Beyond Symbolism

Materialism’s heyday is past. It is common for people who once wouldn’t have dreamed of doing so to talk about symbolism and a structure of reality that goes beyond what can be seen and measured.

Forms and archetypes and egregores are entertained. Interdimensional realities, consciousness extending into other realms, and unknown beings are discussed. Tradition and religion are en vogue.

I think this is a good thing, because reality is more than what can be measured in a lab. There is a danger, though, of not going far enough.

The embrace of psychological realities found in religion and symbolism and patterns beyond our own minds is easy to abstract. We can get caught up in discussing these things as grand ontological or epistemological categories and feel very broad minded indeed. All the while skirting and evading the real question:

What does it mean for me, personally?

If symbols are more than man-made tools; if behind them is some real power, intelligence, or entity, what does that mean for me?

If the Logos is more than fiction, what is it? Who is He? What does He demand of me?

If religion isn’t hooey; if a spiritual world, or other dimensions, or extended consciousness exists, what should I do?

This part is hard for smart people. Because it bring you down out of the realm where you are demonstrating to people how all of reality works – an impressive and helpful feat – and forced to either do or deny embarrassing, old-fashioned things that this understanding demands. Prayer. Baptism. Communion.

The symbols reveal a deeper reality, yes. But that reality is not merely a map of the world beyond our senses. It is a call to participate in it. Not as an intellectual plaything. But with our flesh and blood and heart and mind and habits and words.

It is a call to not just know about the divine reality. To not just acknowledge His existence and authority. To not just speak in His name. But to know Him. To do His will.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

This is a hard pill to swallow.

It puts the simpleminded old churchgoer who does His will without a wit of understanding on the same plane as the genius professor who sees the full pattern of reality. Both are in equal danger of not really knowing Him, and both must seek Him and do His will (‘love the least of these’, ‘feed my sheep’) to avoid that danger.