You are here: Home Articles Various About Symbols
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
GreekEnglish (United Kingdom)
Search

http://www.blavatsky.gr

About Symbols

E-mail Print PDF

 

“Our reason must necessarily admit an infinite and eternal Mind that regulates and governs the ocean of life…Thought and creative idea, in full harmony with the laws of unity and causation, fully manifest themselves in

universal life without the participation of the brain…”

Dr. N. I. Pirogoff

(Cosmic Mind, CW 12)

 As we observe the universe and the life that flows in it, we cannot doubt in the least that it is the reprint of a genius scheme emanating from a perfect and all-wise Nous. The universe and its entire content is the indisputable evidence and proof of the existence of a universal Principle and Intelligence that Plato called “eternally thinking Deity”, Hermes Trismegistus called “Divine Thought” and the ancient esoteric tradition “Anima Mundi”(“Soul of the World”).

All sages and initiates admitted the existence of a Universal Mind, human intellect being in no position either to conceive or carry out a coherent succession of laws, cycles, causes, effects and actions that constitute the existence and operation of a universe.

Our universe is the ornament of space; that is why it was called Kosmos. It is what adorns space; it is “ordo ab chao” and represents order within chaos. Everything in the universe is the effect of Divine Thought, manifested and impressed in all of its aspects – visible and invisible alike.

 The idea of Divine Thought is as old as our world. It was not invented by the philosophers of historic times. The Divine Mind has always been, even prior to differentiation. It is called Divine Ideation, eternal in its Potency and periodic in its Power…it unfolds the seven planes of being, from the spiritual plane and through the psychic it ends up on the material plane while to those same planes correspond seven planes of thinking or seven states of consciousness. (Transcactions of the Blav.Lodge, Stanza I, Part I) 

Cosmos is for Plato “the Son” whose father and mother are Divine Thought and Matter.

According to the Theosophists, the “Primordial Being”…is an emanation from the Universal Mind containing throughout the ages the idea of “the world under construction”; an idea produced by unmanifest LOGOS out of its own “being”. (CW 13, The Mind in Nature, p.268)

In the Chaldean Oracles it is said: “The works of nature co-exist with the noetic spiritual Light of the Father; because it is the Soul that adorned the great sky and adorns after the Father”.

According to Philo, the non-corporeal world was completed its seat being in Divine Thought”.

In the Orphic Hymns, Eros-Fanis evolves from the Spiritual Egg, through which pass the ethereal winds; the wind being “the Spirit of God” said to circulate in ether “hatching The Divine Idea over Chaos”.

Ideas and Phenomena

Plato divided Cosmos into the world of Ideas and the world of forms. He also maintained that each worldly shape corresponds to an “ideation” and is the perfect expression of a mathematical or conceptual piece of knowledge. Ideations of things exist on the plane of knowledge – wisdom and should not be looked for in our everyday trivialities. Phenomena are all the more beautiful and harmonious the better they express their ideal prototypes.

According to Theosophy, our physical plane is the environment where phenomena take place. Every phenomenon is the outcome of a previous movement, invisible to our senses, and stemming from the Primordial Cause potentially transmits Divine Thought from the world’s center to its circumference. In-between visible nature and Primordial Cause are to be found the Ideas and Archetypes on the basis of which all forms are given shape.

Every phenomenon comprises all that came about before it actually appeared and ends up becoming a complex shape, a sense form, an alphabet and a dialect, a work of art, a vision, a thought and a deed and any possible combination of shape, color and sound nature may reflect upon and the human mind may give expression to. A phenomenon mirrors and contains a series of situations and differentiations that may exist between the Idea and its effect on the plane of phenomena.

In Bhagavad-Gita we read that the human mind is a host of ideas where we found our thoughts and deeds”.

Ideas govern the world; Theosophy adds that ideas also govern the mind, the latter being the real field where ideas are put to practice. Ideas govern both our mind and the collective mind of races, nations and cultures. Buddha says that all that we are is the result of what we have thought.

