Symbols of ancient cultures, largely go unnoticed in our frenzied lives, but still influence thought patterns and understanding in our modern world. The recent movies on the big-screen, National Treasure, take a delightful look at symbolism and the interpretation of meaning into today’s culture. I'm sure Carl Jung proudly smiles at the efforts these movies made to bring the power of symbolism to light in the American society. Lasting symbols merely remind us of the past. Only when we take a look at what symbols represent and how they fit into our lives today, we gain an intrinsic knowledge, appreciation and understanding of vanished ideas which may empower our growth.
The ancient Greeks believed in many Gods. According to both Greek and Roman beliefs, a God existed for just about every situation or life circumstance. The Gods’ personalities also directed, and some believed, demanded, appropriate worship and homage to ensure the requested issue come to bear. The Gods mirrored humans in that they portrayed envy, vanity, love, and anger in a wide range of human emotions. One can speculate that our ancient ancestors projected onto these Gods human qualities to make them seem more real or understandable. In general, Gods ruled the earth and most life events.
To better practice polydeism, the ancients used Oracles to guide them in appeasing the Gods. Delphi, the most notable site for consulting the Oracle, was considered the center of the planet. Delphi hosted the priestess known as the Pythia, to connect with Apollo. Pythia sat on a tripod seat over an opening (fissure) in the earth. There, she waited for the vapors and fumes to rise from the earth’s core to intoxicate her into a trance-like state. Once in this state, she then allowed Apollo to possess her spirit and his prophecy spoke through her. She spoke in riddles, which were interpreted by the priests of the temple. Believers consulted her on everything from important matters of public policy to personal affairs. This methodology survived hundreds, if not thousands of years until Christianity took hold in the early millennium.
Although the ancient practices of using Oracles and appealing and appeasing multiple Gods faded away some two thousand years ago, we subtly continue these types of rituals today. Consider various religious “hoops” we jump through to satisfy our interpretation of God. Our written doctrines and dogmas, together with edicts and even dietary restrictions, provide us with a structure to follow, not unlike the ancient Greeks and Romans. We consult various mystics to interpret our dilemmas and seem satisfied that the riddles offered answer our questions. For the most part, the modern world worships one God, but our hopes, dreams, fears and requests remain very similar. We’ll go to great lengths to realize our spiritual pursuits, whether it be a trip to our local house of worship or a pilgrimage to the center of the earth.
We remain fascinated and intrigued by lost cultures. What happened to them? Where did they go? Why did they leave?
In his work "Timaeus," Plato brings forth the tale of Atlantis, as told to Socrates by Critias. In part, he relayed to Socrates the following:
"Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others...
...This vast power, gathered into one, endeavored to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes.
...there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.”
Plato captured for us, a brief reference to an island empire of successful warriors who, succumbed to the forces of nature, never to rise again. Many myths arose from this primary reference to Atlantis and we often refer to it as a symbol of man’s self-destruction.
We can from the analogy of Atlantis in our own lives. In times of self-reflection, examine in what ways you brought down a part of yourself, never again to rise to the surface. Many times, we reach a level of optimum performance and without the emotional and spiritual tools required to sustain that level of excellence, we falter and destroy that very powerful part of ourselves. Like Atlantis, many reformed smokers, dieters, and drinkers sink back into old habits, submerging themselves in failure at their own choosing. And, like Atlantis, the higher self still exists, - it takes searching through layers of muddied thought and murky intentions to discover again.
Medical history offers us the practice of using leeches to extricate illness and disease from the body. The latter part of the 17th century showed us how hysteria about witches and their craft could overpower common sense and a small community, and eventually spread throughout the western world. Mithracism, the preponderant religion consisting of small groups during the pre-Christian era, enjoyed centuries of change. The localized gatherings, varying in size and belief, also diverse in rituals and initiation, attracted a membership made up of mostly soldiers and lower nobility. Eventually, the church overtook the Mithraic beliefs as a whole and the cult vanished.
The beliefs we held as children, ranging from the boogey man, to the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, hold sentimental value for us as adults. Our beliefs in a higher power, a Creator and the symbiotic invisible machine of life changes from day to day, as well. When we float beneath the overarching cosmos of spirituality, we find our smaller truisms insignificant. What matters the most is our connection with what we once deemed important in our lives and our embracing the constant flow of change in our ever evolving souls.
Practices, people, and beliefs vanish from our memory through the earthly timeline. Travel to the center of your being and listen to the voice of your God. Even if your optimism and power seem lost to you like Atlantis, hold strong knowing that your value exists deep within you and can, at any moment, rise from the depths to resurface as your innermost expression. Revisit your beliefs and lovingly recognize the changes in your life and you’ll blossom as a spiritual being in this earthly experience. 1086 words