Many / One

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A Dictionary of Symbols
J. E. Cirlot

1 "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."

2 "Neolithic thought was very close to the medieval in its conviction that an eternal and invisible essence underlies all appearances."

3 "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."

4 "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."

5 "The archetype does not stem from forms or from figures or objective beings, but from images within the human spirit."

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

7 "All centres are symbols of eternity, since time is the motion of the periphery of the wheel of phenomena rotating around the Aristotelian 'unmoved mover'."

8 "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."

9 "The overall organic pattern is multiplicity in unity."

10 "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.'"

11 "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.'"

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

13 "The universality of an archetype affirms the reality of the principle in question."

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

15 "Nothing is isolated inside its own existence: everything is linked by a system of correspondences and assimilations." Mircea Eliade, 'Images and Symbols'

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

17 "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

18 "Among the Chinese, the infinite being is frequently symbolized as a point of light with concentric circles spreading outwards from it."

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

20 "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'."

21 "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."

22 "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."

23 "All natural and cultural objects may be invested with a symbolic function which emphasizes their essential qualities in such a way that they lend themselves to spiritual interpretation."

24 "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."

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

This body of quotes compiled by JoAnn Kite