Compassionate Awakening: Embracing the Symbolism of Christ for Spiritual Enlightenment

In this blog post, we delve into the profound symbolism of Christ and its connection to compassionate awakening. Beyond religious dogma, Christ represents a call to engage our spiritual intuition and discover a truth that surpasses mere thoughts, words, and concepts. Through meditation on Christ, we can awaken to the spiritual reality within us and recognize the divine nature that resides in the hearts of all people.

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The Moon as a Symbol of Compassion: Illuminating the Path of Understanding and Empathy

The moon, with its enigmatic beauty and captivating presence, has long held profound symbolism in cultures across the globe. While it may not be conventionally regarded as a direct symbol of compassion, an exploration of the moon’s qualities and associations reveals that the moon symbolic of compassion. Let us embark on a journey into the realm of lunar symbolism to uncover the moon’s metaphorical link to compassion.

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Hermes: An Emblem of Self-Compassion Amid Suffering

Hermes, the illustrious Olympian deity known as Mercury to the Romans, has long stood as a symbol transcending the mundane and the divine. This messenger of the gods emblematizes our capacity to traverse the boundary between the human world and the ethereal divine sphere. His portrayal in ancient mythology and his resonance with modern psychological concepts present him as a figure embodying self-compassion, particularly in periods of suffering.

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Decoding the Language of the Unconscious: Archetypes and Spiritual Awakening

The concept of archetypes, described as “a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology,” by Oxford Languages, plays an instrumental role in our path to spiritual awakening. Hailing from the Greek words árkhō, meaning ‘to begin’, and túpos, ‘sort, type’, archetypes are viewed as the genesis of representation—the symbolic elucidation of the previously unknown.

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Weaving the Threads of Self-Compassion: The Guiding Wisdom of the Three Fates

The expansive realm of Greek mythology teems with myriad tales, each narrative brimming with the wisdom of ancient deities. Among these, the divine trinity known as the Moirai, or the Fates, stands out. This trio—Lachesis, Clotho, and Atropos—each plays an integral role in directing the course of life: Past, Present, and Future, respectively. By interpreting their roles as spiritual guides, we can delve into a profound understanding of self-compassion.

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A Living and Unstable Synthesis

Written by Contributor Edward Phillips

Immanence could be described as continuous synthesis without a resting place, without a fixed standing above or apart. Immanence as a concept is impossible to nail down, and difficult to grasp, in part because it is the ground out of which concepts emerge.

It can, however, be grasped in the failures of transcendence. The efforts of transcendence and the desire to transcend are a part of a larger movement in immanence. The very impatience and grandiosity of transcendence is but the intimation of immanence, a limitlessness which one can begin to grasp within the experience of impatience with limits.  An individual’s ability to struggle with limits is the very condition for lived freedom and generosity of spirit.

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Map Symbol and Meaning

Münster’s sights and views– some examples from different editions Sebastian Münster US PubliC Domain

Map are representations of reality as we currently perceive it. If a map emerges in our dreams or imagination, it may be a sign that we should look at our mental maps of reality.

Our mind is made up of a myriad of ways that we attempt to represent our reality. Our representations provide meaning and context, giving shape to our emotions and perceptions.

The human capacity for symbolization is a gift that allows us to communicate with both ourselves and others. But we often get stuck within dualistic traps that forestall more complex and dialectical modes of thought. This may happen at any level of thought or symbolization.

In the old map in the featured image above, we can see that the ancient ways of symbolizing ‘reality’ are outdated by today’s standards. We have explored our oceans, and no longer need to juxtapose the ‘known’ territory against ‘unknown’ in such a dramatic fashion. But, in a similar way, we are currently juxtaposing ‘reality’ against a greater unknown abyss.

Many of our most fragile conceptions are juxtaposed against some vague ocean of the unknown. The finite is conceptualized against the background of the infinite; the temporal, against the background of the eternal; necessity against the background of freedom; the literal, against the background of the imaginal; the conscious mind against the backdrop of the unconscious.

In many ways, we need the divine to make sense of reality. Like a figure emerging from a ground, reality is conceptualized against the backdrop of divinity. But the problem with such a binary way of thinking is that we tend to devalue one pole and glorify another. For instance, earthy life is often devalued in favor of a heavenly life within religious communities.

For those more scientifically inclined, there are dualistic traps as well. For example, all that has not been conceptualized in terms of ‘reality’ may disappear into borderlands of ‘un-reality’ and nothingness. For the atheist, the divine becomes a void, destined to haunt the mind with emptiness.

When we are stuck within such dualistic thinking, our subjectively felt intuitions often arise into consciousness accompanied by ‘uncanny feelings’. The Germans call uncanny feelings unheimliche, meaning “the opposite of what is familiar.” Uncanny feeling may accompany our thoughts and intuitions because we have continually pushed them away for too long. Freud called this the “return of the repressed.”

