The previous parts of the Theme-Symbolism Integration series are:
Foundation Posts on Use of Theme:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/10/believing-in-happily-ever-after-part-4.html -- on structuring nested Themes into a novel.
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/08/plot-vs-story.html -- defining the terminology I use in these posts to distinguish plot from story and why they are indistinguishable.
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/09/what-you-can-do-in-novel-that-you-cant.html -- compares use of Theme in a movie with the use in a Novel.
The posts with "Integration" in the title are advanced posts about blending two, three, and four of these components into such a seamless whole that no reader will ever be able to see the seams -- but writers can and do see those seams.
Previous parts in this Theme-Symbolism Integration series are:
PART 1 of integrating Symbolism with Theme is You Can't Fight City Hall -- about the romance inherent in Politics and Power (or Power Politics)
PART 2 Why Do We Cry At Weddings?
PART 3 Why Do We Cry At Weddings - part 2
Part 1 of this series ended with:
The most passionate Romance is all about the Powerless vs. the Powerful. The winner is always the Strong Character with a vividly defined set of values, sense of right and wrong, and unbending pursuit of the ethical and moral path. Find your epoch in the cycle of Pluto, then find the symbols in that epoch to bespeak your theme.
This is Part 4 on the candle as a symbol. By examining how and why a Candle is a symbol, what it is a symbol of, and why it is used to evoke tears (as in Why We Cry At Weddings), and other emotions, we may learn how to invent the symbols of a truly non-human civilization that modern human readers can comprehend on a non-verbal level.
The objective is to create symbols modern humans react to, and even recognize, but see as non-human.
So we need to look at the symbols that evoke emotional responses for us to find where those symbols have their roots in the objective, true-for-non-human-civilizations too, reality.
The nature of objective reality -- and even the issue of whether there is such a thing at all -- is the the "warp" of the fabric of the Theme. The "woof" might be the existence of the Soul -- woven into theme at "right angles" to the "warp" of objectivity.
Weave these component elements into a fabric in such a way that your reader only sees the pattern or picture on the fabric, not the individual threads.
That is the difference between reading and writing -- a reader sees the pattern, a writer works with individual spools of multi-colored thread and a loom to weave them on.
That reader/writer difference in perspective may also be the difference between the Living Creature view of "reality" vs. that of the Creator of that Reality -- (again the existence of a Creator is a Thematic thread the writer uses, that the reader does not see.)
The reader sees Karma working out in Poetic Justice, but the writer created that effect from the axioms and postulates, "warp and woof" of the worldbuilding. The reader sees the picture; the writer works with colored threads.
When a Romance Novel fails with a reader, what the reader is seeing is incoherence in the warp/woof blending of those threads. The reader sees "broken threads" (e.g. in reality, there is no such thing as an HEA, and in this worldbuilding there is an HEA but it comes out of nowhere for no reason.)
The reader sees a philosophical premise (the HEA), but nothing to indicate how this invented World differs from their everyday Reality in such a way that this invented World must necessarily permit an HEA .
To read, and convince, such readers, writers work hard with the "warp and woof" of the cloth of their theme.
Suspension of disbelief pivots on Theme as the foundation of story and the foundation of plot.
Story and Plot must be cut from the cloth made by the threads of Theme, and sewn together into a garment that fits the reader.
So let's study the Candle as a symbol, and how, as a Romance Writer, you can learn to use that symbol and fabricate others from the warp-and-woof from which The Candle Symbolism is created.
It is, in the odd way that all symbols demonstrate, about the Power of the Powerless, which is a subject that makes up into large sets of fabulous Themes.
In Parts 2 and 3, we talked about Crying at Weddings.
Note how "light" pervades the imagery of Weddings. Imagery is the alphabet of symbolism.
And of course, candles are often part of wedding ceremonies.
Never forget that traditionally "wedding" meant a female becoming the possession of a male, with the male having the power of life and death over that female. "Keep them barefoot and pregnant," was not just a saying. It happened, and still happens some places today. It is a situation that generates huge, complex Themes about the Power of the Powerless.
Little by little, in leaps and bounds, the definition of "wedding" is changing as fast as the definition of "marriage." That change is changing the definition of Romance, both in real life and in fiction.
What we are looking for here is the level of abstraction at which no change is happening at all. If we find that level, we find "reality" (whatever that is).
