A mathematical symbol has a single, clear-cut meaning. You either know the meaning of the symbol or you do not (though you might sometimes guess at it). It is unfortunate that the same word, ‘symbol’, when used in the context of literature, art or religion, needs to be understood in a very different way. All too easily we might hear someone say that candles in church mean this..., or a procession in church means that..., or incense means something else.
Once we have accepted that kind of thing we have lost the mystery and the imagination. A non-mathematical symbol has no single clear-cut meaning. A symbol may mean different things at different times. A symbol may suddenly have a new meaning for us so that like a person we love we can go on finding something new in them
The exercises in this chapter may help you to deepen your understanding of symbols used in the religious sense of the word.
The first two use 'light' as a symbol, the third a stone or pebble, the fourth invites people to choose an object, something familiar and not particularly special to use in a meditation that allows that object to possibly become a symbol of something deeper. The next exercise invites people to make a mandala which they can use for understanding themselves and for prayer. The last exercise invites a group to meditate using a labyrinth, an ancient symbol of 'the journey'.
These exercises may help to an awareness of a variety of symbols pointing beyond yourself to God and to be more aware of your own personal symbols.