Western Tradition, Symbolism

It’s been a while since I’ve written a long-form post. In fact, lately, it’s been more of “haven’t posted in a while, so here’s something quick!” So I’d like to just put to paper a lot of ideas I’ve had lately. These are things that I’ve observed and I think the reader should see a connection as well.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people in the USA are very opposed to Western mysticism in a variety of ways/forms. I’ve also noticed that many people are really receptive to Eastern mysticism—particularly yoga or eastern forms of meditation.

I guess what I don’t understand is why people are closed off to the Western mystical traditions in favor of the East. I think there are a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I think Western mystical traditions are a repressed aspect of our culture. This is in spite of the fact that many major Western scientists, mathematicians, and revolutionary thinkers dabbled in Western mysticism. I also think that the West is not developed enough to understand ideas that go beyond logic, although there were/are many Western scientists that are pushing for greater understanding of irrational ideas and paradoxes.

For example, Isaac Newton had multiple manuscripts about the philosopher’s stone. Leibniz was influenced by the I Ching.

I suppose another reason that the West is largely closed off to it’s own traditions of mysticism is because they do not even know they exist. We are usually told that Christianity is the basis of Western culture, which is only partially true. Christianity has greatly influenced Western civilization, but there are other “root” structures that affect our way of thinking that run so deep they can’t be ignored.

Symbolism Cropping Up

Another thing I want to point out is how repressed mystical thought ends up cropping up in our culture in really unexpected ways. The main way that repressed mystical thought pops up is with societal obsession with fantasy movies, superheroes, and things like that. Take Harry Potter for example. The same people who insist on their rationality have no problem spending $15 to see a wizard child fly around, buy books, and even dress like him. All while insisting it’s just make believe. What they usually don’t know is that JK Rowling borrowed a lot of ideas from Roman/Greek thought, pagan/norse influence, and alchemical thought. Take a look at the images below. What do you see?

The Harry Potter snitch

The winged sun, from the Rosary of the Philosophers

Does this look familiar? Looks a lot like the snitch, doesn’t it? This idea was borrowed, or maybe stolen, from the Rosary of the Philosophers (1550). It runs even deeper than that though. Check out this other image below.

The caduceus or the staff of Hermes. It is now used to represent the medical profession (sometimes)

Hermes with Caduceus

In the caduceus you see again the idea of a golden ball with two wings. This time it is on a staff with two serpents wrapped around it. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is another “enlightenment” symbol just like the winged sun and the snitch. In the “snitch” case, if you retrieve it, you win the game of Quidditch. This is a metaphor for the other symbols. Capture the mercurial sun, or the staff of Hermes, and you “win” a game in life so to speak. They are all mythological ideas that correspond to life experience as a human.

The staff’s serpents represent the Western form of the idea of “kundalini” as it’s called in the east/yoga traditions. This is the idea that human life force resides in the base of the spine and rises up the spinal column to the brain where it can be transformed or causes a change in the human brain. Hence the two serpents coiled around the staff (the spine) rising up to the golden winged ball (human head).

What’s the Point?

I guess at the end of the day the point is that these ideas are repressed but still a part of our collective Western psyche. Enough so that they still awaken fascination in people when they are seen, despite the historical background not really being obvious. They make such a deep impression that people “get” the idea unconsciously.

The other point is that the West has it’s own traditions of higher human understanding just like the East does with Yoga, Zen, Buddhism, and so on. It is just that many of these ideas were repressed for centuries and even up until modern times. And even better, the ideas tend to run in parallel with eastern though (the kundalini idea as mentioned earlier).

The other point is that it could be easier for Western people to understand their own culture than to try to understand and adopt another culture’s religious and mystical traditions. Since english is partially based on Greek, Roman, and Latin, the words are easier to understand and relate to. And since our psyche’s foundation rests on Greco-Roman-Egyptian traditions, the ideas are usually easier to digest than those from China/India/Japan and so on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *