De Maconnieke Encyclopedie zoekt
Een ogenblik !
An important symbol lies beneath the act of tearing to pieces, or tearing limb from limb. Let us begin with some examples of the way the symbol is used. The best known is the myth of Osiris torn to pieces by Set, who scattered the fragments which Isis then diligently sought out and pieced together again, one piece excepted. There are a great many legends and folktales which tell much the same story: giants' bodies are cut to pieces and then magically put together again. Siegmund's sword, in the Niebelungen saga, is broken in various places beyond repair; only Siegfried, his son, is capable of reforging it. According to Heinrich Zimmer, the dismemberment of the formless dragon Vritra, in Indian mythology, reveals the process whereby multiplicity sprang out of primigenial unity. Indian mythology also maintains that the creation of multiplicity was the outcome of the sin of Indra, whose expiation implies the reintegration of all existence into unity. Coomaraswamy maintains that the meaning of sacrifice is actually this creative and destructive movement the systole and diastole of reality; presentday theories of cosmogony support this view .
From the viewpoint of the individual and his spiritual life, it is interesting to note that the Graeco-Russian philosopher Gurdjieff (according to Ouspensky in his in Search of the Miraculous) founded his 'Institute for the Harmonic Education of Man' upon the basis of the need to end all dispersal (or 'dismemberment') of the attention and of spiritual Oneness. In their time, the alchemists had already found a way of symbolizing the state of inner separation of the spiritual components by means of the stages of the opus, which they called solutio, calcinatio, incineratio, portraying them sometimes in such emblems as personal sacrifices or mutilations of the body, such as cutting off the hands of the mother, or the claws of the lion, etc.. For Origen, the goal of Christianity was nothing less than the transformation of man into a being of inner Oneness. Conversely, for Jung, to be possessed by the unconscious (that is, by whims, manias and obsessions) is nothing short of being torn up into chaotic multiplicity. He also points out that the idea of displacement or disiunctio is the counterfoil to the growth of the child in the maternal womb (as well as to mystic coniunctio). In this way, then, every symbol which stands for an involutive, degenerating or destructive process is based upon the changing of unity into multiplicity, as, for example, the breaking of a rock into many fragments. Mutilations of the body, the prising apart of what is united, are so many symbols of analogous situations in the spirit.
Like the spindle and the shuttle, the distaff symbolizes time, the beginning and the continuance of creation. Distaffs also have a sexual significance. They are the attributes of the Parcae, who spin the thread of life, and cut it short .
An emblem of faithfulness, and it is in this sense that it appears so often at the feet of women in the engravings on mediaeval tombs; in the same way the lion, an attribute of the male, symbolizes valour. In Christian symbolism, the dog has another sense, deriving from the function of the sheep-dog: that of guarding and guiding the flocks, which at times becomes an allegory of the priest . In a more profound sense, though still related to the foregoing, the dog is like the vulture the companion of the dead on their 'Night Sea-Crossing', which is associated with the symbolisms of the mother and of resurrection. It has a similar significance when it appears in scenes depicting the Mithraic sacrifice of the bull . In alchemy, it was used as a sign rather than as a symbol. A dog devoured by a wolf represents the purification of gold by means of antimony.
The figure of the dolphin can be seen in many allegories and emblems, sometimes duplicated. When the two dolphins or even figures representing an indeterminate fish are pointing in the same direction, the duplication may be obeying the dictates of the law of bilateral symmetry for merely ornamental reasons, or it may be a simple symbol of equipoise. But the inverted arrangement, that is, with one dolphin pointing upwards and the other downwards, always symbolizes the dual cosmic streams of involution and evolution; this is what the 17th-century Spanish writer Saavedra Fajardo meant by 'Either up or down'. The dolphin by itself is an allegory of salvation, inspired in the ancient legends which show it as the friend of man. Its figure is associated with that of the anchor (another symbol of salvation), with pagan, erotic deities and with other symbols . The ancients also held that the dolphin was the swiftest of marine animals, and hence, when, among the emblems of Francesco Colonna, it is shown twined round an anchor, it comes to signify arrested sprud, dial is, prudent
A feminine symbol which, notwithstanding, contains all the implications of the symbolic hole, since it is the door which gives access to the hole; its significance is therefore the antithesis of the wall. There is the same relationship between the temple-door and the altar as between the circumference and the centre: even though in each case the two component elements are the farthest apart, they are nonetheless, in a way, the closest since the one determines and reflects the other. This is well illustrated in the architectural ornamentation of cathedrals, where the facade is nearly always treated as if it were an altar-piece.