We know of the fundamental personal ideas that affect and tint our perception on every domain. They are fundamental because they build up the field of our thinking, our ethics and conduct. They are important ideas, pertaining to God, social laws, man’s descent; all of them bequeathed to us through our parents and teachers.

Yet, personal ideas, even though fundamental to each one of us, do not always agree with the universal Ideas of Karma, reincarnation, altruism, brotherhood, sacrifice and selflessness. With the help of the mind, using experience as a tool, and assisted by esoteric tradition and teaching, man can re-adjust his personal ideas to Divine Ideation. The presence of the individual soul in the universe serves one purpose alone: to gather experience through sorts of life that reflect Ideation and then to withdraw to the primary Light, if and when the soul will have fulfilled the Divine Ideas in objectivity.

 Symbol and Emblem

The convergence of an abstract Idea with matter initially produces a shape called symbol. The word “symbol” derives from the greek words “syn” - meaning “with”- and “vallo” - meaning “throw”. It is the coming together of the immaterial and abstract with the matter of forms that originally illustrates Divine Thought in geometrical shapes. Such are the archetypal symbols that become sacred symbols of religion and initiation here on earth.

According to Plato, a symbol is a flash from Divine Idea and it is the worldly language by means of which Divine Thought is transferred on to objective life.

A symbol is a shape that represents an idea. It is a sign whereby we can make out a hidden message. It may be a geometrical shape, a syllable, a word, a letter, some color, a sound, an emblem. It always conveys a message that expresses a cosmic idea, a collective or even an individual thought. A sign in nature is a symbol that conveys something related to the movement of the heavenly bodies, changes in climate and atmospheric variations.  The rise and setting of the sun is a phenomenon – symbol underlying earth’s rotation round itself, while a year’s span underlies earth’s rotation round the sun. Weather phenomena are symbols of the atmospheric conditions that pave the way for its manifestation. The water drops are the symbol of the air’s liquefaction. The tears in a human being’s eyes are the symbol of sorrow or great joy while wrinkles and white hair are the symbols of old age. A host of symbols may represent a concept that portrays the way of thinking and convictions of a certain group of people and may be laden with all sorts of emotions.  Then it is called an emblem, it contains a whole lot of ideas- symbols and becomes a national, religious or political motto. In the case of a family, it may become the insignia representing it, whereas the seal is the symbol that underlines the personal valor of its user.

An emblem comprises a series of symbols that clearly illustrate a certain idea. On the contrary, a symbol is the depiction or sign of an esoteric principle or series of principles and can only be recognized by the initiated.

Holy scriptures use both symbols and emblems and that is the reason why they are not easily understood and are freely interpreted. It should be added that the meaning of an emblem may be completely different from a like emblem in case one of the two has suffered even the least alteration. The symbol of Swastika is interpreted in different ways according to the direction of its angles, i.e. whether right-facing or left-facing. The change of the bending of the angles also changes the hidden meaning and consequently the interpretation given to swastika istelf.

Divine Thought

The world is the realization of Divine Thought in space and time. Divine Thought is the root of any forthcoming Cosmogony and Theogony. It is projected through its rays – Ideas, and participating in everything manifested also determines its dominance over it. Idea is the source of causation of all phenomena; therefore everything from the minutest to the greatest must sooner or later express that divine prototype. The reprint of the Idea onto objectivity is the ultimate purpose of our individual life.

An excerpt from the Secret Doctrine graphically renders the presence of Divine Thought and the process of its assimilation by manifestation’s Logoi – Creators:

As soon as DARKNESS…has disappeared in its own realm…leaving behind itself only its divine manifested Ideation, the creative Logoi have their understanding opened and they see in the ideal world (hitherto concealed in the divine thought) the archetypal forms of all and proceed to copy and build a fashion upon these models forms evanescent and transcendent… The Demiurgos …born in the twilight of action has yet to first perceive the plan, to realize the ideal forms which lie buried in the bosom of Eternal Ideation….” S. D. I, 380.

