A Beginner’s Guide to Decoding Esoteric Symbolism in Film
One of the most profound personality traits of the human being is our ability to tell stories, we are the alchemists of the animal kingdom, as our consciousness allows us to use words, sounds and pictures which can transform and redefine our reality. Jennifer Sodini shares her beginner’s guide to identifying the secrets, and esoteric symbols in film.
The unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates
Our imagination is the vehicle of creation, and our history has been transformed throughout the ages – evolving from cave paintings to cuneiform, and myth to movies. Each epoch has its own epic, but each is a part of a never-ending story that follows a very specific formula, that one can identify with the proper lens of perception.
Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe.― Aldous Huxley
With film being the popular modern medium for articulating our stories, at times we are so blinded by the stars and sensory stimulation that we miss the ‘secrets’ hidden in plain sight. Identifying the secrets, and esoteric symbols that are right before our eyes requires knowledge of what to look for and how to see – and below is a quick beginner’s guide to finding the deeper significance of our celluloid mythology.
A Beginner’s Guide to Decoding Esoteric Symbolism in Film
Subliminal Symbols: Surprisingly enough, Disney films tend to make usage of subliminal messages more often than not, but if you blink, you’ll miss the symbol. Walt Disney 33rd degree.* For example, in one particular episode of Duck Tales – Scrooge McDuck is getting an eye exam and in the background the chart reads “Ask About Illuminati” (see here).
The Eye of Providence, and masonic symbolism such as the square and compass will oftentimes appear as a mechanism of allegory in films as well. The ‘All Seeing Eye’, as we know it, is present on the dollar bill, yet the esoteric significance relates to the ‘All Seeing Eye’ of God, and this notion has been in the human story since time immemorial. The square and compass is indicative of the intelligent design that governs human experience, with all being a part of a divine plan (random never being random). The movie Magnolia is a prime example of a film filled with this type of symbolism, and the storylines are tied together through subliminal reiteration.
Numbers also carry an esoteric significance, so paying attention to house numbers, ages, times and dates can also reveal more to the story at hand. This, perhaps, stems from the Hebrew Gematria, which is a numerological system that empowers language, and storytelling.
Colors: The Wizard of Oz is one of the best examples of the usage of color to convey a complex idea. This childhood classic is riddled with esoteric symbolism, and while some believe that the story is an allegory for preserving the gold standard for money, as opposed to paperback/silver currency – it is important to note that the author of The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, was a practicing theosophist and heavily into occult studies. When analyzing the color choices used in ‘painting this picture’, it could also relate to a more metaphysical storyline.
The following is extracted from the article The Hidden Meaning Behind These 10 Classic Fantasy Films:
The story follows Dorothy, a normal farm-girl from Kansas, who gets swept away by a tornado and brought to the mythical/mysterious land of Oz. She travels the Yellow Brick Road with her dog/spirit familiar Toto (an apparent nod to The Fool card of the Major Arcana), to find her way to the wonderful wizard of Oz, who is somewhere over the rainbow in the Emerald City, all of which can be viewed as an allegorical representation of the soul’s path to illumination.
The Yellow Brick Road, on the other hand, can be viewed as the concept of The Golden Path as discussed in Buddhist teaching (a key component in Theosophy), but it is also interesting to note that the color yellow is representative of the solar plexus, the emotional center where the heart and head meet (ego). The path of the Yellow Brick Road is shaped as an outwardly expanding spiral, and it is believed that the spiral represents the evolving self, where the soul ascends from matter into the spirit world. As Dorothy makes her way down the road she wears a pair of ruby slippers, which is an interesting color choice given that red is also representative of the chakra color which corresponds to the energy of our connection with the Earth, carrying the promise of survival. The companions she meets along the way – The Scarecrow, The Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man – all appear to be fragmented aspects of her psyche. The Scarecrow believes he is without a brain, the Tin Man believes he is without a heart, and the Cowardly Lion believes he is without courage. The three components these friends seem to lack are three of the qualities an initiate to the great mysteries must possess in order ascend to the next level of understanding. The companions believe that if they brave the path together, the Wizard they are destined to meet will give them what they are searching for.
Amidst twists and turns, good witches and bad witches, munchkins and flying monkeys galore, they reach their destination, the Emerald City. Green here is an intentional color choice, as the Emerald City is representative of the heart chakra, which carries the power of love and the transformation of ego. As Dorothy followed her ego (the Yellow Brick Road), was guided by the desires of her base chakra (the ruby slippers), she reached her heart (The Emerald City) to find that the power of transformation was within her (and her friends) all along. The wizard was no wizard at all, beyond the smoke and mirrors – he was no different than they, and the great illumination came from the knowledge of the power of the true self and the heart, gnosis.
Archetypes: Carl Jung popularized the notion of archetypes, explaining that there are 12 universal personality types and through the collective unconscious, the human psyche adopts one or another. The 12 types fall under four cardinal orientations: freedom, ego, social, and order. There are also three umbrella types, ‘ego’, ‘soul’, and ‘self’. The archetypes are categorized by fours, under each of the three umbrellas. Each umbrella has the same driving force, as well as motivations, values, meanings and traits.
When analyzing characters in a film, relating to myth/history, using archetypal nature as a basis of understanding – it allows us to find the Zeitgeist.
Star Wars is a synthesis of the three keys we’ve discussed so far for decoding the esoteric significance in film, as there are subliminal messages, profound usage of color (light vs. dark), and archetypes also play heavily into the storyline. We have Han Solo as the outlaw/explorer, Luke Skywalker as the hero, Yoda as the magician/sage, Darth Vader as the ruler, Princess Leia as the innocent, Chewbacca as the jester, and so forth.
These energies are present in the same formula for spiritual texts such as The Bhagavad Gita, and The Bible…the eternal struggle for light during darkness, spirit over ego, and triumph over tragedy. The words change but the stories remain the same, the only difference is in the articulation.
We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet. Joseph Campbell
In conclusion, although this short guide merely scratches the surface of decoding film, it offers a new perspective – which you may further explore through your own research and experience.
There is always more than meets the eye in this world – and in the worlds we create with our words – and by using our imagination to understand what’s imagined, we are left with a broader outlook and a more expansive appreciation for our ever-evolving story.
About the author: Jennifer Sodini is a blogger and founder of Evolve and Ascend.esoteric symbols, esoterism, Evolve and Ascend, films, Jennifer Sodini