We don't put candles on a Wedding Cake (though sometimes we put them beside the cake)
-- but we do put them on Birthday Cakes.
We all know what a candle is, and how to light them.
All your readers know that mastering FIRE was a huge dividing line in the development of the human animal into a civilized beast.
We also know the oil lamp - Aladdin's Lamp and all its ilk - was the only source of night time illumination for thousands of years, toxic smoke and all.
Olive Oil is a favorite for burning. Various forms of tallow, all kinds of smokey, stinky stuff has been burned for the sake of light at night. Today we do the burning way off somewhere at a Power Plant, and bring the power to our homes to make various things glow for us. But in essence, nothing has changed.
Is electricity fundamentally different from Fire?
Is candle-wax fundamentally different from Olive Oil?
Is oxidation different from electricity? What if all Power Plants used nothing but Solar or Wind (or wave or geothermal) power? Would that make the electricity we use to make things glow different from the light of a candle?
If we don't use oxidation for light, does that fundamentally (thematically) change the symbolism of a Light? What has Fire to do with the symbolism?
We are surrounded by fire in so many forms. Stoves burn Natural Gas (some are electric; some solar).
We make a fire in the fireplace for Winter Holidays -- mostly no longer used to warm the house, but a symbol of the Winter Solstice festivals.
Some fireplaces have been converted to natural gas, and had fake ceramic logs inserted to look like wood. It's too much work to clean out wood-ash once a year. Besides, wood makes toxic fumes, shortens your life, right?
Some houses have natural gas heaters hidden away in the attic or basement.
Other than smokers, people can go for months without lighting a candle or an actual open fire.
If your stove is electric, and your clothes dryer is electric, and your water heater is electric, when do you ever LIGHT a fire (with a match?).
Who has lit a fire with flint-and-steel or rubbing two sticks together since Scouting days?
How common is open flame in your life?
Among your readers, fire is reduced to a mere symbol, relegated to special occasions, right? But the discovery and mastery of fire is the, single, outstanding progenitor of human civilization (maybe including The Wheel?) Using Fire to make Wheels turn was a biggie, too. How did that go for your Aliens on their native planet?
Do you see the parallel between Theme-Symbol Integration and Fire-Wheel-Integration?
The less common the underlying progenitor of a civilized process is, the more penetrating the encounter with its symbol.
The sight of a candle flame can yank a modern human's heart strings like almost nothing else.
Some people meditate using a candle flame.
Staring at the flame to clear and silence the chatter in your mind is one of the beginner's exercises in meditation.
As far as I know, there is no currently existing culture that dates back to the taming of fire, or even to the invention of putting a wick into oil to make light. The Oil Lamp pre-existed Middle Eastern civilizations - Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian -- and they're all long gone.
Here's a quote on the earliest oil lamps:
After human race first tamed the fire and started to use it as a light source, a need appeared for a smaller, controllable flame - a more sophisticated solution, if you will. First such solution was an oil lamp some 70.000 B.C. Early humans used shells, hollow rocks or any nonflammable material as a container and in it some moss soaked in animal fat which they would ignite and it would burn with a flame.
70,000 years ago?
It was a practical device for extending the work day at a time when getting the project done was always and ever a life-or-death proposition. Also, of course, fire deterred predators.
Some recent research indicates cooking food makes nutrients more accessible to human digestion, so that could have helped the R&D geniuses 70,000 years ago (yes, they were the Bill Gates' of their day) figure out how to make, contain, and use fire.
Along in there somewhere, the fearsome thing (I'm sure some wildfires were started inadvertently, and stories told about that terrifying high-tech marvel the smartphone - uh, I mean Fire) became a SYMBOL.
What would flame have first been a symbol of?
That could matter to a modern Romance writer leaping into writing fantasy or science fiction romance stories because aliens on other planets -- think major love-interest -- could belong to a culture where FIRE is a symbol of something very different from what all our modern Earth cultures think.
To create a connection on a romantic level between a human and a non-human, raw-basic-symbol systems can evoke even more intense emotion than we ordinarily experience in daily life.
So think about the simple, basic FLAME.
The symbol, the mere suggestion, reminds us of the real thing.
The symbol evokes a series of associated emotions, usually at a semantic level above words, a level where music and scent light up brain cells and recreate an experience.
