Engaging the Mythical: The Dialectic of the Hierophany
as the Grammar of the Human Mind

Devasia M. Antony
Hindu College, University of Delhi

In this paper my aim is to engage the mythical by exploring phenomenologically the dialectic of the hierophany the mythical entails and my contention is that it incarnates the very grammar of the human mind. After a brief prefatory remark on the nature of the Greek mythos as distinguished from the Greek logos as well as the relation of the mythical to the religious narrative of the homo religiosus, I venture to engage the mythical and to lay bare its conceptual structure by analyzing the hermeneutical method employed by the celebrated scholar of religion Mircea Eliade. The method employed by Eliade can be characterized as the site of history and phenomenology within the hermeneutic tradition. For Eliade, the primordial word that helps the inquirer to come to grips with the meaning and significance of religious symbols is ‘hierophany’, which in a fundamental sense is the revelatory paradoxical coming together of the sacred and the profane, the being and the non-being, the absolute and the relative, and the eternal and the becoming. In other words, the realm of the hierophanic rests on the dialectic of the sacred and the profane which is very fundamental to any religious narrative. To attest this, Eliade emphasizes the mythological departure from chaos to cosmos as evidenced by the cosmogonic myths. Notwithstanding the critique given by Jonathan Z. Smith and Donald Wiebe which I discuss briefly, I end the paper by showing that the dialectic of the hierophany which Eliade discovers by employing the given phenomenological method can justifiably be qualified as the grammar of the human mind.

The Cypher Status of Myths and Rituals

James Kurian 
Madras Christian College, Chennai

One of the important functions of philosophy is to disclose the transcendent ground of our existence and thus provide a path toward authentic selfhood. Religious, cultural, and artistic expressions disclose this transcendent ground. A disclosure happens when these expressions are not considered merely as forms of human thought but are recognized to be cyphers which lead back to the original encounter in which they have their source. In this sense myths and rituals are the expressions of religious, cultural and artistic encounter with the transcendent ground of our existence.

This essay reflects on Karl Jaspers’ views on philosophy as the reading of cypher-script of Being as discussed in the final section of his monumental work, Von der Wahrheit,published as Truth and Symbol. Jaspers’ critique of Bultmann’s idea of demythologization and his call to turn to Asia to include Asian cyphers is also discussed in this essay.

Hermeneutics of Rituals: A Phenomenological Reading

Koshy Tharakan
Goa University, Goa

 

Rituals are often associated with religious practices. Thus, Swami Vivekananda explains rituals as the most concrete aspect of any religion by incorporating forms and ceremonies as well as physical attitudes and other things that appeal to the senses. For sociologists, rituals are a set of practices that follow a fixed order. Accordingly, rituals can be understood from diverse perspectives. While some understand “ritual” as “the basic social act” or as the everyday mode of “social labour”, some others take it as “pure activity” devoid of any “meaning or goal”.

For many others, rituals are embodiment of meanings. Geertz understands ritual as where the “lived world” and the “imagined world” coalesce into one and the same world. “Hermeneutics of Rituals: A Phenomenological Reading” attempts to understand the ritual practices as “ways of world making”. In doing so, the paper draws from Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of symbols as well as Alfred Schutz’s phenomenology of the social world. 

                          Myth, Science and Society - A Phenomenological Study

Kumari Sunitha.V
Madras Christian College, Chennai


Myths are part of human living, part of human creative activity, search for values, and search for connectivity, mixing of connectivity, mixing of facts, imagination and poetry, indeed there cannot be a society without myths.   They are also an originating facto of the religious institutions or clan or a society. On the one hand it is an anonymous one and on the other it is collective.  We must distinguish however, between mythology and story, put together with proven elements.  The two are not incompatible.  It is possible to understand why myths came to be. It is possible to enjoy the myth.  But myths have their place and understanding has its place. Mythology itself has begun to take on many of the features of science.  As soon as one approaches mythos into the instrument of logos, myth can only disappear, just as darkness is no longer darkness after light penetrates. (Raimond Panikker , 1979, p 39) i.e., Illuminating with the light of reason indeed destroys obscurity of myth. Therefore mythology is the death of myth. Modern science not eschewed metaphysical speculation in to the essence of world.  Indeed, one may be glad that science can still be seen as pursuing the ancient and noble goal of knowledge and understanding of the world for its own sake. Unlike the religious and metaphysical myth, there is always an attempt to subject scientific theory to empirical test.

