This week we bring you a selection from our Key Concepts section, on Analogy and Correspondence.
In theosophical study, the use of Analogy and Correspondence is of pivotal importance. The theosophist uses this key to help understand more metaphysical or abstract ideas through the comparison to things more immediately accessible. For instance, one might have difficulty imagining and understanding the cycle of reincarnation—of birth, death and rebirth—but one does have first-hand experience with the cycle of sleeping and waking, with the cycle of the seasons, and with other cycles like that of evaporation and precipitation, and so on. The theosophist can use knowledge of one process to help understand others.
This is used as a trustworthy method of study because analogy and correspondence aren’t solely viewed as a method, but as a fundamental fact of Nature—the big is mirrored in the small, the macrocosm reflects itself in the microcosm, the upper evolves a faithful copy of itself in the lower—or to use three familiar sayings from the past: “As Above, So Below,” “As it is in Heaven, so is it on Earth,” “Man is created in the image of God”. The theosophical notion here is that throughout Nature, from the highest to the lowest, there are repetitions of basic patterns, principles and structures. To put it scientifically, we might say that the same laws of Nature have shaped everything, everywhere, and so everything that has been shaped must follow the same basic outline—varying in details but sharing certain key features. The forces and laws that operate on Earth also operate on the galaxy. We can learn much about the galaxy by understanding the Earth and then using analogy and correspondence to advance our understanding. Similarly, we can learn much about the Earth by learning about the human being, and vice versa. And we can learn much about the cell, the atom and so on using the same method.
“Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Analogy and Correspondence can be understood and used in different ways as well, since the two terms carry slightly different meanings. For instance, the wing of a bird can be said to be analogous to the arm of a human, but the two don’t correspond. That is an analogy: a similarity but with differences in proportion, function, etc.. Correspondence, however, means that which is the same in proportion, for instance: the middle “c” note on the piano corresponds to the “c” note in every other octave. Other examples may help make the idea clearer:
Analogy: the first stages of waking up in the morning is a little like the first years as an infant. We emerge, takes a little while to orient ourselves, for dreams to fade and waking reality to replace it, to settle into our day/life.
Analogy: Eating healthy food brings health to the body, just as thinking healthy thoughts brings health to the mind.
Correspondence: I am to my father as my nephew is to my brother.
Correspondence: Winter corresponds to Night, as Summer to Day, spring to morning and autumn to evening.
To give an illustration of correspondence, we can look to this comparison of Cosmic Principles and Human Principles, from H.P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine:
Here we see direct correspondences between the principles that make up the Macrocosm and the principles that make up the Microcosm. Theosophical literature goes into this kind of detail over and over again, always with the aim of better understanding the world around and within us.
For more on the Theosophical view of Analogy and Correspondence, see here: