Symbols and the
Search for Meaning

 

More about this painting

    
    
Although we hold a symbol language in common, we don't always interpret individual symbols in the same way. Symbols point to deeper truths that we usually experience as individuals or as members of a particular culture. This variety of experience is part of the joy of the human adventure. It can also be confusing when we study art or literature!
     So, where do all these symbols lead you? Perhaps to a better understanding of your inner, emotional life and the world as you experience it, to specific areas requiring growth and effort on your part. And, finally, to a better understanding of what is Universal to all human beings.
     In working with his patients, Swiss psychologist Carl Jung identified universal, primordial symbols he called
archetypes, which he believed were common to all people regardless of their gender, age, or society. He understood archetypes to represent recurring patterns of experience. These archetypes or patterns of human experience include the animus, anima, shadow, trickster, hero, and many others (see Primal).
     One of the most important things you can do in your creative work is to take notice of your own
personal symbol language and recurring patterns. What visual images attract you and why? Does this change over time? What symbols or events appear regularly in your dreams?
     Dream symbols can be strange, intricate, and beautiful, but they can also be everyday objects that represent for you a concept or a way of thinking, being, or feeling. These ordinary objects or events can be a kind of shorthand, a way your soul uses to communicate with you. 
     Keep a dream journal and pay attention both to your dreams and to the events in your life. Can you piece together the thread of meaning that runs through all of them? Are your dreams telling you anything about your life? Work with your symbol language in the art form of your choice. And be patient. Gold gleams within the darkness.
    
Symbols can be found in nature, in our dreams, in works of art, and in our daily life. When you begin to understand the language of the imagination, you will see that it is alive and well around you everyday,  calling you to come out and play.

Symbols, like music, are a language we hold in common. Transcending our cultural differences, symbols teach us much about our humanity   and help us see connections. As we look below the surface appearance of things, we experience life more fully, glimpsing the eternal meaning of times and events.  

 

On this Site

Recommended Books on Symbols

About Sun Gods and Sun Symbols  in Mythology and Your Psyche

Gloss on the Symbols

Dreams Are Slippery Things

What does the lyre represent?

 

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