We are all aware of the large number of problems which we have in the country itself, between countries and between people proposing different faiths. We get agitated about things, which may or may not have happened hundred years ago, questions like babri masjid, rama janma  bhoomi, and other equally sensitive issues of this type. I think if we develop Truer, more reasonable, perhaps longer, perspective on these problems, these will appear to be non-existent or will acquire a character which is not destructive. It has been observed that the belief in supernatural agency is particularly strong in the case of the main economic pursuits and the context of health and diseases In India.

I will be adopting phenomenological method for understanding myth, science and society .  Phenomenology is an efficient approach for profound research on personal meanings, live experiences and a deep understanding of a phenomenon including communications, expectations, attitudes and beliefs. It deals with the essences of the objects, or phenomena as they present themselves in human consciousness. In a phenomenology study, the researcher is not going to test a hypothesis but to extract the concepts of a phenomenon through clarification of related and involved individuals by referring them to their experience. This data analysis method appeared to be an appropriate methodology for the present study because it focused on finding the essence and meaning of the experiences of myth and science.  It is an attempt to the practical application  of a method, which is explained in stages, is then illustrated with the precise case studies from the Indian religious traditions. 

Myths and Rituals in Sufism

Muhammad Shah Noorur Rahman
North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong

Sufism emerged as a protestant and a liberalizing force in Islamic religious traditions. The Sufis began to appear in Islam within a century of Prophet’s death. They were most loveable men and women of God. The Prophet’s teaching inspired them for God-ward direction and service to humanity. Sufism is Islamic mysticism. It was born in the bosom of Islam outside India. The Quran and the Hadith supplied its basic frame work.

Sufism was spread all over the world and the Sufis were devoted to God and engaged to the service of human irrespective caste creed and religion. It came to India in course of time and was influenced by Indian religious and social elements and vice- versa and also became Indian in spirit. An attempt has been made in this paper to focus the rituals of Sufism in their social and religious practices in India. It will also throw light on the miracles of the Sufis. Finally the paper will try to discuss the syncretistic practices of Sufism.    

Faith and Knowledge in Islam and Sufism:
In the light of Current Practices and Changes

Sarim Abbas
Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

Sufism or Tasawwuf, is often considered as a mystical Dimension of Islam. Some people contend that that it is a perennial philosophy of existence that pre-dates religion, the expression of which flowered within Islam. Sufism has been a point of Debate for many Islamic Scholars. One school of thought believes that Sufism is allowed or Halaal, the other school believes it to be Prohibited or Haraam. Often the word like “Shirk” (Worshiping someone other than Allah or regarding someone equal to a same as Allah) has been used for Sufism. In total the real Sufism is somewhat different from the Sufism practices known to the World.

My talk will basically focus on the main concept of Sufism, the reason why this practice started and the shape it has developed during these many years of Islam. The concept which used to revolve around knowing the world and God has changed in a very conservative and a stiff mode, which now defy changes and the scientific arguments. In total this talk will cover the shift of from innovativeness to conservativeness, from praying to God to praying to Dead, from peaceful beliefs to violent practices. The references for this talk will be the Holy Quran, relevant Hadith and the comments of the Islamic Scholars along with the personal Observation made being a follower of both Islam and Sufism.

The Mathematical and the Mythical:
A Phenomenological Exploration

Saumya Malviya 
Delhi School of Economics, New Delhi

In this paper I want to highlight and delineate the presence of the mythical in the mathematical discourse through the technique of phenomenological description pioneered, amongst others, by the French Phenomenologist Maurice Merleau Ponty. Using Merleau Ponty’s cue that, “Rationality is precisely proportioned to the experiences in which it is disclosed”, I want to demonstrate how the mythical keeps surfacing in the mathematical discourse, suggesting that these two registers often overlap and protrude into each other as against their commonly perceived exclusiveness (Merleau Ponty 2007: 67). The myths I have chosen are the Amerindian myths analysed by Claude Levi Strauss dealing with the origin of societies and hence with the transition from the confused (nature) to the discrete (culture). I have tried to describe in this paper how the themes related to these origin myths emerged in the classroom discourse when the all the important mathematical distinction between density and continuity was introduced to the students by the teacher during a lecture on partial derivatives as part of the course on advanced calculus. One would note that this distinction between density and continuity which is so important for mathematics has no meaning phenomenologically. This point has been well argued by Franz Brentano (considered as a major influence on Husserl) in his essay ‘On what is Continuous’ (Brentano 1988: 1-45). I would show through my description that how this tension between the mathematical mode of thinking and the phenomenological one, brought to the fore the aforementioned mythical themes in the on-going classroom discussion.

