Archetypes are by definition universal; that is, their meaning transcends any one given time or place. Thus, although it is difficult (if not impossible) to translate ancient languages (such as the Incan quipu), we can immediately recognize images of fertility in Incan sculptures. In this way, archetypal images convey a meaning we can immediately recognize, even though these images were created in a dramatically different cultural context.
However, not every symbol has a deeper meaning or substance. Think, for example, of the stop sign. This is a clear symbol that indicates to us that we need to stop our cars, but no one would stop and meditate on the idea of "stopping." That person would be crazy . . .
However, other symbols inspire us to do just that; we actually use these symbols to give meaning to moments in our lives (if not our life story itself).
As Anthony Stevens writes, "The vitality of a symbol depends on the conscious attitude with which it is received. In themselves, images are meaningless; they acquire energy-with-meaning only when we grant it to them, by laying ourselves open to their influence" (p. 81).
Because of this power, religions use and exhibit this symbolim. To continue the roadway motif, think of bumperstickers or rear windows with either the "Jesus fish" or "Darwin fish." In each case, a driver has made the conscious choice to align him or herself with this particular symbol. By itself, the image of fish would not mean much; however, when we use this image to project meaning, it achieves, as Stevens would say, "energy."
For this post, describe one symbol that has "energy" for you.
I'll give you an example from my own car. I have a license plate frame with a quote from the poet William Blake: "Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius." In my own case, I choose to give "energy" to the symbol of the crooked road because my own philosophy is that life is meant to be a meandering series of detours. We should be inspired by our distractions and not be so fixated on any single goal that we become blinded to all that life has to offer. (Or maybe I'm just rationalizing my own lack of concentration). In any case, the symbol of the crooked road is one with which I choose to align myself.
Describe one symbol with which you choose to align yourself.