The Value of Using Symbolic Systems

Posted on April 13, 2017
Posted by Jim Sher

masthead-feminine-01What is it that attracts us to symbolic systems? From my own seeking as well as the students I have spoken with, a person is seeking to understand the nature of reality. But, not merely the way science studies it. By the way, I do not have an anti-science bias. But, as it is now, nearly all scientists deny the existence of metaphysics or transformation. In fact, this is their bias. There are studies that show that the paranormal is real, but biases can easily block a person from being open. Tom Campbell uses the expression ‘open-minded skepticism’, which to me is the proper approach to the discovery of new concepts and experiences.

So, some of us are ‘built’ to ask the big questions, the ones that take us ‘down the rabbit hole’, so to speak. We are attracted to these systems because first we sense that there is more to life than what is seen. How can one find out about that which is not seen? Most people turn to religion, but there are some who feel that belief systems are not enough, that they do not satisfy an inner yearning that may be hard to even contextualize. There is a seeking of a ‘mystery’ and we attempt to find a tool to help us understand, even if we do not know exactly what we are trying to understand. This is the condition of nearly all students I meet.

Let me repeat the nature of a ‘Mystery School’ as I have defined it. “The nature of a ‘Mystery School,’ as it has been often referred to in the past is two-fold. It is to present to the student a holistic approach that includes both physical and metaphysical models while simultaneously training that student to be able to experience both higher states of consciousness along with the ability to receive and understand higher levels of information.”

The Limitations of Language

I know of only one way to start this discussion and that is to confront the fact that the student benefits from recognizing that language, by itself, cannot lead to real understanding. Why? Because what is needed are new words and concepts that may not be present in the everyday language in which we read and speak. So, where do we turn? We can only turn towards the subjects we’ve heard about, the first of which usually is astrology.

One of the first things I express to students is that the terminology of astrology is not the same as one’s regular language, and more importantly that there are concepts in astrology that do not exist at all in our daily life. This is important to recognize and makes sense when we recognize that what we are seeking is not just a part of the daily survival oriented aspects of life. Astrology did use to be quite focused on that and still is in many circles, but in the past 50 years it has been moving more and more into the transformational sphere.

Finally, language is limited when we recognize that what we may need most are experiences not just data and knowledge. I view data and information as important because it can help us access higher levels of knowledge and being. It is, in a sense, a ‘pointer to the moon’ in that it shows us that we can use the data to go beyond the data and sense/feel things that take us to new experiences and discoveries.

Symbolic Systems Also Must be Holistic

Mankind exists on many levels. It is always dangerous to over-generalize and stereotype. Yet, there is something special about metaphysical systems that are holistic in nature. They are such so that the student can begin to grasp at the feeling level (which is beyond the ‘logical mind’) that every part is connected to every other part as well as a part of a greater whole. For example, the I Ching is composed of 64 hexagrams each of which is a part of a much larger whole. This is why this system expresses the essence of Taoism itself. It holds the keys to an entire philosophy and new way of ‘Being.’ Also, the Tarot, especially the major arcana is set up to describe the movement of the psyche from youth and even folly to a mature state of evolutionary being. That system, when contemplated, can change the way we see the world and operate in it.

We are not used to conceiving of reality as a whole, or as wholes within wholes within wholes. To reorient ourselves and use these systems to help us understand and feel the existence of this concept and that its use can give us a sense of ‘holistic completeness’ is one of the reasons why these systems were created in the first place.

The Nature of These Systems is That They Are Transformative

The study and use of holistic systems are in themselves transformative, but an additional factor is that certain skills must be developed if we are to expand our vision and consciousness. We are not ordinarily trained in life to be able to do the things that are necessary to be able to reach any kind of insight that these systems hold within them. We must change even to be able to receive the wisdom lying within. This requires us to train ourselves in new ways. Here are just some of those skills we must develop:

  1. We must learn to concentrate and focus our attention.
  2. We may need to learn to contemplate or meditate as inner silence is necessary to receive new information.
  3. We must discover the nature of holistic systems and how they are a kind of ‘fractal’ which science now thinks is the true nature of reality.
  4. We may find out that the system points us to changing the way we live such as understanding how important it is to move beyond living in a reactive state.
  5. We may see that our egoic nature prevents us from ‘seeing others as others’, meaning not us. We are separate beings and others are truly different from us and should be judged far less than we often do.
  6. To also see that while we are different from each other, that we are also totally connected to each other. In astrological terminology #5 is Uranus and #6 is Neptune. We transform when we understand that both are true at the same time.
  7. The study of these systems can be considered to be a path unto itself. One way we can see this is by learning that we are living in a temporary vehicle called our body and are here to learn lessons that evolve our consciousness.

These seven skills are just some of what is possible for us. And the irony is that these skills are a significant part of the systems themselves and are necessary to develop in order to decode and use the system. We transform by studying them and we are transformed in that we must develop these skills in order for them to be revealed to us.

That’s just some of the value of symbolic systems.


Metaphysics & Meditation
Jim Sher

Jim brings over 35 years of experience as a therapist and transformational counselor to his practice of astrology, metaphysics, meditation and philosophy. He operates as a teacher and counselor and specializes in the use of discourse as a part of his teaching approach.

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4 responses to “The Value of Using Symbolic Systems”

  1. toryldavis@gmail.com' Tory Davis says:

    This was a pleasure to read, both deeply soothing and illuminating. Thank you, Jim. I hope we get to read more of your perspective in the future, too. And especially in this culturally bleak period (at least from my perspective), I am grateful to be reminded that we are always in the process of transformation. Hopefully we can collectively point towards the good.
    Thanks again.

  2. arisinggoddess@gmail.com' jane fryer says:

    Happy New Year, Jim. The last part of your article really speaks to me and explains so clearly what we are doing!! thank you.

  3. Goldenratio3@gmail.com' Diana Krewinkel says:

    Yes, thank you, Jim, for this concise summary of what humans are really here learn. And this us another reminder of how the Western mind went astray with its “education” system, which not only separates us from natural experience and sound reasoning but also programs us into docile sedentary bodies conditioned human robots. Great teaching.

  4. christianfiech@gmail.com' Christian Fiech says:

    Hello Jim, Thank you for your kindness and your wisdom. It is not often we are graced by people that are not only insightful but that practice compassion and empathy on a grand scale. Looking forward to attending your Astrology school in the near future. Many blessings, Christian

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