My argument is based on the fieldwork I conducted in two colleges of University of Delhi for almost a period of three months from June to September, 2015. To substantiate the overriding concern of this paper I’ll also add to the ethnographic narrative inputs drawn from the interviews of mathematicians I took at ISI Delhi, HRI Allahabad and IIT Delhi, conducted at various points in the period between July to December 2015 as well as the few classes I attended at HRI Allahabad as part of the Summer Programme in Mathematics held between, 8th to 26th June 2015. I hope this description, offered here as a mode of argument, would also help me in weakening the problem; what does one do when one does mathematics? To be sure there are and there have been numerous responses to this question all seeking to underline the essence of mathematical practice in one way or the other. To be precise these answers refer not to the nature of mathematical practice as such but to the attributes of mathematical objects like, lines, numbers, sets, etc. Practice, if at all it is dealt with, is seen as a murky space through which one has to steer her way to witness the incontestable truths of the subject. Even if practice is given a more benign treatment, the matter is left in the lurch by declaring to the nth degree that mathematical truths, like all others, are performative. Well the answer not only strikes one as repetitive but also fails to provide any understanding of what it seeks to describe!

Here I seek, less to answer the question for good but to beseech various responses from the field in order to tease out the many dimensions of the problem itself. In doing so, ethnography remains for me a particular mode of reflecting on the manner in which a problem rather than being a self-contained whole becomes problematising in all its respects. Lastly, an attempt will also be made in this paper to demonstrate the affinities between Levi Strauss’s structural analysis of myths and phenomenology, two intellectual approaches which are commonly perceived as being radically different from each other.

Rudiments of Spiritual Powers & Mystic Experiences in Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy for the Unity of Mankind: A Phenomenological Study

Shimi C. M.
Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit,Kalady, Kerala

Rajiba Lochan Behera
University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad

“... for we perceive that this miraculous development is not the result of our own efforts: an eternal Perfection is moulding us into its own image.” - Sri Aurobindo (The Synthesis of Yoga, 1996, p.63)

Sri Aurobindo was not only a yogi, but also and largely a social philosopher interested both in spiritual matters and in secular issues. He was particularly a yogi affianced in fighting for the supremacy of right over might. His established ideas found their touchstone in the idea of human unity, but he truly believed all his life that such a spiritual unity would not be possible unless it is preceded by a general change in humankind’s consciousness. Even so, he made it clear in the last chapter of his book ‘The Life Divine’ that the spiritual transformation of humanity had nothing to do with religion. There is the possibility in the swing back from a mechanistic idea of life and society, the human mind may seek protection in a return to the religious idea and a society governed or sanctioned by religion. But organized religion, though it can provide a means of inner uplift for the individual and preserve in it or behind it a way for his opening to spiritual experience, has not changed human life and society. It could not do so because, in governing society, it had to compromise with the lower parts of life and could not insist on the inner change of the whole being.

Aurobindo summed up the nature of Man in the ideal of a united human society. This unity, according to Sri Aurobindo, could not take place unless Man’s vital and mental nature was uplifted by a Spiritual Supernature. A total spiritual direction given to the whole life and the whole nature can alone lift humanity beyond itself. Aurobindo’s Spiritual Supernature has mystic elements through this element the entire humanity can get transformation from lower level to higher level. These points are explore in this particular paper. 

Myths and Rituals in Jainism 

Shugan C. Jain
International School for Jain Studies, New Delhi

Jainism is the religion of seekers. It propagates duality of existence, as sentient and insentient beings. There are infinite sentient beings. The core belief is that every sentient being has an independent soul defiled by karmic impurities. These kārmika impurities called karmas are the sources of pain and pleasure, high and low status and existence in different destinies. When the defilement (kārmika impurities) is removed completely, the individual soul experiences the state of perfect knowledge and bliss forever and transcends the cycle of birth-death-birth. At this stage, the soul becomes supreme soul (paramātaman) and the owner is called Jina/Arhat/Omniscient. This is the highest objective of life to be attained and the process of moving up from bahirātman (external oriented or empirical soul) through antarātman (inward looking soul) to parmātman is called mysticism /spirituality/adhyātman in Jainism.The equivalent expressions in Jainism for the word ‘mysticism’ are: Śuddhopayoga, Arhat and Siddha state, Paṇḍita-Paṇḍita Maraṇa, Paramātman-hood, Svasamaya, Parādṛṣṭi, Sāmarthya-Yoga, Ahiṁsā, Ātmasamāhita state,Sambodhi, Samatva, etc. All these expressions convey identical meaning of realizing the transcendental self/ paramātman/just pure soul on liberation /death of the owner body.

