Symbolic Literacy


Michael Tsarion

Kids won’t even find out how much their values have been perverted until they hit high school - Esquire Magazine

We have come to expect hidden messages in our kids’ TV - Douglas Rushkoff (Media Virus)  

Due to chronic symbol illiteracy, we live our lives largely unaware of a great poison in our midst, something that has a profoundly negative effect on our conscious and unconscious selves. This is the use of subliminal persuasion in media and advertising. Subliminal and subtextual persuasion of this pernicious kind constitutes nothing less than a psychic dictatorship. It involves the deliberate and subversive manipulation and public purveyance of words, images, numbers, colors, rhythms and symbols which are subsequently directed, via ubiquitous media oracles, toward limbic areas of the brain.

The artifice of Media Persuaders produces an elaborate insidious cryptic language deliberately designed to disturb our capacity to differentiate between fantasy and reality. This artifice serves to stimulate compulsive urges and base appetites, which in turn causes cognitive and somatic conflict that gradually shuts down higher centers of reason and self-control. Constant exposure to subliminal content serves to undermine healthy drives. It subverts our moral sensibility and ultimately arrests psychological maturation. The devastating effects of this subversion has rarely been explored in depth. It has yet to be recognized by the public at large, who - being victims of chronic symbol illiteracy - are unshielded against the constant barrage of subliminal content entering their minds, causing, over time, a nightmare list of physical and psychic disorders.

Robert D. Mcllwraith of the University of Manitoba states that the main attraction of television-watching is not the content of programming, but a dependency on the medium itself...The volume of television-watching in the United States might be seen as indicative of an addiction. It is estimated by the Smithsonian Institute that the average American household has the television on seven and a half hours per day. The average American watches twenty-five hours of television per week. The average preschool child watches television about twenty-eight hours per week, and the average elementary school age child watches twenty-four hours per week. By the completion of high school, a child can be expected to have watched 15,000 hours of television-far more than the child's accumulated hours of classroom time and more than any other activity except sleep - Ronald Schenk (Spirit in the Tube)

In the mind of this author, there can be no question of positive social change, no question of national or global healing, until human beings (particularly those in the western world) become educated about  the power of symbols - not only as transcendental portals and mathematical guides, but as weapons in the hands of plutocratic elites with occult agendas, laboring to arrest the mental, emotional and spiritual progress of the underclasses they despise.

The alarming existential chaos which the young presently experience, though deplored and ignored, serves as a direct indictment of the symbolic subversion I expose. The young are, by definition, closer to the creative force than the average adult. They are also more influenced by the limbic brain and, therefore, respond with greater zeal to the erotic and often perverse symbolic messages becoming increasingly pervasive throughout their life- and think-space. The invasive, clandestinely directed content is adroitly designed to subvert a child's fragile moral conscience and rational filter. The results of this psychic dictatorship are devastating.

...research has shown that in the first few milliseconds of our perceiving something we do not only unconsciously comprehend what it is, but decide whether we like it or not; the cognitive unconscious" presents our awareness with not just the identity of what we see, but an opinion about it. Our emotions have a mind of their own, one which can hold views quite independently of our rational mind - Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence)

It is a great source of error to believe that there is no perception in the soul besides those of which it is conscious - Gotffried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)

Children’s television and MTV, in fact, are the easiest places to launch counterculture missiles. The more harmless or inane the forum, the more unsuspecting the audience – Douglas Rushkoff (Media Virus)

Subliminal messages permeate television programs, computer games, magazines, billboards, products and musical productions. They are, however, not limited to the ambience of the young. They are just one of the weapons in the arsenal of psychopathic corporations whose modus operandi not only concerns profit but dehumanization in an Orwellian sense. All that is truly aesthetic, traditional and culturally substantial, stands in the way of their inhuman strategies and agenda; their relentlessly aggressive efforts at reducing the human race to a body of narcissistic, sense-infatuated, desensitized, amoral, immoral or criminal "smiling depressives."

