Many / One

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A Dictionary of Symbols
J. E. Cirlot

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

2 "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."

3 "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."

4 "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."

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

6 "The point signifies unity, the Origin and the Centre. It also represents the principles of manifestation and emanation, and hence in some mandalas the centre is not actually shown but must be imagined….There are two kinds of point to be considered: that which has no magnitude and is symbolic of creative virtue, and that which – as suggested by Raymond Lull in his 'Nova Geometria' – has the smallest conceivable or practicable magnitude and is a symbol of the principle of manifestation."

7 "St. Augustine shows that teaching carried out with the help of symbols feeds and stirs the fires of love, enabling Man to excel himself; he also alludes to the value of all things in nature – organic and inorganic – as bearers of spiritual messages by virtue of their distinctive forms and characteristics."

8 "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."

9 "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."

10 "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'."

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

12 "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."

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

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

15 "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.'"

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

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

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

19 "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."

20 "The influence of the symbol must be allowed to pervade all levels of reality; only then can it be seen in all its spiritual grandeur and fecundity."

21 "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'."

22 "The prototypes of the images and forms utilized by the oneirocritic, poetic and prophetic idioms, can be found around us in Nature, revealing herself as a world of materialized dream, as a prophetic language whose hieroglyphics are beings and forms." Franz P. Schubert (1797-1828), Austrian composer, 'Symbolik des Traumes'

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

24 "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."

25 "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."

This body of quotes compiled by JoAnn Kite