The journey from Bahirātmanto Antarātman to Paramātman is traversed through the medium of moral and intellectual preparations, which purge everything obstructing the emergence of potential divinity. The preliminary observances include accepting only ahimsaka food, abstinence from seven bad habits, observance of six daily essential religious cum moral duties and a regime of five minor vows (anuvratas) for householders. Before this final accomplishment (emergence of potential divinity), a stage of vision and fall may intervene. The whole mystic way goes through fourteen stages (called gunasthans) which are like different phases in a single process of growth, involving the movement of consciousness from lower to higher levels of reality, the steady remaking of character in accordance with the “independent spiritual world”. 

Myths and rituals

The meaning and significance of myths and rituals transcend the temporal and spatial dimensions. Since these represent the ways of expressing our collective as well as individual identities, therefore these constitute the major corpus of Jain mythological narratives. In this paper, an attempt is made to take the some of the following popular myths /principles and associated rituals of Jainism as described in its philosophical and narrative literature. 

  • Ahimsa as supreme spiritual value: Cow and lion representation, The Speaking parrot parable, implements of monks, Emphasis on purity of food and water (purifying water, shelf life limits, plant food excluding the plants themselves and the root vegetables, day dining, non use of leather and animal products in day to day life), Lord Neminath’s wedding. Forgiveness (Lord Bahubali), Tolerance (Lord Parshwanath)
  • Devotion: Navkar mantra, Temple visit daily, Svadhyaya, visiting and serving monks, Bhaktamar stotra,
  • Self effort: Mainasundari
  • Self restraint for avoiding accrual of bad karmas- example anger management; seven abstinences, avashyaks, anuvratas, philanthropy, pujas, parvas, yatra
  • Essentiality of renunciation: Lord Adinath and dance of Nilanjana in the royal court
  • Annihilation/ purging of karmas i.e. Nirjara: Self suffering (Tapas external and internal; Meditation, svadhyaya, pratikramana, fasting, humility. Lord Bahubali episode at Sravanbelgol, Lord Mahavira’s tapasya and even today performed by monks (Jungle vale Baba).
  • Sallekhana/samadhimarana as the way to enhance future lives.  Lord Mahavira as a lion in earlier birth. Snake couple and Lord Parshwanath, Stories in Jnatadharmakatha 

Myths and Rituals: A Tribal Perspective

Peter Haokip
Oriens Theological College, Shillong

Today, we use abstract concepts/notions or ideas to speak about our life, its values, purposes, etc. In the tribal world, myths are the vehicles for conveying the same messages. For many ‘myth’ may be synonymous with something that is false, something not good, of no values and should be rooted out. But for tribals, ‘myth is the central pillar of their tribal life, around which all the rest is constructed.’ A myth is much more than a spicy story about ancient times. The content of a myth is not hard and fast. It is constantly being retold in the light of new problems that keep appearing. It could be compared to a ‘tree continually growing from a mysterious, unseen root, always forking out in new branches, as events rain on it and problems fertilize its soil.’

The myth ‘depicts the tribe’s home and preserves it.’ It is the whole range of its stories, is like the web spread across rocks and boughs to serve the spider as its dwelling. Myth is also the ‘invisible fabric the tribe spreads across the territory it occupies and the history it has travelled.’ It speaks of mountain peaks, rivers, trees, animals, etc. – the elements in the territory it inhabits; it also speaks about the elements of history the tribe has lived through like ancestors, battles, migrations, epidemics, etc.

Myth is the ‘key to the tribe’s life.’ It is like a catalyst in the tribe’s life, the key the tribe holds to read and interpret all that exists and all that happens.’ Myth can also be compared to the tribe’s encyclopaedia. Everything is in it: the ‘tribe’s tradition, its rule of life, its law, its medicine, its past, its present and the future.’ Whatever is important for the life of the tribe is found in it. It is the ‘expression of their way of life, nature and the world, the consciousness the tribe has of itself as a tribe.’