I think we are destroying the minds of America and that has been one of my lifelong ambitions - John Kricfalusi (creator of the Ren and Stimpy Show)

The language of business is not a language of the soul or the language of humanity. It’s a language of indifference, it’s a language of separation, secrecy and hierarchy – Anita Rodderick (creator of the Body Shop)


the corporation remains as it was at the time of its origins, as a mad business institution in the middle of the nineteenth century, and legally designated “person” designed to valorize self interest and invalidate moral concern. Most people would find its “personality” abnormal, even psychopathic, in a human being, yet curiously we accept it in society’s most powerful institutions - Joel Bakan (The Corporation)

Business is business we say; people are merely selling their products. If only this were true. A little research and objective observation tells a different tale. The elite at the top of the world's major advertising agencies are extraordinarily educated and intuitive people trained by private schools and prestigious think tanks. Although it may come as news to the consumer, it is a fact that selling products is only a minor concern for them. Though it may sound rather bizarre, it is their job to implant political and aesthetically conditioning motifs within the minds of their erstwhile viewers. These implanted messages, more often than not, contradict conscious drives and intentions. The elites to whom I refer, know a great deal about human and social psychology. They understand the operations of minds and bodies. They have made an in-depth study of the complex nature of desire, emotion, libido, and appetite, and their researches have taken them into occult fields. Arcane subjects such as astro-theology, sabeanism, numerology and ceremonial magic are assiduously studied. It would appear that advertisers consider their logos in the same manner as a trained sorcerer considers various talismans, amulets, symbols, mudras, mantras and musical rhythms emplyeds to disaffect minds and enhance personal power.

Some of the most talented and creative people in the world are dedicated this work, indeed, the most skillful propagandists of our time are not working for dictators, they are certainly not working exclusively for the Democratic party or the Republican either. They are working for Foote, Cone & Belding, Ogilvy & Mather, and DDB Needham Worldwide - Jane Kilbourne (Can't Buy My Love)

Down through the centuries, symbols and their subtle meanings are memorized. They become part of the collective phylogenetic reservoir. They constitute part of the "Race Memory." Consequently, when certain symbols are used, they invariably stimulate reactions, often emotional and sexual. Some symbols were, and still are, specifically designed to affect the limbic centers of the brain. In primitive cultures we hear of the voodoo doctor and his attendant zombie. Before he fell under the spell of his master, the zombie was a live, active, thinking person. His will was weakened because he was slowly and surreptitiously administered the juice of the Datura plant, which drugged him into a chronic state of mental and physical passivity. Each day, lest he revive, the zombie is forced against his will to ingest more of the potion.

The world consists of imaginary people, claiming imaginary virtues and suffering from imaginary happiness - Vernon Howard

Today we see a similar process at work, only with greater frequency and over a larger demographic. In this case, the "Datura" is not organic but auditory, visual and digital. We are reigned over by technological witchdoctors and cyberspace sorcerers. Their particular concoction of spells are cast via techniques that go by names such as Tele-hypnosis, Metacontrast, Hemisync, Synaesthenia and Embedding. New techniques, yes, but with the same deadly effect as any past voodoo, sorcery or telepathy. Recently, a professional hypnotist declared that the very skills used to lull a mind into a state of suggestibility are unquestionably those used by advertising agents.

A century and a half after its birth, the modern business corporation, and artificial person made in the image of a human psychopath, now is seeking to remake real people in its image - Joel Bakan (The Corporation)

We must all face the fact that our leaders are certifiably insane or worse – William S. Burroughs

You don't understand…It's not about money...It's about power and influence - Michael Ovitz (interview with Mike Rosenfield)

Yes, it appears that the "enchanters" of the story books are alive, well and busy. In one sense advertisers can be compared to the “Leonardos” and “Michaelangelos” of past ages. Moreover, like masters of the past, they are also under oligarchic patronage. They are, however, not utilizing their prodigious artistic skills for the spiritual or cultural uplift of humankind. They are master persuaders fascinated by behavioral and motivational sciences. Their modus operendi is the systematic erosion of the moral, intellectual and spiritual foundations of society. Cannot the spiritual vacuity and moral degradation of our century be traced to the corruption peddled by these Apollonian persuaders in their gleaming corporate penthouses?

No one's really worrying about what it's (advertising to children) teaching impressionable youth. Hey, I'm in the business of convincing people to buy things they don't need - Advertising Executive (quoted from Business Week, August 11, 1997)


…In boy’s advertising…antisocial behavior in pursuit of a product is a good thing - Disney Marketing Executive

We readily accept that other species on the planet can be trained to have their behavior altered. We know that this manipulation occurs either by direct training or gradual change of a creature’s environment and habitat beyond its awareness. Although it may sound controversial, the situation is no different when it comes to the control of humanity. The results of the artifice are in plain view:

In the cybernetic age, the individual becomes increasingly subject to manipulation. His work, his consumption, and his leisure are manipulated by advertising, by ideologies, by what Skinner calls “positive reinforcements.” The individuals loses his active, responsible role in the social process; he becomes completely “adjusted” and learns that any behavior, act, thought, or feeling which does not fit into the general scheme puts him at a severe disadvantage; in fact he is what he is supposed to be…What has happened in modern industrial society is that traditions, and common values, and genuine social personal ties with others have largely disappeared. The modern mass man is isolated and lonely, even though he is part of a crowd; he has no convictions which he could share with others, only slogans and ideologies he gets from the communications media - Erich Fromm (The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness)

