Monday, 11 August 2014


Later, expanding on what they means by this definition Campbell says:

In thinking about the effect of a symbol on the psyche, in his seminal essay The Symbol without Meaning Joseph Campbell proposes the following definition: A symbol is an energy evoking, and directing, agent.[2]

"a symbol, like everything else, shows a double aspect. They must distinguish, therefore between the 'sense' and the 'meaning' of the symbol. It seems to me perfectly clear that all the great and small symbolical systems of the past functioned simultaneously on levels: the corporeal of waking consciousness, the spiritual of dream, and the ineffable of the absolutely unknowable. The term 'meaning' can refer only to the first but these, today, are in the charge of science � which is the province as they have said, not of symbols but of signs. The ineffable, the absolutely unknowable, can be only sensed. It is the province of art which is not 'expression' merely, or even primarily, but a search for, and formulation of, experience evoking, energy-waking images: yielding what Sir Herbert Read has aptly termed a 'sensuous apprehension of being'.[3]
Heinrich Zimmer gives a concise overview of the nature, and perennial relevance, of symbols.

"Concepts and words are symbols, as visions, rituals, and pics are; so are the manners and customs of every day life. Through all of these a transcendent reality is mirrored. They are so lots of metaphors reflecting and implying something which, though thus variously expressed, is ineffable, though thus rendered multiform, remains inscrutable. Symbols hold the mind to truth but are not themselves the truth, hence it is delusory to borrow them. Each civilisation, every age, must bring forth its own."[4]
In the book Signs and Symbols, it is said that A symbol \. is a visual picture or sign representing an idea -- a deeper indicator of a universal truth.[5]

Human cultures use symbols to express specific ideologies and social structures and to represent aspects of their specific culture. Thus, symbols carryover meanings that depend on one�s cultural background; in other words, the meaning of a symbol is not inherent in the symbol itself but is culturally learned.[6]

Symbols are a way of complex communication that often can have multiple levels of meaning.[6] This separates symbols from signs, as signs have meaning.

Symbols are the basis of all human understanding and serve as vehicles of conception for all human knowledge.[7] Symbols facilitate understanding of the world in which they live, thus serving as the grounds on which they make judgments.[8] In this way, people use symbols not only to make sense of the world around them, but also to identify and cooperate in society through constitutive rhetoric.

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