Every case of duplication concerns duality, balanced symmetry and the active equipoise of opposite forces. Double images, the symmetrical duplication of forms or figures such as the supporters in heraldry symbolize precisely that. But any case of duplication based upon a horizontal axis, in which the upper figure is the inverse of the lower, has a deeper meaning arising from the symbolism of level. A dual being is often found in cabbalistic emblems, the upper figure being known as Metatron and the lower Samael; it is said of them that they are inseparable companions for life. It may well be that beneath this image there lies a symbol of the essential ambivalence of all phenomena, or, rather, that it refers to the great myth of the Gemini.
The Slavs believe that, at death, the soul turns into a dove. This bird partakes of the general symbolism of all winged animals, that is, of spirituality and the power of sublimation. It is also symbolic of souls, a motif which is common in Visigothic and Romanesque art. Christianity, inspired in the Scriptures, depicts the third person of the Trinity—the Holy Ghost—in the shape of a dove, although he is also represented by the image of a tongue of Pentecostal fire.
A fabulous animal and a universal, symbolic figure found in the majority of the cultures of the world primitive and oriental as well as classical. A morphological study of the legendary dragon would lead to the conclusion that it is a kind of amalgam of elements taken from various animals that are particularly aggressive and dangerous, such as serpents, crocodiles, lions as well as prehistoric animals . Krappe believes that the amazement occasioned by the discovery of the remains of antediluvian monsters may have been a contributory factor in the genesis of the mythic dragon. The dragon, in consequence, stands for 'things animal' par excellence, and here we have a first glimpse of its symbolic meaning, related to the Sumerian concept of the animal as the 'adversary', a concept which later came to be attached to the devil. Nevertheless, the dragon like all other symbols of the instincts in the non-moral religions of antiquity sometimes appears enthroned and all but deified, as, for example, in the standards and pennons pertaining to the Chinese Manchu dynasty and to the Phoenicians and Saxons . In a great many legends, overlaying its deepest symbolic sense, the dragon appears with this very meaning of the primordial enemy with whom combat is the supreme test.
Apollo, Cadmus, Perseus and Siegfried all conquer the dragon. In numerous masterpieces of hagiography, the patron saints of knighthood St. George and St. Michael the Archangel are depicted in the very act of slaying the monster; there is no need to recall others than the St. George of Carpaccio, or of Raphael, or the St. Michael of Tous by Bermejo. For Dontenville, who tends to favour an historicist and sociological approach to the symbolism of legends, dragons signify plagues which beset the country (or the individual if the symbol takes on a psychological implication). The worm, the snake and the crocodile are all closely linked with the concept of the dragon in their own particular way. In France, the dragon is also related to the ogre as well as to Gargantua and giants in general. In Schneider's view, the dragon is a symbol of sickness. But before going further into its meaning, let us quote some examples to show how widespread are the references to this monster. The classics and the Bible very frequently allude to it, providing us with detailed information about its appearance, its nature and habits. But their descriptions point to not one but several kinds of dragon, as Pinedo has noted:
'Some give it the form of a winged serpent; it lives in the air and the water, its jaws are immense, it swallows men and animals having first killed them with its enormous tail. Conversely, others make it a terrestrial animal, its jaws are quite small, its huge and powerful tail is an instrument of destruction, and it also flies and feeds upon the blood of the animals it kills; there are writers who consider it to be amphibious, in which case its head becomes that of a beautiful woman with long flowing hair and it is even more terrible than the previous versions.' In the Bible, there are the following references to the dragon: Daniel xiv, 22, 27; Micah i, 8; Jeremiah xiv, 6; Revelation xii, 3, 7; Isaiah xxxiv, 13, and xliii, 20. There are further mentions by Rabanus Maurus (Opera, III), Pliny (VIII, 12), Galen, Pascal (De Coronis, IX), and among other characteristics which these writers ascribe to the dragon are the following particularly interesting points: that it is strong and vigilant, it has exceptionally keen eyesight, and it seems that its name comes from the Greek word derkein ('seeing'). Hence it was given the function, in clear opposition to its terrible implications, of guarding temples and treasures (like the griffin), as well as being turned into an allegory of prophecy and wisdom. In the Bible, it is the negative side of the symbol which receives emphasis; it is interesting to note that the anagram of Herod in Syrian ierud and es means 'flaming dragon' . Sometimes the dragon is depicted with a number of heads and its symbolism then becomes correspondingly unfavourable, given the regressive and involutive sense of all numerical increase.
