Symbols

Vajradhara

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Namaste all,

i was thinking about symbols.

specifically, tree symbols as was being disucssed on another thread.

it seems that many traditions have a tree in their symbology, usually this tree is a symbol of the life process for the tradition in question.

what is the purpose, in your opinion, of using a tree rather than another plant or geographical feature, such as a river or mountain?

in the Buddhist tradition, interestingly enough, our symbol isn't a tree... it's a wheel. rather like that of the Taoists, in most respects.

the wheel of life it was it's known as.

perhaps... the difference in the symbols represents a fundamental difference in how we view the world?
 
Hi Vajradhara

Here's some first thoughts:

The relation of the two can be seen that the trunk of the tree represents the axis, whilst the branches represent the radial element. Thus a cross-section of a tree - trunk and branches - equate to a wheel.

From this viewpoint the wheel signifies one plane or dimension - from centre to circumference - whereas a tree signifies multiple planes or dimensions - again from centre to circumference, but also the trunk pierces the ground thus signifying higher and lower.

This is implicit in the wheel, of course, in the aspect of the axis of rotation.

And yes, I would agree this highlights a difference of perception.

Thomas
 
I would say that a tree implies that some parts are more important than others, in a heirarchy, while a wheel stands for equality.
 
Another point to remember about the tree is the immense practicality of the tree in regions that actually had trees. They were immensely important to early cultures, and my impression is that in Europe at least the tree was venerated simply because of it's multiple practical applications. In spiritual terms, the tree makes the people and allows them to survive. I believe this approach would be comparable to the North American Indian veneration of the buffalo, in case that is more familiar and/or illustrative.

Also, don't forget that agricultural peoples were very affected theological by the cycles of nature that affected the growth and development of the crops. The "sacrificial king" is notable theme - death and resurrection for the benefit of all. This is the path of theology that includes a whole swathe of agricultural deities across cultures (certainly in Europe, anyway) - figures such as Dionysus and Persephone are directly related to this concept. Some would argue the resurrection of Jesus Christ as another extended application of this (this is perhaps an argument for another thread, if anyone wishes to follow it up). There's no reason to assume that the trees - being the most significant form of vegetation, would therefore be exempt from this interpretation (though my understanding is that figures such as the "Green Man" simply represent the vegetative spirit, rather than any particular vegetative form.)

In view of the various perspectives, the spiritual symbolism of the tree is therefore perhaps a compliex amalgamation of different themes. In any instance where more than one answer presents itself, I am inclined to believe that each has some differing relevance to the question - differing merely be degrees. As to which distinct theological element of the tree was more important - perhaps that is a specifically cultural issues.

Of course, that is presuming that my own perception of the issue is not completely wrong. :)
 
The Bible had two trees, Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge. I would suggest in Egypt, the Tree of Life was a cedar used as a preservative in embalming and the Tree of Knowledge or Wisdom was the Egyptian Sycamore which had hallucinetory effect. In Babylon it was the date palm or fig palm.

The tree was used in annual celebrations at the equinox as a symbol of renewal, although some cultures associated the tree with the solstice (Oak and Holly of Wiccan for example). This would indicate the wheel of life could be a zodiacal representation of the passing of seasons.

Astrologically the Bible used its trees very poorly. The Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree in Corvus. The Tree of Life placed east of Eden with a rotating sword of fire (sun) would be Regulus in Leo. Babylon used their tree differently. It was Ursa Minor. It was also a pole around which the all the constellations rotated, again relating to the wheel.
 
Namaste all,

thank you for the replies :)

in Chinese thought, water is the basic element of life. as such, the highest good is said to be like water... lower than everything else, adaptable to whatever it's container is, soft and yielding, yet strong enough to carve stone, flowing endlessly and so forth.

indeed, the world view is cyclic in the eastern traditions and as such, the wheel represents the normal experience of our lives, but also (remember... alot of this is tied to I Ching) the supramundane aspects as well. it seems that the western view of things is such that things are linear rather than cyclic, which could explain why something such as a tree (has a beginning and end) is used rather than a wheel which has neither.
 
Vajradhara said:
in Chinese thought, water is the basic element of life.

In Greek philosophy, the primordial substance has been likened to the ether, air and fire. In the Christian Tradition, drawing from its Hebraic root, water is likewise the basic element.

Curiously, the separating of the firmament, and the waters above and the waters below, correspond exactly to Hindu scripture.

Vajradhara said:
as such, the highest good is said to be like water... lower than everything else, adaptable to whatever it's container is, soft and yielding, yet strong enough to carve stone, flowing endlessly and so forth.

Again, there is a correspondence with the spirit, 'which bloweth where it listeth.'