From that first use of fire as symbol -- maybe a bit after the 70,000 year ago mark -- meanings associated with that symbol would have been changed, added to, morphed into, re-interpreted, and re-associated with different emotions.
But it is all rooted in the routine, daily, boring, encounter with the reality. That Reality recedes as technology distances people from it -- then it becomes a symbol, a selective recreation of reality.
For example, maybe people started holding weddings at night around a fire because all day long everyone was in a headlong dash to get life-or-death stuff like sowing and reaping done.
When was the last time you shouldered the harness of a plow blade and pulled it through stubborn sod? What does a plow blade symbolize to you? Blisters on your shoulder? Oxen pooping in your barn? The smell of sweaty horse? No, you go to the rental place and lease a gas-powered plow for a Sunday afternoon to make your garden this year.
Yet the symbolism of beating swords into plow blades still "works." How many sharp-edged swords do you own? (Not stage-steel, but real fighting weapons with blood on them?)
Life was hard, and mostly people died young. Life was hard in the daytime, and people could relax and do "human" things only at night. Have you ever been so far away from the glow of city lights that you literally could not see your hand in front of your face? Have you ever tried to walk in a forest in a night so dark you had to put your hands out and grope? That is the world where the light of a single candle pierced the nerves and gained eternal meaning -- meaning true even in today's street-lamp world.
So fire-light became a symbol of romance, or at the very least license for wonton sex.
To this day, the "candle-light-dinner" is a symbol of courtship, even if we have to remember to turn the overhead lights out so you can see the candle light.
The candle -- or oil/wick/flame -- has become a symbol of both Life and Death.
We light candles (or sparklers) on birthday cakes to count our years, or dodge that issue:
We light a candle to commemorate death -- the candle light vigil ceremony on the site of a murder or tragedy has been pushed back into prominence even as religious observance wanes.
Making these candles is a whole modern industry. You can find these vigil candles on Amazon -- and not all who use them or attend memorial vigils are in any way religious or what is termed God-Fearing. Neither warp nor woof of the fabric of their philosophy contains a God-is-real thread. But they "do" vigil candles right alongside devout worshipers of diverse God-concepts.
Perhaps the candle is a symbol of wisdom?
It is said (tall tale) that President Lincoln gained his education by reading books by the light of a log-cabin's fireplace. Have you ever read a book by the light of a fireplace? Or a candle?
It takes me 7 or 8 candles burning at once to see well enough to read a nice, clean font from a modern book on super-white paper.
I can, however read well by a fancy 1800's style oil lamp with a fancy woven wick and carefully crafted chimney to keep the fire burning brightly, never mind toxic carbon emissions.
Some people have memories of camping out in tents lit by such an open-flame lamp (though today's children mostly use solar-charged electric lamps).
Sometimes, those camp-out-at-night memories are great happy memories, so the open-flame light (or electric camp lantern) evokes happiness.
Now we're getting somewhere. Consider the inventors of the oil lamp 70,000 years ago didn't even have a nice, modern tent for shelter. We recreate our origins and surround ourselves with those ancient things -- the out-doors, the night sky, open flame, spooky stories -- and regard them as SYMBOLS.
What was real, everyday, common, can't-escape-it, reality 70,000 years ago is reduced to mere symbol today. What was alarming and threatening is titillating today.
Today, we use those symbols to evoke what was once the reality of existence -- being spooked was being really scared death was immanent.
Ghost stories by candle light.
Today, at Halloween, we see symbolic ghosts made out of thin plastic sheeting hung from trees in people's yards.
What is a ghost? Well, no two traditions agree on that, but generally it is a remnant of some part of a human being. We term that non-material part we imagine we have our Soul.
Romance writers can gain verisimilitude by paying attention to the Candle as a Symbol, analyzing it, projecting it into the cultures of aliens. The symbolism may never be referred to in your novel, but it will be the firm foundation of your worldbuilding, and that firmness will be evident to your readers even if they can't point to what is causing them to feel that way.
Invent the 70,000 year ago culture of your Aliens before coupling your invented Alien to an everyday, modern human.
Romance stories that rivet a reader's attention generally contain a core element of a Soul Mate mechanism, even when the words Soul Mate, or even just Soul, are never used by narrator or in dialogue. The element is in the worldbuilding even if the worldbuilding contains a Theme thread that says, "In this universe, God is not real" and there's no such thing as "Soul."
