In dealing with symbolism one enters an area where reflection, synthesis, and contemplation are more important than investigation, analysis, and science. One cannot comprehend a symbol unless one is able to awaken, in one’s own being, the spiritual resonances which respond to the symbol not only as sign but as “sacrament” and “presence.”… The true symbol does not merely point to some hidden object. It contains in itself a structure which in some way makes us aware of the inner meaning of life and of reality itself. A true symbol takes us to the center of the circle, not to another point on the circumference. A true symbol points to the very heart of all being, not to an incident in the flow of becoming.
— Thomas Merton, in his essay “Symbolism: Communication or Communion?” in the posthumously published collection Love and Living, edited by Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, 2002 edition, p. 54. Cited by Dr. Charles T. Davis of Appalachian State University in “How Others Read the Bible” (not currently available online).
"In dealing with symbolism"