Religious Symbolism: A brief word

“Throughout its history, mankind has been baffled by profound symbology. More so when it does not conform to its own ‘sweet and refined’ standards. Even when one particular group or cult successfully assimilates it and starts revering it, other groups or cults continue to abhor it. It is natural for one group to abhor the symbols of all others, forgetting conveniently that the ‘other groups’ are doing the same! The picture of the ‘Slain Lamb’ or the cultus of the ‘Sacred Heart’ are just two illustrations to show this. On the other hand, a close look at such symbols will not only dispel our ignorance about them but can also produce positive admiration. Is not the water of the sea, which appears as dark blue or green from a distance, really colourless and transparent when examined at close quarters?” ~ Swami Harshananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses (Sri Ramakrishna Math)

This is an excellent statement on the esoterics of religious symbolism and iconography. Frithjof Schuon has observed that it is inevitable that different religions should have very different, even mutually exclusive, attitudes toward symbolism, as each one has its own “target audience”, a different segment of humanity — ontologically necessary, within the world of relativity — to which it must address itself and bring the outpouring of sanctifying Grace.

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