Series 1 - Lesson 4 - Annotation 16
Explain why and when the use of symbols becomes unnecessary.
16. The true purpose of religious symbols is to help the individual become consciously acquainted with God. A symbol is useful when it directs the attention to the reality (divine idea) behind it. When one depends on symbols rather than on the truth to which they point, he is missing the full blessing which the symbol represents. When we speak of "eating" and "drinking" the body and blood of Christ, we refer to the mind's appropriation and assimilation of the substance (bread) and life (wine) of God. When a person contemplates substance and life he comes into an intelligent understanding of his true nature and manifests eternal life here and now.
Rightly understood, symbols make us aware of the divine ideas they represent. We must then go beyond the symbols themselves into the realm of God ideas in order to lay hold of this "spiritual food" for the soul.
When a symbol is used literally as though it had power of itself, it does not fulfill its true purpose. When used thoughtlessly a symbol has no spiritual meaning to the individual. When used with understanding, symbols help to strengthen one's faith in the ideas of life, substance, love, power and so forth.
Only as each one is guided by God can he know when outer religious symbols will be of value to him at any particular stage of his soul unfoldment; also when he has no further need for them. To use with understanding flowers, candles, bread, wine, water in religious ceremonies tends to lift the person to a state of consciousness where God may reveal His Presence to him.
Preceding Entry: Explain the symbols of the Lord's Supper.
Following Entry: How do we reach the consciousness where we discern the Lord's body?