Whether you, the writer and the reader, see God as the single organizing principle of Life, The Universe, and Everything, or not, somehow being "In Love" activates some component within a human being's perceptions that the human never knew was there before.
Some of your readers only imagine what they would be like if such a component was activated inside them. Some yearn for it. Some fear and flee from it. Some don't believe it ever happens to anyone. And some have experienced it, only to have disaster part them from their spouse, and now they are hoping it will happen again.
Neuro-scientists are zeroing in on the brain structures and activity associated with all these complex human experiences.
The thesis they are pursuing is that the brain and its functions completely account for everything humans experience, do, decide, believe (yes, even your Politics is just a genetic property of your brain -- you have no choice!), and theorize.
Many readers of Science Fiction Romance are keenly aware of this brain research.
So Romance writers have to worldbuild some theory of Soul into every story-universe, or the characters won't seem real.
What do I mean by "world-build?"
What the characters believe about their world is not the same as what their world REALLY is, what it's laws-and-rules are.
In fact, many great science fiction novels pivot on the characters discovering things are not what they believe them to be. Think about the film, The Matrix.
Or think about the novel THE FLICKER MEN that I talked about in this post:
Remember, I pointed out THE FLICKER MEN is not a Romance, but Science Fiction Romance writers need to read it anyway? This is the reason you must absorb what is going on in novels like The Flicker Men.
The Flicker Men pivots on a worldbuilding concept woven of recent discoveries in particle physics and mathematics, and is a valid extrapolation from that new science, which creates the plot. The story is woven from cognitive dissonance, and utter consternation, culture shock, psychological disorientation, and the struggle to overcome that paralysis and deal with the harsh realities that have been revealed. That harsh reality is that some people have Souls -- and some do not. Time is not what you think it is.
In contemporary romance, you can find great novels about deeply religious characters discovering God is a myth created for political purposes by con-artists -- and characters who are absolutely convinced there's no such thing as God or the Soul discovering the chilling (spooky) tangible reality that God is Real, and "my Soul knows it."
Romance deals with exactly that kind of cognitive dissonance discovery -- when you Fall In Love, you discover your own Soul, and the conversation your Soul is having with Another Soul.
If you are convinced Souls don't exist, then you may mistake Love for Lust --- or vice-versa. And therein lies a Plot.
What your Soul knows and what you know are not always the same thing -- and therein lies the kind of Conflict that writers weave Nested Themes for long series of long novels around.
This quandary is all about our cherished theoretical notion of reality vs. the actual function of immutable reality around us.
Some people move through life smoothly, and others encounter vast difficulties. Bring a pair formed of each type of person into conflict, take up the issue of whether "Life Is Good" or "Life Sucks" and you're off and running with long series of THEMES driving an ever-changing matrix of conflicts. Add deranging astonishment of an awakening Soul discovering another Soul to Love, and the pages sizzle.
When you are handling an abstract theme -- such as "Souls are Real But God Is Fictional" or "God is Real and only Some People Have Souls" -- you handle these boring abstractions with symbolism.
You never state the theme in words, not narrative, exposition or dialogue.
You "show don't tell" by using symbols.
So you bring in a candle as a symbol -- but what is it a symbol OF? How do you use the Candle as a symbol that your reader will understand?
You understand candles, flames and the chemistry of oxidation.
Any symbol abstracts certain functional components and leaves out all the rest of reality, just as today we seek to have an open flame for the Holidays without the toxic smoke and shovel loads of ash. Is fire still an effective symbol without fumes and ash?
There is almost no experience of a human being that is not "symbolized by" a candle.
It's life, death, joy, sadness, Solstice, anniversaries, security and threat. The whole gamut of human experience is tied symbolically to "Light dispelling Darkness."
Remember, the Bible starts with LET THERE BE LIGHT.
It is said, when things look bleak because humans are holding a war, destroying things, hating each other, etc. that the light of a single candle dispels the darkness, mental, emotional, and actual Darkness.
The same about Good and Evil: the light of a candle overcomes Evil. The candle flame repels wild animals, stops sneak-thieves, etc. A single act of random kindness is like that candle flame -- and can redirect the path of a human being.
