Monday, April 25, 2011

The omnipotent book

Ever ponder the symbolism of books? The book as metaphor?

J.E. Cirlot did, among other things, in his Dictionary of Symbols, published by the Philosophical Library in 1962 (Translated from the Spanish, Diccionario de Simbolos Tradicionales, by Jack Sage).

Here's what Cirlot wrote about the book as a symbol, viewed through the amalgamated lens of history, philosophy, and mythology:

A book is one of the eight Chinese common emblems, symbolizing the power to ward off evil spirits (5). The book 'written inside and out' is an allegory of the esoteric and exoteric, cognate with the double-edged sword projecting from the mouth (37). Broadly speaking, the book is related--as Guenon has suggested--to the symbolism of weaving. The doctrine of Mohiddin ibn Arabi in this respect may be summarized as follows: "The universe is an immense book; the characters in this book are written, in principle, with the same ink and transcribed on to the eternal tablet by the divine pen...and hence the essential divine phenomena hidden in the "secret of secrets" took the name of "transcendent letters." And these very transcendent letters, or, in other words, all things created, after having been virtually crystallized within divine omniscience, were brought down to lower levels, by the divine breath, where they gave birth to the manifest world.' (25)

Divine, omniscience, transcendent, universe... Sounds bibliomnipotent!

  (5) Beaumont, A. Symbolism in Decorative Chinese Art, New York, 1949.
(25) Guenon, Rene. Le Symbolisme de la croix. Paris, 1931.
(37) Levi, Eliphas. Les Mysteres de la Kabbale. Paris, 1920.

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