“The essential meaning of the crown is derived from that of the head, with which it is linked—unlike the hat—not in a utilitarian but in a strictly emblematic manner. By reference to level-symbolism, we may conclude that the crown does not merely surmount the top of the body (and of the human being as a whole), but rises above it and therefore symbolizes, in the broadest and deepest sense, the very idea of pre-eminence. That is why a superlatively successful achievement is spoken of as a ‘crowning achievement’. Hence the crown is the visible sign of success, of ‘crowning’, whose significance reaches beyond the act to the person who performed it.

The metal crown, the diadem and the crown of rays of light, are symbols of light and of spiritual enlightenment. In some books of alchemy there are illustrations showing the planetary spirits receiving their crown—that is, their light—from the hands of their king—that is, the sun. The light they received from him is not equal in intensity but graded, as it were, in hierarchies, corresponding to the grades of nobility ranging from the king down to the baron. Books on alchemy also stress the affirmative and sublimating sense of the crown. In Margarita pretiosa, the six base metals are first shown as slaves, with their uncovered heads bowed low towards the feet of the ‘king’ (that is, gold); but, after their transmutation, they are depicted wearing crowns on their heads. This ‘transmutation’ is a symbol of spiritual evolution whose decisive characteristic is the victory of the higher principle over the base principle of the instincts. That is why Jung concludes that the radiant crown is the symbol par excellence of reaching the highest goal of evolution: for he who conquers himself wins the crown of eternal life.”

Source: J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, p. 72

[Hearts tuned to a dead channel are harder than stones.]

“…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 Biblehttp://bible.cc/ezekiel/36-26.htm

[“Time is the magnitude of motion when the size of its earlier and later are brought together in the mind.”]

This Japanese Zen calligraphic drawing beautifully shows ‘creation’ through the simple progression from the absolute unity of the circle, through the triangle (with three points forming a qualitative transition from the pure, abstract elements of point and line to the tangible, measurable state called a surface) symbolizing the passage between the transcendent and the manifest realms, to the manifest form of the square (representing materialization).


“Mirror is a reflective container whose source of power is light. Our English word ‘mirror’ comes from the Latin mirari, to wonder or marvel at. The wonderous nature of the mirror is how it draws our imagination into its seeming depths, the sense that beyond the mirror image of our immediate reality might be seen something entirely different. In Lewis Carroll’s famous story, the world of dreams lies ‘through the Looking-glass.’ Personifying the unconscious and its compelling capacity to reflect the unknown and potential, alchemy attributed to its figure Sulfur, the possession of ‘a mirror in which the whole world is to be seen. Whosoever looks into this mirror, can see and learn therein the parts of the wisdom of the whole World…’ (CW 14:137, n 108). At the same time, the more destructive aspects of the unconscious, like consuming appetites and ‘lunatic’ tendencies, were projected on the changeable and cyclically dark Luna, ‘the great poisonous mirror of nature.’ Yet as the illuminating speculum or ‘looking-glass,’ Luna could also mediate self-knowledge and the face she showed was affected by the receptiveness or resistance of the adept to the insights she offered.

What do we see when we look in a mirror? To ‘reflect’ means to bend back or around, suggesting a linking. Attuned mirroring of the infant and young child contributes to the bringing of their substance into being. Derangements in mirroring have been associated with pathological narcissism, borderline states and chronic depression. In the Greek legend of Narcissus, the youth, divinely spellbound by his own reflection, wastes away. Two twentieth-century women, Virginia Woolf and Freud’s patient, Anna O, testified to the traumatic experience of seeing a beast or monster in their looking glass—projections, perhaps, of the distorting effects of mental illness. Everyday, we confront mirrors in the reactions of others to our behavior. Saint Paul saw the mirror as an analogue to our experience of the divine here and now as opposed to the afterlife: ‘For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face’ (1 Cor. 13:12). Schopenhauer, however, compared the human intellect to a mirror. In its magical aspect, the mirror is a trickster’s tool, an implement of illusion, often making us appear as more, or less, than we are. But the mirror as an emblem of our capacity to reflect is also an instrument of salvation. In the myth of Perseus, it is only by looking at the reflected image of what is too dangerous to absorb directly, that the hero is able to slay the snake-headed Medusa.”

Source: The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, pp.590, 592

World and Heart as Mirror

“The attributes of the complete human being are the attributes of God appropriately reflected in human nature. God has innumerable qualities, ninety-nine of which are mentioned in the Qur’an. Some of these are the everyday attributes of a human being: seeing, hearing, speech, will, life, awareness. The Sufi recognizes that these qualities are reflected through the human being from the Absolute Being. Becoming completely human is being able to reflect more and more of the divine qualities in everyday life.

The world is viewed as the mirror of divine qualities, the site of their manifestation. The human heart is even more so a site of their manifestation.”

