“…the mineral world is viewed as the lowest form of creation. It takes outside force to move or change a stone; we throw one and it remains inert. There are many expressions in our language that reflect this lowly aspect of the stone. We say that someone is stupid, or blind or deaf as a stone. Stone lacks sensation or feeling, and we accuse someone of having a heart of stone. When Medusa, in Greek myth, turns someone into a stone, its psychological meaning is that he or she regresses to a less conscious state. Our worst fear freezes us into stone, robbing us of our ability to act.
We are fascinated by the dense nature of stone that refuses us access. In her poem “Conversations with a Stone,” Wislawa Szymborska writes:
I knock at the stone’s front door.
‘It’s only me, let me come in.’
‘I don’t have a door,’ says the stone.”
Source: The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, p. 104
And yet, after all this, your hearts hardened and became like stones, or even harder: for, behold, there are stones from which streams gush forth; and, behold, there are some from which, when they are cleft, water issues; and, behold, there are some that fall down for awe of God. And God is not unmindful of what you do!
The allusion to water in the above Qur’anic verse is noteworthy. Although the significance of water manifests itself differently in different religions and beliefs, water is a universal symbol of purity, renewal, and life. It has a central place in the practices and rituals of many traditions. Not only does water purify one externally and spiritually, but it also prepares one to come into the presence of one’s focus of worship. For the Muslim, for example, ablutions performed correctly and with sincere intention purify the soul from the pollution of sin and it is as if one has been given a new will, a new life.
Because all life comes from water, the ancients regarded water as a symbol of “the universal congress of potentialities, the fons et origo, which precedes all form and all creation. Immersion in water signifies a return to the pre-formal state, with a sense of death and annihilation on the one hand, but of rebirth and regeneration on the other.” In India, water is generally regarded as the “preserver of life, circulating throughout the whole of nature, in the form of rain, sap, milk, and blood.”
In light of the above verse, it behooves us, therefore, to ask ourselves this: Are our hearts better than stones? For from the stone—emblem of rigidity, hardness, and coarseness—we can see “streams gush forth” and “when they are cleft, water issues.” Yet, the water of Truth—that which brings life, restores, and purifies—cannot even penetrate a heart that is as hard as stone. Even harder. That heart is so hard and inaccessible, so cold and unyielding, that it is “unaffected by heavenly things” and “slow to credit the words of God.” The stony heart, “hardened by sin, and confirmed in it; destitute of spiritual life and motion; senseless and stupid, stubborn and inflexible; on which no impressions are made; and which remains hard and impenitent” is, essentially, dead.
Sources: Taken from Qur’an (Surah ‘The Cow’, 2:74); J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, pp.364-5; Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible and Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, http://bible.cc/ezekiel/36-26.htm