Omens, Signs & Symbols
The Metaphysical Mystery School
There is something mysterious and special in and around us at all times. Those who can hear, listen, those who can see, look. This is the original university without walls – the metaphysical mystery school.
In my studies into philosophy and comparative religion, I have come to appreciate many alternate ways of viewing reality and the “beyond.” As a mystic, I am fascinated with how we approach the world based upon our inner truths — whether they be substantiated or not by “hard” evidence Science cannot measure love, nevertheless God or the Great Spirit. So much is anecdotal. In my work as a transpersonal hypnotherapist, I aid people in recognizing patterns and processes that are usually hidden or evasive to casual observation. Unseen forces are often at work. I hope to share with you some ideas and “tricks” that may open up or expand your own doors of perception. Very much like broadcast channels, whether radio and TV, which are invisibly surrounding us at this exact minute (only waiting for the right electronic receptor or station to decipher them) so are we surrounded with omens, signs and symbols in a divine conversation. Voices and consciousness from the beyond.
There are many ways in which we can receive this sublime communication. This means, among other things, that we may need to alter our perceptions in order to receive the good news. How are we perceiving the world, or focusing?
May I suggest that we might want to adjust our own personal “rabbit ears,” TV antennas, or our inner tracking system, or tune to the best radio/ cosmic channel, in order to get the broadcast clearly.
For example, have you tried your hand at photography? Painting?
– Notice that you learn to shift your view of things in order to capture the image. You are more aware of light, color, shadow and shading. Your perceptions, or filters, are utilized in imaginative and inspiring ways. You look at things differently.
Let’s move to the arena of semantics, of words and origins. Just like the way we need to adjust our visual perceptions to things that are already there, we have some common words with some interesting and uncommon meanings.
I will use the word omens throughout this article, which are meanings behind the events. Omens are signs and symbols, usually of prophetic significance.
When something is ominous, though, we might feel dread. Indeed, that is what it has come to mean. Ominous means a foreboding or foreshadowing of evil.
an auspicious occasion
auspice [birdseer, augur] a sign, or observation for signs, used in augury or divination, as the flight of birds. An omen, usually favorable, as to the future.
inaugurate [to take omens; hence, to consecrate; to augur in] To begin or initiate under favorable or auspicious circumstances; or with ceremony.
An augur was a member of the highest class of official diviners of ancient Rome. Thus, one who foretells events by omens.
What’s your prognosis doctor?
prognostic [pro – gnosis – to know before] to foresee; prognosis – to predict (disease or the course of the disease)
Wrong predictions can be disastrous!
disaster [dis + astrum – star] against, or dissonant with, a star; a baleful aspect of a star or planet. Sudden and extraordinary misfortune.
Things to be considered!
consider [with + constellation, stars] to view with fixed thought; originally with the stars, or fate, in mind.
Thus, we have new meanings behind the familiar. You may never hear these words in quite the same way again. Perhaps you are now more curious about other words, ideas and notions which have provocative origins or hidden meanings. I hope so. Just as old words are seen anew, so are omens; look with new eyes into the mysteries of the so-called known world! We take a new look at something familiar.
Let’s now look into distant antiquity for some other insights into this topic. Soon you may declare, like Daniel (4:3) “How great are His signs! and how mighty are His wonders!”
When Heaven, Spirit, God, or whatever a culture declared it to be, communicated with us mortals or caused unusual signs and events to occur, the peoples of the past called them miracles and inspired premonitions. This was true in all cultures and times. From China we were told: “Heaven does not speak but reveals itself through acts and deeds.” Mencius (372 – 289 BC)
And in ancient Greece, we learned from Plato’s teacher. “You have heard me speak at sundry times and in diverse places of an oracle or sign which comes to me [and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment]. This sign, which is a kind of voice, first began to come to me when I was a child. It always warns but never commands me to do anything which I am going to do.” Socrates Apology
The Greeks took the will of the gods into serious consideration. They consciously used their understanding of a greater power, sometimes called Fate, even in their voting. As you may know, they loved contests of all sorts. In their theatrical contests, which went on for days, they included a unique way for the Gods to vote too. They took out half of the ballots and tossed them. Fate, or Chance, had its say! (Could you imagine our modern elections doing that?!)
