In Ancient Rome a class of gladiator, the retiarius, was armed with a net which he used to immobilize his opponent by entangling him in the meshes, thus placing him at his mercy. In psychology, this fearful weapon has become the symbol of those complexes which entangle the subject’s internal and external life and the meshes of which it is so difficult to loosen and unravel.
In oriental tradition, the gods, too, are provided with nets to catch men in their meshes, either to draw them to them or to bend them to their will. In these images analysts perceive symbols of trawling in the unconscious, anamnesis aimed to bring to the brink of the conscious, like fish from the depths of the sea, the most deeply repressed memories. The sky is sometimes compared with a net, the stars being the knots of its invisible meshes. This would mean that it is impossible to escape from this universe and from the laws which govern it.
In Persian tradition, the opposite takes place, and it is the mystic, especially, who arms himself with a net in an attempt to capture God. In some original writings and especially in the Dawar-i-Damyari, the tradition of the Followers of the Truth, an Iranian Shi'ite sect, has richly embroidered upon this theme in a multitude of symbols unique in Iranian religious thought and Muslim tradition by their extent and originality.
Although nets as such were common features of Iranian folklore, of the heroic tales of the ayyar (roughly equivalent to the European romances of chivalry in the feudal era) as well as among urban story-tellers, a net becomes the spiritual weapon of Pir-Binyamin, a manifestation of the Angel Gabriel and of Jesus Christ.
The dam, a weapon translated as ‘net’ or various associated forms such as the lasso, fishing-line, snare and so on, symbolizes a supernatural power with which Binyamin is endowed. Following a covenant in eternity between God and his angels, this net was loaned to Binyamin as the receptacle of divine forces, thus assigning him the role of divine huntsman.
The net also symbolizes all human capacity and potentiality in the person of Binyamin, created by God before the world itself came into being, and representing primeval man dedicated to the sublimation of his being.
Given that the godhead is symbolized by a ‘Royal Eagle’, the ‘net’ is fated to trap this Eagle, that is to say to claim fulfilment of the divine promise which God embodies.
Although Binyamin may be the particular owner of the net, the latter in itself alone symbolizes mankind’s passionate search for the godhead. This quest, or mystical hunt, conjures up the image of a life-and-death struggle waged by mankind in the person of its intercessor, Binyamin, and of the exertions without which the godhead would escape like the Royal Eagle flying away from the clumsy hunter. Whoever possesses the net - that is the individual who takes up this dangerous and difficult quest - is, like Binyamin, alert to cast his net at the right moment.
In all these symbolic images, when nets are regarded as holy things they are used as a means of entrapping a spiritual power.