Occult Symbolism
derived from symbolism in literature and the ancient world





Greek Mythology

The Bible

John Senior

Joseph Warren Beach

Joseph Campbell

MIDI Handel





So How DOES Symbolism Work?

Symbolism is as watery as the medium fish swim in, airy as the medium birds fly through. Only by contrast are we aware of differing attitudes toward symbols which everyone uses but few interpret in a similar manor. Regional, National and global symbols are further translated into National and regional - even village by village.
The only global village is the one affected by weather, technology, and survival.
The 'earthrise over the moon' symbol has not completely gotten through, Carl Sagan's tiny blue pixel has even farther to go. When your brother is holding a machine gun to your head because he can't accept the local politics, the world does not seem so small. New earth symbols are typical of intellectual musing, informational and enlightening, but subtle like an austere Buddhist quotation. The world does not catch fire so easily. The poetic and the evolved amongst us can start their awareness programs and push for global initiatives, but something far more powerful needs to move the world.

Christianity hardly amounted to more than a few bean rows and a soup kitchen for hundreds of years, yet it was the story behind it that got folks interested. The man who became a god was familiar, a story told for thousands of years. The dilemma was deciding which thousand year old story did you want to go with. There was Hercules and Hermes, thrice born and murdered, but immortal. Prometheus, tortured for stealing fire. Perseus, hassled by choosing the wrong girlfriend. There were earth mother and crop mother goddesses, various Sibyls to die for, a pantheon of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, and there was pagan earth worship, unchanged for millennia, but one factor was clear, Christianity was taking the grossness out of religion (if you can overlook a few despotic inquisitors). 

Christian symbolism was a much more controlled and indoctrinated medium. Spin management has never been so vastly well managed in all of history. In contrast, many pagan symbols of that time were demonized and forbidden to practitioners of the Christian faith. There was a list of some 700,000 thousand gods deemed unfit for association or contemplation. The number of demons rose above 100,000. What is so disappointing about such a wonderful movement is typical all movements. They re-write their history and replace it with fable, myth and symbol. This process is a political control not a spiritual or religious one. I'm not saying that no one was divinely inspired to do so, but no one wanted to lose his job either. The politicians always win. Propaganda rears its ugly head throughout history.
So how does symbolism work?
Acts of God, advertising, animal acts, association, atrocities, books, celebrations, circuses, clowns, comics, commonsense, competition, concerts, conquest, constant repetition, conventions, country wisdom, commerce, dances, by decree, disasters, divorces, download, expos, famous people, fear of torture, fear itself, folktales, funerals, hangings, hearsay, hope of reward, important events, innuendo, infamous people, Internet, jargon, jesters, magic shows, marriages, memories, military reinforcement, misinformation, movies, negative reinforcement, the news, non-events, parades, phone, plays, pod casts, positive reinforcement, proclamation, propaganda, radio, reputation, rumor, shipping, sideshows, songs, sound bite, symphonies, threats, tours, town meetings, traffic, travel, trials, TV, unimportant events, wives tales, word on the street, and devices and multimedia yet to come.  Your virtual head in a box will deliver all the daily symbols.

It spreads the same as a virus, no stopping til it runs its course. Viral symbol, viral video, As virus, so idea. And, ideas truly die the hardest. No one eradicates ideas, even if the idea is proven scientifically incorrect, evolution, poppycock! Someone will say those dinosaur bones were just put there to confound us. Garden of Eden, works for me, I think our tour bus went there last year. Next stop, tomorrow land. One of the best suggestions for world peace that I've ever heard was to make all the contested, fought over pieces of real estate into theme parks and no one can live there, only visitors and workers can enter. Giant green zones and peace parks all over the planet calmly patrolled by zomo bots.

 Tiger balls may never become the breakfast of viagraculture, but the symbol alone could produce dozens of start up companies. This is what think tanks do, sit around thinking up crazy ideas, but as physicist Richard Feynman asked, "are they crazy enough?" Are such ideas crazy enough to catch on or is it simply a matter of waiting for the right time to inject an idea into the marketplace. Associating a new product with other events can boost its success. The 911 disaster actually drove cell phone producers into a feeding frenzy over complaints that the phones did not work that day. Maybe someone was picking blackberries that morning and thought, hey.