Rituals and myths are closely related in tribal life. Rituals can be called the ‘sacraments’ of their myths. Rituals are the re-enactments and actualizations in signs and symbols and festivals of their myths. The Kut festival, for example, of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribes is a ritualization the tribe’s closeness with nature and thanksgiving for the fruitful harvest of natures’s gift, paddy. No festival is purely celebration. In fact, festive celebrations follow upon the ritual performed by the priest. Similarly, Naga tribes ritualize the value of their egalitarianism with the festival of Merit in which a rich person throws a festival sharing his wealth with others so that he too becomes like anybody else.

Unfortunately, tribal myths and rituals are fast disappearing from tribal life in the name of progress and Christianity too. A proper understanding of the myths and rituals will show that there is nothing anti-progress or anti-Christian in them. As mentioned earlier, myths can be or have to be re-told and rituals re-enacted in new ways. This is genuine inculturation. Tribals who have completely given up their myths and rituals are in danger of disappearing as a community because myths and rituals are their identity cards.

Christian Perspective of Myths and Rituals 
With Special Reference to Eliade

Joy Thomas
Assam Don Bosco University, Guwahati

Christian perspective of myths and rituals, as commonly believed, is that they awaken the sacred in persons. They are commonly united as parts of its religious practices. For Mircea Eliade “one important function of myths is to provide an explanation for ritual practices”. Hence, Christian scholars hold that myths do not stand by themselves but are somehow tied to rituals.

Mircea Eliade time and again felt that “modern non-religious persons form themselves by a series of denials and refusals, but continues to be haunted by the realities they have refused and denied”, thereby bringing one closer to God. For him the longing of the spirit has to be engaged. Recital of myths and enactment of rituals are two different means to remain in sacred time and space.

Secular identity do not deliver the hoped for panacea of freedom and enlightenment. Paul Hillman says in the foreword of the book Eco-psychology by Theodore Rozak, that human consciousness has to awaken itself to one of the most ancient truths: that we cannot be cured apart from the planet and the cosmos. This has been constantly asserted by Eliade in his writings. Just as the psyche (soul) speaks through pathology and disease and is discovered through symptoms, we are faced with the discovery of the soul-in-the-world through ecological illnesses. For Mircea Eliade: “The sacred is an element in the structure of consciousness, not a stage in the history of consciousness”, which we must be awakened to. It is this sacred experience, and the spiritual sense that will nourish and ground us so that we do not get lost and get besieged by the anxiety, hell and panic of our postmodern secularised world of meaninglessness.

This calls us to a struggle towards a wholeness of response, a spirituality which seeks reason to free it from the burden of the irrational, to release the deep source of inspiration that quicken the mind, restore enthusiasm and personal motivation through the spirit. This spirit brings to life the inner core of the person and relate to the task of living.

In this article this idea of the “Sacred” of Eliade is elaborated for the precise reason that religions, religious traditions and spiritualities are much more than a cultural phenomenon. They are the vehicles of the most profound and precious truths that cannot be forgotten, if so it will be at the cost of our own peril. For the Christian the most precious vehicle of the profound is the incarnation that took place in history since the “advent of Christ which marks the highest manifestation of the sacred in the world—the Christian can save himself only within the concrete, historical life, the life that was chosen and lived by Christ”.

Myth, Rituals and the Foundations of Ethics:
Calling in Mimamsaka's Understanding of Non-violence -
A Phenomenological Approach

Godabarisha Mishra 
University of Madras, Chennai

The Mimamsa is essentially a philosophy of ethical action, but more concerned with trans-sensual nature of the ethical force and the ritual. The significance and workings of rituals as envisaged by Mimamsa have other-worldly implications than having social action which is concerned with this world and Mimamsa leaves this aspect to the ethical codes for elaboration and explanation. The ethical codes base their teachings on the metaphysics of Mimamsa and use their methods for interpretation and application. The Mimamsa is a Philosophy of active life and teaches the indispensability of ethical action since ethical action is the supreme governing force of the universe. The Mimamsa defends four basic premises: 1. The agent of ethical action must be real; 2. Action itself must be real; 3. Action is the controlling and guiding principle of the universe and the universe as the field of action is also real. The central concept of the Mimamsa is dharma (ethical potency) which controls the universe and produces the results for the agent of action.

Besides Mimamsa, other schools of Indian philosophy have given great importance to the moral action including Ahimsa, the non-violence to the living beings. This has been very carefully undertaken by the tradition in which the contrary (instances of violence) can be accommodated through sacred cosmogonic myths by creating a sacred time when a myth is enacted and transforms the thinking of the believers. Such myths are incorporated into rituals explicitly and as background assumption depending on the type of ritual being performed.

