Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rivers - As A Symbol (Part 1)

"You can never step into the same river;
for new waters are always flowing on to you."
-Heraclitus of Ephesus

"Follow the river and you will find the sea."
-French Proverb

Symbolically, a River represents the flow of Time. It Symbolizes
the natural flow of Nature along with all of Her Cycles, transitions,
transformations and passageways.

When we stand in the middle of a bridge above a River, and look
down, we experience a powerful, awe-inspiring, hypnotic sensation
as we watch the River flow beneath our feet. Although it is the same
River, it is the continual flow of new Water within that River which
mesmerizes and enchants us. The metaphor, "A lot of water under
the bridge" paints a mental picture of the hypnotic effect of the
passage of Time.

To get an even deeper "feel" for this passage of Time, let us first
consider the birth, journey and final transformation of a River.

A River begins as a spring of Water high up in the mountains.
Mountains Symbolize the higher realms of consciousness. They are
the home of gods and Wise Men and represent the Border between
the realms of Heaven and Earth. (See: The Fool and The Hermit).

This high mountain spring of Water is Water which has been filtered
and cleansed by way of a multi-year (and perhaps, multi-century)
journey through the womb of Mother Earth. When this water finally
emerges from Mother Earth it is Sacred, Pure and Life-Giving.

After leaving its mountain spring, these Waters join with other
Waters from other mountain springs to eventually form a River.
A River does not flow in a straight line, it has many twists and turns.
These twists and turns are Nature's way of keeping Her life-giving
Waters healthy: they create the eddys that aerate the Water which
is so vital to the nourishment and preservation of all the people,
animals and vegetation which rely on the River for sustenance.

Once the River has completed all of the twists and turns of its long
journey it finally empties into the sea. The point at which the River
enters the sea is called It's Delta. The Delta is a triangular area
which forms at the mouth of the River. The word Delta is derived
from a Greek symbol, also in the shape of a triangle, which means
"Change". Upon passing through Its Delta the River "Changes". Its
individuality comes to an end as It merges with all of the other
Rivers, which have also ended their long Journeys, to become part
of the One Great Sea.

Now that we have briefly explored the life-journey of a River, let us
move on to the Symbolism, mythology, metaphor and Lessons
contained within the River and its Waters.

First of all, although a River is composed of Water, it is important
to understand that the River and Its Water are two separate and
distinct essences; they are two separate and distinct Principles.
Water is the Feminine Essence which gives birth and nourishes.
The River, on the other hand, is the Masculine Principle which
Impregnates the soil of Mother Earth with Its Water.

Life on this planet cannot exist without the life-giving nourishment
of Water, and it is the River that provides that Water. Perhaps the
most familiar understanding we have of this Principle is the annual
return of the Nile River in Egypt. Each year the Nile River swells
along its river bed and impregnates the soil along Its banks with the
nourishing and life-giving supply of Water necessary to regenerate
the crop supply. Without the River there would be no Water.
Without the Water there would be no crops. Without the crops there
would be no life.

Creation myths from numerous cultures speak of a great mountain
from which four Rivers flowed in four different directions. These
Rivers provided the life-giving nourishment for the four cardinal
areas of creation (North, South, East and West). These Rivers
impregnated the lands which then gave birth to the exotic gardens
of myth and legend.

Symbolically, a Garden represents fertility and Abundance. For
there to be a Garden (fertility), Water (birth and nourishment) must
be very close at hand. And this Water can only be delivered by either
a River, Spring or Stream.

It is important to also note that a Well, which is also a Water supply,
is simply a man-made effort which taps into an underground River
or Stream.

The twists and turns which are a part of a River's long journey
symbolize the twists and turns which we encounter during our
earthly journey; our Incarnation. As with the River, our earthly
journey is not direct. Just as a River must take Time to turn, pause
and aerate Itself, we too must take Time to pause, alter course a
little, and refresh ourselves.

And just like the River, once our pause and refreshment is over we
are then ready to resume the next clear Path of our journey. The
River also reminds us that we can only go forward in our life's
Journey. It is when we attempt to go back (live in the Past) that we
find ourselves "swimming upstream" in a futile attempt to defy the
natural flow of Nature.

The River, in its long Journey, is Symbolic of life in general; and of
our lives in particular. There are periods when the River experiences
turbulent, chaotic and disturbing Times (rapids); there are periods
when It experiences twists, turns and pauses; and then there are
periods when the River flows peacefully, smoothly and calmly.

And finally, just as with each and every one of us, the Time comes
for the River to end its long Journey. This is the moment when the
River passes through its Delta (Change) to be transformed into, and
become part of, the Great Sea. This moment of transition for the
River symbolizes our moment of transformation which occurs when
our long earthly Journey comes to its end. This is the time when we
also Change in order to return to, and re-Become part of, that Great
Consciousness which we call Divinity. The River, what a great
metaphor for this complex Journey we call life!
Next: Rivers, Part 2

Comments and Emails: I welcome comments and emails from
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Disclaimer: None of my articles should be considered to be
either advice or expertise. They are simply personal opinions
and no more. Everyone is encouraged to seek competent
advice from a licensed, registered, or certified professional
should such advice or service be required.

© copyright Joseph Panek 2009
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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Dear Joseph, this is so beautifully written. Thank you. It took me deep inside myself; the river of my life. I could feel every nook and cranny. Thank you so much; so magnificently beautifully conceptualized, yet deeply emotional and preciously spiritual. You truly have a gift, Love, Hannelie