It is the capacity to work with paradox which allows us to tarry with the uncanny aspects of being. In sitting with these uncanny feelings we may discover that we are able to begin to give some sort of symbolization to them. These symbolizations often take the form of archetypes.

Archetypes are the basic forms of the numinous. They take visionary form– offering insight through spontaneous psychical images. Archetypes are paradox– speaking a paradoxical language in imaginal form.

It is through the labors of symbolizing our subjective experience that we may reach a capacity to integrate previously dualistic notions. The struggle to integrate duality is essential to the realization of the true nature of the Self. Archetypal symbolization provides a path for integrating previously dualistic notions of the sacred and profane, inside and outside, eternal and temporal, self and other. Through a process of dialectically integrating previously opposed notions we begin to integrate, not only our notions the word around us, but our self.

In working through dialectical integration, the world outside our mapped ‘territory’ no longer appears as a frightening abyss (filled with sea monsters). Instead, we slowly begin to map the sacred real, discovering bright stars and constellations within the dark night of the inner sky.

Image: Islandia map by Abraham Ortelius, ca 1590 Us Public domain via wikmedia

What is Sacred Cosmology?

Sacred cosmology expresses the sacred dimension of Being, both of cosmos and of the Self. They speak of the inner Unity of the cosmos and the Self. 

Sacred cosmologies are found in myths and spiritual teaching from around the world. Sacred cosmology seeks to understand the origin and meaning of the universe. While sacred topography explicitly speak to origin of the cosmos, there is often also an hidden teaching on the Nature of the Self. These esoteric (hidden) dimensions seek to the process of spiritual transformation in relation to the sacred cosmology.

Roberto Assagioli noticed a configuration of symbols that are found in many sacred cosmologies. Assagioli is a post-Jungian thinker. He focused on expanding Carl Jung’s method of the transcendent function, as well providing some great insights for Self-discovery. The symbols that Assagioli mapped illuminate our relation to the esoteric cosmologies.

The Experience of the Sacred Dimension

The Inner world
Assagioli believed that turning inward was the fundamental way to experience the sacred dimension. The first group of symbols are those related to the inner world and introversion. Roberto Assagioli understood that through an exploration of the inner world, we may discover our “center of true being” (p. 35). 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).  

The Descent Myth
The second group of symbols are those that relate to “deepening or the descent to the ground of our being” (p.35). The descent myth involves mythic tales of a journey into the underworld and the shadow realms of the psyche. After the descent into the shadow, there is 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 newfound 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 may encounter higher worlds and the higher Self. 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 enlightenment symbols 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.”

Mapping the Inner World

The featured image represents a Spiritual Model of the Human Psyche, created by Assagioli (1973).

The lower unconsciousness
This is the part of our unconscious where our fundamental drives and primitive urges are stored. Here we find the “emotional complexes, charged with intense emotion” (p. 17). This is the place of dreams and imagination of the “inferior kind” (p. 17). The lower unconscious controls our bodily functions and the life of the body.

The middle unconsciousness
The middle unconscious is where we process easily accessible memories. It is in this space that our mental and imaginative experiences are assimilated, elaborated and gestated before they birth into consciousness.

The higher unconsciousness
This is the region from where we receive our higher intuitions and inspirations such as artistic, philosophical scientific urges to action. This is the source of higher feelings like altruistic love and genius. It’s also the space of states of ‘contemplation, illumination and ecstasy” (p.18).

The field of consciousness
This part of our personality of which we are directly aware: “a never ending stream of sensations, images, thoughts, feelings, desires and impulses that we can observe, analyze and judge” (p. 180)

The conscious self or ‘I’ (the Ego)
This part of the self is emerged in the flow of sensations and thoughts.

The higher Self
This is the Self behind the I. This is the aspect of Self that is not afflicted by the daily stream of our consciousness or our bodily conditions. This is the center of our consciousness. Assagioli states that the conscious self is merely a reflection or projection of this higher self.

The collective unconsciousness
Each of us are embedded in this larger field of consciousness. There is an exchange between the individual consciousness and world surrounding it. Assagioli referred to this as osmosis between an individual human being and the larger psychic environment.


Roberto Assagioli, Symbols of transpersonal experiences, 1969

What is Immanence?

 Immanence means that the divine is inherent in life. 

Immanence is a concept that can only be understood in dialectical tension with transcendence. The word transcendence is derived from the Latin roots trans– “from or beyond”, and scandere “to climb.”

The word of Transcendence expresses the idea that God is outside of life or beyond life. This is the normative Western notion of God. God exists in the heaven above. God is the Lord, seated on a throne, in a world above life.

Immanence is defined as “the state of being within.” The word immanence is derived from the Latin root en maneo (the present infinitive is manēre) which means “to stay, wait, or remain within” or “I remain within.”

Baruch Spinoza once said that “all things are in God and so depend on him that without him they can neither be nor be conceived.” (1677)

The ideas of Immanence and transcendence form a binary unity, expressing shifting perspectives on our relationship with the divine. Immanence and transcendence are a sacred polarity. Like mother or father, or black and white, or figure and ground, these concepts can only be fully realized in relationship to each other.

