Friday, August 22, 2008
While signs and symbols are similar for pointing beyond themselves, signs do not participate in their pointed reality unlike symbols. Also, signs can be changed or replaced for practicality unlike symbols that can be. Symbols reveal levels of reality that are otherwise close to humans. They likewise unlock dimensions of the soul corresponding to unlocked dimensions of reality. They also get produced unintentionally, growing out of the collective unconscious. Finally, because they are alive, they too grow and die.
Faith can only be expressed symbolically. No finite reality can express the ultimate directly and properly, for the concrete is always finite whereas symbolized ultimate concern is infinite. Faith can only be expressed in concrete, limited and finite terms so there is always an inadequacy in expressing the ultimate concern that’s God. Hence, faith cannot be used to question the ultimatum of an ultimate concern because that will just be meaningless. Of the many symbols of faith which give it meaning that is devoid of idolatrous elements include power, love and justice.
Faith is made real only within a community of a language of faith where mythical and ritual languages are interdependent. Since faith is mostly symbolic by expression, its reality may be questionable. Still, it is possible to express the ultimate in the context of concrete, human, daily experiences. Language alone cannot quite fully grasp the ultimate concern that’s God, so a language of faith is required because such a language gets to represent that which cannot be described at all via symbols. Using mythical and ritual languages, humans can make a representation of God—incomplete but all the same good enough symbol—in the most realistic way symbols can allow them. These kinds of languages depend on each other in order to open possibilities of realizing God, with mythical language being used in stories about human-divine encounters and with ritual language being used in symbolizing one’s faith in God.