Flags, emblems and personae can be more than mere visual representations. They
can sometimes become symbols. Their significance lies in their symbolism: of events,
personalities and societies. The hammer and sickle, for instance, has come to stand as
a global symbol of socialism and communism.
Symbols can be objects or entities. Thanks to his stubborn and non-violent resistance
to British rule in India, Mahatma Gandhi has come to stand as a symbol of the
emancipation of the weak against powerful and established forces.
Symbols appeal to our sense of emotion not reason. National flags and anthems
immediately fill us with a sense of pride. Such emotions are usually not supported by
conscious thought, but arise involuntarily from the subconscious.
Symbols seem to carry an energy around themselves. The Sri Yantra is held to be
the visual depiction of the Om sound. It is believed to act as a harbinger of fortune and
good luck into the surroundings where it is placed.
The significance of a symbol is more than what is apparent. The Sack of Jerusalem
engraved on the Arch of Titus in Rome, for instance, has come to signify the
inescapable fate of Jerusalem itself: a city that seems destined to be ravaged, razed and
rebuilt, the cycle repeating itself over and over again.
Symbols seem to carry the karma of their principals. A symbol that carries a certain
specific connotation in history, tends to reiterate those connotations in future uses as
Left: Frederick Barbarossa. The Holy Roman Emperor embarked on the Third Crusade
with his huge Germanic army in 1189. After resounding initial victories, the Emperor
drowned while bathing, and his army was decimated by the enemy.
Right: Operation Barbarossa. The largest military operation in human history was the
German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. After spectacular initial successes,
Hitler’s armies faced a string of devastating defeats, reverses from which they would
Inheritance of a symbol implies inheritance of its karma as well. PAN AM World
Airways, then one of the largest international airlines, collapsed in 1991. The brand,
along with the logo, was resurrected three times by other airline operators. All three
The burden of history a symbol carries is passed down through ancestry. Perhaps
it is for these reasons that our forefathers chose to use the concept of common names
distinguished by generation identifiers (like I, II, etc.): so that the Karma associated with
the founding members of the family could be passed down the generations. Obviously,
over time the energy carried in this symbol tends to dissipate away.
The social context of a symbol is as important as the symbol itself. Symbols lose
their relevance and their history when placed in a social context different from that of the
original occurrence. The New England region of the United States is home to numerous
towns that adopted the symbolism of older, established towns. The fate of these towns,
however, has failed to mirror that of the parent towns in England.
Within the same social context, the history of a symbol is almost guaranteed to
repeat itself. The first battle tank in the world, the British Mark I, enjoyed tremendous
success in WWI. The Mark I brand has since been used in Britain for everything from
fighter aircraft to passenger cars to rolling stock, almost always with equal success.