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Nature of symbols

Various religious symbols The nature of the symbol and the process of symbolization are deeply rooted in the human nervous system. The relationship of that system to consciousness, thought and subjectivity is not understood, although there are some theories of partial explanation. The tokenization of objects may be conscious or unconscious. Perhaps the closest mechanism to it is to be found in the conditioned reflex of behavioral science. If the re ard of a given response is coupled ith another stimulus !the token" repeatedly, the other stimulus ac#uires the same po er to elicit the response as the original re ard. Putting aside all #uestions of the degree to hich behavioral science characterizes the complex behaviors of man, conditioning certainly plays a part in symbolization. In essence the human organism emits the same operant behavior to ard a placebo or token as it ould to ard the original. $oreover, the token may bear no resemblance in any ay to the original and be of no functional use to it. % symbol can be a material object hose shape or origin is related, by nature or convention, to the thing it represents& for instance, the cross is the main symbol of 'hristianity, and the scepter is a traditional symbol of royal po er. % symbol can also be a more or less conventional image !i.e. an icon", or a detail of an image, or even a pattern or color& for example, the olive branch in heraldry represents peace, the halo is a conventional symbol of sainthood in 'hristian imagery, tartans are symbols of (cottish clans, and the color red is often used as a symbol for socialist movements, especially communism. (ymbols form connected rings of relations !).) is for )bidirectional non*directed relation of kinship), curly braces indicate here some of the rings connect in topological space of an imaginary universe here such links occur bet een the connectors ith same number of braces or degrees of separation or freedom" alike a fishers+ net, but five dimensional !time included". (hort example& red . red color . blood ,,.-- next of kin . brother . sister . sisterhood . brotherhood , . - blood ,, . -- scarlet letter . matters of life and death , . - ,, . -- red flag , . - communistic manifesto . little red book ,,, . --- clear and present danger , . - cold ar ,,, . --- freedom . orkers+ rights , . - standards , . - red light . electromagnetic fre#uency of red spectrum light and back to the ord red. .citation needed/ $ore often, a symbol is a conventional ritten or printed sign !specifically, a glyph", usually standing for anything other than a sound !symbols for sounds are usually called graphemes,

letters, logograms, diacritics, etc.". Thus mathematical symbols such as 0 and 1 represent #uantities and operations, currency symbols represent monetary units, chemical symbols represent elements, and so forth. (ymbols can also be immaterial entities like sounds, ords and gestures. The ringing of gongs and bells, and the banging of a judge+s gavel, often have conventional meanings in certain contexts2 and bo ing is a common ay to indicate respect. In fact, every ord in a natural language is a symbol for some concept or relationship bet een concepts. % symbol is usually recognized only ithin some specific culture, religion, or discipline, but a fe hundred symbols are no recognized internationally. (ee list of common symbols and 3ist of symbols. (ymbols can also be analysed by parsing them into the artifact and the metafact. %n artifact is a humanly constructed object that can be perceived by the senses. It can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched, or felt. In contrast, a metafact is a human constructed object that can only be held in the mind. % favorite song, the concept of a nation or a cause, or the idea of economic value are each metafacts. 4hen artifacts and metafacts combine, they form a symbol. % oven piece of cloth is just an artifact until it is invested ith the metafact of a cause or a nation, then it becomes a flag, and that flag is a symbol. % stamped piece of metal is just an oddly shaped bit of metal until the stamped image stands for a measure of economic value, then it becomes a coin. The difference is in the metafact captured in the symbol. .edit/

The symbolate
$any symbols are kno n to be such2 for example, a scepter is a symbol of royal po er. %nd yet, this same conscious symbol has an unconscious obverse& the scepter. 4e take it to be an object and speak of its history, evolution and uses, as though you could pick up scepters in the scepter orchard like apples in an apple orchard or gold nuggets in a gold field. 5atural objects have chemical and physical properties and behave in certain ays. 4hat are the properties of a scepter6 In trying to ans er this #uestion e encounter a kind of diffuseness or vagueness. 7inally e have to admit that there are no scepters in physical actuality, and furthermore, no king, no subjects and no language. %n alien from outer space might describe a royal audience as follo s. %n individual homo sapiens rapped in fibers emitting light at the high end of the visible fre#uency range moved a cylindrical rod against gravity, at hich time other individuals ceased emitting complex sound aves. % human ould just say that the king dressed in a purple robe aved his scepter to silence the multitude. 4hat is the difference bet een these t o meanings6 3eslie 4hite approached the #uestion in an effort to define cultural objects, such as a la , a constitution, a marriage ceremony. %ll the nouns in the story are in this category& the king, the robe, the scepter, the language, the subjects. The essence of a cultural object is that it is a token in the process of symbolization. 4hite therefore defined the symbolate as an object created by the act of symbolization, just as an