This paper attempts to analyse the concept of non-violence as presented by Mimamsakas having such instances which are overtly violent. In analysing this, I would draw the tools of understanding from the tradition of phenomenology that accepts the faith of the believer as the sole religious reality without imposing value judgements on the experience of the believer.

Myths, Symbols and Tribal Life-World:
An Ethnophilosophical Understanding

Prasenjit Biswas
North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong

This paper explores the constitutive otherness of tribal life-world and its specific philosophical contributions within the broad rubric of Indian thought. The distinctive and differential character of tribal thought in its specificity remains ‘unrepresentable’ within the mainframe Indian philosophy. If the coinage “Indian philosophy” includes philosophical mores from various parts of India, then certainly, Northeastern India cannot be left out. This establishes a new ethical imperative of extending the scope of philosophy in India by an engagement with a variety of tribal ways of life and its embedded philosophical contours that apparently never found a place within what passes off as Indian Philosophy. This calls for an entirely novel way of looking into some of the core structural aspects of the Indian philosophical systems such that it can reorient itself towards the necessarily uncapturable aspects of tribal life-world. For the sake of focussing our attention to one of the core problems of Indian Philosophy, let us choose, for the purpose of this paper a certain problematique of self-making that arises in the context of tribes of India’s Northeast. This would bring out the sense of difference between the mainstream and the periphery and would satisfy the demand for a totally different vantage point within the broader rubric of Indian Philosophy.

Significance of Pilgrimage in Buddhism

S.R. Bhatt
Chairman, Indian Council of Philosophical Research

In every culture myths and legends are found in abundance. Sometimes they are explanations of natural phenomena or stories about some important persons, places and events. Sometimes they are expressions of beliefs and practices. In most of the cases they are associated with religious persons or deities. But they are also tied down to rituals having some religious or spiritual significance. Every ritual gets connected with some myth otherwise it may not have reverential regard and forceful practice. Through myth its need and importance are explained. These rituals also establish models of behavior. They may also provide spiritual experience. They help in spiritual enhancement, enrichment and realization. Rites and rituals thus become mythology-in- action. They are socially maintained and practiced with great zeal and they become part of belief system.

In this paper instead of dealing with myths in Buddhism pertaining to the lives of the Buddha, Bodhisattva and Buddhist pantheon which is in plenty I shall dwell on pilgrimage which is a practice having some myth underlying it.  In Buddhism pilgrimage is given great emphasis. Lord Buddha himself initiated this practice to spread and disseminate Dharma. He exhorted his fellow monks to go all around on spiritual pilgrimage. Following the advice of Lord Buddha many Indian monks undertook pilgrimage to most of the countries of Asia. The name of King Ashok is associated with this practice as he sent his son and daughter for this. Many monks came to India from Asian countries for studying Buddhist tenets. Initially it was undertaken for learning the liberating teachings of the Buddha but later on it took religious form. Now it is practiced to earn merits. For this attitude also there is an underlying myth of getting into heaven after death. Of course the ultimate goal is to achieve nirvana.

The World of Symbols from the Perspective of Paul Ricoeur

E. P.  Mathew
Loyola College, Chennai

This paper is an inquiry into the understanding of symbols proposed by Paul Ricoeur. Paul Ricoeur (27 February 1913 to 20 May 2005) was an acknowledged Phenomenologist and a hermeneutical thinker of great reputation. The paper will begin with highlighting the contribution of Paul Ricoeur to the intellectual world specifying the three phases spanning a period of more than 50 years.

The first part of the paper will deal with the meaning of symbols. Ricoeur does not see symbols as mere heuristic devices or signs which one may develop and discard. According to him symbols have the character of ‘double intentionality’ while signs have only single intentionality. By a series of differentiated characteristics the nature of symbols are brought out clearly as distinct from signs.

The second part of the paper will highlight the hermeneutic dimension of symbols. The hermeneutical dimension of symbols is intrinsic in its ‘pluri-valent’ nature and multiplicity of interpretations.  This will lead to the necessity of highlighting Ricoeur’s own notion of hermeneutics of suspicion. Hermeneutics of suspicion is a methodological device following the trails of the “Masters of Suspicion” so that the possibility of unmasking could be highlighted and our tendency to cloud symbols, texts and traditions by way of ideology could be made aware of.

The paper will conclude with highlighting the significance of the world of the symbols and its contemporary relevance for philosophizing.