When I was young I went to an Egyptian exhibit at a museum in Dallas. I remember the pictographs were wonderfully disturbing to me. My hair stood on end as I saw this ancient language speaking, not with disconnected letters, but with strangely simplified pictures. Even though I did not understand what the pictures meant, I knew without a doubt they were an attempt to build a bridge between our human minds and the pre-human world we are trying to understand. They belonged neither in the physical world, nor in the human imagination, but were like a strange coded membrane between them.
For many, religious symbols are a source of endless frustration. “Why does religion have to say things in parables? Why doesn’t it describe the world in plain language? Definitions are an attempt to clarify our objective experience, symbols are an attempt to express and share our subjective experience. So, a definition tells us what the limits are, a symbol opens us to our limitless universe. A definition is clear within the confines of our literal speech, a symbol speaks to and from the unknowable depths of our subjective experience. Lastly, a definition aims at being the last word on a subject, a symbol aims at being the first word in conversation as long as life itself.