Water: A Key Symbol Of Spirituality In The World’s Great Religions

“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans,” said Kahlil Gibran, capturing in one sentence the deep spiritual connection that human beings have to water. It is perhaps for this reason that we dream of heading to the sea or a majestic lake in times of trouble. For Carl Jung, it was in nature that human beings could be reminded of the deep inner world that many call spirituality. Water plays an important role in the scriptures and theory of many of the world’s great religions and philosophies – including Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism.

Christianity And Purification

In Christianity, water is used in a plethora of ceremonies – including that of baptism and to bless people, sites and things. It is a symbol of purification of the body and spirit, as is clear in Ezekiel 36:25, which says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.” Water is also seen in Christianity as a symbol of salvation and eternal life, as can be gleaned in Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” It is additionally a symbol of God’s spirit – “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink,” reads John 7:37. 

The Dark Side Of Water

In many parts of the Bible, God is represented almost as a parent: one who watches out for human beings in the same way parents take care to prevent their children from drowning or being injured. Thus, a parent may place a life jacket on their child, make sure to observe them when they are in the water, and be vigilant of swimming conditions. In the Bible, deep waters are symbols of physical and spiritual drowning, and as is the case with parents, God is there to rescue those who are submerged beneath problems and suffering. Psalm 18:16 reads, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;  he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy,  from my foes, who were too strong for me.”

Water And Gratefulness In Judaism

In Judaism, water is a symbol of life itself. In one part of the Torah (Numbers 20:3), the Jewish people complain to Moses that there is no water to drink after a well they had previously drunk from disappears. Moses and Aaron strike the rock, and God produces an abundance of water. The narrative is seen as a symbol of the importance of gratitude for God’s goodness. In Jewish theology, water is also seen as an expression of divine blessing. It is also seen as a source of life and an important part of purification rituals – including the ordination of priests, childbirth, and the curing of diseases.

Water And Purification In Hinduism

Water is seen similarly in Hinduism – as a means to purify human beings. However, it is also considered an original force, as it is the only element which is not linked to a deity. The Ganges river bears holy water, since it hails from the highest known region – the Himalayas. Bathing in the Ganges, therefore, is a means of purifying oneself and meditation on the Greatness of God. When human beings immerse themselves in these waters, they come closer to finding themselves.

Water is a key symbolic element in many religions – including Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism. In these and many other religions, it is often seen as a means of purity. However, water also has many additional roles: it can express the goodness of God, help human beings obtain clarity, or even serve as a means of meditation on the greatness of God.