the symbolic process of spiritual rebirth symbols of growth and transformation spiritual insights through symbolic death

Symbolic Process of Spiritual Rebirth Symbols of Growth and Transformation

The symbolic process of spiritual rebirth is a powerful theme in our culture. The symbolism behind resurrection controls the cultural narrative. These concepts shape our thinking and values. Let’s start with a question: What messages do you get from the primary image of the article?

The world runs on symbolism. The sounds we make are symbols. We use these sounds to form words out of these sounds. Language is the basis for our thoughts. The icons and images that we conjure with the mind come from the symbolism we create with the values attached to ideas.

Take the cover image. The symbolism behind resurrection icons differs depending on your worldview. Some people see a maiden sitting in the grass, while others see a demon surrounded by blue flames. The same image conjures different typologies.

Symbols are influential typologies (1). Typologies are potent symbols that shape our culture. Even if you do not ascribe to a religion, it still influences your thinking and values because they are in the fabric of society. Your life story is a series of changes.

Unraveling Spiritual Symbolism

“You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame. How could you become new if you haven’t first become ashes?” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Many people think this quote from Nietzsche (2) refers to the phoenix typology. The phoenix is a creature of Greek mythology relating to resurrection and rebirth. The phoenix does not die. Instead, it burns from within. Then, from its ashes, it is reborn. It is one of the iconic symbols of growth and transformation.

The Spiritual Symbolism of the Phoenix

Many religions use some version of the Phoenix typology. This word picture communicates the process of transformation well because it is a complete cycle from birth to death.

“To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves; and what is important in beginning with ourselves is the intention. It is important to understand that this is our responsibility, yours and mine…” — Jiddu Krishnamurti

The phoenix is often a messenger of truth. Those who stand for justice often face torture and death, but then a miracle occurs: they transform, resurrect, and are reborn. So, the spiritual symbolism of the phoenix is a universal pattern of resurrection and rebirth. Sound familiar?

The rebirth concept is prevalent in various cultures, including Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman. So, the symbols of growth and transformation are universal typologies that appear in different symbols.

In Greek mythology, the Phoenix represents immortality. It lives for hundreds of years before building a nest and igniting itself in flames. Then, it is reborn from its ashes. Egyptian mythology is similar, with a focus on renewal. In Chinese culture, the Phoenix is Fenghuang, depicted as a dragon symbol of yin and yang. It represents harmony, peace, and balance.

Symbolism Behind Resurrection Icons

The butterfly’s life cycle is another example of the rebirth typology. A caterpillar goes through several stages on its way to the chrysalis or cocoon. Then, it changes within the seclusion of the cocoon. You don’t see the hard work done. The butterfly that emerges from the pupa, cocoon, or chrysalis is a unique creature from any of its previous stages. The butterfly is a perfect example of the symbols of growth and transformation.

transforming butterflies caterpillar to butterfly unraveling spiritual symbolism behind resurrection

What is important is that we understand the message of this typology. This way, we can see how our cultures use this typology and also how we can use this same typology in our own lives. We use rites of passage to celebrate the symbolism behind resurrection and rebirth.

Symbolic Process of Spiritual Rebirth Via Rites of Passage

The symbols of resurrection and rebirth are the goal of a chain of events in a complex ritual. They are the prize of the mystical process of spiritual transformation.

There are many physical symbols associated with this rite of passage. Take, for example, the ancient form of torture, the crucifixion. This painful way of death has become a symbol of the ordeal of personal transformation. The cross is a constant reminder of the spiritual consequences when one does not follow the rules of the dominant religion.

Make this torture an act of sacrifice, and you have a powerful metaphor. Symbols like this are the benchmark of spiritual transitions. Nothing is more important in some cultures than what happens after death. The symbolic process of spiritual rebirth is a rite of passage that closes one door and opens another.

If things are going the way you want in this life, then the next life holds the hope for a better outcome. In some cultures, it means coming back to this life again to make better decisions and fix what we did the first time. This is another reason the myths of resurrection, reincarnation, and rebirth can garner such a wide and powerful mass appeal.

Four Spiritual Symbols of Growth and Transformation

Death is the major rite of passage, so its symbolism is a powerful focal point for many stories, myths, and legends. The symbols of resurrection and rebirth are the cornerstone of many religions. The rituals become a sacred space that follows a common formula:

1. Separation Rites
2. Cleansing Rituals
3. Spiritual Insights through Symbolic Death
4. Rebirth, Resurrection, and Reincarnation

The process of transformation is cyclical, just like the seasons of the year. You’ll find the four steps of this formula for personal and spiritual transformation in the traditions of many cultures. Some ancient cultures encapsulate these processes in a symbolic physical ritual. A labyrinth is a tool that symbolizes the inward journey. Some are so large that they are a significant part of the rite of passage.

1. Separation Rites

Separation is often the first step in the transformation process. It focuses the attention of the candidate on the process at hand, and separation is often necessary for the process to take place at all. A good example is Jesus of the New Testament. He began his journey of transformation by separating and going into the wilderness, not by studying in the temple.

2. Cleansing Rituals

The next step is cleansing the body and mind and preparing for change. Symbolic cleansing takes many forms. For example, you can burn slips of paper with memories of events you want to move past.

3. Spiritual Insights Through Symbolic Death

Whether you believe the death of the physical body is the end of a transition doesn’t change the impact of our existential fear. Death is a major transition, no matter what you believe. Unraveling spiritual symbolism attached to it is what is important.

Understanding The Symbolism Behind Resurrection Icons

We want to focus our attention on symbolic death. In some ancient cultures, the participants in the rituals did not realize that “death” was only a symbolic act. The leaders convinced them that they would experience physical death during the process. Some wish they had because the rituals surrounding this rite of passage were often both dangerous and excruciating.

