symbol of Mars is related with other symbols in a horoscope, it can take on many shades of meaning. Each astrologer looking at the same natal chart can give an entirely different interpretation of the same aspects for the same individual.

The Many Faces of Symbols

Symbols come in many forms. They can appear as



A word


A graphic

The international symbol for man on restrooms

An image

A photo of soldiers planting the American flag on a mountain on Iwo Jima

A glyph

A cross, representing Christianity

An emblem

The American flag, standing for the nation of the United States of America

A religious motif

Jesus hanging on a crucifix, the Wheel of the Law in Buddhism

An icon

A statue of a Greek goddess representing Justice

An archetype

An image of a human or divine being in the collective unconscious, like the Tarot Card, The Empress.

A symbolic array

The Tarot Card spread or an astrological chart, where the symbols are interpreted in relation to one another.

A mandala

An array of symbols representing different layers or depths of the human psyche, surrounding a central figure. This central figure can portray the Self, the Soul, or a divine being. Mandalas are utilized in Buddhism as a tool for meditation on their gods and goddesses.

A yantra

A nested array of geometrical forms that visually depict primordial vibration (AUM) or the presence of a god or goddess. Yantras are used in the invocation of gods and goddesses in some Hindu sects.

Essence image

A color, form, or other marker that you encounter in meditation that helps you unite with your Self or your Soul. In the practice called landmarking, you develop an essence symbol to help you identify each inner vehicle.

Meditation on Symbols

In Reflective Meditation, you begin by concentrating your attention on one of these different types of symbols, to tease out the meanings held within it. This is called fixation.

As you hold your attention upon this symbol, your awareness opens. Different ideas and impressions come into your mind about this symbol. This is called contemplation.

Finally, you may feel that you have become one with the symbol, beyond words and representations. This is called absorption or mystic union.

Through Reflective Meditation, you build understanding, discernment and wisdom. Meditate upon the symbols of your choice, and experience this powerful method for your self.

Meditation on Scriptures

The sentences in scriptures are laden with richly symbolic passages. You meditate upon these by breaking out the symbolic phrases and meditating on each one. Let us use the immortal scripture from the gospel of John, in The Bible, as an example:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God."

The four symbols intimated in this powerful sentence are:

In the Beginning (meditate upon beginnings, the beginning of man, the moment of Creation of the Universe, etc.)

The Word (What is the Word? Does it refer to scripture? Is it a creative force? Is it the Verbum Deus, the Divine Fiat that sent creation into manifestation? Is it the AUM or Amen? Etc.)

The Word was God (What is the Logos or Christos, the Word Incarnate? What is the Son of God? Etc.)

The Word was with God (What is the relationship of the Son of God to the Father God? Etc.)

Each scripture can be broken into phrases containing individual symbols. These can be used for meditation to glean the meaning within them.

Enhancing Symbolic Meditation

Amplify your knowledge of symbols by reading mythology, and learning about other religions and cultures. A book you may find is evocative is Man and His Symbols by Karl Jung. Other rich sources drawn from the Western esoteric teachings include:

Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, by Albert Pike.

Isis Unveiled, by Helena P. Blavatsky.

An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistc and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy: The Secret Teachings of All Ages, by Manly P. Hall.

An excellent source for symbolic materials is the Philosophical Research Society library in Los Angeles. Link with them at


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