Chess is a game of strategy, logic and skill that has been played for centuries. But beyond its practical and intellectual aspects, chess also has a deeper, symbolic and spiritual meaning. In this blog post, we will explore some of the ways that chess can be seen as a metaphor for life, the universe and the divine.
Chess as a Reflection of the Divine
One way to understand the spiritual meaning of chess is to see it as a reflection of the divine. According to some sources12, the game of chess represents the eternal fight between spirit and matter, good and evil, values and ego, being and non-being. The board game symbolizes the cosmic order, with its black and white squares alternating to show the balance and harmony of opposites. The pieces represent different aspects of the divine manifestation, each with its own role and function.
- The king is the supreme symbol of God, the source and ruler of all creation. All the other pieces revolve around him and their entire mission is to protect and serve him.
- The queen is the feminine manifestation of the divine, known as the Shechinah in Jewish mysticism. She is intimately involved with every aspect of creation, granting vitality and substance to every existence. She is the most powerful and versatile piece, often sent into the lines of fire, even placed in danger. Likewise, God risks his own dignity, as it were, by investing himself in every creature and existence, subjecting himself to the vicissitudes of the human condition.
- The bishops, rooks and knights are symbolic of the angels, in their three mystical categories: seraphim (fiery ones), chayot (living creatures) and ofanim (wheels). They are swift, free and not limited by the squares immediately surrounding them; they can “fly” around freely, without constraints. They serve as messengers and agents of God’s will in the world.
- The pawns are symbolic of the human beings living on earth. They are very limited in their movement, taking only one step at a time, only in a singular direction, and they constantly get “knocked off”. But when they fight through the board, arriving at their destination, they can be promoted to any rank, even to that of the queen. This shows that human beings have the potential to surpass even angels, if they persevere and overcome their challenges and limitations. The human life reunites with its source above, the queen, the Shechinah, experiencing the deepest intimacy with God.
Chess as a Challenge for Free Choice
Another way to understand the spiritual meaning of chess is to see it as a challenge for free choice. According to some sources3, in order for there to be free choice in the world, there are two teams: the white and the black. One team represents godliness and holiness; the other team represents everything antithetical to godliness and holiness. The teams are engaged in fierce battle, and for the confrontation to be meaningful each team contains, at least on the surface, all the properties contained in the opposite team. Both teams pretend to have a king, queen, bishops, rooks and knights.
The game of chess challenges us to choose wisely between good and evil, between light and darkness. It also teaches us that every move has consequences, that we have to think ahead and plan our strategy carefully. It also shows us that sometimes we have to sacrifice some pieces for a greater goal or purpose.
Chess as a Tool for Self-Discovery
A third way to understand the spiritual meaning of chess is to see it as a tool for self-discovery. According to some sources4, playing chess or seeing chess pieces in a dream may represent a spiritual battle or conflict within yourself. It could be the ongoing battle between your conscious and subconscious mind or between your rationality and intuition. It could also be a reflection of your indecisiveness or your need to make an important decision.
Playing chess or seeing chess pieces in a dream may also reveal something about your personality or your state of mind. For example:
- If you are playing chess against someone else in a dream, it may indicate that you are facing some competition or opposition in your waking life.
- If you are playing chess against yourself in a dream, it may suggest that you are struggling with an inner conflict or dilemma.
- If you are watching others play chess in a dream, it may imply that you are observing or analyzing a situation from a distance.
- If you win or lose a chess game in a dream, it may reflect your sense of confidence or insecurity in your waking life.
- If you see specific chess pieces in a dream, they may symbolize different aspects of yourself or others. For example:
- The king may represent your authority or leadership.
- The queen may represent your creativity or intuition.
- The bishops may represent your spirituality or morality.
- The rooks may represent your stability or security.
- The knights may represent your adventurousness or courage.
- The pawns may represent your humility or vulnerability.
Conclusion on Chess Spiritual Meaning
Chess is a game that can be enjoyed on many levels, from the practical to the intellectual to the spiritual. It can be seen as a reflection of the divine, a challenge for free choice, or a tool for self-discovery. By playing chess or seeing chess pieces in a dream, we can learn more about ourselves, our world and our relationship with God. Chess is not only a game, but also a spiritual journey.
Benjamin Miller is the founder and editor of The Extra Game. He plays chess, scrabble and Monopoly at a masters level. He is a board game enthusiast, publisher, designer, and reviewer with over 10 years of experience in the industry. He loves to share his passion, knowledge, and recommendations for board games with the world.