A visual compendium of various cultural symbols and their meanings.
In their brief, impressionistic nonfiction debut, psychotherapist Davis-Thompson and historian Mark (Humanities/Marist Coll.) assure readers that human existence is a miracle: “You are as amazing as the most luminous sunrise,” they write, “and as primordial as the vast firmament.” In an attempt to flesh out this luminosity, they present an array of “archetypal symbols and images, ancient to modern,” that embody “the 108 universal laws” compiled on the authors’ website. Every image has been chosen to speak to readers individually and meaningfully, “both rationally and telepathically.” The end goal, they say, is for readers to feel more “spiritually alive” by embracing and meditating upon archetypal symbols. The symbols themselves are, predictably, a mixed bag. St. Brigid’s Cross, “a pre-Christian symbol of the goddess Brigid,” stands for compassion, they say; something called “Adar’s flame” symbolizes desire of a decidedly noncarnal kind: “When you act as if, you become as you wish.” The “Unicursal Hexagram” is meant to affirm that “man is the correlate of God on earth as God is man’s correlate in heaven.” There’s a Romani chakra, the serpent Ouroboros swallowing its own tail, a circular map of the solar system, a standard textbook depiction of an atom, Mayan and Taoist pictograms, Celtic symbols, and Egyptian hieroglyphs. The authors present each clearly in black-and-white line drawing, and they describe each in ways that consistently reach for universality—a dove, for instance, is said to be the universal symbol of forgiveness, a fingerprint stands for “individual distinctiveness,” and so on. Some of the claims in these interpretations are more questionable than others, however; Christians may be puzzled that a “Crown of Thorns” symbol is related to “karma,” for instance, and the uncompleted-circle–and-arrow symbol of “repetition” may be universal only to readers who are already familiar with the reload button on their web browsers. Still, the authors’ overall message of optimism effectively comes through.
A thought-provoking picture dictionary of spiritual symbols.