I believe that symbolism has all-but broken down as a way of attaining the transcendental, especially the divine. I would see symbolism as including creeds, rituals, icons, scripture and all holy writings, spoken language (forms of words, in ceremony,blessing, prayer etc.), priesthood: the church itself (all churches that are regarded as having an essential role or authority in some aspect of Christianity).
Indeed, as soon as symbolism was understood, it was already breaking-down - because when symbolism really works (as it did up towards the end of the Middle Ages) it is regarded as reality, not symbolism.
The symbol is not seen 'literally' (that is a modern distortion) - rather the literal symbol and the transcendental reality are seen as inseparably one.
But when I was first a Christian, I sought the fullest kind of symbolic Christianity. And I was shocked and dismayed that there was no single church or denomination which took symbolism seriously and thoroughly - none at at all; not a single one.
Some were strict about ritual, but not about language; some about scripture but not about words of prayer or particular 'translations' of scripture; some about vestments but not about ceremony - none at all try to provide a thoroughly consistent symbolism*.
As I say, at first I was dismayed and felt lost. Then I recognised that this was an implicit (albeit not self-aware) manifestation of the actual, objective, loss of the power and necessity of symbolism.
I now regard this as a consequence of the developmental-evolution of consciousness in Western Man, and part of the increase in self-consciousness and separation from The World; our sense of losing the spontaneous, unconscious sense of being 'in' the world, including 'in' the divine world.
(The complete loss of Original Participation and the advent of the Consciousness Soul.)
In a world without symbolism; the only possible replacement would seem to be the primacy of intuition and the necessity and possibility of direct and unmediated knowing - developing to the new situation of Final Participation: loving participation in the divine creation.
So, my argument is that the fact that no existing Western church will take symbolism seriously is evidence that symbolism has become impossible, ineffectual - and we are faced with either being stuck in our present alienation, or else (as I advocate in Romantic Christianity) moving forward to a different form of consciousness: intuitive direct knowing, Final Participation.
Note added: To be more specific: An evangelical protestant church placed priority on scripture, but the scriptural translations were chosen on the basis of 'modern scholarship' meaning that the symbolism of poetry was absent, nor were the words spoken with dignity - and was indifferent about the aesthetics of ritual and did not set-apart the time in church from mundane life. A Latin Roman Catholic mass had beautiful language - but was rushed, slapdash - including in the Eucharist. An Eastern Orthodox church had some beauty of setting, vestments, incense, iconography; but bureaucratic English, gabbled liturgy, and a casual conversational style. One Anglo Catholic church had beautiful language and an intense Eucharist-focused ritual - but was let down by the almost facetious quality of the teaching and social interaction around the service. Another Anglo Catholic setting had an intense setting, ritual, incense - but drab and functional vestments; and again bureaucratic and politically-correct language, including in the psalms - which are supposed to be poems. Etc... None, and no Western Church I have heard of anywhere, demonstrated a seriousness and thorough attitude about symbolism, which might be able to lift the church service to a higher and more divine level than our ordinary media-bureaucratic life. To be 'friendly' (or amusing) is more important than to be the Little Piece of Heaven that was the aim of some Christian gatherings of the past. Likewise, prayers are often merely topical, secular and reflecting leftist priorities. Those partial symbolic aspects that were taken seriously, therefore seemed almost arbitrary.
See James Fowler "Stages of Faith" We are on different places on the road and have no common language with which to speak to each other. And how do we teach? Once you "get it" language becomes secondary but you have to start somewhere.
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