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Why God Can Only Be Known by Symbols? – Sri Aurobindo Answers

God can only be known by symbols because in its ultimate reality it defies logic and exceeds perception – Sri Aurobindo 

The spirit who lies concealed behind the material world, has given us, through the inspiration of great seers, the Scriptures as helpers and guides to unapparent truth, lamps of great power that send their rays into the darkness of the unknown beyond which He dwells, tamasah parastat.

They are guides to knowledge, brief indications to enlighten us on our path, not substitutes for thought and experience.

They are shabdam Brahma, the Word, the oral expression of God, not the thing to be known itself nor the knowledge of Him.

Shabdam has three elements, the word, the meaning and the spirit. The word is a symbol, vak or nama; we have to find the artha, the meaning or form of thought which the symbol indicates.

But the meaning itself is only the indication of something deeper which the thought seeks to convey to the intellectual conception. For not only words, but ideas also are eventually no more than symbols of a knowledge which is beyond ideas and words. Therefore it comes that no idea by itself is wholly true.

There is indeed a rupa, some concrete or abstract form of knowledge, answering to every name, and it is that which the meaning must present to the intellect.

We say a form of knowledge, because according to our philosophy, all things are forms of an essentially unknowable existence which reveals them as forms of knowledge to the essential awareness in its Self, its Atman or Spirit, the Chit in the Sat. But beyond nama and rupa is swarupa, the essential figure of Truth, which we cannot know with the intellect but only with a higher faculty.

And every swarupa is itself only a symbol of the one essential existence which can only be known by its symbols because in its ultimate reality it defies logic and exceeds perception - God.