In many of the Greek plays, the Gods—positioned above the action on the stage below—spoke only to the Heroes, who were half Gods themselves. What this symbolized was that the Heroes had something of the Divine within them. This idea was akin to the ancient Greek atomic theory (developed by the Atomists, of course), which held that the smallest particles, atoms, were within individuals for reasons. For instance, if someone sees a red color or a blue color out there in the world, that means that that person has a red or blue atom within his eye. If he didn’t see blue—as in color blindness, it was because he didn’t have it within him. It was the same with the Heroes—they had something of the divine within them. I share this concept with you because I feel the Greeks were on to something here. We have within each and every one of us the capacity to see, or sense, the divine in the world. We just need, sometimes, to adjust our inner receptors.
Meanwhile, the ancient Hebrews were developing their vision of the divine communication. In the Bible, we read:
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” Joel 2:28
Now-a-days, many modern cultures disregard signs and miracles. Within some religious circles there is a common notion that miracles stopped at the time of the New Testament. Thus, omens, which are like miracles at times, are relegated to old wives tales and superstitions. You hear about some of these old wives tales like …
never walk under a ladder
or beware a black cat that is crossing your path
or break a mirror and you have seven years bad luck.
How about fold money towards yourself and more will come soon.
(I hear some minds making note of that one! Years after I heard this one I came across a quip by Will Rogers: The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your wallet!)
There is an interesting parallel between these superstitious ideas and those words that I had mentioned. The original meanings have been forgotten. I would speculate that, centuries ago, a black cat crossed someone’s path, and a tragedy occurred in that person’s life. An observant reader of signs took note of it and then watched for that sign again. It happened that a similar situation again occurred and with similar results. A rule was born. Be careful of rules, but be open to interpretations and possibilities.
The same thing applies to dream interpretations. Dreams can be very profound, insightful, and even predictive. Watch out for rigid books of categories, which I think of as recipe books. If you dream this, then that means this. Remember to keep the options, the interpretations, open and fluid. Look for an individual interpretation, not an all-encompassing meaning. Watch out, too, for wishful thinking. There is the story of the ancient Greek King that was going to do battle with the Persians. He went to a famous temple and asked the oracle to prophesy for him. The oracle told him that if he went to battle the Persian King, a great empire would fall. This was the news he was waiting for. He gathered his army together and attacked the Persians. He lost. The oracle was right. A great empire did fall—his. It was a matter of interpretation.
I had an auspicious sign many moons ago. Early in our romance my girlfriend and I were wondering about how our relationship would unfold. Obviously, I was on the lookout for omens. We were walking along the beach—how classic—and there were 2 seagulls flying over us at the same time that I was thinking about this and I knew that this was an auspicious omen. I watched them to see what they would do. I saw that one of them started to fly quite quickly across the horizon and the other one kind of held back a little bit and seemed to kind of flutter around, but then took off after the first gull. The faster seagull disappeared into the mist and then right after that the next one. Being that it was a misty eve, we couldn’t see exactly where they went, so we couldn’t see clearly into the future. There could have been various interpretations like splitting up, going our own ways, one following the other and, that there was something about our future that we couldn’t or shouldn’t see. What actually happened was that she very soon left the east coast for Arizona; a week later I flew there to be with her. The omen was correct (as it usually is!).
Time is a very important factor in all of this. “Time is of the essence.” Carl Jung consciously included Time in his conceptualization of the whole subject. He coined the word synchronicity, meaning with + time. It referred not to physical causations but to synchronous events that held meaning for the observers. Something coincidentally occurs at just the right time when you have either a receptive frame of mind or a question you are pondering.
A modern, convenient, and tasty form of prognostication is found in fortune cookies! A delightful type of omen that you can chew! A girlfriend of mine complained from time to time about my style of dress, which sometimes could be termed unkempt.
To my rescue came a sign. I received a fortune cookie that said “the wise man dresses simply and with clarity.” She was so disappointed.
On another occasion I found myself dining in a Chinese restaurant and received a message that stated “you will have a chance to connect with friends and loved ones very soon.” The very next day my sister called from Seattle and was asking for some advice. I am sure we have all had instances of the miraculous power of the fortune cookie.
There is a story of a Zen Master who was beginning a lecture to his pupils and before he started a little bird flew in the window and started chirping. He stretched out his hand to his pupils for silence and the bird sang an enchanting tune. After many moments the bird flew off. The Zen master looked at his pupils and said “That was the sermon for the day. Class dismissed.”
