The idealist coat of arms


The symbol above is a heraldic coat of arms—even though a somewhat unusual one—representing the key tenets and values of metaphysical idealism, as I formulate and defend it. Although I have been promoting idealism for a decade now, my work has lacked a pictorial representation—a symbol—to capture its key message in a non-verbal manner. This coat of arms hopefully does just that.

People close to me know that, although I am outwardly oriented towards technology, innovation and progress—not for nothing was I in computer engineering school at 17—inwardly there lives in me a very, very traditional European, connected to the middle ages, scholasticism and the renaissance; attached to the stories and values of old; living under the guidance of the dead and driven to honor them. This spirit of the past in me revels in medieval villages, music, old castles and federweiƟer. It is him who rejoices now that my work has a heraldic symbol, a representation of what I—and him—stand for in life.

Coats of arms have, traditionally, been family symbols; and it is no different here. However, in this case the family in question is not my biological family, but the worldwide family of metaphysical idealists, who face difficult odds in their quest to defeat the vulgar spirit of this time, the spirit of crass physicalism. Although I did register the rights to this design, I did it just so I can prevent possible abuse and misuse. I do hope to see it embraced by all those who share the values and views represented in it.

Which brings me to the question of symbolism: What does this coat of arms represent? Let us start from the slogan: "Omnis Res Animus Est." A straightforward translation from the Latin would give "everything is mind." Yet, this wouldn't do justice to the deeper nuances and richness of meaning inherent in Latin. For instance, the word 'res' means 'things,' but also 'events,' 'facts' and 'causes.' Similarly, the word 'animus' means 'mind,' but also 'soul,' 'spirit,' 'intellect,' 'feelings' and even 'heart.' So one could also translate the slogan as "all events, facts and causes are soul, spirit and feelings." Everything that is perceived exists by virtue of having been first thought or felt. This is the worldview of metaphysical idealism, the view I stand for.

The open book stands for manifestation—that is, reality as we experience it. In the book, instead of the usual heraldic shield, one finds a stylized butterfly shape, the Greek symbol of the psyche, mind, soul. This represents the centrality of mind in the worldview of metaphysical idealists. Significantly, the body of the butterfly is a mirror, which represents self-reflection or conscious meta-cognition: the ability of human consciousness to recognize itself and its contents. As my readers know, self-reflection is central to my formulation of idealism and my views regarding the meaning of human life.

The butterfly/shield is divided into four quadrants, as traditionally done in heraldry. Each quadrant contains a lower-level symbol that adds nuance to the overall symbolism. To the left, one finds an inkhorn with a pen and a golden chain. The pen represents writing, traditionally the main form of expression of idealist philosophers. The chain, on the other hand, represents our subjugation to our daemons, the driving spirits that could benignly be described as muses or motivators, but which in fact force their impersonal agenda upon us ruthlessly. We live in bondage and service to our daemons, who tie us to our pens so to produce the work we came into being in order to realize. (The golden chain could also be seen as an evocation of the aurea catena, which has linked philosophers, poets, psychologists, mystics and visionaries throughout history.) To the right, one finds a pair of keys and an eye. The keys represent the unlocking of mysteries, secrets, the revealing of previously unseen truths. The eye represents the one supreme consciousness, which is the repository of the secrets but also eager to reveal them to itself in a meta-cognitive, self-reflective manner.

From behind the butterfly/shield rises a mountain, ancient symbol of both permanence and communication between heaven and earth; in a word, of divine intuition. Atop the mountain, one finds a steeple, which represents the heights of human aspiration: from the peak—itself part of manifestation—one can see far into the realms of creation, so manifestation can inspect itself. That the mountain peak sticks out of the book symbolizes manifestation's 'stepping out' of itself, so as to contemplate itself meta-cognitively.

Manifestation is supported, on its sides, by a lynx and a weasel. The lynx represents sharp-sightedness, so necessary if we are to see through the fog that currently distorts our understanding of the nature of reality. In the heraldic tradition in Europe, the weasel—despite its bad rap in English-speaking countries—represents boldness and resoluteness, the ability to face and defeat much larger and stronger enemies (think physicalism, in this particular case). Weasels have long symbolized spiritual warriors. The mantling on which the lynx and the weasel stand evokes the wings of a second, more stylized and subtle butterfly-like shape, which echos the main symbolic theme of the coat of arms at a yet higher level: everything is psyche, even manifestation itself and its defenders. Omnis res, animus est.

As for the color scheme, in heraldry yellow (or gold) symbolizes elevation of mind. Blue, in turn, connotes truth. The gold/blue butterfly/shield thus symbolizes the unveiling of truth enabled by higher thought. The red surrounding the entire design symbolizes a warrior attitude, which reflects the combative style according to which I have been promoting idealism and pushing back on the vulgarity of physicalism. There are thus multiple levels of intertwining symbolic meaning in this coat of arms.

Some of my historical predecessors have had their own coats of arms (Carl Jung comes to mind), but I believe the one above embodies the core tenets and values of idealism better than any. At any rate, it embodies my views and values, the reasons I do what I do. Beyond the words in my books, may it thus be a pictorial summary of what idealists stand for, able to speak to you in ways beyond reason.

Bernardo Kastrup
Veldhoven, The Netherlands
October 2019