  In the same book we read that all phenomena are seated in “noumena”, Plato’s Ideas. The phenomenal world is but a reflection of the world of the mind which is the plane of unity and wisdom. On the contrary knowledge, which corresponds to the world of phenomena, is relative and finite.

“The active Power, the “Perpetual motion of the great Breath” only awakens Kosmos at the dawn of every new Period, setting it into motion by means of the two contrary Forces, and thus causing it to become objective on the plane of Illusion……That dual motion transfers Kosmos from the plane of the Eternal Ideal into that of finite manifestation, or from the Noumenal to the phenomenal plane. Everything that is, was, and will be, eternally is, even the countless forms, which are finite and perishable only in their objective, not in their ideal Form. They existed as Ideas, in the Eternity, and, when they pass away, will exist as reflections. Neither the form of man, nor that of any animal, plant or stone has ever been created, and it is only on this plane of ours that it commenced “becoming,” i.e., objectivising into its present materiality, or expanding from within outwards, from the most sublimated and supersensuous essence into its grossest appearance”.  S. D. I, 282

It also says that “ that no form can be given to anything, either by nature or by man, whose ideal type does not already exist on the subjective plane. More than this; that no such form or shape can possibly enter man’s consciousness, or evolve in his imagination, which does not exist in prototype, at least as an approximation.  S. D. I, 282, fn 2.

Archetypes

The termarchetype” derives from the greek “arkhe” - meaning “first” or “original” - and “typos” - meaning “model”, “type”; it denotes the prototype forming and defining all types of forms that will come about in the universe.

It is a term expressing the ideal models according to which the world of form is given shape. What joins our physical world with the archetype is the symbol. And an archetype is what joins the symbol with Divine Idea and its creator.

In Yung’s psychological framework archetypes are unconscious ideas, models of thought, images innate in our souls, passed down to us through our race progenitors. In psychology archetypes exist as instincts and belong to the collective unconscious where archetypes reside.

Sacred Symbols

The first pictorial reflections of self-existing Ideas become the holy symbols which are direct conveyors of love and wisdom. Through sacred symbols Ideas inform matter, follow its course of action, organize and develop it according to the divine prototypes. We might say it is the shape assumed by Divinity for the purpose of communicating with cosmos. It is Divinity’s seal on matter whereby it declares Its presence and secures Its power. Resulting combinations of sacred symbols provide all existing shapes perceivable by us on our physical plane.

Sacred symbols which are closest to divine nature, also called seals, constitute the parlance of theogonies, cosmogonies, holy scriptures, religious hymns and rites.

Circles, vertical lines, crosses, triangles, rectangular shapes, the five-pointed and six-pointed stars are the symbol-shapes used by religions and esoteric traditions of all peoples. Quite often, out of ignorance, we believe that the symbols of our own creed are unique and that their implementation dates only some thousands of years.

Ancient Wisdom makes it clear that symbols are as old as planetary life itself, which dates many millions of years. Additionally, research and comparative study of religions, initiations and traditions have proved that sacred symbols are common with all peoples, ancient and modern alike and that their implementation intends to activate innate archetypes and to build a bridge between our finite human nature and our eternal spiritual one.

Symbolism

Symbolism is a universal esoteric language.  

It has been used to keep alive - even though concealed- the history of our occult descent, the creation of the world and our planet, the geological upheavals and transformations, the relation between our earth and other galaxy zodiacs and mainly to convey and preserve the message of spiritual life. Through meaningful symbolism a whole framework is built up rendering esoteric cosmogony, theogony, the personages who transmit esoteric knowledge and who strive for the fulfillment of the archetypal ideas on earth. Hercules, Thiseas, Prometheus, Orpheus, Arjuna, Gilgamesh, Hermes Trismegistus, Osiris and Isis, Minoas and so many other heroes, legislators and prophets are protagonists in myths that convey ancient wisdom and the struggle fought by all those Teachers of humanity in an effort to promote its evolution.

