At the heart of symbolism

The Danish flag

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Danish civil flag   Danish state flag

War and Peace

According to the legend, the Danish flag cross fell from the skies in a famous battle.

War is a manifestation of disorder counterbalancing another disorder and contributing to the restoration of order. According to the traditional teaching, order is the sum of all disorders and appears only if we cease to look at things separately. When all of them are brought back together, unity is established and things recover their full reality. Otherwise, oppositions and antagonisms, source of disorder, will persist and war will remain the common state of humanity and being.

War consists in the re-establishment of peace and people concord. Consequently, its legitimacy could not be denied in a traditional society. It was often presented as a sacred duty as in the Indian “Bhagavad-Gita” (or the “Song of the Lord”, part of the “Mahabharata”) or the Western Arthurian cycle. The reason for this is the fact that war and peace may be perceived from two different angles:

  • From the outer and temporal point of view, war is particularly justified when undertaken against enemies jeopardizing the community order and breaking the laws governing the society. It should be followed by the restoration of equilibrium, harmony and justice reflecting the cohesion between the community members.
  • From the inner and spiritual point of view, War deals with the fight against our own devils (from the Greek “diabolos”, which means disuniting, splitting, dividing), that is to say against our inner enemies, which are opposed to order and unity. This is the only genuine Holy War of the being in quest of inner Peace.

The poem of the “Bhagavad-Gitâ” recounts the struggle of King Arjuna caught in the net of a civil war. Filled with doubt at the prospect of killing his friends and relatives, he sought advice from the god Krishna. The god explained to him that each being must follow the path assigned to him within the great cosmic movement. Whoever fulfils his destiny will remove doubts and find inner Peace. Whoever refuses to follow it will only be tormented. Krishna urged Arjuna to fulfil the duty of his caste (function) as a warrior dedicated to his task, to kill relatives and friends and to lead his army to victory while teaching him absolute devotion to the Supreme Being.

Arjuna and Krishna are an inseparable couple (human and divine, me and Self, soul and Spirit) of the Hindu tradition. Both are on the same chariot, the vehicle of the being during its transformations. While Arjuna is fighting, Krishna drives the chariot without taking part in the battle. They represent respectively the outer and inner worlds symbolized by the two branches of the cross.

The cross

In the crucial representation, the horizontal axis represents the expansion of all possibilities linked to a state of being. Centred in such a state, the being becomes really human and stands at a point on the vertical axis from where he perceives the centres of the indefinite series of states of being between Heaven and Earth. Climbing the hierarchy of states leads to the realization of the total being. It follows that the cross symbolizes the being who has integrated all states and realized the union between terrestrial and celestial aspects. As such, he has become a mediator between Heaven and Earth called the “Universal man”. In proper Christian terms, Christ has brought to fulfilment the union of the divine and human nature and become the mediator par excellence between this world and the Heavens, which is symbolized by the cross.

Viking's brooch chiselled around a crossHowever, the symbol of the cross may be found in other religions than Christianity and in other times as well. The Vikings, for instance, attached a great importance to this representation as shown on the brooch of the National museum in Copenhagen on the left. The cross divides the brooch surface into four quarters as often done on town or camp plans.

The Viking camp consisted mainly of a mighty circular rampart surrounding a number of “barrack halls”, which in fact were castles. The best known of them, Trelleborg on Sealand, has sixteen halls equally distributed within the four quarters (see below).

The camp was oriented according to the usual representation of the compass points andTrelleborg Viking's camp plan (Denmark) drawing a cross. The vertical symbolizes the solstitial axis and the horizontal the equinoctial axis. North, at the “top”, corresponds to the Winter solstice, the beginning of the sun ascent towards the North celestial pole, the motionless point around which stars and “wanderings” are turning for the people living in the Northern hemisphere. South, at the “bottom”, is associated with the Summer solstice, the start of the sun descent in direction of the South celestial pole. East and west stand in the middle of both phases. For more details regarding this point, consult the description of the celestial sphere.

Four gates located at the four compass points allow getting in and out of the camp. These gates have a symbolic meaning. In particular, the Southern gate corresponds to the access to the human being state associated with the sun descent phase as the being is still in the terrestrial world. The Northern gate represents the entering to the total being state related to the sun ascent phase because the being is definitely leaving the human world for the spiritual world. The total being, having overcome all the oppositions and disorder as well, has realized the unity and found Peace.

The colours of the flag

Krishna, the name of which means “dark” or “black”, symbolizes the invisible non-manifested Principle, the motionless point, at the origin of the visible manifestation represented by Arjuna and associated with “white”. White portrays the entire visible light spectrum of the rainbow colours where red is the “upper arch”. Therefore, red is related to the highest rank inside the manifested order, the warrior, the Victorious, the King.


  • René Guénon:
  • “The symbolism of the cross”, Sophia Perennis Publisher, 2002;
  • Particularly, chapters 3 on the metaphysical symbolism of the cross and 8 devoted to war and peace.