Symbolosophy: the Wisdom of Symbols

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All the signs and symbols that we encounter in occultism direct us towards these realities, and what is more important is the fact that in the necessary time an indication is received in the use of such figures. At that point they become the means by which to reach understanding or clairvoyance. No one who has meditated deeply on the staff will fail if he does so patiently. He must immerse himself in the pentagram, as it is; then he will find the currents of the etheric body…

The physical body has a long development behind it so much that it came into being during the course of four planetary metamorphoses. At the beginning of this development our own Earth was in a previous incarnation called the condition of Ancient Saturn. At that time man did not yet exist in the present form; only the first seed of the physical body existed on Saturn. All other bodies were still missing – etheric body, astral body and so on. It was only in the second planetary metamorphosis of the Earth, on the Ancient Sun, that the etheric body was added. At that time the human etheric body definitely showed the shape of a pentagram.

– Rudolf Steiner, “Signs and symbols of occultism”.

Following this and other indications of Rudolf Steiner it is possible to affirm with the certainty of the experience that anthroposophy, or science of the spirit, allows to find the living spiritual reality behind the symbols of occultism. And it is from this cognitive presupposition that it is possible to continue to live within the symbols, through the meditative methods of anthroposophy, in search of their living meaning.

It is at the beginning of the 20th century that Steiner explores the living relationship with symbolism, especially in the Masonic sphere, more specifically in the context of the Egyptian regime according to an anthroposophical version of the Rite of Misraim. In the Masonic context, Steiner concentrated the efforts of his scientific-spiritual method, to find out what was the mysterious meaning of the symbolism of the High Degrees of Freemasonry, degrees which were conferred on him honorary by virtue of his very high degree of spiritual evolution.

Steiner wanted to reconnect the new-born science of the spirit to the ancient occult tradition of Freemasonry as a descendant of the ancient mysteries of Egypt and Atlantis even before this. Freemasonry in fact represents the western tradition of depository of almost all occult symbols, systematized through the structure of degrees of the organization to which correspond the various initiations conferred at the moment of awareness of the symbols associated with the degree.

Just to give an example, it is precisely in these researches that Steiner will succeed in tracing the symbolism of the Christmas Tree as far back as ancient Egypt, in the third epoch of human civilization, the Egyptian-hot one. There Steiner will reveal the origin of the Book of Thot or Hermes Trismegistus, as a compendium of the history of the evolution of the cosmos, focusing on what would have been the future event of Golgotha. Here my post about this symbology. In the same direction went Willi Sucher when, reviving astrology in astrosophy, reinterpreted the whole symbolism of the zodiac according to the methods of spirit science.

This therefore marked the passage to a real living knowledge of the symbols in the occult context. Following the mission of spiritual thinking given to us by Archangel Michael, all the sciences, the “-logies”, must be vivified by Anthropos-Sophia, or Wisdom, and therefore the science of symbols is no exception: it thus becomes “simbolosofia” or the “living wisdom of symbols”.

The direct meditation on the symbols therefore sees three levels of understanding, all of which can be explored through meditation:

  1. It is the level of the fundamental components of the symbols, represented by simple geometric elements, such as the point, the line, the triangle, the cross etc. Here we find the spiritual nature of geometry, which refers to the esoteric teachings of the Pythagorean doctrine. Without these elements it is not possible to construct any symbol and on the other hand the symbols are more than the sum of the single geometric elements that compose them. For this reason the symbols are “doors” for occult understanding.
  2. It is the level of the symbols taken together. At this level are the symbols of the planets, of the zodiac, of the pentagram, of the hexagram etc. Here the symbols, of ancient tradition, dating back to Atlantis are presented as doors through which to experience the encounter with spiritual entities.
  3. It is the level of the arrangement of various symbols in a synthetic picture, a mandala. At this level we find the symbolic compositions of the alchemists and of the Rosicrucian tradition, whose meditation was aimed precisely at the immediate and unitary understanding (therefore opposite to the rational and dual), of coherent set of symbols and writings that could stimulate the occult development of the disciple. At this level we also find the symbolic tables of Freemasonry.

Starting from the fundamental geometric elements up to the mandala compositions, one meditates respecting the motto “solve et coagula” of the alchemists, who first systematized the occult symbols to understand and conceal the operations to synthesize the philosopher’s stone. Using for example the symbol of the Sun, the circle with a point in the center, one can meditate initially on the “solve”, dissolving the symbol in point and circle (first level), then the two elements are re-united in the symbol of the Sun ( second level) and finally we arrive at the “coagula” pole, gathering together several symbols to understand the relationship of the Sun with other planets, such as the Moon. Thus bringing together the symbol of the Sun and the Moon (third level), the polar relationships between the two can be understood meditatively. Then you can add the symbol of Saturn and so on, after meditating on the individual symbols of the planets in question.

During this process it must always be kept in mind that the symbols are not only graphic signs, but they are representatives of living spiritual entities and agents in reality, therefore they have an element of sacredness in themselves. They are doors, precisely, that allow access to these realities of the spirit. On the other hand these same symbols remain the alphabet, so to speak, of ceremonial magic – extremely important until the 18th century. So that…

The esoteric school leads men to freedom. It leads them to become masters of various beings that constantly flow into the human body, going in and out of it, so that the human being becomes a companion of such beings. Their names are “ghosts” for the physical body; “ghosts” for the etheric body; “demons” for the astral body; “spirits” for the ego.

– Rudolf Steiner, “From the content of esoteric lessons”.

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