Symbols have always been present in myths and traditions and throughout the eras, from the prehistoric down to the present one, they are the only way of expressing archetypal concepts that make up the basis of the formation of the universe and highlight the purpose of its evolution.

All myths adopted by national traditions, which aim at conveying the transcendental and at interpreting natural events along with the nature of the universe and humanity belong to mythology.

A myth is a traditional story referring to supernatural beings and forces that explain or justify things related to cosmogony and anthropogenesis, social events, religious faith or a certain physical phenomenon.

Myths refer to the far past and to the creation of the world. They refer to gods and stories about them, to heroes and outstanding landmarks of prehistoric humanity. Many times they use allegories with animal characters. The same symbol – archetypes are used in popular tradition. The latter is all that remains of the power of symbols.  Concepts inspiring symbol – forms reiterated in yearly happenings, even though veiled in prejudice and ignorance, still, occasionally, activate latent ideation innate in human nature.

As already said, an archetype is the divine seal which, reprinting on matter the beginning and the ultimate purpose of manifested life, is ever-present either obvious or concealed. Its presence in the world in the form of either a sacred symbol or a complex shape used in our daily life radiates more or less the divine idea that is its initial cause. The archetype as a principal element of manifestation and present in all phenomena being their primary cause also exists in man’s esoteric nature. Man is a microcosm, a copy of the macrocosmic archetype, because he is the son of God and lives under the conditions of physical life till he becomes alike with his divine archetype.

The archetype’s awakening in life can be accomplished with the aid of the law of karma or harmony and reincarnation, through the ever-returning cycles of individual life on the physical plane. All individual choices and activities in disharmony with the self-existing eternal Ideas, which are justice, solidarity and unselfishness, bring about such consequences as oblige man to return to the same time and place again and again till his being applies the law of universal harmony or of Divine Idea. Reincarnation is the law that brings man back to earth’s school until he can apply the Idea of justice, brotherhood and service to others.

It is the awakening of the dormant Idea that religion and initiation aspire to. Everything done and heard during the reiteration of the sacred symbols reinstates the current of communication between the Creator and his creature.

Symbols are universal and common; each one may choose some, give them the context he chooses and apply them. An incorrect implementation of the archetypal symbols is debited as far as karma is concerned to the user and not to the symbol itself.

The language of symbols

The Idea as procreator of individual consciousness and form exists in the created world and is reflected on it. This means that it is not only the prototypes that potentially exist in phenomena but also that every movement and shape in the universe is accomplished according to its archetypal matrix.

Therefore, archetypal symbols, which Pythagoras defines by means of numbers, geometrical shapes and theorems, illustrate the contribution of wisdom, harmony and justice in the formation of the world. Archetypes, on the one hand basis of all shapes in the universe are also, on the other hand, the model of ethical and physical laws which individual life will have to abide by for its evolution. Ethics is the breath of the Universal Law that will have to be expressed and applied on a planetary and individual level. A symbol is the pictorial vehicle of the universal law or divine thought on the planes of the world that follow the archetypal one.

So, model geometrical shapes become sacred ones while archetypal sounds become powerful words called hymns in the West and mantrams in the East. The reiteration of a powerful word and focusing of the mind on it can bring about the unison of the user with the spiritual home he belongs to and which he stems from. A mantram is a number of sounds, syllables or words whose reiteration may affect one’s surrounding atmosphere and which can either facilitate man’s communication with more spiritual spheres or create phenomena on the level of senses. In either case what matters is correct utterance, personal development and intended purpose.

The Theosophical Emblem

theoslogo

 

A symbol, in order to be called such, has to contain the idea or ideas it represents. The Theosophical emblem renders in a geometrical way the fundamental metaphysical concepts of Ancient Wisdom presented round the end of the 19th century under the term Theosophy.

The Theosophical emblem consists of a six-pointed star bearing Isis’ cross in the middle; it is surrounded by a circle depicting a serpent biting its tail. On top of the great circle there is the circumscribed symbol of swastika or tetragram, its arms moving clockwise.