Vajradhara said:
indeed, the world view is cyclic in the eastern traditions and as such, the wheel represents the normal experience of our lives, but also (remember... alot of this is tied to I Ching) the supramundane aspects as well. it seems that the western view of things is such that things are linear rather than cyclic, which could explain why something such as a tree (has a beginning and end) is used rather than a wheel which has neither.

Quite so.

pax,
Thomas
 
A little closer to home is the Glasgow coat of arms that tells of the miracles of St Mungo.

There's the tree that never grew, There's the bird that never flew,
There's the fish that never swam, There's the bell that never rang.

Infact they all did grow, flew, swam, rang. The tree means life.

Like in most history this is what the tree means.

glasgow.jpg
 
Namaste all,

i've been pondering this for a bit now... perhaps, someone can help me understand.

it is not correct that, in the west, time and history are viewed in a linear fashion? there is a common perception that "things get better" as time progresses? that there is a beginning and therefore an end?

needless to say, the eastern view is not like this at all. generally speaking, time is viewed as a cycle, much like the natural cycle of the seasons and the rythyms of the earth. there isn't a sense of things getting better though the passage of time. in point of fact, the "golden age" of Chinese civilization (well.. there have been three.. but let's keep it simple) is viewed to be Ancient China when the Yellow Emperor and his wife lived. These are the folks that taught the people agriculture, astronomy, alchemy, wood working and so forth. in fact, the Yellow Emperor is said to be the author of the oldest Taoist text, the Yin Convergence Classic.

from what i've understood of things, the tree would represent, in many respects, the same aspect as the Steeple of a church... a bringing man's gaze from the ground of mundanity to the heights of heaven, sort of thing.

perhaps, the church's adopted that idea and implemented it within a man-made structure?
 
Pax Vajradhara,

Vajradhara said:
it is not correct that, in the west, time and history are viewed in a linear fashion?

This is a secular view that has come to dominate from the Age of Reason (so called).

Religions in the West tend also to emphasise an eschatalogical outlook, exoterically at least, thus expressing the notion of linear time, and this perspective has been adopted to avoid confusions and dilution of doctrine.

Of course all liturgical calendars, by which the life of religions are regulated, are cyclic.

However, the notion of cycles is implicit (or esoteric) in Scripture, with refences to 'Age' and 'Ages' and so forth.

The early Christians assumed Christ would return in glory in their lifetime, so this made quite a mark in the minds of many.

Vajradhara said:
There is a common perception that "things get better" as time progresses?

This is an entirely secular outlook, and shows how irreligious the western world has becomes.

The 'Enlightenment' or 'Age of Reason' was the triumph of the senses over the spirit, the measurable over the mythical, and the inevitable result of a secularisation of Aristolean philosophy (to which it is fatally prone).

A significant feature of this outlook was that science would tame nature, and man would be freed from the bonds of the physical world (much as the 60s thought by now that technology would free us from the working week and we'd be living a life of leisure).

The whole notion of linear progression, and its cultural expression as 'progress' - is a fallacy. The Laws of Thermodynamics, entropy, etc. rule it out, and yet science continues to insist on it as a possibility.

And thus continues the ecological and environmental degradation of the planet.

The Catholic Church declared such an idea of 'progress' and 'modernism' a heresy.

Vajradhara said:
That there is a beginning and therefore an end?

Secularly, yes. Religiously, no.

Christainity speaks of a 'world without end' whilst at the same time looks forward to the end of the cycle and the reintegration of all with the One.

The Golden Age in the west harks not to a point back in time, but rather to the primordial perfection of man before the fall.

The search for Atlantis, etc. is the location of a mythical and spiritual reality in the physical.

Vajradhara said:
from what I've understood of things, the tree would represent, in many respects, the same aspect as the Steeple of a church... a bringing man's gaze from the ground of mundanity to the heights of heaven, sort of thing.

The Church represents the Cosmos, the metacosmos, and the Divine. The symbology and significicance of its architecture goes far beyond the notion, say, of the steeple representing the vertical principle.

I can go into detail if anyone is interested, but suggest it's the topic of another thread?

Thomas
 
lexyxander said:
A little closer to home is the Glasgow coat of arms that tells of the miracles of St Mungo.

There's the tree that never grew, There's the bird that never flew,
There's the fish that never swam, There's the bell that never rang.

Infact they all did grow, flew, swam, rang. The tree means life.

Like in most history this is what the tree means.

Actually the quote is correct. It is a code or hint. The symbols are extreme astrology. The two fishes is Pisces. The tree with the bird (Corvus) superimposed on the cup (Crater) is also astological. The king/sheperd is Bootes and the crown would be the Northern Crown. The bell is uncertain. The bell could be a virgo as a yoni reference.
 