Without personal study or experience, the reader will be inclined to balk at these facts. The oligarchs have made sure that little information regarding this subject reaches the public. Although there is an unbelievable barrage of symbolism in our world, and though it is known that billions of dollars are involved in their production, distribution, and monitoring, the average person has little awareness of the fatal impact they are having on his life. Walking around decorated with the logos and brand names of exploiting corporations and conglomerates is considered normal and even chic today. Although thousands of classical musical and artistic creations are corrupted under their debauched hands, and though our visual space is cluttered with perverse ad-copy and billboard images, few raise a murmur against it.

The man who does not know what it means to be under psychic hypnosis, is probably already under it - Vernon Howard

Although here may be fewer physical frontiers for man to conquer, there is an entire virtual kingdom to explore and colonize. There is cyberspace and data-space, and so-called “information highway.” In virtual realities, symbolic motifs can proliferate and literally infest our minds. Scientists have, for example, discovered that there are 250,000 miles of neural threads in the brain, enough to stretch from earth to the moon. On each micrometer of these threads there are over 240,000 bits of information. This data is, however, not stored as words but as pictograms or composite images. Moreover, there are thirty seven sensory inputs to the brain, not merely the five commonly known. The architects of control know how to communicate to these subtler senses, and the damage they have done is incalculable.

The man who understands a symbol not only opens himself to the objective world but at the same time succeeds in emerging from his personal situation and reaching a comprehension of the universal...thanks to the symbol, the individual experience is "awoken" and transmuted into a spiritual act - Mircea Eliade

In fact, the only way to really comprehend the ramifications of their insidious work, is for each person to become familiar with the manner in which symbols affect the psyche. Eventually, the student must take to the study of occult subjects. He must study Tarot, Alchemy, Numerology, Sacred Geometry, Astrology and Astro-Theology.

One of the greatest chapters within the greater "Book of Symbolism," is that containing the wisdom of the Tarot. I have personally found that an esoteric study of magical arts - Tarot, Astrology, Kabala and Numerology - greatly assists us to heal the psychic and emotional diseases created by the master manipulators. By working with Tarot and its sister arts, we awaken innate intelligence that I refer to as the "Wisdom Body." By way of the age-old arcane arts we cultivate the all-important "Symbolic Literacy" possessed and misused by the elites we must disempower and overthrow. We learn "Pattern-Recognition," and defend ourselves against attack on a subliminal level.

…numbers are not concepts consciously invented by men for purposes of calculation. They are spontaneous and autonomous products of the unconscious – as are other archetypal symbols - Carl Gustav Jung (Man and His Symbols)

Working correctly and responsibly with the high arts serves to activate and correctly orientate our higher Will. As a result, we sanitize our vision and gain greater control over our lives. We are not as likely to fall prey to our lower drives and get waylaid by false promises and lures. We have a great ability to see through illusion and are less deceived by those who seek to bring the entire planet under plutocratic control. The more awakened a man becomes, the less power his masters possess. Ignorance not knowledge is their means to end.

Working with the divination arts awakens inner intelligence - the hemispheres of intelligence I refer to as the "Living Oracle." Once we attune with this higher intelligence, we are automatically freed from dependency on unawakened people around us. After all, why do we constantly seek guidance from the misguided? And how can this habit lead to enlightenment and sustainability?

The return to sanity, personally and socially, has been a major theme of innumerable psychologists, activists and philosophers for decades. The men and women of reason have concluded that something is very existentially wrong with Post-Industrial humanity. Experts have gone to great lengths to describe what is wrong with the way urban man lives. However (despite some rare exceptions), modern-day intellectuals and academics rarely offer substantial solutions to mankind’s vexatious problems.

We are now in the twenty-first century and the time for "problem-think" is, in the mind of this writer, over. It is now time for "solution-think." This means that it is time for mankind to proactively face reality in order to change it, and to have zero-tolerance for the factors which enslave and befuddle. This paradigm shift involves the acceptance and confrontation of the "dark sides" of the human ego-personality, and a desire to see ourselves for who we are morally and psychologically. It is our habitual avoidance and denial of what we falsely regard as the "darker" side of ourselves, that has brought humanity to the brink of ecocide and psychosis. It is this avoidance that plays right into the hands of the architects of world control who have preyed over humanity for so many ages.

