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Budding lotus flowers rising above muddy water.

Symbols a symbol there is concealment and yet revelation,...silence and speech acting together. And if both the speech be itself high and the silence fit and noble, how expressive will their union be!

Thomas Carlyle (1834)

What all these many kinds of symbols have in common is the property of being more in intention than they are in existence.

Philip Wheelwright (1968)


The Lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth from the way it rises out of the mud. So the simple silent flower takes us way beyond itself; saying so much while saying nothing. A symbol points, The ancient monument at Cairnholy with a stone pointing at the moon. Pointing is fundamental to our languages, at the heart of how we communicate. although mute itself, it communicates, taking our attention onto a larger stage. Our languages are par excellence a rich mine of symbols, A line of sheep passing a wood. A page on analogies which, like symbols, form the scaffolding of language. and as such Wheelwright indicates three of their key features: that they are not pragmatic directors, they depend on us publicly choosing them, and they need to continue over time. The place of symbols An image which should puzzle at first glance. The page on Emergence introduces the problem of new knowledge - symbols aid this process. in our language and culture is so central that Cassirer, the German philosopher, coined, as a definition of being human, the term ‘animal symbolicum’ - the symbol making animal.

The quote is from Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus Part III Chap III ‘Symbolism’. The influence of this, now largely forgotten, novel was extensive, particularly amongst writers across the Atlantic such as Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Whitman and Poe, and more recently Borges. Wheelwright’s book The Burning Fountain, had a subtitle: A Study in the Language of Symbolism , Indiana University Press, p.7. A number of pages in Mosaic offer examples of symbols, including: Loss (1); Journey (2); Dragons (50); and Light (63).

The lotus flowers rising out of mud are on the Khe San Lake, 7 kilometres south-west of Tĩnh Gia, in northern Vietnam, in front of the Sơn Phúc Pagoda. I say this authoritatively (!) for Google offers no returns if you search for this delightful, peaceful, modern pagoda - nevertheless it is marked on the actual Google map. A water lily sits on the surface, a lotus stands a few inches clear of the water, while the lotus leaves may stand up or, as in these tropical examples, lie on the water surface.

Above hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 6th March 2021

Murphy on duty to this site