Introduction / Using ARAS: The Symbolism of the Cross

Using ARAS: The Symbolism of the Cross

To demonstrate to readers how material from ARAS can be used in a written paper for the amplification of a particular symbol, as compared with the perhaps easier method of presenting it with slides and speaking about it, the following section of the paper has been adapted from a lecture originally given in San Francisco in March, 1982. Some additional descriptions of the slides I used on that occasion have been added so as to give readers a sense of the visual material.
Symbol amplification is the elaboration of the historical and cultural matrices of a symbol and its variant forms so that one develops a larger sense of it polyvalencies. This process is different from subjective association. Association stems from one's personal biography projected on to the symbol. In this process symbolic meaning may be legitimately and absolutely personal, carrying a value which no one else share. Amplification, however, leads to significant clues which lie in one's cultural unconscious and in the collective unconscious, for each of us is born into a culture as well as into a family. These meanings come to us through the mother's milk and the air we breathe, so to speak. Amplification and association are parallel pathways to symbolic meaning. 'The essential problem is to know what is revealed to us not by any particular version of a symbol, but by the whole of the symbolism' (ELIADE 2, p. 160).