Computer objects as symbols
In computers, an “object” is an encapsulated group of related “ideas.” Objects have internal operational instructions and collections of data that the user does not need to know or understand in order to use the object.
The Back Button in our browser toolbar is an object. When we click on it, a string of commands tells the browser to close the current web page, request the last visited page from the server, and then display that page on our screen. It’s a complicated process involving many steps, but we do not need to know what those steps are. All we have to do is click on the “object” of the Back Button.
In programming jargon, these complicated strings of commands are called “discrete aspects,” discrete because they are hidden “behind” or “within” the symbol of the Back Button. Because it eliminates our need to go through all of these steps manually, our life as computer users is much simpler. And, by speeding up the creative process, the range of activity available to us greatly increases. “Objects” allow us to automate the tedious mechanical operations normally required to carry out the simplest tasks. Grouping the discreet aspects of a task under one object is called “raising the procedure one level of abstraction.”
Our mind works the same way. When we see a stop sign, we know the steps we have to take without it having to tell us what those steps are. We know that we have to take our foot off of the gas pedal and apply the brake. We know that we have to regulate the pressure on the brake pedal so that we come to a complete stop at the stop bar. We also know a myriad of other mitigating factors, such as how the road surface will affect our ability to stop, how the other cars around us are responding to the stop sign, whether we can “roll through” or not, etc. All of these factors are discrete aspects of the command “stop,” symbolized by the object called “stop sign.”
There are many other symbols (objects) in our lives: a certain look on our partner’s face, the colors and patterns in a corporate logo, the sound of our favorite song. All of these objects activate complex mental and emotional commands within our psyche, commands that we do not have to be aware of in order for them to emerge in our behavior.
In spiritual psychology, objects are called sacred symbols. Again, an object has internal operational instructions and collections of data that the user does not need to know or understand in order to use the object. When the object is activated, which is to say, when we concentrate on the symbol, this hidden or “discreet” information causes the object to do its job without us having to tell it how.
These hidden aspects account for why sacred symbols appear to operate “magically.” Hidden within the images are commands, which are capable of bypassing the conscious mind, acting directly on the subconscious by communicating with its deepest archetypes. The study of the use of symbols for this purpose is called occultism, from the word occult, which means “hidden” or “discrete.”
Normally, the word occult is associated with secret knowledge, hidden from the profane. But the definition itself hides its true meaning, which is the existence of unseen operators within the symbolic image.
Symbolism in the Bible
As we read the stories in the Bible, the images and feelings they evoke, the sequence with which the images and feelings are presented, and the associative meanings of the images and feelings themselves all comprise a set of commands that can only be read by the subconscious or soul-consciousness of our mind. This makes it possible for anyone, regardless of their intellectual ability, to get the message. This is what Jesus was talking about in the parable of the laborers in the field. Those who arrived for work late in the day were paid the same amount as those who had been there since early morning. It is also what Paul meant by “faith, not works.” When we let go to the discrete aspects of the Teachings and let them, through our sincere receptivity, sink into the deepest recesses of our soul-consciousness, they begin, seed-like, to transform us from within. And they do it with amazing speed and efficiency.
The messages we get by opening up in faith to the stories within sacred literature are sets of commands designed to bring about certain changes in our soul-consciousness. The authors of these messages were obviously knowledgeable in their construction and their use. Their knowledge, however, was based on experience, the experience of having gone deep within their own soul-consciousness to the level where it merges with the mind of God. This is why the Teachings have always been so powerful and effective, and it is also why religious fundamentalists today say that the Bible was written by God Himself. By extension, we can say that anyone who has the ability to delve that deeply into the mind can write his or her own scripture. And it is the expressed purpose of the Teachings that we all acquire this ability, or, as God said in the Old Testament, “I will write my law in their hearts . . . ” We must grow up spiritually to the point where we can generate Truth and not merely repeat it.
Sacred scripture has to be written for the people and times they are written in, and they have to reflect the current technology. The authors of the Bible wrote in the language of the technologies of their day: astrology and numerology. The extensive use of symbolic numbers (see Understanding the Bible) and Zodiacal imagery are evidence to this fact. A Bible scholar trying to understand the Book of Revelation, for instance, without the knowledge of these ancient sciences is like a modern scientist trying to understand chemistry without knowing mathematics.