isolate is created by the act of isolation. The scepter stands for royal po er, but before this act of symbolization it did not exist. It as created by its use as a symbol. 4e are conscious of the symbol, but not of the symbolate. (ymbolates are real objects. The act of symbolization endo s the rod ith a po er it did not possess previously. 8ods have no effect on audiences, but scepters do. 9o ever, the po er does not reside only in the rod. Its location is diffuse, some in the people, some in the king, some in the audience. $an lives in a orld of diffuse po ers and possibilites and therefore creates symbolates to describe and manipulate it. .edit/

Use of symbols
9uman beings+ ability to manipulate symbols allo s them to explore the relationships bet een ideas, things, concepts, and #ualities * far beyond the explorations of hich any other species on earth is capable. The discipline of semiotics studies symbols and symbol systems in general2 semantics is specifically concerned ith the main meaning of ords or other linguistic units. 3iterary orks are often admired for their artful use of symbolism, i.e. the use of ords, phrases and situations to evoke ideas and feelings beyond their plain interpretations2 these uses are the subject of literary semiotics. 8eligious and metaphysical ritings are also kno n for their use of esoteric symbolism. %lchemical ritings made extensive use of symbols for spiritual and chemical processes ! hich they also sa as symbols of each other". The interpretation of dreams as symbols of one+s experiences is a main feature of 7reudian psychoanalysis and :ungian analytical psychology. .edit/

The ord )symbol) came to the ;nglish language by ay of $iddle ;nglish, from <ld 7rench, from 3atin, from the =reek >?@ABCBD smbolon from the root ords >?@* !sym-" meaning )together) and ABCE bol )a thro ), having the approximate meaning of )to thro together), literally a )co*incidence) !zu-fall", also )sign, ticket, or contract). The earliest attestation of the term is in the 9omeric 9ymn to 9ermes here 9ermes on seeing the tortoise exclaims )symbolon .symbolFsignFportentFencounterFchance find6/ of joy to meG) before turning it into a lyre. .edit/


ebste!"s #e$ %nte!national &ictiona!y of the 'n(lish )an(ua(e* +econd 'dition* ,nab!id(ed, 4.%. 5eilson, T.%. Hnott, P.4. 'arhart !eds.", =. I '. $erriam 'ompany, (pringfield, $%, JKLM.


See also

%lchemy %semic 4riting 'heck !mark" 'omputer icons Nramatic symbol 7ont =lyph =nostic circle =rapheme Icon 3ist of common symbols 3ist of symbols 3ogo 3ogotype $ap*territory relation 5ational symbol 8eligious symbolism Punctuation 8epresentation (emiotics (ign !linguistics" (iglas poveiras (ymbol rate (ymbol =rounding Problem Typography Onicode (ymbols


External links

(ymbol search engine 8eligious and 'ultural (ymbols 'harged religious symbols, and the challenge of symbolism to those ho insist on literal interpretation of sacred texts (ymbolism pictures (cientific %merican $agazine !%ugust PMML Issue" $indful of (ymbols

8etrieved from )http&FFen. ikipedia.orgF ikiF(ymbol) 'ategories& %rticles lacking sources Q %rticles ith unsourced statements Q (ymbols Q Typography
New Symbols:

Solomon's knot

Miraculous Medal




Immaculate Heart




Triangle of Art



Tri!uetra Dearinth #ra$ing hands

Hercules Knot


Arthur's "ross

Sera'h %a &%um

"ha'i (ismillah Shou

"han "hu

Special: Da Vinci Code Symbols:

)itruvian Man

*leur de Lis


#rior$ of Sion



,umis Greek "ross Golden Mean *ire -ater


Music and Pop Culture:

/"ross of 0uestioning/ /The Artist/ Heartagram 1oso Sigil of Lucifer Tri!uetra

Druid & Celtic Symbols





"eltic Knot

"eltic Tree of Life

Green man Druid "laddagh +ude Man "eltic "ross (righid's cross

-elsh Dragon 1&+od Triskele #ictish Shield Knot "eltic knot

More "eltic S$m ols

All images copyright Jennifer Emick/, except where otherwise noted

Christian & Gnostic Symbols:

"hristian Ankh ,erusalem "ross "ross Lorraine ,esus *ish 2Ichthus3

Tri!ueta 4rthodo.

