Symbolic Sight: A Global Perspective

Seeing with the 'Mind's Eye'
This post continues the theme of symbolic sight, but locates it at the global level.  Symbols are everywhere. Our world, language and dreams are filled with symbols, if only we could interpret them.   In the world of myth and fairytale, an animal, place or object can all have symbolic meaning, but different individuals will attach varied and diverse interpretations to the same symbol depending on culture, and whether, and how it has relevance to their lives and/or experience. 

While our left brain hemisphere is responsible for logic and linguistic structure, thinks digitally and in linear fashion, the right brain is responsible for the psyche’s world of images and dreams and is not subject to the left hemisphere’s sense of time. The right brain permits us to grasp the whole – the gestalt – on the basis of a mere part. It has the ability to instantly grasp complex relationships, patterns and structures in their entirety. According to Dethlefson and Dahlke, “Poetry and the speech of schizophrenics both give a good idea of the language of the right hemisphere. This is also where analogical thought and our handling of symbols are located”.[1]

There is a world of difference between a sign and a symbol. The former merely points to something while, in addition to the obvious picture presented, a symbol implies more, something that holds deeper, hidden meaning.

 In many of the natural disasters that occur in the world of course there is the horror, loss of life and immense suffering.  And there is something else.
Perhaps the most macabre of global symbols signaling the need for change, was the literal decapitation of Haiti.  After the earthquake in 2010 it seemed that all the prevailing symbols of leadership and authority were either decimated, or fractured and dispersed: the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral and its archbishop, its Government and police force scattered. Every conceivable description of that country’s head – its power structure – literally rolled. And this ‘pushing off centre stage’ of a long established pattern of power holds true not only for Haiti but globally and particularly for the old 'empires', now struggling to retain a foothold and run with the new boys on the block.

          In the events of “9/11”, we saw the shadow of the Destroyer archetype.  And, concealed within the unspeakable atrocity of that fateful day was the symbolic message that the prevailing systems and structures, or twin towers, of global trade and finance had gone into cardiac arrest and required attention as a matter of utmost immediacy – an emergency.

          There was seven years grace before the next alarm call.  In 2008 economic catastrophe cascaded on the world stage, as the architecture of capitalism threatened to unravel, and we continue to feel the repercussions which still reverberate in our lives.  Like dinosaurs, when a prevailing life-form or structure is no longer fit for  purpose, it has come to down - whether it is any of those old and outmoded empires,  apartheid, the Berlin Wall, even relationships - however long the dismantling takes.
          But like all archetypes the Destroyer is neither good nor bad; it all depends on human intent. On the dark side the Destroyer, consumed with hate and destructiveness, is hell-bent on generating fear and destroying dreams; on the light side it releases what is potentially destructive, and prepares for new life. In my next post, I’ll talk just a bit about when the Destroyer archetype came calling, and how it heralded new life; not one that I had envisaged, or would have chosen, but the old way of life was no longer appropriate for who I needed to be, here now.

[1] Dethlefsen, T and Dahlke R. The Healing Power of Illness 

Related Post: Message in a Metaphor (December 2012)


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