Symbols as Condensed Imagery

Symbols as Condensed Imagery

Runa's Oracle ♥

“Artistic symbols and myths speak out of the primordial, preconscious realm of the mind which is powerful and chaotic. Both symbol and myth are ways of bringing order and form into this chaos.”
― Rollo May

My hubby and I just watched Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose*, and in spite of lukewarm reviews, I really thought it was quite clever. While I won't elaborate on the movie itself at this time, I wanted to use one particular scene to illustrate the power of symbolic condensation.

Dr. Fodor, played brilliantly by Simon Pegg, is sitting in his living room, stiff drink in hand, while his secretary Anne, played by the lovely Minnie Driver, condenses letters to him about the paranormal into 4 simple sentences. Dr. Fodor, in considering if these letters are worthy of further time and attention, wants only a simple summary.

*The movie is based on an actual Hungarian parapsychologist, psychoanalyst, and colleague of Sigmund Freud. Personally, I enjoyed how the movie, while expressing some skepticism, eventually opened to a minimum of possibility and wonder.

This scene I have described is a perfect example of what a symbol does for us. It condenses a larger image, replete with layers of meaning into a glyph. Consider the symbols on a deck of cards, spade ♠, heart ♥, club ♣, and diamond ♦. In various systems, these symbols signify the elements of air, water, fire, and earth, or alternatively as in Tarot swords, hearts, wands, and coins. Expanding on these subsets leads us to even more layers of meaning, all condensed into a single symbol.

Consider a snake as a symbol. To some it is a symbol of evil, fear and/or death. To others, it represents the circle of life, healing, and/or wisdom. Consider the cross. For many it is the symbol of Christ's sacrifice, for others it is a symbol of earthly/horizontal and celestial/vertical influences in our lives. For yet others, these two are layers of the same. One last example is the swastika. Most of us know it as a symbol of hate, used by the Nazis, but its origin is Sanskrit from India, over 6,000 years ago, and means well-being. It was (I would argue that it still is) a symbol of health and healing. A true student of the oracular never assumes a static meaning to these or any symbols without considering the interplay of other energies and contexts.

In true oracle form, the symbol communicates in a very personalized way to each person. By itself, a symbol is actually vast. It is only context that gives us a focused approach. When we receive a symbol or image, especially when asking for that symbol in search of an answer for a particular situation, it is our very own context that helps us to interpret meaning for ourselves. When combined with other symbols, the energies combine and intertwine in a way that magnifies and shapeshifts meanings for us.

Context is one reason why Sun Sign astrology, as an example, particularly newspaper horoscopes can fail to be impactful. They ignore the interplay of all of the other energies that impact a person with a particular sun sign at the moment of their birth.

There is a saying in Dreamwork that the best interpreter of dreams is the dreamer. This is also true in oracular/symbolic work, although it must be said that a healthy and informed approach must be taken, in order to avoid fear-laden or rigid and dogmatic interpretations.

Back to the movie scene. When Dr. Fodor's interest is piqued by one particular letter about a talking mongoose. Now he wants Anne to expand on her 4 sentence summary so that he can gain more understanding of the letter's content. This is where he actually finds "food for thought" in assessing whether or not he pursues this paranormal case for investigation.

To reiterate, symbols are condensed summaries of larger energies. We can receive them more easily this way, but to understand their message for us, in any given moment, we must expand our understanding of them through a variety of corresponding meanings. And, we must ultimately learn to do this for ourselves, without dogmatic interference from "outside authorities."

♥ Runa