Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Whispering Symbols: Dot and Circle March 27, 2012

I am too committed to my psychological and spiritual growth to cling to assumptions that have no practical value for me.  If believing in the connectedness of all life and the meaning in all things did not produce observable healthy change, I would accommodate myself to what did; but the fact is that mythos—the symbolic way of thinking that is sister to masculine logos—has served me exceedingly well in my efforts to become more conscious, whole, and connected.

Mythos is the language of the body, heart, and soul. It is associated with the feminine realm—i.e., all that is mysterious, unconscious, creative, felt, organic, and personally compelling. It whispers to us in feelings, physical symptoms, imagination, fantasy, and dreams that reveal unconscious dimensions of ourselves.

Both logos and mythos contribute to our fullest development. Children use mythos thinking automatically. This is why they respond to everything new with spontaneity, enthusiasm, joy and wonder.  But once the “masculine” phase of external striving begins, logos and the ego tend to dominate our thinking and spirituality, and life begins to lose its savor. Those who never leave mythos behind or who return to it later on discover undeveloped aspects of themselves by following meaningful symbols, powerful emotions, cognitive dissonance, uncomfortable personal dilemmas, and bodily symptoms through the labyrinth of the unconscious.

Symbols unlock doors to hidden chambers of ourselves wherein we discover purpose and meaning. Some symbols only have meaning for certain individuals or groups; others have universal appeal. Take, for example, a dot and a circle.  Why does every culture on the planet use these simple designs in religion, art, architecture, literature, and adornment?  Is this just an amazing coincidence, or is there something profound within each of us to which they speak?

In A Dictionary of Symbols, J.E. Cirlot tells us that a dot is a symbol of unity and the Origin.  A circle suggests infinity, the All.  And a circle with a dot or hole in the center represents the center of infinity, i.e., emanation or first cause. These symbols all speak to the same psychic reality, the Self which contains our predisposition to believe in a sacred realm, shapes our images and ideas about it, and motivates the spiritual search.

We cannot “know” our Source of Being—the eternal essence that we call God, Goddess, Father, Mother, Jahweh, Allah, Great Spirit, or whatever term you prefer—and words alone can never describe all that we intuit.  But the universal symbols of the dot and the circle resonate deeply.

Eastern religions have produced myriad renderings of circular mandalas, each with a center point, upon which devotees may focus their thoughts during meditation.  Similarly,  native peoples throughout the Western world have long created sacred circles in sand paintings and arrangements of stones as aids to worship in religious ceremonies. Jung saw mandalas as symbols of individuation, and his The Red Book contains many of the exquisite images he painted during his most intense time of inner exploration.

These and other symbols—like geometric shapes, abstract designs,  certain kinds of people, activities, animals, plants, elements, imaginary beings or objects—capture our attention with mysterious power because they carry important meaning for us. What symbols and activities attracted your childhood imagination and appeared in your fantasies? Do they still appeal to you today?  What do they say about your passions and journey through life? How can you bring them into your life to create more meaning and fulfillment?

 

The Mandorla Symbol October 4, 2011

A mandorla is an ancient symbol that is largely unrecognized in the Western world today. The shape, also known as vesica piscis, the Vessel of the Fish, occurs when two circles overlap to form an almond shape in the middle; hence, the name mandorla, which means “almond nut” in Italian. In Hinduism this shape is called the yoni, a stylized vulva used in religious art and as a maternity charm to celebrate and invoke the Great Mother’s creative, life-giving fertility.

Although the mandorla shares the symbolism of the mandala, the Hindu term for a circle, the two also have separate meanings. Whereas the mandala is a soul-symbol used as a meditative aid to encourage the spirit to move forward along its path of evolution from the biological to the spiritual, the mandorla represents the key to bringing this evolution about.

Mandorlas have carried powerful sacred overtones from earliest times. For example, the virgin birth of the god Attis was conceived by a magic almond. Early Christians used the shape as a secret symbol to represent their belief that Jesus was the coming together of heaven and earth. In medieval Christian art it framed the figures of saints, the virgin Mary, and Christ, usually to suggest the aureole of light that surrounds the whole body of holy persons, but sometimes piously (with an unintentional double entendre) interpreted as a gateway to heaven. A twelfth-century panel in the Chartres Cathedral shows “Christ of the Apocalypse” within a mandorla. Alchemists and Christian mystics redefined the mandorla as the arcs of two great circles, the left one for female matter, and the right for male spirit.

As symbols of the interactions and interdependence of opposing worlds and forces, the two separate mandalas which must meet and merge to form the mandorla represent the sacred divide between spirit and matter, masculine and feminine, self and other. The space wherein these apparently irreconcilable opposites overlap is an image of hope for our torn world, a healing place where we can reconcile our struggles with life and each other.

In Owning Your Own Shadow, noted Jungian analyst Robert Johnson wrote, “The mandorla begins the healing of the split. The overlap generally is very tiny at first, only a sliver of a new moon, but it is a beginning. As time passes, the greater the overlap, the greater and more complete is the healing. The mandorla binds together that which was torn apart and made unwhole-unholy. It is considered the most profound religious experience one can have in life.” p. 102-3

The overlapping space between two souls is a place of growing self-awareness, acceptance, connection, and union. It is the communion table where God and human, self and other, ego and Self meet. It is a sanctuary wherein we connect with others to find refuge from the terrors of life. It is a womb of poetry, story and ritual where the boundaries between left-brained logos and right-brained mythos disappear, old life is refreshed, and new life is nurtured and protected. Above all, it is a threshold from which healing new life for ourselves and our world emerges.

The gorgeous art on this post is by my dear friend, Cicero Greathouse. I invite you to visit his site and click on the link “works on paper” to see his magnificent mandorlas. Perhaps you can pick out the one(s) which will grace the cover of my next book, “Healing the Sacred Divide.”

 

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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