When I was in high-school I invented a new religion with some school friends. This was its symbol. We called it ‘phionism’. It was primarily a metaphysics of ethics, using Hook’s law (that the force in a spring is proportional to its compression or extension) as an analogy about why it is so hard to be ‘good’. It was terribly unsophisticated, but it was my first attempt at recreational religion building (yes I was a bit of a religion geek even at 14).
I forgot it for more than 20 years, but recently I have re-adpoted it, There are a bunch of reasons why it carries semiotic weight for me now:
- The most obvious and most facile: it is a greek letter. I like greek.
- It is the first letter of (and has often been used to symbolise) philosophy. Though I don’t pretend to have any real competence in academic philosophy, the word itself is a greek compound meaning “love of knowledge”. That sits very well with me!
- It has two components: The round circle to me represents the world, the real world, the objective world (it is kind-of O shaped, for Objective). The world that we can glimpse through careful study and analysis. The universal reality that we share in common. The vertical line represents me as an individual, (it is I shaped for Individual, and resembles a standing figure). This is the subjective world of my experiences, my feelings, my experiences, the bounds of my life, even (though I hate to use the word because of its unhelpful overtones) my spirituality. I see the world through this twin lens, and I try to value each equally. I’ll say more on this in future posts…
- It is a Celtic cross with the cross bar removed, a symbol of the cultural and regional (i.e. Wales) connection I have with Christianity, but the fundamental disruption in my understanding of religion that means I cannot accept the existence of the Christian savior. This meaning signifies that any religious understanding or spiritual experience I have stands relative to my understanding of Christianity, since that has hegemony over my culture, my theological grammar, and my study of religion.
- It reminds me of that first foray into religious creativity I had when a teenager. I remember my mum ridiculing my invention and my naivity in thinking I could even try. It reminds me that anyone can try, at 4, 14, 40, or 104. Building your own understanding of your religious experience seems to me to be a woefully under-used basic right. This symbol reminds me to exercise that right.
Are there particular symbols that you feel drawn to invest with your own meanings?