Badges to Commemorate Completing the Test

Some emphasize the physical rebirth with scarification and tattoos. Others went a step further with dismemberment, burning of flesh, or body piercings. These rituals made the symbolic death a public sign of their initiation. To live through these painful rites proves their commitment.

Surviving the Rite of Passage

For some, the ritual is one of survival. It requires swimming in high waves or shark-infested waters. Others must kill wild animals barehanded. Some don’t survive these rites of passage.

Many cultures use the symbols of rebirth and transformation in public displays. It’s a way to reinforce the authority and hierarchy of folklore. These scars prove the candidate is worthy of the rite of passage. If you killed a wolf with your bare hands or short knife, you were worthy.

Symbolic death is a way of killing previous beliefs. Because without their “symbolic spiritual death,” we cannot transform and move to the next level. So, the rites of initiation are how people tell others they are worthy.

Finding Spiritual Insights Through Symbolic Death Rites

We use a structured form of religious comparative studies to examine our beliefs. It helps people explore the values of their worldview in a non-threatening way, allowing them to see the roadblocks of religious dogma.

With the knowledge of what is holding them back, all they need is courage to take the first step in the process of self-development. Can you separate yourself from the things that are holding you back? If you can move beyond these limitations, it is a symbolic death of their religious beliefs. These steps are a rite of passage. We use a necklace as a symbol of this transformation—no need for tattoos or scarification.

Transformation is Awakening

Transformation is the awakening step of the symbolic rebirth. Many associate this with resurrection or reincarnation because of their previous beliefs. But is that what rebirth is all about in this lifetime? We’ll discuss this in a moment.

The typologies and rites of passage we associate with rebirth are important landmarks for our psyche. If these benchmarks are not available, people will often create their own. Instead, we need to recognize the milestones in our lives. These milestones help us gain a new perspective. They also connect us with those who go through the same process. They unify people with the same life stories and events and commemorate and honor our efforts.

Many people experience profound life-changing losses. Nothing destroys like fire. So, if we can face the flames of truth as they burn away our beliefs about spiritual reality, this is a frightful experience. Remember the spiritual symbolism of the phoenix?

We must ignite the flame that allows us to burn away all faith. In doing so, we can be reborn from the ashes of mythology. One of the most significant spiritual insights through symbolic death is escaping the myths of the culture. Real transformation takes us beyond the confines of religion.

We understand that mythology is a typology that points the way. It is not a reality but a word picture. So, we can move beyond mythology, and out of these ashes, we are reborn to experience a new reality. We see we had to burn away “belief” to resurrect and become free spiritual beings.

4. Rebirth, Resurrection, and Reincarnation

symbolism behind resurrection icons spiritual symbolism of the phoenix

Reincarnation and resurrection are two sides of the same coin. You come back from the dead. They are the major symbols of rebirth and transformation. Western thought prefers resurrection. Eastern thought prefers reincarnation.


A variation of afterlife beliefs includes the concept of reincarnation. It is the belief that the process of transformation is not complete, and we must return. Perhaps we did not evolve or reach some goal, like learning a specific lesson. In some cultures, you return to experience life as an animal, insect, or plant.


The immortality of the spirit or soul is a common afterlife belief. The afterlife benefits depend upon the religion. For some, it is living in a mansion in heaven. For others, the afterlife is one long orgy with virgins. To reincarnate means to return to this plain of existence in some form. Reincarnation dovetails with the Dying-God myths. Here, the avatar comes in physical form. It is the cornerstone concept of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. (3)

The symbols of growth and transformation are important benchmarks in spirituality. The goal of these typologies is to identify the steps of our evolution and change. Every religion and philosophy has its way of using and expressing this rite. In this way, they both use the concept of karma to shift our attention to the spiritual side of life.

Reviving the Observer

Our modern world directs our focus to external things, like doing tasks. But this is not a healthy, balanced mindset. It denies our spiritual side. The transformation process allows us to focus inward. Many inner work methods help us direct our focus inward.

Transformation is a requirement for the “observer” to take its rightful place in our lives. We are born in default mode with the Ego in control. It’s a necessary tool that helps us acclimate to this life. The symbolism of reincarnation and resurrection are metaphors for this transformation.

Hence, we cannot remove the Ego. It is a tool connecting our body to consciousness. Tools like the Enneagram personality profile promote our understanding of this machine. This cultivates self-awareness and presence, allowing the “observer” to be present.

Who do you think you are talking to in your self-talk? Likewise, who do you think is dreaming when you sleep? It’s the observer. We need to engage in the process that “awakens” the “observer.” We find everyone has their way of awakening by using a variety of spiritual tools or technologies.

Fire is also not just transformational. It is what brought people together to build a community. At first, we used fire out of necessity for warmth and to cook. But it is also a community builder. People consider fire to be the first tool that builds communities.

In Conclusion

The symbolic process of spiritual rebirth plays a significant role in forming our values. Spiritual rites of passage and the symbolism of change are patterns we find in cultures around the globe. These are metaphors for self-development. These metaphors manifest as typologies of rebirth, reincarnation, and resurrection. If you look for these metaphors, you’ll see these icons in many places because their symbolism has deep roots in our modern world.

Unraveling spiritual symbolism behind resurrection icons teaches us valuable lessons about the power of the dominant cultural narrative and how it affects our lives. These symbols are important in our culture today because of Western theology. They are a testament to the power of religious mysticism. The Abrahamic myths dominate the values of the cultural narrative. Even though they are backward, archaic, and harmful, it is important to recognize these typologies in our thinking.


(1) Typology: Wikipedia 
(2) Friedrich Nietzsche: Wikipedia 
(3) Abrahamic Religions: Wikipedia