Robert Clarke on the Symbolic Meaning of Religion

My good friend Robert Clarke, who died in October in England, had lived a rich inner life that included, by his estimate, 30,000 dreams that led him through the individuation process. He sent me two articles that he had written for his local newspaper that I think are of wider interest. The first, which I posted here yesterday, he sent to me on April 4, 2008. The second he sent me later that same month, on April 27, saying,

“I keep thinking of the whole might and power of the universe, of all universes, the whole kit and caboodle, and how one tiny speck of love, the minutest iota, is worth more than all of the might and power. Another reality comes into being with love, another living dimension, that might and power totally lacks. I think of the tiny speck as up in the darkness of the universe, totally alone, and yet glowing in a way that is impossible for the physical universe. Anyway, I thought you might like to read my latest article for the local paper (attached).” 

The Symbolic Meaning of Religion
I once had a dream in which a tattered old Bible lay on the pavement. People passing by were kicking it out of the way as worthless. When I picked it up and opened it, however, I found that every page was made of the purest gold. That is what the unconscious, or the spirit through the unconscious, thinks about the Bible. It teems with processes of the spirit, experienced largely through dreams, that are symbolic in nature, and which matches similar symbolism found in myths and religious texts around the world. As the great psychoanalyst Carl Jung said, myth is not fiction, but rather expresses truths largely of another reality experienced through the unconscious.

When Moses slays the Egyptian, flees to the land of Midian, and sits by a well, the seven daughters of Jethro appear. Moses then immediately goes up the mountain, experiences the burning bush, in which there is an angel, and God speaks. In the religious Mysteries of mankind water symbolises feminine spirit and fire masculine spirit, so in his movements from the well to the burning bush Moses is unifying these opposite spirits, the main goal of the spiritualising processes through the unconscious, called the Sacred Marriage.

The seven daughters of Jethro represent sevenfold feminine wisdom of the unconscious, a well-known archetype, and when Moses marries one of the daughters, he is unifying with that feminine wisdom. As for the angel in the burning bush, this actually represents what Eastern philosophy calls the cosmic Self, the Logos that is always mediator between man and God. (When in the Gospel of John Christ tells the people they are part of him, while he is part of God, this is expressing the same truth.)

Later in the Old Testament the prophet Daniel sees ‘in the night visions’, i.e. dreams, a Son of God connected with fire and a Son of Man connected with water. Here again fire represents the higher spirit of God, with water the lower spirit of the Earth, hence Son of God or of the Father, and Son of Man or of the Mother. In mythology generally there are often two divine Sons, one predominately from the Father, one predominately from the Mother.

I had better explain that the name ‘Mary’, the mother of Christ, derives from ‘Miriam’, or ‘Meriam’, sister of Moses, which in turn comes from the Egyptian Meri, Goddess of the Waters. Meri was a form of Hathor, mother of Horus, the divine Son who equals Christ, though meri was also an Egyptian word for water itself. Mare is the Latin for ‘sea’, while the French is mer, and we have the word ‘mere’, meaning ‘lake’, all from the same root. The Virgin Mary has long been the patron saint of sailors because of her connection with the sea, and the symbol of Christ in this aspect is the Fish, because as Son of Mary he symbolically comes from the waters.

In the New Testament Christ changes water into wine at the marriage at Cana, the spirits from above and from below being represented by wine and water here. But the deeper meaning is that the Earth is being spiritualised by Christ with the higher spirit of God, again the Sacred Marriage. If the meaning is taken literally, that water is actually being changed into wine, just so the guests can get tipsy, there is no spiritual meaning to it. It would merely be an act of magic that any third rate sorcerer could accomplish. So only with the symbolic meaning, Christ transforming the Earth with the divine spirit of God, are the sacred and the holy implicated.

In the first few centuries AD, as well as the orthodox Christianity of the Church, there were also many other sects that we today call Gnostic – ‘Gnostics’ means ‘knowers’. In other words, the Gnostics didn’t just believe, they knew by direct inner experience, mostly through dreams. They realised that the biblical texts are symbolical and that when understood in this way they can be better accepted as sacred truths. The majority of people today, who find they can no longer accept the biblical texts as being literally true, can themselves come to believe again if they understand the meaning to be deeper and symbolical. Even some of the early Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Valentinus, Marcion, etc. taught that the Bible must be understood symbolically, which by no means lessens its sacredness, rather the opposite. (Valentinus had a dream in which a divine child appeared, saying, “I am the Logos”, meaning the Word, a title of Christ.)

This is not to say that those who do take the religious texts as being literally true are necessarily wrong. In fact, it works because the spirit is still able to recognize its own symbolism even when the texts are taken literally. Indeed, the Church Fathers mentioned above instructed those who went deeper into the Christian Mystery not to criticize those who understood it on the shallower level. They said it is still the same great Mystery and that every person should follow it at whatever level suited them.

For the past two hundred years man has been investigating the true nature of matter, a necessary step in the evolution of life itself. The problem is, he has become one-sided, believing now that matter is the whole of full reality itself. This is a gross mistake that in the end can only lead to the stagnation of life. But to paraphrase Jung, man does not tolerate indefinitely the nullification of his soul, and many of the signs today are that the next step in the evolution of life will be to respiritualisation, to a new understanding of the workings of the spirit in interaction with matter. This is really seeing the meaning of full reality as basically religious, which is how man always viewed it in any case, until, that is, the psychic/spiritual dissociation of our modern age.

3 thoughts on “Robert Clarke on the Symbolic Meaning of Religion

  1. Hi Frank,

    ‘When I picked it up and opened it, however, I found that every page was made of the purest gold. That is what the unconscious, or the spirit through the unconscious, thinks about the Bible.’

    I’ve talked to many psychics and mediums who have experienced Jesus and Mary as glowing, white and golden angels. I’ve seen Jesus and Mary as pristine figures dressed in white glowing robes. Jesus has floated on a golden cross and Moses stood atop Mt Sinai like a fiery sun, but I always knew that was symbolic. Those images had been created by my unconscious mind. I knew spirit was working with me, and I knew they were trying to fine tune the reception. In time Jesus, dusty, tanned, and with bearable body odour arrived. All the golden crosses disappeared.

    I’m not sure what made my experience different from everyone else I had spoken to. I don’t know what changed in me. The interference in/from my unconscious mind eased. I see all the prophets as people. Mohammed was with me for weeks before I realised who he was.

    This post has helped me to describe my experience. Thanks, Simon.

  2. Hello friends, and a happy new year to all of you.

    Felt of adding something to the postings about dreams and the symbolism of the same.
    Last night got a sort of message in a dream.
    I am not raised as a Catholic at all, but have many friends who will be Catholics. As (supposingly) all of you knows the scandinavians have the protestant State-Churces, but long before Martin Luther came along and the reformation took place, the christening of the scandinavians became of the Catholic way in practizing religion.

    Well, in the dream last night “somebody” gave me a hint of reading about Thomas Aquinas, or St. Thomas Aquinas ….of course have heard of all the differently Saints, but never Thomas Aquinas.
    And it triggered the curiousity of mine enough of to be looking it up in the Wikipedia(the biography about St.Thomas Aquinas), thou, in the dream “the Saint”in front of the name of his` was not mentioned.

    I am grateful for this website, thank you very much indeed from Inger Lise.

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