Another proverb about the candle-symbol is that a lit candle can light other candles and not be diminished by giving away it's light.
Think about that very hard. What can you give and still have?
In Judaism, every Friday at sundown, candles are lit. In some traditions, oil is used instead of candles -- olive oil with a floating wick, older than the high-tech invention of the candle.
Look at this picture:
What is she doing?
She is gathering the light of the candles to her eyes, then saying a Blessing, and after that she will cast the light she gathered back onto the candles in the official act of kindling the light. The candles are not "lit" until after the Blessing is said -- and that moment of Lighting officially begins the Sabbath, during which time fire is not kindled.
It is said that the Sabbath candles of the Matriarchs of Judaism lit the tent for the whole week. Does that mean physical light? Or does it mean the metaphorical "light" by which we "see" right from wrong? The nature of that metaphorical Light is a thread of the warp-and-woof of your Thematic Fabric. It is by that Light that your reader discerns the Poetic Justice visited upon your Characters.
In Judaism, the "day" begins at sundown. "And it was evening and it was morning the First Day."
Evening comes first.
The Day is the first unit of Time. The Soul enters manifestation through the dimension of Time.
The Sabbath day ends in a series of symbolic actions.
Fire is kindled once more, a blessing said over wine, incense and fire, and then the fire is extinguished by dipping the candle flame into the wine, marking the division of Time when it is again not only permitted but required to kindle fire.
Thus the candle and its flame are used to mark an interval of time that repeats at set intervals. By marking that singular Day, all the rest of the Days of the Week are thereby defined.
The Soul enters through the dimension of Time, and the Soul then participates in marking and counting Time, dividing Time.
Those who practice Evil also use candles to symbolize their powers.
So what is it about a candle that contains all of these abstract Thematic Elements, from Good to Evil and from Joy to Sorrow?
What exactly is a candle?
Let's view a candle as a mechanism for supporting the Flame.
Flame is pretty much the same thing no matter what is burning (oxidizing). Flame is a zone of incandescence where a chemical reaction is taking place, combining oxygen with (whatever) and producing Light as a byproduct.
The chemical reaction has to be "sparked" -- that is, something HOT has to be touched to the substance that will burn.
How hot depends on the substance that will burn. Each substance has it's own temperature where it will start to combine with the oxygen in the air to produce something else (ash, CO2 and water, whatever). Some candles smoke, others not-so-much. Smoke is not a property of the flame, but of the substances reacting.
How relevant to the symbolism is the substance the candle is made of?
Another common use of Flame as Symbol is in the Hanukkah Celebration, which commemorates the victory of the Maccabees and the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.
This dates from the Exodus from Egypt, when God Commanded that a tent be built called the Mishkan or tent of meeting, where Moses would meet with God and bring instruction to the Jewish people.
One feature required for this operation was a Lamp that was to be built hammered from one piece of gold by an inspired artisan.
Here's an excerpt from
As the story goes:
Chanukah -- the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev -- celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.
More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.
When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.
So, we have candles used as an anniversary celebration SYMBOLIZING the Olive Oil Lamp that the High Priest lit in the Temple (which practice persisted for centuries from the 40 years in the Desert wanderings). Ever been in the Sinai desert? It's DARK.
The Shape of that Temple Lamp is described in the Bible, but even so there are various opinions on how it was shaped. Here are some.
|From the Temple Institute website|
And other Rabbinic traditions specify straight branches like this Hanukkah Menorah:
Note the different shapes for the branches holding up the flames on
a) the design prescribed for use in the Temple by the High Priest
b) the design seen on carvings (Roman etc)
And note how the Hanukkah Menorah has 8 branches, not the 7 of the Temple version -- commemorating the 8 days that 1 day's worth of olive oil burned.
Note how even today old, traditional Hanukkah menorah designs are used, but how artists have embellished, re-designed, and re-imagined the Hanukkah Menorah.
And the Menorah has become a subject of freehand, creative art by and for kids, and for adults:
On a side note: The word Hanukkah or Chanukah is used to designate the process of dedicating the Temple, which included cleaning up the mess left by the invaders, repairing, and then purifying (spiritual cleansing), as well as making the oils and incense and other consumables according to the detailed instructions.
So today, when we buy a new house or move into an apartment, we hold a Chanukat Habayit -- a house-warming -- party.
