Many / One

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A Dictionary of Symbols
J. E. Cirlot

1 "In all symbols expressive of the mystic Centre, the intention is to reveal to Man the meaning of the primordial 'paradisal state' and to teach him to identify himself with the supreme principle of the universe. This centre is in effect Aristotle's 'unmoved mover'…Hindu doctrine declares that God resides in the centre, at that point where the radii of a wheel meet at its axis. In diagrams of the cosmos, the central space is always reserved for the Creator…Among the Chinese, the infinite being is frequently symbolized as a point of light with concentric circles spreading outwards from it."

2 "The mandla fulfils its function as an aid to man in his efforts to regroup all that is dispersed around a single axis."

3 "Alchemical evolution is epitomized in the formula 'Solve et Coagula' (Dissolve and Coagulate), that is to say: 'analyse all the elements in yourself, dissolve all that is inferior in you, even though you may break in doing so; then, with the strength acquired from the preceding operation, congeal.'"

4 "All the energy and interest devoted today by western Man to science and technology were, by ancient Man, once dedicated to mythology. And not only his energy and interest but also his speculative and theorizing propensities, creating the immeasurable wealth of Hindu, Chinese and Islamic philosophy, the Cabala itself and the painstaking investigations of alchemy and similar studies."

5 "All things form at one and the same time an organic whole and a precise order."

6 "Psychoanalysts have noted that the joining of the square with the circle (in such forms as the star, the rose, the lotus, concentric circles, the circle with a visible central point, etc.) is symbolic of the final stage in the process of individuation, or, in other words, of that phase of spiritual development when imperfections (irregular shapes) have been eliminated…for the sake of concentrating upon the achievement of Oneness."

7 "The vertical axis through the centre of the Yang-Yin constitutes the unvarying mean or, in other words, the mystic 'Centre' where there is no rotation, no restlessness, no impulse, nor any suffering of any kind. It corresponds to the central zone of the Wheel of Transformations in Hindu symbolism, and the centre or the way out of the labyrinth in Egyptian and western symbolism."

8 "The reality of the symbol is founded upon the idea that the ultimate reality of an object lies in its spiritual rhythm – which it incarnates."

9 "The whole of Nature is but a symbol, that is, its true significance becomes apparent only when it is seen as a pointer which can make us aware of supernatural or metaphysical truths." Rene Guenon

10 "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts being, in a sense, their origin and justification."

11 "A synthesis is the result of a thesis AND an antithesis. And true reality resides only in the synthesis."

12 "A great many ritual acts have the sole purpose of finding out the spiritual 'Centre' of a locality, which then becomes the site, either in itself or by virtue of the temple built upon it, an 'image of the world'."

13 "The idea of rotation is the keystone of most transcendent symbols: of the mediaeval 'Rota'; of the Wheel of Buddhist transformations; of the zodiacal cycle; of the myth of the Gemini; and of the 'opus' [work] of the alchemists. The idea of the world as a labyrinth or of life as a pilgrimage leads to the idea of the 'centre' as a symbol of the absolute goal of Man – Paradise regained….Pictorially, this central point is sometimes identified with the geometric centre of the symbolic circle."

14 "The mystic 'Centre' [is] the non-apparent point which is the irradiating origin of every branch and shoot of the great Tree of the World."

15 "Everything in the universe is linked as in a garland."

16 "In neo-platonic philosophy, the soul is explicitly related to the shape of the sphere."

17 "In cabalistic symbolism, the sacred palace, or the 'inner palace', is located at the junction of the six Directions of Space which, together with the centre, form a septenary... This concept of the Centre embraces the heart and the mind."

18 "What Man saw in the grain, what he learnt in dealing with it, what he was taught by the example of seeds changing their form when they are in the ground, that was the decisive lesson….One of the main roots of soteriological optimism was the belief of prehistoric, agricultural mysticism that the dead, like seeds underground, can expect to return to life in a different form." Mircea Eliade, 'Tratado de historia de las religiones', Madrid, 1954

19 "The mandala is an image and a synthesis of the dualistic aspects of differentiation and unification, of variety and unity, the external and the internal, the diffuse and the concentrated. It excludes disorder..because, by its very nature, it must surmount disorder. It is, then, the visual, plastic expression of the struggle to achieve order – even within diversity – and of the longing to be reunited with the pristine, non-spatial and non-temporal 'Centre', as it is conceived in all symbolic traditions."

20 "One: Symbolic of being and of the revelation of the spiritual essence. It is the active principle which, broken into fragments, gives rise to multiplicity, and is to be equated with the mystic Centre, the Irradiating Point and the Supreme Power. It also stands for spiritual unity – the common basis between all beings."

21 "The symbology of philosophers, founders of religions and poets is wholly idealist and cosmic in direction, embracing all objects, seeking after the infinite and pointing to the mysteries of the mystical 'centre.'"

22 "In Jung's view, mandalas and all concomitant images….are derived from dreams and visions corresponding to the most basic of religious symbols known to mankind – symbols which are known to have existed as far back as the Paleolithic Age, as is proved, for example, by the Rhodesian rock engravings."

23 "Symbolism is what might be called a magnetic force, drawing together phenomena which have the same rhythm and even allowing them to interchange."

24 "In alchemy…the philosopher's stone is the supreme realization of mystic identification with the god within us and with the eternal."

25 "All symbolist traditions, both western and oriental, spring from one common source."

This body of quotes compiled by JoAnn Kite