Myths and Symbols

Shinto symbols, the square, circle and triangle with a Shimenawa

A square, circle and triangle with the sun, moon and stars, by D. Stolcius von Stolzenberg, Viridarium chymicum,Frankfurt, 1624

This website is about symbols of presence in the Japanese culture. Presence refers to a state of self-awareness which man, in his normal state of being thinks he has, but actually lacks. Man`s everyday life is like unto a dream.

The phenomena of life are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, or shadows; like drops of dew, or flashes of lightning, and thus they ought to be contemplated. -- The Prajna-Paramita Diamond Sutra (Buddhist text)

The state of self-awareness and the way to reach it, is the subject of many art works, myths, symbols and scriptures produced by all esoteric traditions of the world. The inner meaning of these works becomes lost when the men or women who produced them, disappear from the world and a religion develops, for it requires the ability to discriminate and to know one`s true Self, to understand symbols that point to the true Self.

The eyes of a great physician see (the plants growing by) the wayside as medicine (where others see only weeds). A man who knows gemstones sees jewels (where others see only) rocks and stones…..(Whether the context of a text is ) exoteric or esoteric depends on the (discriminative ability of) the reader. It is not a matter of sounds and letters (of that text).  -- Kukai (9th c. Founder of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism)
The sutras of the Buddha contain countless metaphors. Because mortals have shallow minds, they don't understand anything deep. -- Bodhidharma (1st Chinese patriarch of Zen Buddhism)

When a new esoteric tradition, a new school appears, one of the tasks besides creating consciousness in its participants is rediscovering the inner meaning the myths and scriptures.

Miyamoto Musashi, Samurai, writer
and painter

Confusion of literal and symbolic understanding is an endemic problem in organized religion, when the original inspiration has been replaced by imitation. For this reason, the revelation of symbolic meaning in scripture, the restoration of mythology to psychology, is one of the specialities of the original teachings of Zen. This internalization of meaning is the key to Zen expression in all the arts. -- Zen master Takuan (1573 – 1645)
Esotericism inevitably founders and degenerates in the course of time, giving rise to the need for the esoteric impulse to be constantly revivified and redefined. -- Alex Horn (20th c. Fourth Way spiritual teacher)

This website aims to restore Japanese symbols, myths, scriptures, festivals, and customs in the Japanese culture to the psychology of man`s possible evolution. The psychology of man`s possible evolution means waking up from the state of sleep in which man spends his life, to the state of Divine Presence. It means the evolution or development of his consciousness or the awakening of his true self.

All the absurdities and all the contradictions of people, and of human life in general, become explained when we realise that people live in sleep, do everything in sleep, and do not know that they are asleep.
-- Ouspensky (20th c. Fourth Way spiritual teacher) The Psychology of Man`s Possible Evolution

Mythological beast with a human head and 6 eyes on it`s body, Gohyaku Rakanji Temple, Tokyo

Winged Sphinx of the Naxians, ca.560 BC Sanctuary of Apollo, Delphi Museum, Greece

Myths and symbols are part of the legacy of esoteric traditions. Understandinging them requires transcending ordinary thinking. The intellect is useful and necessary to deal with every day situations and solve complicated problems, but in spiritual matters it falls short. By sustaining self awareness, the higher self is able to come into being and see connections between things that in our normal state don`t seem to have any connection. In a state of presence, when the Higher Self is awake, one perceives the meaning directly, without words.

The aim of myths and symbols was to reach man's higher centers, to transmit to him ideas inaccessible to the intellect, and to transmit them in such forms as would exclude the possibility of false interpretations.
-- Ouspensky, quoting Gurdjieff (20th c. Fourth Way spiritual teacher)
Understanding of symbols belongs exclusively to higher functions, and must always produce a sense of bafflement, and even frustration, when approached by ordinary functions, such as that of logical thought.
-- Rodney Collin (20th c. Fourth Way spiritual teacher)

The ordinary functions refer to the four lower functions or centers of the lower self. Higher functions refer to functions of the Higher Self. As said above, myths, symbols and rituals, contain knowledge about the path to awaken the Higher Self.

The people who have possessed objective knowledge have tried to express the idea of unity in myths, in symbols, and in verbal formulas which, having been transmitted without alteration, have carried on the idea from one school to another. -- George Gurdjieff

As one gradually understands their inner meaning, one sees that the myths and symbols of all esoteric traditions have the same inner meaning.

A drawing by William Blake
Is it not a fact that the three doctrines of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism may be three, but the Way is ultimately one? -- Introduction of 'Understanding Reality' by Zhang Boduan (11th c. Taoist master)
Ask of those who have attained God; all speak the same word. All the saints are of one mind; it is only those in the midst of the way who follow diverse paths. All the enlightened have left one message; it is only those in the midst of their journey who hold diverse opinions.
-- Dadu (15th c. Indian saint)
The Hierarchy is one, and the esoteric sides of all religions were launched by it, as was the great experiment started through Ouspensky and Gurdjieff for our own time.
-- Rodney Collin (20th c. Fourth Way spiritual teacher)

All religions, all this singing, one song.
The differences are just illusion and vanity.
Sunlight looks a little different on this wall
than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but it is still one light.
-- Rumi (13th c. Sufi mystic and poet)

This website also shows many examples of symbols from other Esoteric traditions, which have the same inner meaning as the symbols shown of Japanese esoteric traditions.

English 日本語

Copyright 2010 - 2021 Walther Sell