Hebrew is a language which is not cognate to English, so it "works" grammatically in a different way. The exact same "word" appears in different forms and has different meanings -- but all the meanings are related even if they're not related in English.
The word generally used for Education is Chinuch. It's the same word as the Holiday Chanukah, in a different grammatical form. In Ancient Hebrew, Education is Dedication - like the Temple is dedicated, like the Holiday of Hanukkah commemorates. A housewarming party for the mind/spirit/soul of a child.
If you ponder that conceptual linguistic relationship for a while, you may see how today's modern argument over "Common Core" educational standards can be resolved. We think of education as something one person does to another -- as an adult "teaching" a child, basically by force and over the child's vigorous objection, for their own good.
What the child learns is the adult's choice, not the child's. Yes, there are schools that try to break out of that box, and perhaps that movement will grow. Today we don't punish the child for misbehaving; we reward them with time "in the corner" with educational toys and optional activities.
But for the moment, think conceptually about transforming the subject of the Common Core discussion from parents vs. government to the ignition of a child's Soul into an enthusiastic dedication to Light. Remember, the candle symbol is embraced by those who do not accept the concept of A Creator.
Redefining Education could make a great cultural theme-thread for the fabric of your Romance novel worldbuilding. Your aliens might require Earth to re-define "Education."
Think about the child's Body -- and the child's Soul.
Here is the post I did which has a link to 6 other posts I did on the Soul-Time-Hypothesis:
Remember, the Soul enters manifestation through the dimension of Time.
The principle being practiced in Orthodox Chinuch today, by some groups, uses the principle of how a Soul takes possession of a Body through Time to help that Soul become dedicated to Life and Light.
The theory is that the Soul makes its first connection to its Body at conception (maybe before) (a moment in Time), and gradually, in stages through Birth (a Time) and at lines of demarcation throughout childhood -- (3 years is when Chinuch begins, 12 or 13 is when the Soul becomes fully responsible for its own body, and there are stages between), becomes more and more manifest, more in control of the Body, more dominant in the ebb and flow of the animal processes within the Body.
The Soul manifests through the dimension of Time through the medium of the Body.
Leveraging that principle, Chinuch gradually turns over responsibility, one thing at a time, to the child, as they gain dedication.
So what has that to do with the Candle as Symbol, and how to discover and invent symbols for an Alien Civilization?
If we look at a candle, we see two distinct parts -- the candle-shaft of wax & wick (or pot of oil & wick) -- and the flame.
Let's look at the candle shaft, or oil&wick part. Maybe that's the real symbol.
In the actual instructions in the Bible, the Lamp to be lit in the Temple by the High Priest is described in meticulous detail. It is to be made by hammering a single block of gold into this specified shape, and the shape is to be adorned with various "decorative" devices.
Since we know that no detail mentioned in the Bible is just filler, we know that the "decorations" may be decorative, adorning with beauty, but there is undoubtedly more to it than that.
The formula for making the oil is described in microscopic detail, and those who did the work trained apprentices in exactly how to do this oil preparation -- far more detail passed down orally than is written. Much of that detail may be lost now.
After years of intense study, The Temple Institute has been recreating the implements used in the Temple Building itself.
This image and the quote below is from the Temple Institute website:
The menorah weighs one-half ton. It contains forty five kilograms of twenty four karat gold. Its estimated value is approximately three million dollars. The construction of the menorah was made possible through the generosity of Vadim Rabinovitch, a leader of the Jewish community of Ukraine.
Note: THE UKRAINE.
It is amazing, impressive, and a powerful symbol even though it is not being kindled. Without any flame, it is a symbol.
All by itself, without flame, the Lamp is a powerful symbol, and a potentially functional device, a physical reality.
So, perhaps the lamp or candle-holder for the flame and what is burned to make the flame (candle wax or oil) matters somehow in both symbol and actuality?
But it seems to be the focus is on either the Flame itself, or perhaps on the Light it sheds.
All kinds of things burn -- forest fires burn trees, shrubs and houses. Oil wells can burn oil and gas before we can capture it and make it burn where we want it to.
Volcanoes and lightening set fires everywhere. The Earth is always on fire somewhere.
Magnesium burns under water.
There's flame everywhere. But a LAMP (or candle holder) contains, tames, directs, controls the Flame, bends Fire to our Will.