Source: Kabir Helminski, The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation, p.22

“…in the process of purification that culminates in illumination, both St John and the Sufis polish the mirror of their soul to the point where it is so burnished that it can reflect the light of God: ‘the mirror [of the] heart has been so polished with divers classes of mortification. . . whose effect is the polishing that must be accomplished so that the forms of mystical realities can manifest themselves with all their brightness in the heart.’ These words are from Abu al-Mawahib al-Shadhali…but the image is repeated over and over by Rumi, Ibn ‘Ata’Allah, Ibn Arabi, Al-Ghazzali, and even the ancient Bistami (d. 874), Hakim Tirmidhi (d. 898), and Hasan Basri (d. 728). St John sounds like them all, and his soul, ‘through the brightness that comes supernaturally,’ becomes a ‘bright mirror’ (N II: 24:4; VO 459).”

Source: http://www.allamaiqbal.com/publications/journals/review/apr98/3.htm


Ibn Arabi on Man as mirror of God, God as Mirror of the World:

“…the most important metaphor used by Ibn Arabi to depict the relation between God, the world and man in particular, remains that of the mirror. Ibn Arabi did not invent the symbol of the mirror, but he resorted to it to clarify the nature of the relation between God and His creatures. A real mirror reflects the image of the person looking at it. In the same way, symbolically, a mirror reflects ideas. When we say, figuratively, that a poet is the mirror of his age, or that one person is the mirror of another, we mean by that, that the poet or the person has been able to capture the characteristic image of his age or of the other person, and show it to people. Perhaps if Ibn Arabi had lived in our time, he would have made use of the screen, and used it as a symbol. For the screen has an amazing ability to receive and transmit images. Within this framework, we may say [that]:

(i) Man is a double mirror, being the isthmus between God and the world. One face is the mirror of the Divine Names, while the other is the mirror of the cosmic names. [or, on the one side stands the Absolute and on the other side, creation. The latter is like a mirror, sign, signifier, or image, but in all cases but a reflection or shadow of the Real.]

(ii) Man is the mirror of God, and God is the mirror of man. They are two mirrors, each reflecting the other. God is the mirror of man, with man seeing himself in the Divine mirror. And man is the mirror of God because he reflects His Names back to Him.

The following are some of Ibn Arabi’s texts which describe these two mirrors.

(a) Man as mirror of God

The texts of Ibn Arabi successively describe the world as a mirror, and the mirror means the place which accepts the image of a thing and not the thing itself. Thus, the mirror is at the same time a deception, for the image of a person in a mirror is the person himself, while being quite other. In the same way, there is in the mirror nothing of the reflected person. He says: ‘The world […] is the mirror of God. The people of Knowledge (‘arifun) see there only the image of God.’

(b) God as Mirror of the World

The traveller exerts himself that his Lord may be unveiled to him, but at the end of his spiritual retreat, what is unveiled to him is his own truth, and he sees his own image in the mirror of God. This is reminiscent of the final arrival of Fariduddin Attar’s birds and their vision of the Simurgh. Regarding the fact that God is the mirror of the world, Ibn Arabi says: ‘God is the mirror of the world. They [the creatures] see in this mirror only their own images.'”

Source: http://www.ibnarabisociety.org/articles/unityofbeing.html


Hiroshige’s wood-block image depicts the whirlpools at Awa, their gentle involutions centered at the foreground of an expansive landscape, suggesting transition amid seeming impermanence. It is a meditative and tranquil image of whirlpools, the forceful currents brought about by an interaction of rising and falling tides. Carrying associations similar to those of the spiral, these currents are symbolically depicted in relation to the center, unaffected by the impelling forces that surround it. When coastal and ocean bottom configurations are both narrow and deep, however, a whirlpool may exhibit a fearsome downdraft, changing its aspect. The vortex produced by these currents can appear to create an aperture, falling away into immeasurable depths, sucking all things into the void and then disgorging them again. For this reason, the whirlpool is often personified as a monstrous force. In Homer’s The Odyssey, the whirlpool Charybdis swallows the sea down in the “yawning maw” of its funnel, exposing the black sand at the bottom of the abyss, and then vomits it back up “like a cauldron seething over intense fire” (Homer, 217), suggesting what it still might be for consciousness to be caught in the maelstrom energies of psyche.

Many nautical myths combine the benign and violent aspects of the whirlpool, allowing the chaotic maelstrom (from Dutch for “whirling stream”) to function as an initiation, and the center of the vortex to reveal a vision normally hidden from human perceptions. In eleventh century Teutonic myth, sailors entered a maelstrom that opened up onto an island of giants, their hidden gold temporarily ungaurded (Rydberg, 320). In the same sense, whirlpools suggest portals to other worlds and times, and in many literary representations, there is a sustained moment where the observer is witness to the underworld. A Cherokee myth details the adventures of two tribesman on a canoe at the mouth of Suck Creek. One was seized by a fish and never seen again. The other was saved after he “reached the narrowest circle of the maelstrom.” Here the water opens and as if looking down through the roof beam of a house, he can see at the bottom of the river a great company, which beckons him, but before they can seize him the swift current catches him up out of their reach (Mooney,340). In another story, the abyss has a different aspect (and the depths of psyche can feel equally ambivalent): Edgar Allen Poe’s “Descent int the Maelstrom” is based on the whirlpools located near the Lofoten Islands off the coast of Norway. Poe describes a state of calm intelligibility at the heart of the funnel, a transition from dread to hope, discovering in the gulf a “narrow and tottering bridge which…is the only pathway between Time and Eternity.”

Source: The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, p.46