Sunday, April 06, 2003

Jung writes of two kinds of thinking. The first kind is linear, learned, goal-oriented, directed and the kind of thinking we strive for in our consciousness. The second kind of thinking is circular; often disorienting and confusing to consciousness, not directed by consciousness; more given over to play and fantasy, and is the very basis of creativity. This second kind of thinking relies on symbol and image a good deal while the first kind finds itself more at home with words and thought.

Symbolic thinking, however, can be acquired and can greatly enrich our normal, more linear, word-based consciousness. Following are some helpful ideas about symbols from C.G. Jung and Paul Tillich:

Jung, in Man and His Symbols, pp. 20-27, writes:

A symbol “implies something vague, unknown or hidden from us.” . . . “Thus a word or an image is symbolic when it implies something more than its obvious and immediate meaning. It has a wider ‘unconscious’ aspect that is never precisely defined or fully explained. Nor can one hope to define or explain it. As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason.”

“Because there are innumerable things beyond the range of human understanding, we constantly use symbolic terms to represent concepts that we cannot define or fully comprehend.”

“Thus every experience contains an indefinite number of unknown factors, not to speak of the fact that every concrete object is always unknown in certain respects, because we cannot know the ultimate nature of matter itself.”

“As a general rule, the unconscious aspect of any event is revealed to us in dreams, where it appears not as a rational thought but as a symbolic image.”

Tillich, in Dynamics of Faith, pp. 41-43, writes:

“Symbols . . . point beyond themselves to something else.” Symbols “participate in the reality of that to which they point.” Symbols cannot “be replaced for reasons of expediency or convention . . .”

A symbol “opens up levels of reality which are otherwise closed to us.” And a symbol “also unlocks dimensions and elements of our soul which correspond to the dimensions and elements of reality.”

“Symbols cannot be produced intentionally . . .” Symbols “cannot function without being accepted by the unconscious dimensions of our being.” Symbols grow and they die.