So the lamp or candle-shaft as container of the fire is a symbol, all by itself, of bending Nature to our Will.
Or, if we Identify with the Flame itself, the lamp or candle is a symbol of bending us to the constraints of material reality.
Is a candle a symbol of the thing that burns, or of the burning?
Let's look at the symbol again.
We generally favor pictures of lit candles. If you go into a lamp store, they usually display most of the lamps or fixtures lit so you can see how beautiful they are.
The whole POINT of the Flame-Container image as a symbol is that it HOLDS LIGHT and SHEDS LIGHT.
The container contains something dangerous and puts it to use in our world, at our behest.
Does it symbolize POWER?
Note we began this exploration with the idea of the Power of the Powerless.
Does the candle symbolize the power we have over life?
No. We use it to symbolize death, bereavement, sadness, and situations we have no power over.
Does the candle symbolize the powerlessness of humans in the face of life and nature?
No. We use it to symbolize birthdays, romance, a warm Yule log at Year's Turning.
Does it symbolize Danger?
Well, we've used FIRE to signal from mountain top to mountain top -- both enemy-coming and triumph-assured signals have been done with fire and smoke.
So what DOES a "candle" taken as a whole, wax/oil, wick, flame, symbolize that it spans all these emotions?
Symbols generally bespeak that which can not be spoken, that which is not believable but is known to be true fact -- what is called "a higher truth."
Symbols communicate Higher Truth.
So let's ponder the underlying concept of all Romance, particularly Paranormal and Science Fiction Romance.
That is the elusive and maddeningly implausible concept of the Soul Mate.
To dedicate yourself to a life's search for your Soul Mate, you have to accept there is such a thing as Soul. To fabricate Theme, you can postulate all sorts of different origins and natures for Souls. Your Aliens may have Souls that differ in substance, structure and function both in actuality and in their mythology from that of humans.
But to do "Soul Mate" stories at all, to deal in the concepts related to Fate and even Luck, you have to postulate that the Soul is Real.
If the Soul is real, then it has to have some sort of relationship to the Body.
So to worldbuild for a Paranormal or Science Fiction romance story, we have to postulate a structure for the Human Being. (see why I said you have to read The Flicker Men?)
If our Humans (and maybe Aliens, too) are structured with a 1)Soul,
2))a Connector, and
then the CANDLE is the perfect symbol for the entire Human Being -- or Sentient Being.
1)The Flame symbolizes the Soul,
2)the Wick symbolizes the connector
3)the wax/oil symbolizes the Body
And that jives perfectly with the Kabbalistic concept of what a human being is.
In the symbolic candle, we (the human) supply the spark, the flame is ignited, the wax/oil is CONVERTED (not destroyed, changed) and appears CONSUMED through TIME.
In the real human being, God supplies the spark, the Soul is ignited by the male-female Spiritual Interaction that parallels the creation of a zygote (the candle) by physical interaction, and through time, the Soul consumes the body just as the flame consumes the candle.
We grow old, wear down, and die just like a candle.
Sometimes we "gutter" and go out before our time.
The Soul is connected to the body through that "thread" -- the silver cord that has been reported during out-of-body experiences.
Our Souls take incarnation for the purpose of consuming a body through Time, converting the physical material into something spiritual.
As I noted, the Candle is a symbol of great power. It makes no sense that this symbol has survived to this day, and is embraced and used by those who aspire to Good, and those who admire Evil, is used at occasions of Joy and Sadness as well as Commemoration and Spiritual Practices.
There is only one thing in this world I can think of that possesses all that and needs a symbol that represents such diversity of meaning. That one thing is the Human Being.
We are Good and Evil, Joy and Sadness, a Light to the World and the Bringer of Darkness.
If you find a Soul Mate among Aliens in the Galaxy, those Aliens will likewise exhibit that kind of flexibility of spirit and purpose.
If Symbols convey a higher-truth, it is possible we can open First Contact without war just by establishing that we use the symbol of the Candle (or oil) Lamp.
The Lamp may be just as important as the Flame.
The way we put Candles into a Lamp designed for oil is an interesting variation. Themes can be spun from that addition.
So, is it the Light that is the point of the candle, or is it the Lamp that contains the Candle.
If you are a Candle, then what contains you?