 The Circle

 The Spirit of Life and Immortality has always been symbolized with a circle; therefore the serpent swallowing its tail symbolizes Wisdom within the limitless. Non-corporeal Intelligencies or Creative Powers have always been depicted as circles. Divine Thought which is the cause of the formation of the Universe, records Its existence, first in the shape of a Circle. The circle is the symbol of eternal Deity, periodicity and wisdom.

It symbolizes the periodicity reprinted in the movement of the universal, solar and planetary bodies. Speaking of individuals it represents the cycle of reincarnations, in other words the reiterated presence of human souls on earth till they acquire that grade of perfect knowledge which will allow them to complete their return from matter to spirit.

Periodicity is also presented as the serpent swallowing its tail,  symbolizing the reiteration of the cycle of life towards acquiring  knowledge through experience.

It symbolizes wisdom and eternity. It symbolizes eternity because the latter has neither beginning nor end; that is how the ring with the snake biting its tail is formed. Moreover, the serpent’s scales form facets of precious stones or diamonds that symbolize the illimitable diversity of the aspects of wisdom and truth. This is not incoherent as far as truth itself goes. It is solely due to the varying views individuals hold about the one Truth.

The scales also symbolize the myriads of veils the souls are wrapped in so as to exist in the manifested world. The snake’s casting of skin represents man’s change of veil – bodies between incarnations as well as the change human consciousness undergoes through various experiences.

The six-pointed star

The two interlaced triangles, also known as “Solomon’s seal”, are the geometrical complex of the bulk of occult teaching.

The upward-pointing triangle represents hidden Wisdom and the downward-pointing one the Wisdom that has been revealed to the phenomenal world. The circle illustrates the limit, the boundary and circumference of the All, the Universal Principle, which no matter where it extends from and to, embraces everything and at the same time encompasses the potentiality of all action in Cosmos.

The two triangles symbolize the two great principles: passivity and activity. Each triangle expresses a triplicity. The white one symbolizes knowledge, the knower and the thing known. The black triangle symbolizes the shape, the color and the substance-matter and also the creative, preserving and destructible power in the world.

In almost all religions the “six-pointed star” is the symbol of Logos as the first emanation. The Six-pointed star represents the six Forces, the six planes, the six principles, all of them synthesized in the Seventh plane, right in the center of the Star.

The Six-pointed Star represents Macrocosm or the divine world whereas the Five-pointed Star represents Microcosm or the human being. It is the symbol of divine self-consciousness.

The Six-pointed Star, which in fact comprises number Seven (the seventh dot is to be seen in the middle) represents the whole of objective existence, the Monad manifesting  in the universe so as to acquire experience and self-knowledge and which, once the purpose of evolution accomplished, becomes a self-conscious divine Monad, true Son of God. The Six-pointed Star represents divine self-consciousness.

The sextant appears as a double equilateral triangle and symbolizes the mixing of the three philosophic fires and the three waters wherefrom emanates the birth of the elements of everything. The triangle with its apex downwards is the symbol of Vishnu, the one with its apex upwards stands for Shiva, the principle of Fire. “These two interlaced triangles …..produce the Septenary and the Triad at one and the same time, and are the Decad, whatever way this sign (the six-pointed) is examined, as all the ten numbers are contained therein…”. S.D. II, 592

Isis’ Cross

The Egyptian Cross of Isis symbolizes the human being’s cycle of life in objectivity. The spiritual line is the vertical one, while the horizontal line represents matter. Those two lines form the cross. On top of the cross there is small circle which corresponds to the spiritual world. The circle denotes number three – the spirit, “vehicle of the Unknown Deity”; whereas number four represents matter or spirit limited by matter. It represents the regenerated human being. It is the cross of life held by he who conquered death having first ascended the different grades of evolution and attained the divine archetype. Alchemists say that “When the Three and the Four kiss each other, the Quaternary joins its middle nature with that of the Triangle….and becomes a cube…. becomes the vehicle and the number of Life, the Father-Mother SEVEN S.D., II 593

Tetraktys or Swastika

 Pythagoras’ Tetraktys or Swastika symbolizes the cycle of spiritual life in manifestation. The Pythagoreans maintained that Soul is a self- moving number, comprising number 4.