Eddie Rickenbacker, a famous pilot from W.W.II, had a war experience that was really well known during his time. I would like to quote sections of his story to you.
“The men on the rubber life rafts were in a pretty bad way. Their plane on a war mission in the pacific had been forced down 8 days ago and they had been drifting helplessly ever since, without food or water in the scorching tropic sun. Their feet were blistered, their faces burned, their mouths and bodies parched. For 8 days they had lived on 4 small oranges. No other food and no water. The heat, the hunger, the exhaustion had brought them close to the breaking point. One of the men in Eddie Rickenbacker’s boat had a small bible and they took turns reading aloud from it every day. It was a reassurance from the very first that they were not alone, that God knew where they were and would take care of them. Now on the eighth day of hunger and thirst, the men were desperate. There was no sign of a boat or plane anywhere. Nothing but the wide, empty, shining, expansive sea. One of the men was violently sick from drinking the sea water. Some were beginning to show the first alarming signs of delirium. It was suggested that the following passage from Matthew be read to the men that day.
“Therefore, take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or where shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly father knoweth that ye have need of all these things, but seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
What happened next seemed like a miracle to the suffering men, seemed like a direct answer to their prayer. And who could say it was not? A gull flew in out of nowhere and landed on Rickenbacker’s head. He reached up and caught it – and they had food. They ran into their first rainstorm – and they had water for drinking. Food and water! Their prayers had been answered!”
(Light from Many Lamps, edited by Lillian Eichler Watson).
Eddie Rickenbacker had this to say about his miraculous invent: “I considered the story of how we prayed and how our prayers were answered the most important message I ever gave to the people of this country.”
This amazing story can be looked at in a number of ways. A gull sacrificed itself for these men. Was it sent? And the point beyond the actual fact of what happened to them was that Eddie Rickenbacker’s story, with its’ reminder of faith, was a message to people in the middle of a frightful world war. By relating his story, his conviction, his faith in prayer, he touched many others who were perhaps losing faith in miracles, in God. How many people did he affect by that incident, that miracle? People can be used to communicate with others by Spirit. I have felt myself “used” on occasion. Believe me, it felt like a privilege.
Imagine yourself as a messenger, instead of a bird or a car or something else we have described here. Have you felt that urge,… felt that you should say something to someone, or do something, or even better yet, just by doing your thing, just by being who you are, were you presenting a message to someone else? When you hear that “the Lord works in mysterious ways,” did it ever occur to you that It might be working through you?! I consider it an act of Grace to be the mouth-piece of the Great Spirit. This may be what was meant with “use me, O God, as an instrument in your work.”
When I took a good look at all these different perspectives of what omens are— symbols and signs and miraculous events— I saw there was an ebb and flow to the whole process. I term it a yin and yang approach to participating in the Great Conversation. On the yin side we would be waiting for omens. This essentially means passive receiving. Many of these omens, voices and signs just came to people. But they had eyes to see. “Blessed is he that watcheth.” Revelation 16:15
And then we have the active yang side of the divine communication; that is, taking an active role in the dialog. An ancient example was consulting the Temple priests, priestesses, and oracles. This means taking on the study of interpreting signs, dreams and omens yourself. And that brings us to using what are called metaphysical or divination tools. Now this really opens up a lot of mysterious and fascinating things.
Have you ever opened up a book of scripture, randomly pointed, and found your answer or received some good advice? —quite a few people have experienced that, I’ll wager. The possibilities are almost endless. This is called divination, which comes from the root word divine.
We can use the Tarot cards, study the cycles of astrology, calculate our birth numbers through numerology, open our hands to peer into palmistry, etc. I have personally looked into these various “tools” with some surprisingly accurate and positive results. Furthermore, we can consult the ancient Chinese I-Ching by tossing the traditional yarrow sticks or, in our modern times, toss three coins in a particular technique. (If we chose to be very traditional with the I-Ching, we would heat up tortoise shells until they cracked and then “read the lines.” Likewise, in ancient Greece, oracles “divined” or prophesied by sacrificing and opening up small animals and reading their entrails. It may feel gross or primitive now but it was used for centuries.) I have had my tea leaves “read” and learned how to interpret coffee grounds around an up-turned cup by a Romanian woman. All of these methods that I investigated mysteriously “worked” or were accurate in what they described or predicted. Here, I learned, was the yang side of producing omens, or taking an active role in the process.
