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Observations placeholder

Cirlot on lakes



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

A Dictionary of Symbols – J E Cirlot

In the Egyptian system of hieroglyphs, the schematic figure of a lake expresses the occult and the mysterious, probably by illusion to the underground lake which the sun has to pass over during its 'night crossing', but also simply by associating it with the symbolism of level, given that  water always alludes to the connection between the superficial and the profound; a lake becomes then a fluid mass of transparency.

In the temple of the god Amon, at Karnak, there was an artificial lake symbolising hyle – or the lower waters of protomatter.  And at certain times during the  year, a procession of priests would cross the lake in boats, in this way re-enacting the 'night crossing' of the sun mentioned above..

The symbolism here is the same broadly speaking, as that of the watery deeps. …….

But as we have suggested, the structure of lake symbolism may have arisen directly out of the symbolism of  level; for this latter symbolism, so deeply rooted in the psyche of man, equates all that is on a low level spatially with what is low in a spiritual, negative, destructive and hence fatal sense.  The fact that water symbolism is closely connected with the symbolism of the abyss serves to corroborate the fatal implications of the lake symbol, for the part played by the liquid element is to provide the transition between life and death, between the solid and the gaseous, the formal and the informal.

At the same time, the lake – or rather, its surface alone – holds the significance of a mirror, presenting an image of self contemplation, consciousness and revelation

The source of the experience

Cirlot, J E

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