'And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads', in the words of Revelation (xii, 3). On other occasions, the dragon is used in emblems, in which case it is the symbolism of the form or shape which takes precedence over that of the animal, as for example, the dragon biting its tail the Gnostic Ouroboros, a symbol of all cyclic processes and of time in particular. The dragon figured quite frequently in alchemy, for the alchemists, a number of dragons fighting with each other illustrated the state of putrefactio (separating out the Elements, or psychic disintegration). And the winged dragon represented the volatile element, while the wingless creature stood for the fixed element (according to Albert Poison). It is perhaps in China that this monster has been most utilized and has achieved its greatest degree of transfiguration. Here it becomes an emblem of imperial power. Whereas the Emperor numbered the five-clawed dragon among his ornaments, the officials of his court had the right to keep only the four-clawed. According to Diel, the generic dragon of China symbolizes the mastering and sublimation of wickedness , because the implication is that of a 'dragon conquered', like that which obeys St. George once he has overcome it. Frazer tells how the Chinese, when they wish for rain, make a huge dragon out of wood and paper and carry it in procession; but if it does not rain, then they destroy the dragon .
Chuang-tzu maintains that this arises from the fact that the dragon and the serpent, invested with the most profound and allembracing cosmic significance, are symbols for 'rhythmic life'. The association of dragon/lightning/rain/fecundity is very common in archaic Chinese texts, for which reason the fabulous animal becomes the connecting-link between the Upper Waters and earth. However, it is impossible to generalize about the dragon of Chinese mythology, for there are subterranean, aerial and aquatic dragons. 'The earth joins up with the dragon' means that it is raining. It plays an important part as an intermediary, then, between the two extremes of the cosmic forces associated with the essential characteristics of the three-level symbolism, that is: the highest level of spirituality; the intermediary plane of the phenomenal life; and the lower level of inferior and telluric forces. A related and powerful part of its meaning is that of strength and speed. The oldest Chinese images of the dragon are very similar to those of the horse . In esoteric Chinese thought, there are dragons which are linked with coloursymbolism: the red dragon is the guardian of higher science, the white dragon is a lunar dragon.
These colours derive from the planets and the signs of the Zodiac. In the Middle Ages in the Western world, dragons make their appearance with the throat and legs of an eagle, the body of a huge serpent, the wings of a bat and with a tail culminating in an arrow twisted back upon itself. This according to Count Pierre Vincenti Piobb, signifies the fusion and confusion of the respective potentialities of the component parts: the eagle standing for its celestial potential, the serpent for its secret and subterranean characteristic, the wings for intellectual elevation, and the tail (because the form is that of the zodiacal sign for Leo) for submission to reason . But, broadly speaking, present-day psychology defines the dragon-symbol as 'something terrible to overcome', for only he who conquers the dragon becomes a hero Jung goes as far as to say that the dragon is a mother-image (that is a mirror of the maternal principle or of the unconscious) and that it expresses the individual's repugnance towards incest and the fear of committing it, although he also suggests that it quite simply represents evil . Esoteric Hebrew tradition insists that the deepest meaning of the mystery of the dragon must remain inviolate (according to the rabbi Simeon ben Yochai, quoted by Blavatsky).