Namaste all,

remember the old saying... a picture is worth a thousand words?

i do... and i've been thinking about it recently for other, unrelated reasons... but, perhaps they were related after all ;)

in any event...

i'm not sure what the correct metaphor is for what i'm trying to express, so please bear with me...

it seems to me that symbols are capable of a deeper mode of expression, they unlock a depth of meaning that words are seemingly incapable of. it's as if our brains our wired with a sophisticated pattern recognition system that transposes symbols into words.. and gloms words into symbols, or pictures, that are memory for us when we observe them.

hmmm...

it's a bit late and i'm a bit tired now... and still a few hours to go :)
 
Certainly true, Vajradhara - "Language of the Birds" I believe is a phrase for it in the tradition of Post-Mediaeval Western Magick.

Of course, there is universal symbolism, and personal symbolism. And there are often different levels of interpretation, not least according to cultural preferences.
 
Namaste all,

i've been thinking about this...

what the symbol of the religion means to those that don't know.

let me try to explain what i'm getting at...

in the Christian tradition, for instance, the nomitive image is that of the Cross, quite frequently the Cross symbol has the cruxified Jesus on it in a suffering pose.

to one that was unfamaliar with Chrisitanity, what would this symbol communicate to them?

in Buddhism, for instance, the symbol is that of the meditating Buddha, oft depicted with a slight, Mona Lisa-esque smile. what does this symbol communicate to you non-Buddhists out there?

Islam, though shunning images, is oft recognized by the Crescent Moon ala the Red Crescent and so forth. what would this symbol say to non-Muslims? there could be other images of which i'm unaware, though i tend to doubt it in this instance.

as for the other religions... well.. let's pick some and discuss.. i'm aware of some of the symbology for Freemasonry and for the I.O.T and O.T.O, and Scientology for that matter.
 
christian symbols

Namaste all...

i am curious what our Christian friends think of the symbology of the flaming sword that guards the gate to Eden after Adam and Eve were expelled.

in my tradition, swords symboloize wisdom, especially flaming swords. is there an inate tradition of this within the Christian paradigm?
 
Vajradhara said:
Namaste all...

i am curious what our Christian friends think of the symbology of the flaming sword that guards the gate to Eden after Adam and Eve were expelled.

in my tradition, swords symboloize wisdom, especially flaming swords. is there an inate tradition of this within the Christian paradigm?

There are several places in the Bible where swords from the mouth are mentioned. Among others
Ps. 57:4 "their tongue is a sharp sword"
Jer. 12:12 "the sword of the lord shall devour"
Rev 1:16 & 19:15 "out of his mouth went a sharp sword"

Interesting question comes to my mind: Does anyone think that the well known words "he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword" might be applied to words that kill the spirit as well as weapons?
 
Phi said:
There are several places in the Bible where swords from the mouth are mentioned. Among others
Ps. 57:4 "their tongue is a sharp sword"
Jer. 12:12 "the sword of the lord shall devour"
Rev 1:16 & 19:15 "out of his mouth went a sharp sword"

Interesting question comes to my mind: Does anyone think that the well known words "he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword" might be applied to words that kill the spirit as well as weapons?
For Judaism there is an emphasis on controlling and moderating the use of words in order to avoid hurting our friends in any possible way through misuse of words.
There is a specific book composed by Rabbi Israel Meir H'cohen from Radin called "Hafetz Haim" which deals with exegesis regarding what is right and what is forbidden speech according to the Halacha. "Hafetz Haim" means "he that desireth life", its from the Bible:
"What man desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile". (Psalms 34/12-13).
This book is studied in most of the ultra-orthodox Yeshivot - each day of the year has it's own page of the book until they finish to study it all and therewith starting to study it afresh in the first day of the beginning next year and so on.
 
achnai said:
For Judaism there is an emphasis on controlling and moderating the use of words in order to avoid hurting our friends in any possible way through misuse of words.
There is a specific book composed by Rabbi Israel Meir H'cohen from Radin called "Hafetz Haim" which deals with exegesis regarding what is right and what is forbidden speech according to the Halacha. "Hafetz Haim" means "he that desireth life", its from the Bible: This book is studied in most of the ultra-orthodox Yeshivot - each day of the year has it's own page of the book until they finish to study it all and therewith starting to study it afresh in the first day of the beginning next year and so on.
Thank you for your response. My comments are so often not responded to, that I especially appreciate it when they are.
Does it teach that "he who causes people to be killed by the (s)word of his mouth will be killed by the (s)word of another's mouth?" Or any paraphrase of this idea? I guess that was what I meant, although your answer that we should not speak with guile is true, does it say what the reward of that speech is?
 
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