A Little Bit of Symbols: An Introduction to Symbolism - Henry Reed (2016)
Chapter 4. THE TERRIBLE TWOS AND THE DYNAMIC DUOS: SYMBOLS OF THE CREATION
What would life be like if we never encountered any resistance? Imagine someone sleepwalking in an environment with no obstacles. What would make the person wake up?
What if we never heard the word no? What if life answered with an affirmative, accepting “Okay, yes!” to every response we made? Would we ever come to know that we exist? A strange question, but imagine … going through life without having to make any effort to assert oneself. Might we go through life like the snake biting its tail?
A baby feels hunger pains and cries, but the baby cannot feed itself. Time passes, someone/something happens, and pain goes away. How long and predictable between cry and response-lessening pain—such is the baby’s world. Sometime later, inevitably, the parent must restrain the toddler from doing something it wants. The toddler begins to experience making some exertion against resistance. When the child inevitably begins to holler “No!” itself and rejects his or her parents’ requests, the child is learning about what it means to be distinct from others. The child maybe got the idea from the parents when the child heard from them “No!” and was restrained in some way. The resistance the child encountered was functioning as a wakeup call. The child comes to practice it as a means of asserting his or her wakefulness.
There’s that familiar saying that expresses the wisdom here: “To make an omelet, one has to crack the eggs.” What was perfectly round was also uncreative, self-contained. The circle must be broken for creation to begin. How does it happen?
Meditation is a time-honored place to explore mysteries of consciousness. The instructions on how to meditate are simple: “Pay attention to the breathing. When awareness notices that the mind has wandered, bring the attention back to the breathing.” Simple instructions, these are, for mindfulness meditation. What happens?
Follow the meditation instructions for a bit. Sooner or later we notice that we have become lost in thought. When did that happen? We can’t recall. Most folks consider that moment a failure experience. Actually, however, it is a moment of success! Why? The intention for mindfulness just won out over the sleepwalking trance that was going on. That “coming out” of trance, “awakening” to “become aware,” is the essential creation of self-aware consciousness that we’re talking about here. What causes meditators to become aware that their mind has wandered?
Before that moment of inner realization, we have the symbol of the snake biting its tail. After that moment, we have the circle now somehow broken or divided into two. The universal sign for No! or Don’t! is a bright red circle divided by a backward slash through it! A coincidence? No, no, no, it shakes its finger at us.
Here’s another example of the divide-and-create theme from the story of Genesis in the Bible and how this symbolism plays out.
“Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. And God saw the light, and that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.”
Notice three things in this account.
First, God creates by separating, by dividing into two, light and dark, heaven and earth, male and female. Second, prior to the division, there was a void (the motif of the circle as empty). Third, the separation created judgment (“It was good”).
Later in Genesis, the theme is repeated in what happens after Adam and Eve bite into the apple:
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together.”
Biting into the apple creates the consciousness of separation. The united circle has been divided. By this symbolism, we come to understand that Paradise was an unconscious state of merger, or oneness. Prior to that bite, it seems Adam and Eve were sleepwalking through creation.
Here’s an interesting little experiment to re-experience the moment of biting into the apple and the consequences.
Turn attention inward, toward the breathing, as in meditation. Just become aware of the breathing, noticing what occurs as breathing happens.
Having had a chance to observe the breathing, let’s review what might have been experienced.
I have found that when folks receive the instructions to turn their attention toward their breathing, there seems to be a reflex, not just to look but to grab on as well, as if it were out of control and there was need to adjust it in some way. It’s as if, when we turn our attention to our breathing, we have a “Look, nobody’s got a hand on the steering wheel, better grab it!” type of reaction.
Shining the light upon the body’s breathing typically recreates that moment of the dawning of awareness of an inner “I” separate from the rest of what we might experience. Before thinking to attend to our breathing, we weren’t much aware of the breath. It was happening automatically, by instinct. We might say that we and our breath were one, or fused into a single being. By turning our attention toward our breathing, our relationship to it changed—now there were two, me and my breath. I experience myself as separate from my breath.
We’ve cut the circle in two, and that is the birth of consciousness, the dawning of “I am.” We cut ourselves off from the paradise of unconscious breathing and enter the harsh new world in which breathing becomes our “job.” We could choose to let go of that task, but that’s a further development.
Free will comes with a price: having to make choices and decisions, separating the yes from the no. It’s work.
Biting into the apple was a rupture of the perfect circle. The kids were kicked out of the Paradise Playground and forced to grow up by making some effort! And thus the journey begins. Much of symbolism is about the subsequent experiences that are likely encountered on that trip onward to conscious, cocreative oneness with the mysteries of life. It takes a lot of experience to learn how to go with the flow and have it take you to your destiny.
A parting question to get the dynamic duo symbol fermenting on the brain: Would creation exist if there was no awareness of it?
SOME SYMBOLS TO SAMPLE
Laughing until you cry—why?
No! Stop! How do you feel now?
Heads and tails—opposite but connected
How can we mingle if we’re separate first?
SOME SYMBOLS TO SAMPLE
Take a bite.
It takes two to tangle.