The universal dragon (Katholikos ophis) of the Gnostics is the 'way through all things'. It is related to the concept of chaos ('our Chaos or Spirit is a fiery dragon which conquers all things' Philaletha, Introitus) and of dissolution ('The dragon is the dissolution of bodies'). (The quotations are taken from the PseudoDemocritus.) Regarding symbols of dissolution, Hermetic doctrine uses the following terms: Poison, viper, universal solvent, philosophical vinegar=the potential of the undifferentiated (or the Solve), according to Evola. He adds that dragons and bulls are the animals fought by sun-heroes (such as Mithras, Siegfried, Hercules, Jason, Horus, or Apollo) and bearing in mind the equations woman=dragon, mercury and water; and green='what is undigested' that 'if the dragon reappears in the centre of the "Citadel of Philosophers" of Khunrath, it is still a dragon which has to be conquered and slain: it is that which everlastingly devours its own self, it is Mercury as an image of burning thirst or hunger or the blind impulse towards gratification', or, in other words, Nature enthralled and conquered by Nature, or the mystery of the lunar world of change and becoming as opposed to the world of immutable being governed by Uranus. Böhme, in De Signatura rerum, defines a will which desires and yet has nothing capable of satisfying it except its own self, as 'the ability of hunger to feed itself' (Plate VI).
A symbol of primordial sound, and a vehicle for the word, for tradition and for magic. With the aid of drums, shamans can induce a state of ecstasy. It is not only the rhythm and the timbre which are important in the symbolism of the primitive drum, but, since it is made of the wood of 'the Tree of the World', the mystic sense of the latter also adheres to it. According to Schneider, the drum is, of all musical instruments, the most pregnant with mystic ideas. In Africa, it is associated with the heart. In the most primitive cultures, as in the most advanced, it is equated with the sacrificial altar and hence it acts as a mediator between heaven and earth. However, given its bowl-shape and its skin, it corresponds more properly to the symbolism of the Element of earth. A secondary meaning turns upon the shape of the instrument, and it should be noted that it is in this respect that there is most variation in significance. The three essential shapes are: the drum in the form of an hour-glass, symbolizing Inversion and the 'relationship between the two worlds' (the Upper and the Lower); the round drum, as an image of the world; and the barrel-shaped, associated with thunder and lightning .
Dryness is the principle directly opposed to that of organic life. The latter is associated with the fertility of the soil plants and animal life. Dryness, on the other hand, is an expression of the psychic 'climate'. it is a sign of virility, of passion, of the predominance of the Element of fire . The symbol of the 'sea king' as a spirit immersed in the deeps of the unconscious is a clear example, with his cry: 'The man who rescues me from the waters of the ocean and leads me to dry land will be rewarded with everlasting riches.' The waters here symbolize debased existence, subject to time and to things transitory, behaving in accordance with the feminine principle of 'wetness'. Dryness is an image of immortality ; hence the tendency of individuals anxious to recover their strength of spirit or to acquire it to make for the desert, the 'dry landscape' par excellence; and hence the fact that a man with a 'dry' personality is, contrary to appearances and common belief, really intensely passionate. Eliade observes that to aspire to be dry is to express the longing for the fleshless, spiritual life, and he quotes Heraclitus' maxim that 'Death, for the soul, is to become as water'. And to quote a fragment of Orphic teaching: 'Water is the death of the soul' (Clement, Strom. VI, 2, 17, 1 Kern 226); and Porphyry (De antro nymph., 10-11) explains that the souls of the dead tend towards water because of the desire for reincarnation .
Dualism is defined as any system which implies a binary pattern, but which is characterized less by a complementary thesis and antithesis tending to resolve into a synthesis than by two opposed principles. The Manichean and Gnostic religions were moral dualism Some cosmic forms of division into two parts such as the Chinese year split into two halves, one (Yang) in which the active and benign forces predominate, and the other (Yin) in which the passive and malign forces prevail are binary systems rather than dualisms, because the double, contradictory aspects are synthesized within a system of wider scope. R. Bertrand, in La Tradition secrete (Paris 1943), speaking about this Yang-Yin symbol, observes:
'The dualism of religion (or of mystic or cosmic philosophy) is theoretical or superficial; in actual fact, there is always something extra a third term which prevents the two opposing terms from cancelling each other out, forcing both these force-principles to yield, that is, to function alternately and not simultaneously.
