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The Mountain, as a symbol

‘Alexander lead by an angel to the top of the Qaf Mountain’. Persian manuscript.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an excerpt- from Raoul Berteaux’s ‘La Voie Symbolique’, EDIMAF for the 1992 edition, pages 134 and 135-about the Mountain as a spiritual symbol. Our translation from the original French.


‘…This ritual of ascent and is the preparatory stage for every initiatic accomplishment. We will notice the ‘limites’given to the the people, that is to say in an initiatic language:’to the prophane’. Thus, was defined a ‘temenos’, an enclosed place, isolated, that can only be crossed…’when the sound of the horn will be heard’. The mountain becomes a temple.

Sacred mountains

The symbol of the mountain as symbol of ascension and elevation, of transcendence and of the sacred has a universal character. We can find it in the traditions of many cultural groups. Here are a few examples in relation with these different traditions.

In the Hebrew Tradition:

-The Sinai or Horeb mount, the mountain of revelation where God dispenses the law and where Moses sees the Arch.

-The Horeb mount where Elias meets the Eternal.

-The Garizim mount, holy place to the Samaritans where Jacob erects an altar.

-The Sion and the Moriah mounts. The second being part of the first.

-The Thabor mount (Thabur means ‘nostril’, ‘omphalos’), upon which ‘Our Lord will manifest in all the radiance of His splendor’.

In the Hindu Tradition

-The Meru mount, axis mundi and model of the Hindu temple.

-The Kailash mount, seat of the Lord Shiva. In Cambodia, Shivaist ‘lingas’ are placed at the mountain tops.

In the Islamic Tradition

-The Qaf mount, mother of all other mountains of the world. Inaccessible to humans to whom it is separated by an impassable region; the real limit between the visible world and the invisible one and nobody knows what lies behind; it surrounds the terrestrial world, seen as a flat circular disc; by extension, the ‘Ka’aba’ is considered as the highest point of the world.

In the Chinese tradition

-K’ouen-louen (Kun Lun in modern pinyin) is the word that correspond to the head. From its summit, one can graps the point where one exits the cosmos.

-K’ouen Louen is also the name of the nine-story pagoda where the Immortals dwell.

In the Christian Tradition

-The Temptation, the beatitudes, the transfiguration, the Ascension mount (The mount of Olives).

-The Calvary mount (Golgotha).

In the Iranian Tradition

-The Harabezaiti mount.

-The Alborj mount.

In the Babylonian Tradition

-The Mount of the House.

-The House of the Mount of all Lands.

-The Storm Mountain.

In the Greek Tradition

– Olympus, Othrys, Ida, Parnassus, Pelion, Rhodopes mounts.

Hight lands

That the temple is built on the mountain or that the mountain is the temple, it is the highest point, the summit of the mountain that is the sacred place by excellence and that plays a fundamental symbolic role. The summit is the ‘center’, the ‘omphalos’, ‘the Center of the world’. By the summit, crosses the axis of the world, the ‘axis mundi’, and its prolongation crosses the center of the cosmic North, through the polar star, according to the cosmic symbolic. The summit of the mountain becomes the sacred ‘High Land’ and at the same time, the ‘axis’ introduces the notion of space.  The summit places also a time: the point from which the Creation started. Dante places the Terrestrial Paradise at the summit of a mountain. The summit of the mountain introduces a  spatio-temporal symbolic. From this, it introduces a symbolic of movement, which in initiatic ritual are manifested by the trials of the descent in the underworld, in the darkness, in hell, followed by the elevation towards the sky, towards light.

The summit of the mountain introduces the notion of level and of the crossing from one level to another. The Gods descend to the level of the summit, whereas humans raise towards that level. The summit is the highest point for Man and the lowest for the Gods. It is the only possible meeting point, and therefore the ascension symbolism is the only one that allows the human being to enter in contact with the Divine.

The symbolism of ascension is found in the domains of dream, of creative imagination, of myths, of metaphysical language, of initiatic rituals. One sole system of images, the mountain and its summit, is the support of diverse signification in different domains; these significations ‘correspond between each other’. It is a typical example of the ‘law of correspondence’. All the particular significations reunite in one sole general concept, the liberation that results from the breaking of a specific state, the de-conditioning followed by another state.’

The Mountain, as a symbol

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