All the more wonder, then why it is that when these symbols occur, say,
engraved on a stone, we call them symbols of inscrutable religious import, but if we
recognize them as pattern, it may be dismissed as "mere" decoration.
Surely if a symbolic element is repeated in an orderly fashion, forming a whole,
its intelligible import is increased enormously, as a symphony is greater than the sum of
The pattern is like a symphony elaborated from a single keynote. The
single motif is like a note on a scale. We tend to isolate the single motif as
significant, and repetition of a motif as "mere decoration".
Again, we attribute to representations of creatures, or to hieroglyphs
or ideograms, the status of symbolism or intelligibility, but not to pure geometry - an
ornament such as triangle, chevron, or rectangle.
Yet, to the metaphysical mind, that which explores the interaction of an
invisible, immutable order of reality upon human consciousness, such symbols are all the
more significant precisely because they give rise to no mundane or accidental
associations; rather, they are exactly suited to convey indefinable first principles with
which the primitive or metaphysically-inclined mind is primarily concerned.
In approaching a traditional art form, such as Celtic art, which is
based on the fundamental form language of primitive ornament, we should look closely at
the primitive patterns themselves.