Anchor fish +everse cross Ale.amenos Ser'ent cross Sacred Heart "hristogram

Al'ha 5 4mega "hi +ho IHS "rucifi. Messianic Halo

More "hristian 5 Gnostic S$m ols Magick, ccult, Satanic Symbols:

He.agram A Pentagram "haos Mendes Goat


Witch's Knot


Hermetic Seal

7nicursal he.agram

Sigil of Ameth


Hand of Glor$ Mark of the (east

GD Lamen

Golden Da8n



(a alon Seal "agliostro Seal Seal of Saturn


4uro oros



More 4ccult S$m ols !iccan" Pagan Symbols:

Green man Hecate's -heel Tri!uetra #entacle

Tri'le Goddess #entacle

-itch's runes


Horned God

Tri'le crescent

Elven star


-itch's Sign Greenman Sea. (oline (esom Horned God

More 6eo'agan S$m ols

All images copyright Jennifer Emick/, except where otherwise noted

Norse, #satru, $omu%a, and &astern &urope:

Thunder "ross Shield Knot +omuva 4din's horn )alknut Helm of A8e

Hugin and Munin





Solar cross

-olf's "ross ,umis Irminsul 6idstang %ggdrasil Trice's

More 6orse S$m ols &gyptian & &gyptian Pagan Symbols:







A 6uit Hathor (a ird Akhet

*lo8er of Life

More Eg$'tian S$m ols

All images copyright Jennifer Emick/, except where otherwise noted

#ncient Greek, $oman:

Mano *ico



La r$s



la r$nth *asces 4r'hic egg Tetrakt$s H$geia Lau uru

More Greek 5 +oman S$m ols

All images co'$right ,ennifer Emick:A out;com< e.ce't 8here other8ise noted

#ssyrian"'abylonian, Phoenician, Syrian, and (oroastrian:

Inanna's Knot

Ass$rian sun disk

Ishtar seal


Shamash seal






Tetragrammaton Tiamat

More Ass$rian:(a $lonian S$m ols

All images copyright Jennifer Emick/, except where otherwise noted

)slam, *udaism, Su+ism, & 'aha,i:

Star 5 "rescent

Magen David





Dru=e Star





Aaronic (lessing

See more Middle Eastern S$m ols #+rican, $asta, -odou & Santeria:

Akua' a



Lion of ,udah






G$a 6ame

Ethio'ian "ross


See more African S$m ols .aoist, Shinto, 'uddhist, and #sian cultural symbols:

Maneke 6eko (uddha's E$es Torii Gate

I "hing

Endless knot

4m Mani #adme hum


(uddha's feet Tomoe

%in %ang


(a Gua

See more Asian S$m ols /indu, *ain, & Sikh Symbols:




Vel of Murugan "hakra


,ain Hand






More S$m ols of Eastern +eligions #lchemical & #strological Symbols:





Greek "ross


Alchemical salt *ire



Red King #luto

See more Astrological S$m ols Shamanic 0Nati%e #merican, #boriginal, Neolithic1:


Shaman of Trois *reres


Man in the Maze Huna Ku

1ia sun

See more Shamanic S$m ols Masonic, 2raternal rgani3ations:

Skull 5 ones "om'ass


#oint in "ircle





All Seeing E$e

>?th #ro'osition

Double Eagle

Eastern Star

See more Masonic S$m ols Miscellanious:

S'iritual Technolog$

4'; Thetan

Scientolog$ "ross


Unity Cross

Atlantis "ross




"hoku +ei

#rior$ of Sion #rocess "hurch


(lack Sun

6eo 6a=i

Hand of Eris

Sacred "hao



(ar ur$ "ro' "ircle





/Grail "ross/


Glaston ur$



la r$nth

More Symbol glossaries by sub4ect: Adinkra S$m ols "rosses Hand Gestures Star S$m ols Tattoo S$m ols 'ooks on Symbolism: Ancient #agan S$m ols& free E& ook S$m ol and Image in "eltic +eligious Art The "om'lete Dictionar$ 4f S$m ols S$m ols in -estern Art A Dictionar$ of Dream S$m ols Gods and S$m ols of Ancient Eg$'t