Symbols of the inner world

The divine is often reflected in the following configuration of symbols:

The Inner world
The first group of symbols are those related to the inner world and introversion. The symbols of the inner world involve the concept of an “inner space”.

Goethe summed this symbolic metaphor up well when he claimed that “when we have done our part within, the exterior will unfold itself automatically” (Cited in Assagioli, 1969, p. 35).  Assagioli believed that turning inward was the fundamental way to experience our the sacred dimension, it is in that space that we discover our “center of true being” (p. 35).

The Descent
The second group of symbols are those that relate to “deepening or the descent to the ground of our being” (p.35).  In the creative process we often encounter symbolic images of deepening and descent.  The descent myth involves mythic tales of a journey into the underworld, and then the return with heightened knowledge and increased capacities. The descent entails the idea of an individual “who is willing and courageous enough to recognize the lower side of the personality, without allowing his knowledge to overwhelm him, achieves a true spiritual victory” (p. 36).  This ‘spiritual victory’ can be  interpreted as a new found energy and creative capacity.

The third group of symbols is that of ascent or elevation.  According to Assagioli (1965) these symbols begin to occur once the individual has explored the inner space. He states that once we have gone into the lower world of the shadow we begin to encounter higher worlds in our inner space. In the symbolism of ascent we encounter: the ethical dimension and philosophical reason. The  symbols of ascent also include the worlds of imagination, intuition, and the world of transcendence.  Assagioli (1965) says that these symbols are often represented as images of the mountain top, the top of a tree, the sky and the heavens.

The fourth group of symbols are those that relate to expansion. These symbols relate to the broadening of consciousness, and a broadening of self.  It is the idea of opening to other beings, and is related to the symbolism of love.  It is the symbol of being beyond time and space,and  the expansion of consciousness to include the experience of “ever wider circles, a temporal continuum of varying dimensions” (p. 38).

The fifth group of symbols is that of awakening. According to Assagioli (1965) the average man is in a dream state, engulfed in the world of illusions.  These illusions concern the idea of our sense perceptions of reality, and are effected by our emotions and preconceptions of “reality”.  In Assagioli’s (1965) view much of our knowledge of reality is derived from external influences creating a sort of veil in which true reality is difficult to see. The symbols of awakening concern waking up from this false illusionary reality. Within this symbolic group is the idea of finding the true self that exists beyond the ego and sub-personalities that relate to “reality”.

The sixth group of symbols are those of light or illumination.  According to Assagioli (1965) spiritual awareness is symbolized through light and  illumination. The light symbolizes the ability to see within one’s self.  It further symbolizes the ability to hold inner vision which sheds light upon inner darkness. From this set of symbols intuition arises, and the ability to discover inner truth. Assagioli (1965) further states that the symbol of light is related to the “light immanent in the human soul and the whole of creation” (p. 39).

The seventh group of symbols is that of the symbol of fire. Assagioli (1965) claims that this symbol appears across cultures and is found in all religions.   It is related not only to ideas such as sacred illumination, but also to the inner experience of the creative fire of life. In Ezekiel’s speech to the Covering Cherub he says: “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God … thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.”


3 thoughts on “Symbols of the inner world

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