Thus, the black and white of the Yin-Yang bounded by the circle of stability, t'ai-chi, combine to form in effect a ternary system, the Tao.' However, this solution by means of the 'third term' serves less to 'resolve' the problem than to prolong it indefinitely, since it encourages the persistence of the dualist state by virtue of the inner equilibrium which it implies. It is as if, in the symbolism of alchemy, the twin currents ascending and descending of solution and coagulation were kept in perpetual rotation. But this is in fact not the case: the positive forces triumph in the end they transmute matter (that is, the passive, negative or inferior principle), redeem it and bear it upwards. Dual symbols are extremely common. To mention a few: the lash and the crook of Egyptian pharaohs; emblems featuring cattle and agriculture, in which a straight and a curved sword symbolize the 'straight' and the 'oblique' path; the cabbalistic columns Jachin and Boaz; Mercy and Severity.
A symbol of the early stages of creation, and of the return to this pristine state. Hence legends often allude to someone struck dumb as a punishment for grave sins (which themselves imply just such a regression).
Like the homuncule and the mandragora, the dummy is an image of the soul, in primitive belief. The same applies to the scarecrow, the doll and any figure that bears a human likeness. Hence the belief in its magic properties.
In symbolism, this is as common as Inversion. It may appear in the form of a double colour-image (standing for the positive/negative principles), or as a symmetrical pattern of dualism, or as a binary system based upon a common horizontal axis, in which case the symbolic meaning reflects the ambivalence of the form or being in question, since the symbol is able to indicate whether this form or being is located above or below the median level. Duplication is, furthermore, like the reflection in the mirror, a symbol of consciousness an echo of reality. It corresponds to the symbolism of the number two .
A symbol of ambivalent meaning. Like dactyls, elves and gnomes, the dwarf is the personification of those forces which remain virtually outside the orbit of consciousness. In folklore and mythology, the dwarf appears as a mischievous being, with certain childish characteristics befitting its small size, but also as a protector like the Cabiri this being the case with the 'woodland dwarfs'in the tale of Sleeping Beauty. For Jung, they may be regarded as the guardians of the threshold of the unconscious. Now, smallness may be taken also as a sign of deformity, of the abnormal and inferior; this is the explanation, then, of the 'dancing Shiva' appearing as an image of a deity dancing upon the prostrate body of a demon-dwarf who symbolizes the 'blindness of life', or the ignorance of man (his 'pettiness'). Victory over this demon signifies true wisdom. It is probable that some such idea as this was in the mind of the Renaissance sculptor Leon Leoni when he fashioned the effigy of Charles I subduing Fury.
Eagle A symbol of height, of the spirit as the sun, and of the spiritual principle in general. In the Egyptian hieroglyphic system, the letter A is represented by the figure of an eagle, standing for the warmth of life, the Origin, the day.
The eagle is a bird living in the full light of the sun and it is therefore considered to be luminous in its essence, and to share in the Elements of air and fire. Its opposite is the owl, the bird of darkness and death. Since it is identified with the sun and with the idea of male activity which fertilizes female nature, the eagle also symbolizes the father (19). It is further characterized by its daring flight, its speed, its close association with thunder and fire. It signifies, therefore, the 'rhythm' of heroic nobility. From the Far East to Northern Europe, the eagle is the bird associated with the gods of power and war. It is the equivalent in the air of the lion on earth; hence it is sometimes depicted with a lion's head (cf. the excavations at Tello). According to Vedic tradition, it is also important as a messenger, being the bearer of the soma from Indra. In Sarmatian art, the eagle is the emblem of the thunderbolt and of warlike endeavour. In all Oriental art it is often shown fighting; either as the bird Imdugud, who ties the terrestrial and the celestial deer together by their tails, or as Garuda attacking the serDent. In sre-Columbian Americans the eagle had a similar