… symbolic understanding …

The star that guides us is not meant to be reached concretely, or, as Hazrat Inayat Khan expressed it:

‘The ideal is the means – its breaking is the goal.’

Aged twenty-seven it struck me that I was not my own person, but a clone of my first gods, my parents. I realised I was not special. I was like everyone else, a slave to habits formed in my early environment, which I then unconsciously ritualised. The shocking insight put an end to my pretending I was a foundling (my joke at the time.) For better or worse I had to reconcile myself to my given mould, accept my parents’ imperfections, and my own.

Having reached an impasse re: a series of romantic relationships that bruised my heart, I was disillusioned. My ideal of love had lost its meaning and I yearned for a new horizon.

Fortunately I met a mentor who re-framed conflict for me, because in my flight towards spirituality I had come to avoid conflict like a plague. The trouble with rejecting conflicting thoughts and feelings is that we create taboo boxes in our psyche, boxes where we hide stuff we don’t want to think and feel. The accumulated rejects trip us up and actually energise conflict around us. Childish feelings may pop up to embarrass us where they don’t fit circumstances. Best welcome them, unless you want to fuel the addiction to war.

Driven by unconscious refrains our lives unfold from crisis to impasse to transcendence – like a drama with all its obligatory heroes and villains. Ignoring our inner conflicts and projecting them onto others and the world at large serves a purpose – in that it (hopefully) makes us aware that the way we go about fulfilling our needs is not particularly elegant, and has a price. The price is awareness, which can be painful, but it brings choice. Feelings that ‘have us’ don’t ‘have to’ be acted out, they can be expressed symbolically – one way is through writing things off one’s chest and releasing the outpour to the elements. Tear up and bury your unsavoury confessions, drown them in a river, or burn them. Release all association, free and purify the energy.

What is hidden from consciousness nevertheless affects us deeply.  In an archetypal sense, for example, a person who identifies with the masculine principle (animus) will be drawn to a person who identifies with the feminine principle (anima.) I don’t use the terms man and woman because physical gender does not necessarily equal psychological identification.

Generally, the hidden gender is actualised by the way the opposite principles are experienced through a parent.  Behind the attraction towards opposites is a desire for wholeness, a need to integrate our unrealised nature. This growth happens through relationships.

Plato put it like this …

… the dry desires the moist, the cold the hot, the bitter the sweet, the sharp the blunt, the void the full, the full the void, and of all other things; for the opposite is the food of the opposite, whereas like receives nothing from like …

Plato also emphasised that wholeness does not equal goodness.

As an example: too much goodness in a parent can make a child fearful of negative emotions and constellate a demand for goodness impossible to live up to. If human frailty is lacking in a father or mother, that is, if they are too perfect – or absent – then the expectations father or mother figures are invested with throughout one’s life become inflated, difficult to achieve, and no actual person can satisfy such expectation.

I’m not a practicing Christian, but I appreciate the powerful symbolic significance of the cross. The story of Jesus shows us that in the process of becoming human we are stretched between earth and heaven, matter and spirit, crucified by the dichotomy. Conflict has meaning if we allow it into consciousness. The challenge is to endure opposing forces, identify with neither good nor bad, but instead suffer the deadlock of contradiction, be crucified, because – there are conflicts we cannot resolve.

Yet by accepting what is we invite grace. We ready ourselves to be initiated into a reconciling symbolic experience of transcendence that is personally meaningful to us. The reconciling symbol cannot be grasped. It will emerge from the unconscious in its own time, through an event, or through a dream – if we can be receptive and master humility and the patience.

Symbol, a definition …. Taken from ‘The Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi’ by Henry Corbin, translated by Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series XCI, Princeton University

The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from that of rational evidence; it is a ‘cipher’ of a mystery, the only means of expressing something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never ‘explained’ once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again, just as a musical score is never deciphered once and for all, but calls for ever new execution.


Filed under Blog

4 responses to “… symbolic understanding …

  1. Very very deep and actually very valuable to me as an avoider of conflict. Thanks for this I will re-read it (probably many times) and I know it will be an aid to understanding. Cheers – Diane

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Diana. Incidentally, there is one more Diana who appreciates my posts, on FB. My story, Course of Mirrors (must find a more succinct title because CoM is more of an overall title for a series) has many associations to the goddess Diana – good company.


  3. Deep indeed! I think I tend to let it all out through the process of drawing instead of writing xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Images are powerful. Photography also serves me in that way. And a once-a- year or so painting 🙂 For those who have no creative outlet it’s more difficult to escape the pervasive grip of material and literal interpretations of life.


Thanks for visiting. Feel free to respond and, or, share the post.

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s