The symbolic world

Anybody familiar with Jonathan Pageau? … t-failure/

is there something you would like to say?

I was asking a question, but seeing as there is only your reply, I will explain.

Jonathan Pageau spends time making (amongst other things) videos on symbolism in the world and how it effects our everyday life. He does this to point out that our lives are rife with symbolism but when people are pointed out that Christianity uses symbolism to explain its beliefs, it becomes “only” symbolism.

The link I posted was to a very interesting talk about how the New Atheists actually fail to address what Christianity is about, but what they think it is about. The thing is that we have narratives in our lives that explain the world for us. Some of them are better than others, but it is never just rational science, like some people claim. Even scientists need to get away from their rational view now and again, and much of its inspiration arises outside of the lab. Added to that is the fact that we are not all scientists or intellectuals and so narratives have a special place in our everyday lives.

The point they made in the video was that if you don’t have something, you end up with anything. That means, if a narrative is suited as a means to help guide people through life, that is something. If you don’t have that it is replaced by anything, including narratives that are not suited to the task – even narratives that are destructive. Hence, we find that conspiracy narratives thriving amongst people who have no faith or orderly worldview that helps them order their lives.

The world of symbols helps us with archetypes and allegorical tales that have been at the centre of western culture for thousands of years. To assume that we are now educated enough to do without all that is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Curiously, the ideas surrounding Christianity in the modern age are relatively new. People in the past have relied on pictures and stories which were passed down orally, because people didn’t have books or couldn’t read. We need to take that into account when assessing Christianity.

I will check out the videos you reference. What you propose sounds very much like what I’m doing --becoming more aware of my own internal imagery and its connections to unconscious archetypes and the perennial wisdom of the world as a means of reanimating, re-ensouling, and re-enchanting my life.

Jonathan Pageau is a Greek Orthodox Christian and points to the fact that his religion is very symbolic in its liturgy and even the surroundings where it takes place. He says that the Old Testament and the stories around Jesus are just as allegorical as anything because you can see that the Gospels were composed rather than written as an attempt to report what happened. Also, the narrative leading from the old to the new in Christ is intended.

I think that this is an opening for people who remain on the periphery of Christianity. If you realise that the stories have a deeper symbolic meaning than just what you see on the surface, it makes many things than offend people’s intellect understandable. When you get to Paul and his statement that everything rests on the resurrection, it means that Jesus rose from the dead, albeit you couldn’t see him as “the walking dead.” The story is written with an intended mystery attached. It has to do with whether our consciousness is only material or whether there is something else going on there. I believe that the trinity is an indication to the fact that God creates, suffers with, and enlivens humankind in a real and profound way.

The main reason why this has any worth is that the experience of the Eucharist is a subtle spiritual experience that over centuries has strengthened the weak. The care for the sickly and dying is a spiritual experience. Prayer and contemplation are spiritual experiences. People have lost the access to the sacrament because of their intellectual problems with the narrative, but it is doing these things in devotion that gives us the push we need. It’s like swimming – if you don’t get in it will never happen.

Yes. The Eucharist enacts in a ritual the participation in the Divine mystery of Life. The New Testament symbolizes the participation in that mystery in narrative forms. Fundamentalistic literalism demands that people believe the unbelievable as the price of admission to salvation. There’s another way or an infinite number of ways depending on how you look at it.

i’ve been pleased over the last few years to notice a surge in interest on this subject
it’s vital that our cultural wealth be preserved
and that this impoverishment of spirit that spreads under the moto of enlightenment be fought

It is even possible now to address the findings of science from a religious perspective. Diehard atheists will not admit such possibilities, but, I suspect you are right. Left-brain logic has had its day as sole interpreter of human reality. It’s time we respect the intuitive, right brain interpretations, the subconscious world of mythology and religion. Logic is effective in naming the parts; intuition is effective in feeling them. To deny the efficacy of myth in interpreting existential angst and joy is to deprive oneself of a viable resource for understanding why humans believe in anything.

I’ve found a biologist named Rupert Sheldrake interesting in his rejection of “the mechanistic worldview” as he put it. He has pointed out how much mystery surrounds the way life has formed its “becoming” and how the observation of, say, the workings of a tree can be a mystical experience. In fact, he has shown that delving into life spiritually means to “get inside” and get a feeling for what life really is. Of course, life isn’t “friendly”, as we would like it to be. It is always a case of a plant or animal putting itself first to survive and to procreate. However, the very fact that we live on and are part of a mass of living organisms, whirling around in space should amaze us.