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind - Edward Bernays (Propaganda)

The confrontation of the dark aspects of the personality liberates us from the control of the ego. The ego, as a few thinkers discovered, is not unique to one person. It is really a "social ego." Man's persona or pseudo-self is simply a bi-product of his society. The face we show to the world is ultimately a creation of that world. If we wish to be truly unique, we must transcend the ego and social persona. However, this process of individuation cannot occur until we develop the capacity of seeing ourselves rightly. We must have the courage to look into the mirror of the self, rather than that of the ego.

…the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed I a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East…This hallucination underlies the misuse of technology for the violent subjugation of man’s natural environment and, consequently, its eventual destruction - Alan Watts (The Book: On the Taboo of Knowing Who You Are)

Over two thousand years ago, the Athenian philosopher Plato emphatically warned his society of the consequences to evolution and truth if the “artists” were unrestricted in their influence of the consciousness of mankind. I believe he was aware of the existence of the subversive elements in his society that sought to manipulate thought by way of that which appears innocent and harmless. In 1835, French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of his concern for the future of thought and reason:

I fear that the productions of democratic poets may often be surcharged with immense and incoherent imagery, with exaggerated descriptions and strange creations; and that the fantastic beings of their brain may sometimes make us regret the world of reality

Of course, in ancient times man was much more Symbolically Literate than we are today. He held symbols in great regard and was in touch with his higher intelligence or Living Oracle. It is this intelligence that gave man the ability to raise the Great Pyramid and chart the heavens. This ancient knowledge was preserved in the Divination Arts. In the Tarot, for example, we find the rich palate of symbols that, with correct usage, open the portals to the ancestral reservoir of gnosis that was available to the initiates and elders of the past.

Among the ancients, who dealt largely with psychical sciences, there seems to have been a common language which could be used to explain the invisible world and its inhabitants; but we of this age have not yet developed such a language. Consequently, men who deny human immortality, as well as men with religious faith who have not…transformed that faith into a fact, nowadays…in attempting to explain psychic fact, call it mysticism - W. Y. Evans Wentz (Fairy Folklore in Celtic Countries)


The Egyptians, either by exact science or spontaneously, had arrived at a method by means of which they could rite with distinct picture of material objects, instead of ordinary letters expressing sounds and phrases. These pictures were not ordinary images of the things they represented but were endowed with certain symbolic qualities (Sophia), by means of which they revealed to the initiated contemplator a profound insight into the very essence of substances of things, and an intuitive understanding of their transcendental origins, an insight which was not the result of reasoning or mental reflection, but was acquired spontaneously by means of divine inspiration and illumination. As artistic representations of this phenomenal world, they revealed, in fact, the ideal world of the soul - Plotinus (ancient philosopher)


Cynics who doubt that symbols and images have a lasting negative affect on consciousness should study the example of mass control as favored by the Nazis. The Nazis openly employed ancient symbols and rites, rallying chants, occult emblems and regalia, and so on, to force men into a hive-think. We know that Hitler and his cronies were involved with occult societies and that they were fascinated by ancient mysticism. Hitler sent agents throughout the world, to visit tribes and sects, in order to procure occult works and learn how to employ magical arts. Although it might sound controversial, arcane subjects are made use of today, not only by advertisers in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue, but by leading Evangelists and other churchmen. It is used by the heads of top corporations. As financier J. P. Morgan once said, Millionaires don't use astrology...billionaires do!


Every news anchor and talk show host subtly emphasizes stereotypes that force men into consensus trance. Every movie-maker of significance uses subliminal and subtextual devices to embed ideas in the minds of his audience. Every high-end set designer knows what symbols and shapes to use so that his audiences are emotionally attracted and ingratiated. Most informed broadcasters and media executives know how to provide surrogates for what is missing within us, and how to help us hide from ourselves in the "light" of collective. They know what kind of power the super-lit, florescent, convenient, user-friendly, one-seasoned world of their manufacture has over human minds. They also know that what psychosis occurs if those under their control are not provided with illusions of freedom, diversity, plenty and choice. This is one of the reasons why we are given many pseudo-choices, particularly between products. It accounts for why there are so many dialectical divisions in the corporate world - for example, Levis versus Jordac, Coke versus Pepsi, ABC versus CNN, Stones versus Beatles, Rockers versus Mods. Letterman versus Leno, Russia versus USA, Republican versus Democrat, Conservative versus Liberal, Catholic versus Protestant, Atheist versus Believer, Gay versus Straight, Black versus White, Arab versus Jew, Rich versus Poor, and even Male versus Female, ad nauseaum. Under the guise of plenty and choice, man's ability to choose well is eroded. His true intelligence is assaulted and he becomes incapable of deciding anything for himself. In the end, his good is whatever his masters say it is; his freedom is whatever they feel like bestowing; his thoughts are whatever make him safe and secure in the prison created by his overlords.

