I am very honored to present the following guest post by Jean-Louis de Biasi. In a recent post I described a meeting with him and our sharing of ideas. One of his goals is to take the practices and ideas of Freemasonry and make them available and usable by anyone. He wrote to me sharing his motivation for this article: “I am always amazed when I listen [to] people in Freemasonry and elsewhere saying that a text is symbolic…even when such texts are violent and dangerous.” I hope you enjoy this…
IN THE NAME OF SYMBOLISM!
By Jean-Louis de Biasi
It is commonly understood that symbols are a necessary part of the spiritual path. In ancient and modern texts, you can find many graphic symbols. Sometimes, the texts themselves are symbolic. Such a text uses symbolism to express its message. This means that the themes presented to the reader in these books Generally are never explicitly stated. The Bible, other religious books, and alchemical texts share this characteristic.
Why did they choose to use symbolism? If you want to be clear with someone, you have to speak clearly!
When you buy a book about Theurgy, magic, paganism, or Christianity you expect a book which provides clear explanations and, perhaps, some ritual exercises. Instead, if the author decides to offer you a set of unexplained symbols, you would probably find this disappointing or even unfair.
However, you might argue that using symbolism is a traditional way of expression, and that it is used to present important mysteries to someone who is prepared to receive it. Perhaps you are correct.
But are all symbols equal in such texts? The answer is no!
All throughout history, most people have not been well educated and their beliefs have been simple. Most of them considered religious stories as facts and not as some kind of complicated code to decipher.
Now imagine you have a sacred text in your hands claiming that each word, each letter, is the absolute revealed word of God itself. The first thing to expect would be a clear and precise text. If God is speaking it is important to be absolutely sure we understand the message perfectly. A mere philosophical text, on the other hand, can be misunderstood. The consequences of this kind of misunderstanding, however, are not as important.
If the sacred text claims it is a true and complete revelation of a unique God, and that under certain circumstances (Divine direction) you must commit incest, or mass murder, then, since you are acting in a blessed state, it might dangerously incite the minds of uneducated people.
Even if you decide to consider these stories as symbolic, are they really helpful and safe?
I can honestly state that this kind of use of symbolism is dangerous. Symbolism cannot justify anything! Racist or hateful texts still remain dangerous, even if you claim that everything in the text is symbolic. If the real goal is to provide spiritual teaching, what need is there for using violent episodes and saying that they are blessed by God? Of course there are violent acts in the world, but are they blessed? It is surprising that anyone can maintain this kind of affirmation…even with the excuse that it is all symbolic.
As a conclusion, I would like to urge you not to justify everything in the name of symbolism!
You are living at a time when people are more educated, but at the same time they are just as fragile as humans who lived centuries ago. Any incitation to immoral behavior cannot be taken to be merely symbolic. These incitations are precisely what they seem be, mere human behavior, and must be condemned as such.
Religion, spirituality, esotericism, and symbolism are great Traditions. But as a Western initiate you must be aware that “do no harm” must remain the keystone of every teaching!