symbology of religious ideas
The Wise have given lessons to the world in different forms suited
to the evolution of the people at the particular time; and the first
and most original form of education that the wise gave to the world
was symbolical. This method of teaching has been valued in all ages,
and it will always keep its importance. That which is not veiled is
not beauty; in the veiling and unveiling of beauty lies the purpose
of life. Beauty is that which is always out of reach. We see it and
we do not see it. We touch it and we cannot touch it. It is seen and
yet veiled; it is known and yet unknown. That is why words are often
inadequate to express the beauty of truth, and why symbolism was adopted
by the wise.
The religions of the ancient Egyptians, of the Greeks, of the
Hindus, and of the Parsis, all have symbols which express the essential
truth hidden under each of them. There is symbolism in Christianity
and in many other religions. Man has often rebelled against symbolism,
but this is natural, as man has always revolted against things he cannot
understand. There has been a wave of opposition to symbolism in both
the East and the West. In the East it came in the period of Islam, and
in the West it re-echoed in the Reformation. No doubt when the sacred
symbols are made into patents by the religions which want to monopolize
the whole truth for themselves, it encourages that tendency in human
nature which is always ready either to accept or to reject things. However,
one can say without exaggeration that symbology has served to keep the
ancient wisdom intact for ages. There are many ideas relating to human
nature, to the nature of life, to God and His many attributes, and to
the path towards the goal, which can be and have been expressed in symbols.
To a person who sees only the surface of life, symbols mean nothing.
The secret of symbols is revealed to souls who can see through life,
whose glance penetrates through objects. Verily, the things of the world
disclose themselves to the seer and in this uncovering beauty is hidden.
There is a great joy in understanding, especially in understanding things
which mean nothing to most people. It requires intuition to read symbols,
even something deeper than intuition, namely insight. To the one to
whom symbols speak of their nature and of their secret, each symbol
is in itself a living manuscript. Symbology is the best means of learning
the mysteries of life, and also one of the best ways of passing on ideas
which will continue to live after the teacher has passed away. It is
speaking without speaking; it is writing without writing. The symbol
may be said to be an ocean in a drop.