In transcendence, we dream of a foreign God. In immanence, we awaken to a divinity at the heart of existence.

Let us consider the rhizoma root as a metaphor for immanence. A rhizome is an underground root that expands horizontally, sending out shoots and roots from its nodes. The root lies underground and unseen; expanding through nodes, creating new sections and growth. From these root nodes, shoots emerge above ground, sprouting stems, leaves and flowers.

God may be likened to the rhizoma root. God exists unseen in the heart of life. All of life originates from God. Life is the emergent form of God.

One manifestation of the rhizome is the lotus, a plant that is often depicted in spiritual myths and symbolism. In the image above, a lotus is shown rising from the navel of the Hindu deity Vishnu. The deity Brahma is born from this lotus. Vishnu is an image of the sacred ground or the rhizoma root (the Godhead) from which life emerges. 

In Dzogchen Buddhist teachings, read about  the base, the path, and the fruit. The base is the sacred ground of life; the path is the method of realization; and the fruit is the realization of the divine within life (True Nature). These three aspects are represented in the symbol of the Gankyil.

One might say that the base of life is immanence: that which ‘remains within’. The path is transcendence: that which ‘goes beyond’ (the development of consciousness). The fruit is the realization of our true nature. This is the meaning of enlightenment.

The modern philosophy of Gilles Deleuze explores the idea of immanence. We find immanence in the heart of human existence, and yet always “beneath the transcendence of effort.” Deleuze describes immanence in terms such as “becoming” and “possibility” or as a “pure stream of subjective consciousness.”

Deleuze says, “immanence has two facets as Thought and as Nature, as Nous and as Physis.” He adds, “the plane of immanence is ceaselessly being woven.” (ibid.) This weaving of Nous and Physis, thought and nature, can be thought of in terms of the sacred rhizoma root: ceaseless birthing existence, and yet it is also the totality of existence itself. Deleuze says, “immanence is not immanent to substance; rather, substance and modes are in immanence.”(ibid)

Carl Jung speaks of immanence. He says,

“Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above the ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away—an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost the sense of something that lives and endures beneath the eternal flux. What we see is blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.– Carl Jung, MDR p. 18

Jung believed that this root of life could be found within each individual, in the depths of the Self.

In the Mysterium Coniunctionis (CW 14), Carl Jung speaks of immanence as a deep alchemical truth. He speaks of “the secret immanence of the divine spirit of life in all things” (CW 14). Although his writings did not go into the concept of immanence directly, his works continually circled around the concept, touching upon the idea. I believe that this was Jung’s esoteric way of speaking about enlightenment.

Immanence is that within us that is more than us. It weaves the very web of life. To open to immanence is to be connected to that within our Self that is more than our self: to be enlivened by the divinity which is all around us and within us.


  1. Benedict De Spinoza, 1677,  Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata (The Ethics)
  2. Image : Vishnu and Lakshmi on Shesha Nāga, c. 1870. US public domain via wikimedia

What is Spanda?

Spanda is a Sanskrit word meaning “sacred vibration”.  Spanda is the sacred pulsation of life energy emerging from the depth of the Cosmos and the Self. Spanda is the radiant energy of pure Being emerging into and animating life. We can have a felt realization of the spanda as it occurs in our own life and in the world around us.

The most direct way to experience spanda is to sit quietly and meditate. In such moments, we can feel the pulsation of the heart, of the rhythms of the body. In yoga or mediation, spanda is experienced insofar as we make contact with the depths of the Self, as we tune into the energy moving though the body.

Some people will experience spanda as the life drive or life force energy that moves through them. The feeling of spanda is synonymous with the feelings of joy, purpose, and meaning of life.

For those who are not so much inward focused, there is still the possibility of experiencing spanda. Have you ever been at a peak overlooking the city, and seen the sparking lights pulsate? All the lights of singular lives blending into each other, filling the horizon. The world pulsates. The individual lives merge together into a mass of human beingness. Creating a rhythm: as patterns emerge and dissipate out of the collective hum of possibility. This is the spanda of the world.In such moments of bliss, you are tuning into the life force energy pulsating through the world.

Up at the peak, we have the perspective to see the spanda as the pure pulsation of life.

These are states of transcendence: blissful moments when we have perspective, when we experience the pleasure of in-sight. The transcendent state provides a perspective that allows us to experience life in its totality. In these moments, we move beyond our own singularity and become connected with the larger totality of life. We move deeper into life, experiencing the spanda of life.

Transcendence is often thought of as a state of being that is beyond the world, beyond the flow of life. And yet, experiencing an exalted moment of transcendence is never about being outside of life. Instead, the heights of transcendence provides a moment of (in)sight when we can release the grasping clutch we hold upon our preconceived notions. It is a moment of (in)sight in which we when we can glimpse into the brilliant pulsation of pure potential that is the spanda of life.