Artists tend to think in pure symbols, arranging abstract lines and circles, or manipulating objects to do the suggestion. Most people however need to see a figure to relate the human meaning of a symbol.  Abstractly or figuratively makes no difference in the power of the symbol. The method and the delivery system are elective. Anything you think will work probably will. If not, keep trying. The Surrealists of the thirties, the Cubists of 1910-14 thought this way, even the Symbolists of the 1880's. Symbolism does not tease or tempt the art word as much in modern times,  although Pop art of the 60's, used symbols, but more for the icon and the instant recognition. Pop art was a borderline political art which pointed out the ugly-beautiful mass produced world we live in.

There is much doodling and daydreaming in today's art world. Conceptual art is still drawing attention despite the relative non-arrival of Fluxus in New York in the 80's. The gross symbolism of political art is still around and always has been but rarely makes it to the front page (there was that cross in the jar of urine). Graffiti artists did a far more powerful job of relating a social-political-environmental art in an esthetic way. Art is often the motivator of Madison Ave.  Why hire a think tank when there are perfectly good artists showing all over town. Here in Richmond thousands come out to see the art shops every first Friday of the month (2nd Fri. if a holiday).

Everything lives, moves, corresponds, takes a deep cleansing breath now and then, and sings the body electric. Our nerve endings are more electrified now than in Walt Whitman's day. Yet, he sensed this revolution coming: people too much in touch to the point that urban plight and pleasure would implode dramatically and politically making the 2010 inauguration of Obama a predictable certainty. They say we have elected a savior. That should make us nervous. Even V. P. elect Biden said so.  He will be tested. The bigger the symbol, the bigger the test, it seems. There is a much higher standard for symbols. We wear them, use them daily, advertise them on billboards 100-200 ft. wide, act out, dance, animate our symbols, and go straight to viral forms that spread like wildfire. We become our symbols and often die for them.

Symbols may change in style but not much in substance. An example of mine about Romance and romantic symbolism has a contrasting scenario.  Romantic ideas seem always to be somewhat throwback, idealistic, and misplaced in the nostalgia library. Romance is heavily dependent on historical settings, on cherished icons of yesteryear, the Currier and Ives collection of imagery, however, the Rossetti collection is also valid, the 'Adams Family' treatment of a Madam Blavatsky romanticism was popularized by the Rossetti couple ( a kind of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Morrison bunch of characters from the 19th century) . You can run ramped with denunciations of charlatanism, but the symbolism is still valid in terms of symbolism. Whether one chooses to believe or buy into such symbolism is another issue.

Whereas reading, meditation and prayer all have a calming, even a blood pressure lowering effect, an endorphin response benefit can be gained from pep rallies, revival meetings and industrial psychology, the feel good sessions that combine aerobic activity and a belief system (not necessarily religious) that taps into a collective spirituality. The better the symbol the better the effect. The EST movement of 60's & 70's, Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard's Sci-Fi offshoot religion, and Blair Witch all have in common some heavy breathing going on, but the directed imagery is toward self involvement. It does not reach anywhere near the inner levels of Buddhist contemplation or Yoga discipline.  Self, as a symbol is vague and requires mentoring.

The self inquiries begun by Freud and Jung in the 19th century have led to an industry of self help, from diet to psych advice, 5 cents. The self help book now encompasses virtually every subject including the added humiliation of books for dummies. Of course, you can find all of it and more on the Internet. There is no limit to the amount of abstract and disembodied relational involvement there. Those who blog and evolve from day to day are caught up in an activity that has been called a stage or platform for the mind. But, as my friends in the web services and computer industries say, you can build a website and no one will ever see it. You are lucky to have a local coterie of friends who have similar interests - namely an image tribe.

Like the industrial psychologist who decided there was no difference between her profession and witchcraft and the casting of spells, the analogy works. It's not just about the symbols. To understand the symbol you must know how it works. To catch the fox you must become the fox. Different symbols for different folks. Different ways of retrieving, using, relating to, adapting and re-adapting make symbolism an enormously important tool in the communication tool belt of the world and to all of its  diversity of culture, imagery, thought, and joy, whether poetic or political. Nothing says it better than a symbol.