Signs and symbols control the world, not phases and laws - Confucius (551-479 BC)

Throughout the ages it has been considered normal and even exemplary to die for a flag. We assault others over a sport or political allegiance, feel superior due to the clothes, home or car we possess. Ours is a time obsessed with comparison and instant prestige, hyper-extroversion, over-achievement and projection of fantasy into reality. It does not matter a jot whether nature, animals, children, the elderly, the invalid, or other nations and indigenous peoples suffer. I have traced many levels of psychosis and multiple personality dementia, as well as teen and adult dysfunction and sexual criminality, to the effects of advertising.

Advertising is designed to generate an inner sense of conflict with the self - Bernard McGrave PhD

Obviously, a man can never attain true and lasting happiness or independence if he does not own his mind and emotions. If he is colonized and branded, he inevitably loses charge of his own destiny. He becomes emotionally and spiritually naked and his children inherit a bleak but brightly-lit busy dystopia without meaning or depth.

When told that man lives in delusion everyone thinks of himself as the exception – hence his delusion - Vernon Howard

The man of today gives rise to the man of tomorrow. And tomorrow's man will not be the inhabitant of a secure utopia where freedom, justice and truth are cherished. On the contrary, he will be an obsessed, addicted victim suffering psychic and emotional dysfunction, riddled with guilt and shame. His inner life will be a miasma of unfulfilled desires and misplaced allegiances. He will be under the "Hex." Once the connection and rapport with the inner self is occluded, man becomes a slave of external approval. Consequently, those who command our adoration must be like ourselves or be those who appear to possess a greater abundance of those chimeras we think valuable. To fill his inner void, he repeatedly returns to the very oracles that caused his problems in the first place. He lives out his entire life unaware of the origin of his miasma. Indeed, he'll rush to the defense of his destroyers should they come under attack, and become neurotic the moment the spell they've cast over his soul looks like dissipating.

The twenty-first century will be the era of the World Controllers…The older dictators fell because they could never supply their subjects with enough bread, enough circuses, enough miracles, and mysteries. Under a scientific dictatorship, education will really work…most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution. There seems to be no good reason why a thoroughly scientific dictatorship should ever be overthrown - Aldous Huxley (Brave New World Revisited)

Tragically, that which man consumes also consumes him. Sickened and desperate in his soul, knowing next to nothing about his essence, he charges back and forth vainly with a thousand and one ideas and plans, pathetically ministering to the existential maladies of his equally debilitated neighbors. His mind is plagued with "media viruses" and his libido rages within from a veritable inundation of inhuman programming.

Mass television-watching would be seen as Huxley's "brave new world" of anesthetized human consciousness, where people love servitude to invisible authority through greatly improved techniques of suggestion. Television would seem to have taken us into Orwell's "1984" where a television screen in every room exists in perpetual vigilance of the individual, where human consciousness is engineered by technicians of "goodthink," and where the worst horror is that no one realizes their condition of servitude because the oppressors remain invisible - Ronald Schenk (Spirit in the Tube)

For more sources and info on this subject, watch our
program The Subversive Use of Sacred Symbolism in the Media

The subversive forces which deal so contemptuously with the underclasses they fear, can be sanctioned, penalized and even overthrown once we return to the "Symbolic Literacy" natural to our forebears. When the "inner eye" is opened and when Pattern Recognition becomes as natural as breathing, tables will be turned on the world's shadowy Media Persuaders. After we develop a rudimentary critical intelligence, Truth will decide to return and dwell among us. Our indifference and neglect has banished both Truth and Virtue to the voids. To welcome them back, and be nourished again by their company, we must not only enhance discernment, but show zero-tolerance toward any entity whose agenda flies in the face of reason. We must have zero-tolerance for insidious forces whose artifice leads to the desecration of earth and the life-forms dwelling on it.

German sociologist George Simmel said that the educated person was someone who knew how to find out about what he did not already know. If he were alive today he would perhaps agree that the time has come for humanity to get smart, educated, and into "the know” about the psychic dictatorship that has claimed the sanity and souls of millions. As the Ad-Men are want to say - new hot slogans and memes are needed - emblazoned on the virtual billboard that looms over our troubled planet…REVOLUTION OR REVELATION?

For years they have been studying you. The time has come for you to study them!