Many / One

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Compiled by JoAnn Kite

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A Dictionary of Symbols
J. E. Cirlot

1 "Image: A pattern of forms and figures endowed with unity and significance. It is implied in the theory of form – and is true, also of melody – that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts being, in a sense, their origin and justification…..Also to be borne in mind is the thory propounded by Sir Herbert Read in 'Icon and Idea', according to which every creation in the visual arts – and, in fact, every kind of pattern – is a form of thought and therefore corresponds to an intelligible mental concept. This leads us towards an intuition of the world as a vast repertoire of signs that await being 'read'."

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

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

5 "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."

6 "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

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

8 "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."

9 "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."

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

11 "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."

12 "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."

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

14 "The common origin of the human race is proved by the universal themes of folklore [and] legend….Orientalism, the study of comparative religion, mythology, cultural anthropology, the history of civilization and art, esotericism, psychoanalysis, and symbolological research have all combined to provide us with ample material to substantiate psychological truth, and this essential oneness."

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

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

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

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

19 "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'."

20 "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'."

21 "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."

22 "The law of correspondences is the foundation of all symbolism and by virtue of it every thing proceeding essentially from a metaphysical principle, which is the source of its reality, translates and expresses this principle in its own way and according to its own level of existence, so that all things are related and joined together in total, universal harmony which is, in its many guises, a reflection of its own fundamental unity." Rene Guenon

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

24 "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."

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

This body of quotes compiled by JoAnn Kite