I started adding all this up…birth charts, tortoise shells, coffee grounds, laying cards on the table and things like that. It was not only mind-boggling, but uncanny in accuracy and varied in techniques possible. Finally, it came to me that anything will work! I think we can make up a system right now and it will “work.” I can read, maybe, the bottom of shoes, or gaze behind the ears, or interpret ring around the collar(!).
Note that although I am using humor here, I am very earnest.
I feel that if you choose a method, recognize a pattern (like a language), and consistently use it, it is going to work for you.
And from my belief in that particular theory, I then asked yet another question: what is happening here?
My conclusion was this: There is a Great Dialogue happening…A grand and divine conversation going on! We are conversing with greater forces or intelligences, we are communing with higher powers. And the really exciting thing is this: In any way that you wish to communicate with that greater force, call it Spirit or God, you will be communicated with. Choose your language, study a system! Let the Grand Dialogue begin!
Okay, great. so…
… Who starts the conversation in this situation? We have discussed here the Yin way, from Spirit, and the awareness necessary to be open to that…as well as to interpret it. We can choose the Yang approach, or reaching out to Spirit and asking the big questions. This approach presupposes that you will be looking into metaphysical tools and interpreting signs, symbols and omens yourself. If we are open, however, to the reciprocal give and take of a conversation with the Divine, interestingly enough, that is just like talking with a good friend. It will work both ways and you will find yourself in the middle of a Grand Conversation.
“The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We need only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word….Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into you as life, place yourself in the full center of that flood, then you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Colin Wilson, who wrote The Occult, has some helpful hints and attitudes to cultivate for those who desire to look into “hidden” things (which is what occult means). He describes people as being surrounded by a curtain that they can’t quite see beyond. This is reminiscent of that famous Renaissance woodcut of the sage who breaks through the common paradigm and discovers the wonders beyond—different dimensions, cosmic spheres, the distant stars, and great clock-like mechanisms beyond.
Colin Wilson writes:
“The curtain is everyday-ness. It is a state of mind rather than an object of reality. The human mind must be thought of as being akin to the radar of bats. We somehow reach out and feel the reality around us. But in my ordinary, everyday existence, I do not need to reach out very far and I get into the habit of not doing so. Whenever I am deeply moved by poetry, music or scenery, I realize that I am living in a meaning universe that deserves better of me than the small minded slot in which I have to truly live. And I suddenly realized the real deadliness of this lukewarm contentment which looks as harmless as ivy on a tree.
It is systematically robbing me of life, embezzling my purpose and vitality. I must clearly focus on this immense meaning that surrounds me and refuse to forget it. I contemptuously reject all smaller meanings that try to persuade me to focus on them instead.”
Focus on the divine and start that conversation.
Things to keep in mind: just as with anything, there are pit-falls and hurdles and things to watch out for. And what has frightened off a lot of people from this whole hidden or hard to understand (occult) subject is a combination of misinformation, ignorance and doctrine.
At other times, one hears worries about evil forces or, more secular, about being led astray or misguided. One can just as reasonably warn people about medical quacks and dishonest experts in the world of modern society.Therefore, I will ask, what did you ask when you were consulting the oracles?
- And, as was noted before, how have you interpreted the information?
- And, whether you liked the answer or not, was it a good lesson nevertheless?
- Furthermore, did you over-do it? I have met several people whom I would term to be psychic junkies; they go around to psychic faires and get lots and lots of readings (and usually do not pay too much deep or profound attention to them). I also know some astrologers who check their astrological aspects, in depth, every day. I knew a woman who threw the I-Ching coins three times a day. Be careful of overdoing it! Use your own mind and free will!
In many areas of life, it is a good idea to get a second opinion, check with the facts that you are sure of, listen to your feelings and, especially, compare the guidance with your own ideals. And remember that the results of your actions will inform you too. “By their fruits will you know them.”
Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are finite, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give good things to those who ask him? So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:7
There are a thousand and one ways to communicate with the divine Spirit, or God, with just as many ways to listen. And so I pray that you, my friends, receive good omens and I hope that you dream great dreams.
We are stardust, we are golden, … and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.
Stephen Russell Poplin,
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