The Quartenary, the perfect number, was considered by the Pythagoreans to be the noumenon, the ideal root of all numbers and things on the physical plane. The total of the first four numbers gives number 10, which means the life springing from One, the world in manifestation and the return of multiplicity back to One. The Monad, number 1, is Deity in periodic manifestation. Number 0 symbolizes the cycle, in other words the periodic presence of the world in Space. The Triangle is the first conception of manifested Divinity; it is the Delta and was considered “the vehicle of the Unknown Divinity ”. The four triangles of the circumscribed tetraktys symbolize omni-present Divinity and its varying aspects which Life must assume during the cycle of manvantara for the Divine Law to be fulfilled.

There are two sorts of swastikas or tetraktyses; the one with right-facing angles moving clockwise. It represents the wheel of form. On the contrary, the swastika with left-facing angles represents consciousness and its continuous re-definitions, i.e. it shows forth the application of the divine law through the cycles of form.

The swastika archetype has caused misunderstandings and negative reactions having been misused i.e. applied by personal separative forces.  Once the difference between the left-facing and the right-facing swastika is made clear, you can make out in what sense and as a symbol of what it was used over time.

The archeological spade has proved that swastika dates from the Neolithic era. It is also used in India either as a geometrical ornament or a religious symbol. As such it has been used by Hinduism, Budhism, Jainism and the Roman Catholicism.

It is a Sanskrit term meaning well-being” and is a sign of good luck. In Tibet and in Buddhist tradition it is the symbol called Kala Chakra– the Wheel of Luck and is used the same way as we use blue beads to avert an evil eye. As a term it is to be found in classic Sanskrit texts such as Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Symbols have had a very long history in Europe; they initially appeared on ancient objects of art, before our era. They were also used by Indo-Aryan peoples, Persians, Hittites, Celts and Greeks and were considered holy in Mithraism, Hinduism, Budhism and Jainism. They were introduced to Southeastern Asia by kings of India and are also to be found among native traditions in America.

In the Western world symbols were spotted during the archaeological excavations conducted by H. Schliemann who uncovered them in ancient Troy and attributed them to the transmigrations of Indo- Europeans of old. By comparing them with similar shapes found on various pots in Germany, he claimed that swastika was a “significant religious symbol of our most ancient forefathers” joining the German, Greek and Indo-Aryan culture.

Personally, during a trip to Tibet I noticed that Swastika is the symbol used in exactly the same way as the Cross in the Western world. It is to be seen on their sacred objects and is very common in their religious rites.

swastica

 

Every symbol, in the form of a number, shape or sound has been the “tongue of gods and the initiated”. A symbol can render full meanings that whole pages and even volumes may fail to do. By comprising all the stages of evolution from the primary cause down to phenomena a symbol or a combination of them can and does  represent the cosmogony of the system, theogony, microcosm- the human being and his reason for existing in the universe.

In the far past the language of symbolism was called “devanagari” in Sanskrit and it was through it that wisdom and initiation were conveyed throughout the centuries. The profane applied symbolisms and worshipped the symbols of their religions, without understanding their significance. Yet, even so the spiritual power hidden in the symbols positively affects human nature as it purifies it and moulds it according to its eternal archetype.

Tradition says, that it was taken down in Senzar, the secret sacerdotal tongue, from the words of the Divine Beings, who dictated it to the Sons of Light, in Central Asia…… for there was a time when its language (the Senzar) was known to the Initiates of every nation”S. D. I, xIiii

 “The religious and esoteric history of every nation was embedded in symbols; it was never expressed in so many words…. all the learning and knowledge, revealed and acquired, of the early races, found their pictorial expression in allegory and parable…” S.D. I, 307

“All this may have been the experience of the Past
, and these strange records lie embedded in the “Mystery language” of the prehistoric ages, the language now called Symbolism” S.D. I, 309