The origin of the word ‘symbol’ comes from the Greek word ‘symballein’, meaning “together”. A symbol has the power to bring many meanings together into a single expression. Imagination draws from a deeper and more unconscious level than a purely rational approach. Therefore, a symbol has a stronger effect and often one depicting says more than a thousand words.
That is also how a work of art can touch and move us when it is an evocation of a perception that we recognize, but for which we have no words. By using symbols you connect – even without knowing – with images that are present in the collective memory of mankind, such as water, fire, light, circles, crosses, stones, colors and animals. Symbols speak a universal language.
Symbols are often connected with breaking points in time, moments in which life renews itself, or transitions that mark the end or the beginning of a period, or when things occur that reach far beyond the individual.
At birth, or when we want to reinforce our connection with our partners, or at special occasions such as birthdays or memorials, symbols give depth to the celebrations, they add splendor and express the richness of the events. Things such as exchanging wedding rings, offering gifts when somebody enters a new phase in life, or surrounding the coffin of a deceased person with objects that symbolize his or her life.
Symbols are also used to connect to something that means a lot to us, to something we belong to, to that what is greater than ourselves.
Symbols help to remind us what really matters. The value of a symbol is always subjective and powerful. Symbols are expressions of the soul, the essence with which the material is ‘alive’. With a symbol we connect to what is more than our ‘little self’.
Therefore, symbols always have a comforting, hopeful and healing effect.
*Translated from the book ‘Leven vanuit liefde. Een pad naar existentieel welzijn.’ (2013) or ‘Living from Love. A path to existential well-being’, a book not yet translated into English. Author: Mia Leijssen.