We have been given to opportunity to observe this and reflect on what we see. Our portrayal of what we see depends on symbols and metaphors, just as the spiritual experience does. There are patterns of behaviour of just about everything, which provides archetypes. These patterns are also habitual rather than bound by “laws”. Of course, mankind also provides patterns of behaviour, which have been the basis for stories that have survived the test of time and provided us with narratives by which we judge a situation. As you say, we think mythologically (in patterns) even though it has been tried to undermine these narratives and replacing them with rationality.

There is always a story attached to what we value. Memories are stories. Stories come to mind when we meet people or watch them in the street. They are part of how we relate to others. They follow us into our dreams and religion. Stories make up who we are. I’m not saying that there is no place for rational thinking and science. We would be worse off without it. But there has been an attempt to de-mythologise life. It has been ridiculed as antiquated, outdated, and archaic, but we can’t make sense of this world without it.

And it’s also amazing how other points of view can so quickly bind into patterns, like steal to a magnet, patterned into composite archytypes, that integrate into what we develop to call the soul

That is why Buddha’s trance, under a tree, allegedly for what seems like an interminable time, keeps us almost in a trance

But then, it is also possible that some of these ‘karmic effects’ need not occur in the present lifetime, so much so, that the transition appears uninterrupted.

That makes one life value the wheel of life through a fantastic larger wheel of succeeding metaphors, connecting with it it’s own tree (of life)

It looks like a drive shaft of three gears that can be engaged, then again disengaged , but the connections may be forgotten in one sense, but the clutch is always there.

“Calvin had a very interesting theory of Christian symbolism. The symbols are significations of God’s incomprehensible essence. He said that the symbols have to be momentary, disappearing, and self-negating. They are not the matter itself. I think this self-negating is the decisive characteristic of every symbol with respect to God; if they are taken literally, they produce idols. It is Calvin who said this, and not the mystical theology of a Pseudo-Dionysius. Thus, when we speak of symbolism when referring to God, we can refer to one who is certainly beyond suspicion of being less than orthodox.” Paul Tillich

Compare that with what the Gnostics call the Pleroma and the Kabbalists call Ein Sof.

I don’t believe in god, however, on this vein, I’m in complete agreement when it comes to symbols.

I think our minds are sick (even mine) and I think the mind heals naturally with as little stimulus as possible.

Symbols jar the mind with overstimulation.

I just wear shirts, pants and shoes that have no messages. You wouldn’t ever catch me with a crucifix or Star of David or a yammika (sp?).

I think that the less natural we are, the sicker that we are. That’s my take even as an atheist.

I started working with clay earlier this year
and i made a few statues
i had no specific intention of a meaning for them
just let my hands do the talking
they are all female figures
and they speak when you look at them

(figuratively, they speak to my heart, I’m not that crazy yet bitches)

Ecmandu your post reminded me of this:
Colors blind the eye.
Sounds deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind.
Desires wither the heart.

Tao 12

That effectively addresses your version of christianity, I’d say…

very funny but misses the point entirely
it is evident that humans can derive meaning from just about anything
that is not to say that these things, whether they are symbols or icons or fish recipes
contain, in themselves, the essence of something significant
it’s us who do
we use symbols to make reference to something inside us
and why should there be any constrains to that?
the more we dig into or human minds, the more stuff seems to keep coming out
so if a fish recipe helps someone bring something into the realm of existence
by eliciting the start of a creative process
then who cares where that inspiration came from?

Conventional or not, it is within a reformed convention that actual facts relate with gnostic, and now cum mythological inconveniences.
I agree with that, on what basis?

It is like a cat chasing it’s own tale then an optical effect of Ying Yang

Sam Harris practices meditation. Why?

Well, it is good to know that even old Calvin spoke of symbols with respect to God. Interesting though that he says that, taken literally, they become idols. In a particularly idol-ridden time such as our own, it does ask questions in the direction of evangelical Christianity.

No one is arguing against artistic expression of any kind… or it’s interpretation by an audience.
If that’s your critique then it seems to me you’ve given the ground that was sought in the first place… religion is man made fiction (or art, if you prefer).

If you would but call it that then the argument would be over…

I don’t know… I assume because he gets some value out of it.