Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism

Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism

Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism

Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism

Excerpt

The surprising popularity of psychoanalysis has made the forof certain key-words: image, symbol and symbolism have now become current coin. At the same time, systematic research devoted to the mechanisms of "primitive mentality" has revealed the importance of symbolism in archaic thinking and also the fundamental part it plays in the life of any and every primitive society. The obsolescence of "scientism" in philosophy, the revival of interest in religion since the first world war, many poetic developments and, above all, the researches of surrealism (with the rediscovery of occultism, of the "black" literature, of "the absurd", etc.) have, on various levels and with unequal effects, drawn the attention of the public in general to the symbol, regarded as an autonomous mode of cognition. The development in question is a part of the reaction against the nineteenth century's rationalism, positivism and scientism which became such a marked characteristic of the second quarter of the twentieth. But this conversion to the various symbolisms is not really a "discovery" to be credited to the modern world: in restoring the symbol to its status as an instrument of knowledge, our world is only returning to a point of view that was general in Europe until the eighteenth century and is, moreover, connatural to the other, non-European cultures, whether "historic" (like those of Asia or Central America for instance) or archaic and "primitive".

It is noteworthy that the invasion of Western Europe by symbolism coincides with the arrival of Asia on the horizon of history; an advent which, initiated by the revolution of Sun Yat Sen, has been unmistakably affirmed during the last few years.

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