The symbolic dimension is an aspect of Reality. Daniel, the prophet could see this dimension. He contextualized his culture from this sight. He could also see how the heavenly realms interfaced with the earthly. People need ontological adventure! The symbolic realm is one area of Reality that people desire to explore and know. We are made in His Image. He is symbolic, and all that He created has a symbolic aspect.
Daniel contextualized culture from a vision of the spiritual dimension of Reality. He did not just prophecy, he had a prophet’s vision of Reality itself.
The symbolic plane or dimension is part of how God made Reality.
Daniel was able to lead the sorcerers, seers, diviners of his time, because He had a clear vision of God’s Reality. He was not afraid of the symbolic dimension of dream and vision, because He knew that God created and was Lord over every dimension of Reality. He is the Lord of Reality because He created it.
We symbolize because we are humans in the image of a symbolic God. We could even say, that we are His symbols, as King David called himself—a portent. This referencing his levitical role as porter, or the line of levites who guarded the sacred things of God, from which Samuel picked the early prophets! The very office of priesthood has a largely symbolic function. In our time, we tend to think of the symbolic as having less levity or weight than other dimensions. But this was never true in the old testament. God would almost always symbolize what He was doing, even before He did it. One example, is from the book of Joshua, when the priest had to cross over the Jordan River first, gather stones, etc. The people were asked to stand a symbolic distance behind them.
Daniel had a prophet’s vision so he could see the symbolic. But he also at times was asked to BE a symbol. Such was the case with the “lion’s den” happening. Each aspect of this story is symbolic. His praying in intentional defiance of the King’d decree. The King’s lament when realizing that Daniel had to be thrown into the lion’s den; the king’s fasting all night, and eager return in the morning. Then the royal decree that went out because of Daniel’s actions. This decree went out to all nations and language groups, and declared Yahweh to be the most High God over all the earth. This was probably the highest impact action of Daniel’s governing career.
Daniel’s perspective on Reality informed his understanding of culture, rulership, subcultures etc. He understood the context of the present moment of history within the heavenly context. He had the prophet’s vision of the whole. And made his decisions from within this perspective. This also allowed him to move freely among sorcerers, witches, and magicians. For who knew the God over all realms or dimensions of Reality.
Daniel had both a micro, and a macro ministry. He ministered to his own subculture (the spiritual seekers of his time-ie the wise men; the sorcerers diviners etc); and he ministered into the larger culture of his time. This is a prophet’s role: to bring a Kingdom perspective both into one’s own subculture, and to effect the larger more dominant cultures of our times. A prophet is bringing a Kingdom perspective into both the micro and the macro!
If we see culture itself, as proof that humans are collectively symbolic—ie we need shared rituals, we need ways of publically symbolizing ourself—statues in parks, museums, galleries, etc. We as humans, symbolize ourselves. And we make shared symbols, which come from our collective identity. Culture is the symbolic dimension of our collective core identity. Just as the symbols we make as individual flow out from our personal core identity, so it is with the overall cultural identity we participate within.
There is a battle in this dimension for true symbolization—ie when the symbolic aspect of our lives, is truly connected and flowing out from our true identity!
The Church has had some disconnections from its symbol aspect. Her identity is still there, but her creative symbolizer has been under attack from the start. In Jesus, we see the perfectly integrated symbolic. We see an imagination which was connected to His Core Identity. So you see the proper use of the creative. His imagination was one with His Core identity. The church has had a disintegrated imaginative life—so that her symbolizer is often seemingly disconnected from her true core identity. And yet, there always exceptions in each generation, where one can see a true example of an integrated imagination. A person who has allowed Christ to come into his whole being, and help integrate his expressive or symbolic aspects with his core name or identity. You see this in great teachers such as George Macdonald, and by extension C.S. Lewis, and many others. The church is drawn to these men, because it sees more of its true self! The church is happy when it sees a fuller image of what it was meant to be. This is why revivals excite her so—suddenly, she comes out of amnesia, and recalls her true name—who God called her from the start. She recalls those great Collosian’s passages, and other windows into her amazing identity as a spiritual organism in Him!
This problem of the imagination is ubiquitous in the Church. We need a true image of ourselves, as an aid of stepping into our true identity! Image often preceeds full expression or incarnation. God often shows us a picture of what it is meant to look like, before, He brings in the full Reality of the thing. Follow me on this. Symbol proceeds Reality. You see this in the creation (the creation) story. God makes symbols of what He is going to incarnate. In many ways, the entire role of the prophet is to hold up this symbol so it can be seen and understood, and the Reality can be entered into! In this way one thing is clear—Daniel was a prophet. He had a prophet’s vision, and a prophet’s role in His society.
One must see a true image of oneself, before one can move into a fuller clothing of oneself. Image proceeds fuller realization of self.
The Bible itself could be viewed as a symbol made by God through men. Our God is a symbolic God. He symbolizes Himself in all that He has created. This is one dimension of the Reality which He has created out of Himself.
Daniel’s clothes were a prophet’s garb. They expressed his unique identity and moment, but also participated in a larger symbol God was making in his time. Each of us has heavenly clothes. Spiritual outfits which express out true identity. God symbolized Himself by clothing Himself in His universe! Everything is like a garment worn by God. This is why we can know Him from His creation—but only if we can “read” symbols. This is part of knowing God, to be able to see a particular tree or city or nation and trace it back to God. To see everything as a way in which God was symbolizing Himself. We are called to know and love God—one way of knowing Him is to read all of His creation as a symbol about Himself.
A city clothes itself in symbols. A city wears clothes. These clothes are its culture! We can read the identity of a city by looking at its culture—its collective symbols of itself. It is said that Christ is clothed in Righteousness. This is one of His Garments which symbolize who He is. Clothing symbolizes expression of identity. How a city clothes itself matters for this reason. It is a symbolic statement of who it is.
The entire universe is a symbol of who God is. It is an expression, a symbol which can be traced back into His Being. There is, in this way, no place where He cannot be known!