SYMBOL AND SYMBOLISM — The meaning currently accepted for the word symbol always implies a conventional nature. A figure or a sign represents, by analogy or convention, a given idea.
To conform with the true meaning of the symbol in ancient Egypt, we ought to use the [Kemetic] term Medu-Neteru, the Greek translation of which, “heiroglyphs,” distorts the Egyptian meaning. Medu-Neteru are the Neters, or the principles conveyed by a sign.
To me, the word symbol signifies the thing itself or the materialized idea that it evokes; it does not represent the idea by analogy alone. There is a reality (that is to say, a cause with an ineluctable effect) in the Medu-Neters or symbols—as in the Christian image of the Cross, the statue of the Holy Virgin, the gestures and words of the Sacrament of the Mass, in the life or legend of the Saint from whom the religion takes its name.
Every image, however primitive it may be, leaves its mark. It evokes a memory, and only that which one has known or lived can be remembered. One puts into the image this “something” of oneself. The image then no longer represents this memory; it is the memory that is transplanted in the image. In this sense, even the conventional symbol becomes “real”—like an officer’s badge of rank, a “symbolic” sword, the robes of high office. It is certainly not the habit that makes the monk; but oblige the monk to wear secular clothing and something in his attitude will change, and thereby something in his inner disposition.
In every instance the symbol—even if it be chosen totally arbitrarily—makes its mark, because of necessity it evokes a complex of thoughts that are projected into it; and it is this projection that then confronts us. This manner of conceiving the symbol opens the door to a theme that would require lengthy development.
[In] the pharaonic sense, the natural thing or being is none other than the materialization of the Idea of which it is the symbol. The bird living in the air has an aerial nature; through its habits (life, nourishment, method of hunting, affinities and emnities. character, mode of assimilation, etc.), it becomes the incarnation of a function, of a stage in the universal genesis, and finally, of an Idea. Thus every natural thing is the incarnation of a principle; it is the principle’s symbol.
Summary of Principles
LIFE is the faculty of reacting.
This formula extends the definition of Life to include minerals. We do not distinguish inorganic bodies from organic bodies so as to accord life only to the latter. We admit that there are organized beings and others which are not yet organized; but the latter bear, in their characteristics, (for example, chemical affinity), the elements that give an impetus for future organization. This, however, will not take place in a continuous fashion, but through the necessary destruction of forms for the purpose of “rebirth”—so to speak —in higher states. It is not the form that is transmitted, but the “permanent” moment of the Substance. This permanent moment (the Egyptian ka) registers the experience of the transitory form. Thus Life is, in all things, a ternary complex formed by an active Cause against a passive resistance that is nonetheless reactive in turn. This reaction is the apparent effect, and the whole is the vital phenomenon.
INTELLIGENCE has a double nature: Intellect, or Reason, is direct Intelligence, beyond all comparison. It is the Intelligence of the human being who, incarnating all the possibilities of the Universe, knows this Universe without having to reason it. On the other hand, cerebral intelligence requires comparison and constitutes psychological consciousness, which distinguishes man from animal. This cerebral intelligence is that of the “Adamic” human being fallen into relative nature.
THE SYMBOL – In our modern languages there is no word that designates the exact meaning of Symbol, as it was conceived by the Ancients. This is why I should like to replace the word symbol with the word Medu-Neter, which conveys the “signs that bear the Neters” (“Neter” signifying the Principle or the Idea in the Platonic sense).
For me, a plant or an animal, for example, is a symbol of a whole collection of vital elements crystallized in that plant or animal, which can be what it is only through the conditions and circumstances causing its birth. Each is the manifestation of an Idea and constitutes a link in the evolution of Consciousness, from the original Verb up to the conscious return into the Cause. Each natural symbol may be considered as a word in a phrase that, in reuniting all words, alone can define that abstraction which is called Cod.